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.

And it lived happily ever after

So I began the story back in April. But now the beer is done and I can tell you all about how it went.

The nose is very, very doughy. If you’ve ever been around dough as it’s being made into bread, add a little orange scent to it and that pretty much sums it up. If I had to pick a style of bread, I might even say sourdough. As the beer warms up, the orange notes get boosted, which is a nice thing as the weather gets warmer.

The wit is a little too bubbly. There’s a champagne quality to it with all the tiny, active bubbles. Better too bubbly than not bubbly though. 

The flavors are nice. It’s got a wheat start, but I don’t get as much chamomile flavors in there and I think I could’ve added more tea. There is a dryness on the back end, and it finishes rather clean so I think I did OK on the other elements (Grains of Paradise, malts, bitter orange, orange zest, etc.) It’s not as good as I remember the beer being three years ago, but it’s a damn sight better than my past two attempts at making it. For starters; it’s drinkable. However it’s not only drinkable, it’s actually a pretty solid beer in it’s own right and one that friends have enjoyed. 

I’m calling it a success. One I have to improve on, yes, but a success nonetheless.

52 Weeks 29: Avery Maharaja

It’s going to rain on the city tonight.

After over a week of sun and a beacon of the summer, I can smell it. The rain is coming. The dusty lavender clouds cover everything but the North, and it makes it look like the sun is setting in that direction, instead of the West. The buildings reflect a fuzzy copper color, making them look lit up even in the dusk. 

But the reason I know it will rain is the smell. It’s an old smell, and it feels comforting, like musk without the pungent weasel smell. It’s a sign that I’m a city fellow; I like this scent, and the forests do not soothe me in the same way. These moments are rare in Portland, so I’m glad to take it. 

This IPA is strong in the front, but finishes easy, almost as thought it’s not nearly as bitter as the nose and middle would lead me to think. The resin flavors make me think there may be American hops in there, but it’s a nicely balanced drink.

I’m hoping for the rain. Not because I want it to cool down, but because I like how it smells when it rains. There seems to be a portent in the air, a sign that things are going to shift, like the moment before a good kiss. It’s all imaginary of course, but why not hope that something interesting is coming around? If the storm is coming, than at least I can relax with a glass or two before the wild wind comes. 

And if the storm doesn’t come, then I’m just as well served, eh?