January 11, 2012

Snow Ghosts, Yellow Snow and Powder Hounds

This is my first winter away from Montana snow and ice, but I'm not letting that stop me from enjoying some of my favorite winter traditions here in Astoria.  To me, winter is a time to cozy under warm blankets in front of a toasty stove and enjoy a good movie, or bundling up with scarves, gloves, jackets, sweater, wool socks, boots and knitted hats to brave the cold from the car to the brewery in order to enjoy some good times with friends while snow gently falls outside.  I have fond memories of laying under layers of blankets listening to the steam pipes knock and the radiator hiss while people crunch by in the snow below my apartment window and snow plows scrape by in the road.  There is a certain crispness to everything, from speaking to the taste of a hot mocha, when there is snow on the ground and somehow 616 miles from Missoula MT I have been able to capture winter, sip by sip, in some of my favorite brews.

Drinks have a way of conjuring up memories, especially with the first sip.  For me, Alpines (hot coco and peppermint schnapps) remind me of chilly Griz football mornings, a good Margarita makes me think of the Rusty Rail in Gardiner, MT and Pinot Noir brings me right to special dinners with the family at Whitefish Golf Course.  Those are pretty strong memories but nothing transports me to wintery afternoons like a good beer.

Photo by Holliday 2010 - Olney MT

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of my favorite winter brews...

Powder Hound Big Sky Brewery, Missoula MT:
A perfect mix of Strong and Amber ales with a deceptively light copper color to it.  Powder Hound somehow manages to recall images of dark spice bread and honey while staying light in the mouth.  It has a good hop presence that balances the toasted barley and is perfect to drink around the fire pit while under a million stars.  It makes me think of breathing the thin, crisp winter air while standing in fresh, fluffy snow.  Powder Hound is one of those comfort beers that just makes you feel good.  It is like a friend that can make you smile no matter how bad your day is going.

Wreck the Halls Full Sail Brewery, Hood River OR:
Overlooking the Columbia River, the Full Sail Brewery is a cozy place to watch the wind whip the slushy rain through the Gorge while big rigs roll by on the Washington side.  My first taste of Wreck the Halls took me off guard.  It is a (for lack of a better word) chewy IPA - strong, robust, round and hoppy.  It reminds me of wearing thick wool socks while using pitch wood to re-start the stove, smelling a thick slice of barley bread warming in the oven and trying to avoid the cold pocket produced by the freshly chopped pine wood kindling I just brought in from the car port.

Snow Ghost Winter Lager Great Northern Brewing Co, Whitefish MT:
A snow ghost is a tree that has been completely covered with snow and ice and blown into unearthly shapes by high winds.  Skiing or hiking through forests of snow ghosts is a strange experience that transports you to a silently heavy world.  Drinking a Snow Ghost has the same effect on me.  It reminds me of eating dark chocolate toffee and orange slices while wrapped in a my plush Red Sox blanket listening to trains swoosh by on a dark, snowy night.

Cold Smoke Scotch Ale Kettlehouse, Missoula MT:
OK - this is a year round favorite of mine but I have to add it in here because there is nothing (and I mean nothing) like sitting at the North Side K-ho watching cars drive through the underpass on one side while trains bang and rumble while coupling on the other side and snow flurries swirling around all the windows.  It warms the soul in the winter with thoughts of sunshine and BBQs while cooling down hot summer days with visions of softly falling snow in streetlamp lights.  It is full of brilliant contradictions: creamy/crisp, root beer float/iced caramel mocha, chocolate/vanilla, fresh/heavy, sunbathing at the East Missoula river beach/snowy afternoon sketching at the Beartooths in Yellowstone....

Sketch by Holliday 

Yellow Snow IPA Rouge Ales, all over Oregon:
When I first heard about it I figured that it would be like any run-of-the-mill IPAs or worse, taste like a generic $2 piss in a can type beer.  I was waaaaaaaaaay off.  I'm not sure how Rouge did it, but somehow they managed to fit an entire Christmas tree into a pint glass.  It is full of piney, citrusy aromas which sparkle on the tongue.  The bright hops are balanced with a surprising creaminess that sneaks in the farther into the glass you go.  It reminds me of being young (no - not my brother trying to tell me it is a lemon-flavored sno cone) and skiing in Tahoe, looking down from the top of a run toward the lake and feeling the crisp sunshine on my face and smelling the snow all around.

I think I'll call this Round One for my favorite winter brews.  As I'm writing I am thinking of other beers that I need to find and re-taste: Wassail, 2 Below, Sleigh'r Double Alt, and others that I'll have to go into the Beer Book to recall.  Good thing I took good notes!  I am now off to track down a cold beverage to enjoy and find some leftovers to make up for dinner.  

Photo by Holliday 2011 - Snow Bison

Genieße das Leben ständig!


  1. I am going to show this post to my beer loving husband. Great photos!

  2. Thank you! Stay tuned for Round Two in the next couple of days! :)

  3. You mention Astoria. Is that Astoria, Oregon? If yes, we are almost neighbors. I'm not much of a beer drinker but your selections sound good. Thanks for visiting my blog. It's nice to meet you.

    1. I am in Astoria Oregon! You are in.. Portland? Thank you for visiting mine and it is great to meet you, your blog is one I like to check each day!