Malty switchup

Though I’ve been making IPAs this summer-every other batch, as a matter of fact-the most recent IPA just wasn’t ready to drink. No carbonation at all. The beer wasn’t a bad one-but a beer without carbonation is like a car without a radio. Sure you can drive it but it’s not nearly as enjoyable.

Fortunately, I have a backup plan; the next beer. I realize this doesn’t sound like much but in this case it’s quite awesome. I was shooting for a Scottish ale and I think I overshot the mark by a just a touch of hops. Still, it’s a very rich beer with the sweets held up just enough by the hops so the beer isn’t cloying. I’m really proud of this one; it tastes great and goes well with spicy food. I don’t know if it would fit the style; the beer appears to be just a smidge on the lighter side. But I assure you; there’s some malt in that thar beer. Good stuff.

As a bonus, my Dad is coming into town this weekend which means I’ll get to show off some of the beers I’ve been brewing for the past few months. I don’t get to show off too often so I like to take advantage when I can. It also means I can totally coast on a ‘retrospective’ piece. Sweet!

52 Weeks 45: Fanno Creek Oktoberfest

Fall has arrived which I know because despite arriving early to the bar it is dark. Forget the chill in the air, the calendar date; it’s fall when I arrive at the bar and it’s dark outside.

The Oktoberfest is a little thinner than I was expecting. It’s not a bad beer but it doesn’t have much presence. I want my oktoberfest beers to be a little more hefty; it’s autumn, the harvest is coming, long days of work (I hope) and long nights of cold will be here and that beer ought to prepare us for it. Instead, it seems to be a straggling beer of summer. Again, it’s not a bad beer but it wants hot weather and a BBQ. 

Maybe I’m just misinformed about the style. It is descended from the lager style so having a very drinkable brew is the main goal but I’m just not convinced this time. Maybe this style is trickier to do than I thought.

At week 45, the first verbal discussion of ‘What next?’ has come up. Between Geoff and Sparky, there’s a question as to what will be done after the 52 Weeks project is over. I’ll admit I have no idea. One thought that’s come to me is ‘Let’s Have A Drink’, where I and a guest meet for a beer and then I write up our thoughts. It would be a chance to bring other perspectives on the beer and let me be a little social. Being social is one of the reasons we go to bars and I wonder if I’ve ignored this over the past year or so. The drawbacks would include trying to find a weekly guest, making a conversation interesting enough to write about, and arranging a place to drink. 

There are advantages to continuing the 52 Weeks project as well but then there’s the risk of boring the audience. On the other hand, this is a beer blog; the focus is narrowed by the nature of the subject. Sure I can talk politics but I have to jump to it via beer. Unless, of course, it’s a 52 Weeks night and then I have a little more free reign. Obviously this requires a little more thought and I’m open to suggestions but once this project is done it will have to change just a little bit. If for no other reason than because projects should end. Incompletion is for the Sagrada Familia or the Mystery of Edwin Drood but not for sub-geniuses like myself.

Casualbrewing beers

I don’t get to review the brews of another homebrewer that often, but casualbrewing was kind enough to give me a few of his and permission to talk about them on the blog, so here we go!

First, I had his Market Spice ale. I want to say this is a brown ale but wow does the Market Spice tea show up in the nose and flavors of this beer. After about ten minutes or so, the drink has warmed up enough that the spices seem to be easing off and a more chocolatey flavor comes thorough. Tasty stuff.

Next up was the A-hole ale, which is his take on Arrogant Bastard. That makes this beer a little harder for me to review, because I’ve never liked Arrogant Bastard. Just not arrogant or bastardy enough for me. The A-hole has a barleywine-ish nose, but the beer itself is more like an amber ale with a strong shove of bitterness at the end. Not a bad beer but not for me I think.

Finally, I had a beer marked with an ‘H’ on the cap. He told me what it was-but I forgot AND deleted the note where he told me. Because of my dumbassery, I feel too embarrassed to ask again-hopefully he’ll let me know in the comments. But the nose and flavors make barleywine statements. It’s a flavorful beer, but I’m having it with lunch and it’s red wine tendencies make me think I should have this with dark chocolate instead. A mismatch on my part, not a flaw of his beer.

Anyway, that’s my brief overview. Special thanks to casualbrewery for letting me talk about his stuff in a public space!

52 Weeks 44: Collaborator Eilean Dhu

The Eilean Dhu is a wee heavy, because the name really doesn’t tell you that.

