Friday, November 7, 2014

Ballast Point Brewing Company: Indra Kunindra

Hello there guys, I do apologize for forgetting about you for two or three months. But the truth is, I never forgot about you! The plan to write a new entry has been floating around in my head for a long while now and I'm just now getting around to it. Anyway! The beer I'll be reviewing may or may not still be available on the market but I had to post it either way. I really appreciated the complexity of this very well-balanced and intriguing brew. It is none other than: Indra Kunindra from Ballast Point Brewing Company.

If you've never heard of this brew before that's highly unfortunate. It's a limited edition, limited release kind of beer and I'm not even sure if they will ever brew more. What's so interesting about this beer you might be asking yourself? It's an Export Stout spiced post-fermentation with Madras Curry, Cumin, Cayenne, Coconut, and Kaffir Lime Leaf! Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking exactly what everyone is thinking: It'll just be another over the top spice beer, especially with all those crazy strong flavours competing with one another! And what I say to that is: nope, think again, and don't judge before you've had a taste (which may or may not be possible now, ha!).

The backstory on Indra Kunindra goes as follows: this Export Stout was a collaboration with award-winning homebrewer Alex Tweet. And by collaboration I mean that the beer was one that he himself crafted and it was brewed full-scale on the Ballast Point premises. Another question some of you may be asking yourself right now: Export Stout? What the heck is that? Good question. Export Stout or Foreign Export Stout as it is sometimes known, is simply a more stout version of modern day stouts. Historically, it was brewed at higher gravities primarily for export to the tropics. There are a few examples floating around the US markets but this is the first spiced version I've seen and the only one I've truly cared for. Anywho, let's proceed to the tasting notes!

Name: Indra Kunindra
Category/Style: Foreign Export Stout
ABV: 7.00%
IBU: 50
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Madras Curry, Cumin, Cayenne, Coconut, and Kaffir Lime Leaf
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 22 oz.
Location Purchased: Complimentary

The Pour: Pours jet black with a tan head, dissipates slowly, nice lacing...

The Nose: Up front the aroma is toasted coconut, a little citrusy lime, vanilla, dark roasty notes, a hint of chocolate, a nice blend of spice notes and hints of curry...

The Taste: Initially the flavour is a little bitter chocolate, hints of spices, creamy coconut, toasty notes, body is lacking a little bit, a bit of spicy heat in the back of the throat, it builds, but it's all very well-balanced. There's a slight hint of something refreshing, finishes a little bitter, like bittersweet chocolate. All the flavour is midway through. Beginning and end is a bit flat, mostly bitter chocolate notes. Carbonation is low as per style but I really enjoyed this brew.

The Verdict: It's an interesting elixir of exotic flavours represented in a very pleasing manner that was not off putting by any means. I'd recommend this beer for the consumer looking for something different and far from the usual. I imagine this beer would pair extremely well with spicy foods and would be utilized well in the culinary arts. High five to Ballast Point, and thank you Jarred for the complimentary sample!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák

Welcome back for the second installment of my attempt to revive this old blog. I've got a lovely beer for you coming to us from Czech Republic, let me tell you now, this beer really surprised me and I'll tell you why a little bit later on. This is actually not the first time I've reviewed a beer from this brewery, some of you will remember the Russian Imperial Stout I reviewed a few years back (can be found here) and I can say that I was thoroughly impressed with that brew as well. So when my wife returned back to the US with a bottle of their "light lager" (more or less a Czech Pils) I was intrigued. First off, because while Czech Republic is renowned for producing some of the best Pilsners and light lagers in the world (this is definitively true) their flavour profiles are all very similar and finding anything truly distinctive is a difficult thing (I might actually rouse controversy with a comment like this but I feel its true!). I liken this to drinking German Weissbiers, side by side I am sure subtle differences would present themselves but to me a Weissbier is a hazy orange brew with hints of citrus, banana and clove, and every brewery makes one and they always exhibit these qualities; consistency in its truest sense here folks but nothing terribly distinctive! Anyway, getting back on track (or not) most beer drinkers in Czech Republic have a brand preference and standard practice is to only drink that one brand, all of the time. We do things a bit differently here in the US (at least I'd like to think so) and so when I was offered this bottle of light Czech lager from Břevnovský I was intrigued to see if they'd be able to produce a beer with that would distinguish itself from the rest of the Czech light lagers on the market (did I stay relatively on track there?).

