Away from the Geek Riots

I’ll be short of pictures and posts for the next little while, as I’m on the road. Right now, in Seattle at PAX where fans of games of any and all types come to play, chat, meet up, freak out, and generally cause a good natured ruckus. Sometimes I have to get away from the groups though, and fortunately for me getting a good beer isn’t difficult, especially if one is willing to walk a little.

Just up the street is the awesome Elysian brewpub, where yesterday I tried at least three different beers, but the one that I remember is the Hubris imperial IPA. It was very smooth, with the usual bitter aftertastes of most IPAs mellowed out of it.

Today, at Von’s I had the Old No 8, billed as ‘The world’s strongest beer’. A cheerful exuberance based on the alcohol I’m sure because there’s certainly much stronger than this 8%er. I wasn’t informed as to what to what they style was, but one sip told me it was a Belgian dubbel; not quite alcoholic or complex to be a tripel, was my deciding, but still quite good. 

I also had Maritime Pacific’s Old Seattle Lager, and found it to be a fine counterpoint to the strong beer I ‘d just had. I’m sure it would be a great drink for those times when I’ll be working off the sweat of Left 4 Dead sessions, whereas I’d probably take the Old No 8 when I started some of the marathon board games they have here. You don’t always want to start playing Risk sober.

A thank you to Alastair Hook

The head brewer for Meantime beers was most gracious and a lot of fun to talk with. I took up a little more of his time than probably was fair, but he was great! He told the small group there about the beers he makes, yeasts used, packaging decisions, the beers he likes (apparently he’s a big fan of the Northwest IPAs), the reasons for keeping the beers he does in their style, and going back to the 1700’s to find the recipe for their porter.

I thought about asking for a photo with him, but felt too embarassed to ask.  What can I say?

Apparently Meantime’s coffee beer is supposed to come to the US soon, and I can’t wait.

It’s just a touch depressing to visit the web site though. When  I was told that they brewed over twenty kinds of beer, I was impressed but saddened I wasn’t going to get to try them. Going to the web site and seeing the bottles though…well that just smacks me in the nose: Not for you!

All in all, it was a great event, and once again, thanks to both the Belmont Station for hosting, and Mr Hook for his time.

IPA from across the pond

With the brewer of Meantime ales coming to a meet the brewer night at Belmont Station, I thought it would be a prime opportunity to try another one of their tasty beers. With a choice between the IPA and the porter, I went with the IPA, due to the heat Portland was about to endure; three days of temps in the hundreds, and suddenly IPAs seem like a very good idea.

This is a real change from the US IPAs; the golding hops mellow this beer out, giving it a raisin-y flavor, and the fuggles hops don’t even come close to giving this the bitterness of the IPAs in America. Personally, I love that it can be so different, and yet still be considered in style.

There’s also a drying  element, almost as powerful as white wine which makes me think that it could be paired with foods that have strong flavors because this beer hits the reset button on my taste buds. It does it differently though, choosing mouthfeel (dryness) instead of taste (bitterness). I say it’s worth a pint or three.

How to burn an evening

First, start with the 9.2% Oatmeal Chocolate Stout from Stone brewing.

This beer was…OK. The oatmeal seemed to smooth it out and keep it from getting too bitter, but other flavors didn’t come through very strongly either. All in all, it was alright, but I have yet to be convinced by a Stone brewing beer. I don’t know why, but they just seem to be OK, instead of awesome, and they charge for awesome.

What was a great surprise, however, was Anderson Valley’s Brother David’s Triple. This beer had some carmely notes, but wasn’t nearly as sweet as most Belgain beers I have of this style. On top of that, there was an oh so gentle sour finish. It took me a few sips to even notice that it didn’t finish sweetly, but the beer felt so balanced that I have to admire the skill it took to pull this off.

Oh, and it was 10%, so at this point it was either advisable to start drinking more, or not at all. I chose the better part of valor and stopped drinking, but it made for a long bus ride home. It’s really really good though, so I might have to go back and have another glass today. Just saying.

I put my money where my mouth is

The title of this post seems incredibly apt, now that I think about it. I mean, when we buy food of any sort, aren’t we engaging in just that behavior?

However, in this case I’m referring to the post on the great American Lager race from a couple days ago. Shortly after writing that post, Portland began a heat wave on Thursday that has had temps in the low hundreds. I’m not sure if this means I can control the weather via complaint, or just lucky timing (but obviously I’m hoping for weather control). Either way, the heat is expected to run though the weekend, so I did the only reasonable thing: I bought a twelve pack of Session lager. 

The first thing to note is that, no matter what, twelve ounce bottles of beer are cute. I know it’s not very manly to admit it, but damnit these little beers are adorable, in the same way that puppies are. Beer that says: you don’t have to grow up. 

But the most relevant thing is how it tastes, and on a day like today I am extremely thankful not only for the lightness of this beer, but for the other qualities it brings. Lightly hopped, the bitterness starts in front, but gives way easily to the malts of the beer, and finishes with the sparkle of carbonation. Easy-peasy, but not flavorless, not water that’s given the hint of beer, but a drinkable thirst quencher for a hot day. I am already looking forward to my third, and the clock has just broke the noon barrier.

