Oregon Brewers Fest 2016

Twenty nine: that’s the number of breweries coming to the OBF this year that haven’t been there before. That’s a lot of beer to try and I’m pretty sure I won’t get to it all. On the upside, I’ve had beers from some of the local brewers already, so that narrows things down a little bit.

Still, looking at the list, there’s a pretty broad range of breweries, including a bunch from outside the US, which is super cool. The styles are, predictably, tilted heavily towards lighter fare; a lot of sessionable IPAs, lagers, fruit beers and the like. There’s still plenty of options though. So long as the beers are tasty, I don’t really mind the summertime bent.

I’ve got a press pass to the OBF this year and will be attending on the 29th. While I’ll be off all next week, I hope to have a post up either late the 29th or early on the 30th so people attending on the weekend can take whatever recommendations I’ve got. I’m not going to pick out any one brewery this year beforehand, because my process tends to lean more on “Is there no line for this beer? Let’s have that!” than “Hunt and acquire this.” What can I say? I don’t think lines are good for beer.

Underlying Systems

There is no more important ingredient in beer than water. Let’s face it: water may be the most important substance on the planet and its presence as a drinkable product is one that most people in this country never think about. Unless something goes wrong, of course.

Because a whole lot of infrastructure and effort goes into bringing people water, so when the OBC arranged a tour of the Bull Run Watershed, I jumped on that.

At 147 square miles, the Bull Run Watershed is a federally and locally protected area that has one incredibly important purpose; to provide water to the city of Portland and some of the surrounding areas. However, it also is also an area that is subject to some very big considerations, including nature conservation.

Nobody is allowed in without permission and although tours go through the area regularly, they are not allowed to go alone. There are cameras and gates along access roads to monitor the area and even being able to do upkeep on existing roadways is taken with great caution.

So getting to see this is pretty cool.

28369200556_3bb95f588a_cThis is Bull Run lake. Formed some 10,000 years ago by a basalt landslide, then dammed up in the late 1800’s in order to create a larger reserve of water, this is the place where the water for Portland starts. The watershed is a rainforest and it gets about 130″ of rain a year. In comparison, the city of Portland gets about 30″ of rain a year.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that this system was established and completed in 1895. That was the year that water from Bull Run first made it to the city of Portland. That means that everyone here is relying on a system that is over 100 years old. I’m not saying that there haven’t been updates to this system: of course there have. However, when people who work with these systems tell us that the infrastructure of them is starting to wear out, it’s worth paying attention to those people. We rely on this in ways I don’t have time to articulate and if the only time we really put any thought into them is when they break, then isn’t it too late?

Just something to consider when the next city bond bill for such matters comes up.

28297912052_dbd87604bc_cThe next photo is of a gauge that the Water Bureau uses to measure how much water is coming from one of the two springs that feed into the two reservoirs. I’m told that water moves through this at about twenty cubic feet per minute, whereas the water moving from Bull Run lake down to this spring measured at a rate of moving in feet per year. This process of filtration down to the springs is what enables the Water Bureau to do no manual filtering of the water. This saves the city a LOT of money and effort, which is one of the reasons it’s so important that the Bull Run Watershed remain a protected area.

However, that doesn’t mean the Bureau has no control over the spring: I’m told that they are trying an experiment where they will release extra water from the lake in order to provide some temperature controls for fish habitat downstream. Just one example of the Bureau’s interaction with the broader considerations of the world beyond merely providing water.

28369198976_81049083f7_cThe final photo is of the dam at Reservoir 1. Behind this dam is roughly 10 billion gallons of water. Usually, this dam would be open, feeding into Reservoir 2 (which holds roughly 7 billion gallons) but because Portland has had such a temperate summer, there hasn’t been as great a need. The dam itself was built in the 1920’s and was the prototype for the great Hoover Dam.

We didn’t stop in the actual treatment facility because of the potential health risks. As it turns out, while Portland water is mostly unfiltered (they do have to get out typical river debris), it certainly isn’t untreated. Chlorine and then a little later, ammonia are added to disinfect the water as it flows down 25 miles of pipes to get to the city. Finally, at a station downhill, sodium hydroxide is added to help reduce the corrosive effect the water can have on copper and lead pipes in homes.

One very cool thing is that this system is almost entirely gravity fed. It isn’t until the water needs to get to the hillsides in Southwest Portland that pumps are required.

And one thing I ought to mention is that the information I got almost exclusively covered the Bull Run watershed area. Portland does have a secondary water source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, which gets use in the summer to augment the Bull Run supply.

Think about that: we have access to 17 billion gallons of water and it still isn’t enough for a year. Last year, because of climate change, the Columbia fields had to be used for a record 130 days to help provide water. This water has to be dealt with differently, as it doesn’t have the advantage of being filtered through basalt rock.

We were lucky last October, when a week’s worth of storms replenished everything in the Bull Run reserves. Which, for me, is frankly an unimaginable number to wrap my brain around. Seriously. 17 billion gallons in under 7 days, coming from the sky…I’m going to need a beer for that.

But what happens when we don’t get that rain?

….I’m going to need another beer for that.

Proximity

My Dad sent me an article a few months ago about how people who live near pubs tend to be happier. I’m not sure how having a neighborhood community is exclusive to pubs but after a long, rather busy weekend, I am glad that the Old Gilbert Road is nearby so I can come in to have a beer.