Finding information about this particular beer proves difficult. The only interesting shred of information I could find is that the brewers use hops from very old bines. Now some might ask, what the heck is a bine? Well its hop lingo for vine, but it refers to a very specific type of vine. The hop plants have very sturdy stems with hairs that aid them during their climbing journey. As many of you know (or may not know) the hop plant is a climbing plant that can reach great heights, sometimes up to 50 feet and can grow up to 20 inches in a single week (head over to Prosser in Eastern Washington right now to see how tall these plants can grow). As far as utilizing hops from old bines is concerned, it is apparently an old tradition in Czech brewing history. As far as adding distinctive character is concerned I cannot for the life of me think of anything this would add to a beer. Are hop plants similar to grape vines in this regard? Will the roots grow deep enough and infuse the final product with terroir from whence it came? No one will ever know (unless you find someone who knows about hops or someone from the brewery cares to chime in or I conduct more research), in any case, this age old practice is said to add extra character to a beer. Ok, I'm sold, but what else done to this beer will help distinguish it from the swath of others already well-established in the Czech market? For one it's unfilitered, which goes a long way in saying that this is very different from any other light lager on the market. Standard practice says a filtered (or fined) crystal clear final product is a must. Crack open any bottle of Pilsner or other light lager and very rarely will you find any haze whatsoever left over. An unfiltered beer naturally has more character (ask me why if you really want to know) than a filtered one! Ok, so that's basically all the info I could find on my own. And these two tidbits were enough to entice me to open and sample: old hop bines and unfiltered, onto the tasting notes!

Name: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák
Category/Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: 07.01.14
Bottle Size: 1 Litre
Location Purchased: Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar, Praha 6, Czech Republic

The Pour: Into the glass it pours a hazy golden-orange. The head is fluffy and white and it lingers for a long time and leaves a nice amount of lacing on the glass.

The Nose: The nose is complex and first is a hint of pear and honey. Beyond that I'm picking up spicy clove, and fruity notes of peach and banana. It's a little yeasty and a little bready. The hops shine through with light floral notes, a little black pepper and a burst of citrus.

The Taste: The flavour remains on par with the aroma: huge fruit notes with a light malty bready character balanced well with grassy floral hops. It's a smooth medium bodied brew with a medium amount of carbonation. There are notes of banana and pepper as well as a slight hint of bubblegum. The bitterness is a bit resinous and in my opinion higher than average but this beer presents itself as a complete package: it's super crisp and finishes dry but is simultaneously refreshing.

The Verdict: I was really pleased with this beer. It's a super unique take on the traditional Czech Pils. I don't know of any other Czech Pilsner with even half the complexity of this beer! It was super fruity, well-balanced, slightly bitter, dry, crisp and incredibly refreshing. As I continued to drink, the flavour profile continued to evolve and by the end of the bottle it was reminiscent of beers from both Germany and Belgium. This is an unfiltered Czech Pilsner with lots of fruity overtones and a ton of depth for a light style, well done Břevnovský Pivovar! As far as worldwide availability is concerned, I'm not certain you can find this outside of Europe, let alone Prague but I might be wrong. I know there are few pubs in Prague pouring beers from Brevnovsky but I don't know how wide their distribution currently is. In any case, if you can find out about it or if you happen to see it in a bottle shop, don't hesitate to buy, it'll definitely be worth it!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Sea Dog Brewing: Wild Blueberry Ale

Well, yes indeed, I have returned. A few months shy of one year in fact. Last post I believe was in September of 2013: wow! To be honest the reasoning behind my unexpected leave of absence cannot be explained simply. Blogging for me has been a joy and a hobby and I think it's one of those things when you fall off the wagon it's difficult to get back on. As many of you know it was a struggle to keep this updated regularly and I don't know, I suppose the fact that I started brewing professionally for a new brewery in Redmond, WA (Hi-Fi Brewing Co) as well as getting hitched in December may have had an effect on my amount free time. Needless to say, things have been busier. Anyway, I am back, and trying again to jump onto the blogosphere bandwagon by posting up some more delicious beer blog entries to help guide you through the beer aisles (which I must say have been getting longer and much more numerous these days, especially if you're lucky enough to live on the West Coast). Ok enough chatter! Let's get to the beer!

