Friday, May 26, 2006

Congratulations, Portland! #1 Beer City in America!!!

According to the latest (June/July 2006) issue of the Celebrator magazine, Portland (Oregon) is the #1 Best Beer City in America!! (San Francisco Bay Area, while not technically a city but rather a region, came in at #2).

Sure, this is something that somebody who has ever been to Portland for even one day already knows, but still, it's good to be recognized.

The full list is as follow:

1. Portland, OR
2. San Francisco Bay Area, CA
3. Denver, CO
4. Seattle, WA
5. Philadelphia, PA
6. San Diego, CA
7. Washington, DC/ Baltimore, MD
8. Boston, MA
9. New York, NY/ Chicago, IL (a tie)

This is as rated by the Celebrator's writing and editorial staff.

I don't quibble with the first two, but I do question the rest of the list...but, perhaps I just haven't spent enough time in the rest of the cities to really know. :-)

Anybody else have any specific issue with the list, or did they nail it?, but you're better off picking up a copy at your local brewpub, because I don't see this article yet up on their website. So, here's the bit on Portland:

The art of conversation over a finely crafted ale or lager has found its home in Portland. We Portlanders love to meet for a beer. Sure, there are several pubs that have a TV on (muted), but many do not, preferring to revive the spirit of community and invigorate that once-lost, pleasurable pastime of enjoying good company and an artisan quaff.
Craft beer has become such a part of our lives that it is woven into the fabric of our community. We usually don't make a big to-do about it like some places do, with numerous brewers' dinners and competitions and festivals (although we have our share of all those).
Instead, Portlanders quietly rejoice in our beer every time we walk or bike over to our local pubs to share a pint. We elevate good beer when we ask for the beer menu at a nice restaurant. We advance craft beer when we take the kids to a family-friendly brewpub. We appreciate beer when we strike up a conversation with the stranger on the next barstool and speak intelligently about local breweries, or hops, or Belgian tripels.
We celebrate beer in Portland because it's what we are. And it's a part of our lives. Every day. --Lisa Morrison

(all typos in the above post are mine.)

Congratulations, Portland!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Top Ten Current Favorite Beers

OK, so this is a simple list in concept. This is pretty much a list of the ten beers that I have most recently consumed and can remember enjoying a whole lot. In practice, it may be more difficult. I'm not allowing any cheating, i.e. putting Black Butte Porter and Shakespeare Stout on the list, even though it may have been months since I've actually had one. ;-)

So, here goes:

Top ten current favorite beers.

1. Full Sail Equinox ESB
2. Anderson Valley Belk's Bitter
3. Pacific Coast Elephant Seal Bitter
4. Widmer Red '06
5. Deschutes Cinder Cone Red
6. Woodsong Brewing's Up the Kilt Scottish Ale
7. Rogue Mogul Madness
8. Beach Chalet Altbier
9. Spaten Optimator Dopplebock
10. Anchor Bock

To those breweries that didn't make the list... no offense intended. I just haven't had any of your beer recently enough. If you're care to remedy that situation, please contact me directly... I'm sure we can work something out.

That's my entry. What are your ten current favorite beers?


Monday, May 08, 2006

Seasonal Offerings of Full Sail Brewing Co. vs. Anderson Valley Brewing Co.: ESBs

As hinted at in the header and first posts for this blog, this is the first message to compare two different breweries:

In one corner, we have the Full Sail Brewing Company (Platial: of Hood River and Portland, OR, an employee-owned brewery that has a long tradition of brewing very fine beers indeed.

In the other corner, we have the Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Platial: of Boonville, CA, a brewery known for using a little-known language called Boontling to name its beers, such as Boont Amber Ale.

The seasonal offerings up for comparison in this post are:

Full Sail's Equinox ESB


Anderson Valley's Belk's Bitter.


About Full Sail's Equinox ESB:

Named after the Equinox, presumably the Spring Equinox, the mid-point of the yearly cycle when the night is exactly as long as the day, this beer is perhaps a good study in balance, where the malt exactly balances out the hops. The Equinox is a clean-drinking strong ESB. It pours amber in color with a two-finger head, which settles to leave a lacy pattern. The scent has lemons and grapefruits, as well as something else... a trace of honey? Roses?

...and then there's the quaff. Mmmmmmmmm.... the quaff. This is one damn-fine, smooth-drinking beer. It's solid. It goes down like a meal... or at least like a nice, hearty appetizer. While it has traditional ESB qualities that you might find in a Fullers, it also has a *lot* more hops (i.e. bitterness), as well as a lot of overall strength, indeed, with some left in reserve that gets expressed as a slight sweetness in the palate. Though it only has a 5.7% alcohol content, it sure drinks like a stronger beer. That'd be the flavor coming through, loud and clear.


About Belk's Bitter:

The Belk's Bitter is named after the (mythical?) creature shown on the front of the bottle, a bear with a hefty pair of antlers browing out of its skull, grazing in a meadow.

It's rather golden in color, with a half-finger head settling rather quickly. The nose is rather faint, with traces of citrus and carmel.

