Serious Beer: Aged Brews at Portland's CellarFest


[Photographs: Jim Bonomo]

Each year around this time, Bailey's Taproom in Portland, Oregon hauls a dizzying array of vintage ales from its basement and presents them to the public in the form of CellarFest. The 2011 edition occurred this past Saturday, and featured noteworthy examples both of cellar achievers and cellar nightmares.


2008 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine was bright in color with a robust head. A minty hop aroma was present, followed by notes of peach and caramel and a defined heat. The flavor dripped with candied orange peel, which complemented the chewy, earthy bitterness in the finish. This beer was beautifully drinkable, and the aging seems to showcase the twilight of the Bigfoot hop profile. Another year, and the bitterness would risk becoming acrid. Open your 2008 Bigfoots ASAP!


2009 Bend Brewing Cherry Baltic Porter: This beer won a silver medal at this year's GABF in the 'Aged Beer' category, and it's evident why. For a clean lager, there was very little sign of negative effects of aging. The nose was rich with cherry pie and a hint of tangy yeast. Brown sugar dominated the taste and left behind a pleasantly musty port wash. Fruit took a back seat to the Baltic porter base, instead accenting its smokiness and sweet depth. Thankfully, this vintage lager will be available soon in bottles at the Bend Brewing pub.


2009 Block 15 Pappy's Dark was a roller coaster ride in a glass. The aroma had dissolved from bold, bourbony greatness into sour milk and funky barrel bug territory. But the flavor lacked any sourness; it was like a vanilla caramel sundae in my tasting glass. Carbonation had increased over time, which hindered the richness of the body. Wood and cream lingered on my palate, but not quite as long as I wanted due to the plentiful taut bubbles in this aged ale. 2009 was the best year for this beer and it's a shame to see the remaining kegs start to go south. Such are the risks a brewery takes when embarking on a barrel-aging adventure...

There were some other tastes worth noting: 2008 Roots Festivus was so infected that it was pulled 10 minutes in to the festival, 2008 North Coast Old Stock showed zero age and tasted just like the recently released 2010 Old Stock, 2009 Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA smelled like airplane glue and was sweeter than HFCS, and 2008 Lagunitas Brown Shugga' was full of intense orange marmalade flavors. The complete beer list for the festival can be seen here.

As usual, CellarFest satisfied. It was a great time to socialize with the Portland beer crowd and gauge the progress of some bottles I've been cellaring myself.

Bailey's proprietor Geoff Phillips will be rolling out locally crafted German-inspired beers for his next event, GermanFest, on April 16th.

Bailey's Taproom

213 SW Broadway, Portland Oregon (map); 503-295-1004;