Suomenlinnan Panimo

A short ferry ride from Helsinki is Suomenlinna, an old military fortress spread across six islands that is now a World Cultural Heritage Site and hosts museums, restaurants, various events, as well as a brewery/restaurant, Ravintola Suomenlinnan Panimo. My visit unfortunately fell in between lunch and dinner – the menu options looked quite good, though.

Two beers at Suomenlinnan Panimo

Two beers at Suomenlinnan Panimo — Suomenlinna, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Saison La Fleur de L’ile – 5.5% – A bit muted. Light caramel malt start and a touch watery, but then the coriander and light clove and pepper kick in. Not all that great, but the best of the three I tried.
    The Rest

  • Höpken Pils – 4.2% – Clear straw yellow color. Light and bready with a lightly bitter finish. Touch of herbal hops.
  • Amphion Ale – 4.5% – Unfiltered. Hazy golden color. Kind of bitter. Not much in terms of malt or hop flavors. Registers as a beer, and that’s about it.

Their terrace was a great spot to hang out and have a beer after wandering around the islands. Just wish the beer had been better. Next time I’m in Helsinki I’ll be sure to stay for dinner.

Panimoravintola Plevna

Where was I? Oh yeah, Tampere, Finland. I arrived on a Wednesday, saw a few sites, walked around town, and then went to Panimoravintola Plevna, a brewpub founded in 1994 in one of the old Finlayson cotton mill buildings. After sitting down at the bar, I found out their Siperia Stout had that day just won Best Beer in Finland 2015. I considered that a good sign. One of the women working there was surprised to learn I’d be in town until Friday. “There’s nothing to do in Tampere,” she said. I asked her for some suggestions, and the first few things she mentioned I’d already checked out that afternoon. Hmm. It was a good thing Plevna had enough beer on tap to keep me busy for the two nights I’d be there.

Three half-pours at Panimoravintola Plevna

Three half-pours at Panimoravintola Plevna — Tampere, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Dark Lager / Plevnan Tumma – 5.6% – Roasty, chocolate malts. Quite smooth. Little bit of dark chocolate bitterness on the finish.
  • Bock – 6.6% – Sweet, but not too sweet. Caramel and brown sugar, but not too strong. There’s a softness to the malts. Very light herbal hoppiness.
  • Wheat Beer / Plevnan Vehnäolut – 5% – Clove/banana aroma. Big clove flavor all the way through. Light banana. Underlying breadiness and spiciness.
  • Rauchbier / Savuolut James – 5.2% – Smoky aroma. Big smoky flavor. Sort of like Laphroaig as a beer. Caramel maltiness, smooth. Really light hint of floral hops when it warms.
  • Little Black Number / Pikku Musta – 3.8% – Light, dry, roasty with a bit of dark chocolate, and a sweet zing. Kind of like a dark mild but sweeter.
  • Siperia Stout – 8% – Big creamy stout with thick chocolate, coffee, roasty maltiness and an underlying citrus edge. Long lingering flavors.
  • Mosaic Weizen / Vehnä – 5% – Clove, banana aroma. Not as strong in flavor as their regular wheat beer – integrates nicely with the tropical fruit hoppiness. Light spiciness towards the finish. Pretty cool flavor mix.
  • JFK – 5.5% – American pale wheat ale. Clove, banana aroma. Interesting floral, clove, banana flavor mix, with some spiciness, too. Supporting caramel malt. Not the best, but pretty cool and unique flavor mix that makes you think.
    The Rest

  • Pils Luomu – 4.7% – Light and bready, with a hint of lemon. Light herbal finish with some bitterness. Pretty standard.
  • Severin Extra IPA – 5.9% – Floral aroma and flavor. Caramal and roasty malts. Fairly bitter finish. Bit too malty for my tastes.
  • Brewery Mead / Plevnan Panimosima – 5% – Big honey aroma. Quite sweet. Honey, citrus, lemon. Alcohol edge. Underlying light floral flavor.
  • Plevna’s Cider / Plevnan Omenasiideri – 4.5% – Sweet and apple-y. Pretty crisp and a bit dry, but too sweet for me.
  • Plevna’s Cider / Plevnan Omenasiideri Extra Dry – 4.5% – Cloudy. Not nearly as sweet as the previous cider, but has a bit of funk and tartness. Not a bad thing, but surprising and a bit odd. Dry tart finish.
  • Plevnan Stout – 7% – Dry stout. Dark chocolate, coffee, plus some roasty malt, but there’s a certain odd sweetness lurking about. Lingering dark chocolate flavor and bitterness.
  • Cotton Ale – 4.7% – Pale ale. Floral and citrus aroma and flavor, with underlying caramel malt. Some tropical hop flavor, too, and finishes dry and tannic. A little flat, though. Could be really good with some carbonation.