Old Churches 5; the drinkening

Experiment 10011 complete

Experiment 10011 complete

So I gave Old Churches about 2+ weeks in the bottles before finalizing my opinions of it.

The down side; the carbonation almost didn’t take. It’s consistent, yes, lasting all the way through the pint but frequently it’s thin, almost anemic in its foam producing qualities. This is a bummer, because this beer is a bit aggressive with the coffee flavor. Some effervescence helps to take it down a notch-when it’s present. Since sometimes it is, and sometimes is isn’t I’m a bit lacking on the repeatability part. On the plus side, I have gotten some advice that might prevent this problem in the future, so I’ll try it with the next beer I make.

That said, this beer is different. It is a brown, and has a lot of the coffee influences of a brown, but it’s highly alcoholic and isn’t clear at all. I figure that the cloudiness is due to the combination of yeasts I used in this beer, so that doesn’t worry me. The flavors don’t seem to betray any kind of infection and I did forget the Irish Moss which might’ve helped with the clarity, but since the taste doesn’t seem to be impacted I look at this more as a distinctive quality instead of a negative one.

The nose has coffee and how much you like that probably depends on your love of coffee. However, the taste is all coffee; front and back stand up like some oiled Russian wrestler: I AM COFFEE!

Somewhere in the middle of this is a banana flavor. I know, it’s like: wait, WHAT? with a little eyebrow arch on the side, but there it is; coffee – banana – coffee. Because the effervescence is low in this beer, I can really keep it in my mouth and roll it on my tongue for a little bit and get a vibe for the flavors. Good because I can eek some truth from this beer, but bad because I am left with a coffee taste that sidles its way into the corners of my mouth, right above the back teeth, and that can get very bitter very fast. But the banana slides in between like a ballerina, and keeps the beer from going off the rails, which I’m very grateful for.

What makes this really, really interesting is that it’s meant to be drank warm. As in; nearly room temperature warm. All the sharp flavors I’m describing only seem to exist when the beer is cold. If I put a room temperature beer in a glass from the freezer, and let it sit for three minutes, the whole experience becomes a smooth one; the coffee flavors are lighter, the banana is nearly unnoticable, and the sharp finish doesn’t exist at all. I’m really surprised at how different the experience is.

So I call the experiment a success. Good beer, well drank, and good to share. Plus; it’s strong. Really strong. Hard to complain when it comes out decent and has a pleasant mind effect. I thank Impy for the suggestion, and hope she gets to drink some in the future.

Salon writeup

Now that Budweiser is no longer ‘American’, there seems to be a rush to find the next great American lager.

I’ll admit, when I read this story, my first thought is: Really? There’s a race to win the best worst beer in America, made by Americans?

Why, exactly, is THAT?

I get that a cheap, easy drinking beer is useful to have, because beer should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. I actually think it’s part of the culture of beer to be enjoyed by the masses. You bring beer to BBQs and just hand them out to guests. At parties, if it’s in the fridge that beer is fair game and nobody gets to complain if you drink it. Unlike wine, (which I personally enjoy) there isn’t a history of elitism as strongly associated with beer, and there aren’t prohibative costs as with whiskey or other spirits.

Beer should be for everyone, I think. Granted, not all beers are for all people, but that’s a matter of taste. That said, why is there a race to the bottom? “Let’s make sure we’re the top of the shitty beer heap!”

I guess it’s because there’s money to be made there, but if you want a cheap beer for a hot day, why not have a good one? Is spending an extra quarter in order to get a beer that tastes much better and is less brutal on your body really that big of an expense?

Hurm. Maybe that should be an experiment; I buy a half-rack of Session, some potato chips, and on the next hot day, drink it. Of course, the next hot day in Portland may never come, but what the heck, right? We barbeque here too, in full defiance of the sun.

Headwounds and other hazards of homebrewing

Today’s batch was for a saison, because I’ll be going on vacation in a few weeks and I’m told that this yeast wants to be left alone for four to six weeks in secondary. I figure I can leave it and forcibly forget about it, due to not being home.

Saison yeast at the ready

The basics go fine; a half-pound of Caramunich steeped for about thirty minutes, eight pounds light malt extract, one pound wheat malt extract, and about an ounce and a half of Hallertauer hops sixty minutes, another half an ounce at five minutes, we’re good! The OG came to about 1.10, and all I have to do is add the yeast that Joe, a fellow brewcrew member was kind enough to give me from his saison, and first step is done.

Now, like many homebrewers, part of my brewing setup is in the basement-or some other semi-safe environment like a garage or the Roman Colosseum. So, after boiling wort for an hour, I have to haul the three and a half gallons down to the basement to cool it off. The basement is, for a man of my height, a headache in the making. Metal ducts, wooden crossbeams, and light fixtures are all at the exact height to incur headaches for me.

So far only the ducts have taken their blood payment, but today it was the day for light fixtures. I was cleaning up when I walked full on into the lightblub and shattered glass everywhere. Fortunately the wort was sealed tight far away from the accident, but I still put this on the ‘list of things not to do again’.