As per usual I make an attempt to present you with a lovely back story on how I came to acquire this beer. My wife actually picked it up for me during a trip to Florida (such a good wife). The story goes that while walking out of the hotel on the search for refreshment she realized she was staying right across from a brewery. Fast forward and she's at the bar tasting all sorts of lovely concoctions. This wild blueberry ale was just one of many she sampled. And I must say: good choice!

A little background on the brewery: Sea Dog Brewing Company, they're actually based out of Topsham Maine and were founded in 1993. The brewery's namesake: Sea Dog is the nickname of their once loyal K9 companion when they first opened. In any case, enough about the brewery, lets see if their beer is any good!

Name: Sea Dog Wild Blueberry
Category/Style: Wheat/Fruit Beer
ABV: 4.70%
IBU: Unknown
OG: 1.048
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): 2-Row British Pale Ale, Malted Wheat & Light Munich
Hop Type(s): Willamette & Hallertau
Yeast Type: English ale
Special Additives: Wild blueberries
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 12 oz
Location Purchased: Sea Dog Brewing Company, Orlando, FL, USA

The Pour: A pale white head dissipates quickly to a light ring around the glass. The colour is golden yellow orange with a slight haze.

The Nose: Screams blueberry on the nose, a little funk, a little grape, minimal light biscuit and toast, I detect a little honey as well.

The Taste: Slightly sweet, fruity blueberry at the forefront, not tart by any means, malt profile is minimally expressed, mostly blueberry with a nice tingly carbonation. Body is light and the finish is clean.

The Verdict: Not a tremendous amount going on in this brew but it definitely delivers on its promise of blueberry flavour. I wasn't sure if it would be over the top sweet or if it would present itself as more tart but it wound up finding a nice balance between sweet and refreshing, which is something I quite liked. This is definitely a beer brewed for summertime imbibing, especially with the 4.70% abv. I'm still not certain if they used actual blueberries in the production of the beer or if it's simply flavouring dumped in. I would expect the colour to reflect the addition of blueberries and based on the aroma and flavour would expect a lot of blueberries to be required to achieve high amounts of both. Guess this would need to be investigated further as it only says on their website that they use wild Maine blueberries. Regardless it's a great summertime brew, so if you find some don't hesitate to try it!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Brewery Review: Westport Brewing Company

View of the brewery as you enter from the street
On a recent holiday to the coastal town of Westport, I had the pleasure of stopping in to the latest brewery to hit the Washington coast since 1944: Westport Brewing Company. Speaking with the owner Robin, she informed me that the 3-barrel brewery had been open just over a year and a half. At the time of my visit, they were pouring a wide range of 10 beers. I quickly ordered a flight.

Left to right: Pilsner, Kolsch, Bock, Cranberry Blonde, Stout, Porter, Amber, IPA, and IRA (center) not pictured: dark ale.
I truly believe that the end of summer is quite possibly the best time of the year for drinking beer: the weather is still warm enough to warrant sitting outside, hops are ready for harvesting, and while you can still enjoy drinking styles more akin to summertime, the maltier, heavier autumn and winter brews are not far off on the horizon. Sitting outside, sampling beers in the sun, whilst sitting amongst hop bines indeed makes for a lovely setting. They even have a beer garden around the backside of the building. The brewery and taproom are one in the same and the aroma of boiling wort was beckoning to us as we approached. They sell their beer in pints (can do a half as well) and also sell their beer to go in growlers and half-growlers (we took home a growler of the Riptide Red).

Hand-blown glass tap handles

Westport Brewery puts out an amazing 19 different beers throughout the year, with an interesting array of seasonals. One of the more interesting that caught my eye was the Cranberry Kriek (traditional Kriek beers are from Belgium and include a dose of sour cherries) this one swaps out the cherries for the tart Cranberry, but unfortunately I was told this is now a retired beer. Speaking with the brewmaster, the Kriek will most likely be swapped out for a Cranberry Lambic (and perhaps quite soon as the Cranberry harvest runs from September through October). They also brew a Cranberry Blonde which was surprisingly delicious: just enough fruitiness on the aroma and just enough tartness in the flavour. The other stand out beers were the Plank Island Porter, Riptide Red Ale (IRA), which seemed to be the table favouritea and the Bucking Orca Bock, a lovely surprise containing more hop aroma and bitterness than one would expect from the style.

