Tuesday, October 9, 2007

FHA: Fresh Hop Ales


God Bless FHA!

A relatively recent phenomenon in the craft brewing world is the ascendancy of the Fresh (or Wet) Hop Ale. Similar to wine in its yearly appearance and tiny window of harvest, these lovely, rich, floral beers are the perfect complement to our increasingly moist weather. On the whole, they are less bitter than beers made from kilned hops, allowing them to be incredibly hoppy, yet still eminently approachable. They tend to be too heavy to be summer quaffers, but not yet as dense and hearty as the winter beers which will soon be on their way. That said, they are as distinctive from one another as the hop varietals used in their creation.

Currently we offer four of these exciting beers here at John's (hopefully with more to come!), and as a demonstration of our devotion to our beloved customers, I have tasted and reviewed them. Perhaps the most interesting thing I found in tasting through these beers side by side was the marked presence of what we in the wine world (I am the Beer-Lovin' Corkdork, after all) call terroir. In case you don't know the term, here's a short primer: terroir literally means “soil” in French, and, though it looks like “terrier,” it's pronounced “tair-war.” It's used to describe the nexus of weather, mesoclimate, drainage, type of soil, sun exposure, etc., and the resultant effects on the flavor of a wine. You'll hear it said that a certain wine is “terroir-driven,” or that a certain varietal of grape “displays its terroir” better than others. This isn't just meaningless wine-babble (nor are most things labeled such, for that matter, if they are properly used- the growing tendency among certain writers and people in the industry to dismiss sophisticated wine vocabulary as snobbish obfuscation is inaccurate, and unfair, but that's another posting), it is a real thing you can taste.

Long story short, I detected clear, ringing elements of terroir in the first three of these beers, and I can only ascribe it to the fresh hops being used. Though I have never heard it described thus, there is every reason to believe that hops can express terroir in more or less the same way as grapes, and I tasted this borne out, probably a result of the un-kilned hops expressing their flavors in all their unadulterated glory. So when you read below that a certain beer reminded me of Pinot Noir, remember the terroir lesson- that's what I mean. I believe it to be the flavors of Oregon (and Washington) soil singing through these brews: notes of earth, mushrooms, forest floor, stones, fir needles, etc. And this cross-description (organoleptic cross-pollination?) is reciprocal- often one can taste notes of fresh hops in a good wine!

OK, let's get down to it! Do excuse me if hop varietal info is in variance with reality; in researching this piece I found some inconsistencies in my sources... Too much FHA, I guess!

Sierra Nevada Harvest 2007 $3.99/ 22 oz.

On the bottle, the claim is made that Sierra Nevada were the first brewery in America to produce a fresh hop ale, a claim to a certain extent refuted by Hale's below. Let's call it the first “true” fresh hop ale, by which I mean a beer specifically brewed to be a limpid exposition of hops (Hale's O'Brien's is a completely different style of beer).

This was the least floral of the three “true” FHAs I tasted, and my guess is that this is a reflection of the longer distance the hops traveled to reach the kettle. Nonetheless, it it delicious, with a powerful, IPA-like nose displaying peppery hops, roasted hazelnuts, and a citric bite. On the palate it broadens a bit, white pepper wound around an unmistakably Sierra Nevada core. Compellingly, it shows a marked, Riesling-like minerality on the long, crisp finish.

HOPS: Cascade and Centennial

Bridgeport Hop Harvest $5.75/ 22 oz.

The nose on this beer is just gorgeous, exploding from the glass with sexy, feminine aromas of super-hoppy grapefruit, green peppercorns, and (here it comes) noticeably Pinot-like scents of rose petals and forest floor. This backbone of terroir runs through the beer's palate as well, with fine carbonation and layers of rich, spicy, ultra-floral flavors. The finish is long and just off-dry. An absolutely wonderful beer, whose hops traveled the least distance- a mere 30 miles north to Portland, where the brewing of this beer swathed the entire Pearl District in curtains of hoppy yumminess...

