IPA number 6So after talking about how we should share our favorite cellared beverages with people I did just that by throwing a party when Fuz was in town to visit. Seven or eight beers I’d made over the past few months were brought up to share with people and for the most part the feedback was good. Or at least people were having a good time and had no reason to complain, so no news is good news.

I was too busy hosting to take notes about how things might’ve fared after a few months but luckily a few beers survived the party. Drinking them now, here are my impressions.

IPA 6 (the sixth IPA I made in ’09)- had a mild sweet citrus with a low level sweetness in the nose. Slightly sharp bitterness at the very end but it’s not an IPA anymore. Pale, maybe? Amber with some bitterness? Not quite sure, but it is still quite drinkable.

ISB (an ESB I overhopped) – a soft piney nose, like wet pine from the forest. Some maltiness in the middle and it’s a good thing there’s some carbonation in there because it’s got a sharp, rising bitterness at the end. The relief of carbonation helps offset that sharpness somehow. Maybe not for everyone but a good beverage, for sure.

IPA 5 (the fifth IPA I made in ’09) – has a much thicker head and it shows that I dry hopped it; tiny chunks of hop plant are suspended in the foam and the beer itself. This has a much stronger nose initially but by the time I went to write about it the scent was nearly gone. A ghost of citrus. What is left is a beer with a flash of malt and then a strong bitterness streak at the end that camps out on the middle of my tongue.

It’s nice that these beers all held up after a few months. I’m in the process of making some milder ales now and I don’t think I’ll have the same luxury.

The Local: The Tanker

Tanker barDear Tanker:

I want to come to the bar more often. There is always a solid selection of beers on tap. Few in number, the quality of brews makes up for it and there are usually daily specials, like the 10 Barrel Pray for Snow pint I got for three bucks. Music selections include the Ramones, Motorhead, Rocket from the Crypt, Pelican and get more obscure from there. It’s easy to get here if it’s raining like hell or the city has been snowed in. The food is tasty. In short, you’re pretty damn close to a bar I’d make if I made bars.

However, there are five televisions in a space that is a little over twice the size of the living room of a house. This is a problem. Those televisions compete so very hard for people’s attention and I get it when there’s a sporting event on but when there isn’t…it’s just too much.

There’s a Wii. Let people have at it. My best memories come from times when people were doing anything but watching sports here; chatting up, enjoying their drinks and the company. Hell, I was in here once when the satellite went out-everyone was having a great time while two hapless bartenders tried to get it going again. Nobody cared; it was Friday night and we were too busy having fun.

Right now, there’s people chatting and good music but I’ve had to strategically seat myself so one TV is blocked. A second is off. I can still see two without effort. That’s just too much if I want to interact with another human being. Even writing is difficult-but let’s face it, I’m a Professional. Do not try this at home.

Less TV. More music. Let it be more like it is tonight and I’ll be happy. Turn the lights up more so I can play cards here and I’ll come regularly.

The 10 Barrel I’m happy to say is delish. It tastes like a brown ale and has the creamy smoothness of one, with a little heat and sweetness at the end hinting at a slightly higher alcohol percentage and a Belgian yeast. But there’s as hint of pine in the nose that throws me off. Not in a bad way; the beer is really good but it throws the kind of curveball that maybe I ought to expect in Portland but am still surprised about.

I stick my head up to try and catch what I’m listening to. It takes two verses before I realize that it’s a crusty punk version of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” This is what I want to go to bars for.  Gimme more of that, less Family Guy. Please?

I don’t like the stout but the stout likes me

While it is true that I don’t like to go out on St. Patrick’s Day, I still really enjoy stouts. As a matter of fact the last stout I made has shown a marked improvement on my previous efforts, as it has the mouthfeel I’d expect from the style; creamy and easy drinking with very little of the coffee bitterness, just the coffee flavor. A definite winner for me.

