52 Weeks 33: Terminal Gravity Tripel

I’m talking to Fuz in the photo. 

I’ve known Fuz a long, long time. Almost 25 years, which I’m sure you’d agree, is a hell of a thing.

He’s joined me for the last 52 Weeks post while he’s in Portland. I’ve been lucky enough to have his company in this great city for the past 4 years, and now employment takes him elsewhere. 

I’m going to miss him. He’s advised me in ways that cannot be truly measured by any meaningful scale except the heart. Suggested options that I overlooked, played a bunch of Magic against and drank a hell of a lot of beer with me.

It’s been a fortunate thing to have him in town; once they part ways, most people don’t get to have one of their best friends come to hang out again so I’m taking my blessings as they come. As with the best people, Fuz kept me on my toes, nudged me to be a better person than I was and just generally made things that suck suck a whole hell of a lot less.

It’s not the best tribute but I’m writing on the go. Plus, I’m not eulogizing the man. He’s shuffling cards right there, waiting for me to be done with this post. 

As with the toast a few weeks ago I again find myself raising a glass to a friend, albeit for a less celebratory reason. 

I wish it was a better beer. Sorry man. 

But this tripel is…well, it’s strong enough to be a tripel, but it’s not roasty-malt flavored enough, the mouthfeel is very light, and it’s drinkable qualities are…not very pronounced. Fuz, on the other hand, is drinking Silver Moon’s Heather ‘n’ the Rye. It’s a belgian rye beer, but it’s a better one than mine. Ah well; another time. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some cards with my amigo.

Beers for summer

As suggested by this guy. I don’t know what his qualifications are beyond writing a column on the internet, especially since he gets the Weissbier wrong; they don’t serve beers with fruit anywhere but America. (Well, they might, but they do it because we started doing it.) PBR is not a good beer, and it’s hoppiness is laughable at best. The Grains of Paradise used in Sam Adams Summer Ale are not what I’d call rare. Then again, I’m just some guy writing on the internet and I don’t even get paid. I leave it to the reader to make some discerning judgments about the quality of that list. 

I found the article via Fark, and the comments of their readers are here. Maybe you’ll find something worth checking out amongst their suggestions, maybe you’ll just enjoy the snark. Maybe you’ve got beers of your own to drink this summer that encapsulate the season for you. I certainly hope so. 

As for myself, it’s been too cool for lagers, kolsches, light wheat beers. I’m going to stick to pales until the weather starts demanding something else from me. 

I’m going to go to the Portland Beer and Blog tonight and see what that’s about. If nothing else I’ll get to check out the Green Dragon which I haven’t been too since Rogue took it over. Should be fun!

52 Weeks 32: Southern Oregon Pilsner

In honor of the solstice and what I guess is the official start to summer, I had a pilsner. 

I shouldn’t have. The beer is fine. More malty than bitter, easy to drink, a fine concoction for a hot day. It’s not you, as they say, it’s me.

I rode down here on a storm of heavy metal. Pounding on the steering wheel like a prizefighter, the snare drums my jabs, whipping my head like uppercuts to the cadence of singers that bring more tyrannosaurus than Plant to the table, fingers riffing on my jeans fast enough to warm the skin beneath. 

And pilsner is not metal. Sure, sure, metalheads ’round the world drink it. Who hasn’t seen a rock show without  the promise of cheap libations, always pilsners. There are no ‘cheap’ IPAs. 

But the very promises of what pilsners are; cheap, forgettable, easily consumable, this is not metal. Heavy metal can be many things; fun, intense, rage to equal to a god, murkier than the motives of your ex lover, dense as an osmium brick, but it isn’t easily consumable. Shouldn’t be. 

Not to say that heavy metal excludes. No music should exclude anyone as a central characteristic, and even my use of the term heavy metal simplifies all the possible sounds (and opinions) you’ll hear in the genre. However, heavy metal is frequently enjoyed by people who get heavy metal, and if you don’t get it, no one, not me, not the Universe, can explain to you what we naively understand. You either hear those sounds in your soul or you don’t.

So it is with this beer. Everyone could enjoy this. Nothing wrong with that. Probably should enjoy it later this week, when the temps get into the 80s and we’re all reminded again that there’s no friggin’ air conditioning in Portland. Even tonight Bailey’s has the front door open-something that seems more like a portent than a necessity.

