Pretty neat

They’re debuting shatterproof glasses in England. To cut down on the nearly 87,000 alcohol+glass attacks every year.

My first thought was, awesome! Shatterproof glasses. My second thought was; 87K alcohol + glass attacks? Jesus!

Granted, I don’t know how many attacks in America are involve glass and alcohol; maybe we’ve just pre-empted the problem by getting shatterproof glasses in the bars already?

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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, or  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.

Tools

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.

The Local: North

When I first moved to Portland, the location that North now occupies was a trading card store. Sports cards, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, the whole range. It was nearby and a welcome relief to have someplace that offered something familiar to me in a city where I didn’t know anyone.

It went out of business and eventually became a juggling supply store. The juggling supply store was in business for years. Really. Way to long, given the number of people who might need juggling supplies. I always thought that the store was a front for the mob during this time. No particular reason, except that it appeals to the imagination. A mob storefront that sells bowling pins. There’s an absurdist story in there somewhere.

That store went the way of all juggling, balls dropped and the whole storefront area underwent a transformation, a massive facelift, really. In it’s place came the North, which I was an early patron of….and which turned me off pretty quickly. Too dark, seating arrangements all kattywampus, and worst of all…reggae music.

I really hate reggae music. Yes, yes, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley were sonic innovators, they stood for something, their music was a force for social change amongst other things.

Don’t care. Every single reggae song uses the one-drop, with the same tempo, women singing backup/harmony, and is, to me, boring to the point of destruction. At least heavy metal is annoying, if you don’t like it. (It can only be  boring to people who love heavy metal and recognize musicians halfassing it.)

I had to get outta there.

North barBut places change and grow. Seats are changed and arranged. Lights are…still dark, but more are added to allow for pool and a luminescent forest animals. Reggae is removed from the jukebox and replaced with Portland style hipster selections; Duran Duran, Sleater-Kinney, Decemberists, Black Sabbath, Solomon Burke, and so on.

And I never had a problem with the beer selections. They’ve had a Ninkasi beer on tap for as long as I’ve been coming here, usually supported by Deschutes’ Mirror Pond and PBR, with a few random selections. I’m sipping on a Double Mountain kolsch right now and once again, they have knocked it out of the park.

As people wander in, usually in groups but even solo, I get it.

It’s a neighborhood bar. People seem to know each other, even when they don’t. They casually share tables if there’s not enough room. They’re here to shoot pool, watch the Blazers and hang out with each other. The TV is loud enough but can be easily ignored. An old guy drinking Hamm’s in the can steps outside, puts his hood up and lights a cigarette. It’s the way I like winter in Portland; steady rain but not ferocious, wet without soaking, night without gloom.

The bartender is delightfully awkward, someone who has found confidence in her Olive Oyl look and decided to totally rock it. A less confident woman would elicit pity but she is smiling and joyous to watch, beautiful in part because she has decided she is. A good lesson for anyone; we decide to be who we are, and it shows.