28 October 2015

Where will we put the guests?

There was a bit of an odd arrangement with regard to the American beers at Borefts this year, where one brewer had a standalone stall as part of the main festival in the De Molen brewery yard while up at the windmill a selection of other US beers were pouring from the restaurant's own taps. It's presumably something to do with the windmill restaurant being leased out to a third party these days. Just one bar meant long queues, and Borefts isn't the sort of festival where you queue for things, so I only tried a tiny fraction of what was on offer, all from breweries I'd never heard of before.

Hair of the Dog in Portland, Oregon I had heard of (it's been around since the early 1990s), and it was the sole American representative at the main festival. The two beers I tried were both iterations of their bourbon-barrel-aged old ale Adam From The Wood, both around the 12% ABV mark. 1978 Adam From The Wood uses vintage Heaven Hill casks and pours headless, a dark brown colour with a rich chocolate aroma and very low carbonation. The barrels may be old but the oak flavour really comes through loudly, accompanied by a distinctly spirituous burn. After a moment it settles down a little and allows the smooth chocolate notes to take over, leaving a very well-integrated beer: not too hot, not too heavy and not too sweet, but balancing all of these into a luxurious sipping beer which offers an experience not dissimilar to sipping a whisky.

Adam From The Wood - White Peach is given the usual ageing treatment but with the odd addition of white peaches in the barrel. I bet they don't stay white for long. There's much less burn to this, with more of a vinous quality, the oaky vanillins of a big Spanish red. Real actual peach juice is just about discernable under the wood and helps soften the flavour further. It's still a big, warming beer but rather more delicate than the other version. I'm wishing I tried more than basically one beer from Hair of the Dog, but that's always the way.

Up at the windmill I managed to get two rounds in before tiring of the queuing. First up for me was Islander IPA by Coronado of San Diego, the only non-Portlander of the set. The classic clear gold of a west coast IPA, this has a little bit of candyfloss to it but is mostly a glorious riot of pithy, weedy, funky hop resins. And for herself, Diesel (left), an imperial stout by Cascade. Very much an after-dinner beer, this. It's very sweet, with a sugary coffee aroma and lots of caramel and crème brûlée. A teeny sip was plenty for me. Next round!

My ongoing quest to find out why some people like cream ale was exercised with The Fifth Ellament, by Burnside. It's mostly gold coloured, with a slight reddish tint and tastes of strawberry bubblegum and not much else. The distinguishing feature is a mouth-coating thickness that made it tough going to drink far sooner than it should have. Not my gateway cream ale, then. And lastly Upright Brewing's Blueberry Stout about which I can find little to say other than it's the perfect mix of blueberries with stout: a simple and tasty chocolate-forward base beer with a lovely fruity tang added in.

It's nearly time to leave Borefts for another year, which of course means a frantic round of panic sampling down at the main festival. Let's go!