All at once

Most of the time, I don’t get to try a lot of different beers at once. This is partly so I don’t get ill; mixing beer styles can be as unpleasant mixing other kinds of alcohol, but it also is economics. Who can afford to spend all that cash?

However, when going to the coast on a family vacation, we have an exception to the rule. I was to be surrounded by people who oppressively cared about me! Call it an excuse if you wish, but what the hell; I got a few different beers to try, took notes and photos, and here we go!

I kicked Friday off with some Green Flash Imperial IPA. The label says it has Summit and Nugget hops, and they give the beer a heavy grapefruit nose and some bite on the back that really stuck with me. Happily munching on my Mom’s monster cookies, I noticed that this beer got more piney as it warmed up. The flavor got so strong, I thought I was drinking evergreen tea. Pine does not go as well with oatmeal-raisin-chocolate cookie items, so I finished this beer rather quickly. Perhaps some beers should be served in certian portions. If this beer turns into a tree that fast, maybe it would be better served in twelve ounce bottles.

The second beer comes to Portland by way of Japan from a Portland expat, or so the fine people at the Belmont Station tell me. This beer, Baird’s The Carpenter’s Mikan Ale, had an odd fruit fermentation aspect; the bottle tells me there are citrus flavors, but I don’t believe that. More like something between a banana and a tangerine. It stopped short of cloying by introducing a dryness at the very end, I presume from the fruit but I’m not sure. This is the trouble with tasting a flavor I’ve never had like mikan fruit; I have no idea where it’s subtle contributions to the beer kick in, and where the yeast or malts would take over.

As the evening is wearing down and everyone else is talking about coffee, a drink I have no experience with and no real drive to drink, I finish with the Eel River Triple Exultation. I was looking forward to this beer, because it was from one of the few breweries I liked at the Organic festival. The Triple Exultation is an old ale, but it was a hell of a lot sweeter than I thought it would be. Usually, old ales have some alcohol warmth to balance out their sweetness, but this beer not so. It’s all malts, and that puts the beer off balance.

Still, it was a good way to start off the weekend. More tomorrow!

Excellent advice

I know this really isn’t news, I’m always on the hunt for good beer.  Fortunately, my hunt is facilitated by living in Portland which has a thriving beer scene, and strong connections to nearby breweries in California, Colorado and Washington, as well as making a big enough mark that brews from Maine and Vermont show up here. But getting international beers is always a challenge, and I am frequently jealous of the lovely Impy with her access to the interesting and tasty beers she drinks. Which is why I was thrilled to find some Brew Dog in my hometown.  I got the Hardcore IPA, an imperial style IPA, because I’m interested to see how someone who hasn’t been indoctrinated by the Pacific NW idea of brewing handles this, and because getting the porter would’ve cost me $12 for sixteen ounces, versus $12 for twenty two ounces. Spending that much on a single beer is a special event thing for me.

It’s quite a tasty beer, too, and very smooth. Leaning more toward the traditional IPAs rather than the Northwest style, the hops are present but not overwhelming. I’m quite grateful for this; not everything should be so hopped you can’t tell the difference between beer and plants. Plus, I like the idea that people will continue to make all kinds of styles of beer; I’d hate to see another style go extinct.

I like the packaging too-their beers have this devil may care rock & roll vibe, and that’s just fun. More fun than most beers these days, which seem to be taking craft brewing very seriously. Making good beer; serious. The enjoyment of good beer; not serious.

And there’s quite a bit to enjoy so I am glad to have an informant on these beers from far across the ocean. Drinking this reminds me of the times Impy and I got to sit in the pubs around a couple pints, and I certainly hope we do that again soon.


My sister and her husband came through town last weekend, and I had a chance to give them some of my latest creation. They both enjoyed it quite a bit, and it’s gratifying when people enjoy with my beer. Since I don’t see my sister’s family too often, I relish the chance to offer them beer. 

Their youngest, Gabe, toppled up to his father and asked “Some more?”
“You want some beer?”
And so he offered Gabe a sip.
Gabe’s reaction:
My beer makes babies cry.

