On timeliness

Over at Salon Steven Kolpan has an article about sharing wine with friends, wine you’ve kept for ‘special’ occasions. He pretty neatly sums up my feelings on cellaring beer, spirits or any foodstuff that humans tend to set aside for an important event.

I save my homebrews for about six months. Usually in this amount of time, someone I know comes to visit whom I haven’t seen in awhile. That’s the time to dip into the back catalog and see how it holds up. Those beers may not be special in a classic sense but they are irreplaceable becauseĀ  who knows if I can make them again?

I think six months is a perfectly acceptable timespan for something cool to happen, something worth breaking out a good beer or wine or food that you’ve been waiting to share with someone. I’d bet that if most people reading this blog thought about it, they could come up with a good night they had with friends, or an afternoon with a sweetheart, or maybe just a quiet rainy night, some time when they were struck with the ‘Today is a good day‘ thought.

The Local: Whiskey Soda Lounge

Now this is a rarity; a bar in the area I’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect from. I’m at the Whiskey Soda Lounge, which as the name suggests, better versed in the realms of the spirit. It’s likely that I have chosen unwisely with my drink; maybe this place is meant to serve people tall, thin glasses of bloody marys. Still, I can get an Alameda Black Bear Stout so no complaints.

I must admit, I almost decided against beer when I saw there were house made drinking vinegars. That’s a novelty I’ve not experienced and more than I love beer, I quest for the new. There is something about this place that doesn’t quite gel though. ‘Vintage’ lampshades featuring asian stars from the 60s, with a run of music that feels more jarring than harmonious in a lounge prepares me more for the setting of a drug-induced haze and less for soothing drinks.

The place is very, very clean and equally uncomfortable. It serves food but doesn’t smell like food. Steel barstools, old chairs that saw their best days at a gradeschool, every table wrapped in vinyl tablecloth either to hide the inconsistency of the tables, or the damage done to them, though likely both. The large windows at the front let the light in, but the seat backs have been cut so low that I cannot both lean back and comfortably reach for my drink. Is this meant to improve my posture? Force me to lean in on the table and engage with the person across from me?

I don’t know. The WSL doesn’t offer much privacy for its patrons and there are small, tall, circular tables in the middle of the place that don’t have any chairs whatsoever. Which makes sense; the place would be too crowded otherwise but these lonely spots feel more disquieting than comfortable.

Now I wish I was facing the other direction; instead of looking at the wall-o-hol and into the kitchen, out, onto the street and looking into the night.

This place was spun off from the Pok Pok; the restaurant they had was so popular they put the lounge into a building across the street to make more room.

When I write that, I get it; the WSL is the younger sister, trying on the gleaming leather jacket that her brother has because that’s the identity that’s available. She’s still on her way to acquiring one of her own and while it’s not ugly she can’t be comfortable in it either.

So it is here. The people are nice. The reputation is there. But it doesn’t stand on it’s own two feet yet. Given the seating comfort, I wonder how the audience will be narrowed (or maybe increased?) and how long it might take for this lounge to step out from the shadow and have its own calling.


airlock soakingThe photograph shows an airlock that I’m soaking in order to clean it. This is because that for the second time in as many beers, I’ve had yeast come out the airlock and overflow onto the carboy, creating a gnarly crust on the glass and a wet bread substance on the floor.

The first beer is an amber that I’ll be talking about more. The second is the third iteration of a ginger stout I made during ’09.

I just didn’t expect this kind of fevered reaction in my beers. Yes, I’ve been reusing yeast and that usually means a quicker startup to fermentation but the last two have really gotten up and gone. It’s been messy and forced me to replace the airlocks which expose the wort, for however brief a time, to the air. That’s always a cause for concern because consistency is probably one of the goals of any good homebrewer; the other is probably innovation, and having the beer exposed is a risk, albeit a small one. Even now I can hear the stout gurgling away and the amber is ready to put into secondary so I’ll know more about that soon.

I don’t mind cleaning up the mess if the beer comes out well.


This story has been making the rounds lately but it’s been shown that beer is good for your bones. Note that the beers that are generally better for you have a decent-to-strong hop presence. So just about anything is going to be better than American Light Lagers, but IPAs made in the NW style may be the best. Pretty slick!

Now if they could just do something about that liver problem…

The Local: Mulligan’s

This is one of those cases where I have trouble loving a place for what it is, instead of what it was.

Mulligan’s is a nice bar. Too many TV’s-7-but aside from that it’s fairly comfy. Dark wood, a nice long rail to sit at, the kind of bar where you can come and hang out and it even smells tasty.

I’m with a friend who has a purse she crafted a bit herself, decorating it with a Duran Druan 45. The waitress (who’s wearing a Pierced Arrows T) took a look at it and squee’d with glee. It’s a good spot for people to hang out.

The lights keep dimming though and that is a little strange.

There’s a man yelling (in a friendly way) about how the physics work out-no I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. And there’s a very, very inoffensive selection of classic rock being played-the Band, Joe Cocker, Supertramp, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh-Mulligan’s optimizes a broad based appeal to people. I’ve brought my Dad here for eats and he had a double cheeseburger that he thought was delicious.

But I can’t come here. I don’t blame the bar, this one is about me. That I have company makes this entirely bearable, truth be told.

When I moved to Portland, Mulligan’s was Biddy McGraws, an Irish pub owed by a mother-daughter team from Ireland and it was a little crazy. Bands played in the corner that a Soprano’s pinball machine resides now. Bathrooms that were too spacious but not large enough for people. Smoke everywhere, dense and slow in the air.

A random woman kissed me on New Years Eve here once, when I was single, wandering and lonely. The kind of gracious kiss with the energy that has everyone looking at you but you’re able to walk away from, thankful for a reprieve from the wailing in your heart.

