The lawnmower beer is what I say it is

I’ve probably talked about this before, and so I’ll undoubtedly do it again. 

When most beer people talk ‘lawnmower beers’ they are talking about beers they can have and then go back to work, sober enough to feel like they can accomplish something, refreshed enough that doing more work doesn’t seem like a horrific chores. Frequently these are lagers of some kind, and I cannot fault anyone wanting a good lager on a hot day.

I won’t speak for everyone, but I’d bet that a lot of people my age feel this way, and they get it in part from this scene:

“I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds.” 

“….we sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men…We were the lords of all Creation.”


Now personally, I don’t get the idea of having a beer in the middle of a job. What’s the point? Sure, when you’re a convict you don’t really have a choice, but I’m just a dude sweating over a lawn. 

As my forearms began to ache, and the sweat trickled under the arms of my sunglasses, I kept thinking about how much I hate doing this. It’s why I do such a half-ass job of it. But as my vision began to become obscured by the moisture from my head, droplets burst from my mouth as I exerted to mow and rake and clean up, my back starting to protest, another thought worked its way in: You can totally have a beer when this is over. 

When it’s over. I won’t have to do more, I don’t have some other kind of effort to put out. I can say I’m done, and look out over the yard and go: Finished. I don’t have to touch this for two weeks. And I feel good about that. In some way, I feel like I’m carrying on a tradition of men and women everywhere who work like hell and sometimes the only reward they get is someone buying them a beer at the end of the day. Yeah, I get a little self-inflated sometimes. 

But I don’t want a pilsner or lager; and the beer in my fridge just doesn’t seem to work. So I walk down to the 7-11 and get a Grifter IPA from MacTarnahan’s, and open it up. 

The only way it could get better is if there was someone to split it with. But I get to share it here, and that’s alright too. 

Now I’m going to get a shower in, and enjoy my day. Hope you do too.

Edit: Post has been updated to reflect the proper maker of Grifter. Sorry everyone, and thank you, Bill for the correction.

52 Weeks 28: Laurelwood Elvis’ Special Bitter

Everyone is out today, and I have sought out the indoors. I completely understand getting out; the long cold of winter is finally shambling to the southern hemisphere. Holiday aside, it’s been warm for a few days in a row so opening up the doors makes sense. 

Maybe that’s why I’ve ordered this ESB. It’s got a juicy quality to it, like ripe fruit, but with a bitter finish that makes it a nice sippin’ ale. Some of the other guys here are talking BBQ, and I have to admit, it seems like a really good idea and would go well with this beer. Even with my personal opposition to being outdoors, I am no fool. BBQ is good. 

One reason I’m here so early is because I’ll have visitors this evening. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I ended up back here in four hours to show out-of-towners the glory of this bar. It’s strange because a bar ought to be a bar, right? 

Or rather: A good bar is a good bar. Shouldn’t matter where it is, the qualities of goodness should be universal. It matters though, in the ways that cities talk to us. Franchises work anywhere because of their monotony, but nobody hails a franchise as being an awesome place to hang out. No; you have to go to the spaces the city has set aside, the wink and nod that says; see, this is what I’m like, really.

Geek Riots

Some of the readers of this blog may be unaware that I’m a geek and not in the good, I-can-fix-your-computer sense, but in the lesser I-know-arcane-shit-that-only-matters-to-.005%-of-the-population sense. You know the type. For the most part, that’s alright because I’ve spent years learning how to socialize with other people. I can actually make conversation and not feel terribly awkward or like I have to burst in with whatever crazy trivia I know (although I still occasionally do this.) 

Beer played no small part in this socialization, I won’t deny. But the geek also played a part in this; I like to play games. Videogames especially, although my skill at them is adequate at best, but most socially a card game called Magic the Gathering. Games are, along with alcohol, an abbreviated path to get to know someone. So what would be easier than going to the pub and playing a few games? 

That’s right; the two guys taking over the large table with a whole bunch of cards on them at Bailey’s? I’m one of those guys. 

And while most of the time people are pretty cool about what we’re doing, occasionally I have been mocked. Once most notably by a guy playing the triangle, who I had no trouble responding to. Nobody who plays the triangle in a band gets to give someone grief about looking stupid in public. Ever. 

Enter Guardian Games. On the third Thursday of every month, they close the place off to minors, charge everyone $10, and you get pizza and beer. 

It’s such genius I don’t know why  it isn’t being done everywhere. 

More importantly, the beer selection is good. Widmer’s Drifter, Drop Top, and Hefe, Deschutes’s Mirror Pond, Black Butte and Cinder Cone were amongst the selections last night. Yes, PBR is there but it’s always taken after everything else and you have to dig into the ice to find something, anything worth drinking. There are also bottles of Smirnoff Ice, but we shall speak no more of that. 