Where can one find Westport beers? Currently the distribution is primarily confined to the Olympic Peninsula, with some distribution extending to Seattle and the greater eastside, however one may surmise that Westport, Aberdeen, and Olympia remain the top places for finding Westport brews. You can also use this nifty tool to find out who's pouring WBC beer near you. So what's in the future for Westport Brewing? Aside from experimenting with different styles like the Cranberry Lambic and at the time I was visiting they were brewing an Oktoberfestbier, it is likely that an expansion is soon to take place, as well potential collaborations with local wineries and distilleries (perhaps some barrel-aged goodies are soon to come?). The one thing for certain is that Westport Brewing Company has a bright future. Look out for their beer around Seattle and Tacoma and if you ever make it up to Westport, pop in for a pint of delicious refreshment. A big thank you to Robin and the rest of the crew for taking the time to chat, I really hope to make it out to Westport again soon.

Thanks for reading!

Empties: always a good sign ;)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flag Porter: Think You Know What Porter Is? Think Again!

After an extremely long hiatus I am finally back. How long has it been? Since mid-February? Holy hell, where the heck have I been? Well good question. Working (sometimes), roadtripping, writing, exercising, eating, but most importantly, drinking. In fact, I've had some amazing beverages since I've been at my new job and I've had some amazing beverages since I've been out and about in the great PNW. But the one certain thing: I've lacked the motivation to write about these experiences, that is, until now. And so here we are smack dab in the middle of springtime, the flowers have been blooming, there are new growths on the pines and baby birds chirping, the sun has been out - errrr, well, kind of. Earlier this evening I was out walking my dog with my winter wool jacket and leather gloves! People were burning wood in their fireplaces and I've had my heater on the past couple of nights! Cripe, there was even fresh snow on the mountaintops this morning! Uhh, we are just a week away from June and one month away from the official kick-off to summer, aren't we? Well one would think so. But you couldn't tell by the weather. And so tonight, we'll raise a glass to (hopefully) one of the last few dark days of winter by reviewing a nice winter brew: the porter.

Let me start off by asking you for some input. If I were sitting next to you at this very moment, and we were discussing beer over a few pints, I would ask you to define for me: the porter. Chances are very good that you might describe something similar to Deschutes Black Butte Porter (an American-style Porter), which has actually come to be known as somewhat of a benchmark beer for the style. You'd tell me about how the porter is very dark, roasty, you may find hints of coffee and or dark chocolate. Strengthwise they won't blow you away but they are dark and menacing and not for everyone. Most likely I would pat you on the back and say: "Mate, you've got it right, but the porter is a complex beast. It wasn't always dark and roasty. In fact, the porter used to be something completely different." And then I would begin to tell you about the porter. You think you know the porter? I certainly thought I did. As it turns out, I didn't.

We begin our journey through the history books in London, England, the true birthplace of the porter. In the 16th and 17th centuries brewing technologies were nothing compared to what we have today and kilning techniques (the process through which malt is dried) mostly involved direct heat, normally from a fire. It wasn't until the advent of much better kilning technologies in 1817 (the drum roaster) did darker roasted malts become available. And so up to this point most beer was brown beer. And so this much we know, the porter was as well, a brown beer. We have a few surviving recipes for period porters and as expected, most of the grain bills included mostly brown malt but it's what happened after brewing that made porter into what it really was.

At that time it was very common to age beers in massive wooden vats, sometimes for up to a year or more and subsequently blend this aged (or stale as they would call it) beer with one or two other younger (and often weaker beers). The idea here is to take malt, and brew a beer with it. You'd then take the same malt and essentially brew a second, weaker beer with the same grain. This is called a second running. The resulting beer would contain far less alcohol and there are records of brewers even going for a third running! These resulting beers would often times find their way into the same drinking vessel one way or another. Back in those days pub owners would often take the stale beer and blend it on premise with a fresher, younger (and often weaker) brew to stretch out their supply. And just for a bit of history, the most common customers of these pubs was working class England, the river and street laborers or as they were referred to at the time: the porters. This is invariably where the beer takes its name as it was a drink wildly popular with the working class. And so, here we have the worlds first porter. It was a malty rich, toasty, caramelly (perhaps even a bit astringent from barrel-aging) toffee-like, brown beer. Today we can still find good examples of this although only attempts to recreate what porter really was. In fact, I just so happen to have reviewed one of these lovely beers previously.

