Friday, June 28, 2013

Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Brewing Company and I go way back. When I was writing for my now-defunct beer blog, I covered almost the entire gamut of Stone ales available at the time. I fell in love with their Russian Imperial Stout, made Arrogant Bastard part of my regular rotation, and discovered that there really is such thing as too much hops (looking at you, Double Bastard). Since then, I have to admit that they've somewhat fallen off my radar in an effort to reach out to different breweries.

That stops now.

While walking through Barbur World Foods' kick-ass beer cooler, something in the California section caught my eye. It was similar, yet different. Stone, yes. Russian Imperial Stout, awesome, yet still familiar. Espresso, done deal! Coffee and imperial stouts/porters are two of my favorite things, so it was an easy choice to pick up Stone's Espresso Russian Imperial Stout.

To catch you up a bit, Stone's regular Russian Imperial Stout is one of those beers that picks up new hardware whenever it competes. Beer publications around the world typically rank it near the top 100 beers and I can understand that assessment. It's big, boozy, and resembles a black hole. Now for the espresso variant:
Like the classic version, this Odd Year edition was brewed in the authentic, historical style of an imperial Russian stout, but with the addition of several hundred pounds of espresso beans from our friends at Ryan Bros. Coffee. Layers of flavor and complexity augment an already enigmatic brew, leaving this darkly delicious libation positively brimming with deep, rich espresso flavors that meld beautifully with the roasty bitterness of the dark malts.
This is the beer-equivalent to talking dirty to me. Let's jump right in.

Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Espresso Stout Rating: 97 (users) Rating: 4/5
Serving: 22oz bottle
ABV: 11%

Appearance: Jet black with medium tan head that dissipates into a thin lace. One could mistake the glass itself as being black. It's that black.

Smell: Big notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and caramelized sugar. This is going to be tasty.

Taste: All of the above and then some. Chocolate and espresso hit first, then dissipates to chocolate, sugar, and the warmth of 11% abv. Very thick mouthfeel to the extent one could almost chew this. Creme brulee comes to mind after a little bit.

If you're a fan of espresso stouts, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Simply put, it's everything you want in an imperial espresso stout and then some. Well done, Stone.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#WineWednesday: Goin' Rogue in Oregon

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As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.
In just over a week Katie and I will be heading up to the Oregon to spend a week in the coastal town of Yachats. Katie’s family is having a family reunion and I must say, they chose a great location. 

To get in the spirit, we have been stepping away from our usual California wine and beer and sipping on some delicious Oregon refreshments. First was picking up a 6-pack of Rogue Dead Guy Ale the other day at the store....yeah, that’s already gone. Tonight we decided to open up a bottle of wine after dinner and I gave Katie the choice of Oregon or California. In preparation for the trip, she also went with Oregon and so I grabbed a bottle of 2007 Griffin Creek Tempranillo from the Rogue Valley. Griffin Creek is a label from Willamette Valley Vineyards and one of the first Oregon wines I tried while living in the Pacific Northwest.

I must admit that I don’t drink enough Oregon wine and sometimes I get surprised when I pour a glass and it is lighter in color than expected. This tempranillo was more translucent then I thought it would be and it had this beautiful reddish brown, reminding me of rust. But not the bad kind of rust that is slowly taking over our 1996 Ford Explorer, but the good kind of rust....okay, so there really is no good kind of rust, but the color was still pretty.

It was a little flat on the nose at first so it needed a little time to breathe. After awhile it started expressing this plum and leather aroma that was totally inviting. It was medium bodied and I picked up on cherry, plum, and just a hint of vanilla on the finish. With the medium body and tannins, I could see enjoying this wine with a lot of different food options, but was also great as a post dinner wine. I am definitely in the Oregon spirit and am looking forward to making it out to the Willamette Valley while up there. 

The particulars:
2007 Griffin Creek Tempranillo
AVA: Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon
Abv: 12.5%
Aging: 18 months French Oak

Until next week, cheers!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BrewCycle Portland

What's better than going on a cycle trip with your friends to drink some beer, or sip some wine? Having that cycle be shared among ALL THE FRIENDS!!! That was a recent experience of mine in Portland - a tour with BrewCycle Portland for my friend Jaqcueline's birthday.

I love to I was rarin' to go - I wanted to take the bike out by myself...but it's better with friends for sure!

12-15 people, one bike, a fun and funny driver, your own iPod mix, snacks, and a trek to breweries in NW Portland. I can't think of a better way to spend a day. Pedaling was a lot of fun - not too heart-racing that it becomes too difficult, the bikes only move about 6mph max. We rode right around on the streets, through traffic lights, and around corners. Our host did the steering, and we did the rest. Though you can't drink on the bikes (city ordinances), you can bring along plenty of delicious snacks to nosh on as you move from place to place.

We went to Caps & Corks, a bottle and tap room with a massive selection. I totally got to geek out on the shelves and shelves of beer and wine, mostly local, and enjoy the rustic-Portland-pub (it's a thing) atmosphere. Gordon and I sampled the Anvil Ale ESP from AleSmith in San Diego. This lightly hoppy and gently malty amber is well-balanced and crisp. Though listed as a bitter, I did not find it all that biting, but more well-rounded and easy to drink.

