Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sour Ale, Art, Lettuce, and TV

Last evening was a stay at home night.

I wrote earlier this week that finding Flanders type sour beers in Bend was looking to be impossible. That posting caught the attention of Chris at Portland's Racoon Lodge & Brewpub who commented that any of Cascade's bottled sours, which include a Kriek (sour cherry), Blackberry, Apricot, Cuvee, and The Vine, could be mine for the asking if I email them, which I did immediately.

There has been no response to date.

But I did get an email from Tom at The Brew Shop, announcing that they had just gotten a case of Cascade's Kriek Flanders ale. I was deeply into doing a circuit board layout for a Bend company so I didn't have time to give this announcement much consideration.

Later in the afternoon, though, it was clear that this job was going to take all weekend if I was going to meet deadline, so when Mrs Elliott said that she needed to deposit some checks at her bank downtown, I tagged along. She picked up a coffee drink from Thump, and we went up into the TBD Loft to look at Ken Roth's showing of his abstract paintings.

(Ken is one of the many local artists whose work can be found at The Mockingbird Gallery on Wall Street, my favorite gallery in town. I can't afford art, but I like to look and learn. I dunno why Ken doesn't have any abstracts at Mockingbird, they're just as strong and interesting as his landscapes and pictures of birds.)

Neither of us were feeling like an evening out, and she had a hankering to make one of her famous big salads so we stopped at Natures to pick up some produce (I remember someone telling me at the end of last year's Farmer's Market season that with the market over, the only place left in town to buy lettuce "with any flavor" is Nature's and she was right).

On the way home I convinced Mrs Elliott to swing by The Brew Shop, where I got a 750ml bottle of the new ale. $16. Wow. A sixteen-dollar bottle of beer -- more than double what I've ever spent on a single bottle of beer. They had ordered that case of ale because they knew that I was looking for a sour. I owed it to them to pick up a bottle and check it out.

"Sixteen dollars," Mrs Elliott said, giving me the fish eye. "That's like a good bottle of wine. You better savor it."

"I may savor this as soon as we get home."

And I did. And it was delicious. Flanders ales, I'm finding, are every bit as complex as a good wine, and in many respects, much more interesting. At 8% alcohol, it's not some lightweight yellow fizzy beer, but with its richness, depth of character, and long, lingering finish, it's sippin' beer anyway. This bottle lasted more than two, very pleasurable, hours.

One of the reviewers at Beer Advocate did a better job writing about this ale than I can, so the following are his words (lifted w/o permission):

Kriek Ale spends over six months of lactic fermentation and aging in small oak barrels. This 'Belgian Flanders Style Red Ale' is refermented with a blend of whole Northwest Cherries and then hand bottled. Cascade Kriek Ale is bottle fermented and should be refrigerated or stored at cellar temperatures. Serve at 45-50 Degrees"

750 ml champagne bottle (that was actually more like 65F then their recommend temp) poured into my Meantime snifter, the Cascade Kriek is a murky dark red with a large, red tinged tan head that leaves moderate lace and some rocky foam.

Smell is surprisingly soft - I've actually already enjoyed a few bottles of this, but for the style, it's fairly restrained, but nevertheless appealing. Unmistakably cherry, with some bubblegum and lactic funk as well.

Taste is very enjoyable, a great balance between cherry beer and Flanders Red, just enough of both without overwhelming. No mistaking this one for artificial flavoring, the finish is very clean, with a slight bit of pure cherry and lingering pucker. Like the rest of this series, I'm having trouble holding onto my cellar stash, and keep finding myself back at the brewery to restock! Since I really like a lot of sourness, I can't wait to see how these develop with some more time, as the bugs overtake the fruit.

Mouthfeel is a bit slick, moderate carbonation and a dry, puckering finish.

Drinkability was high for me, I really have been enjoying Racoon's sour beers, and can't applaud them enough for continuing to produce them, something very few PDX brewers are doing. Of the three in this series, this is my second favorite, behind the apricot trippel and in front of the blackberry, though all of them are good! Can't wait until there next few come out, the cuvee in particular will really be a treat! I didn't factor in availability or cost, but this is expensive and limited, which of course means I'm not drinking it by the case, although I wish I was.

Thanks, Tom, for bringing in such a lovely beer. I'm hooked on sours now.

Watched a TV show last night that was new to us, The Unusuals. I'm not into police procedural shows but this one has odd characters and plenty of interesting references (Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle was quoted several times) so I'll give it a try for a few weeks to see how it holds up.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Must. Have. Sour. Beer.

A few weeks ago Mrs Elliott and I were in Portland. She had a conference downtown to attend for a few days, I tagged along and ambled around. I came across Bailey's Taproom and settled down at the bar to sample some of their 20 or so ales and beers.

Like Bend, they didn't have anything interesting in a dry stout, but one ale caught my eye: Cascade Brewing Company's Moutin Rouge, a "flanders red" or sour Belgian style ale. Perhaps aka oud bruin ale.

The bartender warned me that I might find it a little off-putting because sour ale is nothing like most people have never had.

I had to try it.

The first sip was a surprise. The second . . . well, the second was kind of nice. Sour and tangy, with a crisp, slightly bitter finish. By the time the third sip was down the hatch, I was hooked.

