Last Gasp

Before I started my new job, I brewed a beer. Called it the Free Man Stout as a way to celebrate my time unemployed. It has a chocolate liquor nose but with a nice level of carbonation, the beer feels pretty light. I did well with this one.

Brew Date: 2.15.10

Steeping Malts
1bl chocolate malt
.75 lb Munich
.5 lb Black Patent

2 Cups Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Molasses

1 oz mystery hop pellets @60
.75 oz mystery pellets @ 20
.75 oz Ginger @ 10
1/4 tsp? Ground nutmeg @1-

reused Ginger Stout 10 yeast 4th use, done

IG 1.078

TG 1.021

put into 2ndary 2/25
Bottled 3/23

Finished drinking 4/30

Food pairings

I’ve found my way to this post on pairing beer with food at The Kitchen. It’s pretty good advice for people who like beer and may not be sure how to pair it with food. They lay out guidelines as such, not as rules, which I find to be a wise choice when dealing with any food.

If I had one sticking point, I suppose it would be their statement “And Belgian beers can handle just about anything!”

I have two issues with this statement: first, I don’t think you can really say ‘Belgian beers’ and have it mean something like German or British beers, where those nations have some iconic styles that are associated with the country, lager and porters in this case. Given the number of breweries in Belgium, what can the statement possibly mean?

Second, because of the sheer range of styles from Belgium, beers can range from banana sweet, clove flavors to raspberry tart and chocolate to sour. Even amongst the flavors I mentioned, Belgian beers can run to an extreme; cloyingly sweet to stomach-churning sour, depending.

Are these the kind of flavors that can handle just about anything?

That said, I can get behind this article on dessert beers a hell of a lot faster.

The Local: Zach’s Shack

I’m having an Alameda El Torrero IPA in a glass that’s been in the freezer.

This is not the ideal way to drink a beer-let’s just get that out of the way from the start. Even if you want a lager, unless it’s a summer day there’s just no reason for a glass that’s been in the freezer. In the case of this beer, almost all the other flavors or scents are stolen by the cold and I’m left drinking a beer with a bitter aftertaste.

Moreover, why am I at Zach’s anyway? They do hot dogs and fries. Their selection of beer is limited at best, though the choices are never displeasing. There’s an ice skating competition on one of the TVs. It’s not a pub.

zack's shackThere’s also hockey playoffs on two other televisions, which are located in areas that allow visitors to ignore them. Promo posters for Radiohead, Maktub, Neil Young and My Morning Jacket. A portrait of Bill Hicks above a 90’s era jukebox. A staff that gets why you’ve arrived. So there’s something here but that’s not why I’ve come.

I’ve come to Zach’s Shack because it is part of the drinking culture. Sure, you can come in, get a good hot dog/sausage, beer, fries, call it good. But you’d be missing the point.

The point comes when it’s 1:45 am and your night isn’t quite done yet. When you’d get another beer if you could but really, really what you need is a basket of french fries. There’s no sense in lying to each other about this. Those nights happen. Oh sure, maybe less than they used to, maybe a bit more for some of my readers but they do happen. It’s late. You’ve been walking a bit and the drinks have overwhelmed you-not in an evil way but in a; I’m going to sleep on my friend’s couch tonight, way.

Before that, however, the Universe needs to provide me with fries.

So Zach’s Shack exists so we can make that final pilgrimage to remember the day, burn our fingers on hot fries and smile once more before we go home. Maybe you have a pint, maybe you share a pint, maybe you’ve had enough. It’s all good to me-and I’d bet all square by them, too.

Just the same…

I didn’t know Toby Day but I’ve met Lisa Morrison and if she says he was a stand up guy then it must be so.

There will a chance to honor his memory on Sunday; you can read about why at her blog.

If you do decide to contribute and have a pint, you can do so at these locations on April 25th:

Sam Bonds Garage
The Bier Stein
Cornucopia (2 locations)

The Moon & Sixpence
Concordia Ale House
Roots Organic
The Horse Brass Pub

Uber Tavern
Brouwer’s Cafe

A bit here and there

For those of you who haven’t seen or heard about it, the winners for this year’s World Beer Cup are announced here. I’m a little stunned that there aren’t more winners from non-US countries. I’m not sure if that’s because there were just an overwhelming amount of beers entered from the US or for some other reason.