HOPS: Cascade, Centennial, Golding, Oregon Nugget

Deschutes Hop Trip $3.79/ 22 oz.

Maybe my favorite of these three, but it's hard to say. Who's more beautiful, Julie Delpy or Scarlett Johannson? A nice choice to have, there, Paris... The bouquet of this beer is something to be experienced, possibly the most delicious, complex aroma I have ever gotten in a beer. In its preening, sunny, floral scents, in its pure, visceral, erotic appeal, it simply blew away every Belgian or Super-stout I have smelled- apples and oranges, I know, but I tire of certain beer reviewers' monochromatic obsession with massive, dark beers. This beer shows, inarguably, that a lighter-styled beer can hold all of the complexity- and maybe more- than a heavy, dark beer (I'm looking at you, Mikkeller!).

The nose is a dazzlingly tropical hop-bomb, redolent of coconut, papaya, pommelo, citron, white grapefruit, and stargazer lilies. On the tongue you get apples, Comice pears, and cherryskins, with a marked unctuousness (reminded me of hop resins, texturally) to its silky mouthfeel. The finish goes on and on, with a touch of sweetness balancing the slight hoppy bitterness. Stunning.

HOPS: Crystal

Hale's O'Brien's Harvest Ale $1.49/ 12 oz.

As related in the Northwest Brewing News, brewer J. Kipling said Hale's was already brewing this beer when he arrived there 18 years ago. Given that this brew does contain wet hops, that makes it easily the oldest FHA consistently made in the States... but... This is quite different in style from the above three. In the interest of accuracy of nomenclature, it drinks like, and should perhaps therefore be called, a hoppy Northwestern Oktoberfest. But whatever...

The nose is rich and round, filled with roasted nuts, chocolate, and caramel. On the palate it drinks rich and smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and a long, pleasantly bitter finish.

HOPS: Amarillo and Centennial

There are many more variations on the FHA theme appearing these days, including offerings from Dogfish Head, Ninkasi, and Great Divide. They are all worth trying, though my Northwestern chauvinism demands that I point out that richness of resiny hop flavors fades the longer the trip is from field to vat. That said, Great Divide (Colorado) made an FHA so good it made my head spin last year, and not because I drank three 22s, either...

Drink up! And you can always email me at corkdork5000@gmail.com with comments, questions, or rants.

yrs, RF

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Beers of September

...as selected by Chris and Riggs

Schmaltz Brewery Coney Island Lager $4.05/ 22oz. (NY)
Intense, finely crafted East Coast lager with a West Coast muscularity to it. Finishes almost dry, with a long finish well-balanced between hops and malt.

Unibroue Ephémère $5.99/ 1pt 9.4 oz. (Québec)
A gorgeous, light beer brewed with apple juice, coriander, and curacao. Perfect for Indian Summer afternoons, the fruit flavors are very well integrated; the beer is not at all sweet, but enormously refreshing.

Lagunitas "Kill Ugly Radio" $3.49/ 22 oz. (CA)
A mightily-hopped double IPA that Frank himself would approve of, if he hadn't been a teetotaler. Lighter in color and more bitter than last year's incarnation, this is Lagunitas' second beer dedicated to the inimitable genius Frank Zappa. Drink it and think of the field day he'd have eviscerating our current "administration"... I did mention that this beer, and its reviewer, are from the Left Coast, right...?

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale $1.35/ 12 oz. (CA)
To quote the earlier post on this beer: "This beer celebrates Sierra Nevada as pioneers in the craft brew revolution. On November 15, 1980, Ken Grossman began the first-ever batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and the world has never been the same. The Anniversary Ale is a worthy addition to the family. It has a beautiful, bright copper color, with floral, assertively Northwestern hops (they are Cascades, in fact), smelling like a fistful of the stuff right off the vine. On the palate it is super-clean, with its hoppiness wound around delicious malt and fine carbonation. It is reminiscent of a hoppy steam beer; absolutely delicious."

