Portland Craft Beer Fest

I am undoubtedly massively behind on this but last night I met Rodney and Chris, a couple of the guys behind organizing the Portland Craft Beer Fest, meant to spotlight beers made in Portland.  I was talking to Rodney about it and he said, “When someone suggested the idea of having a festival that focused on Portland breweries only, I said, ‘There isn’t one?’ ”

Which was my reaction too! So I felt fortunate to meet these gentlemen and have the opportunity to talk about the upcoming festival in July.  Sure, most of the breweries on the list are ones I’ve heard of but there’s definitely a few new names, like Back Pedal and Royale, and the opportunity to sample all of Portland’s wares in one place should not be overlooked.

What I’m really hoping for, of course, is that some of these breweries will bring some excellent beers to the event. They don’t have to be novel (although that helps) but this city is pretty saturated with beer. It would be in their interest to bring their best stuff so let’s hope that everyone involved feels like showing off. Just a little.

On The Rail: Growler Guys

“Have you ever been to Growler Guys?” Aaron asked me.

“I haven’t but I’ve heard about them.”

“I had a good experience there,” he said and that was all it took.

So here we are. There’s no place to sit at the rail; it is, instead, a true counter where you order your beer and then find a table. I ponder my choices-GG may be a chain but it’s got a nice selection of beers and they’re smart enough to tilt my options towards Oregon at the Portland location. There’s an interesting saison from Off Color I have a taste of but it doesn’t strike me like the kind of beer I want a pint of.

I settle on Alesmith‘s Nautical Nut. It’s a brown ale and the nose is like chocolate frosting, so I’m in for that. As it warms up, coffee flavors start to appear so the ale doesn’t ever come across as being too sweet. I’m one-quarter though the beer before I know it: A good sign, speaking to the easy to drink quality of the ale but I’m starting to worry that my description will be lacking because it’ll gone too soon.

I also paid $5 for this beer and I am uncertain that it is a pint. For five bucks, one should get a pint.

It’s also uncomfortably quiet at the GG. This would be OK by me except for the reggae music that’s on. I’m always going to prefer silence to reggae.

Still, that there’s almost no one here and that seems strange for a Saturday night. I wonder if that’s because it’s a chain? Two televisions-both set to sports stations-and a total of seven patrons counting myself, none of whom are paying attention to them. It’s not unpleasant and it’s well lit enough that I could play cards here (always a virtue for me). It’s not extremely distinctive though and while there is a nice spread of beer selections, they aren’t particularly off the radar. Plus, with the Commons, Green Dragon and Cascade Ale House within a two block radius, a legitimate question to ask is: why would you come here when you have local options that are right there?

But that is an issue with location, not service, selection or atmosphere (except for the reggae). If this place was in an underserved neighborhood? I’d be alllll about it.

My beer is nearly empty and it still smells like chocolate cake. If nothing else, this beer is goading me to make a brown ale again.

The Half Empty

I thought about calling this the Half Full but The Half Empty trips off the tongue better. Maybe I should call this the 50/50?

But here’s why:

Every bottle I’ve opened has come out looking like this photo. Visually amazing to witness, not as much beer left to drink.

My goal was to make a Mild ale and I have to say, it is easy to drink once you can drink it. Sweeter, with a nice coffee and chocolate blend, coming down further on the chocolate side.

Of course, drinking too soon means chewing on foam and that’s a lot less appetizing. The finish is too bright as well; the bubbly elements of this beer wash everything out too fast and hard. It feels prickly and dissuasive of the next sip of beer. Less than awesome, that.

Brew date: 2.28.15

5.5lb mild malt
6 oz Carafa 3
6 oz C80
6 oz Kiln Amber

Fermentables: 3.5 lb LME

Hops :1 oz Simco @ 60

Yeast: 1028 London Ale Wyeast

OG: 1.053

FG: 1.029

ABV: 3.25

Lagers Are The New Black

What goes around, comes around.