In terms of flavor, it's not very sweet at all, but rather is actually is quite bitter, thus living up to its name. Clocking it at about 6.8% alcohol, it packs just enough punch to give two people a slight buzz if they drink it on top of a moderately full stomache. The bitterness is perfectly appropriate for a hot day. In short, I'd buy this beer and drink it again, if the weather was warm and I was thirsy.
Complaints: None really, though the Belgian beer fan in me would have liked just a *tad* more sweetness and fullness of flavor. However, I recognize that not every beer can be everything to everyone, and I know some people who just don't like any sweetness in their beers at all. This beer is for them.



Anderson Valley, unfortunately, fares rather poorly in this matchup. It is, indeed, rather unfair to them to pit their light-styled ESB up against the heavy-hitting Full Sail Equinox. Equinox hits it out of the park and changes the seasons with just a couple of quaffs. Though, the Belk's Bitter does pack a stronger punch, and definitely is also well worth drinking.

To paraphrase something that the great beer writer Fred Eckhardt (namesake of Hair of the Dog's Fred) may have once said, "My favorite beer is always the pint in my hand." When it comes to these two, that statement rings true.


A note on sources:

I was able to find tall-boys (22-oz bottles) of both of these beers at the Beverages & More store at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA. This means that they both have fairly wide West Coast distribution, and if your local purveyor of fine beers does not currently stock them, they ought to be able to order them for you upon request.


A Final note: While not specifically review in this article because it is not available in bottles, Pacific Coast Brewery's (Platial: Elephant Seal Bitter is a very fine entrant into the ESB category, and it's only available at their pub for a very limited time -- making it a third seasonal ESB worth mentioning.

Welcome to the Blog O' Fabulous Beer!!!

This Blog is a companion site to the Fabulous Map O' Beer, hosted on

Q: What is the purpose of the Fabulous Blog O' Beer?

A: The purpose of the blog is to provide a forum for expanded beer discussion and information. So, while the Platial site is great for talking about, say, the beers of Full Sail Brewing Company, it's not quite the most appropriate place for comparing the seasonal offerings of Full Sail in comparison with Anderson Valley Brewing Company. That place is here.

Q: What is the Fabulous Map O' Beer?

A: The Fabulous Map O' Beer is a website hosted on, and maintained by Garlynn Woodsong. It is open to public input:

Fabulous Map O' Beer

Q: (Related to the map): How did you find all these places, and what does it take for a place to make your list?

A: I've been to most of these places. There are a small number which made the list because their fame precedes them. These are places like the Olympic Club in Centralia, WA, which I would absolutely love to visit someday but have not yet been to. I've added it to the map partially as a reminder to myself to go pay it a visit someday. However, most of these places are familiar to me, and if I sense that a lot of people are starting to use this map, I'd be happy to come back and provide some more information, like my favorite beers, dishes, live entertainment, etc. Hopefully, people viewing the map will reply with their own responses in these categories.

Also, hopefully people will cross over between the blog and the map, such that a Top Ten Beer List discussion on the blog will include links to the top ten places on the map. Or even spawn a Top Ten map!!

A place will make the list if it meets one of three criteria:

1) It makes its own beer, bottles it, and provides for tasting of the beer on the premises (in the case of Lagunitas, this is very informal, but I've managed to drop by and have them pour me a 32-degree pint right off their secondary fermentation tank, so I know that they will do tastings).
2) It makes its own beer, and serves it at a brewpub. The brewpub will make the map. This applies to, say, all of the McMenamins pubs that don't have a brewpub on site, as well as all of the Rogue facilities outside of Newport (the Rogue pub in Portland doesn't brew its own beer, though it does distill its own liquor).
3) It serves beer that is of such high quality that, even though it is not made on the premises or by the same entity that funs the facility, the place is still worth mentioning as a great place to stop in for a beer. The Toronado in San Francisco is of this type, because it has such an exhaustive selection of Belgian imports, as well as a great selection of domestic micro-brews.

I often will purposefully not include a place, such as Pyramid, where I wasn't impressed enough with the quality of the beer or atmosphere. There are other places that haven't made the list simply because I haven't visited them, or don't remember visiting them, or haven't heard of them.

Q: Why this map?
A: My goal with this map is to raise awareness about the quantity and quality of beer that we have available to use in our region. I have friends from Europe who tell me that we have a larger selection of beer available to us here on the West Coast than anywhere else in the world... including traditional beer-havens such as Ireland, England and Germany. Their beer might be delicious, but we tend to have more styles available to us in each location. Just try finding a decent Bock in Ireland, or a decent Stout or Belgian Ale in Germany! OK, Belgium itself might have us beat in most categories... but you might still have difficulty finding an IPA or a Porter there. I'm trying to put our great beer selection on the map.

Q: What next? for what next:

1: Pubs Near Transit (for the Portland and SF metro regions): So people know which pubs they don't have to drive to get to when it's raining out and they don't want to ride their bike.
2: Restaurants by region: Starting with the ones I can walk to at lunch.

Q: I'd like to give readers a little bit of information about you, so I wonder if I could get your full name and where you live. (Obviously somewhere on the West Coast.)

I'm Garlynn Woodsong, and I'm from Portland originally... grew up in in the Woodstock neighborhood, attended the Metropolitan Learning Center for 5th through 10th grades, attended PSU for junior and senior years of college and graduated with a B.A. in Geography. I currently live in San Francisco's sunny Mission District and work in Oakland, though I also own a house in the Woodstock neighborhood and hope to return to live in Portland as soon as I can find suitable employment up there.