Organic Brewers Festival

I decided I wasn’t going to write about any beers that tasted like dirt. This was a way for me to simply eliminate beers and write about the non-dirt tasting ones. My plan was in vain however, as most of those beers didn’t have the dirt aftertaste. This was a good thing, as I’ve had to rethink my stance on trying organic beers, however the payoff wasn’t as positive.

Friday was the first is what is being called a heat wave in Portland; 95+ degrees for the next few days. Not a bad time for an outdoor brewing fest, and Overlook Park is a nice place. I’d taken the day off and Fuz was willing to join me, so we walked into the park and this is where things started to go wrong.

First, we had to deal with a jam band called The Grokkers. We knew they were going to be a jam band before we even knew who the band was. I don’t know why hippie shit is associated with organic beers, but there you go. Fortunately, we were early so the band was still setting up but so, unfortunately, were some of the tables serving beer. Fuz’s comment: “Are you telling me a hippie organic fest isn’t starting on time?!
Clearly, we were going to have fun mocking some of the attitudes here. And why not? Why do organic brews apparently only appeal to hippies? If you’re going to make good beer, that ought to appeal to anyone who likes beer.  

That said; the festival was running smoothly; it didn’t take us long to get out 21+ bracelets and cups for drinking. The volunteers setting up the beer lines were working as efficiently and pleasantly as they could, and there was a nice layout of beers, alphabetically set up spaced apart from each other so crowding would be lessened, but I could almost always find the brewery I wanted to try. Plus, there was a large grouping of tables and chairs under the shade of a gigantic tree. This was a very welcome relief, especially since I was still wearing jeans. (Not very smart, I’ll admit.) Let’s move on to what you’re here for though; me talking about beer. For whatever reason, the nose on most of the beers I tried didn’t show up. I’m not sure why-there was a bit of a breeze, so that might’ve affected things, as could my allergies. Suffice it to say, for the most part I had to rely on my tongue and not my other senses for much of this event.

The first beer I took notes on was Eel River’s Triple Exultation Old Ale. It had caramel flavors and an alcohol warmth to it. I enjoyed the beer, but felt like it was something to have on a much cooler day; too much of this beer and it-or I- would’ve felt sludgy. With this in mind, I started looking for more refreshing drinks; if the heat was going to get to me, I figured I ought to play along.

My next selection was Ukiah’s Liberator Bock. The sign said that Ukiah’s was the US’s oldest organic brewery, so I was hopeful that they’d have some promising beers. This bock had a very smooth mouthfeel, and was very easy to drink. It also had some caramel notes, but because as a darker beer it was balanced out by a slight coffee bitterness. Again, I thought this beer was solid, but the sweetness of it didn’t play nice with the weather.

Redstone Meadery’s Black Rasberry Nectar Mead was my next selection. I figured I ought to just go all out and change everything up. Fuz joined me here; the Sunshine Apricot Nectar Mead was also available, but I prefer raspberries. This mead was much more refreshing, with a berry start, and then a rising honey influence as I drank it. The drawback was that this drink tasted a little thin, like a popsicle I’d sucked most of the flavor out of, and was just getting the dregs and ice now.

Things really started to go wrong when I had Walking Man’s Sasquatch Legacy Project Imperial Vienna. I took one whiff of it, and reeled back.
“I think something is wrong with my glass,” I said to Fuz, “My drink smells like Spapghetti-o’s!” (The cups given to us were made of corn and are 100% compostable. I thought that maybe the glass was impacting the beer, but this was the only one with this scent.) Fuz took my drink and took a breath.
Nope. That smells like Spaghetti-o’s.” Ah, shit.
So with a slight grimace, I took a drink. Spaghetti-o’s. I have no idea what went wrong there. I took a 2nd sip. Spaghetti-o’s.
I hate throwing out beer, but really, could anyone be expected to drink that? I was surprised, more than disappointed. I am not a fan of Walking Man, but they generally do solid beers, so this was really stunning to me.

By now, the jam band had started to play, and Fuz commented, “If the lead singer from Live had gotten involved with a Phish knockoff, that’s what these dudes would sound like.” Ugh. This afternoon was rapidly turning into an experience to avoid. There was even a vendor of yurts. Fuck me.

Ever hopeful, I went to Standing Stone’s Double IPA. This, finally, was a beer that really suited the day. Strong pink grapefruit nose, with flavors that mirrored it, but the beer didn’t get bitter. It was very, very refreshing and I was quite thankful to drink something that really caught my attention. I’ll be looking for other beers by them for certain.

Having never heard of the Willamette Brewery, I tried their dunkel next. It was a light, if unassuming brew, that didn’t want to leave much of an impression on me. My notes say that it’s nice, but I may have been in just the mood for something that didn’t leave much of an impression.

