Brewvana Mid-Valley Brewery tour. Third Stop: Les Caves and Block 15

12 Feb


When we first talked about taking the Brewvana/New School beer tour to Albany and Corvalis, there was some discussion about how the write-up would be handled.  I can say that at the time, I was thrilled to be doing the last leg of the tour.  That meant I could relax and enjoy the experience of going into the first couple of breweries and tasting their beer without worrying about getting it all straight in my notes.  Seems reasonable, right?  By the time we reached Les Caves, I was no longer thrilled at how it had all worked out…

Let me explain.  When you get on a bus to tour breweries, and you can drink while in transit, and all the people on the bus have tons of good beer, and you are going to hit up 4 different places…well, you are going to be drunk before you know it.  I tried my best to keep it to a minimum on the bus, knowing that I would want my senses about me when we reached Albany and Calapooia.  However, once we started imbibing in Albany…well, you could say it was on.  At Flat Tail I had many, many beers (all of them good) and by the time we reached Les Caves I was super-buzzed.  So much for my plans to do a nice review!  In looking at my notes (a damn disjointed mess) I see that it only got worse as the night wore on.  Regardless, I am going to man up and do my best to describe the last two places on the tour.

Les Caves is owned by the people behind Block 15 and is a restaurant, first and foremost, judging from the type of people showing up while we were there.  This is a place people come to get a great beer with a good dinner.  It is run in the style of a European Beer Bar with a nice selection of items on the food menu as well as a continually rotating beer menu.  The only two beers that don’t leave the draught list are the Caves IPA and the Caves Saison, which are brewed specifically for the restaurant by Block 15.  We were greeted at our table with a nice charcuterie board that consisted of a some cheese, bread, cornichons, mustard and yes…HEAD CHEESE!  And I gotta tell ya, it was awesome.  Love me some meat off the pigs face held together with gelatin from the same animal.

We were also offered a complimentary brew off of their draught list, so I went with the Gravitar IPA from Double Mountain.  I had not tasted this beer yet, and as usual, it was a lovely, crisp hop-vehicle that hit the mark.  Afterwards, I thought that I probably should have ordered the Caves IPA, seeing as I was at Les Caves…duh!  Oh well, another excuse to go back, right?  After dinner, Michael and I split a 4 Calling Birds from The Bruery, an 11% ABV spiced, strong dark ale that pretty much did me in.  It is one of their 12 Beers of Christmas and had obvious flavors of gingerbread and figs.  Spicy!  Miranda and Michael ordered a Hop Venom Double IPA from Boneyard and a Kronenbourg 1664 Pale Lager respectively, and were pleased with their choices.  All-in-all, I thought this was a great place.  I can see why it’s popular with the locals, and I think Block 15 was really smart to start an offshoot of the brewery that focused on the food and beers from beyond their own tanks/cellars.  All I ate off the main menu was the Caves Burger, so I can’t speak too much on the food.  The burger was just OK.  I would love to go back and try some of the other items, as it looks like they take their food seriously.  If you are in Corvalis and are hungry, I recommend you check this place out.

Now…Block 15.  You are going to have to excuse the review at this point, because halfway through the tour at Block 15 I was hammered.  See, the deal was that it happened to be Bourbon Month at the brewery.  They are celebrating their second favorite beverage during the month of February, which means the point of our tasting there was to try mostly Bourbon Barrel Aged monstrosities that would make lesser me go blind.  Now, I am not complaining.  Please don’t read it that way.  It’s just that after your 4th generous pour of the night, you are silently weeping inside and hoping that someone will take you out behind the Brewvana bus and put a bullet in your head to end the misery.  So in honor of our visit to Block 15, here are my limited notes on what I tasted:

Headbrewer Nick, serious about beer

  • Pappy’s Dark 2010: aged in 10 yr old Rip Van Winkle barrels.  12% ABV and 40 IBU.  Super rich with all the vanilla, oak and bourbon flavors you would expect.  My favorite of the night…probably because I couldn’t taste anything after this…
  • Pappy’s Dark 2011: aged in 20 yr old Rip Van Winkle barrels: much more biscuity, with less of the aged characteristics mentioned above (good to see I was keeping detailed notes).
  • Hypnonsis: a Barleywine that is 50% aged and 50% fresh brew. The aged part is in 10 yr old Rip Van Winkle barrels. 12%ABV, 50 IBU (I have no recollection of what this tasted like).
  • 2010 Super Nebula: This beer was smoky. Aged on cocoa nibs from I-don’t-remember-where (why should I?  I was fucked up).
  • 2011 Super Nebula: Much less smoke in this version, with much more vanilla and oak to it. Brazillian cocoa nibs were used in the aging of this beer (how I even had the capability to write that down is beyond me).

yes, at this point we were double fisting

We were also lucky enough (were we…were we really lucky?) to be given a few tastes in the barrel room downstairs by the Headbrewer Nick.  Nick was a gracious host and has a great brewery on his hands.  We had, what I remember to be, a fantastic white lambic straight from the barrel that was aging on Golden Rasberries.  As drunk as I was, I remember this beer.  When it comes out, this is going to fucking rock.  Or not.  Anything I write at this point has to be considered tainted information.  We also had a Flanders Style Red aged in Brandy Barrels that previously had Figgy Pudding in them.  I have no recollection of this beer.  But apparently I drank it, because my shitty notes say so.  So there.

I think that the takeaways from all of this can be summed up thusly:  I need to go to Block 15 sometime before hitting up two other breweries.  Block 15 likes to age beers in various types of barrels.  Miranda is the shuffleboard fucking master…do not challenge her…ever.  The guys at Flat Tail are fun and uncompromising in how they brew and serve their beer.  Calapooia is brewing some fantastic stuff and deserves your business.  The Brewvana Beer Tours are fun.  I got drunk.  I don’t like pretzel necklaces (sorry, Ashley!).  That bus is as small as it looks, especially with 14 people crammed inside drinking.  You should go on a Brewvana Beer Tour.  And lastly, I will no longer be doing the back end review of a multiple brewery tour.
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