We also hit up the Deschutes Brewery, where we lazed a bit in the sun in the front entryway. Here I sampled the Imperial Smoked Porter. Chocolatey and rich, the smokiness in this beer seemed almost nutty and toasty rather than smoky. I enjoyed the creamy mouth feel and maltiness, and thought it went well with the fries we picked up as a snack.

Bridgeport was another stop along the way. I enjoyed their multi-tier space, and a lovely taste of the Smooth Ryed. This beer is delightfully hoppy with a spicy nip of rye in the finish. What I liked best about it is the crispness of the beer - refreshing near the end of the ride. Drinking this in closing certainly made my BrewCycle experience a Smooth Ryed indeed!

I think the best part of the BrewCycle experience is not even the beer. Everywhere we rode we got high fives, laughter, and waves from the people on the street! We were able to laugh, joke, and enjoy the ride as a group, and our tunes were awesome. You don't even have to have 12-15 friends in order to participate. They will pair you up with other groups to get a full bike, so you might even make some new friends along the way.

Thanks BrewCycle!!!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Getting Hitched? Pick Some Wine.

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The sun is finally starting to peek out in the Pacific Northwest, and the onset of spring and summer signifies a very important time for many Pacific Northwesterners: Wedding Season. Domestic Partnership Season, Civil Union Season, whatever words you’d like to use to define your relationship season. Being the semi-pretentious wine enthusiast in my social group, I often find myself responding to a question along the lines of, “What wine should I serve at my wedding?” In fact, recently a couple different groups of friends have asked me that very question, at least that was my interpretation of the grumbling about how high the corkage fees were at their wedding venues and the per-bottle cost through the caterer.

As I reflected on the question, I realized just how important and complicated a decision wine selection can be for a wedding. You’re dealing with a tough crowd. Aunt Suzie drinks the boxed stuff, Uncle Jim likes only the finest French wine, and your father-in-law never met a bottle he didn’t like…as long as it’s from Washington. How can you meet everybody’s needs? Then, there’s the financial impact. Most wines purchased by the bottle from a caterer are north of $30.00 per bottle for the most entry-level wine, the stuff you can find for $6.99 at the store. If you provide your own, a $10.00 per bottle corkage fee is standard. How can you get the best value on an already expensive day? Finally, the always-elusive question of how much wine to buy? Don’t get overwhelmed; keep reading and I’ll take the guesswork out of outfitting the special day with Northwest bounty.

The Basics:

The easy decision would be to put your wine selection entirely in the hands of a caterer. There are many caterers that do a fine job, however, with a little time and attention you can often save money and better reflect the Pacific Northwest wine scene at your celebration.
  • Keep it simple. One red, one white. That’s it. People are there to celebrate the union of two people, not taste through a flight of 50 wines. By selecting wines with broad appeal, you’ll satisfy most guest’s palate with just two offerings.
  • How much? Common consensus is that half a bottle for each adult guest is a good start. If your friends imbibe more than the average bear or you plan on serving wine before and during the ceremony, adjust accordingly.
  • Keep it local. Washington and Oregon are world-class wine regions.
With those principles in mind, here are three different wine packages to consider when planning a wedding.

The Budget Menu:

This package offers broad appeal at a very reasonable cost.
  • 2010 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. This red wine from Paterson, WA is medium bodied and has broad appeal. While it retails at $13.00, it’s always on sale at my local grocery store for around $9.00.
  • 2010 Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc. A textbook Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley, perfect for a warm summer day. Retailing at $9.00, it’s often available in the $7.00 range on sale.
The Wine Aficionado Menu:

Stepping things up a notch, this mix balances cost with quality. Nothing too extravagant because let’s be honest, your guests probably don’t have as refined of a palate as you.
  • 2010 Desert Wind Ruah. From the Wahluke Slope, this merlot-based blend if very approachable and works with food or by itself. Retailing at $20.00, I find it often on sale for $15.00 per bottle.
  • 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris. A crisp but well-balanced Oregon white, the Pinot Gris is awesome with seafood but can stand on it's own. At $16.00 per bottle, it’s a great value.
The Portlandia Menu:

Want a little Oregon quirk and whimsy in your wedding? These selections are for you.
  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Red. A red pinot-noir based blend with syrah and zinfandel, this Oregon wine pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
  • Sokol Blosser Evolution White. A white blend of 9 different varietals, this also pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
Most importantly, though, make it meaningful to you.  The wine selections of two different couples I know with weddings on the horizon have done just that; leveraging special memories, relationships, and experiences from wineries can add icing to the proverbial cake of the day.  Those selections are as follows:
  • Couple 1:  Willamette Valley Vineyards being central to their wine universe, they took my Pinot Gris selection and added a more delicate, sophisticated red in the Estate Pinot Noir ($30).
  • Couple 2:  The awesomeness of Enso Winery just screams Portland, so for this local wedding the Resonate Red and White blends were perfect.
Keep your eyes open for sales and if you buy by the case you’ll often receive an additional 10% discount. Hopefully these suggestions get you going in the right direction and will help your new partnership start off on the right foot. If not, at least you drank some good wine.