After a near relentless focus on ales for the past two decades, in part because lagers were sealed up as far as the market was concerned, craft brewers are (apparently, or at least according to this article) turning their attention to lagers.

This article is solid for a couple reasons; first if you don’t know what the difference between an ale and a lager is, it does a fine job of explaining that. Second, it does a reasonable job explaining why lager styles are being made by craft brewers and why American craft brewers have a chance to make inroads in the beer drinking populace with the style.

As always, I feel this is a good thing. There is no perfect sauce, there are only perfect sauces, as they say. More interesting beers to drink is better than less and summer is almost here.

On The Rail: Sandy Hut

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Sandy Hut; my ambient memories are dark and tinted green but enjoyable. The Sandy Hut was one of Portland’s better known and loved dive bars so there was an understandable concern when the place was sold to new owners. What would they do? How would it change? So I’ve come to check it out now that it’s been renovated.

And wow, is it an awesome joint. It feels divey; wood paneling and lighting out of the 1970’s or at least what I seem to feel like the 1970’s was like. Plus, because it’s Portland I can get Ft George’s farmhouse ale.

It’s spicy from the yeast, with a hop bitterness followed by a citrus nip at the tongue at the end. It’s got a softness on the mouthfeel; makes me think of saisons and the clarity of the beer suggests that’s just what they did. It’s pretty good; both easy to drink and complex in the best ways. I feel like I lucked out on this pick!

There’s a man in an incredibly ugly plaid shirt and a straw hat that has loudly proclaimed that he used to live near here when he was a boy. “Same bar,” he says, “but so much better. It’s unbelievable.”

The man’s taste in shirts is questionable but is assessment of this bar isn’t. The coolers may not be installed yet (the bartender is pulling beers from buckets of ice out of view) but there’s a warmth to this place that I feel ought to keep the regular dive patrons while welcoming people who want to check it out.

I’d be happier if there was a better selection of beer on draft but there’s a Rainier draft handle that must be from the 1970’s and that earns a sliver of forgiveness.

The bartenders are still talking about the changes, too: it’s new to them as well. “There’s all these creepy manikins in the basement,” one says, “that they used to hang from the ceiling. It freaks me out whenever I have to walk in the office.”

There’s a BASEMENT here? Holy crap, I can barely imagine what might be lurking in the basement of the Sandy Hut.

One of the bartender stumbles for a moment. “Jesus Christ, we gotta get rid of that bucket,” he says. Yeah man. But I look forward to coming here again and  having a drink. It feels pretty damn fantastic in here and I hope the bar is rewarded for cleaning up.


After the big to-do that was Elysian Brewing’s sale, I wondered if breweries were starting to plan for the days when the founders would have to put their brewery into the hands of someone else.

This article, about the changes at large in the craft brewing world, suggest that some businesses, like Deschutes and Brooklyn are thinking about just that. I find that encouraging because I am hoping that some of these craft breweries find a way to become legacy breweries.

Common Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale

Sierra Nevada’s Pale ale has long been known as being one of the more important beers in the American craft brewing revolution. So I was excited to hear that it is still their best selling beer. An opportunity to try one of the landmark beers of the craft ale movement? Hell yes!

Their pale ale has a hop nose most IPAs would be jealous of. One sip though and the malt appears right on the front door, (hop) flowers in hand saying hello. This beer gets sweeter as it finishes, more malt appearing and it almost seems odd, until a few seconds after I swallow and the bitterness closes the door on this beer.

In other words, this is a damn fine pale ale and it deserves its reputation as one of the beers to help kick off and revolutionize craft brewing.

As I finish off the last beer in my six pack, I’m reminded of the joy of just having a good beer. Nothing against the new, the innovators, the challengers. But someone had to make that standard once and now that they aren’t new, has to hold the banner of “We set the bar and we maintain it.”

That’s worth celebrating.

A beer and homebrewing blog


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 90 other followers