Upright and Bols introduce Kopstootje Biere!


It’s been almost a year since I started working for Lucas Bols and I’m not going to lie, I’ve gotten to do some fun things on this job. However none of them is more exciting than the project we’re releasing tomorrow, a collaboration between Bols and Upright Brewing to create the perfect pairing of beer and spirits, the Kopstootje Biere!

The Kopstootje, or “little headbutt,” is the Dutch version of beer and a shot. A tulip glass is filled to the brim with genever and served with a beer back. Since the glass would overflow if moved, the drinker takes the first sip by bending down to take the first sip off the top and then following that with a sip of beer. It’s a surprisingly good match, with the maltiness and botanicals of genever complementing the malt and hops in beer (Bols Genever actually includes hops as one of its botanicals).

A crisp lager would be the usual choice of beer for a Kopstootje, but Oregon is better known for its hoppy ales. So my boss, Tal Nadari, suggested approaching one of Portland’s many local breweries about coming up with a Portland twist on the traditional Dutch drink. I knew right away that Upright is who I wanted to team up with; their farmhouse ales are among my favorite beers and brewer Alex Ganum loves taking on experimental brews, from oyster stouts to sour ales aged in Pinot Noir barrels. Alex also loved the idea of creating a beer designed specifically to par with Bols Genever, so I was thrilled that he decided to collaborate with us.

A few weeks later Alex, fellow Upright brewer Gerritt Ill, and I say down to taste genever and plan the beer. Alex decided on a biere de garde. This a rustic French beer that uses lager yeasts fermented at warm temperatures, fitting into Upright’s farmhouse style. Yet Upright’s beer diverges from the traditional with the addition of many of the same botanicals that go into Bols Genever, including aniseed, ginger, angelica root, licorice, and juniper berries. The result is a dry beer with subtle notes of spice. The beer came out just like we hoped it would and perfectly lives up to its name, Upright Kopstootje Biere.

We’re holding a release party for the beer tomorrow, April 1, at Circa 33 in southeast Portland. Tal, Alex, and I will be on hand and we’ll have $6 Kopstootjes on offer from 5-8. If you can’t join us then, we have a small number of kegs going on tap at some of Portland’s best bars and restaurants: Beaker and Flask, Broder, Clyde Common, Cruz Room, Grain and Gristle, Hop and Vine, Irving Street Kitchen, Spirit of ‘77, Spints Alehouse, St. Jack, and Temple Bar. Get your Kopstootje Biere before it runs out!

For more information:
Ezra Johnson-Greenough on the brewing of Upright’s Kopstootje Biere
David Wondrich on Dutch drinking culture

[Photo by David Lanthan Reamer.]


Beer cocktails at Cocktail Camp PDX

Cocktail Camp PDXCocktail Camp PDX returns next Sunday after a successful debut last year. This time it’s going to be bigger (at the Armory!) and better (we can serve full drinks!). Ezra Johnson-Greenough and I will be there giving a session on beer cocktails. Tickets are $40 if you buy them now; they go up to $50 starting tomorrow. I’ve copied the full schedule below; it’s a great line-up, so if you’ll be around Portland be sure to check it out.

10:30 — Lillet Meet & Greet and social hour
Morning social hour with complimentary low-alcohol cocktails served by Lillet. Come have a morning refresher and meet some of your fellow cocktail enthusiasts before the day gets started.

11:00 — The Art of Tasting Beer and Spirits
Set the stage and your palate for the day by learning how to really taste your spirits and beer. Learn what makes spirits different and how to pick out their defining characteristics. Lee Medoff (Bull Run Distillery), Nathan Gerdes (h50), and Alex Ganum (Upright Brewing) will lead the discussion.

12:15 — Beer cocktails: Why Have One When You Can Have Both?
Jacob Grier (Metrovino) and Ezra Johnson-Greenough (Upright Brewing) will teach you how to craft fantastic cocktails using the unlikeliest of ingredients.

1:00 — Northwest Distillery Social hour
Complimentary cocktail and punch bar hosted by Northwest Distillery and served by Nathan Gerdes.

2:00 — The New American Whiskey
The other whiskeys that have been taking bars by storm and redefining what “American whiskey” means. Learn more from Lance Winters (St. George Spirits), Lee Medoff (Bull Run Distillery), and Sebastian Degans (Stone Barn Brandy Works) about this growing movement.

3:00 — House Spirits social hour
Complimentary cocktail and punch bar hosted by House Spirits Distillery and served by Kyle Webster (St. Jack).