The example I've chosen for you is one I found quite intriguing (and not just because I'm a history buff). It's because the brewers are using a yeast strain that survived over 150 years submerged at the bottom of the English Channel. Yes, you heard me right, over 150 years! Divers discovered a wrecked barge in the channel that had wrecked in 1825. When divers further explored the sunken vessel they discovered a shipment of entirely intact 19th-century porter. Somehow they managed to bring the wax-sealed bottles to the surface, open them, and consequently discover an entirely viable yeast strain. This strain was then cultivated and handed over to brewers who then used it to resurrect the porter as it was in 1825. Of course the methods and ingredients are different and it will never be completely possible to resurrect an exact version of original porter but it's still a lovely story nonetheless. And so, I give you: Flag Porter from Darwin Brewery Ltd. You can get a more detailed description of the process behind this beer here. Ok, onward to the tasting notes!

Name: Original Flag Porter
Category/Style: English Porter
ABV: 5.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: 1825
Special Additives: Unknown
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 12 oz
Location Purchased: Malt and Vine, Redmond, WA

The Pour: Pour is translucent mahogany with a dense dark cream coloured head eventually dissipating to a ring around the glass. Lacing is moderate.

The Nose: Sweet caramel, hazelnuts, dark fruit and coffee. A little bit of milk chocolate and dust.

The Taste: Pumpernickel bread, a little sweet initially, but finishes dry. Cocoa powder and a touch of coffee. There's caramel and toast, a slight bitterness at the end. Perhaps a touch of astringency? Medium bodied, smooth and creamy on the mouthfeel.

The Verdict: I rather enjoyed this one. It was definitely a welcome reprieve from the overly robust and heavily roasted porters we've become accustomed to. I liked the fact that it was well-balanced: flavours include hazelnuts and caramel but also a touch of the darker flavours. Lately I've been really interested in what Porter tasted like in its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries. I know it definitely wasn't like the Porter we know today. This beer is a bit of a novelty and the reason I feel this way is because of their very unique yeast strain. As I stated previously it was actually salvaged from the inside of a bottle found on a frigate that sunk in 1825. I think that's pretty nifty personally. This definitely adds to the historical novelty of this beer. Add that to the fact that this bottle is relatively inexpensive, comes in a handy 12 ounce size and that you can probably find it at most specialty beer shops (which seem to be growing in number these days) and that makes for a great reason to buy this beer. If you're the least bit interested in trying something that deviates from the normal American-style Porter and does a bang-up job attempting to re-create what original porter tasted like, find a bottle, crack it open and enjoy.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thornbridge Brewery: Bracia Dark Ale

To put it simply, the Bracia Dark Ale from Thornbridge Brewery blew me away, and I can almost guarantee that it will blow you away too. When I first heard about this beauty of a beer I never thought I'd have the privilege of trying it. Two months later I stumbled upon a bottle in a shop in Prague. No second thoughts needed here, I walked out shortly thereafter with the bottle in hand.

To say this beer is complex would be an understatement. The grain bill includes: Marris Otter, Brown, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley. The brewers utilized four different hop varieties: Target, Pioneer, Hallertau, and Sorachi Ace. But what's in this beer that makes it so amazing? Aside from four different hops and a complex grain bill, it's the brewers generous use of bitter Chestnut Honey that takes this beer to the next level. The dark brown honey is sourced from the alpine foothills of North East Italy. The aromatic qualities of this beer are impressive indeed and the alcohol content of 10.00% is equally so.