Bayern Oktoberfest $1.35/ 12 oz. (Montana)
The color is dark brown, the same as cola. The nose is classically styled, “varietally-correct,” you'd call it, to borrow a wine phrase. It smells of roasted chicory, rich and malty. In the mouth, its heavy mid-palate belies a crisp, rather dry finish. A fine effort.

Heather Ales Fraoch $4.45/ 16.2 oz. (Scotland)
A delicious beer whose style predates the widespread use of hops as a bittering agent. In existence for over 2000 years, this is one of the oldest surviving ale styles. Brewed with sweet gale and flowering heather, then poured into a vat of heather flowers for an hour before fermentation, it is delicious and unique, with a rich peaty aroma, light sweetness on the tongue, and a spicy herbaceousness to the dry finish.

Full Sail Vesuvius $3.79/ 22oz. (OR)

This is one of the best American Belgians around, better than last year's version by a fair sight. The nose is dazzling and rich, ridiculously true to style, full of lavender, lilies, white peppercorn, and ruby red grapefruit zest. It has a refreshing bitterness on the tongue, with the rich mid-palate you'd expect, but a surprisingly dry finish. A truly wonderful beer.

Stone Ruination IPA $2.49/ 12 oz. or $4.79/ 22 oz.

I have to hand it to them, the boys down south have shot the lights out with this beer. The label proclaims it to be a “liquid poem to the glory of the hop,” and I certainly couldn't describe it better. But I will say that it is an avalanche of floral, citric, peppery hops that glow around a lean malt nucleus, almost preening. Probably one of the best five or six IPAs around.

Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner $2.75/ 12 oz.

Even though Sammy Adams are a gigantic brewery, and even though they were at the very forefront of the revival of American brewing, I can't help but to get a little aw-shucks when I try this beer. I mean, bless their hearts, it's just so cute for them to make a northwest-style hop-bomb! They're trying so hard! Don't you just want to take them out to Chuck E. Cheese's as a reward? Joking aside, this is a massively-hopped beer, verging on – gasp!- too hoppy. The Hallertaus they use are not as floral as our Pacific hops, and the resultant beer is bitter almost the the point of being acrid. It does retain an unmistakably Samuel Adams malt core, and that's a good thing. A beer you must try, even if it is kinda like stumbling through a hailstorm of peppercorns with a beer in your hand (I mean that in the best possible way).

Stone 11th Anniversary Ale $5.49/ 22 oz.

Did I mention that we dig Stone? Everything they make is great, including the labels to their beers (read up). This beer is the world's darkest IPA, cola-brown and nearly opaque. The resultant head is creamy and rich, and the nose is a massive wash of hops. On the tongue it shows a creamy texture, with pleasantly bitter flavors of cherry skins and malt. One of the most refreshing dark beers around, with the potential to inspire a trend in its wake- maybe this style, dark-brown, yet ultra-hoppy and lithe, can justify the moniker San Diego-style IPA. Whatever you call it, we like it a lot.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New Beer Reviews

Now safely home, I've gotten back to the vital work of tasting every new beer that I can get my hands on- and talking about the ones that got away. I'll start with one of those, described to me in exquisite detail by Chris, the Beer Guru:

Wild Dog Whiskey-Barrel-Aged "Gonzo"

This beer is available in extremely limited-edition gift boxes, only five hundred of which were made (the packages also contain a nice glass and a chunk of the barrel in which the beer was aged). This is their Gonzo Imperial Porter- a tribute to the famous Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson- here aged in whiskey barrels, adding texture and weight. The head is fine, a light roasted brown in color. The beer attacks with an initial whiskey hit, followed by light oak flavors. Loaded with rich coffee notes on the mid-palate, it finishes with deep roasted chocolate flavors. The mouthfeel is silky and smooth, not as intensely viscous as expected.

The rest of these I tasted:

Butte Creek "Helltown" OG Hefeweizen
Super-light, with extremely subtle flavors that are almost not there. It's more Deutschland than NorCal, with prototypical banana aromas. The carbonation is very fine, and the finish is crisp and dry. This beer needs to be drunk very cold, and very quickly.