As we made our way toward the exit, Fuz and I came by the table for Pinkus brews, from Germany. Impulsively, Fuz tried their Alt beer, and we were both in for quite a surprise. First, it had the look of a lager; sunny yellow and very clear. I had expecting something much maltier and denser, along the lines of Rogue’s Dead guy, but it wasn’t even close. It didn’t taste quite like a lager, though, more like a pilsner. It was clean and very, very refreshing. It wasn’t quite anything we’d had there, and we were quite pleased. The sun was insisting that we go, so we went to our last stop. 

The final beer was Crannog’s Hell’s Kitchen Potato Ale. Fuz joined me with their Back Hand of God Stout. I wasn’t expecting much, because a potato ale? Really? Potatoes are known for their neutrality of flavor, and well…this beer bore that out, but not in a good way. One of the blandest beers I’ve had, there weren’t hop notes to speak of, nor yeast influence that I could tell. Fuz, unfortunately, got the worse end of the deal; the Back Hand of God was not a good beer. I had a sip and my face corkscrewed with and unpleasant bitter flavor that I almost spit out. Neither of us finished out beers, and as we walked out we talked about what a waste it was that the Back Hand of God (which we both loved as a name) was so unpleasant to drink.

On our way back to the car, we saw a dog tied to a tree, alone and wishing that someone would play with her. I couldn’t be positive, but I was pretty sure that she was waiting there in the shade while her owner went and drank.
“Goddamnit, that’s fucking wrong,” I said. Fuz agreed, and that kind of put a capstone on our afternoon; jam bands and bad pet owners coupled with hot weather and mostly uninspiring beers. Can’t win ’em all.

A sampling of 3

Fuz and I made our way to Bailey’s once again; he’d seen their Twitter postings and was sure that they had a perfect storm of beer there. We must go try it. So, my pockets stuffed with Magic the Gathering decks and a camera, I arrived, found the largest table I could and unpacked all my gear, waiting for my friend to arrive. I’d just gotten my beer when a sweaty Fuz strolled through the door; he’d walked the 5 miles from his house to the downtown pub. He promptly gave me a wave and then went directly to the bar.  The following were my selections from the ‘perfect storm’.

Baron’s Uber-Weiss: I’ve had one of Baron’s beers in the past; a lager that I was extremely unimpressed with. It arrived to me skunked, and didn’t improve from there. This was a bock crossed with elements of wit beer, and it…was funky, and not in a good way. Easy drinking, but had a swampy nose to it that clashed with the smoother mouthfeel. Call it interesting but not piquing. I don’t think I’ll be trying one of Baron’s beers again, unless someone gives me a recommendation.

Terminal Gravity’s Tripel was next up, and this was really surprising. I expect tripels to be much sweeter, via all my experience of drinking the belgian brews. TG decided to take a different route, muting the sweetness of this beer, but keeping the high alcohol present in a tripel. I have to say; it made for a much more drinkable beer. I really hope to try it again, and soon. It was a bit expensive, as tripels tend to be, but I am looking forward to trying it again and giving it more attention.

The Salmon Creek Scotch Ale, however was the real winner of the night. This beer started off unassuming, Fuz got whiskey from smelling it, I noted chocolate. Who was right? No idea. But this beer started off with an easy going drinkability that just got better and better as it warmed up. It smelled more chocolatey, and yet the scotch part hadn’t diminished, plus this beer never got sickly sweet, as scotch ales usually lean toward. I am eagerly awaiting another chance to have this beer so I can provide more details about it’s awesome.

The Organic Problem

I don’t know what it is, but organic beers always have the same problem for me; the dirt aftertaste. I don’t mean dirty, like there’s some kind of grit or errant nodule that’s made its way into the beer, I mean that when the beer leaves my mouth, my throat and tongue taste like I’ve put them in dirt. It doesn’t seem to matter who makes the beer, or what style of beer it is, I’d say 85% of the time I still feel like I’ve tasted dirt.

Which is why I tend to avoid organic beers. And you know how it is when you don’t like something; you tell 10 people and they tell 10 people and so on–so you end up having a whole group of people who avoid organic beers, for better or worse.

deschutes green lakesIt had been suggested by my girlfriend that we go and get a hot dog at Zack’s Shack for dinner. A blond, curly haired stoner dude with a pleasant attitude right out of the Spicoli playbook told us that the cash register was down for a moment so he’d charge us later, and in the meantime took our orders for hot dogs (a NY dog for her, garlic and cheese for me) and poured us two Green Lake ales. My expectations were low, but Deschutes is still Deschutes; they’ve earned my respect.

And the Green Lake Ale is very, very smooth. Munching hot dogs in a tiny place with Band of Horses and Radiohead posters on the side and a Ms Pac Man tabletop machine, this beer works great. I don’t know how Deschutes did it, but they made a fine pale ale that has a gentle bitterness at the end, but no dirt aftertaste. Then again, I don’t know why organic ales had to taste like dirt to begin with, so the secret to getting this one right eludes me.