The signs in the window advertise their 1st anniversary party this Saturday and that’s a pretty cool landmark for any business. I won’t be able to attend but still: congrats to them.

28297938132_a32716ce9a_kThey’ve got the Supersuckers on the PA and as I wait for my Breakside IPA, the lady ahead of me stumbles through her small talk with the bartender, thinking he’s the brother of an acquaintance when he corrects her, “I’m her ex-husband.”

But like the genteel punk bartender he is, he rolls with it, “How do you know her?”

Friend of a friend, it turns out, and though the threads between them are thin, he continues his genteelness, saying “Yes, she’s a cool lady,” about his ex.

For all of Portland’s explosive growth, I am regularly reminded that it is a small city. Burning a bridge you do not need to is unwise. It helps if you like the bridge, of course but even with that in mind, it’s good to be graceful in such situations.

This IPA is not quite awesome. There’s pineapple and grapefruit notes and there’s just enough body in the middle to keep the beer on track, but after it all ends there is a slightly off flavor. I’m not sure what it is but I don’t want another one.

In a way, this place reminds me of another bar which I also like and don’t get to enough: Angelo’s on Hawthorne. It’s better lit here but the low key vibe isn’t something you can fake. It’s projected by the environment and staff.

Maybe that’s one of the other things that helps people live longer; that sense of calm in a public arena where every so often you can get away from even your most private stressors.

Work > Result

The day that Sherpa died, I had started to brew beer.

As you might imagine, everything stopped when we realized that he was going to have to go to the vet. I had water in the kettle moving towards boiling point and ingredients all laid out; that got put on hold. The rest of the day was difficult, to say the least.

After he died, the only thing to do was to continue with the work. Sitting around and mourning him wasn’t going to help anyone-although if I had decided to do that for the day, that would’ve been OK. However, I have found that when things go wrong, solace can be found in activity.

So I continued brewing pale ales because this year, that is what I am doing. The result was less than hoped for.

27698558341_931401c385_k

In one respect, I feel bad. I had hoped that this beer would be a tasty one, that it would be a way to remember a creature who had been very kind to me. That it got infected and poured a glass after glass full of foam makes me feel like I let him down. That’s not a very comfortable feeling.

It’s also a little silly, because he was a cat and cats do not care about beer.

On the other hand, I feel as though I can hardly hold myself accountable for doing less-than-exemplary work on such a difficult day. I did the work and on that day, that is what mattered.

There is also a bright side: the nose on this beer did have a distinct, although not very strong, nose of Galaxy hops. So I’m finally getting closer to a style of beer that resembles a pale ale.

Sorry it wasn’t this one.

Brew date: 4.23.16

Steeping grains
1.5 lb Full pint
1 lb Vienna

Fermentables: 7 lb Extra LME

Hops
1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @60
1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @10

Yeast: Imperial barbarian (3rd use)

OG: 1.068

FG: 1.02

Secondary  on 5/6
Added 1 oz Galaxy hops to secondary
Bottled 5/7

ABV: 6.5%

Last Round At 15th St

I’ve stopped by the Hop House on 15th to quietly have an ale on my way home. It’s surprisingly under attended. If I was at the location on Hawthorne, I’d be hip deep in people.

I get a Wild Ride Quencher session ale. There is no such style as “session”, it’s just low ABV, people. Quit hiding your styles behind such nonsense.

28122480052_cd199f7eab_kHowever despite the cloudy look, this is a decent enough beer with a little hint of lime on the finish. That’s…weird but it isn’t bad. The lime might make it a little too not-beery for some people but for a pint? I’m good with it.

It’s also possible that the lime is there to cover a mistake up but I’m not getting any traces of infection. Perhaps this just an interesting experiment.

That’s all I’ve got, sitting at the bar. The country has had a terrible week-and more. I think it was Patton Oswalt who recently tweeted: ‘2016, you have been a terrible year on every level…fuck you’.

It’s difficult not to echo this. Not because my personal year has been so bad but because so many of my country men and women have to suffer. Daily.

Some days, doing the work is difficult, especially when that work is so clearly irrelevant to the crisis of the time. Writing about beer is one way of writing about people and people want to be listened to.

But they’re all justifiably angry and many more heartbroken. which is almost worse.¬† I get to sit here and have a beer, while others say the wrong kind of goodbyes.

The two women next to me are hashing out a man who is trying to gain the affections of one of them. This man–he is not coming off very well and fellas, this is the kind of conversation that when you hear it you think “men, you gotta step it up because holy crap you kinda suck…”

In a way, the mundanity of this conversation is a pleasant tonic to the toxicity of this week. The world keeps going. Men and women still try and work things out. Women still remind each other that silly men are silly and should not be tolerated, and writers gotta write.

But Nothing Changed, Right

I can’t say that I’m surprised to read that Goose Island has had trouble with their flagship beer.

I don’t want to believe that this is a “big vs little” problem.

No, the problem is one of attitude. If your attitude is to make as much money possible, then quality comes in second.

If your attitude is to make the best beer possible, then money comes in after. I’ve seen the examples time and time again: The attitude always comes through in the end, no matter what you do.

So despite reading from GI employees that “nothing has changed”, there are facts that make me wonder who’s fooling who?

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