Monday, December 24, 2012

A Collage of Deschutes and Hair of the Dog

The spirit of the holidays is one of collaboration.

You can find evidence of this spirit in the touching way that Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie came together for an epic Christmas Vacation in 1989; with that in mind I embarked on a journey to discover a beer that epitomizes collaboration in it's very essence.

Rising to the top of the collaborative pyramid was Collage, a joint initiative of Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewing Company. The first brew released in Deschutes' Conflux Series, I was intrigued by the Collage from the instant I heard about...and let me tell you why.

Thanks to Rick, I like unique and boozy beer. You can't get more unique and boozy that Collage. Two years in the making, Collage stands true to it's name as a blend of four of the most unique beers that the breweries offer: Deschutes' The Stoic and The Dissident, and Hair of the Dog's Fred and Adam.

As if blending together four super unique beers wasn't enough, the brewmasters then aged the beers for 24 months in a variety of cask barrels, including rye whiskey, cognac, sherry, pinot noir, bourbon, new American Oak, and new Oregon Oak. Left with more than 100 distinct barrel-aged rounds, the brewers crafted the final blend to reflect the collage of patience, time, and collective curiosity.

So here we go.

Brewery: Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
Style: American Strong Ale Rating: 92, Exceptional Rating: 99 Overall
Serving: 12oz Bottle
ABV: 11.6%

Appearance: Upon pouring into a belgian glass, the Collage had very little head and appeared lightly carbonated.  The beer golden with a slightly pinkish hue with moderate cloudiness evident throughout.

Smell: Delicious and fascinating at the same time. Depending on the breath, I got alternating notes of whisky and sour beer, a nice contrast between sweet and sour. The variety of spirits notes were inviting but I found the beer to be a bit intimidating on the nose at the same time.

Taste: The first sip of Collage is smooth, until it hits you in the roof of the mouth with a sweet and tangy punch. I wasn't sure which booze influence to pick up from the barrel aging, but I did get a nice oakiness on the finish. This beer almost has a tannic quality to it. Crisp might be a good descriptor.

Overall I found the Collage to be quite unique and enjoyable. With the barrel influence, I wanted it to be a bit darker of a beer but in that respect, the beer then may have overpowered the aging program.

I enjoyed this beer while watching a Gonzaga basketball game; my notes indicate that the beer is "spicy like Gonzaga hoops." Pick up a bottle when you want something different and get lost in the collage.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drink Like the World is Ending

So tomorrow is the end of the world.  At least it is if you believe the Mayan calendar and a bunch of crazy doomsday preppers.

You see, if you consult our favorite scholarly reference Wikipedia, you'll find that 21 December 2012 is the end of a 5125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, a date in which a variety of eschatological beliefs feel will bring cataclysmic or transformative events.  The events of course will lead to the end of the world as we know it.  No, not the song by R.E.M.

What does this have to do with WestToast?  Absolutely nothing, except that if the world is going to end, shouldn't we all be drunk when that takes place?

"But Josh", I hear you saying right now, "when the apocalypse hits will our booze be safe to drink?"

Well it turns out the Federal Civil Defense Commission had the very same question in 1955, and you might be surprised by the results as summarized by an actual legitimate journalist, Robert Krulwich of NPR.

Operation Teapot it was called, researching "The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages."  Yes, the US Government actually placed canned and bottled beer in proximity to a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site and then tasted the beer.

You can only imagine how bored these scientists must have been in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1955; World War 2 was over and sure, it was the heat of the Cold War, but the Russians didn't drink beer at that time so it could be our secret weapon.  A bit lonely, these Manhattan Project scientists concocted the ultimate frat party scenario -- "Dude, come out to the desert and drink beer with us.  We have Atomic Bombs!"

I can only imagine the street cred one gains from hosting that party.

Now, to answer the question you're all wondering, yes...the beer was safe.  For the bottles and cans that didn't break in the actual explosion, this study found that the level of radioactivity in the beer placed 1/4 miles from the nuclear explosion was "within permissible limits for emergency use."  Further, taste tests indicated that, while a bit "off" in flavor, the beer was "still of commercial quality..."

Glowing endorsements.

Friday you can crack open your favorite brew, fight off the Zombies, and feel comfort in knowing that you can safely drink to your hearts content after the nuclear dawn.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Losin' the Gluten: Omission Beer


It's everywhere nowadays. From supermarket shelves, to bakeries, to pizza places, and restaurants - food without this grain-based protein is popping up all over. I for one feel very appreciative of it, being allergic to wheat (I can do some beers, but it's probably better I stick with other beverages). Some people are not able to cheat a little like I do - they are gluten intolerant, or they might have celiac disease. Still others who go gluten-free might be focused on a specific diet type, like the paleo diet, or are doing it for other health reasons. No matter what the choice, allergy, or ailment, being gluten-free can mean that good beer is hard to find.

This spring Widmer Brothers put out Omission Beer - two different styles (Pale Ale and Lager) of gluten-free beer. The project was spurred by the fact that both CEO Terry Michaelson, and Brewmaster Joe Casey's wife were both diagnosed with celiac disease. This, paired with what Marketing Communications Manager Brady Walen stated as "a desire to brew a great-tasting craft beer anybody can enjoy," led to the development of a process that removes gluten from beer made from malted barley.

This is a a departure from most of the GF beer we see here in the US, which is usually made from ingredients like sorghum. The process, which involves using low-protein barley, styles that are not malt-heavy, the addition of brewer's clarex, and the full sanitation of all equipment, leads to beers that weigh in at well below the international standard for gluten-free products. Skeptical? Go ahead and type in the date and style of beer into their "test results" web page to see what the batch was tested at. "We try to be as transparent as possible," Walen stated, "what we do can raise some skepticism."

