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Spent the week in Portland again and some locals were kind enough to take me to Deschutes Brewpub. I’d had had both Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter on previous trips, so I knew I was a fan. I started with a seasonal, the Cinder Cone Red. Most reds can be a bit much for me, but the Cinder Cone is smooth and malty. The brewery describes the beer as having a toffee flavor, which I found distinct but subtle. Each of Deschutes’ Brewpubs make their own exclusive experimental brews. I ordered the sampler to get a taste of the temporary menu:

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Gluten Free Golden Ale
A sorghum and brown rice recipe that comes off too thin and disparate in flavor. The bitterness lacks sharpness. I’m glad to see the offering, but hope they can improve the balance and overall effect.

Mirror Mirror
Part of the reserve series, this is an interesting take on the well-known Mirror Pond Pale Ale “doubled up to barley wine strength.” It certainly has a musty sweetness to it, but far more drinkable than the Mirror Mirror 2005.

Mirror Mirror 2005
Same recipe as the Mirror Mirror, but aged and therefore far more dense. This is a full-on barley wine set up in a variety of wooden barrels, including American Oak, Pinot, Port & Bourbon. This is a slow drinker.

Streaking the Quad, Bachelor Bitter, Pilsner #005
All three of these more conventional, but high quality brews are exclusives at the Portland brewpub. The Quad, however, is already missing from the menu after my return.

Our little crew stopped by Rogue (map) for a nightcap. I had the Juniper Pale Ale, which is made with juniper berries, same as their gin made next door. A touch heavy on the florals, but still smooth and appropriately unchallenging for a pale. It was a great finish.

Portland is always good beer hunting.

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3251177998_7a25a71fc8This month, I was lucky enough to get tickets to beer school at The Map Room in Chicago hosted by Greg Browne from Mickey Finn’s Brewery in Libertyville.

Browne’s never-fail themes (French Farmhouse Ales, Oktoberfest Beers, IPA’s, Beers from Indiana) range from conventional to obscure, but his latest “Canned Beers” proved divisive. For those who passed…thanks for the leftover tickets!

Browne started low-brow with PBR and Fosters, and that primed us for a few surprises. The complete list:

PBR
One of the earliest canned beers that served to revolutionize the industry. While bottle retain the cultural cache, cans do the real work, block all light and eliminating extra air better than any other beer container. Essentially, says Browne, “cans are mini kegs” when it comes to protecting our beer.

Bitburger
Similar to a Pilsner Urquell, clean, slightly crisp. Helped me forget the PBR. And they’re tall. Browne proudly affirmed that this is his stand-by.

Fosters
If you haven’t already had one, move on with your life.

Baltika Extra Lager 9
My first (knowingly) Russian beer. Baltika numbers their beers according to alcohol percentage (how very regimented of them), but they start with “0,” (how very inane) making the Special Lager 9 an 8%. Clean, bright, and from what I can tell on their Web site, it’ll get me sex on a cruise ship.

Ska Special ESB
The first of two great beers from Ska (fun, comical branding). And as Browne pointed out, there’s just something otherwordly about popping open a can and smelling a robust hoppy note. Out of the can, the fresh bitter tip opens to a malty aftertaste.

Mickey Finn’s Amber Ale
I love it when Greg brings us his own brew from Mickey Finn’s (last summer he brought the Hefe Weizen, which prompted a follow-up train ride to Libertyville). With a hint of caramel, Browne compares the Amber Ale to Fat Tire, but perhaps a little hoppier.

Boddington’s
Sweet, creamy, bitter, available at the six fine Irish pubs on your corner.

Capital Amber
A solid ale. Capital won’t blow you away, but it’s always good. Out of a can, it has a slightly crisper tone.

Youngs Double Chocolate Stout
A classic canned beer. Like a Guiness and Boddington’s, Young’s in the can uses a CO2 widget to make a smoother pour and keep it balanced. Cans were promptly disemboweled and their widgets passed around.

Not ideal to follow from a bunch of hoppy beers, but it’s taste is so iconic that it quickly subdues any previous bitterness. This is a complex chocolate.

Ska Modus Hoperandi
Another great selection from Ska, the Modus Operandi was a great kick at the end. High citrus notes and a perfect weight make it a smoother hoppy beer.

It’s too late now, but February was Strong Beer Month at historic Magnolia’s Pub and Brewery in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco. And brewers Dave McLean and Ben SpencerĀ  didn’t take that name” lightly.”

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Magnolia’s is known for their unique cask ales, hand pulled from an impressive set of taps, up from the chilled basement. I imbibed in the Weekapaug Gruit, a Scottish-style ale likely named after the Phish song “Weekapaug Groove” (Magnolia’s has a decidedly Hippie past) and “The Other One,” a dark brew made with Blue Bottle coffee.

Recent visitors to Magnolia’s will hardly recognize the place. The trippy murals have been replaced with a shimmering gold paint and a more modern aesthetic overall. Better? I dunno. But the beer is just as adventurous, and the food still impressive.

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Located in Old City, Philadelphia, Eulogy is a Belgian that feels like a local. Over 300 beers on the menu, with many you rarely find on tap. Had my first-ever Duchess de Bourgogne on draft, which had a smoother, more open balsamic tone and less bite that the bottle. Was also happy to see a handful of Unibroues in Philly.

Flickr - Gray Guitar

photo credit: Flickr - Gray Guitar

The food was typical, but uninspired for a Belgian. Seemed more popular for its location than appreciation of its offerings. Near Independence Hall, theaters, and opposite many overly-trendy clubs, most downtowns would do well to get a serious beer haven like Euology.

Eulogy on Yelp

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