Needing research

irish aleBefore the whole DoJ debacle where homebrew judging was banned, I’d made an Irish ale to be judged at the OBC event.

However, I didn’t start soon enough and my beer wasn’t ready in time, so now it’s just there to be judged by me.

This beer is closer to a porter than I would like or at least than what I thought an Irish ale ought to be about. Still an amber hue to it but very dark and the coffee notes are prominent. Nose; coffee, flavors; coffee.

Which leads me to ask if this is the way it’s supposed to be? My answer is; despite reading recipes, I just don’t know. I haven’t drank enough Irish ales to say! Sure, it’s a decent beer and I wouldn’t hesitate to offer it to strangers but is it what it’s supposed to be?  I have no idea.

So next time, if I’m working in a style I think I’m going to try and do some research so I know what I’m shooting for. Hard work I know but someone has to do it.

The only (beer related) event I look forward to

I mean, just look at this. Pale ales in Pinot Noir barrels, bock and tripel in whiskey barrels, scotch ale in apple brandy barrels, juniper ales in gin barrels! And that’s alongside the traditional, fantastic pairing of stout aged in bourbon barrels, coupled with a concoction by Cascade that is a mystery prize!

Holy crap. They all look interesting at minimum and part of my “Gimme” strategy at best. Hell, I’d drink most of these beers even if they hadn’t been barrel aged; the fact that extra time and effort went into them just makes this all the better.

Plus, Fuz is coming into town, so we’re off to hit Bailey’s Saturday and I’ll have my (bleary) notes and photos on Wednesday.

The Local: Nick’s Coney Island

I wasn’t going to come to this joint, because it seems like an eatery first, bar second-which amorphous as it is, is my only criteria for a Local but Bill suggested I check it out. So here I am.

Nick’s has been around since 1935 but I didn’t come into the place until late 2009 because every time I walked by the place, it was closed or very, very dark.

So I assumed that it was owned by the Mob. Call it Occam’s Imaginary Razor; the most likely preposterous explanation is the one your brain will come up with and run. What was I supposed to think? It was a bar in a bustling, hip neighborhood that nobody ever seemed to go into or out of. How does a place like that stay open, except as a hideout for shady businessmen?

Admittedly, it’s not the most interesting theory. It could’ve been a bar sent back in time through tachyons, a haunted space from the future, full of newspapers with terrifying, Fark ready headlines like: Redheads extinct, California quake splits state, raises Godzilla, Liz Cheney ‘elected’ President, Aliens have mercy, kill us all.

But no, I simply go with Mafia. Not really a great writer’s imagination at work.

According to the timeline though, Nick opened the place, sold it to Frank, who retired in ’08 and sold it to Ty who spends a year or so renovating the place and…here we are.

Yet, despite all that history and an overwhelming amount of sports related memorabilia on the wall (much of Yankee related) Nicks doesn’t feel like there’s much of a vibe here. The music is early 90’s alternative. The TV is baseball or softball. There’s nothing wrong with this place but I’m not sure what is here to bring me back.

Look at it this way; if you read this blog, you’re reading in part for my perspective. The other good beer blogs around Portland (or anywhere) do the same thing.

And there’s nothing wrong with Nick’s, but what’s right?

nicksWell, let me tell you; they have their own beer. I doubt it’s brewed here but unlike any other place I’ve been to on the Local, they have their own brew, Nick’s TKO, an amber bock that’s malty enough to put up a good backbone against their food and fizzy enough to wash away the flavors and get you ready for the next bite.

That’s pretty cool, as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it would’ve been pretty awesome to have a haunted time-travelling bar from the future but a nice bar with a decent amber is a close second.

Also; the service is good. Bartender was prompt, friendly and from the neighborhood. I like that.

And next time, I think I’ll arrive hungry. The menu seems to have a certain swagger when it comes to their food; I think I’d like to put it to the test.

52 Weeks 53: Cascade Imperial Wheat IPA

So, Fuz comes into town and we have a chance to get a beer.

What’re ya gonna do?

You’re gonna drink an imperial wheat IPA, that’s what you’re gonna do.

In a way, this is a preview to the 31st, when Bailey’s 3rd anniversary event happens. There will hopefully be more people in my party but Fuz and I will, in our own way, form the core of people there to amuse ourselves on interesting beers.

As a matter of fact, it’s him who points out the Cascade Imperial Wheat has a metallic flavor-an interaction, he thinks, between the wheat and the hops. Personally, I like what the wheat has done for the mouthfeel of this beer; it’s softer, a bit fuller, but the metallic sensation is a twinge off putting. Too bad, because I want to like this brew. Unfortunately for the both of us, Fuz’s Double Brown on nitro doesn’t fare much better. The coffee nose is a bit too strong for my tastes, and this brown on nitro just doesn’t seem to benefit much.

That’s OK though; Great Divide’s Yeti awaits and GD never disappoints.

We’re a nerd couple tonight-Fuz is doing some work on his laptop and I’m doing this blogpost. It’s almost adorable.

I feel a bit calmer here. After the Local is done I think I’ll come back to Bailey’s again. Not just because the beer selection offers more variety; the space just offers me the ability to settle my mind and observer a little more.

Not that my adventures are done. Oh no. There are some wonderful places to visit and I don’t want to be found lacking-but it’s always good to find a few home bases.


I was reading this post at the New School and it just reminded me; I haven’t been to the Rock Bottom in a long time, and they do fantastic brews. And just yesterday I went by Beermongers to get some brews for the podcast, which reminded me that I like that store too and I don’t get there enough.