And there we are, a bunch of gamers playing with miniatures or giant boardgames that stretch to three times the size of a Risk board, and someone is always putting the Rocky Horror Picture Show on TV. Which is probably the one I could really live without because of some personal animosity towards the film experience and because it’s so damned cliche. 

I call the experience the Geek Riots; it just seems to fit.

The hideout

The local. If you like drinking beer, you’ve got one. 

There’s a lot of qualities that go into a proper local, and everyone’s got their own requirements. I seem to have two locals; Bailey’s, where I go, and Angelo’s, where I go to hide. 

Everyone ought to have a hideout. Someplace where you can be comfortable but nobody knows you, asks how you are, wants to strike up a conversation. That doesn’t always work; the last time I was at Angelo’s I got into a heated discussion with an anarchist who, when I asked her what she wanted, said among other things, ‘democracy’. 

I got yelled at for pointing out the obvious problem.

That said, I’ve been going to Angelo’s since I landed in Portland thirteen years ago. It was within walking distance, and every night they had (and still have) different beer specials: Deschutes Mirror Pond, Rogue Dead Guy, Bridgeport IPA and more. Going in on a different night gives me a new cheap thrill, so to speak. The smoke didn’t bother me. Rather, it was the cloak that helped keep me hidden while I sat and watched the locals and wrote. Sometimes I was noticed and strangers told me stories. I had couples brag to me that they’d gotten engaged, and sadly desperate women proposition me in eerie ways. Odd men questioned me about my politics, my musical tastes, and a bartender who shared a love of books with me swapped suggestions about what to read next. We’d crank up the Iron Maiden, and suspiciously eye anyone who thought of putting country music on the jukebox. 

It feels older than it probably is; constant subject to the whims of dive bar patrons and smoke will do that. When the smoking ban took effect, they ripped the ugly fake wood paneling off the walls to reveal the raw brick, and somehow that makes the place seem more worldly instead of old and haggard. 

The customers divide into the day crew; older men and women there for reasons I’m not privy to, and the night crew, twentysomethings who are there for the same reason every twentysomething is in a bar in Portland; cheap PBR, and the chance to watch sports on the TV. 

Though I don’t entirely fit in there anymore, I still like going in. Especially when I need to hide out. Anyone else have good hideout spots?

52 Weeks 27: Fish Poseidon’s Imperial Stout

On my way to the bar today I drove over the Burnside bridge, and at about the midpoint of the bridge there was a dude pissing on it. Facing traffic. I love livin’ in the city

Takes a special kind a man to do something like that. 

It’s at this point I’d ask: How was your day? if you were here. Maybe you spent the day grading papers. Or writing papers. Maybe a whole lot of nothing happened. Me: aside from having to deal with some public exposure and indecency, I bottled the pale_qm along with taking care of a whole lot of tasks unrelated to the blog. 

There’s a new man behind the bar at the Taproom; Scott, who’s got a reddish beard and great enthusiasm. I can tell he’s new because he’s still being trained. But he pours a fine drink and the Poseidon is a lush beer with a gentle mouthfeel.

Heh. I can’t even believe I wrote that. Hyperbole rains upon the compy tonight I guess. In my attempts to be a better writer, we can all look back on that sentence and chuckle. 

But it is a pretty damn good beer. I don’t think I’ve always been a fan of Fish ales but I’ve had a few lately (including this one) that have been very tasty. I think I’m becoming a fan. 

I have to admit I was not in a good headspace coming to write this post. The reasons don’t matter; the point is the clouds had gathered over my brow. But you see one bearded skatepunk pissing on a bridge, and that’s kind of a message to lighten up. 

Ah, alright maybe I’m reading into things but what the hell. Who wants to read emo blogposts about beer, especially when you can read about skeevy idiots?

Earl Gray Brown

The smart thinking for this comes entirely from my girlfriend. “I want you to make a beer with Earl Gray tea,” she says, and so I set about seeing how this would work. I thought about a few different styles, but given the orange qualities of the tea I decided a brown ale would probably work best with the flavors of the tea. The suggestion I got from an employee of Steinbarts was to steep the tea in cold water first and then add the water to the boil near the end, so I went with this idea.

As a brown ale it’s pretty solid, but there are a few interesting things about it. First, to really appreciate it I’ve discovered I have to take it out of the fridge for at least five minutes so it will warm up. If I do that, the beer actually gives me a nice head on it when it’s poured, and releases a orange blossom-ish nose. Without that time to warm up the beer just doesn’t produce the same flavors. 

As far as drinking this beer goes, I may’ve produced a very nice session ale. I’m not a big drinker of Earl Gray tea so I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for in a flavor profile, but there’s a bitterness at the end that reminds me of black teas so perhaps that’s one of the additions. The EGB is strong enough to cleanse my palate of tuna fish sandwich and buffalo bleu potato chips, but without feeling really filling. All in all, a pretty good drink and one I think I’ll make again. I think that in the warmer months it’ll be surprisingly refreshing.