On Thursday, I slept in, did some leisurely sightseeing, then ended up at Plevna again. Have to say, Tampere isn’t the most exciting place, but it’s a relaxing visit and there’s plenty of beer at Plevna to slake your thirst for a night or two.

Bock’s Corner Brewery

After Stockholm, I headed north, visiting a few towns before reaching Umeå, where I took a ferry across the Baltic Sea to Vaasa, Finland. Went straight to the visitor info office to find out about rooms, restaurants, and breweries, and the women working there were very helpful. So, after walking around town and having a good dinner, I headed to the recently opened Bock’s Corner Brewery, which was about a 15-20 minute walk from my room. They’re in an astonishingly beautiful old building that used to house Bock’s Brewery, which closed in the 80’s. The new owners have sunk a lot of money (or so it looked) into renovating the space and buying a shiny new brewhouse. Lots of old stone, wood, and brick. There’s a pizza oven, too, but they still seemed to be testing out recipes when I was there. They even roast their own coffee.

no bock that day at bock's corner

Amazing ambiance at Bock’s Corner — Vaasa, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Pils – 5% – Grassy, sweet aroma. Grassy, bready, honey, touch of lemon flavor mix. Hint of bitterness on finish.
  • Dunkel – 4.9% – Caramel, biscuit, and toast maltiness, with very light coffee. Also hint of bitterness on finish.
  • Weissbier – 5.3% – Clove, light banana, to a spicy finish. Light underlying breadiness – not as much as I expected, but works well.
    The Rest

  • Pale Ale – 4.7% – Almost tea-like aroma. Caramel, light biscuit, and herbal flavors with an odd, underlying almost-sweetness.

The full names of the beers were all of the format Bock’s Pils, Bock’s Dunkel, etc. Made me wonder if they’d come out with a Bock’s Bock. So right after typing that, I checked Untappd, and yes, they do now have a Bock’s Bock. That makes me happy.

Monks Café & Brewery

There aren’t too many breweries in Stockholm that are open to the public. Not counting Omnipollos Hatt (it’s their taproom, and they have no brewery), I only found two, Monks Café & Brewery, which seems to be the oldest Stockholm microbrewery, and New Carnegie (English-ized name), which I visited at the end of my trip. There’s also Stockholm Brewing, but unfortunately they’re not open to the public, unless you happen to show up when the brewer has the door open and he’s got some free time. Anyway, the brewing setup at Monks Café is somewhat small, what looked like a four barrel brewhouse and four one-barrel fermenters. They have another restaurant and brewery, Monks Porterhouse in the Old Town neighborhood, that makes mostly stouts and porters, but it seemed to be closed during the summer for some reason. They have food here, as well, but it’s kind of expensive. Didn’t want to pay $23 for a veggie burger, so I got a cup of nuts instead, putting off dinner until later.

monks cafe tasters

Taster flight at Monks Café & Brewery — Stockholm, Sweden

    Rob’s Picks

  • Nelson IPA – 6.1% – Citrus and subtle tropical fruit over caramel. A bit muddled, but very drinkable.
  • Mango IPA – 6.5% – Mango and citrus, light caramel malt, nice bitter finish. Easy drinking.
  • Calyptra – 9.4% – Belgian IPA. Banana and clove, coriander, spiciness, with some citrus on the back end. Bit of an alcohol edge. Fun mix of flavors. Kind of reminds me of a tripel.
  • Orange Ale – 6.5% – Belgian ale. Light orange flavor mixed with some bubblegum and clove, with light lingering funk. Better than it sounds.
    The Rest

  • Svea IPA – 6% – Floral aroma. Light floral flavor with some citrus. Some caramel, honey, and breadiness to a light bitter finish.
  • Black IPA – 7.3% – Weird. Sweet, with some bubblegum, and not much hop flavor. Finish is fairly roasty with a little chocolate and coffee, after the sweetness subsides.