All of this, of course, serves to remind me that I haven’t been to the Slingshot lounge in wayyy too long. Although I have been recently employed, money is still an issue and that can make me a little reluctant to head out; almost a mental block, even. However…I like to patronize the places I dig on, especially the ones that aren’t extremely popular because that helps ensure I have a place to chill out and play cards.

With all the pubs out there, what reminds you to go back to one you liked?

Take a deep breath everyone

Look, I realize that a lot of my fellow homebrewers (and others) are upset with the Oregon DoJ’s ruling impacting brew clubs and competitions. But there’s a few things everyone ought to remember.

First, the OLCC didn’t make this decision. Yelling at them is about as productive as urinating on the prison guard to get back at the judge.

Second; there has been, for anyone willing to listen, report after report of politicians trying to help the newly founded OHBA change the law. From members of the OLCC looking for loopholes, to outside associations helping write new policy to politicos willing to back it. (And actually, Chris Hummert, quoted in the WW article, has been one of the most vocal advocates of people in government, who he continually reminds others have been very proactive in trying to help the OHBA.)

Yes, you might have to go six whole months without the traditional elements of a homebrew meeting (namely, the homebrew) but on the scale of things, how long is that, really?

So finally, maybe everyone wanting to try and be clever by circumventing the law, risking whatever punishment in the name of…I don’t  know what, or angrily yell about how ‘The government is taking away our rights, by golly!’ ought to just pause for a moment and look at how many people have come together to help the homebrewing community-who as popular as we are, are still a minority. Maybe they ought to be gleeful at a chance to reform an antiquated law, write their representatives and live well, which is the best way to thumb your nose at the archaic minds at the DoJ who insisted upon such a draconian interpretation of the to begin with.

Which is a much more interesting question to me, anyway. Who benefited from this ruling, and why did they make it?

That’s what I’m trying to keep my eyes out for.

And lastly, I’d like to pause for the closing of Roots Brewpub. Another place I wanted to get to more often than I did. Hope to see their beers on the shelf despite the pub’s closure.

The Local: Bread and Ink

I’m kickin’ it old school today. At the Bread and Ink with a Walking Man Pale Strider-a drop of which has fallen on the pages of my journal. I’m writing on paper today, no laptop to pretend I’m working on, stopping on my way home from work. As the liquid warps the page I think about all the other authors great and small, scribbling away for centuries, maybe more, while having a beer.

walking man pale

Beer hasn’t changed much, has it? Oh, we can gussy it up all we like, in fancy names and extra ingredients but at the end of it; water, grains, yeast. Hops a bit later. That’s it. This is not to ignore or shun the advances in science, contributions of millions of men and women who have improved beer throughout the ages.

But when it’s over, the drink is the drink. Like foolish men have chased silly women, like sunset, like writers have poured soul into ink, ink onto paper, all unchanged. All relentlessly human, so beer has been.

When I started The Local I didn’t expect to come to the Bread and Ink. It was, for all intents and purposes, a cafe, an eatery, and I am not in the habit of going to eateries to drink, inasmuch as one would not go to a lake to surf. Yet here I am.  It is at this point that I have to confess a trait I am not wholly proud of: I am a cheapskate.

Oh I believe in paying for the best thing I can afford, but if the best thing happens to be more affordable elsewhere, or if it’s possible to get the next best thing for significantly cheaper…well, I am on a budget.

And so I am in an inoffensive alt-rock playing cafe; pints are $2.50 all day on Mondays.

In addition, the happy hour food  is all under $5 and you can get some entirely appropriately priced booze. Sure, only until happy hour ends at 6 but for wage slaves like myself on our way home?  You can make out pretty well for $10.

However, I’m trying to get a sense of the Bread and Ink. Why am I here, beyond value–why should you come here? What’s the vibe? I’m near the end of my pint and I don’t know. Is it because this place evokes Portland cliche? Art of plants, cute pictures, chefs in black shortsleeves with precision beards, waitresses both punk and postpunk…have I become used to it all? Is it because this space just is what it is with no pretense to it? Maybe I’m meant to dine here to understand the place.

But it’s also possible that it’s just another stop for a boy and his pen, a place for me to echo the actions of the ages and move on. I got a great pint for a good deal; quit asking for more and go home.

A tale of two wits

One good thing about revisiting brews I’ve done before is that it gives me a chance to learn more. I like to think that I’m not trying to relive the past by brewing an older beer but instead refining my process, learning more about how it’s done. The whole point is to brew right, not in a dictatorial style sense but instead in a consistent manner that produces mostly predictable results.

So it is for this reason that I go back to the camomille wit beer brewed years ago that was eventually served at the Horse Brass. I was part of a team and benefited from the skill and equipment of that team, nevertheless I feel like this brew ought to be within reach.

So I made the wit again. Twice, actually, but I added about half a pound of dark malt extract to one batch. Here’s a photo from the wit without the dark malt:


Looks pretty tasty, ya? Tastes pretty good too. Has a dry finish, slightly bitter and, unfortunately, a touch dirty. I’m not sure what caused that. I did add an extra half-ounce of tea to this batch and it may have boiled a little long. It’s not a ruined brew but it isn’t quite as drinkable as I’d like.

This one-which I made first-I added half a pound of dry dark malt extract to and has a very, very different flavor to it. Let’s take a look:

So this beer is spicier. There’s a cinnamon element that comes in at the end and the dryness of the lighter wit isn’t present at all. Yet the yeast is responsible for all of this; I’m not just a little amazed. The differences are impressive and I’m going to chalk it up to my skill as a brewer that both of them came out pretty well. That the first beer is more obviously complex than the second is good to keep in mind for future brews.