Readers may’ve noticed that I do try to include images with my postings to help break things up. Sadly, my camera has broken and I do not currently have the funds to replace it. So there will be, for the time being, some photoless (or poorly taken compy photos) entries. Sorry about that. 

Let me get to the beer I made most recently, an India Red Ale. It was this beer that  caused me to miss posting a few weeks back. I put it into secondary yesterday along with some Mt Rainier and Sterling hops, and am going to be making a mild (of some kind) today but so far so good. 

Here’s the recipe.
Steeping Grains (at about 160 degrees)
6 oz Roasted Barley
6 oz Caramel 140
12 oz Caramel 40, which I added because it had a wonderful biscuity smell, which I’m hoping will add to the beer.

6 lb Pale malt extract (dry)
1 lb Light malt extract (dry)
1 lb Amber malt extract (dry)
These malts took a bit of time to dissolve, so I gave them the time to do so. That’s a lot of malt for three and a half gallons of water to absorb.  

1 oz Newport at 60
1 oz Sterling at 35
.5 oz Newport at 5

.5 tsp of Irish Moss at 5

The original gravity was 1.086, and one of these days I’m going to find out what that means. Perhaps later today.

Finally, I added two packs of Wyeast 1084 when the beer was in the low 80’s, high 70’s, thermally. Should be ready to drink by the end of the month.

52 Weeks 26: Pelican MacPelican’s Wee Heavy

Midpoints don’t get much credit. Sure, there’s the Sagrada Familia, but what other unfinished works do people look at and say: yeah, that’s cool as it is. 

Still, here I am, halfway through the year and drinking a Wee Heavy from Pelican. 

Are there people out there who don’t like the name Wee Heavy? If so, I don’t think I want to meet them.  I’m pretty sure people who don’t like that name are against fun. 

As for the beer, this is lush caramel drizzled over some superb vanilla with a touch of lightness at the end brought by carbonation. It is, in a word: excellent. 

And it’s a beer I’ve been drinking on my excursions to Bailey’s for three weeks now. Usually after the post is over and I’ve said my share I settle in with the wee heavy. I’ve been hoping this beer would last until this post, and I’m told that it’s just about to finish off. So let’s hear it for a good thing lasting as long as it needs to. 

It’s a bit livelier than usual tonight, with some regulars and some brewers from Upright conducting the business of drinking here. Am I a regular conducting business? Am I an observer? Just a steady drinker? 

I am someone who has made it to the midpoint of a project. There’s something to be said for this, because as easy as it is to drink seven nights a week, writing about it three of those nights is a bit harder. I suppose fellow bloggers understand this best. 

But I want to thank the readers and the commenters as well. I don’t know about all writers but I certainly feel a level of obligation to be entertaining, but most importantly, to be here.  I am not just doing this project for myself, but also for all who choose to follow. People reading helps keep me afloat when the writing does not come easily, so to you I raise a glass.

And the glass, in this case, is Bend Brewing’s Stein Lager. That’s right, tonight you get a 2-for-1. Besides, how could I resist this beer. They throw hot rocks into the wort! How cool is that? The only way to make it cooler would be to add an x somewhere in the name.

Not only is it very cool, it’s very tasty. A fine counterpoint to the density of the Pelican, this is light and easy to drink; the crispness of a lager both in the faintly skunky nose and clean finish, but the color of a pale or very light amber, with a light carmel presence due to the rocks heating the wort sugars. 

A fine beer to finish this post on.

A drake to ride

 Most of the time I just stumble on excellent beer because I usually look at the options and pick the one I’ve never had before. It’s one of the reasons I keep going back to places like Bailey’s and the Horse Brass; I don’t know what I’m going to get. This is a little weird for me personally because I tend to like to wander to different bars as an unknown, an explorer in the wilds of the pubs. Not with quite the same fervor as Bill, but I’m getting off track. 

This is the Gulden Draak, which my friend Fuz tells me translates to Golden Drake, but I seem to pronounce, as baeza says, like I’m sneezing. 

I initially said that this beer tasted like a banana split, but that phrase is woefully incomplete. It does have a myriad of flavors that seem to happen all at once, but it doesn’t really taste like a confection of ice cream and chocolate. Like the Dutchess, there’s a hint of sour in there, to offset a sweeter, roasted beer, but that sourness is less pronounced than in the Dutchess. Upon drinking it, I smiled so broadly Fuz said that he’d obviously chosen the wrong beer and proceeded to order that as his second. 

My complaint is that there just isn’t enough of it. This is the kind of beer you need a pint to really appreciate completely and because it’s a Belgian getting a little over half that is pricey. At this rate, I’m going to have to go to Europe for drinks just to save money.