Salvaging pennies

With five singles in my wallet I come to Angelo’s. Yeah, yeah I was here not long ago but I think everyone understands; sometimes you’re broke.

Plus, I can walk here, saving gas and all of these things add up because I’m off to the PAX (which I affectionately call the Geek Riots) this weekend. I’m just solvent enough to afford such trips while being just insolvent enough to clutch at the quarters that spill from my pocket consciously, concerned about holes in my pocket, slippy fingers, the exuberance of one beer more.

So with a Fat Tire amber ale, I catch the easy lingo on the rail at Angelo’s. The beer is notably biscuit flavored and nearly absent any hop presence. It reminds me that I need to do an Irish Ale quest soon.

The bar is populated this time, everyone knows the bartender and they’ve got the easygoing conversation that they can make out easily over the Social Distortion. Things feel loser in here tonight, which is fine by me. There’s a guy wearing a vest and no shirt and jeans so tight I’m fairly certain he’s stepped out of Saturday Night Fever. The barkeep has just tossed the hair of his friend at the bar and they’re casually throwing away a brief trouble spot from an earlier encounter the way good friends tend to do.

It’s almost as though if you had any issues, walking through the door deflated them.

The best places have a knack for doing that.

“But what made you think that’d be drinkable?”

This is what my Dad asked me, when I told him about the chocolate mint beer I was making.

Which is a reasonable question. Chocolate and mint have been longstanding collaborators in the edible world however (though generally as confection) and the results are generally positive. So in this case I’m hoping “Why wouldn’t it be drinkable?” is the better question. The answers will be coming but probably not for a week.

Steeping Malts
1.5 lb choc malt
.5 lb C40
.5 oz Munich

7 lb LME

1 oz Nugget @ 60
.75 oz Nugget @30
Mint @10 3 7/8th oz
1. Oz coco powder, 1 oz sugar

OG 1.061
TG: 1.019

Which gives me 5.45% ABV.

So first I want to thank Fuz for the inspiration for this brew. As for the extra details:

chocolate mint in carboyI used mint that was growing in my back yard; we have a bunch of it, the stuff never goes anywhere and its uses are seemingly limited in the general eating world. I also used a lot of mint because I am tired of adding things to my beers and not being able to taste them in the finished product. What’s the point? So I figure that nothing succeeds like overkill, damnit  and really went for it this time.

I also kept the majority of the malts chocolate; the Munich and C-40 are there for body. Those malts were part of a stout I made earlier this year which had an excellent mouthfeel, so I’m hopeful that effect happens again. In the meantime, I wanted chocolate to be the flavor you got when drinking; the hops are there mostly as a nod to the idea that beer needs hops.

I just bottled this beer and here’s what I can tell you so far; the mint is very strong. At least in the nose. I am just a little worried that my overkill was…uh, overkillery and has wrecked the beer. On the flip side, the flavors of the beer don’t carry the mint much at all. So this may be a rare case when the beer is better out of the bottle than in the glass. Anyway, I’ll know more soon.

What Summer is good for

Farmer's Tan LagerSummer has finally shown up in Portland and in full force. Twenty degree leaps in temperature are just rough on the body. Fortunately, there is beer and the bounty of Summer seasonal ales to help keep people cool. This is especially useful in a city where air conditioning isn’t a common feature.

(Which I feel it shouldn’t be but that’s another story.)

Nonetheless, it is in this spirit that I have gotten Southern Tier’s Farmer’s Tan pale lager. It’s an imperial, which puts the ABV at 9.0%! Woha. Not the kind of beer you can call a session ale.

However it IS the kind of beer you can kick back with over Summertime foods; hot dogs, burgers, salads, sit outside and watch the sun fade out behind the West hills. It’s got all the elements of a good lager-clean, subtle hops, sweeter malts and a good thirst quencher but without the absence of flavor you’d experience from a macrobrew and the kind of kick that a microbrewery might give. What I’m really surprised about is that there isn’t an alcohol warmth present in this beer. That’s a remarkable level of balance, considering there aren’t serious malt or hop notes to compensate for the high alcohol content.