But it ain’t metal. And I’m in a metal mood
/ah, c’mon. You knew that last link was coming.

6’2″ and falling

I wish I had a camera so the progress my hops have made could be seen. 

But I can tell you that the Galena and Wilamette hops have grown to heights taller than me. As a result, they’ve had to be bent downward, so they’ll spread out instead of just going up. 

The Centennial plant has been a very different story though. Though they looked the best when I planted the hops, they have actually faired the worst. They didn’t grow, staying at about the six inch height I got them at, and the leaves started to take a dusty, plastic-y green shade, instead of the lively green of something growing. 

Until this last week. The plant has nearly doubled in height, and the new leaves all look like vegetation!  It’s still got a ways to go before it catches up to the other plants, but as is my wont, it’s the one I’m rooting for. Go Cenni!

A toast from the extras

The Pale_qm is finished!

For a variety of reasons, this is a good thing. First, of course, is that the beer has come out quite nicely. The darker malts do have an impact; the beer is more amber than pale so really I’ve probably made something like a hoppy amber ale instead of a darker pale. But it still tastes good like a proper beer ought to. Even if the proper beer itself is not a proper style.

The quality of this beer means it’s also good for toasting. People just don’t make toasts with water, or soda or juice. They do it with alcohol. On special occasions, they buy expensive alcohols in order to properly celebrate, those times ought to be honored with a drink that is worth drinking, worth chiming glasses together with a gentle acknowledgment of time gone by, or the raucous din of victory, the triumph of a person (or persons) in their life.

It is to the latter to which I raise this glass. My friend at Impy Malting has finished a book! It has taken her six years and I can’t even imagine how much soul to complete, but it’s finally done. It’s called The Desperate Ones, and she’s selling it online. 

Way to go, my friend.

52 Weeks 31: Lagunitas Sumpin’ sumpin’

I’m down to my last ten dollars. 

Not in the, I can’t pay the rent sense, but I’ve gotten my first notice: you are slowly going broke. I won’t deny it, I feel a little troubled. Being able to go out and pay for a beer is one of those things that I don’t just do for this website. I do it for sanity. However the operative phrase there is ‘pay for’. It’s an element of pride; I can pay for my own amenities. 

It’s not that simple of course. I don’t believe anyone should be living beyond their means, and truly most things that are good in life (aside from crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentations of their women) don’t cost that much. Still, I am worried. I doubt I’m alone, either among the jobless, or those at risk for losing their job, or maybe just people at large which makes for a kind of collective unease. 

So what to do? 

Just keep at it, I guess. Plus, when choosing the beer of the evening, choose wisely.

Tonight’s choice is an IPA. The nose is has that fresh hop pine scent, not  unlike when I pulled Nugget hops out of the bags last Thursday. Or was it Northern Brewer?

Truth be told, the air was so pungent then that I’m not sure I could tell you the difference. 

In this case, the Sumpin’ Sumpin’ finished off with a nice fizziness, which keeps the beer from becoming overwhelmingly bitter, I think. It’s a lighter ale, so while there are malts to keep things in check, to say that they provide balance might be giving them too much credit. The bubbles keep sparking off the tip of my tongue though, so the bitterness abates rather quickly. The whole experience actually makes me want a slice of warm apple pie. 

Across the street, on the back of a ‘Do Not Enter’ streetsign, someone has plastered a sticker: “Now Is All You Have”. I’ve seen it before, of course. You can’t drink here as often as I do and not notice these things. It seems appropriate to mention now though. I don’t want to be ignoring my present because I’m too concerned about my future. As clouded as my future seems it is good to remember that this beer is the one I’m drinking, not the next one. The crowd around me? They are in the midst of enjoying the company they have-not a cell phone or laptop in sight aside from mine- not the company of tomorrow.

So today is the good thing I have now.

My reverie on the now is broken by being asked by the bar: “Do you say OSX or OS 10?”
(I’m typing on a Macbook, so I seem to be the one to ask.) 

It’s interchangeable, I tell them, but when I hear it I usually hear OS 10. But I know what someone means when they say OSX.

“But do you say Racer X or Racer 10?”

“Oh, it’s Racer X.”


“Because X is cooler than 10.”

