By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer apps have come a long way since the days of iBeer (you remember: “drink beer” on your phone). Today’s apps include versatile, useful tools: everything from beer tour itinerary builders and brewing calculators to flavor guides and assistance with ordering a beer in multiple languages. There’s even a brewery game. Here are some must-haves for your device.
Note: Generally apps are available for phones and tablets, but your mileage may vary. Apps were evaluated on an iPhone 5s running iOS 8.4.1.
Search, rate, discuss
iOS and Android
Combines beer news, online discussion forums, beer style profiles, events and user ratings/reviews. A free account is required for this reference app from the folks behind BeerAdvocate magazine. Many features could be more robust, such as narrowing down events by location and date. Styles are brief but provide a solid, non-technical overview, followed by most popular beers in that style. Beer listings default to recent reviews, with one option of filtering by the top 250 instead. The search is useful if you know exactly what you want; improved filtering would make searching reviews more useful. Overall, though, a handy app that is a free alternative to RateBeer.
All-in-one homebrew assistant, calculator, tracker and brew journal
iOS, Android and Kindle
From its humble desktop origins, BeerSmith has expanded to online forums, social media popularity, a regular blog and podcast, and, of course, handy mobile apps. In addition to integrating with cloud storage and more than 68,000 recipes at beersmithrecipes.com, BeerSmith’s simple, easy-to-use app interface helps beginning and advanced brewers search, build and manage recipes; review profiles of hundreds of ingredients; track all steps in the brewing and fermentation process; and run brew timers, calculators and converters. Professionals such as Hanns Anderson, head brewer at Eugene’s McMenamins High Street, have used BeerSmith, and it has something to help your homebrewing too.
Be the sensory expert you wish you were
How many times have you been at a loss for words when describing a beer? Beer Judge turns your phone into a taster, a sensory analyst and an amateur spectrophotometer. The Flavor Wheel feature lists flavor and aroma descriptors, and the Off Flavors guide shows at-a-glance and detailed descriptions of flaws. Tap any color on the Standard Reference Method (SRM) spectrum graphic for an SRM value, or use your device’s camera with the app’s Analyzer to calculate an SRM (you wouldn’t use it for a brewing lab analysis, but it’s a good ballpark figure for happy hour technical evaluation). Perfect for beer tastings and enhancing your competition chops.
Is your beer in style?
iOS and Android
A just-the-facts compilation of official 2008 and 2015 BJCP official beer styles. When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you want to default to the 2008 or 2015 guidelines (you can switch between them at any time). Search for a style or scroll the list, then tap for the full profile. Text is well presented and easy to read, with controls to increase or decrease the size. While you can highlight and copy, functions to export to email, PDF or printing would be useful. A must-have for brewers, judges and enthusiasts.
Build your next beer tour
iOS and Android
Whether seeking out neighborhood places or planning a beer tour, BreweryMap builds itineraries and locates breweries, brewpubs, tasting rooms and more. Users can also add new listings or submit updates. The Road Trip function builds your next beer tour from start point to end point. Once you choose a route, the map fills in with pins. Tapping “List View” shows a list of locations in each locality: an Oregon Coast itinerary from Astoria to Brookings pulled up 21 locations in a 15-mile radius. Save itineraries for later reference too. The perfect app for the beertripper.
Who says brewing isn't a game?
iOS, Android and Windows
Whether you’re a homebrewer who dreams of owning a brewery or a beer pro who believes work is play, Fiz allows you to realize your dream of running your own brewery. With graphics and music reminiscent of ‘80s/’90s early Nintendo, Fiz allows you to start a brewery, analyze the market, develop recipes, brew beer, manage staff, enter competitions and more. Play during a few minutes’ break, or moonlight all weekend as a pixelated brewer. Fiz is rooted enough in reality to have real ingredients listed and a solid sense of the realities of brewing. And it’s fun enough that I better stop playing and finish writing this article.
Order a pint in 59 languages
Travel in foreign lands is all about mastering the basics of the local language. And it doesn’t get more essential than confidently ordering a beer in anything from Afrikaans (“n Bier, asseblief”) to Zulu (“nye ningi utshwala”). Pivo is simple, useful and fun for the global beertrotter. Alphabetically scroll a list of 59 languages, complete with phrase, phonetic pronunciation and video or audio. (Browse, search, or favorite functions would have minimized scrolling.) One caveat: this app’s last update was 2013 and is no longer being developed, but functionality was fine in testing. Does Google Translate do the same thing? Sí. Is it as cool? Nein.