I cracked the Lager first, and was seriously impressed with the smooth flavor and mouth feel. Crisp and clean, this is slightly hoppy, citrusy, and very easy to drink. If you like a good lager, and have been waiting for your magical gluten-free moment, this beer will not disappoint. Though I tried it sitting by the hot wood stove in my apartment, I imagined it would be a great choice for me in the summer after a day outside in the garden.

The Pale Ale was also excellent, and even more suited to my taste in beer. I gave some to my roommate without telling him it was gluten-free (he gets a little weirded out by all the strange foods I bring home), and he was none the wiser. A balanced mix of hoppy and malty, I paired this beer up with some steak and pasta (quinoa pasta - yum) with red sauce and lost none of its well-rounded flavor. I found hints of vanilla on the nose and in the finish. 

Excited to try it? If you are gluten-free you should be. This beer is accessible and excellent. You can check out the website to find a supplier near you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eat, Sip, and Be Merry Ticket Contest!!!

CONGRATULATIONS to Kelly C for winning the pair of tickets to Eat, Sip, and Be Merry this weekend. We know you will have a great time!!! 
Please email me at with an email and phone # so I can pass your information along to the event organizers.

Don't forget, you can still purchase tickets in advance for the low price of $25, which includes $10 in "wine bucks."
Got plans for the weekend? Well cancel them because I guarantee they pale in comparison to what I have for you. Instead of doing whatever it was you were going to do, how about spending a couple days experiencing some delicious wine along the Santa Rosa Wine Trail? Bonus....I’ll give you a chance to win tickets for free!!!

 On Saturday December 8th and Sunday December 9th from 11:00-4:00pm, the members of the Santa Rosa Wine Trail are opening their doors to you for "Eat, Sip, and Be Merry". The Wine Trail members are a collection of urban wineries, restaurants, and a hotel that are within a small distance from each other and just a few minutes from downtown Santa Rosa.

Tickets for the event are $25 presale or $35 at the door. Included with your ticket is a commemorative wine glass and $10 in “wine bucks” to be used at one of the participating wineries. So really it is only $15 if you purchase in advance. I have tasted from many of this producers and even at full price these tickets are a steal. Since we want you to be safe and responsible, tickets for designated drivers are only $5 and include special activities and non-alcoholic beverages.

Participating wineries are Carol Shelton, D’Argenzio, Inspiration, Krutz Family Cellars, Old World, Paradise Ridge, Sheldon, Siduri/Novy, Two Shepherds, and the collective at Vinoteca. There will be live music, activities, exclusive tours, and food trucks at the participating wineries. This is sure to be a good time and I know we all need a break from the recent rains.

Tickets are available at or at the door of any of the participating wineries.


We are giving away a pair of tickets for FREE! All you have to do is enter a comment below to the question:

“If you were to give wine to someone this holiday season (assuming they’re on your ‘nice’ list) which wine from one of our participating wineries would you give them?”

A winner will be selected randomly on thisThursday night so please include your full name and email address I can reach you at.



 About the Santa Rosa Wine Trail

The Santa Rosa Wine Trail is a collection of eleven wineries, three restaurants, and one hotel in northern Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, California. The Santa Rosa Wine Trail card (print yours here or pick one up at one of our member wineries) is your passport to great days and nights of some of the best wine and food Sonoma County has to offer, all in close proximity.

Members: Carol Shelton Wines, D’Argenzio Winery, Inspiration Vineyards, Krutz Family Cellars, Old World Winery, Paradise Ridge, Robert Rue Vineyard, Sheldon Wines, Siduri/Novy, Two Shepherds, Vinoteca, John Ash, Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Willi’s Wine Bar and Vintners Inn.


Then and Now...and Beer

Spending much of my recent vacation in Massachusetts with my college friend Amanda means that there is some reminiscing and nostalgia about our days in Worcester, MA at Clark University.  A few nights ago we took some time to do the post-Thanksgiving holiday decoration frenzy. Silver Christmas trees, white lights, ornaments, and garlands popped out of boxes to be thoughtfully placed around the cozy Boston apartment. We joked about our first Christmas decorating stint in our tiny residence hall room our Sophomore year. Mandi's massive holiday penguin collection, and her cheerful Christmas decorations were balanced out by my humbuggy desire to leave the room as it was. I will say that my attitude has improved since then, and I opted to be involved in the festive-making this time.

One of my goals was to make the house smell like Christmas though cooking an amazing meal. I played around with ideas, and tweeted the whole process (you can follow me @clarecady). It was a ton of fun. I made up a pork tenderloin stuffed with gluten free bread, cranberry sauce, Parmesan, and mushrooms...topped with an apple/cranberry Greek yogurt sauce...mashed butternut squash with maple syrup...roasted Brussels sprouts...and rice pilaf with kale, sun dried tomatoes, leek, and slivered almonds. Oh it was divine! I ruminated on all the bacon and Chinese food we ate in school, and found it a wonder we did not have heart attacks.

Now, I have already written about the beer we drank back then, and I would like to think that our palettes have improved in the past 10 years. That does not mean we did not get to have a bit of nostalgia in our drink. Amanda's partner Aldo cracked a growler of beer that came straight from Worcester - English Strong Ale from Wormtown Brewery. This amber ale was carbonated like a champagne, which gave it a crisp mouth feel, and an uplifting sensation while drinking. I enjoyed the maltiness of the flavor, and well as the hints of vanilla in the finish. There was just enough hoppiness to remind me I was drinking a solid beer, but not enough to make it bitter. There was a wonderful hinting at clove and cinnamon mid-palette, which made the beer stand up well to our menu, and added to the festivities. This is a winter beer that is not too powerful, and would pair well with any Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus (etc.) meal you were to plan.

And the decorations were just so lovely.