Still working

Although I have continued to brew IPAs, I have finally changed up the recipe significantly. In this case, I only used one kind of hops; Centennial. The resulting beer is brighter and though citrusy not quite as bitter as other IPAs I’ve made with a blend but this could be due to a couple factors.

1) Centennial hops just don’t quite impart that level of bitterness.

2) I was using hops well past their freshness date. I needed to get them used, damnit, so I just went all out but that doesn’t change the fact that these hops were old.

3) I messed up.

4) This is actually the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s a good beer though, regardless of which of those four elements comes into play. The real trick has been, once again, the carbonation. Check this out:

centennial IPAOnce again, very little head on this beer. But that’s this beer. Others have had too much head (which would’ve made a better photo but you’re stuck with the beer I opened.) Generally it’s somewhere in the middle but finding a consistency has been very difficult and I wouldn’t mind getting that cleared up.

Still, it’s drinkable and tasty. I can give it to near-strangers and not feel ashamed. That’s a win in my book.

The US Catches up

At every McDonald’s I went to in Europe, I could get a beer. Shitty beer, but beer. This was true in every fast food joint, actually. This really isn’t new information though, to readers who have seen Pulp Fiction:

Finally, the US is getting it’s own fast food with beer. I never ate or drank in a fast food joint in Europe, because to me the whole point was to try the things over there that I couldn’t get here. Hell, I wouldn’t try it if I went back for the same reason, honestly. Who goes to Italy to visit McDonald’s? So the coolness of getting a Royal with Cheese and a Bud was forever lost on me.

Now, I am totally good with fast food in limited doses and really, what goes better with a hamburger and fries: a soda or a beer?

Of course, I don’t have to encourage all readers of APfD to take advantage of their local pubs, menus, and brews. But sometimes, the occasional Royal with Cheese with a beer might be just the thing. Might have to try it out myself sometime, for science of course.

The Local: Water Trough Saloon

I was visiting my favorite bar with Jim a few days ago and I overheard Bailey’s regular The Professor in conversation with a few other patrons on the rail.

Professor: And have you been to the Water Trough?

Water Trough outside

Patron(s): Oh god. Is that the one with the horse picture in front?

Professor: Yeah, yeah.

Patron(s), chuckling: Shit, that place is awful. Like with the Space Room-there’s just nothing there. Like at the Space Room they have one beer on tap and it’s like, Budweiser.

Professor, laughing: totally. The Water Trough, it’s like the original dive bar, man.

And so I knew where to go this week.

The first thing that one ought to know about the Water Trough is that the concern patrons have here about what some other human thinks of their bar is about the same that Americans have for George W. Bush’s post-presidential political career.

The second thing that one ought to know about the Water Trough is that the jukebox selection is awesome. MC5, Queens of the Stone Age, Willie Nelson, Supersuckers, Rolling Stones, Sonic Youth, Al Green, Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny. Fantastic. Now, nobody’s using that jukebox but I’m always heartened when at the least there’s the presence of a good jukebox. There’s potential there for goodness.

And perhaps the last thing that someone ought to know about the Water Trough is that it’s a completely different place to be in without the smoke. This bar has no windows, just wood paneling and red carpet, and the ceilings are low and black so when smoking was allowed the environment could feel pretty claustrophobic. Like the desperate strains of a shitty Vegas casino, coming in here felt like the act of someone who wanted to inhale death and exhale sadness.

By god I loved it just a little bit for that.

Now? Now I can come here and comfortably hang out. Play shuffleboard, pool, darts. The bartender is nice and pours a full Mt. Hood Ice Axe, something appreciated by a man on a budget. The brew is a bit sweet for a pale and leaves a slick coating in my mouth that is unwelcome but not horrific. It’s reasonably good and gives me non-Widmer or Hamm’s options. I’d have another one if my budget allowed.

water trough signIf the PA system wasn’t hooked into the classic rock station, I think I’d come here more often. I really don’t need to hear ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ ever again. The chairs are beat up and just a wee bit uncomfortable. There are pictures of dogs playing pool on the wall. There’s an antiseptic-ish scent that tried to kill the years of smoke in the walls that hasn’t quite worked. The bartender is gone for minutes at a stretch to step outside for a smoke.

That said, I really like the camouflage this bar gives me. I don’t have to go outside or acknowledge the outside world in any form if I don’t want to. The TVs are set by the bar and small. The focus here is on playing games or perhaps just relaxing at a table. The mood is low-key, and if you bring your pool game I’d bet it’s even welcome. There are days, though, when a fellow just wants to hide. When the sight of the sun hurts, when the moon looks down and makes you feel ashamed. Your woman done you wrong, you done your woman wrong, your dog bit you, your car died, your boss found that pic of you mooning someone, shit just ain’t right!

This is the bar to hide out in, lick some wounds.

The Water Trough is a shelter from those outside influences that would try and expose your wounds or just harsh your mellow. Coming back here for The Local has convinced me that I ought to come here more often and I think if you’ve been put off by it you ought to give it a chance. It’s got a general vibe of non-aggro which is exactly what you hope for when you need to hide.