Old Churces 4, the bottling

in raw format


It’s been two weeks or so since I put Old Churches into secondary, and it was time to move it into bottles. I wanted to bottle this before the yeast went completely dormant, because I seem to have a perpetual issue with brewing beer that isn’t effervescent. There are supposed to be bubbles, damnit! At least some bubbles, anyway.

The process for putting Old Churches into bottles is pretty simple; first sanitize the bottles, bottlecaps, and syphon in a solution of iodophor. I ususally do this about 24 hours beforehand so these things can dry out and I don’t get sanitizer flavor in my beer.

Then I boil two cups of water, adding 3/4 cup of sugar and let that go for about five minutes to sanitize the solution. I’m told this is the process for making a simple syrup, though I’ve never seen it refered to as such in the brewing recipes I’ve seen. After I let the syrup cool I added it into the wort, and let it sit for about five minutes. This step is new; in the past I’ve just stirred the syrup into the wort and started filling bottles. I let it sit this time in the hopes that the sugars will be more evenly dispersed throughout the beer, so the yeast will be active in all of them.

Then I inserted the syphon, gave the wort a little stir and then I set to filling the bottles.

This took about twenty minutes. As I filled the bottles, I put caps on them, so the oxygen in the top could be pushed out as the beer generated CO2.  I don’t know that that happens, I read that it was a good idea, so why not? It’s a little tricky to manage this by myself, but I usually get it done. Because I didn’t have enough regular bottles I used a couple growlers too. The up side; about three people get two beers each per growler. The down side; once I open a growler, I pretty much have to make sure the whole thing gets drank otherwise the beer goes flat. And flat beer going flatter is not good.

Although it’s not quite a punishment, having to drink a lot of beer.

One other drawback is that I had more beer than bottles for it. Now because sometimes I’m too clever for my own good, I tried to use this opportunity to fill a large mug to get a hydrometer reading for the terminal gravity. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough beer for that; my hydrometer sank right to the bottom of the glass and bounced.  There’s a better way to do this, I’m sure, but I haven’t put resources to solving this problem yet. Which is another way of saying I’m lazy, but what the hell.

I didn’t have anything else to do with this beer except drink it, so I did. The coffee flavors were strong but not too bitter, and the yeast gave this beer a density that brown ales just don’t have. The mouthfeel was thicker than what a brown ale ought to be, and the beer finished off with a note of banana. Which seemed pretty unusual, but quite tasty after the strong coffee start.

Now all I have to do is wait a week and see what comes out. It might take two weeks for things to really come together, but I’ll likely give it a taste in seven days to see what my initial impressions are. Or, uh, second initial impressions.

International Brewfest 2008

Fuz and I made our way across the Burnside bridge and to the Portland International Beer Festival. Let’s just get right to it and break this down into the good, the bad and the ugly, shall we?

The good:
Mark Lanegan was on the speakers.

Flyer’s Sick Duck French Oak/Vintage Rum Batch V2 was a really good stout, with sweet chocolate in front, and bitter coffee to finish, so it was like drinking a chocolate coated coffee bean.

Rochefort 8 was one of the densest looking beers I’d ever seen. I could see the particulates floating in the beer suspended as though in something that wasn’t water, and its spicy qualities made me want to chew it. A meal in a glass, I think.

BFM L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chen 2006 was a sour ale the way sour ales ought to be done. Tart instead of sour, I wanted to have this beer with some fruit-based Carribbean dishes; pineapple and mango sauces over tender meats, but I was able to easily drink it on its own.

In all three of these cases, I wanted more than a taste of this beer. I wanted to be able to sit down with a pint and really sink my teeth into them.

The Bad
Someone thought it would be a great idea to have a cigar stand in the middle of the event.  So there were smug assholes smoking cigars everywhere I went; it was unescapeable. They all had the same look on their faces, too: I’m better and wealthier than you and I’m going to go home and have sex on top of piles of money you plebians, so get away from me.

I was never for the smoking ban at Portland’s bars until I saw people with cigars smoking.