I’ve been temping for the past few days at a warehouse, doing work that nobody could find worthy of their time or effort-except the desperate. 

What I’ve noticed about the desperate is that they repeat; they do not have new stories, they do not dream. They are stuck inside a weird bubble of need which has at its center ‘the missing’. That is, a quality that they do not have (for whatever reason) and fervently need in order to keep their lives working on an acceptable axis. To be denied this quality means that everything circles around the orbit of this emptiness, everything comes back to what you lack and what could have been hopes get sucked into the hole instead. 

It is a hard thing, being amongst their number. I see the difference between not bothering to hope and understanding that your hope doesn’t matter.  

I’ve also gotten a taste, an admittedly small one, of what it is like for men and women who work the floors every day, living, as Wayne Kramer said, “By the sweat of their brow.” 

You come home aching in new ways. Cuts on your skin until it hardens from the work. Physically drained from the effort of the labor, you arrive home to mental voices that now demand attention, should you have any unanswered questions about your life and what it all means. The desire to be left alone, the need to just let the pain in your shoulders leech into the couch, is gargantuan. And those unanswered questions, should you have any? It’s your Jacob Marley visiting, chains rattling, howling your name with assurances of three spirits that will haunt you.

After awhile you just feel wasted all the time. 

If the payment for the work was proper, I think things would be different. Doing grindage work feels different when you’re getting paid enough to take your girl out for a nice weekend on the coast from time to time, treat the kids to a nice birthday at the water park, buy a round for your friends every so often. When you’re fretting about rent, or if the kids will have enough to eat, or how you’ll manage without the car for two months, the empty space in the bubble just gets bigger, the gravity of it stronger, impossible to ignore. Being civil to strangers becomes more difficult, and the attempt to be present in your life instead of staring out into the middle distance wondering when things will change, this becomes damn near impossible.

The trip home (guest blogger)

The owner was very tired after two days at the expo, so it was time to head home. On the way though, there was time to meet Fuz in Tacoma, who apparently was very disappointed that he was not mentioned sooner. You humans are so impatient!

While he’s still relatively new to Tacoma, he was able to show us a couple great places; Flippin’ Out Burger for the burger needs, Tacoma Boys for the shopping needs-some excellent bottled beers were on sale there-and finally, the Parkway, where we got down to the actual sipping of a beer.

A low-key place, the Parkway had a broad selection of beers on tap with a pretty strong variety of seasonal beers-lots of saisons and IPAs-without neglecting the tastes of people who aren’t as fond of those styles. Televisions were at kitty-corners of the bar, so if you didn’t want to pay attention to it you didn’t have to. A nice setup for people who may just be coming to sit and relax.

I didn’t get any pictures of me and the owner didn’t take any notes on his beer. Silly person. However, there’s a neat-ish shot of the ceiling where taps were screwed into the rafters.

52 Weeks 43: Firestone Double Jack

I think the nose of this IPA reminds me of childhood tree forts, with pine resin seeping around the nails, camping trips where hands or pants become sticky with yellow goop that refuses to wash or scrub or wear off no matter how much dirt or soap you pound into them. Sitting in a tree, breathless from the climbing exertion after finally discovering a place where my butt could rest in some kind of comfort while at least one foot remains lodged in the crotch of tree branches and hands firmly gripping a bark that though adhesive will not keep me from falling. 

And I do not like falling. I broke both my wrists that way in 4th grade-or the summer after that year. Swinging high on a swingset, my friend and I leapt from the apex sailing the three feet to the ground. Disaster struck when I mistimed a release, didn’t get off the swing and held feebly onto it until it swung in the other direction and plummeted to the ground, hands in front.

The malts in this beer are like that; tenuously holding on against the malt bitterness only to collapse at the end, even the effervescence a poor cushion. If the bitterness units were any higher this beer might be too much for me to drink but as it stands I enjoy it in the moment. 

Outside in front of Mary’s Club a ropy man paces, his long sorta blond hair under a black backwards baseball cap, black tanktop and shorts with knee high black boots on. What can I say? He stands out despite being amongst the homeless parade of Burnside. Maybe it’s the chain that hangs from his belt with a silver cross at the end of it, maybe it’s the bike gloves he’s wearing. 

Most likely it is that he is pacing in front of a strip club and the possibilities for this man’s actions start to narrow considerably after that.