52 Weeks 20: Mad RIver Steelhead Double IPA

I’ll just confess, I’m tired. Friday I helped the Portland Farmer’s Market move their office. This is what happens when you’re unemployed; you’re available to help your SO’s business move. I also got to meet Alex of Upright Brewing (the brewery is in the same building as the new PFM location) and he was gracious and enthusiastic to my questions. He offered me a taste of the stout he’d made (which was excellent) and an entire strawberry-rhubarb beer that he’d made on his own, which was also quite good. Like a sour ale but made without the belgian yeast.

Saturday I helped my friend baeza set up for the Vampires Masquerade Ball. A wonderful spectacle, but he also treated me to dinner at the Morrison Hotel. A couple Dutchesses and a heated discussion about the quality of the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen later, I went home. 

Finally, last night I went to the triumph of metal that is Pelican and they were fantastic. But the rock shows, they take it out of me more than they used to. Still I would not give up seeing Angel Tears for anything; it was a sonic highlight for me, and certainly one of the best shows I’ve seen them give.

If that wasn’t enough, I started classes at the Viscount Ballroom tonight. Lindy hop. So I’m a tired kid. 

But the beer is well balanced and tasty, with a citrus nose and a very clear beer with a cleansing finish. Good for spicy foods for sure! My girlfriend is chilling with me for this post, so no complaints.

Demon Alcohol 4: the drinkening

As you can see, the beer that I made is now beer!

The beer that I made is now beer!
The beer that I made is now beer!

Now, what kind of beer it is…I’m not sure I can tell you.  An amber, maybe? It’s so malty and reddish that I guess I have to give it that title. It’s very, very sweet. Some have even suggested that it’s like peach nectar, and I’m certain that this is not what people would think of as being in style for an amber ale. The nose on it is more floral but it’s faint and there’s just a bit of a bite at the end, which I’m almost certain it’s due to the Zeus hops I added in secondary. Nothing against the Mt Rainer hops; they probably kept the sweetness in check, but the nose adds a lot to any beer, so I’m glad for both.

It’s a very drinkable beer though, and the estery quality means that it goes fantastically with salty foods. Very complimentary to pub grub. It’s possible it may not fit a style, but when I go to get more brewing supplies this week, I’m going to take one down with me and see what the boys at Steinbart’s have to say.

Edit: I took it down to the store and the guy who tasted the beer said that I’d probably added the yeast while the wort was still too hot. The initial alcohols made at that temperature are the sweeter, fruiter tasting ones. I’ll have to be more careful about when I add my yeast in the future.

I don’t get it

Maybe the women out there can explain this story to me. I’ll agree that women are foolishly ignored when it comes to marketing beer, but is it really the color and the head that turns women away? Would it really be the addition of fruit or tea flavors that would increase the attractiveness of beer to women? 

Because as someone who likes beer (and food) all I really need is for someone to say: Give this a shot. 

Hell, at the last 52 Weeks post, I had a nice conversation with a woman who had come up to the bar wondering what she ought to order, and asked me what I was drinking. I treated her like anyone else who wanted a beer, and she bought what was in my glass! (Well, not literally, but you get the idea.)

Yes, I’m teasing

But it was too good to resist. On my birthday, I get to splurge. Not much mind you as I am still unemployed, but I certainly don’t feel bad about spending (or asking for) a 11.2oz beer that costs $11.50. Especially when it comes so highly recommended. This Paradox comes from Brew Dog’s Speyside batch, and it’s very different from the bourbon barrel stouts that I see in the states. 

The bummer? I’m not exactly sure how. I don’t get much peat flavor but there is definitely something that is offsetting the rich dark malty flavors of coffee and chocolate. It probably is peat, and I’m just not well versed enough in flavor profiles to identify the manifestation of those flavors. Where the sweetness of bourbon tends to compliment coffee and chocolate, scotch seems to stand apart, as though I’m drinking two different liquids. 

It’s a damn good beer, and I only wish I had more of it so I could pin down the little details that make it so interesting.

52 Weeks 19: Bridgeport Fallen Friar

Mostly recovered from my illness of last week, and in the new acquisition of a ring around the trunk of my tree, I am back at Bailey’s once again, trying the Fallen Friar, which I’ve been hoping to get a sip of for weeks. It’s a golden belgian style beer, with faintly sour nose keeping the whole sweetness in check. Fitting the color, it’s light and easy to drink. 

The nice thing about being away for a week is that there are now many more beers I haven’t tried on the menu. Crazily enough finding new beers is difficult due to just living in Portland and trying everything I can get my hands on. I’m both thankful to be back at the regular bar and reflective on the city I left to come here. 

While in Spokane, I also drank the local brewery’s offerings, in this case Northern Lights‘ IPA. Northern Lights’ flagship beer, Crystal Bitters is a rather pedantic brew, but the IPA is another animal.  Made with more traditional ideas in mind, this beer while quite hoppy isn’t a NW style IPA at all. It’s actually got a restrained bitterness, with a great nose making for a very balanced beer. I hope that when I visit next I’m able to try more styles by them, just to see what else they offer. 

