I wanted to give this a try, just because they’ve got to have some smart people working at Budweiser. Lagers are a very difficult style to brew, and to do it so consistently on such a large scale requires some real dedication and skill. Even though I don’t like the beer they brew, I appreciate the effort that it takes to get a lager made. They must’ve put some polish on a different style, right?
Well, maybe not so much. My personal enthusiasm for trying this beer has been curbed. It’s probably for the best.
The vote was 2:1 to go elsewhere, vs. suspending the project. However last week the votes didn’t matter because I was snowed in and nobody was going anywhere, much less out to get a beer. This week though, I can act upon what the people have spoken for, and I am out at a different bar, namely the Crow Bar. Smoke from some of the patrons drifts in front of my screen, and as you can see it’s quite dark here.
I like it.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em is the mantra right now. In two days the ban goes into effect, so I deliberately chose a smoking bar–a soon to be extinct species in the city. When confronted with the request that I go to a different place, the Crow Bar wriggled its way from my subconscious to the forefront. Oh yes, I thought, I always wanted to go back there.
‘I always wanted to go back there’ seems to be a common theme for me in Portland. The city is blessed with a wealth of good places to imbibe, and getting to them all takes more dedication and money than I have. Hell, just being able to go back to a place I once liked is hard enough. Worse, I am a bit of a wayward soul. I might have one place where they know me, but I prefer it when I have many places and almost no one does. Do I go to the bars to be alone, or do I try to isolate myself by going to a bar?
As the smoke works its way though my clothes and clots my ability to smell my porter, I take a look around. The Crow is just a nudge to the right of a dive, but refuses to wade into hipster-dom too. A sticker that says ‘Impeach Bush, Torture Cheney‘ is posted on a towel dispenser behind the bar, right next to the liquor license.
The porter is too thin to be enjoyed amongst the cigarettes. It’s OK, but I can’t get anything else out of it in this environment. The lighting, however, is perfect for the thin smoke that drifts from the cylinders, giving my drink-and my computer-a Blade Runner kind of feel.
Next to me, a woman in a french beret chats up a man in a pedantic blue sweater; they talk about getting older, and why their paths haven’t crossed more…friends who meet in the random convergence of beer and smokes. There’s a little pop-psyche bullshit going on, but it’s none of my business. I tune them out.
MC5 starts to rail through the speakers, so I tip my hat low and drain my porter. I don’t feel like writing any more, I feel like brooding, so I think it’s time to go. Going, though, means I get to come back, and I am looking forward to my next visit here already.
While most of the city remained paralyzed by the weather, I got up, stepped aboard a bus and went downtown to work. As I was the only one in the office though, the place closed up early; noon on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m not one to stick around if I don’t have to. The afternoon busses don’t run as frequently as the morning ones though, especially with the road conditions being icy, so instead of standing in the cold I decided I would walk home.
All along my path, pristine snowpiles tempted my gloves, and soon I was grabbing fistfuls of snow, torquing my hands clockwise and counter, just to get a solid ball. I haven’t made snowballs in ten years, since I left Spokane for Portland and I haven’t had a reason to make them since I was in grade school, ambushing girls on the way home. They would return the favor, and winter became a came of cat and mouse between me and Jeanette and Jenny, to see who could catch whom unawares.
But snowball season comes rarely to Portland, so I was going to take advantage. Every parked car I could take a shot at, I did; the snowballs creating perfect circles of impact when they hit, long cones of destruction when they miss. The hollow thunk made when I hit a dumpster, or the popping sound that comes from striking a building, the calculations I kept making to hit the next target when I miss: Higher next time. Plant your feet. Don’t sidearm if you want to get it that far. Be careful; it’s slick. Square your shoulders. Too hard; but it’s nice to know you can get it across the street.
I was carrying far too much on my back; my shoulders ached like the muscles were tearing and I was starting to get a headache. No busses were coming along to take me home. It was time to stop for a beer.