Ginger stout '10Still no (or very low) carbonation but that can be forgiven in this case. What I’m really looking at is the use of the C-20 malts, as I think that may’ve contributed to the moutfeel.  Recipe is as follows:

Grains steeped for about an hour
1 lb chocolate malt
.5 lb C-20
1 lb Black Patent

Fermentable malts
7 Light Malt Extract

1 oz Nugget @70
.75 oz mystery pellets @ 40 (I used to know the name and then the marker on the bag rubbed off)

1 1.8th oz Ginger @ 30

Wyeast American Ale 1272

Initial Gravity was 1.07
Terminal Gravity 1.02

Personal Notes:  I added the fermentable sugars late to the boil and it dropped the temperature so I ended up waiting for the  wort to come back up to about 170 degrees (or so). This meant I boiled the ginger for longer than I meant to. The wort was starting to smell just a bit vegetal and I was starting to worry. Luckily, everything came out great.

The Local; Horse Brass

pint and computer at horse brassLet’s just get it out of the way: It’s my birthday today. I don’t expose this fact for acclaim, I do so to explain why I’m at the Horse Brass tonight with a Hercules Double IPA from Great Divide. It’s sometimes difficult to choose a pub to go to and I have a desire to save the really good pubs, the ones I know, for days when I’ll be in need.

But if not my birthday, then when?

To most Portlanders, especially those who like beer, there is no need to explain the Horse Brass. But for those who do not live here I shall explain. A Mecca of fine suds, the Horse Brass is about as close to a British pub as one could find in Portland, maybe even this side of the Rockies. Perhaps even the Mississippi. Until the smoking ban, everyone smoked and the yellow walls carry the memory of those times. British paraphenalia holds the walls up more than plaster and there’s a punk painting of Oscar Wilde in the kitchen. It’s dim, scroogly windowed and eschews televisions for darts.

One of, if not the first, bar in Portland to focus on bringing in beers from abroad in the 1970’s when good beer was a rarity in America, the Horse Brass became a locus of hop heads, anglophiles, lovers of the weird and Portlanders. The legend says that the founders of Rogue and Widmer planned their brewery from these beaten tables, and the owner, Don Younger is well known for his influence over the Portland beer scene. You’ll see him occasionally, sitting at the southwest corner of the bar as though he was keeping secret meetings. Never at at table though and who can blame him; the chairs come from a primitive time, when duration mattered and comfort was for sissies.

It’s a pub, damnit. And this is the coolest thing that ever happened to me here:

About four years ago I had come to the Horse Brass on a Friday night, writing away at a table that insisted on two chairs and barely accommodated one person. I was grinding away as writers sometimes do, but I was getting short on my second pint and I have a rule: after the second pint no serious writing can be done. Emo poetry, dirty limericks, odes to women to come and lost, theories about the dinosaur-republican conspiracy, the link between pot and liberals, all these things are fair game on pint three.

But there was no pint three; I was in a mood. Even in my mood though, I began to notice a general rise in the boisterousness of the Horse Brass. Not ‘my sports team is winning’; that kind of joy is too short lived. But an honest to god shift in the bar. What was once a lively Friday night became a cheerful ambiance where giving a stranger a hug would seem ok. It radiated from about four feet away from the table I’m currently sitting at, right under the portrait of Churchill.

I looked at the table. Three men, one woman. They were unpacking small clear pouches of tobacco; “Cherry ’03”, “2000 Blend” was the writing on some of them. Pipes were brought out, serious pipes, and the delicious scents of tobacco began to fill the air; vanilla, cherry, fine tobacco.

The ban on smoking is due to cigarettes. People wouldn’t object in nearly the same numbers if people smoked this kind of tobacco from pipes. Trust me. (Note; Cigars still suck balls)

The waitress came by, asked me if I wanted another beer. I waved her off. She repeated her request but this time I listened: “The table there is buying the bar a round. Are you sure you don’t want a beer?”

Little legos stacked together in my mind. Everything made sense! And yes, of course I wanted another beer.

And then other legos stacked. Friday night at the Horse Brass…and they bought the BAR a round? Holy shit!

Eventually, I worked up the courage to speak to the table. I thanked them for the beer; they asked me what I was doing and we talked about writing a bit. They were extremely congenial and turned the conversation very neatly away from themselves. Other people were thanking them, albeit briefly; I attempted to engage in a conversation…though not very well. I’m a susceptible to someone taking an interest in what I do as anyone.

The conversation ended, minutes passed and I realized I had stupidly not asked the obvious question. With an embarrassed tone I leaned over and spoke to the table again.