Also, I’ve found out that Hopwork’s Gigabit IPA has been made open source. You can read more about that awesome stuff at Taplister. I think I’ll have to try my hand at that beer soon. I can compare it to the original and see how I did!

Finally, I’ve got a friend coming into town next week and I think he’s going to want a bit of a beer tour with my -ahem- expertise to guide us.  Bailey’s is a clear choice but do my readers have any suggestions?

The Local: Bar of the Gods

I walk in to Busta Rhymes‘ Gimme Some More. It’s the kind of place that fearlessly bleeds hip-hop and punk rock.

The BOG used to be a dive but I’m not sure it qualifies anymore. The back room became a kitchen, they expanded eastward and now there are windows letting in natural light. The bathrooms are no longer supremely cramped locations you have to walk a maze to get into. There’s a back patio with heat lamps and shelter from the rain. It has, in a word, upgraded.

bog ceilingThen again, the tables are longer than the seats, awkwardly sticking out into the walkway, the walls are emo black, I’m pretty sure the floor tiles had some kind of color once and there isn’t a non-muted source of light. The windows have large thick velvet curtains to stave the sun away. It hasn’t strayed too much, is my point.

The BOG is a place that likes the dark. If you can see clearly, something is off. It also likes it loud; the music causes everyone to shout even when talking about really boring things. Hard to appreciate that in a bar. I think this place is at it’s best when the sonic level is just a bit lower.

There are a few really interesting things about the BOG though; first, the food is really good. Surprisingly so, really. Chicken strips that are really lightly breaded, meatball subs you can get with bacon, secials like roasted red pepper, white bean and artichoke heart dip served with some veggies and pita bread; just the kind of stuff that I want with my Ninkasi Double Red.

Second; it’s the only bar I’ve been in where someone actively doesn’t like me. There’s a woman I see sitting at the bar sometimes and she seems familiar but I do not recall her. And that’s the weird part; as far as I know I haven’t interacted with this person. I don’t know her name, I only know her because she’s in the ‘hood. When she looks at me though, her eyes hope something bad happens to me soon. So I don’t try to talk to her.

Fortunately, she is not here tonight. I do not know how I may have offended her but maybe it’s for the best. Everyone needs a nemesis, even if it’s a low key one.

So much to do!

There’s a Meet the Brewery event at Belmont Station for Brewer’s Union Local 180. But I have plans to make beer…so that’s what I’m doing instead.

Mildish recipe;

1 lb 6 Row
.5 lb Victory
.5 lb Munich

7 lb Light Malt Extract

1 oz Santitam pellets @ 60
1 oz  Nugget @ 20

Yeast: reused from previous mild, 3x use so no reuse after this.

Responsible brewing

Bite me.

That sums up my initial reaction to this article on BrewDog’s latest super-high-alcohol brew.

This has a lot to do with what I’m reading into this article, which strikes me as holier than thou, wanting to look down its nose at BrewDog-or someone-for making beers that (gasp) get you drunk.

There’s a bizarre sideways-implied insistence that there should be ‘responsible brewing’ in regards to alcohol content. What the hell does that mean? And if it’s a charge you want to make, why not start with Jack Daniels or Sky Vodka? Sorry; it just riles me when I see foolishness.

The only responsibility BrewDog has is to make good beer. I would hope that they’d go about it in an ethical manner, considering the amount of water used to make beer, the use of spent grains and hops once the beer is made, etc. Ensuring the drinking possibilities of future generations is what I consider to be responsible brewing.

After that, what those guys and gals do is up to them. At no point should the question be asked; is it responsible to brew this beer that is going to get people drunk?

Because the question is dishearteningly stupid. Beer will get you drunk. It’s a bonus to the rest of the things we love about beer and yes, we need to be aware of the consequences when we drink. But why should the brewers think about that?

The Local: the Vern

Vern signAh, the Vern. There’s still an old jukebox here, although old in this case means CDs but there are a couple in there that are personal mixes, one with a title “For the guys who dropped out in 1982 and went bowling”.

