Sunday, August 21, 2011

Beerfest and Tucker Swims

Hello everyone

I've got lots to talk about, including photos, so let's get right to it!

Rob Happenings

Last Friday Cathy surprised me with tickets to the Brews Fest at Silver Mountain Resort. For those of you unfamiliar with Silver Mountain, it's a ski resort in Kellogg, ID, a town east of Coeur d'Alene that sits in Silver Valley, which is carved out by the Coeur d'Alene river.  Kellogg was built on mining, including silver, hence the name of both the valley and the resort, and the ski resort sits on top of the mountains to the south above the town. One of the neat things about it is that the only way up is to ride in a gondola (or hike). To the best of my knowledge you can't drive up to the top, although there must be a service road for the employees to use because we could see rental trucks behind the stage. Anyway, I'd never been to Silver Mountain before, even during the eight years I lived in North Idaho during the 90s, mainly because I never had any reason to.  Whenever I went snowboarding, I always went to nearby Schweitzer, and I'd always heard Schweitzer was better, anyway. So I was kinda excited to see Silver Mountain and ride the "world's longest gondola" to the top. But let's be honest, I was really excited about the beer.

The ride to the top was what it was: a pretty uneventful 20 minute ride to the top. the views were great, but it's not like it was an amusement park ride or anything. We shared our car with another couple, and the lady seemed pretty afraid of the whole thing, especially at the section that crosses a valley pretty high in the air. I'm not a fan of heights, but it wasn't an issue for me, probably because there was glass (or plexiglass) between me and the ground below, aside from two small sliding windows on one side.

We got up to the top and stood in line to each get a mug and seven beer tickets, which were included in the price of admission to the event. Our mugs said "2005" on them, and the guy handing them out said they were "recycling."  I hope he meant "getting rid of leftover unused supplies," not "reusing the same plastic mugs for six years straight."  Anyway, a woman in another booth helpfully explained that one ticket was for a "taster" of beer, and that four tickets filled your mug. So naturally, using the skills I learned in college-level algebra, I assumed that one ticket meant 1/4 of a mug full. Some of the beer vendors apparently had other ideas.

I knew Ninkasi was going to be there, so I headed to their booth first. I was a little disappointed they only had Total Domination IPA and Believer Double Red on tap, two very good beers, but probably their two most common ones. But I decided to start someplace familiar before branching off into more exotic territory, and I chose a one ticket "taster" of Total Domination, while Cathy chose a "taster" of Believer. I was wearing a Ninkasi hat and a Stone brewing t-shirt for the event, and while the Ninkasi guy poured our beers, he commented on my clothes, and we chatted about good beer and Eugene, where Ninkasi is located and where until recently I was located for a decade or so. He handed us two mostly-full mugs of beer, not exactly 1/4 of a mug, not that I was complaining. I didn't try any of Cathy's Believer, but the Total Domination was predictably good, with a strong floral hop flavor and relatively clean finish, just like the other hundred or so times I've had it.

The extra-large "1/4-full" mugs seemed to be a (mostly) recurring theme. We headed over to the Deschutes tent and I sampled their Conflux No. 2, and IPA brewed with Belgian yeast. Blaugh. I realize Belgian beers and other styles brewed with Belgian yeast are all the rage these days, but I still can't get into it. The Belgian yeast flavor really turns me off, though I don't hate it as much as I used to, so maybe it's just an acquired taste thing. But the Belgian yeast and northwest hops together were just not a good combination, as they seemed to bring the worst in each other. The citrusy flavor of the northwest hops that I like so much was almost completely lost behind the pungent, sweatsock flavor of the Belgian yeast.  The yeast also seemed to amplify the hop bitterness, but not in a good way. Not a fan. Fortunately, this was the smallest (although still more than 1/4-full) taster I got, so I choked it down and moved on.

Cathy and I decided were were hungry, so she volunteered to stand in line at the sole food booth they had set up (Fail) while I got us some more beer. I ended up chatting with the guys at Odell, who had 90 Shilling Scottish Ale and Myrcenary Double IPA on tap. My shirt and hat proved to be yet another conversation piece, as I ended up chatting with the Odell guys about the wonders of craft beer before they offered me a (non-ticketed) taster of each. Both were excellent. The 90 Shilling was probably the smoothest Scottish ale I've ever had, and the double malt-level of the Myrcenary provided a nice balance to the double hop level, creating a big beer that didn't really taste like a big beer. I asked for a one-ticket taster of each, and the guy handed me two almost-full mugs. Yeah.

Cathy and I found a shady section of grass to eat our food pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches. Until last year, I had been a strict vegetarian (well, technically pescatarian) for thirteen years, and when I decided to start eating meat again, I vowed to only do so if it was sustainably and humanely-raised. Something tells me that wasn't the case here, but by the time I came back with the beer and we made it to the head of the line, we realized the only non-meat food they had available were tiny bags of potato chips.  This meant we'd either have to compromise our principles, starve, or take the gondola back down to the bottom. We opted for the former. So we choked down the crappy food (which actually didn't taste that bad), but at least we washed it down with good beer.

Next, we visited North Idaho Mountain's beer tent, and I sampled two tickets worth (which worked out to pretty much be a full mug) of their sunset red. This was a solid Irish red ale, a bit on the malty side with a slightly bitter finish, and it hit the spot. Then we headed over to Northern Lights' tent, and Cathy tried a free sample of their chocolate dunkel, which she liked so much she got three tickets-worth, even though she had planned on not drinking any more because she was going to drive us home. I ended up finishing that one for her later on.

North Idaho Mountain Sunset Red (left) and Northern Lights Chocolate Dunkel

We found another shady spot off to the side to enjoy our beers and listen to the music of the Kenny James Miller band. I'm not really into the blues, but the bass player was more than willing to funk things up on his 5-string, and after a rocky start due to technical issues, the band made up for it with long, extended jams that were more reminiscent of Widespread Panic than BB King, and so I ended up enjoying them. Also, I was on my fourth beer by this point, so I probably would've enjoyed the music regardless of the band.

Kenny James Miller Band

It was at this point that we began to worry about our dog Tucker, who was hanging out in the car at the bottom of the mountain. We had found a shady area to park, put a sun shade over the windshield, and left our tinted windows open enough so air could flow, but it was a sunny August day in the 80s, and we were beginning to feel like bad dog parents. So I polished off the red, and used the remaining four tickets at the Elysian tent to fill my mug with the exceptional Immortal IPA. Then we headed back to the gondola and down the hill.

Me with Elysian Immortal IPA and Cathy's Northern Light's Chocolate Dunkel

We didn't have to share the gondola with anyone else, which was fun, mainly because we could walk around the car and stick our heads out the window for better photos.

At the bottom, Tucker was chilling out just fine in the car. He didn't chew anything up like he's been known to do when left in the car for a while, so we rewarded him with some ball-playing time at a boat launch down the Couer d'Alene river.

"Throw the damn ball, already!"

"I can't believe you're making me beg!"

"That's what I'm talking about."

It's amazing how quickly he's gone from being scared of the water to just jumping right in. But since he's so obsessive about getting the ball, it shouldn't be a surprise.

In Closing

We have some friends from out of town coming in today, so I might not be doing much blogging for a few days while they're here. But I'll definitely be back soon.


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Blogger Chelle said...

Sounds like a fun outing! And the pictures from the gondola are amazing. I've never been to Silver Mountain but hope to ski there someday. Love Tucker's flying ears!

4:20 AM, August 22, 2011  
Blogger Rob said...

Thanks Chelle.

7:48 AM, August 22, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

1:50 PM, August 22, 2011  

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