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.

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