Pyramid Brewmaster's Reserve 2007: Imperial Hefeweizen
An interesting brew. The beer is very cloudy, with dense bubbles in its impressively European head. The nose almost reminds me of Gueuze in its tropical tartness, but this does not carry over on the palate. It is fruity and rich, with a marked peppery bitterness to the well-hopped finish. A somewhat awkward pairing of styles, this beer nonetheless offers the intensity of an Imperial with a bit of the refreshing aspect of a good Hef.

Taras Boulba
This is the hoppiest Belgian beer I have ever had. To the chagrin of the haters of the hop (i.e. folks who don't like to have their beers club them into hoppy submission), there is an ever-increasing trickle of European brewers who, having seen the bright white rainy light out here on the Left Coast, have taken this inspiration back across the Atlantic. More than one Belgian beer trumpets this fact on its label, only to disappoint with barely noticeable hoppiness- not so Taras Boulba. These folks have nailed it. The nose is filled with aggressive, peppery hops and lily flower. With starry, assertive carbonation, the beer finishes bright and bitter. By God, it's alive! This wouldn't pass for a Northwestern IPA, but it is just as hoppy.

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale
This beer celebrates Sierra Nevada as pioneers in the craft brew revolution. On November 15, 1980, Ken Grossman began the first-ever batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and the world has never been the same. The Anniversary Ale is a worthy addition to the family. It has a beautiful, bright copper color, with floral, assertively Northwestern hops (they are Cascades, in fact), smelling like a fistful of the stuff right off the vine. On the palate it is super-clean, with its hoppiness wound around delicious malt and fine carbonation. It is reminscent of a hoppy steam beer; absolutely delicious.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Back from the Bluegrass

I spent last week in the swelter and haze of my natal town, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Bowling Green is an old town with old money, home to Western Kentucky University (go Hilltoppers!), Lost River Cave (neat!), the Corvette plant (cool if you like cars), and once the short-lived Confederate Capital of the state (not cool). It reminded me of 82nd Ave with nice houses and golf courses, but my family are there, and that's reason enough to go. OK, it's the only reason.

So, welcome home, me! I am delighted to be back in the warm embrace of civilization, once more safely within reach of the Pacific Ocean, sheltered behind our mountains, once more in close proximity to the world's finest beers.

That said, there are at least five beers that we can't get out here in Oregon (surely sour grapes on the part of those poor sots unlucky enough to dwell outside of the Pacific Time Zone). The ones I hear about most often are Magic Hat from Vermont and Bell's from Michigan. When I'm on the East Coast I drink Magic Hat, but usually find it to be a bit underwhelming, especially given the hype (although, since it's from Vermont, I assume the beer tastes better stoned).

This time, I was able to try Bell's Amber Ale for the first time. The packaging betrays its non-Left Coast provenance, expressing wonderment that the consumer would "read a six-pack holder." Ahh, they'll get it someday- careful, detailed perusal of beer packaging is part and parcel of the Oregon experience, but I'll rein in the condescension and go on...

Superciliousness notwithstanding, it was a good brew, hoppy like a Callie amber ale, with a nice malt core to it. Not one to write home about- although I guess that's exactly what I'm doing- but a nice brew all the same. And I hear the brewpub up in Kalamazoo is a great time as well.

Other exotic beers I tried included:

Goose Island Bitter: The best beer I've had from this Chicago brewhouse. Crispy, hoppy, and, yes, bitter. There was also a Nut Brown, but I did not try it (it was 95 degrees and 99% humidity, so refreshment was at a premium)

Kentucky Ale: OK, a solid B. Malty, but dry. They also made (of course) a Bourbon-barrel-aged pale and porter. I did not try these.

Bluegrass Brewing American Pale Ale: Better than the above beer, with a nice hop profile to keep my Northwestern palate happy. Crisp.

Great Lakes "Burning River" Pale Ale: A bit maltier than I would have liked, but with a touch of sweetness that became unobtrusive once the palate acclimatized to it.