It’s pretty cool that cities are getting local breweries again. I’ve read that before Prohibition, damn near every city in America had a brewery of it’s own and it was a source of local pride. Spokane’s local may not win national recognition, but at least I know I can get a solid beer when I go back. 

Going back is weird though; I don’t know that I conveyed well enough how alien I felt in the city last time. Some things had changed-enough that I could feel disoriented-but the basics were all still the same that I almost felt as though I never really  knew the city at all. A remnant of my teenage years when I was even more introspective and self-absorbed than I am now. Who cares about the city when everything around you seems to suck?

Yet, when I drive along the Monroe Street Bridge and no longer see The Wall, I feel sad. The Wall was just that; once the foundation for a large railroad bridge, then just a huge populist space for anyone with enough will, friends, and paint to write any message or place any graffiti they wanted. It was there for as long as I lived there, and for that quarter century it was one of the few things that made the city interesting. What surprised me was how rarely profanity was used. People could say anything and did, but infrequently used their platform to tell the world to fuck off. They wanted to propose marriage, make art, protest politics, welcome bands, have a voice. Any voice. 

A few years ago, the property was bought and the wall was destroyed, so the land could be leveled and developed. I can’t even find pictures of it on Google, although searching for it is kind of difficult under the gun of this blogpost. 

It has yet to be developed. The land sits there now, barren and empty save for the large ‘For Sale’ sign.

They shouldn’t have let that happen. People need quirky, strange, unique places to express themselves. Someone should’ve saved that wall…and that I miss it now is a little silly given that I don’t even live there anymore. Maybe that’s why I don’t live there though. The city didn’t realize how important that wall was, and was content to become something dull instead of embracing it and being different.

Going back

I grew up in Spokane, which is the kind of city that is pretty easy to tear into if you live almost anywhere else. I don’t hate Spokane, but I’m also not invested in it either; other people can praise or denigrate it as they see fit, and I don’t feel it reflects on me in any way. If not for the presence of friends and family though, I don’t think I’d have a reason to go back there, but they are so I return periodically.

Spokane in March is not a pretty town but I admit it’s a little unfair to judge it right now. It was hit hard during the winter with snowstorms, and is just now starting to feel the touch of spring. To complain about the roads or the filth or the dead trees or gray skies is more than just pointless; it’s mean. That said; I went for a walk on Friday and all I could think of is how much this city reflects Jesu’s song, The Playgrounds Are Empty

My first stop in Spokane was a mexican restaurant that had adequate food and a selection of beer sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and Miller. I drank soda, and pondered the anecdotal fact that every mexican and chinese restaurant I seem to go into offers a multitude of beers by those two breweries, but rarely anything else. Is there a conspiracy to keep IPAs and porters away from burritos and egg noodles? 

For a beer, I asked if we could go to the Viking. This pub always has a strange connection to me, as it’s where my parents had their wedding rehearsal dinner 37 years ago. I don’t think it’s changed in that amount of time, and it was one of the few places where as a new drinker I could find a pint of beer that wasn’t from the big 3 distributors.

Confronted with this beer list I was promptly accosted by a waitress asking what I wanted, and when I started off with a prefunctory ‘um’ I was smartly told, “All out of um. Just blew the last keg of um,” like a nun rapping a ruler on my knuckles. 

Just the kind of friendly homecoming I was hoping for. 

I was limply served a Rogers lager, a beer that matched the presentation of it, and I was glad to move on. 

But all is not lost in Spokane. My good friend A. Ho. and I went to his favorite spot, Bennidito’s on the South Hill. The food is excellent, and I availed myself a couple pints of Iron Horse Brewery‘s Loco Imperial Red, which was malty and quite intoxicating. I am going to start looking for their brews in Portland, because I’m telling you Ellensburg currently has a good thing going.

Spokane also has some good things going, but that’s for the next post.

52 Weeks 18: The delay

I’m sick, and have been since yesterday. The only thing I want to drink right now is cranberry juice. I hope to be well by tomorrow, and back to regular updates after that. I may even have a ‘makeup’ day, just to get this week’s post in.

52 Weeks 17: Oakshire Imperial Sasquatch

Well I did it; four weeks with beer named after a mythological animal. Sparky, a bar regular, tells me that Sasquatch is not a myth but I think he is saying that just because of a kinship he would claim with them. The man has a beard to rival any member of ZZ Top and sunglasses to match. 

This beer is an old ale, and it’s quite rich. There’s a whiskey barrel note in the nose- a touch sour, a little woody or oaky, I think. The beer is full of roasted malt flavors with a touch of cocoa powder bitterness, coupled with an alcohol warmth that is putting a kindle in my belly; a useful trait for my walk home. 

I’m a bit tired tonight-more than usual, I must admit. Perhaps daylight savings time is sneaking up on me, but doesn’t that mean I should feel like it’s nine at night, not ten? Nevermind. I don’t like to complain about these things. The timeshift has been happening for longer than I’ve been alive; adapt or else. Maybe it’s just more that daylight savings time gives us something to talk abut, a common human experience to converge on. We gave permission to be tired, to reset ourselves and grok the stranger on the bus who’s nodding off into their thermos of coffee. 