I didn’t mind; the fries were hot and something has to wash down my garlic dog, so the Green Lake worked great.

This post may become utterly meaningless after this Friday, when I attend the Organic Brewer’s Festival. But I can look forward to eating those words, I think.


There is pretty much one, and only one, good thing about doing yardwork. 

Once you’ve finished, you can have a beer, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. Yardwork sucks, and a beer is your just fuckin’ reward. 
 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sweaty, nasty, and in need of a shower. Then, perhaps, another beer. 

Old Churches 3; the day after

Holy crap this beer took off like I’ve never seen before.

What isn’t being conveyed is the rate of fermentation; this thing is bubbling like an overactive steroid in Dr Frankenstein’s lab. It’s so intense, the water in the airlock is almost percolating over, and it’s kind of freaking me out. But it’s active, so that’s awesome!

And that’ll probably be the last post on this for about a month. Patience!

Old Churches, pt 2: Brew day

This starts the day before actually, when I transfered a pale ale into secondary and then cleaned and sanitized the primary carboy for use. This process isn’t that exciting, but I took pictures anyway.

Anyway, after sanitizing all the equipment, I set it aside until yesterday, when I actually brewed the beer.

Start with:
Carapils Dextrin Malt-1.25lb
Chocolate Malt (british)–.5lb
British Brown Malt-1.25lb
all steeped at about 125 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Then I added 6 pounds of Light Malt Extract, one pound of Wheat Malt Extract, and two pounds of Extra Light Malt Extract, while bringing it up to about 170. Malt extract takes a bit of time to dissolve when you’re adding 8 pounds of it.

But then the boil gets started, and as with all other brews I’ve seen, you start at the end number and count backwards. So at 60 minutes left in the boil, I added 1.5oz of Cluster hops. 1oz of Chinook at 30 minutes, 0.5 oz of UK Kent Golding hops and 1/4 cup of agave nectar at 15 minutes, and then at 0 minutes 0.5 oz of Cascade hops. -5 minutes into the boil, I took it off…(I went a little over. It happens.)

Unfortunately, I did a few very silly things at this point. Well one; I forgot to get the original gravity reading. So there will be no way for me to tell how alcoholic this beer is, aside from the whole ‘drinking it’ option of course. But this is what it looked like then:

About 2 hours later I pitched the yeast; White Labs 530 and 550, at about 78 degrees. Should know in about a day if the yeast takes and actually starts brewing.

Old Churches, the adventure begins

This adventure starts off probably a month or more back, while talking to Impy. The phrase, “Old Church–that would be a great name for a beer!” was said, and away we went, wondering what it would be like. My premise was that it would be a brown ale, with belgian yeast; dense and seeped in old tradition. She liked the idea, so I ran with it, looking at brown and belgian ales in an attempt to see where they could be co-mingled.

Then of course I actually had to get the materials, and in true homebrewer fashion, not everything was there so I had to fake it.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:
White Labs yeast 530
White Labs yeast 550 (the yeast was supposed to be 515 in both cases)
2oz Kent Golding hops (for finishing; the aroma is so nice)
2oz Cascade hops (bittering)
Light Malt Extract-6lb
Extra Light Malt Extract-2lb (supposed to be 2 more pounds of LME)
Carapils Dextrin Malt-1.25lb -seeping malts
Chocolate Malt (british)–.5lb-seeping malts
British Brown Malt-1.25lb-seeping malts (supposed to be Crystal)

There’s a few exciting things going on here. First, I’m trying out  a recipe with two different yeasts in it. I’ve never done that before and I’m interested in how it’ll come out. What I’ve read about these yeasts is that they produce more alcohol, so the beer will be less malty. However, since I’m seeping a much darker malt with more sugars in it than is called for, and I plan on adding maybe 1 cup of organic sugar to this, I’m thinking that it should all turn out OK. These yeasts are supposed to give a spicier flavor instead of the sweeter kind that frequents most belgian ales; all I can do is run with it and see what happens.

Then there’s the malt. When I took a sniff of the crystal malt, I thought it was OK. Biscuity, but alright. The Brown malt, however, said to me; I’m a brown ale malt, pick me! with it’s rich undertones of crispened sugars.
How could I resist?

I was also mightily tempted by the presence of Pacman yeast, which is what Rogue uses in all their beers and I’ve had great success with. I bought a couple packs, just because.  I’ll use them in the next beer however because Pacman yeast is a bitch to acquire but goes with almost everything. At least everything Rogue does. And I’ve already got the belgain yeast, so I want to put that to use.

The boys got that look

Off to the Concordia Alehouse with Fuz and baeza to play Magic and drink pints. It’s a guy’s night out, without all the stereotypical bullshit; we hang out and talk geekery and beer. It’s about as macho as your average floral convention.