...sorry not to have tried more, but ridiculously, no mix-and-match 6ers were available, so I had to buy by the 6-pack; a dangerous proposition in beer exploration, but a risk I was willing to take for my loyal readers.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This piece is plodding along slowly, but will be done in full soon. Here's a sneak-peek, since I know you all have been losing sleep the last few weeks in anticipation...


Far away to the east, tucked up against the borders of Washington and Idaho, are the Wallowa Mountains. Jagged, alpine, they rise up out of the desert sere. These steep slopes wring what moisture has survived the traverse of the Cascades, and thus are covered in lovely pine forests and starry montane lakes. The highest peaks are crowned in glaciers, from whose feet streams gush out, pouring through flower-jeweled meadows and rocky washes on their way downhill.

One of these, named for the winds that flow up and down the canyon, is Hurricane Creek. This is a stream in a hurry; the water kicks and froths along, taking very few pauses on its way. Far from a lazy coastal river with swimming holes and rope-swings, this is a wild, semi-frozen churn- water that only hours before was ice. It dashes along under the sharp-needled pine trees and out onto the plain, where it is parceled out in charming little canals that irrigate the lush pasturelands and grain fields at the foot of the mountains.

But before the thirsty wheat takes it all, this little stream gives its bounty to the glowing little community of Enterprise, Oregon. This is the water responsible for one of the best beers in the state. You can taste the gush and froth of wild Hurricane Creek in every pint of Terminal Gravity.

...stay tuned for the rest of it, at least two paragraphs more...

Caldera Pilsner and Journeys in Multnomah Village

This weekend my lady and I were a-prowl in the Village, and, scared away by the acrid clouds of yellowtooth smoke at the otherwise charming Ship, we found our way over to Journeys, a newish watering hole right on Capitol Highway. Journeys is located in a converted house, and is filled with what the Germans call "gemutlichkeit," or coziness. It's a lovely place, with nice outdoor seating and great ambience inside, and, happily, is a smoke-free environment in which to enjoy their excellent beer and wine list.

When I walked in, my eyes immediately focused on one thing: a tap handle, gleaming golden in the soft yellow light, labeled CALDERA PILSNER.

The beer was perfect, snappy, crystalline, and light, with a soft curtain of hops on the finish. Impeccably true to style, this is the finest American pils I have ever tasted, edging out the excellent Prima Pils from Victory (and, as a Pennsylvania Dutch boy, that's traitorous talk!). Almost unbelievably crisp and refreshing, this beer demanded a revisitation. Needless to say, I aquiesced to her gentle demands.

It's a good thing I live four blocks away from the place...

Monday, August 6, 2007


at John's Marketplace, PDX, OR, USA

as selected by Chris and Riggs

Caldera IPA- in a can! $1.45/ 12 oz. (Oregon)

Caldera is the first microbrew in the state to make the jump to the dark side: opaque aluminum cans. They’re lined, so the beer has no metallic taste, and is completely protected from light. Hoppy, crispy, and delicious.

Weltenburger Kloster Hefeweizen Hell $2.79/ 1 pt. 9 oz. (Germany)

We’ve had this beer for some time, but I just discovered it last week. Wow! Light and refreshing, this filtered Hef backs off the banana flavors, but is still unabashedly German in style and complexity.

Boulder “Cold Hop” $3.99/ 22 oz. (Colorado)

Well-hopped, with a solid malty core, this is Boulder Brewing’s stab at an English-style ale. We find it more NW than UK in flavor profile, but it’s a damn good beer, however you class it.

Morland “Tanner’s Jack” $1.99/ 12 oz. (England)

Now here’s an English-style beer. Copper-colored, smooth, and fairly hoppy for an English brew, this is just one of the delicious brews from Morland. If you don’t know it, you should.

Hale’s Kölsch $3.59/ 12 oz. (Washington)

Chris the Beer Guru says this is absolutely the finest Kölsch -style beer brewed in the States. Light, refreshing, and delicious; and pretty darn authentic, too.