The Ugly
First, the PIB took place in a one block area downtown so not only did the event fill up, it overcrowded rather quickly. While there was plenty of shade, there wasn’t much space to sit down and I was always in someone’s way or they were in mine. The servings were about what I’d expect, and the servers were having a good time but more than once I got in the wrong line to get a beer because they didn’t have clear postings about where you could get what.

And damn, if some of the names of those beers weren’t really, really long. What a pain in the butt to say if you’ve had a pint! (Yes, I know I’m complaining about something really silly.)

Finally, I paid $20 for a small plastic glass (they’d run out of glass glasses) and ten tickets. Beers ranged from one ticket to six tickets, and if you wanted something that really was ‘international’, you had to pay more for it. So not only did I not get that many samples of beer for what I paid, but I was surrounded by cigars at every turn, screwing with my ability to smell and taste the beer. Yay!

Fuz and I left as promptly as was reasonable and walked to Bailey’s where for eleven dollars total we both had pints of good beer, relaxing away from the crowds and the smoke.


At the Belmont Station this week is Puckerfest, a celebration of sour beers, with rotating samples from brewers all around. At Fuz’s behest, I went; he had specifically recommended New Belgium La Folie, saying it echoed The Dutchesse but alas there was none left when I arrived.

I started with Cascade’s Flanders Red. With a nose of rotting grapes at the end of summer coupled with balsamic vinegar, I was less than hopeful. Still, the Dutchesse is a Flanders Red, so I sallied forth. However, this beer tasted like vinegar, its sourness so entrenched that no other flavors could be detected. I drank it swiftly, my tongue refusing to keep it in my mouth for long. Boil this beer down to make a salad dressing out of it and it’ll be excellent.

I noticed a customer getting a glass boot full of beer, and shortly thereafter noted that some of the beers offered at the cafe came in ‘boot’ size; two liters of certain selections. Another table was so impressed by the boot, that they ordered one for themselves…and started chugging the contents. Chanting the phrase “Das boot!” as one or another of the men pounded the beer (the women were willing to cheer on, but not drink like that) their jovial fraternity air could be heard throughout the Belmont. Some things do not change. You can be paying twenty bucks for your beer, and there will still be drinking contests. Why, I do not know; I’ve never had any trouble getting drunk myself, but perhaps there is a contingent of people who do. 

I did, however, chuckle at their insistence on chanting the German word for ‘boat’. I suppose once you start something stupid, you might as well go to the hilt. 

Shaking my head and ordered New Belgium’s Lips of Faith, a peach ale. I did this on purpose, after the discussion about tarts a few days ago. This beer was delicious, tasting like a peach cider. A touch of dryness at the end not quite as sharp as a cider, but still reminescent of one, and really drinkable. Oddly, this beer wasn’t quite refreshing enough to be a great summer beer but it was tasty enough to be a solid anytime beer.

A little unsure what to get next, I asked the bartender for a recomendation. His favorites: the Cascade and Double Mountain’s Devils Kriek, a cherry beer. This was like getting a music recommendation from someone who told me they really love reggae. Reggae is for some people, but it is not for me. I reluctantly ordered the Kriek, because why not? I’m there to try beers, right? Let’s try. The nose wasn’t as strong, and this was an indicator for the beer at large, as it turned out. The flavors were nondescript, and if I hadn’t read that cherries were used in the beer, I wouldn’t have picked that up at all.

At this point my stomach was protesting at the beers I’d been subjecting it to, so I decided to call it a night. Sour ales are challenging to more than my palate it seems.


The term ‘alcopop’ is usually thrown about to refer to drinks like Mike’s Hard Lemonaid. Hard alcohol without the drawbacks of the intense flavors of hard alcohol.

But someone has taken it literally, and I think that’s pretty neat. Not worth travelling to Virgina to try neat, but neat nonetheless.

Thanks to my friend A. Ho. for the link.

Failures that are successes.

Things did not go quite right with my new beer. It was supposed to be a pale ale, but very hoppy. Almost IPA-ish, but lighter in color.