I tried all six of their beers that were on tap (they had a lot more in bottles), and the woman working there said they usually have more, but it was summer. Puzzling. The café location is not in a touristy neighborhood, so maybe all the locals were off traveling instead? Maybe beer tourism isn’t a big thing in Sweden? Maybe she just wanted me to leave? No idea.

Bartlett Hall

On the last day of my January 2015 Bay Area trip, I had lunch at Bartlett Hall, a new brewpub near Union Square in downtown SF. From their web site, I got the feeling that it was started by some business types to see if it would make a good franchise, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. There are no other locations yet, and I decided that made it qualify for a blog post. Anyway, I went in and sat down at the bar. The menu was the usual pub food, nothing too interesting, and when the bartender said they weren’t serving any of their beers in order to make sure they had enough for the upcoming SF beer week, I almost left. But he was kind enough to keep me there by pouring a couple ounces of the two they had on tap. So I got lunch, which was okay, and a full pour of some other beer. The on-site brewery is cooped up behind glass in a small corner of the restaurant space. I could see why they were saving up for the beer week events – pretty small production capacity. Not sure the business types thought this whole thing through too thoroughly.

    Rob’s Picks

  • Turbulent ESB – 5.1% – Fruity, melon hops, bit of spiciness, to bready finish. Interesting mix.
  • From A to Z IPA – 6% – Tannic herbal hops, touch of spiciness. Light on the tongue. Very light malt that blends in with the herbal flavors. Some tannic bitterness on the finish.

So yeah, the two beers were all right, but the ambiance was a little too corporate for my tastes, and the food didn’t make up for it. I think the main reason I’d go back is to get a picture for this post. The little tastes I got didn’t really lend themselves to an interesting photo.

Sky High Brewing

It had been a while since my last visit to Corvallis, and so I went down for a three day weekend to visit a couple friends, drink some beer, eat some great food, drink more beer, drink a little cider, and drink even more beer. As it turned out, the day I showed up was the start of Corvallis Beer Week, so Kappy and I hit the kick-off event on the roof deck of Sky High Brewing. Tried a few beers from other breweries, then headed downstairs to the pub level where we did the full taster thing. Sky High occupies an entire three or four story building, with pretty nice views of the ground floor brewing operation as you walk up the stairs (not to mention the pretty nice views from the roof deck).

Sky High samplers

Sky High Brewing — Corvallis, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Beet Helles – 4.8% – Bright red. Light, bready, bit of berry flavor. Earthy beet flavor shows up in the finish.
  • Korn Kölsch – 4.8% – Made with rainbow corn. Nice and light. Some honey, with light citrus and some herbal hops. Rainbow corn very subtle, but mixes well.
  • River Cross IPA – 6.2% – Tropical fruit and earthy hops. Solid malt base.
  • Panorama Porter – 5.8% – Coffee, some chocolate, and roasty maltiness. Nice citrus edge. Light and drinkable.
    The Rest

  • Base Jumper Amber – 6% – Lots of caramel, some breadiness. Bit of herbal hops at the end. Not bad for an amber.
  • Bavarian Hefeweizen – 6% – Banana/clove and honey sweetness. Too much of the honey sweetness for my tastes, though.
  • June Bug Wheat Ale – 4.9% – Light and bready. Touch of spiciness. Not much else.
  • Dream-On Pale Ale – 5.4% – Caramel malt and floral hops, with some earthiness on the finish. Standard pale ale.
  • Linus Pauling Ale – 5% – Made with orange and lemon. Citrus flavors are present but not as big as I’d like. Bit more of the citrus peel bitterness than citrus flavor. Light and drinkable, though.
  • Freewheel IPA – 7% – Citrus, herbal, earthy, maybe some floral hop flavors. Quite bitter finish. Underlying caramel. Would really like it if not so bitter.

Yeah, so, not quite sure how to wrap up this post. If you have a few days in Corvallis, it’s worth the trip to Sky High for a beer while enjoying the views. With limited time, though, it might be better to visit Block 15, Mazama, Oregon Trail, and/or Flat Tail first.