Everyone smiles because they know I’m bullshitting, but nobody tries to refute my logic. Somehow I’ve hit upon a basic truth that everybody knows, even if they don’t make it a rule. Now that’s a good night at the pub.

Membership has its privileges

Last night was the monthly OBC meeting at FH Steinbarts. There was booty to plunder.
This is not quite half of what I was able to come away with. There’s 3 more bags of hops and one more bag of  malts that aren’t pictured. 

These ingredients were donated to us by the really cool people at Full Sail, who had to discard them because they were ‘old’. They may have been too old for commercial brewers, but when those bags of malts and hops were cracked open, they smelled wonderful. The resulting grab-fest was probably as close as I’ll ever come to the bridal dress sale madness that I’ve heard about. (Although to our credit, we weren’t fighting over resources, just jockeying for position in line. No actual fighting happened.) 

What does this mean? Well, it means that my original plan from Monday to start making beers that I’d made before…has been put on hold. More than anything else, I like to use the materials at hand. Now that these things are no longer in vacuum packs, I feel like they ought to get first priority. However, there’s enough of these hops that I can probably repeat the future concoctions I come up with. So: Onward to Mayhem! 

Bonus: From It’s Pub Night, the Six Pack Equivalent Calculator. That’s. Just. Awesome.

The Slingshot

There’s a lot of bars along Foster between 50th and 82nd. 

A whole lot.  I ended up in the vicinity last March, while on a walk for my birthday. It began to rain heavily (hell, it began to hail for fuck’s sake), and while getting soaked, I ducked into Dusty’s to hide out and have a beer. It was a sports bar with a rather pedestrian vibe at that. Nothing to really give it personality. The service was decent, but it just wasn’t my kind of place. I’m thankful it sheltered me from the rain, and that’s about it.

When the weather let up enough for me to get walking again, I passed by the collection of odd and end places on Foster. Gun shops. Piano stores. And lots of dive bar shacks. But behind dive bar I noticed a strange looking place called the Slingshot. I’m a curious creature; What is that, and why don’t I know about it?

So I crossed the street to look inside. It was remarkably dark inside for a closed bar, despite the large windows in front. But I made out some tables and a really large space to play pool or shuffleboard. It looked alright, and I’m always looking for new places to hang out and write or play Magic, so I filed it away under “Must do this sometime” and continued home to change my wet pants into dry ones and get my free beer at the Rogue brewpub. 

Well, “Must do this sometime” took about three months, but Fuz and I ventured into the space last Friday. And it’s remarkably roomy, with large tables we probably could’ve fit four people to and still played cards. The drinks are reasonably priced and strong. Plus, they were being poured by a guy who had a broken wrist. That’s hardcore, kids. (He’d had an accident and his arm was in a splint when he wasn’t working. Dude didn’t have enough cash to go to the doctor and get the cast on his arm he should have–and with a cast on your arm you really can’t work food service anyway. Call this part a little metaphor for what’s gone askew in America.) 

There looked to be a decent food menu, but we didn’t partake. There seemed to be collections of local artists on the walls, as places like this tend to do. The music was varied, although mostly heavy metal and punk there was also Johnny Cash, and some group singing in Spanish that sounded pretty enjoyable. Basically, it varied enough to keep you on your toes, but not so much that I didn’t get a good idea of what the Slingshot was about. Most importantly, the music was loud enough to hear, but not so loud you couldn’t easily talk over it. They hit that sweet spot, and most places miss it. 

Finally, there were no televisions. Personally, I think this is absolutely awesome. Some bars should have TVs, but most shouldn’t. They’re distractions frequently broadcasting things that don’t really contribute to the atmosphere of the bar, so instead of getting patrons that somehow contribute to how the place feels, they become drones. This isn’t true everywhere of course but when the bar is trying to project a personality, televisions get in the way of that.  

All in all, I’m going back. Best compliment I can think of.

52 Weeks 30: Double Mountain Vaporizer

Let me just tell you right up front, the Double Mountain Vaporizer is an IPA. It’s a little deceiving though. It looks like a wheat beer, and damned if the malt profile doesn’t match up with that; there’s a bready, wheat flavor in there. But the nose brings the citrus hops, and the finish is lingering and bitter. Light enough to be a thirst-quencher, strong enough to pair with dinner. I like it.