I dropped into Roots brewery. I still had forty blocks to walk if a bus didn’t come by, so I asked if I could get a glass instead of a pint, and when the barkeep said I could, I asked for their Epic ’07 ale. She gave me a small grin as she told me that this beverage only came in a glass, and that’s when I saw the description on the chalkboard: 14% ABU.
Boy howdy you would not know it. The beer tasted like a banana that had been flambeed in rum. Roasted sugars, and not a hint of alcohol warmth, but good for the cold weather. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even close to being cold; I’d just trekked from downtown across icy sidewalks, and I could feel the sweat coming down my face. I wiped my brow with a napkin and went across the street to the Lucky Lab.
There were a few choices that appealed to me there, but when I asked about the Malt Bomb, the barkeep said, “Let me pour you a taste, because it’s hard to describe.” While he did that, I read the writeup posted on the taps. Apparently this beer is the third in a series; the hops and malts were kept the same, but the first time they used belgian yeast, the second german yeast, and this time american ale yeast.
I wish I’d known they were doing this experiment, because I would love to know how these other beers stacked up. This beer had no yeast presence at all, and very little hops that I could tell. It was all caramel, with a pleasingly cutting fizzy mouthfeel. The finish left my mouth bitter, like the aftertaste of chocolate when the sugar is almost all gone. It suited me much better; a more quenching beer for someone about to make a long slog over ice to get home.
I threw snowballs the whole way home, and then did something I hadn’t done in a long, long time:
In Portland, snow days are regarded with parts celebration and dread. The city is in the thrall of weathermen and women, and people stay glued to the news, as though there will be changes while they scheme of sleeping in and try to ignore the specter of work that builds up while they peer outside. Everyone is afraid to drive, hell afraid to leave their house which merely adds to the sense of impending doom and stir craziness that afflicts people who have never had to stay indoors for a week.
I decided I would make a chocolate ginger porter.
With one pound, eight ounces of chocolate malt and five and one-eighths ounces of rye (to give it a dryness), I steeped the grains, adding them to warming water until it hit about 160, and then let it sit for fifteen minutes. At this point, I scooped the malts out and added five pounds of extra dark dry malt extract and brought it to a boil (about 170-5).
At this point I added 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract-probably not nearly enough, given the volume-, one cup of brown sugar, and three-quarters ounce of Mt Rainer hops. With fifteen minutes left in the boil, I added a half-ounce of Cascade hops, three ounces of fresh ginger, and 1/2 tsp. of Irish Moss.
The yeast I added was the 1007 German Ale yeast, reconstituted from Demon Alcohol (The beer that keeps on giving). The whole thing sits in primary now, looking like this:
So after two weeks of fermenting, Demon Alcohol seems to have slowed down enough for me to put it into secondary. However, the malt still seems to be…well, popcorny? I’m not sure how to explain this scent that I’ve got. It’s a little like corn nuts, and that makes me think that I’ve created a monster instead of a beverage.
Since I don’t know when to quit, I’ve put in two ounces of Zeus hops. Now, to give people an idea of what this means, I only added an ounce and a half to the boil, and the alpha acids on that were in the 6% range. Zeus is 13%, and I put in an extra half ounce.
I added the hops into the carboy before putting Demon Alcohol into secondary. The carboy was on the floor and I stood over the whole exchange, to make sure the transfer went cleanly. As the beer poured in, I started to smell the citrius hoppiness which means that within minutes Zeus had filled the air in the carboy and then been able to push up the extra three-and-a-half feet to get to my nose. That’s potent. I suppose this beer is going to live up to its name.
These hops aren’t boiled, so their addition to this beer is going to be strictly as a scent, but I’m going to soak them for at least two weeks before I do anything else with this beer. It’s still active, though slow, so while I am losing some of the flavors the Zeus is bringing, the yeast is still eating the sugars, so it’s not done yet.