Aslan Brewing

Two new breweries opened in Bellingham in 2014. While I was still in the idle speculation phase of planning another bike tour weekend to visit them, my brother decided to move out of Fairhaven and back to Oregon. So I drove up for one last weekend of hanging out with him, hitting breweries, and doing a little hiking. First up was Aslan Brewing. They’ve gone the start-big route, with lots of large stainless steel brewing equipment visible through windows behind the bar. Full kitchen, too, with options for pretty much any diet. In addition to the beer line up, they also have house-made root beer and soda options. They’re an organic establishment, too, which is always nice. Tried all 16 offerings they had on tap, so yeah, it was great to have my brother there to help me get through it all.

the lion, the bar, and the sampler flights

Aslan Brewing — Bellingham, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Batch 15 IPA – 7% – Pretty cool mix of melon and earthy hop flavors. Light underlying caramel malt and nice bitter finish.
  • Alpen Glow Summer Ale – 5.7% – Light and smooth, with some honey sweetness. Light herbal hops, and a little breadiness on the finish.
  • Cascadian Dark Lager – 6.5% – Big roasty malt aroma and flavor. Citrus hops. Caramel finish, and light bitterness.
  • Irie Eyes Red Ale – 6.7% – Pretty smooth and crisp with lots of malts. Light citrus hop edge, and some bitterness on the finish.
  • Bellingham Brown – 6% – Big malts, smooth. Roasty, chocolate, brown sugar. Light citrus hops. Easy drinking.
  • Stout-ly Man – 7% – Roasty aroma and flavor. Chocolate/coffee maltiness, too. Moderately thick mouthfeel. Good lingering flavors and dark chocolate bitterness.
  • Flagship IPA – 6.5% – Floral and citrus aroma and flavors. Piney hop flavor, too. Light malts. Good amount of complementary bitterness.
  • Megathrust Imperial IPA – 10.5% – Big citrus and tropical fruit hops. Solid malt backbone. Good bitter edge.
  • Disco Lemonade Berliner Weisse – 3.5% – Wheat/bready start, with good sour tang, to lemony finish.
  • Root Beer – 0% – Huge aroma: licorice, sassafras, molasses. Nice sweetness, balanced with other herbs. Lingering licorice.
  • Ginger Ale – 0% – Ginger and honey flavors. Light, sweet, and refreshing.
    The Rest

  • Oatmeal Pale Ale – 5.2% – Bready, light, with a bit of floral hops, and lingering bitterness.
  • Ginger Rye – 5.4% – Ginger aroma and flavor. Light rye spiciness, with some breadiness on the finish.
  • Amber – Usual malt forward beer but with some herbal and earthy hops.
  • Flagship Pils – 5% – Light, with some herbal and earthy hops. Touch of honey. Some bitterness, too.
  • Wild Buffalale ISA – 4.5% – Light but not watery. Some breadiness. Citrus and piney hops with a lingering bitterness.
  • Don’s Non-Alcoholic – 0% – Roasty, molasses, and licorice flavors to a tangy finish.

All in all, a nice addition to the Bellingham beer scene. It’s just too bad that I no longer have a free place to stay there. I know, I know, it’s a rough life I have. Thank you for your sympathy.

Bushnell Craft Brewing

I don’t remember how I first heard of Bushnell Craft Brewing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. Their website features cartoony high school/college/old-timey sports characters for each of their beers and, in general, has a kooky suburban family vibe to it. Not your usual brewery, but I did my best at keeping an open mind when I biked over to Redmond on a hot summer day. Ordered a sandwich and a sampler flight, and, well, was pleasantly surprised by the beer. Not quite so much with the food, though it was a large portion, but the beer is the main focus as far as this blog is concerned. And no, I did not try one of the pickled eggs in the background of the picture below.

Bushnell Craft Brewing

Sampler flight at Bushnell Craft Brewing — Redmond, WA

 

    Rob’s Picks

  • Dirty Shirley Blonde – 5.6% – Light. Lightly bready with light lemon flavor. Good summer post-ride beer.
  • Bofuss Amber – 5.2% – Light citrus and tropical hop start to big caramel finish. Smooth, easy drinking. Decent lingering flavors and a touch of bitterness.
  • Dunkadelic Milk Stout – 7.2% – Big coffee/chocolate aroma and flavor with sweet lactose edge. Roasty maltiness, too.
  • Pine Tar Porter – 8.3% – Coffee/chocolate flavor with subtle citrus edge. Very light smoke. Pretty light on the tongue.
    The Rest

  • Crack Back IPA – 7.6% – Fairly malty IPA with earthy, herbal hops and a bitter finish. Kinda muddled.

They have since hired a head brewer and added to their initial line-up of five beers, so I guess I’ll be re-visiting one of these days. I’m still not quite sure what to make of Bushnell, but as long as they make decent beer I’ll keep trying to figure them out.

