Lunchtime beer, stream of consciousness post

(as written at the Deschutes brewpub about 15 minutes ago)

“I’ll have a Pink Lady”-how often do I get to say that? And it IS pink, as if a marker was dipped into the beer- or in this case rose petals for dry hopping. I’m told that dry hopping adds to the nose but damned if it doesn’t have a mouthfeel like chewing on rose petals. This place tends to distract me; I came in hoping for the anniversary stout, and then attracted to the lager I make a beeline for the Pink Lady.
But Portland is humid and this crisp, cool ale stands defiant to it, like the gang; full of spitfire and bright color to stave off the mugginess. I can see her, standing with a hip cocked away from me and the pink jacket, rolling her eyes at the sky; what, ya gonna pay attention to that or to me?
Malts stay through this beer, winking at me before disappearing to the hops, a roasty moment amongst floral and Janice Joplin sings.
If only this place has less TV’s and more windows into the brewery, it might be perfect.

I could use a win

I poured out 5 gallons of the wit beer, because it tasted like death. To be accurate, it tasted like rotten creamed corn, and smelled like swamp water. Pouring bottles of beer down the sink is rarely a good feeling, but when it comes after failing a recipe and not being sure why, well that’s just sucks. Going upstairs to have a beer afterward, I have New Belgian’s Mothership Wit in my fridge.  I can’t help but wonder; Why the fuck doesn’t my beer taste like this? as I drink.

However, I want to move forward so I bottle the mild I’ve got in the newly empty bottles. It has a nose like honeysuckle, coming from the Kent Golding hops, and that gives me great hope for this batch of beer. I’m going to try and give this two weeks in the bottle before I crack one open-but most likely I’ll try it on Sunday, everhopeful. While cleaning my equipment I spied the porter I’d set aside a month ago.

Originally modeled after a recipe I found called ‘Black Widow Porter’, I found that the initial tastes of my beer were…uninspiring. This happens, but it’s still a bit of a downer when I spend a month working on a beer, only to have it come out flat. (ha-ha)

I\'m pleasedAs you can see, things have changed and much for the better. There’s a chocolate malt head on this beer and it tastes damn fine. The molasses component has receded giving way to a mocha element. It’s somewhere in between chocolate and coffee, with a touch of nuttiness in there.

I could probably leave it for a bit longer, too; there were tiny little gobbules of yeast dropping out of the beer, even as I poured it into the glass–I could see the CO2 generating from them as they stuck to the side. I just might do that.

I will be setting a few aside long-term; my Dad has mentioned on a couple of occasions that he wishes he could have some of my beer, and certainly Mrs. Malting will love this beer. It’s excellent, and right up her alley as taste goes.

It’s good to get a win sometimes. (And yes, I know I look rather goofy in this photo)

I’ve also started the next beer; a light-hybid thing with a NW Ale yeast from Wyeast that smelled like grape juice when I poured it in. I have no idea what’s coming from that.

Liquid Raspberry

The Belmont Station had a ‘Meet the Brewer’ night, spotlighting the Six Rivers Brewery. The new store is bigger, and now has a cafe attached to it, so meetups like this actually work without being insanely crowded. I was able to sample Six Rivers’ pale ale, IPA, and stout, and I had favorable impressions of them all but when I found out the raspberry lambic was on tap in the bar, off I went.

I just had a glass but it was a treat I’d been looking forward to for almost a month, having missed my chance to try it at Bailey’s Taproom. The barkeep had his near business persona on, a touch of surly in six river raspberry lambichim-I’m certain that if Iwas there on a day when it wasn’t crowded that he’d sit and chat with you, but his need to work ferociously meant he was not going to do more than pour my beer well and move along.

I took a long sip, and it was basically like drinking raspberries. Oh, I could fancy it up, tell you about a nose I could barely inhale (but had the ghost of raspberry in it) and use special words to explain how tart it was, but it comes down to this:

It was like drinking ripe raspberries. Sweet, then sour, with the effervescence acting like a new sphere on the berry exploding in your mouth. If you like raspberries, you’ll like this, and if you hate raspberries, you’ll hate it. I loved it.

Having the chance to talk to the brewer I asked him about the lambic specifically, and he told me that they used 448 pounds of raspberries in each batch-something like 60 pounds of raspberries per barrel! Also he used a belgain yeast instead of a lambic one (brett is the shortened name for a commonly used lambic yeast) and apparently it’s reacting in such a way that it’s giving him lambic qualities (sourness, really) but at a slower pace. Because brit is so difficult to clean, most brewers either don’t use it, or have to use it in a closed system-so using this yeast solved that problem for him.

At the brewery, he told me they make red and blacks: a stout they have on nitro topped with the raspberry lambic, which is like drinking a chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce.

