Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Barley's Angels Hop into the Holidays at Fort George

barrels for aging abound...
A week ago, I was at our family beach house on the North Oregon Coast, and saw on the twitters that there was to be a Barley's Angels Hop Into the Holidays meet up at Fort George Brewery in Astoria. Hey! I'm a lady (usually) and I like great beer (always), so I sent a tweet to The Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison, asking if I could attend.

Lisa & Chris
Fort George is one of my favorite breweries, and I love the people and the beer - so an opportunity and an encouraging reply from Lisa to join up were all I needed to scoot my happy arse into Astoria last Saturday at 2 pm.

yes, please...
Alighting in the main brewing space (which will soon hold new tanks and an upgraded system), a group of about 10 women introduced themselves while waiting for the event to start. The brewery staff buzzed around; brewers (super brewer Jack Harris, plus Spencer & new brewer Piper) were on hand to answer questions, and co-owner Chris Nemlowill gave a brief description of each of the Fort George beers we were graciously treated to; the additional beers were given kind due as well. The menu for the event is here.

beer! and candy!?!
Beginning with Halloween, we tried the Fort George Cavatica Stout (coffee) and Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale (malty, otterish) with a selection of Halloween candy, including Reese's peanut butter cups, Whoppers, Pumpkin candies (like candy corn), Heath bars, Rolos and Hot Tamales. I loved the way the honey flavors of the pumpkin candies upped the flavors and intensities of the beers, creating more bourbon tones. My informal tasting notes on the beer list are here.

Moving on to Thanksgiving theme, we tried the Fort George Fresh Hop Vortex IPA (loamy) and the Fort George Drunken Pumpkin (fresh, light & squashy). While the Fresh Hop Vortex was not as hoppy as the regular Vortex, I did enjoy the earthy freshness of that iteration. The Drunken Pumpkin (brewed with 150 lbs of barbequed fresh pumpkin) was delightful. Though I passed on the turkey, the mashed potatoes and the mini pumpkin pie proved to be perfect combinations with those foods, bringing out the flavors of the holiday food.

the famed figgy pudding and Hellshire combo (right)
For Christmas, we were given Green Flash Hop Head Red (pours cognac w ivory head & iron back, warms to floral & iris notes) and Oakshire Hellshire I Barleywine. The Oakshire Hellshire blew me away when combined with the figgy pudding on the Christmas plate - additional tastes of butternut squash & scalloped potatoes (I forwent the ham) proved to be equally as delicious. However, the Hellshire's brandy & orange rind flavors combined perfectly with the figgy pudding. This was my favorite combination of the event.

fizzy fruit! baked brie! chanterelles!
New Year's grouping provided a quadruple taste of Lindeman's Framboise Lambic, Malheur 10, DeuS, and Chimay Premiere. While none of the beers are my favorites as stand alones, the combinations with the fizzy fruit, chanterelle mushrooms with candied lemon rind,  and baked brie in pastry puff were delicious. The Framboise complemented the brie, sweet and earthy... The Malheur was fresh and clean, pairing nicely with the fizzy fruit (which Piper had carbonated!) and the DeuS (a finely carbonated, almost Champagne-like beer) was palate cleansing. The Chimay was delicious with the chanterelle mushrooms, earthy, soft, estery...

so many glasses of delicious beer!
I managed to keep most of my tasters the whole way through, and tried several combinations of un-paired beers with the foods in front of me. (If you want to see the way I kept track of my combinations, you can view my pairings & observations here.) It was a tremendous amount of fun, and Lisa was the consummate hostess, answering questions, offering anecdotes & discussing beer with joy and humor.

Me & Lisa
The Barley's Angels tasting was such a blast - and I would recommend this type of event, especially for ladies who might not yet be confident in their knowledge of beer. The event was $30, which might surprise some folks who have never been to a beer tasting event like this - but it was well worth it; the cost covered a generous taste of 10 distinct & great beers; personal attention & in depth information about the beers from two industry experts; terrific food presented by the wonderful staff of Fort George; a beautiful setting; and the opportunity to meet some really delightful people. I will definitely be attending more Barley's Angels events in the future.

You can see the full set of photos from this event here, on my personal blog. I highly recommend Fort George if you're on the North Oregon Coast or passing through Astoria. Kid friendly, great vibe, fantastic beers, super nice people, a brewery tour with knowledgeable staff, and tasty food. Plus, there's a resident tarantula behind the bar named Charlie. She's a sweetheart.