I must confess, I’m glad to be released from my task of drinking mythological beers. My selections were extremely limited due to this restriction, and what I wanted didn’t matter so much as what I ought to have. Seems almost counterproductive, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just a taste of what beer drinkers had to deal with thirty years ago; you get what you get and if you want something else, tough.

That said, I often have been having an extra beer after the post is written. There are just too many beers to try to keep with the same one over and over again. One thing I can tell you; avoid Rogue’s Sesquicentennial. It’s an IPA disguised as a pale ale, but both styles are obscured by the flavor of bubble gum. Not the good kind of bubble gum; the .05 kind that you’d get out of the machine when you were eight, hoping for  the big round green piece, getting the red one instead. It’s rare that I don’t enjoy a Rogue, but I tried it twice (once in the bottle and once on tap) and still couldn’t enjoy it. 

A final note to my readers; I’m off to Spokane on Wednesday to visit friends, family and tiny people, so updates will be sporadic if at all, until the next 52 Weeks post.


I recently found myself at the Scoreboard Tavern. I had left my house in an attempt to evade the pressures of the evening, in a long standing tradition probably going back to the time of Oog. I was walking along the dark wet streets and eventually found the resting place of ages; the dive bar. 

Its exterior was uninviting, with slate gray vertical panels that say ‘hasty shack’ in over fifty states. The neon orange leaderboard sign that flashed the drink specials, upcoming games to watch, and breakfast served all day information was not why I went in. I quite simply needed a place to go after walking for half an hour, and I had never been inside this bar. 

The lighting was a combination of lamps that light up pool tables, neon signs, pinball games and televisions broadcasting ESPN, and while the smoking ban may have been in effect since January I’m pretty sure the smoke that was in that place just found a corner to hang out in and never left. On the plus side there was a nice greasy smell in the air, a signal that if I wanted something to eat, it would probably be hot and at least somewhat tasty. 

I cooled my heels at the bar, looking over my choices. Liquor-which I did not want-and beer, which in defiance of all that is Portland, was mostly the product of macrobreweries. But I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be someone who wasn’t easily part of this landscape. I wanted to fit in, to enjoy the anonymity of being an anyone, everyone. 

So I ordered a PBR. The Portland hipster of beers, choice of lowball alcoholics and bike couriers or anyone, really, who can scrounge up a buck-fifty and just wants the simple pleasure of having a beer. Any beer. I had no pen, no distractions, all there was for me to do was sit there and just be. The skunky nose on this beer providing the only sense of flavor, the rest of this liquid going down like some cheap cliche. 

I wasn’t ready for the sheer level of carbonation this beer had. The fizziness ran through my entire mouth like I’d been drinking a 9-volt battery, getting in the small spaces of my mouth causing my tongue to sweep through the gaps between my gums and lips, trying to get the sensation out. I am not drinking this beer for flavor so much as the sensation of putting something in my mouth. I wonder if the brewers of Pabst knew how flavorless their beer was, so tried to make up for it in tactile sensation. 

It was mine though, and nobody was going to hassle me. 

Eventually, another man came in. He looked around, sat down the required seat away from me and ordered a drink himself. Rum and coke. We sipped our drinks and eventually sized each other up. He was close to my age, head shaved, thin enough that there were no folds in the dark skin along his skull, with a pencil thin goatee containing tiny flicks of gray running around his mouth, loose gray jacket rumpled around his shoulders. The guy head nod was given; You’re here and I’m here and it’s all cool. 

We sipped our drinks, me a little faster than him as the experience of drinking PBR is not enhanced by drinking it slowly. 

“One of those nights?” he asked me.

“Yeah. Just gotta get out.”

He nodded, “I was returning movies, ’cause it was just like; the wife and the kids were starting to make me rargh! and it was just better to step outside for a bit.” He speaks it with a smile; he’s not really angry or upset, he loves those people but as with so many we love, they were driving him slightly mad. 

“I get it,” I say, though I have no kids, my wife is actually my girlfriend, and I had left the house for entirely different reasons. The principle holds. We were two guys doing what people have been doing since forever; sitting at a bar, saying, “You know, life isn’t so bad, but damnit I just had to get out of there for a bit.”

Oog and Florn did this in caveman days, but they sat over mastodon carcass and drank fermented milk. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the better deal. 

“Anyway,” he continues, “I was on my way home and I just saw this place and thought ‘I’ve never been in there. Should check it out.'”

“Really? It’s my first time in here too. Lived here for ten years and just never came in.”

So we start to talk. About the bar. About politics. Someone else at the end of the bar where it curves joins in briefly. I’m drinking a beer that’s been around since 1882-ish and no I don’t like the way it tastes it but I am just like everyone else, if temporarily. I can enjoy this beer, because I can enjoy this moment. 

Then my beer is gone. Do I want another? No; the a.m. hours have come upon me, and it’s time to walk home. I introduce myself to the guy next to me. His name is Carter. I hope I see him around again, if just for the head nod.