Time to visit California again.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double Red

I’ve been a fan of myths and dinosaurs since I was a little boy. As a result, just when I heard the name of this beer I was already inclined towards it. Sure, there’s a pun in the name and I’m not so big on puns, but it’s dinosaurs, ok? I’ve got a soft spot.

I also have allergies. The recent heat wave has caused a ruckus in my sinuses, so when I poured this hazy amber liquid, I held it up to get a wiff-sweetly floral, but hard to make out. It evaporated before I could get a hint of it and I am reminded that I’m not breathing as easy as I’d like.

Fortunately, my tongue still works, even on hot days. Sweet in front, and pretty much as long as it was in my mouth, the double red comes on strong. Once I swallowed, a deep resiny bitterness kicked in, lingering and very tasty.  I almost puckered my lips a little at the bitterness, strong enough to clear out most any spicy food, and a good reset for the taste buds. It’s an 8.8% beer so it really hits strong, but maybe on days when my nose isn’t so uncooperative I’ll be able to appreciate this beer even more.


Sometimes brewing itself is an exercise in frustration.

The porter I let sit for another week…and it’s still has no carbonation. Tasty, but nothing effervescent to back it up! So I’m setting it aside for a month. See how it behaves after some time in its room.

I have been trying to re-create a wit beer ever since I made one with a team 3 years ago. It won a contest and was served to people who paid for it! That’s a particularly proud moment for me, as you might imagine. Sadly, I have been failing to re-create this beer. I just bottled it Sunday night, and took a sip from the pre-bottle conditioned leftovers.

It tastes like water. Sour water. That’s not right.

The one good thing that’s going to come of this is the Cheswick Ale ‘clone’ I’m making was put into secondary fermentation, and that tasted pretty good. At least like beer. So I’m giving this wit a week, no more, to shape up. If it tastes like death on Sunday, fuck that, I’m dumping it and moving to a beer with lager malt and lots of hops. (I currently  have an abundance of hops)

After that I’ll start on a brown ale with belgain yeast, that Impy Malting and I brainstormed and decided to call Old Church. I had something like that last night (which I’ll use in a post next week) that tasted pretty good.

Juniper to the rescue

Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale sneaks up on me every time.

Sure, the piney flavors show up in the nose and it’s a fantastically clear beer, with a sparkly juniper finish. I wouldn’t think that it would have sneakiness to it. It’s the kind of beer that goes especially well with spicy dishes because it stands so strong by itself. However, it’s also really good for those hot days when you just feel like  having something cooling-or at least it feels like it. Perhaps the reason I’m caught off guard is because this beer is supposed to go with food, and sometimes I’m just drinking a beer. It’s only a 5.2% beer, so it shouldn’t leave me fuzzy headed, right?

Yet two Juniper Pales later I’m asking for food, so I can stabilize my body and my head. Truly, this is one of my favorite Rogue ales, and certainly an antidote to the dark and heavy beer blues I’ve been encountering lately, but it’s got a kick to it that I would do well to remember.

The Duchesse and I

finish aleThankfully, to save me from my errors at the Belmont Station is the Duchesse. (Which I also got while buying Smithwick’s.)

What a fantastic beer. Apparently a traditional Flemish red ale, this beer has a plum color and a creamy velvet ivory head that seems to be borrowed from a Guinness that some bartender overdid. The faintly fruit sour nose made me think I was about to drink a lambic the first time I had this beer. There’s some red wine qualities here but mellowed out; the nose and the acidity all resemble red wine, though not a strong as wine can be. But the beer downplays the sour aspects, opting for a sweet tang that explodes everywhere, and then finishes pleasantly dry. It’s sweetness noses into the rest of the beer, making this much more complicated, and yet much more drinkable than most lambics might be. Some people are put off by the sourness in lambics, this Flemish ale provides the fruity punch of a lambic, but the sweet balance of a red, and goddamn if it doesn’t work.

It’s a bit pricey, so I don’t get to indulge in it often, but as the antidote to my hasty purchase of a very poor red it works perfectly.

I often think of my friend at Impy Malting when I drink this beer.  On her last visit to Portland, I was able to introduce her to The Duchesse, in a pub in Southeast Portland where a hastily set up karaoke machine was hosting a group of revelers who insisted on singing Journey. We left shortly after drinking this beer, and had a great night overall, but I would have liked a little more time to sit there and enjoy this beer and her company.

But you know. Karaoke Journey. Gotta move away from that.

Wee Heavy lunchbreak beer

Summer has brutalized it’s way into Portland, slapping us with 90 degree heat mere days after highs in the 60s. I wandered into the the pub on my lunch break. It’s deviant for me to have a beer on my lunch break, but it was one of those days; fuck the job, let’s have a pint.