Slaughter County Brewing

There’s a loop ride I like that passes through Port Orchard and involves three ferry rides. It has become even better since Slaughter County Brewing (they have their own domain, but it just redirects to their Facebook page) opened on the Port Orchard waterfront. I start off biking to West Seattle (if you want a 4th ferry ride, you can hop on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi), then around and down to the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry. Mostly following the coastline takes you to Port Orchard, where you can stop at the only (as far as I know) pirate-themed, Irish pub and brewery. If you’re lucky the staff will be in full pirate costume. The tricky part of the ride is the foot ferry from Port Orchard to Bremerton — it has a year-round schedule and an expanded summer schedule — check beforehand or else you might be re-tracing your route back to the Southworth ferry. Then it’s the Bremerton-Seattle ferry back home.

drink Slaughter County or I will keelhaul you, arr!

Arr, matey! Come swill some grog at Slaughter County Brewing — Port Orchard, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Gorst Pilsner – 5.6% – Lemony aroma and flavor. Bready malt with herbal, earthy hops. Bitter finish that blends back in well, but may be too bitter for some.
  • Ol’ One Eye IPA – 5.8% – Herbal, earthy hops with smooth caramel maltiness. Nice amount of bitterness on the finish.
  • O’Cairdubhain’s Stout – 6% – Chocolate/coffee aroma and flavor. Caramel, too. Quite dry and pretty solid.
    The Rest

  • Bondsman Bitter ESB – 6.2% – Smooth. Caramel maltiness. Light herbal hops. Okay, but not too interesting.

Now that summer’s starting, I’m going to have to do this ride again. Just typing up the route description made me want to hop on the bike. Maybe I can also find out how the name of their stout is pronounced…

ThirstyBear

The fourth and final day of my Bay Area trip started off uneventfully. Leisurely packing, then coffee at a cool little cafe en route to the BART station. I got up to the Macarthur station platform, and the SF-bound train was right there with the doors open. I scurried onto the closest car, but soon noticed two things: there were way too many people on it for post-morning rush hour, and the doors weren’t closing. Eventually I found out that in one of the downtown Oakland stations someone had jumped onto the tracks (not in front of a train, though) and was running around the tunnels. The BART police were searching for him, but he was a slippery one, apparently — the entire BART system shut down for about an hour. By the time I finally got to San Francisco and ThirstyBear Brewing, I was quite the hungry bear. Ha! Yeah, anyway, the hostess kindly showed me an out-of-the-way spot where I could park my rolling carry-on bag before I sat down at the bar, where I got some food and a flight. An interesting thing about ThirstyBear is they are certified organic. Makes sense it being SF and all, but as far as I know there aren’t many organic breweries in the Bay Area, surprisingly. Go figure. Full disclosure: I’m a UC Berkeley alum, so I think this place has a great name.

Go ThirstyBears!

ThirstyBear’s taster flight at a very jaunty and artistic angle — San Francisco, CA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Grizzly Bear Red Ale – 6.5% – Fairly big caramel and biscuit maltiness, with big herbal and spicy hops.
  • Kozlov Stout – 6.3% – Nitro pour. Creamy smooth with solid coffee/chocolate flavors.
  • SF Winter Beer – 6.1% – California Common with spices. Light a little bit creamy. Caramel maltiness, herbal hops, and a nice spice profile that all mixed well.
  • Doppelbock – 7.2% – Light with roasty maltiness and herbal hops. Smooth, but with a touch of spiciness.
    The Rest

  • Polar Bear Pils – 5.7% – Light bready with spicy hops. Light bitterness on the finish. Very drinkable, but maybe too light at the end.
  • Panda Bear Ale – 4.5% – Golden ale made with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Caramel malt and chocolate and vanilla flavors. Interesting mix but didn’t work for me.
  • Valencia Wheat – 5% – Belgian-style wit with coriander and orange peel. Decent spice, some banana/clove flavor, muted sweetness. Should’ve been a lot more interesting.
  • Meyer ESB – 6.4% – Nitro pour. Really smooth. Big biscuit malt and a touch of honey. Body is a little weak, though.

They had a guest IPA on tap because they were out of their own. Usually this would make me put a brewery on my re-visit list, but with so many other places I want to check out next time I’m in the Bay Area I don’t think that’ll be the case with ThirstyBear, unfortunately. So many beers, so little time…

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