Alright so here's the low-down on Thornbridge: it was opened in 2005 in Bakewell, England (central England near Sheffield) and they currently brew an assortment of beers ranging from English mild to IPA's and Imperial Stouts to Vienna Lagers and even a wet-hop IPA! Eight Thornbridge beers are released, as English tradition would have it, in cask, but they also offer twelve in bottles and many are kegged. Many of their beers are below the 5.0% mark with Bracia taking top spot for strongest. Thornbridge may be most well-known for their Jaipur IPA, which also includes honey in the recipe (am I noticing a trend here?). And without further adieu, let's move on to the tasting notes...

Name: Bracia
Category/Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 10.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Marris Otter, Brown, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley
Hop Type(s): Target, Pioneer, Hallertau, and Sorachi Ace
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Chestnut Honey
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Pivkupectvi, Prague, Czech Republic 

The Pour: Dark brown/black, head is dark tan/light brown, nice retention & lacing.

The Nose: Incredibly floral, a sweet honey-like aroma, chocolate, burnt/charred notes, rich, toasty and roasty, a little medicinal and slight twinge of alcohol.

The Taste: Roasty, sweet, bitter, full-bodied and complex, every bit as enticing as the aroma suggests. A slight medicinal quality. The sweetness is retained well but it's not over-the-top sweet. The floral characteristics imparted by the honey are showcased nicely; conjures images of fresh-cut flowers. A little burnt sugar/molasses, chocolate, dark roasted coffee, a touch of licorice and salt. The mouthfeel is silky smooth. I'm also detecting a touch of peaty smoke at the end.

The Verdict: This beer is incredible; from the first sniff to the last sip, this one is delicous! It's definitely one to savour. The aromatic qualities lent to this beer from the Chestnut Honey and use of several kinds of specialty malts sets this beer out from the rest. Simply put, it's unlike any other beer I've ever experienced. It has all the qualities one would seek from a dark beer: strong, roasty, complex, but it's not overly boozy, and has one of the most unique aroma/flavour profiles ever. If you're looking for a rare complex beer or one that deviates from the standard flavour profiles associated with porters and stouts then this is definitely the beer you need. Unfortunately as I found this bottle in Prague, I cannot recommend to you any shops where you may be able to find this in the PNW. Call your local bottle shop and make an enquiry! If you're lucky enough to find some, pick one up, or two, or three! You won't regret it! Ciao for now!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Brewery Review: The Crux Fermentation Project

On a recent visit to Bend, Oregon I had the privilege of visiting one of the newest and most exciting breweries to land in the beer mecca: The Crux Fermentation Project. The new brewery is the brainchild of Larry Sidor, former brewmaster of Deschutes Brewery, Dave Wilson, former Sales Director of 21st Amendment Brewing, and Paul Evers, owner and founder of TBD Advertising (a company very well-known in the beer marketing world). The extremely high-tech brewing facility opened its' doors on June 30th, 2012 and has been pumping out delicious, creative, high-quality brews since day one. The brewery has been designed with non-traditional methods in mind and the facility is adequately equipped to handle methods such as decoction mashing, (an older method of brewing mostly used today in Germany and Central Europe), open fermentation (a method of fermenting in which the open air comes into direct contact with fermenting wort. This method has been made famous by Belgian brewers who ferment in open vats in the Senne River Valley, a location known to have wild-yeast and bacteria strains perfect for brewing their world-famous wild ales (go here to read more about this kind of beer)), barrel-aging, and experimentation with unheard-of hop varieties (more on this later in the post).

View of the pub during The Sundowner

The setting for Bend's newest brewery could not be more picturesque. It's set atop a hill near the railroad, overlooking a long stretch of the Cascade Mountains. We took a seat at the bar and were rewarded with amazing views of the sunset. Since the brewery is housed in what was formerly a transmission shop and mill supply store, it retains some of its original charm. The front windows are retractable and were actually raised when we first arrived. They also have a patio on the right side of the building which may someday feature live music. The property should be perfect for drinking brews and having lots of good times in the summertime. The venue also features a happy hour so named: The Sundowner, which begins each evening with the setting of the sun and proceeds for one hour; along with The Sundowner comes lowered prices on brews and appetizers. The actual floor plan is rather narrow and proceeds back to the left as you enter. Some of the dark wood used for the decor was constructed with recycled wood from an old house. The coasters are made from recycled cardboard and the lighting over the bar was constructed from unused copper tubing leftover from some of the original copper brewing vessels. The wooden barrels sitting in various locations are full of beer and the rows of stainless steel tanks visible behind the bar were set-up in a stadium-seating fashion; overall it's a very visually appealing pub. The atmosphere was loud and there was not a single seat left unoccupied.