And the taste was kind of familiar . . . what was that? Oh -- kombucha, the fermented non-alcholic beverage available at some food stores around town as well as at Townshend's Tea. Kombucha gets its sourness mainly from lactic acid through a fermentation process. Like sour sourdough.

And apparently Belgian sour beers.

I like kombucha, sourdough, and sour ales.

Unfortunately, no one in Bend has a sour on tap nor sells it in bottles. I tried the Brew Shop on Division with no luck. And Newport Market has none.

Bend is in beervana, innit?

Trent in Newport's beer and wine section told me that he personally likes sours, too, and has now made it his mission to get some in stock.

There's also a rumor floated that Deschutes Brewing Co. is planning a sour. One can hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mostly Downtown Stuff

My reader has commented that it's been since March 15 since I've posted. It's true, Robert, guilty as charged.

Here, in no particular order are:

How 'bout that Shep Fields? A dinner guest that Dad brought home, maybe. Someone from out of town. How'd you like to see him staring at you across the table? His beady eyes seem to be saying that he'll be getting around to you as soon as he finishes that drink.

Bloggers seem to be a secretive bunch. In Bend, I've met Duncan, of "Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Can Ever Have" fame. But he's hardly a moving target, sorta pinned down by his location in Pegasus Books downtown; I've had lunch with one or two guys who post on the Bend Economy Bulletin Board; and Brendan, who writes "THE ADVENTURES OF TOTORO AND HER PILOTS", pulls shots at Bellataza downtown every so often...but that's it.

It could be that a lot of bloggers are just intraverts -- I know I am -- and shy when in public. Or they are alarmingly unattractive, or crazy, or just disinterested in meeting folk. I can understand someone who is in a position of prominence or responsibility here in town who has a reputation to protect wanting to stay anonymous if he's posting about local politics or the economy, but I enjoy meeting the faces behind the words.

Dudley's Bookshop ( on Minnesota seems to be working hard to keep things happening. I dunno if the downtown needs or can support a used book store and coffee house, but they have a lot of square feets and are using them for events. On Friday they had a sorta Celtic music jam. Mrs Elliott, who is taking guitar lessons from Bend's Chris Huffine watched the various mandolin, (one) banjo, several fiddle and six or so guitarists and was able to pick out most of the chords they were playing. They meet on the third Friday of every month and we'll show up to sit in the back and jam along. Dudley's has a spacious upstairs is available for meetings.

About Chris: I know music theory and used to be a professional bass player (folk, blues, disco era-- don't ask) and I can say without reservation that he's an excellent teacher who knows how to take a student from beginner to somone who can read chord charts, figure out a song, and has enough theory to transpose a tune in just a few months.

Back to bookstores. The only other bookstore downtown is Pegasus, which is, according to my 18 year-old daughter, the kind of place "for guys without girlfriends." Duncan is keeping the place afloat, and apparently doing fairly well doing so, according to his popular and oft-quoted "More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Running A Specialty Book and Comic Store In Downtown Bend While Staring a Really Big Recession Squarely In the Face (Plus Optional Grousings About Customers Who Don't Buy Anything But Get Their Grimy Fingerprints All Over The Stock)" blog (

And since I'm rambling about downtown events, Melanie Betti of The Wine Shop and Tasting Bar, pulled together an outdoor music event called "Alley Oop" on Friday night in the alley between her shop and and Kent Chapple's Thump Coffee. I reckon she had about six artists, and the place was packed when I went in for my traditional Friday evening glass (or two) of her excellent Côtes du Rhône. In addition to her usual helpers, Carla Miller (producer of KOHD's 5 o' clock news) and the lovely Bree, a largish nice guy named Kevin had been roped in to assist with pouring the house wine and keg beer. Like any good wine bar, Melanie as plenty of nice stemware, but I prefer to drink from Jack's glass. $5 cover which includes a house wine or keg beer. She plans on holding the event once a month.

However, it's unclear whether the Oxford Hotel (opening across the street from the alley Real Soon Now) will have a problem with the music. Kent tells me that the downtown noise ordinance kicks in at 9pm, which is kind of early for summer weekend nights. We'll see how this one plays out.

Part of yesterday's downtown Earth Day event was the Procession of the Species parade. Reminded me of when I was a kid in Santa Barbara
and my brothers and I got to dress up in costume to walk in the annual fiesta parade. The youngest brother was dressed as an American Indian with hands tied behind his back, and the middle brother and I as conquistadores marching behind him, prodding him with our swords. Enslavement was apparently considered jolly good fun in the 50's.

The actual Earth Day event was held at Troy Field. I'm not a fan of themed events which mainly provide a venue for vendors and businesses to set up canopies to flog wares, services, or "presence" to punters. But the field was crowded and it looked like everyone was having a good time in the warm sunlight.

How 'bout this weather, eh? I've been sneezing a lot (juniper and aspen pollen, apparently), but hey -- two weeks ago it was raining heavily, while on Tuesday there was a freakin' blizzard which iced up my bicycling glasses so heavily that I had to stop riding and seek shelter in the nearest warm tavern (Westside Tavern -- if you haven't been inside, it's exactly like you'd expect) until the sun came out again, two beers later; and today we're expecting mid 70's with low 80's predicted for tomorrow. Ma Nature has plenty of mood swings in Central Oregon.

------------ Facebook update page widget added 3/2012 --------------
------------ ends facebook update page widget -------------