There was, sadly, a pedantic draft selection so I suggested checking out the bottles, and lo and behold at number 16 is Meantime. Oh, it’s a porter, but who cares? Here’s a chance to have some British beer that I rarely have access to!

So Fuz and I split a large bottle and I pour it out for us:
It didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped.

Still; the porter had applesauce notes that ran from the head (which we chewed on) to the actual drink itself. It was frothy and had the lightness of granny smith applesauce, and by god I’d totally order it again. Hopefully, I’ll pour it better next time.

As I continued to lose our Magic matchups, baeza found a beer that caught his attention; Alesmith‘s Decadence. An imperial stout, I was heartened to realize that it tasted like the stout I’d recently made. A touch of molasses and a definite alcohol warmth, but the parallels were surprising to me. Maybe I’m getting better at that whole making beer thing than I thought.

It was about this time that a woman with long, curly salt and pepper hair and an intelligent set of glasses came up to ask us what we were drinking. A fan of maltier beers, she was curious if the Decadence was good.  I handed over my glass; “Here you go,” I said cheerfully. (She also bashfully admitted that she played Magic with her friends at home.)

She smiled and we talked for a little bit, her asking us about the Meantime, and then thanking us and heading back to her table. A few minutes later, I saw the magnium of Decadence being opened at her table. Her companion looked over at me an laughed; “Had to get one so she’d quit taking yours.”

Desperation drunks

It’s really, really weird to me to see people in Portland who don’t have to drink PBR, drinking PBR. It’s not hot, they aren’t poor, they just decide to drink PBR because, they insist, it tastes good. It has nothing, I’m sure, to do with the fact that it’s trendy to drink that beer.

Nothing at all.

Then I read stories like this one, and I figure it could be worse.

The argument

I enjoy going out with my buddy Jim. We pretty much argue half the time, but it’s always about things that utterly don’t matter
(him: Deep Purple was a hugely influential band with great songs
me: No they fucking weren’t, they had Smoke on the Water, and everything else was shit.
The Decemberists are awesome and lyrically amazing!
The are the dullest band ever.)

so our feelings never get hurt.

Of course, all of this is inspired by the Morrison Hotel playing really shitty Foo Fighters songs (instead of good ones), and we could both agree on that. So it was in the spirit of spirited argument, I had the following:

Some unpleasant tasting beer that I couldn’t exactly see who made. It was known as a ‘Dark IPA’ and it tasted bitter, like it had been burnt. I regreted choosing this over the Dogfish beer that caught my eye, but I had to try it.

Nostradamus Belgain Brown. The nose was full of banana. As a matter of fact, it was like a banana split; sugary and whipped cream backing up the banana nose itself. This banana flavor ran through the whole beer–the belgain yeast just dominated over the malts. However-and I’m just taking this from my notes- as the beer warmed up, I noticed a cinnamon touch in the nose, and the dessert confection started to mellow out. It became easier to drink the warmer it got. I suspect this beer might’ve been served to me too cold, and if I’d just given it a couple minutes my experience would’ve been different.

Next: St Bernardus Quadrupel. I got this b/c at the Belmont Station for the Six Rivers event, my girlfriend asked me: what’s a quadrupel? And I had no idea, aside from it being Belgain and probably following in the line of the dubbel, trippel ales that Belgain abbys are so famous for. The head on this was as dense as a nerf ball, and I could hardly get a scent off of it, but clove seemed to touch my senses for a moment. The flavors were very, very common to a trippel; sweet, with an alcohol warmth to help bring it back (11%!), but then I caught a touch of something else…sourness. Just a little bit at the end, a nudge utterly opposite the rest of the beer. That’s when I realized that maybe this yeast is what’s being used for the raspberry lambic at Six Rivers.

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale was next up, as I came back to the choice that I’d initially hoped to drink. This beer had mocha running in it, chocolate malts that were really tasty…of course, between the lateness of the evening and my allergies, I got no nose off the beer whatsoever. But there was a slight coffee bitterness and drying effect at the very back that had me wanting more. However, it’s strong for a brown ale (7.2%) so I opted to cease so I could get home.

Or at least, I thought I had. Earlier in the evening, Jim in a kind of faux-macho swagger ordered an Old German. It came in a can. I’m not sure I can say anything more about that, except the waiter grinned and gave Jim an ‘Oh yeah!’: he knew how bad it was, and exactly why it was being ordered. When I saw it, (about the time I was drinking the St B’s) I laughed and said that I had to order it.

And it was after the Indian Brown Ale that Jim reminded me of that.

It was terrible. My notes plead with me: I have to finish a pint of this? I didn’t.There\'s a straw in my beer

And yes, the Old German was served to me with a straw in it.