So I found myself at the Rogue Alehouse, pondering their vast selection. Written in large letters on their chalkboard: No Cell Phones In The Bar-please use the phone booth.  Lo and behold, there’s a red british phone booth, with a crown above the word Telephone on each side, and looking like it’s made from iron- something heavy duty enough to survive soccer hooligans- in one corner. On the opposite wall is a skeleton in Spider Man pjs, and a sparkly neon-green tie. Ah, Portland.

Making choices under pressure is a challenge for me because there are so many beers to try and when I can only get just one, better make it good, right? It’s not like I’m having to choose a car in 30 seconds, but I want a beer that is going to meet a couple criteria: be tasty and be something I haven’t had before.

The Wee Heavy Scotch ale from the Issaquah brewery was what I went with, having had good memories of other wee heavys (heavies?) I’ve drank. It was not my wisest choice though, especially given the heat of the day. Scotch ales tend to be sipping beers, and perhaps not for a less leisurely lunchtime consumption.

The deep amber color that’s almost but not quite dark enough to be opaque is the first thing I noticed in my already sweating glass. This beer was thick and sweet, giving away to a final hop bitterness at the very end. It’s a last minute save worthy of Batman, honestly; without that bitterness the beer would be almost syrupy. As I kept drinking, I notice a tang to it that’s not quite right. There’s a metallic quality to the finish here that throws the whole beer off. I’m not sure if that’s due to the weather or what, but I was not so fond of this.

My impresions were made worse by the fact that I had to walk quickly back to work. The Wee Heavy sat badly in my belly, sloshing around as I strode the blocks, the heat uncomfortable and the beer not very cooling for this day. Next time, I’ll have to remember to try something lighter.

On haste

In honor of the beer critic Michael Jackson, who died last year, homebrewers were going to try to make one of his favorite beers, Cheswick Bitter Ale for National Homebrewers Month. This is all well and good, but I’ve never had the Cheswick, so I won’t really know if I’ve made the right beer or not. (I’ve also had to substitute ingredients, but one makes do.)

Last night, I’m at Belmont Station with Fuz, looking for beer. We’ve been there awhile and I want to hurry up and pick something because we’re burning daylight, you know? I find a beer from the UK and think; ‘Ah-ha! I can try this, take notes, and then compare it to my beer!’ In my head, I’ve just bought the Cheswick Bitter.

So I buy this:Not what I thought 



Oh yeah. Very, very smart of me.


OK, so I fucked it up. But eh, it’s still beer, right? And it’s from the people who do Guinness, so it’s bound to be OK!

Well, no. Though this claims to be an Irish Ale, what this really is is mass produced, quite dull red. It tastes like soda water, with no real malt to back up the color or give any flavor. How the hell does one produce a red ale without any malt flavor?  Yet it has been done, and I can attest to it.

The one bonus is that I’d just finished a whole bunch of yardwork. Since this was more like water than beer, I felt pretty refreshed afterward, if a little foolish about my purchase. I guess I’ll just have to figure out my version of Cheswick Bitter on its own merits.

Lager done right

I understand that most people who try to drink beers that aren’t produced by macrobreweries have issues with not just the ‘weight’ of the beer (density, mouthfeel, how they settle in the stomach) but also with the intensity of the flavors.  Sweet, bitter, floral, clove–these can put someone off who isn’t welcoming of it. Unfortunately, most microbreweries (and home brewers) avoid the lagers that are the popular American style for two reasons: 1) the market is pretty much cornered by the big brewers, and 2) lagers are hard to brew. As a result, most people only ever get to try a lager that has been watered down for the masses, instead of a truly refreshing drink, ideal for a hot day and pub grub, and beer lovers never get a chance to try a really well done lager. Thankfully, that’s changing.
3 beersThe Hopworks Urban Brewery won silver at the World Beer Cup 2008 for their lager, and deservedly so. There is a slightly bitter flower nose from the hops (I’m told they’re Saaz), but the body of this beer is all malt. 

You might be able to tell from the picture, but this lager is a few shades darker than your standard mass-produced lager. I’d assume that’s because ‘leeching’ agents to make the beer more ‘acceptable’, like corn or rice, haven’t been added. The malt flavors aren’t muted and hidden, they’re right up front with a  a really nice balance of sweet and roasted qualities, so this beer is very, very drinkable. 

Like any lager, as I reached the end of my glass, there was an ever so slight skunking of the beer–but this is to be expected from the warmth and the (thankful) light. That’s right; I’m drinking this lager as summer has started to push it’s way into Portland, and HUB’s lager is perfect for this time of year. It’s really refreshing, able to wash down not just the standard pub fair, but those spicy calzones they offer as well. (The red sauce at HUB is truly excellent)