It’s lighter in color alright, but…the hoppiness is not there. It’s sweet, and I guess ought to be called a golden ale instead of a pale. I’m baffled by this, honestly; I dry hopped this beer with Chinook hops, which have a pretty high alpha unit (which means that they have high bitterness properties-at least, I think that’s what it means) and a really strong scent. That quality didn’t transfer to the nose however, and I have no idea why. The color being so light is also unexpected, but the cloudiness of the beer is expected; I forgot to buy Irish Moss on my last trip to the store. (That’s an agent that helps clarify beer.)

This beer also has a  very thin head and doesn’t retain it for long. I get that satisfying burst of escaping CO2 when I open the beer, so I’ve done something right, but that the effervescence isn’t lasting seems to signal that I’ve done something not right. It’s possible that some of the higher temperatures Portland has seen affected fermentation. I’ve been told that sometimes the yeast will produce a sweeter flavor if fermented too warmly. I don’t think 66 degrees is too warm, but my basement is an uncontrolled area, so perhaps there have been fluxuations that have had an impact.

Now all that said, it’s a pretty good beer. It may not have turned out the way I’d thought it would, but it’s light, though not crisp, and easy drinking. As a summer beer I’m actually happy with how this came out, I just wish I knew more about how this occurred so it would be purposely duplicated. It’s possible that what happened is exactly what was supposed to happen, I just was unaware of my intent. Thankfully I’ve got some decent notes on this beer, so I’ll have to try it again.

One thing I can  say for certain; it’ll get you drunk. I’ve had 2 and I’m crusing.

Sam Adams to be biggest US owned brewer

This story has the details, but the headline tells you the meat of things.

I’m not sure what this will mean, but I think that it’s interesting that a brewery known for the variety of styles they produce will soon be the largest, as opposed to the singularity  of styles that A-B is known to make. Perhaps this will encourage more breweries to make more interesting beers to drink.

Of course, other people have different takes on this.

Three tastes

I was on a quest to rent disc 4 of The Wire. One long, muggy walk and two movie rental places later it was time to say “The hell with this” and get a pint. Fortunately for me, it’s Oregon Craft Beer Month, and the Horse Brass has a lot of beers to choose from.

I went first with a glass of the Terminal Gravity Tripel, partly because I wanted to see if it was as good as I remember, and it was. Not too sweet with enough bitterness to keep me drinking.

My next choice was Widmer’s Dopplebock. I’ve liked dopplebocks since I traveled to Germany and had them in Nuremburg 15 years ago,  and though they never seem to rise up to that first one, I keep hunting them down. This beer was quite malty and delicious, then gave way to a dryness, almost a bitterness that encouraged drinking more of it. A little dastardly in that respect: a drink that refuses to quench your thirst.

Now, while I was drinking this, my girlfriend was drinking Vortex IPA from Ft George brewery. I tried some and it had an orange blossom nose and finish, but sweet faint caramel in the middle, and was about as well balanced of a West Coast style IPA as I could’ve asked for. I was thining about ordering it next, but decided to get Rogue’s Imperial Younger’s Special Bitter. However, at this point we were interrupted by a large man with a shaven headed and a goatee, drinking a Hogshead Stout and asking about the IPA. We told him about it, and it was more than enough to convince him to try a pint.

who can resist this?
who can resist this?

I found out he was a homebrewer, and we launched into a discussion about brewing; he told me of a beer he’d made using heather and dry hopping. I told him about the beer I’d helped make that had been sold at the Horse Brass. He ordered a pint, but it arrived just as we were done with ours. I told him about the Oregon Brew Crew, so perhaps I will see him again. I don’t think I’ve got a ‘we met in a bar’ friendship story. Time to start collecting those.

Addendum: Like any intrepid reporter, I went back to the Horse Brass the next day to have a glass of the Vortex IPA so I could more accurately describe it. I do this for you, the audience. You deserve to have me tell you from my own personal experience that a beer is a good one. Plus I got off work early and the bus drops me off right next to the bar. How can I pass that up?