From left to right: Mash Tun, Brew Kettle, Lauter Tun

During our time there we made the acquaintance of one Russell Crecraft, a major investor in The Crux Project. He was eager to hear our feedback and show us around the place. We were invited on a tour of the small facility and heard many stories about the time and hard work invested into getting the brewery up and running. All the tanks were constructed in Japan and when the copper vats arrived, they were polished by hand. The brewery is highly automated, from the grist mill, to the mash tun, lauter tun, and actual brew kettle. We were also given a look (and a sniff) inside the hop storage refrigerator. Some of the hops featured in their beers come from places like Australia, New Zealand and even France! Speaking of which, perhaps now would be an excellent time to discuss what you really want to hear about: the beer!

From left to right: Saison, Four Pound Sterling, Aramis, Imperial Triskel, Outcast, Porter.

In addition to the beers above we also sampled the Nitro Stout, "Sugar Daddy", and the Flanders Red (which wasn't quite ready yet). Looking back I realize I probably should have tried a wider variety as four of the six were IPA's but I couldn't resist as two of them were utilizing two experimental hop varieties from France I had never even heard of (do they really grow hops in France?!?!). My favourite by far was Outcast IPA which showcased Calypso hops from Australia (a relatively new hop varietal). This brew really stood out for its intriguing hop aroma and flavour profile and its' deeply satisfying bitterness. The other two IPA's which really surprised me was Aramis and Triskel (both featuring brand spanking new experimental hop varieties out of France), speaking of which, here's the lowdown on French hops: doing a quick bit of research it would seem that France has had its hand in the hop growing business for quite some time (several centuries to be exact) but has only just seen use in the American craft beer scene. They grow at least 11 different varieties, six of which I have never heard of so I'm sure we can expect many more interesting new flavour profiles to hit American beer markets very soon. Getting back to our new friends Aramis and Triskel; it would seem Aramis is the younger of the two and features lovely fruity, spicy, citrusy, and herbal aroma and flavour profiles. Triskel on the other hand features a much more fruity, floral, citrus, spicy and grassy profile. Both are in the 7 to 9% Alpha Acid range, which for a brewer means these hops have potential to contribute a fair amount of bitterness to a beer in addition to a fair amount of aroma. With regards to these new hop varieties I am excited to see where we'll see them next. In the beers produced by Crux I found both the Triskel to be much more floral than the Aramis but both were fruity with hints of citrus (please note: both hops were used in Imperial IPA's and both beers were 9.5% abv (they like to go big at Crux)), surprisingly the alcohol was extremely well-hidden in both and only slightly detectable in the Aramis.

Taplist at The Crux Fermentation Project

I can't wait to have a taste of their Flanders Red 17 months down the line as it was explained to need this much time in the barrel before it would be ready. Their nitro stout was another stand out and I found their "Sugar Daddy" and "Sugar Mamma" brews (both listed as "sweet" pale ales, mind you) to be rather intriguing. Both beers utilized Lactose (a non-fermentable milk-sugar most commonly used in milk stouts for added body, mouthfeel and sweetness) making them both a milk pale ale? Now that's a new style! "Sugar Daddy" finished with just a hint of sweetness but I would by no means describe it overly sweet or sugary as one might expect from the name. The Porter, which just so happens to be an American Brown style (a style I am growing quite fond of) is such a good example of the style: roasty, toasty, a little sweet, a little malty, but overall an extremely well-balanced easy to drink beer, perhaps a little thin body-wise, but I could see myself craving and going for time after time. And their Saison was everything a Saison should be. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this one, just a stand-up good example of what we have come to know and love of that style here in the US.

The "Sugar Daddy" sweet pale ale

To put this all in perspective it would seem that The Crux Fermentation Project is off to a wonderful start and will only move-on to bigger and better things. Their system is top of the line and will allow them an extreme amount of flexibility to experiment: As for the non-traditional brewing methods: yes please! Cheers to Crux, Russel, and the rest of the crew, keep it up! We'll all be watching and waiting!

Thanks for reading!