3:00 — Yes, You Can Entertain!
Learn how to plan your own amazing cocktail parties with the help of David Shenaut (Beaker and Flask, Irving Street Kitchen) and Jacqueline Patterson (Lillet).

4:15 — DIY Sodas, Syrups, and Bitters
Expert instruction on doing it yourself from San Francisco’s Jennifer Colliau (Small Hand Foods, Slanted Door) and Columbine Quillen (10 Below).

Times are approximate and subject to change as the event approaches.


Grand Master Battle of the Mystery Cocktail

Spints Alehouse owner Alyssa Gregg has come up with what promises to be one of the most fun bartender competitions to date. She’s created four secret house-made liqueurs and mixers and invited four bartenders to come into her bar and create drinks with each of them. We won’t know what they are and we’ll only have one hour to come up with four original cocktails, then from 5-9 pm we’ll be serving them up for judgment by the public for $6 apiece. Here’s the schedule if you’d like to come by:

March 18th Challenger: Jacob Grier, Bols Genever, Metrovino
March 19th Challenger: Neil Kopplin, Imbue Vermouth, Clyde Common
March 25th Challenger: Adam Robinson, Park Kitchen
March 26th Challenger: Brandon Wise, Irving St. Kitchen

More details on the Facebook page. And remember, no tweeting or posting about the ingredients until after the competition is over!


Smoking debate in Louisiana

I’m interviewed in a solid article in the Gambit about the effort to extend Louisiana’s smoking ban to bars and casinos. Of interest is this bit about how the market is providing the smoke-free venues consumers demand:

The campaign frequently partners with music venues to host a night of smoke-free music and events — and some of those venues, including d.b.a. and Tipitina’s, have made the switch to prohibit smoking in their clubs. Let’s Be Totally Clear now lists more than 30 New Orleans bars and venues in its smoke-free directory, from AllWays Lounge on St. Claude Avenue, to Chickie Wah Wah in Mid-City, to Maison on Frenchmen Street and Cure on Freret Street. This year, the directory added both d.b.a. and the bar at the Columns Hotel to its list of smoking-prohibited venues. Contreras says the number of smoke-free clubs in the city has doubled since 2009.

Republic made the switch in spring 2007, more than a year after it opened, and offers a smoking patio adjacent to the club’s main floor. Owner Robert LeBlanc’s other ventures like Capdeville, loa and LePhare also prohibit smoking. LeBlanc says the venues went smoke-free to protect employees, who LeBlanc says were formerly surrounded by “heavy, heavy smoke clouds,” though he admits he was “tepid” about the decision at the beginning.

“We have a pretty young workforce, so it’s not like we saw a lot of ill effects,” he says. “It’s just one of those things you just kind of see in the future — it’s not going to end well.” LeBlanc also works closely with TFL and says he is “very supportive in telling people the benefits in our experience, being candid and opening the books, for what we went through” making the switch.

But — surprise — LeBlanc wouldn’t support a ban.

“Bar owners and restaurant owners should have choices,” he says. “I’m not in favor of forcing people to do something against their will with blanket legislation.”

My only quibble with the article is that it doesn’t provide any rebuttal to overhyped claims of secondhand smoke’s dangers. Evidence to the contrary continues to go unreported. But overall, a really good piece.


Galliano Suissesse

galliano 006

Last night in Portland, I was guest-bartending for Bols at an event at Vault where we were challenged to come up cocktails inspired by the classic drinks of New Orleans. When I think of New Orleans drinks, three types come to mind. First are the spirit-driven classics like the Sazerac and Vieux Carré. Then there are the giant, sweet, fruity drinks for the tourists on Bourbon Street. And finally there are the creamy, frothy brunch drinks like Ramos Gin Fizz or the Brandy Milk Punch.

It was those drinks I turned to for inspiration last night. The Absinthe Suissesse is a delicious New Orleans drink combining absinthe, cream, egg white, and a few other ingredients. It wasn’t too hard to adapt into a Galliano Suissesse, since both spirits share a strong anise flavor. I dropped orgeat from the original recipe since Galliano is sweet enough as is and added a little soda to lengthen and lighten it:

1 1/2 oz Galliano
1 1/2 oz whipping cream
1 egg white
2 dashes orange flower water

Give the first four ingredients a long, hard shake with ice, then strain into a wine glass. Add a splash of soda and grate some fresh nutmeg on top.

With an ounce and a half each of Galliano and cream there’s no getting around that this is a sweet drink, but it could be just the thing for a hair of the dog brunch after tonight’s Mardi Gras festivities. Unless you’re giving up drinking for Lent, but let’s be honest: No one reading this blog is likely to do something drastic like that.