I would write here and it was just understood that this was OK. Even though it was weird, it was the kind of bar that needed a writer. Sure, I’m scribbling nearly unreadable text on a yellow pad but nobody needed to read it. They just needed to know that someone was writing. Maybe it’s an Irish thing though I doubt it as pubs have been part of the writing tradition for a long, long time.

I danced here on another occasion, surprising a girlfriend who was certain I would never dance, ever. Bagpipes, fiddles and drums had me jumping around like the kind of idiot who has just enough beer to prove his girlfriend wrong.

And then there was Theresa in the crushed velvet dress. Who was lovely, crazy and beautiful and would knock on my door at 3 a.m., whisper in my addled ear things that hotwired my brain until 5, and then she’d disappear…or crash until it was time to go for Thai food.

That place is gone, the music isn’t live anymore, the girl lost to the adventures of time. I like Mulligan’s but I can’t come here without missing, just a little bit, a part of my life gone by. Even Deschutes’ Obsidian stout doesn’t soothe the pain of an Irish bar with Guinness…though I have to say, I like Deschutes better.


After a year of making IPAs with the same ingredient list, I have been mixing it up a little. My goal here was to use ESB malts coupled with the hoppiness of an IPA. I was looking for a balanced beer overall that was a child of both styles. I think I could’ve used more ESB malts though. I mean if I’m going to marry styles, why not go for broke?

It mostly worked. Mostly. There’s a metallic tang at the veeeeery end of the beer. Shiny-metal, not rusty-metal. I believe what this means is that the beer may have been oxidized during the process. A bummer, yes but not the end of the world. This ISB is still pretty good and when served cold the tang at the end isn’t really noteworthy. It comes across as a dryness instead which encourages the next sip.

Maybe I’m spinning this; in these cases it’s usually best to give the beer to someone else for evaluation and I think I’ll be giving it to some friends to see what they think. Recipe as follows:

Brew date

Steeping Grains
13oz C-40
.5 lb ESB grain
.5 lb C-120

Fermenting Malts
7lb LME

1 oz Amarillo @ 60
.5 oz Amarillo @ 40
.5 oz Galena @30
1 oz Galena @ 20

1/4 tsp Irish Moss @10

Wyeast American Ale yeast (reused from an IPA batch)

5.57% ABV

The Local: The Blue Monk

I tried to go to the Pied Cow tonight. When I entered the establishment there was a nice handwritten sign with daisies drawn on it; Please Wait to be Seated.

So I waited. For about three minutes. After not seeing a server or anyone to greet me and let me sit, I left. Perhaps I should’ve waited longer but I could hear people giggling in the back and why the hell should I stick around? They want me to wait; I’ll wait. I’ll wait longer if it’s busy or I’m acknowledged with a “Be with you in a minute” but when the opening foyer is a ghosttown and there are empty tables? Nah. I’ll try again another day because this bar is part of the series but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it anymore.

Instead I walked up the street to The Blue Monk. Similarly deserted, there was no instruction to wait and a sign pointing out that the basement bar was open. The bartender greeted me, asked me how things were in the world above, laughed at my meager joke response and gave me a Ninkasi Oatis stout.

Next to me people are talking time travel, conspiracy theories, pyramids, electromagnetic fields, acoustics machines, the Illuminati. It’s not just a little fascinating. Behind me a couple of friends are hashing out some relationship drama in their circle, wondering why people ‘can’t all be adults’. A crusty voiced man with driving gloves on comes to the bar and the bartender asks if he’s going to play the piano tonight; he is and shortly heads over to the upright in the corner, begins to play Right Here Waiting.

blue monk pubIt seems like a good hideaway, this bar. Sure, you could stay upstairs and watch the passerby, the kitchen workings (which smell mouth-watering), perched at the rail. But those are not my people. My people seek the downstairs, smuggling wi-fi from someone else, using the piano man to cover their conversations made of intrigue, deviance, orĀ  sweetness. A windowless bar that isn’t a sports pub or a dive-ah, I never thought I’d see such a thing here. It was once a jazz venue and though I don’t think they do that much anymore, the stage is still in place and there are fliers advertising belly dancing on Wednesdays. A morphing space, this bar.

All the more reason to keep walking around, ya? Never know what kind of pub is going to perfectly suit the moment and with a happy hour that runs until 8? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

That said; get a booth. The stools at the bar are a touch uncomfortable.


A few weeks ago, Hopster asked me if I had a bottling wand.

A what?

He’d been reading my blog and seen the post where I talk about bottling the winter warmer. I’d complained about getting too much foam in my bottles and having to be very careful about regulating the flow when I transferred the beer from secondary.

He proceeded to describe a tube that had a valve at the end, you press down and liquid comes out. You insert the tube into the bottle and it fills from the bottom up, instead of pouring in. Brilliant!

So I go to Steinbart’s to ask if they have such a thing. I still don’t know what I’m looking for, visually, but with a name you can find anything. They do have one so I go to look for it…and I already have one.

I’ve had one since I started brewing six years ago; it was part of the kit my Dad bought me! I just didn’t know what it was or what it uses were. I just kept it because, well, I figured it would have a use eventually, right?

Indeed. This is what a bottling wand looks like: bottling wand

That long tube with the black tip is what I’m talking about. I have to say, it worked pretty well. I hardly spilled, had to do less work regulating the flow of the beer and had a better bottling experience overall.

I wish I’d known what that tool was when I’d started, but alas I had no instructors. There’s possibly some kind of lesson to be learned here about ‘men knowing how to use their tools’ (insert innuendo as you feel the need) but I think the better lesson is what happens when you share your experiences with people.