In the spirit of full disclosure, much of this post is repurposed from a piece I did for a now-defunct Seattle lifestyle website about 2 years ago.  So there you have it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#WineWednesday: Hot Wine is Gross

As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

This week I was looking forward to writing this post for a couple reasons. The first is that all of last week I was not able to enjoy any delicious wine and I was really looking forward to a nice glass. See, I was on the AIDS LifeCycle last week, a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles over 7 days to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS research, education, and services. The second reason was the bottle had been picked out for a long time. This past week Katie and I celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary. On our wedding, we had our caterer set aside a case of wine we served at the wedding and each year we open a bottle to celebrate. We were married at BR Cohn Winery and we served the 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon. This was to be the bottle I opened this week. However, you can see that the dog’s arms are empty this week...and here’s why.

Unfortunately, an unnamed individual, while traveling down to Los Angeles to meet me at the finish line accidentally left the bottle in the car while they were at work. That day happened to be particularly warm and the temperature outside was in the 90’s, meaning the temperature inside the car was considerably hotter...they didn’t even crack a window like you should when leaving a dog or baby in the car (it's still okay to do that, right?)

When we went to open it to celebrate, to no surprise the wine had cooked a bit and the cork seal was compromised. You can know this because there is wine all around the cork, instead of just on the bottom like there should be. So this #WineWednesday, I give you the simple tip of don’t leave wine in a hot car because the results aren’t pretty. When traveling with wine, consider your transportation plans. Do you need to bring a cooler with you to store the wine while driving? Will you be in the car long? All these matter when traveling with wine.

Until next week, cheers!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This just makes me laugh...

Manatee, planking on beer.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Hair of The Dog: Saucy, Surprising, and Delicious

Memorial Day Weekend in the Pacific Northwest often means a weekend of wine, friends, and fun.  This year, Rick, Alyssa, and I took a slightly different approach to the long weekend.

I headed down to Portland with the express purpose of trying out restaurants and breweries that we had not been to before; we were wholly successful in that endeavor.

Rick is not a fan of Belgian style beers, so for years we have avoided Hair of the Dog Brewing Company with an uninformed assumption that their entire portfolio would not be to his liking.  Alyssa loves Belgians though and Hair of the Dog is conveniently located in Southeast Portland near some of our other destinations, so it won on the journey to find a new brewery on that particular day.

Before I share some highlights of our awesome visit, here's what Hair of the Dog has to say about themselves:
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company was founded in November of 1993 with the purpose of providing beer lovers with new and unusual beer styles. Creativity and originality have been cornerstones of the company's philosophy since it was founded.

Each Beer has its own name and unique identity; like the people who have inspired them. The brewery is family owned and operated, a proud member of the Oregon Brewers Guild as well as the Pacific Northwest's rich brewing heritage. We produce over 600 barrels of Beer a year in our 4 barrel (120 gallon) Brewhouse and bottle approximately 5000 cases a year. The rest of our beer is served on draft in our tasting room and at a few select accounts in Oregon and elsewhere.
The day we visited was sunny, which is both a nice surprise for May in Portland and afforded an opportunity to sit outside in the sidewalk seating area.   There's a large party store across the street, so as an added bonus you get to watch the constant stream of people going in and out of the store with bundles of large balloons, clown costumes, and Star Wars/Trek paraphenilia.  People watching at it's finest.

We were hungry after a rough day of getting up, eating donuts, and drinking coffee...and the brewery's food menu hit the spot.  I had a tasty BLT with some phenomenal bacon; they make their own kettle-chips in house which nicely complement a cold brew.

The beer.

Yes, the beer.

I was immediately pleased to see that all of the beers on-tap were offered in both 3 oz and 12 oz pours; it's boozy stuff and it was only Noon.  As Rick read the descriptions, he mumbled a "holy shit, I think I'll like some of these."

Yep, they aren't all Belgians.  In fact, Hair of the Dog's mission is to produce high alcohol, bottle conditioned beers with a specialty in barrel aging.  We can get behind that.

In the brewpub, they offer a rotational selection of barrel-aged beer, "? from the wood."  I started with that, the "Fred from the Wood".  A golden strong ale produced with Pilsner, Rye, and Belgian candi sugar aged in new American oak barrels, I loved every sip of my 10% ABV 3-ounce pour.

Next, Alyssa and I split a vintage bottle selection:  Cherry Adam from the Wood.  Starting with their Adam (a dark German-style dessert beer), they they age some with locally-grown black cherries in Bourbon and Sherry casks.  This was the winner of the day for me.  Dark, deep, bourbony, with a light hint of cherry.  It was simply fantastic.

Rick had a Scottish Ale, which he described as "Scottishy" and "Alelike".  It was delicious.

Hair of the Dog has the uncanny ability to take a great thing, make it better, and then top it off with awesome.  That's what the Cherry Adam from the Wood is.  Actually, every beer we tasted.

A homerun in our "try new places" weekend, Hair of the Dog is now on my list of awesome places to visit in Portland.  I'm also going to look around for another bottle of the Cherry.