Utah, future home of the Vieux Carré


Menthol acquitted

The FDA has completed its investigation into menthol cigarettes and found that they are no more hazardous than normal cigarettes. Michael Siegel summarizes:

In its draft of Chapter 6 of the report, TPSAC reviews the evidence on whether menthol cigarettes are more hazardous than non-menthol cigarettes, including smoking typology, biomarker, toxicology, and epidemiologic studies. The Committee concludes that:

1. “The evidence is insufficient to conclude that it is more likely than not that menthol cigarette smokers inhale more smoke than non‐menthol cigarette smokers.”

2. “The evidence is insufficient to conclude that it is more likely than not that menthol cigarette smokers are exposed to higher levels of nicotine and other tobacco smoke toxins, at least in regular daily smokers of more than 5 or 10 cigarettes per day. There are insufficient data to know if among smokers of relatively few cigarettes per day menthol cigarettes result in greater smoke intake and more exposure to tobacco smoke toxins.”

3. “The evidence is insufficient to conclude that smokers of menthol cigarettes face a different risk of tobacco‐caused diseases than smokers of non‐menthol cigarettes.”

The panel did find that menthol can enhance the smoking experience, making it less likely for smokers to quit. But this is obvious: If people didn’t like flavored cigarettes, no one would make them. Siegel again:

It is not clear what the criterion should be for the FDA to decide whether to ban menthol. If the FDA applies the criterion that was used to ban the other cigarette flavorings (i.e., whether the flavorings might enhance the taste of the product), then it would be forced to ban menthol cigarettes. In fact, the FDA would also be forced to ban all cigarette flavorings and additives, since all of them are added to enhance the ultimate bottom line: the quality and appeal of the smoking experience. If the product’s appeal were not enhanced by an additive, then that additive would not be added. This is a tautological issue, not a legitimate scientific question.

If the FDA applies the criterion suggested by Lorillard – that to be banned, menthol cigarettes must be more hazardous than non-menthol cigarettes – then the FDA would have no grounds to ban menthol cigarettes.

Siegel is right that this is not a question of science it all. It’s a question of what the FDA, Congress, and the president can get away with politically. From my Examiner column last year:

Because many consumers prefer mentholated cigarettes, one can claim that menthols are harder to quit or encourage more people to take up smoking. However this is not the same as showing that they are more “addictive.” By that standard, anything companies add to their products to increase their appeal to consumers would make them addictive. Menthol “masks” the harsh taste of tobacco in the same that milk and sugar mask the bitter taste of Starbucks coffee or barrel aging masks the bite of white dog whiskey. If menthol cigarettes are more dangerous than regular cigarettes, it’s simply because people like smoking them more. […]

Throughout the FDA’s hearings the most important question gets almost no attention: If a consenting adult wants to smoke a menthol (or clove, or banana…) cigarette, why shouldn’t he or she be allowed to? The agency claims to be concerned for children, but in seeking to ban flavored cigarettes it treats all adults like careless youths. The preferences of consumers are deemed irrelevant; smokers assumed to be dupes or addicts incapable of making their own decisions.

This hearing is, in essence, a debate about whether the FDA should ban a product simply because it is unhealthy and people enjoy it. Once that precedent is set it is a much shorter step to prohibiting cigarette sales entirely.

If anything, this new report just confirms that there was never any scientific justification for the initial ban on all other cigarette flavorings.


Are smoking licenses the future?

These are bad times for smokers, but there is one bright spot. Bills in Washington would create new exceptions to the state’s smoking ban, arguably the strictest in the country:

Both of the introduced measures, Senate Bill 5542 and House Bill 1683, call for the establishment of a special state licensing program whereby businesses would apply to the State Liquor Control Board for endorsement as either a cigar lounge or retail tobacconist. These businesses would receive a license, which could be renewed each year, and in return, patrons could light up within these establishments.

No more than 100 lounges would be licensed as a cigar lounge at $15,000 per year. Up to 500 businesses, each paying a fee of $5,000 per year, could receive a retail tobacco license.

Business owners shouldn’t have to pay tribute to the state in order to allow smoking on their own property. But it’s better than nothing, and with cash-strapped legislatures looking for new ways to raise revenue this could be a good way to take back some of the ground lost to smoking bans.

Last year the Tacoma restaurant El Gaucho spent thousands of dollars building a 25 foot airlock to separate its cigar lounge from the rest of the property. The state ruled that even this was not sufficient to comply with Washington’s smoking ban.