Sure, the beer selection isn’t terrific-but that isn’t why you’re here. Let it be your band-aid so you can get back in the ring, baby.

And what about that Winter Warmer?

Oh yeah…how the heck did that turn out, anyway?

winter warmerWell, pretty good actually. The cinnamon is a bit overpowering though; the drink is still too sweet and lacks the nuttier qualities of allspice or nutmeg. This is partly because I put in too much cinnamon and partly because it sat in the bottle a lot longer than it usually does. Spices tend to be the first thing that fades out in a beer, so at worst I’ve got a cinnamony-sweet amber. At best, I’ve got a winter warmer that’s come late to the party.

Recipe is as follows:

Steeping Malts
1 lb C-120
3/4 lb Special Roast

Fermenting Malts
6 lb liquid Light Malt Extract
1 lb dry Light Malt Extract

1 oz Centennial @60
.5 oz Centennial @ 20

1/2 tsp Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg @ 10

reused Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale

So where the hell were you?

Oahu, actually. Visiting my girlfriend’s family-but don’t think I forgot about the beer. Oh no.

Kona Brewing, probably the most well known brewery to come out of the island state, was freely available and I availed myself of their Longboard Lager, Fire Rock Pale and even a Big Wave Golden ale. They were all perfectly serviceable beers and although I didn’t get to try it, my companions all had the Wailua Wheat ale and raved.

shocktop beerI tried a Shocktop beer…to my dismay. There are all kinds of things wrong with this beer, some of which should be obvious from the photo but one which was not; this is brewed by Michelob. I didn’t know this before I ordered it but now that you know, dear reader, that should tell you everything you need.

Advised to go to the Yardhouse, I scoured their menu for other local beers. Generally I’m not so fond of chain restaurants and I certainly have some reservations still, but they had a broad selection on tap served in glasses that weren’t frozen and during happy hour the appetizers were cheap and tasty. If you don’t know where else to go, try them out I say. I selected two beers from Mehana Brewing: the Mauna Kae pale and the Volcano amber ale. They were both quite tasty however when later I selected the Mauna Kae in the bottle, my experience was not so positive. I heard from the locals that there had been issues with their bottled beers in the past so get it from the tap if you can.

There’s also a pretty broad selection of Japanese brews in Hawaii; not really surprising but nice to see since they aren’t as available in Oregon. I tried two of Hitachino Nest Beer’s brews; the Japanese Classic and Red Rice ales. The Japanese Classic was a good pale ale but the Red Rice had a queer sweetness at the end of it that turned me off.

maui brewing cansThe real surprise for me was Maui Brewing Company. First off, they were the only craft brewery to have their product in cans. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like beer in cans for a couple reasons. First; cans are lighter and easier to lug from point A to B, which is useful if you’re walking to the store a lot. Second, beer in cans will stay fresher for longer because no light can get in, and I think they’re more airtight as well (but I could be wrong on that last point). Finally, they’re a hell of a lot easier to recycle overall. This should mean less environmental impact but I’ve been told that the process to line the cans so they don’t affect the taste of the beer might negate that. Something I’d like to know more about sometime.

All of that would be fairly meaningless if the beer wasn’t good-but the beer is quite good. The Big Swell IPA is just this side of a pale, but that’s OK because it’s still tasty, the Bikini Blonde is crisp and refreshing, and the Coconut Porter was something I didn’t think was going to work in part because of how warm Hawaii is but it was great. I have been informed that some of their beers have made it to Portland and I hope to seek out and find them to share with other aficionados. I hope other breweries follow them and Caldera and start producing more beers in cans. This is one of those cases where it’s what’s inside that counts. (And the outside is so shiny!)

The Local: Bridgeport Hawthorne

In 1997, I moved to Portland. Living in an apartment-white room with carpet that hadn’t been changed since 1973 and showed it, I tried to cobble together a life here. I was a little homesick, unemployed and quite lonely; I didn’t know anyone in the city and I had left my hometown in no small part because of heartbreak.

You know the story; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy moves to another town to get away from his heartbreak.

bridgeport brewpubStaring out this window of the Bridgeport brewpub on Hawthorne while sitting at the bar, I could see the top of a pine tree, broken. Quite literally, the top quarter of the tree was at a ninety degree angle from the trunk. But it still hung on, steadfast, refusing to topple.

I felt an affinity for that tree. Raised my glass to it, as often as I was able. In the way of many guys, I didn’t seek out the tree; I just gave it a nod. Sometimes I thought the pine would sway back, acknowledging; yup. We’re in the shit, but we endure, damnit. We endure.

I miss that tree.

Oh sure, time moves on. I may be unemployed but I have some friends now. The tree has decided it should no longer be a danger to others. We don’t see each other anymore; our paths had to go in different directions.

I loved him, and he was a tree. He loved me, but was dangerous to others. You know the story. Boy meets tree, tree is declared a menace to society, boy says ‘you just don’t understand it like I do’, tree is cut down.