There’s not a lot I can tell you about this evening, except that we laughed a lot, and that the Alesmith Yule Smith and Laurelwood’s Winter Warmer were also very tasty. That we got two bottles of Meantime should tell you how we feel about that brewery.
I have to admit, there are things I was not expecting when I started this project. Bad weather? Sure; it’s rainy and gloomy in Portland and most people don’t want to go outside.
However, I was not counting on a snowstorm hitting the city and shutting it down for a day. The question quickly arose: how dedicated to this project am I? Pretty dedicated honestly; I intend on doing this for the next year, even if it means I have to budget for my drinks.
But. I do not dig on the idea of risking my skin in order to make a blogpost. The roads are all icy and hazardous, and Portland is not a city that really prepares for weather like this. If I was living in Spokane this wouldn’t be an issue to me, because the city prepares for winter-it has to.
In addition to the ice, there are also wind gusts, up to thirty-five miles per hour. So what’s a writer-noir-detective to do?
Fortunately the city solves this problem for me. While Portland may not prepare for winter very well, it does prepare for drinkers everywhere. So I’ve walked to the Tanker Bar, breaking out a winter coat that hasn’t seen sunlight in four years, a hood that hasn’t touched my head in two, and jeans that are not nearly thick enough to keep out the cold. With the wind chill, an extra layer on my legs would be welcome.
In Spokane, I wasn’t quite so timid when it came to the winter conditions. I had long underwear, gloves that made my hands look like gorilla paws, and a city that knew how to deal with things when the weather went into the blue on the thermostat. That doesn’t happen in Portland; everyone gets a little weird and a bit stir crazy, as though they are suddenly trapped in their houses.
In addition, when it snowed yesterday the city was covered in a quiet blanket that made everything beautiful in a way that only a city that has snow can enjoy. I frequently stopped what I was doing just to look outside to see the tumultuous wind throw pudgy snowflakes around; chaos magic in action.
The Tanker exudes a stronger commoner vibe; cigarette smoke lingers from last night, popcorn from a machine that probably had its first life in a movie theater in the 70’s. and three slow moving fans right out of the movie Casablanca. The ceiling is roundned and paneled in wood, coupled with the dim dome lights, it feels like the 1970’s but cool. I like it here. When the jukebox is on, I get to listen to Rocket from the Crypt and Pelican. When it isn’t, the lights are kept low so you can watch Monday Night Football.
And because this is Portland, so the selection of beers isn’t quite the pedantic grouping you might think it is. Ninkasi dominates my choices-three beers from them-and Widmer’s Brrr, the winter ale from them. It finishes with a pine touched spiciness, but because it’s Widmer and is a beer they’ve bottled it has the malt presence that keeps the beer from being so adventurous that non-aficionados will still enjoy the beer.
The football game is about to start, and while I enjoy the game, it’s time to go home. I can see the wind has picked up, and over my right shoulder the sky is dark, over the left it’s a deep emerald fading quickly into night.
Lately, the beers I’ve been making have been coming out very well. It’s nice to be on a bit of a roll, as about this time last year I was making some very noxious drinks. This beer is very tasty, with an entirely sweet malty nose, maybe with a hint of honey. The beer itself is a solid amber one, with just enough bitterness to dry it out at the end. The rest is all malts, and they’re delicious. Especially nice is the touch of maple syrup flavor at the very beginning. The carbonation is even and steady, making for an especially refreshing drink. You should have some. Except it’s all gone now.
I made it with 12 oz of Caramel 120, and 6 oz of Roasted Barley steeped at about 152 degrees for 25 minutes. Then one pound of Pilsen dry light malt, seven pounds of light malt extract.
Add 1 and 3/8th oz of Yakima Golding for 60 minutes, and then two packets of Wyeast 1084 yeast.
I forgot to get gravities for this beer. Again. But I put it into secondary twenty two days after brewing, and it was drinkable about two weeks later, just in time for Thanksgiving.