Spaten Premium Lager $1.99/ 12 oz. (Germany)

Spaten is a relatively large brewery, and their beers are widely distributed, so much so that you may have begun overlooking some great stuff. Premium is an ultra-clean lager, all bright, pure flavors and perfect carbonation. The finish is completely dry. This is what American macro-brew “pilseners” wish they could be.

Hop Rod Rye $3.29/ 22 oz. (California)

The biggest, baddest rye ale ever known to God or man! I’m only exaggerating a little bit there (God brews an awesome rye), as this beer belies the notion that all rye beers are light and snappy. It’s dark amber in color, with aggressive, peppery hops. Great with spicy Mexican food!

Brasserie de Blaugies “Saison d’Epeautre” $7.99/ 750 mL (Belgium)

This beer might as well be named Saison d’Epiphany for the effect it had on me. When I discovered that all the class, complexity, and pedigree of a Belgian ale could be delivered without any heaviness or sweetness, I cried tears of joy for three days. Actually, I just bought another bottle… and another… Brewed with spelt, this beer is a true “micro-brew,” as Blaugies is located in a garage in Belgium. Amazing.

Hebrew “Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.” $4.99/ 22 oz. (New York)

The other biggest baddest rye ale; Lenny’s is dedicated to none other than Lenny Bruce, and this beer is similarly revolutionary, packed with massive, integrated flavors. Gargantuan hops on the finish make Northwesterners smile.

Coopers Sparkling Ale $1.69/ 12 oz. (Australia)

If Foster’s is Australian for beer, maybe Coopers is Australian for really good beer (I dig Foster’s Bitter, admittedly). Everything they make I love, but the Sparkling just rings a sunny ole bell here in the summer swelter. Slightly cloudy, with superfine carbonation, it’s dry and eminently refreshing, but still has a nice complexity to it.

Yulesmith Holiday Ale $6.65/ 22 oz. (California)

Its name notwithstanding, this is a summer beer (your clue is the cluster of fireworks on the label). The beer inside is wonderful, absolutely gigantic, brimming with nutty malts and topped off with a landslide of bitter, white grapefruit hops. A massive, very well-made beer.

Rogue Half-a-weizen $4.55/ 22 oz. (Oregon)

If given the option to have only one beer with me on a desert island, this is the one I'd choose. Lay the bottle gently on its side prior to opening to “relax” the yeast. Fully clouded, this beer sings like sunlight down through a cloud, floral and light, but with ideal weight under the snappy citric flavors. There are no sweetness or banana flavors to mar the impeccable finish of Rogue's take on a Belgian witbier. This beer is just perfect.

Monday, July 30, 2007


You have found your lucky way to Portland's new home for all things beer and wine. Whether through methods honorable or nefarious, you're here now, so welcome! I am Riggs Fulmer, aka Mr. Riggs, aka Huge Throbbing Pinot, and I'll be your guide through the often confusing, always wonderful world of modern beer and wine.

There is perhaps no better city than Portland to explore these products. We are not only located within an hour's drive of one of the most exciting New World wine regions, but Portland itself has more breweries- period- than any city in the world. Munchen an der Willamette sind wir- and damn proud of it. Remember what that paragon of moral virtue, Cardinal Richelieu, said about drinking, "If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?" And Ben Franklin adds, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Ahh, sweet ethynol!

Anyway, check in here now and then to see my rants, rhapsodies, and various opinions on beer and wine. De gustibus non disputandum est, sure, but a little dispute can be a good thing! Read on...

When we visited TG last weekend, we were not only treated to glorious views and impeccable hospitality, but also some of the finest beers in our fair state. Drinking this stuff at the source is an experience not to be missed. Here's what we tried:

ESG (Extra Special Golden)
This is the locals' favorite. One bartender said that they sell more of this at the brewery than their IPA! The color is as named, limpid and golden, with a fine head and delicate carbonation. The beer has a delicious floral, herbaceous aroma that carries through on the palate, where it is almost unbelievably refreshing. The key is freshness: ESG here in Portland tends to heavy up a bit as it ages, with the hops coming more into the forefront. Have a fresh pour and you'll taste maybe the most thirst-quenching beer in the state. The quintessential summer beer, snappy, sunny, and dry. And the awesome news is that they'll be bottling it soon!