Every beer everywhere
iOS and Android
Since 2000, RateBeer has become one of the beer world’s largest independent online communities and a go-to source for beer and location reviews and information. Take the pulse of any beer on the market: Who’s drinking it? What are they saying about it? Share what you think of what you drink, and rate where you’re enjoying that beer, cider, mead or sake. Whether searching by name or scanning a barcode, you get easy and quick access to beer data, including reviews, IBUs, ABVs, preferred glassware and more. Also curate your own wish lists and favorites, and search by location for bottle shops and watering holes near you.
A beer a day
iOS and Android
You know those “quotation a day” calendars that wind up under the Christmas tree? This is the beer version. Today’s Beer presents one beer, every day, along with beer info, bottle and pint views (with 360 degree rotation), beer color and more. (You can also look back at beers from the past seven days.) A simple interface with intuitive controls helps you dig as deep into a beer’s profile as you want. A must for beer hounds hunting inspiration, designers seeking ideas for novel labels and bottles, and anyone who knows that sometimes a bit of daily random inspiration is all you need to keep your palate dazzled and intrigued.
Never drink alone/
iOS, Android, and Windows
The “Facebook of beer” makes sure your drinking is always social. See the latest with the beer world in three main ways: “Friends” lets you see what folks you follow are doing. “Global” goes macro with updates from users all over the world. And “Nearby” tells you what users are enjoying in your area. Fancy an old favorite or something new? Seek out beers, pubs and breweries popular and nearby, and keep tabs on trends for the next tipple you should try.
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Love 'em or hate 'em, pumpkin beers are a fall staple that vary widely from pale, sessionable offerings to heavy, hearty brews. One of the best in Oregon falls in the latter camp and comes from 9-year-old Oakshire Brewing in Eugene. Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter gets a rating of 94 out of 100 on RateBeer, so while it might not be everyone's cup of tea there are plenty of people that enjoy the boldly flavored beer.
Oakshire's head brewer, Matt Van Wyk, brought the recipe for Big Black Jack with him when he started there six years ago. The first small batch was brewed the following year and started out as many specialty beers do — being a keg-only offering. Beer drinkers took to it quickly, however, and within a couple of years Oakshire began selling it in 22-ounce bottles as well.
The recipe has basically remained the same since Matt started making it, with only minor malt changes based on availability. He describes it as a hands-on beer due to the spices — nutmeg, dried ginger, whole cloves and cinnamon chips — that go into every batch. Similar in variety and amount to a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend, Matt's hand weighing ensures the beer comes out just the way he intended. After weighing, the spices are put into mesh bags, the equivalent of gigantic tea bags, which are then placed into buckets marked with the time each will be added to the boil. Just as "mise en place" allows a chef's process to flow smoothly, having the "tea bags" ready allows the Oakshire brewers a smoother brew day. Most brew days, the team is juggling three batches, transferring them from tank to tank, one after another. A delay with one batch could throw off the entire brew day. And even when Matt isn't leading the brewing, his process helps grease the wheels for the making of Big Black Jack.
In addition to the spices, each batch of beer gets solid dose of 70 percent dark chocolate and cacao nibs — 10 pounds of each. Unlike spices that might float to the top, these ingredients risk falling to the bottom and scorching the brew kettle. To avoid that problem, hot wort is poured over the chocolate and nibs in a separate bucket to create a sauce of sorts that’s then added to the boil. Lucky for the brewing staff, there’s always plenty of wort-chocolate to spare and Matt traditionally treats everyone to sundaes by bringing in ice cream the days the beer is brewed.
Pumpkin brews are often a point of contention for beer lovers because they tend to hit the shelves and taps before the pumpkins could realistically be harvested most years. But Oakshire plans ahead while using pumpkins from Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis. The team roasts, purees and freezes pumpkin every year, so the puree used in this year's batch of Big Black Jack actually came from last year's pumpkins. It's a method that eliminates the unpredictability of the growing season and allows the beer to be brewed in August, well before any local pumpkins could be harvested and processed, with the finished product reaching craft beer drinkers' lips in early September.