The Bridgeport hasn’t changed much in 13 years. New artwork on the walls because that’s what hip places do (but it’s really good art so I don’t complain). New beers on tap-spurred on by the microbrewing revolution-so I’m able to enjoy a Highland Scottish Ale, which is surprisingly good. Toffey flavors that edge into porter territory, with a light effervescence that keeps it bouncy on the tongue. I think I might even have two.

I know why I don’t come here more often; the lighting. Too dim to play cards in but it’s pretty good for conversation. Not Bailey’s good, but close. And a bar that a person can really lean on, get comfortable at. During the day however, it’s a fantastic joint and I prefer to come here then, like I used to. Look out the windows to see if I can catch an old friend and say hello.

We still endure, damnit.

The Local: Vertigo Pub

vertigo pub painting The Vertigo feels a little weird, like someone’s vanity project; a pub where a guy can say he’s working but actually watches sports on a big screen TV all day.

Oh sure, there’s trivia nights (with the tagline ‘Great Prizes, Good Food, Graphic Nudity’), there’s a dartboard and pinball table with a crappy theme (World Poker Tour), an arcade machine with a collection of 80’s videogames and a jukebox. The booths are very strange; high backs to provide a sense of isolation, no padding on them so patrons are inclined to lean in towards each other, all atmospherically romantic, and the incredibly dim lighting supports this. The décor involves paintings, knick-knacks, tiny guitars, oversized glasses, the neon clichés (Anchor Steam, PBR).

But what there really is, is a gigantic projection screen TV, a tiny TV located behind the bar, and another one above the dartboard, but I don’t know why it’s there or which section of patrons it’s meant to serve, since the pub is small enough that the projection TV is viewable from almost anywhere. The three TVs have sports on, all the time, every time I come in here. There might be different games being played, but when I’ve been here each TV shows the same game.

So I have to ask; does the Vertigo know what it is?

It’s practically empty on a Monday, despite it being the high point of the college Product bowl season, brought to you by Product. I think the other men at the bar-both the bartender and the guy on the rail, work here and it is just the three of us.

And it’s expensive. My pint of Widmer Drop Top cost me $4. During Happy Hour. Oh sure, I could’ve gotten a PBR with a shot of Jager for $6 (which is something else that tells me about the kind of influences on this bar) but…why? The food is similarly expensive; $8 for nachos, or $6 for a salad. (That’s the high and low end for appetizers.) Again; that’s pricey for a happy hour.

Now I don’t want to give an entirely terrible impression of the Vertigo; my beer is good and the bartender served me a tall pint of it. In no way is this unfriendly.

But it doesn’t make a statement either. It’s feels geared for someone else-built to serve all the little bits of interest of one individual. Sports fanatics won’t see all the hero-memories of sports surrounding them. Romance is intruded upon by televisions, the lane for the dartboard is right in front of the bar. The beer selections are easily matched or bested elsewhere. Who comes here? Who calls this bar home?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I don’t come here very often.

And this will be the last ApfD post for two weeks. I’m heading out on vacation and have no idea what kind of internet access I will have. If all goes badly, I’ll be trapped like these people were, and have bleary but good stories.

The proper glass

boulevard tripelBoulevard Brewing’s quadrupel ale, The Sixth Glass, comes with a stern piece of advice on the back. In capitalized, block-white letters on a black background, the potential drinker is admonished:


with a little picture right above this warning of what the proper glass would look like.

Now, I could show you what the proper glass is but there are over 8 million entires under Google’s image search under ‘proper glass’. They cover pipes, slippers, magnifying glasses and a few less than subtle jokes that go on t-shirts college boys wear. To be honest, I don’t have the inclination to actually hunt down what they insist is the proper glass visually or physically. And I suppose now is as good a time as any to make my confession:

I am a good beer drinking barbarian.

I will drink from the bottle if there is no glass. I don’t care about the fancy pants labels on a beer if the beer is good. A clever name is nice but not required. Just give me the drink and I’ll take it from there. I don’t believe that the glassware enhances my drinking experience…ever.

Now, let me back away from that last statement just a touch. I am aware that beer is a sensory experience. Sight matters but not nearly as much as the aromas, which are critical to the process of drinking a beer, then the flavors of the beer. As a beer drinker I try to be aware of the feel of a beer so I can appreciate that part of the experience too. Of these inputs, smell is the one that is most blunted by drinking a beer from the bottle instead of a glass. In the case of some beers (and in this case I’m thinking of my experience with Session’s black lager) limiting the senses might improve the taste of a beer but for the most part, drinking beer out of a glass is  preferable because you just get more out of it.

All that said, don’t try to sell me on ‘this glass is more important than that glass for x beer style’ because I think it’s utter hogwash.

In the meantime, the head on my quadrupel sits there like white frosting on a liquid bourbon cake. The beer warms up and the caramel flavors stretch out over my mouth, like a rubberband moving from the front to the back. The finish is a bit dry, not quite white wine levels of dryness but still enough to whet the appetite for more.

The proper glass? A full one. Pour me another, please. Happy New Year everybody!