What’s not to love?

I walked about a mile to get a beer tonight. I think that’s about all one ought to ask from a man who wants a drink. And they have awesome drink specials here, too; one could get Arrogant Bastard for 2.50! Two freakin’ fifty.

Sure, you have to be here on a Wednesday but so what?

As I’m a bit short myself this month I got one of today’s specials, Rogue’s Dead Guy. I don’t think there’s much for me to add to someone’s Dead Guy experience. It’s an amber, sometimes thought of as an alt. I’ve frequently seen references to Dead Guy being a pretty fine example of the style. You either like it or you don’t.

As for the Vern, I suppose you could say the same thing. Enough TVs to keep you occupied but not so many they can’t be ignored. Couple pool tables. A woman shying just away from authoritative rants on the Blazers. Bartenders who step outside to smoke, leaving patrons alone for a few puffs.

It’s not as dark as it used to be I remember that much distinctly; there were fewer windows letting light in, once upon a time. The Vern was probably the first bar I wandered into in Portland and I’ve always liked it; punk rock, heavy metal and old school country vibing just fine with each other, bike messengers with tattoos and rods in their brows.

I never fit in, though. No tats. The scars I had all accident-inflicted. The Vern just was never local enough-just outside of the range most people want to go just to get a beer and hang out. If I was living somewhere else that might not matter but when you can throw a rock and hit three different bars…

What can I tell you? Humans are generally lazy.

I wonder if I’ve been going about this project all wrong. Monday nights are frequently dead zones for pubs and while that lets me focus on the writing it also gives me less to write on. Pubs should be lively. Most of the time you can even count on it. Fridays would be too busy but Wednesdays, maybe?

Hm. Wednesdays.

There’s something to be said for tradition, though. Even the Vern knows it. Sure, it’s cleaned up, made nice but not so much that the mildly-ostracised can’t come in and enjoy. The paint job helps but the carpet has duct tape forcing it to the floor. I’m not sure there’s anything after 1988 in that jukebox. There’s a working payphone by the men’s room and an array of pinball machines. No videogames. I wouldn’t say walking in here is a time warp but maybe instead a place where time stops, even if briefly.

Spring beer and wine festival

I enjoyed my experience at the Spring Beer and Wine festival and not just because I was able to have a beer while volunteering. Since I wasn’t pouring beer, just talking to people, I had an opportunity to walk around and sample a few wares. I arrived for a late shift though, so my selections were limited and became extremely narrow rather quickly.

One surprise for me was the lack of smaller breweries. Perhaps their slots were taken up by wineries? But I got the impression that there were a lot of crafts and service oriented booths and not nearly so many servers of the hootch.

That aside; I got to talk to a bunch of people about homebrewing and after it was all over, I got a beer. No complaints. Now onto my notes.

The good:

Block 15 Pappy’s Dark
I’ve been hearing about Block 15 for awhile and they were on the short list of breweries to check out. Pappy’s dark is a super smooth 10% stout, like drinkable chocolate.

Calapooia Riparian
A bitter ipa with a solid but not overpowering pine nose. The lingering bitterness isn’t coating but lingers which means it’s for fans of the style.

The OK:

Everybody’s Brewing Country Boy IPA
Pine cone nose with a big bitter finish. The effervescence helps cut it but the balance is skewed. Not bad, just not a big impression.

Howe Sound Diamond Head oatmeal stout
A mellow oaty nose which was a touch overcarbonated for me. Served a little cold too. It might be a better beer than this is showing if served by a proper venue. Bonus; a Canadian brewery! I hope to see more of them in Portland as I had so many good beers while in Vancouver and Victoria.

festival glassThe glass:
Luck of the draw gave me a glass that changed colors when cold liquid was in it. I got more comments on the glass than I got on anything else-which I suppose is as good thing. At the very least it was a good conversation starter.

The bad:

Mateveza ale Yerba Mata IPA
Faint IPA nose and it was suggested that old hops were used, keeping this beer from really standing out. What followed was a thin beer with a green tea finish with bitter polyphenols a bit like the CDA beers. I just didn’t like it.

Jam Bands:

They suck.