I went on a walk today, and shortly after I walked by the garage where the stoner metal band was pounding the hell out of a great riff, I thought of this article that Fuz sent me.  For those who don’t want to read the link, I’ll provide you the gist of it: there are some good brewers in North Carolina, and one of their important qualities is that they are interested in the boring stuff.

By this the author means; these guys do the basic beer recipes and do them right. Some homebrewers get so caught up in doing weird things, they don’t really try to get some of the standard styles right. I’m certainly guilty of this, so I’m going to try repeating some of my past beers. The Chamomile wit was a good start, but there are others, including the IPA I’m working on tomorrow. I’m going to start trying to get similar ingredients, and I might even start taking tasting notes on the beers so I can remember what to do the same and where I ought to tweak. 

Hopefully, I’ll still be able to entertain everyone, even as I repeat the beers. We shall see. Making notes to show how I’ve slightly changed what I did originally ought to give me more information which ought to provide more details for everyone. 

Bailey’s is a little busier than usual tonight, but not because of the crowd. In one of those human, “I need to create some work” moments, Geoff decided to start rotating the bottles in the window of the pub. Which is quite a task, since the windows run for two entire sides of the taproom. So there are new, pretty bottles to look at, and long empty spaces where dead soldiers have been removed, to be replaced by new-but-still-dead soldiers. 

I like seeing things in transition. It’s a good reminder that change is going on all the time, and while it pays to be cognizant of it, it isn’t something that should be feared at face value. More often than not, everything is going to be fine.

“Just ain’t destined to brew that one”

Recipe for the golden ale I’m trying to make:

Grains and malt:
1 lb Caramel 20 Malt, steeped at about 150 degrees for  thirty minutes
8 lb LME

1 handful Sorachi Ace
1 oz Pearle @60
1 handful Pearle @15

Yeast; Wyeast 1084, 3rd use.

Now, this all seems OK until the tales of woe begin. The tales of woe go like this:

After steeping the grains for thirty minutes, I took the wort off the burner to pour in the malt extract. This was probably the smartest thing I did. When there’s less malt extract, or it’s powder, I frequently keep the pot on the burner and just stir like mad to keep the malt from sticking to the bottom and burning. This works out fine, but eight pounds of malt requires me to use two hands to pour it in, so I removed the pot from the heat.

While pouring the bucket of malt in, the handle broke and the whole thing fell into the wort, splashing hot water and ropy lines of malt everywhere. Luckily for me I didn’t get burned but now I have two problems. First; hot sticky mess everywhere. Second, and more importantly, there is a plastic bucket in my beer that may be melting even as I survey the mess.

I takes me perhaps just under a minute to get the utensils to decently grip the bucket and pull the bucket out of the hot water.  The bucket appears undamaged, which is good, but I have no idea how this might affect the beer. 

The rest of the process goes alright until I realize that the yeast I’ve been using, despite my notes, actually is on it’s 4th, not 3rd use. After three uses, I’m told the yeast starts to add off flavors to the beer. I wouldn’t be surprised if some brewers wanted some of those flavors, but I don’t know enough about brewing or yeast for that matter to desire this. 

It’s a little too late to go get new yeast at this point however, so onward and forward, right?

Well…yes, until it’s time to add the yeast. I kinda fucked that up. Most of the time, yeast should be added when the wort is in the low 80’s to the mid 70’s. This rule isn’t set in stone, but it is a pretty good one. 

I am pretty certain I cooled the wort to below 100 degrees, and then just added it in with some cold water to top the wort off to five gallons. Being generous about  the temp, I figure I pitched the yeast when the wort was in the mid-90’s. I really don’t have much of an excuse, except that my head just wasn’t in the game. 

The good news; the yeast took off like a bat out of hell. I could see little pieces of debris swirling in the beer, the airlock percolating like a hyperactive coffeemaker, all systems go.

The bad news; yeast fermenting at higher temperatures produce sweeter tasting alcohols. These flavors conflict with the other agents in the beer. When I put the beer into secondary yesterday, I got such a sweet aroma out of the fermenter that I’m pretty sure ‘cloying’ just won’t cover it. 

Describing the whole debacle to my Dad later, he said, “Well son, I guess you just ain’t destined to brew that beer.” I’m hard pressed to disagree, though I’m going to bottle it just the same. Who knows? If I give it a month, maybe it’ll mellow out.