“Why did you do this?”

And there it was. A frozen moment. I don’t know if nobody had asked them or if they just were not sure how to answer. It was a second, tops, but a second in which I understood that they were making a private joy public by doing something awesome. That someone would ask why wasn’t something that had occurred to them.

“We just has a a really good day,” one of them said. Perhaps it is memory, maybe I actually picked up on something but I’m not entirely sure that they had a really good day. However I had just enough social graces to know that I’m being asked to drop the subject so I let it go. They wanted to do something awesome; who was I to ask for their bona fides?

So I congratulated then and said thank you once more, packed my journal into my bag, tipped my had and said goodbye.

It was, hands down, one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me and someday I’d like to do it myself. Because raising the happiness experience at a place like that seems pretty damn amazing to me. Who wouldn’t do that if given the chance?

The Professional

As everyone in America knows; it’s Saint Patrick’s Day.

I don’t begrudge anyone their pint of stout. Have at thee!

But this professional is staying home. Too many people thinking they can take on too much in too short a timeframe. They inevitably cause more trouble than they ought to. Not that I don’t enjoy a good party, I just find it difficult to get excited about crowds of amateurs drinking and St Patrick’s Day is all about amateur hour.

Plus, my curmudgeonly behavior means that I can take St Patty’s Day off. Who’s got the holiday now, baby!

Bonus: The Onion reminds you that people order Budweiser.

The Local: Matchbox Lounge

matchbox lounge“For meetings that are not entirely business, but not exactly personal either, the best places are litle pubs, with five or six tables at most.” -Anton Gorodetsky, Twilight Watch by Sergi Lukyanenko.

I’m all scattershot now.

Usually I arc out a narrative as I walk to the bar. In this case, it was going to be something about how the Whiskey Soda lounge wasn’t for me but when I left I walked by the Matchbox and thought; I didn’t know that was a pub! So here I am.

On my way here though, about 42nd and something, just after walking under the monkey arm tree, I heard a jingling, a kind of limp beat. Looking for the source I saw a fuzzy kitty, brown-gray with a black collar, limping between two houses. It’s silver and red tags clanging together as it gimped to what I hope was a safe location, left forepaw held up and dangling in the way that animals have when they’ve hurt a limb, it caused me to stop.

Owch. You need help there?

The cat stopped and looked at me. None of your nonsense human; I’m on my way home.

I certainly hope so.

Though I began walking on and heard the jingle of movement I still worried. The cat has a home, fortunately.

Now instead of a narrative I have jumbles of thoughts, like a Boggle board; scents of pine, lemongrass, and smoke, girls playing on their front porch, a strange starburst shaped thing with blue and purple colors on another, and look, there’s a Cube.

Who the fuck thought that Cube was a good name for a car? Brought to you by the people who named ‘orange’.

The Matchbox treats. The bartender has an Isis shirt on and we talk about the upcoming Melvins/Isis split and tour. All of fifteen seconds and the Lounge has won me over because there’s a heavy metal bartender. The art on the wall ranges from multimedia to sparse, local artists with their wares on display, a solid wal-o-hol and a nice jukebox selection; some music expected, some not. Plus, I can see from there Johnny Cash is there and liking Johnny Cash is pretty much quintessentially American. Not everybody is going to get Metallica or Crooked Fingers; everybody gets The Man in Black.

I got a Daily Bread common ale. I keep trying common ales in part because it was an extinct style-or nearly extinct-and I like the idea that what is lost can be revived. It’s the Roman Catholic in me; I have a thing for redemption, even if it’s beer. Actually, beer makes more sense than anything else.

However, the style just never quite works for me. A little thin in front like sweet air, a bit too bitter at the end, slightly dry finish in this case. I probably would’ve been better off with an IPA but I cannot resist the glory of new things. I think I’d rather have a proper mild ale than a common but oh well. What’s done is done.

The bartender removes a bottle of Johnny Walker red to light a candle behind it. I like that there are hidden candles. I don’t know how the drinks are here but I think this might make a good alternate for the Victory lounge on nights when that place is crowded.

I hope that cat made it home. It bothers me that I had to let it go. I am not a cat person but I dislike seeing someone limp.