In honour of Valentine’s Day I thought I would do a review of my recent visit to Cascade Brewing Barrel House the destination for all things tart and tantalizing. The Barrel House had a number of casked ales and draught options; the casks were embedded in the wall behind the bar, each sporting a spigot to sample straight from the barrel. There were nineteen beers on the menu ranging from safe options like Cascade Pale and Colonial IPA to more adventurous choices like the ‘strong sour’ Vlad the Impaler and the ‘staff only’ Chocolate Raspberry. To a sour beer aficionado such as me the options were a little overwhelming but luckily the two dollar taster glasses afforded me the chance to sate my curiosity. The atmosphere was cozy with a row of seats at the bar for direct contact with your server, cozy private booths lining one wall and the rest of the room taken up with long tables and benches affording you the opportunity to converse with other beer-ophiles. There was also an impressive outdoor seating area that unfortunately was purely vestigial in North West Coast winters (aka the rain season).
Now on to the beer… I sampled the menu quite extensively so I will try to give each it’s due. First up the Chocolate Raspberry Ale, a blend of their Fresh Hop Porter and Busta Nut Brown mixed with raspberry infused bourbonic. A nice deep reddish brown that poured with a large head, heavy lacing lingered on the sides of the glass. I found both the raspberry and chocolate elements to be quite subtle but to be fair the first sour beer tends to set your palate for the tartness to come. The Beck Berry was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ blend of tripels and strong blondes fermented and aged with blackberries in oak. A second inoculation was done and sour cherry added to give it some ‘pucker’. This ale poured a bright gold (despite the berry name) with minimal head; it was crisp, sharp ale, highly drinkable with the strength of a Belgian complimented with tart berry notes. Next up the ‘one off’ Blauw Van Der Jon Berry which was a soured wheat coupled with blueberries. This beer was the colour of blueberries with just a little head. Blueberry is an inspired choice in a sour ale since the blueberry has a touch of sweetness that nicely balances the sour elements as opposed to increasing the tartness. Trekking out of sour territory I sampled McShagger Scottish Strong Ale a mix of sweet malt, chocolate, coffee and just a hint of whiskey to warm the tummy, Nice, nice, nice a deep brown ale with a lingering, creamy head and lots of lacing. Strong malts come through with that distinctive liquor taste, which makes it a Scot drink.
From here it gets a little more complicated… flash forward to my second visit (the following day) and a rowdy patron breaks their taster glass on the floor. Perhaps worried other patrons may frown upon such rowdiness on a Sunday afternoon the most excellent bartender offers up free samples to placate the crowd. In a move near and dear to my heart the server does an impromptu blending of the various casks such that many of my samplings were unique mixes. Some of the ales I tried include Glueh Kriek a spiced mulled sour cherry ale served piping in the glass. This was truly a magnificent Christmas brew strong and liqoury, spicy and tinged with just the right amount of sour pie cherry. Vlad the Impaler was a blend of quads and tripels aged in oak and bourbon barrels then blended further with spiced blondes; this one was strong bringing the heavy hitting Belgians to the forefront and tempering it with sour and spice. Sang Rouge was a blend of many reds aged up to thirty months. A deep red like a fine merlot, this beer became a fantastic base for the addition of some of the berry heavy sours. Sang Noir was a dark double red aged in pinot and whiskey barrels; cherry elements come through this complex sour ale which was like a young version of the Sang Rouge. The Vine was Cascade’s answer to the white wine, a soured blend of tripel, blonde and golden ales fermented with white wine grapes. Like a white wine this ale was crisp and drinkable, best served quite cold. All in all a fantastic venue to showcase the incredible range and variety of sour beers; a place where the sour-phobic become converts and the sour-lovers fall even deeper. The true highlights were the blends and I highly recommend trying a range of tasters, picking your favourites and asking the server to mix it up!
As a watering hole I give Cascade Brewing Barrel House a 5 out 5.
*The name of this post comes from Thomas Watson’s The Hekatompathia, or Passionate Centurie of Love, Sonnet XVIII (1582).