Being a spiced beer, Big Black Jack is one that is best when it’s fresh in order to experience the full spice profile. But the fact that it's also an imperial porter, coming in at 7.5 percent ABV, the beer can hold up to a bit of aging. Its flavor will change after a couple months, with the spice notes retreating, allowing the chocolate and roasty characteristics to become more assertive.
Knowing his beer was suitable for aging, Matt went one step further last year and aged part of the supply in two Heaven Hill bourbon whiskey barrels. A recent sampling confirmed that as it has aged, the spice notes have mellowed out — almost to the point of being absent. In their place is a rich, wood flavor from the barrels that complements the imperial porter. Fans of barrel-aged beers will likely have to visit Oakshire's Public House in Eugene for a sample, although it's possible that a keg or two may escape and surface at a special event in the Portland area.
Big Black Jack joins a host of other pumpkin beers from Oregon breweries with fall availability.
Oakshire’s Big Black Jack Imperial Pumpkin Porter is made using pumpkins from Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis. The squashes are actually roasted, pureed and then frozen the year before in order to eliminate the unpredictability of the growing season. The method also allows the beer to be brewed in August.
Oregon-Brewed Pumpkin Beers
7 Devils Brewing Co. | Winter is Coming Pumpkin Porter | 5.4% ABV | IBUs N/A
Agrarian Ales Brewing Company | Cucurbita | 4.5% ABV | 10 IBUs
Agrarian Ales Brewing Company | Von Tassel | 6% ABV | 15 IBUs
Breakside Brewery | Sweet Potato Mole Mild | 4.2% ABV | 10 IBUs
Burnside Brewing | The Dapper Skeleton | 5.9% ABV | 11 IBUs
Cascade Brewing | Pumpkin Smash Sour Ale | 11.9% ABV | <10 IBUs
Climate City Brewing | Galloping Hessian Pumpkin Ale | 4.5% ABV | 35 IBUs
Ex Novo Brewing Company | Pumpkin Biere de Garde | 8% ABV | 20 IBUs
Fearless Brewing | Smoked Pumpkin Ale | 8.35% ABV | 28 IBUs
Fort George Brewery | Squash Buckler | 6.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Great Notion Brewing | The Great Blumpkin Ale | ABV/IBUs N/A
Green Dragon Brew Crew | Bring Me Pie | 7% ABV | 25 IBUs
Griess Family Brews | PJ's Pumpkin Pie | 5.4% ABV | 13 IBUs
Ground Breaker Brewing | Squash Ale | 5.7% ABV | 30 IBUs
Hair of the Dog | Greg | 5.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Laurelwood Public House and Brewery | Laurelwood Pumpkin Ale | 7.5% ABV | 25 IBUs
Lompoc Brewing | Bibbidi Bobbidi Brew | 5% ABV | IBUs N/A
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery | Duskbringer | 6.06% ABV | 14 IBUs
McMenamins Kennedy School | Pumpkin Porter | 6.19% ABV | 12 IBUs
Misty Mountain Brewing | King Under the Pumpkin Russian Imperial Stout | 8.7% ABV | 40 IBUs
Oakshire Brewing | Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter | 7.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Opposition Brewing Company | Nickabod Cranium | 6.4% ABV | 37.9 IBUs
pFriem Family Brewers | Pumpkin Bier | 6.9% ABV | 15 IBUs
Portland Brewing | Rico Sauvie Pumpkin Ale with Spices | 6.5% ABV | 30 IBUs
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery | Name TBD | 5.5% ABV | 25 IBUs
Rogue Ales | Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale | 6.1% ABV | 25 IBUs
Seven Brides Brewing | Heiser's Pumpkin Ale | 6.7% ABV | 15 IBUs
Silver Moon Brewing | Twisted Gourd | 6.8% ABV | 25 IBUs
Stickmen Brewing Company | Imperial Sour Pumpkin Lager | 9.8% ABV | 11 IBUs
StormBreaker Brewing | Pumpkin Peddler | 7.3% ABV | 13 IBUs
Three Mugs Brewing Company | "A Clever Pumpkin Name" Ale | 7.5% ABV | 35 IBUs
Vagabond Brewing | In Gourd We Trust | 5.1% ABV | 25 IBUs
Vertigo Brewing | We Don't Know Jack III | 6.3% ABV | IBUs N/A
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