The flagship, and deservedly so. This is one of the best iterations of the style you can taste, and with the added hoppiness, it holds up better way out here in the big city (but see my tasting notes for fresh IPA below…oh, yum!). Still, there's something to be said for looking out at Ruby Peak with a tall frosty in your hand. The beer has a nice malty minerality underneath a wash of lemon zest. On the tongue the hops read as luscious ruby red grapefruit, with a mouthwatering herbal finish. Not nearly as heavy as many IPAs now, but still a hop-bomb in the true Oregonian style. Effin' great brew!

SDS ("San Diego style" IPA)
The name here is a barb at the enfants terribles down at Arrogant Bastard, who have humbly re-named what we've been calling Northwestern-style IPAs for years now. All that sun and salty wind must have made them forget… but we love ‘em anyway! I digress; basically, SDS is a double IPA, an explosion of hops- and it more than stands up with its sunny southern brethren. The color is a dark amber, with assertive bubbles and a compelling nose of cracked white pepper and grapefruit. It's floral and broad on the tongue, with a long, persistent finish. What's remarkable, and this is a theme throughout the TG catalog, is how light on its feet this beer is; a totally refreshing hoppy kick to the head, its warm, malty finish notwithstanding. Take that, Gargoyle Boys! As John From Cincinnati would say, we got our eyes on you!

This is TG's take on a Belgian Trippel, but, in typically iconoclastic fashion, brewed with ale yeast. In reality, it should probably be called an American Strong Ale, but that's just too long! The nose is rich and warming, and it's so on the palate as well, with expressive floral notes wound around a malty core. The finish is rather dry, surprisingly so, almost reminiscent of a big Saison, with lingering flavors of hoppy green peppercorns. And, wow, how can a beer this big be so refreshing?! Be careful with this one; at 8.5% ABV, it's a heavyweight.

The first thing you notice about this beer is that you can see right through it; it's a shade lighter than cola, which the TGers say is the traditional coloration of porters. But on the tongue it's all you'd expect, wonderful fleshy flavors of chocolate, toffee, and cocoa powder, with a hint of licorice. The finish is awash in roasted filberts, with a smooth hoppiness and a silky mouthfeel.

You'd expect a top-notch barleywine from these guys, and you'd not be disappointed. And, at around $12 a growler, it's the least expensive one I've had in some time. The nose is vast and complex, a riot of roasted cherries, rose petals, fresh wort, and caramel. On the tongue it positively preens; this is a beer to be savored with a good cigar or a long sunset. The toffee and amaretto flavors swirl around a balancing note of lemony acidity, much like a good Vin Santo. The finish is a touch sweet, but not heavy or cloying. If only they bottled it, so we could cellar some! Legend is, they broke out a five-year-old barrel a year ago, and happy mayhem ensued…

Fresh IPA
On the tour, head brewer Dean grinned a wicked grin and pulled a twisty metal contraption out of a corner. Heading right for the bottling tank, he plugged it in, turned a switch, and out poured one of the most delicious beverages I have ever had (and I've had a few). This was brand-spanking-new IPA bound for bottling, an ice-cold 35 degrees or so, bright, clear, almost glowing in the glasses we'd happily lugged around on our tour. It was completely different than the "normal" thing, with explosively peppery, white grapefruit hops that just danced on the tongue. The great treatment had to sway me a bit, but this might just have been the most refreshing drink I've ever had, second only to that cave-born spring in the mountains of eastern Kentucky… But you probably won't ever get to try this, so I should shut up and not be a tease.

Now that you're thirsty, come to John's Marketplace in Portland, Oregon and grab a sixer of IPA and see if I'm lying! We'll see you here…

yrs,Mr. Riggs, the Beer-lovin' Cork-Dork