Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Willamette Whiskey Society

Inspired by my friend Steve's success with his Tallahassee Whiskey Society, I'm thinking about doing something similar here.

The TWS meets once a month (first Tuesday) at a local bar or restaurant, reserving a table large enough to accomodate twelve people. Each session is devoted to whiskey of a particular type (Single Malt Scotch, Bourbon, etc). The Society Coordinator (that would be Steve in TLH and me here) provides a "starter" flight of three whiskies; cost to partake of that is $10 (payable to the coordinator, who bought them). Additionally, participants are encouraged to bring a bottle of something in the same category, the rule being that it isn't one that's available at the bar in which the session is taking place. Any food that's consumed is ordered off the establishment's menu.

A more formal alternative would be to reserve a room (say the banquet room at Loca Luna) and have the Society provide the full flight of whiskeys (probably five or six). Small servings of complementary foods would be served. This would be more expensive (likely upwards of $50 per person) because the Society would have to pay for the room, the whiskey and the food.

So if you're interested, drop me a line (E-Mail address available via my Profile page) and let me know which of the two alternatives you prefer.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Block 15

Block 15 is the third establishment to be reviewed in our series on Corvallis Brewpubs. Though having been in business for slightly more than two years, they’ve developed a strong following, and unless you arrive at an off time (say, 2:30pm on a weekday) there’s a good chance you’ll be waiting for a table.

The d├ęcor is what I’d call “rustic-modern”. It’s clean and you can tell that it’s a relatively new establishment, unlike some of the other local taverns which are, frankly, a little beat up. Unfortunately, scant effort has been devoted to sound absorption, and it can be quite loud when it’s busy. The serving staff is young and many of them sport piercings and have done interesting things with their hair, but I’ve found them to be friendly and fairly prompt (although some customers have reported problems when the place is at or near capacity).

This is not an establishment that aspires to provide haut cuisine, and the menu reflects that. There are sandwiches, burgers and similar fare. We’ve been there on a number of occasions and two of the appetizers I’ve enjoyed are the Magic Mushrooms, these being cooked mushroom caps stuffed with cheese and a small amount of sausage, and the Hog Wings, pork riblets with the bone protruding far enough to make consuming them a less messy affair than, say, eating chicken wings (I recommend you order them with the sauce on the side).

We’ve been generally pleased with the entrees we’ve ordered, the sole exception being a meatball sandwich that contained far too much dried oregano. The French fries have consistently hit the sweet spot between too oily and too dry.

Of course, the main draw at Block 15 is the beer brewed on the premises. The standard offerings include the Glo Golden Ale, which is light colored, not too malty or hoppy, with a hint of butterscotch on the nose, and it’s a good choice for those who prefer typical American lagers. The Ridgeback Red is darker, with a slight orange peel aroma, and sweet, flavorful malts providing enough character to balance the hops. The Alpha IPA is very nice, with a strong citrus and herbal nose, a good malt presence on the palate and a mildly bitter finish, and is my personal favorite, though I admit to a fondness for IPAs (like me, they are full-bodied and bitter). Their most popular beer is the Aboriginale, which takes a middle path in color, malt and hops, but still has enough character to be interesting. The Printmaster Pale Ale, flavored with Amarillo hops, is intensely hoppy, with a strong citrus and pine nose, slightly astringent on the palate and offering a very crisp finish. Finally they have the Nebula Oatmeal Stout which, like most of its genre, has distinct notes of chocolate and, being a stout (as opposed to a porter) enough hops so that you can feel confident that you’re drinking a beer and not a chocolate flavored soft drink (I admit I’m not fond of stouts and porters, which, unlike me, are rich and sweet).

I’ve also tried the root beer, which is not particularly carbonated but has a much stronger sassafras aroma and flavor than anything you’re going to get out of a bottle.

In addition to the year-round beer offerings, at any given time there are about a half-dozen seasonal brews. These vary widely in style, ranging from light wheat beers to double stouts. Some have been memorable, and some not.

The one constant is that all the brews are well-crafted products, and reflect owner Nick Arzner’s passion for brewing. The food is merely good (better than you’ll get at Old World Deli/Oregon Trail Brewing or McMenamins), but the beer is excellent (far better than what you’ll get at OWD/OTB or McMenamins).

In short, at Block 15, it’s about the beer.

Block 15 web site.