So this is really a brew worth trying; check it out!

Also of note; Lucky Lab’s call for fresh hops to make The Mutt. Consider me interested in how that turns out.

Out and about

mokahSo I’m in a hazy space. Between projects, if you will. The next few weeks of posts will have, I hope, a slightly different flavor as I’m going to play a little fast and loose with my style and what I do. Partly to just relax a little, partly to reconnect to the brews that are being made by other people.

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time talking about places (good, but better if you have someone to be with in a place, a way to anchor the place with an experience and most of our experiences are with people) and less about the beverages I’m having. So for just a little while, randomness and beer.

I was all set to go to the Beermongers tonight until I saw in my email a chance to hit the Southern Tier tasting. While I am on a budget, a chance to try more beers from ST cannot be resisted. Beermongers  I will hit later this week, if the Universe is kind.

So, a friend met me at the Belmont Station and we tried the samples. Then I sat down with a small glass of the Mokah (above) and we got to chat about books, movies, legalization of drugs, and…actually, I think that covers it. I purchased some of the ST summer ale which I’ll talk about later.

In the meantime, enjoy the next few weeks of loose posts and fast brews. Er…loose brews and fast posts?

Either way, there will be less talk about my beers and more talk, I hope, about my experience with the beers I drink. Or just random stuff. Don’t worry, we will resume normal broadcasts soon.

The Gypsy Brewer

I have a short story in the back of my head that uses this idea but like all good fictions, the reality has been done first.

I mean, my idea was to have a post-apocalyptic journey where roving brewers knocked down doors to castled breweries with juggernauts made from kegs and holy relics of brewing but…sure, travel around, pair beer with food. That works too.

PS: thanks to my Dad for bringing this story to my attention.

The Local: Angelo’s

angelos pubThis is a first.

I am the only patron in the bar. It’s me, the barkeep, and three televisions and so if I’m murdered, avenge my death because there’s only one suspect.

Not that I’m going to be murdered; the bartender is someone I know and he’s always been cool. The fact that Tosh .0 is one of the preferred choices on the TV is…well, thinking about it, it’s exactly what ought to be playing.

Angelo’s is the first place I was exposed to Andrew WK. Fittingly, I couldn’t hear the music, I just watched him perform on Saturday Night Live and saw the closed captioning. After reading the words “Party Hard” 300x, I knew I had to get this record. And believe me; it’s one of the best albums of the ’00’s, though it’s hard to admit that, because the album is 110% partying and let’s face it, who wants to say that music for parties is cool when melancholy, self-promotion, preteen heartbreak and in your face American dickishness makes all the money?

Fuck them; It’s Time To Party is one of the best anthems, ever. I’ll put that up against Back In Black, baby. The glories of I Want To See You Go Wild are just waiting to be uncovered. Honestly,the only thing that worries me about getting older is that my ability to have fun will atrophy somehow. Fuck being cool; I want to live in a now (and a future) where I can still smile, laugh, make jokes and have a good time.

The bartender asks me if I want another and I do. We chat; things are rough here. That I’m the only patron right now is unusual from a few years ago–a time we both remember. Him as a bartender, me as patron, but once upon a time Angelo’s was that cool place to be where the hip kids could slum and the oddballs could live it up, all while mixing with the old coot boys who held up the bar in decades past when Hawthorne wasn’t a place to hang out.

I met women here. I met drunks here. I met guys here. I had couples show off their wedding rings. I had an anarchist tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about when I told her democracy didn’t fit with her preferred political system. I wrote personal ads for strangers, argued for the superiority of bands while at levels of drunkeness that proved to be overtoxic the next morning, washed my hands of sins, heard confession and attempted to forgive and forget. I wrote, frequently badly and I will again. A man hauled me out of the bar, pointed West and said; “That is what life is, man” on the 4th of July, in an attempt to get me to watch the fireworks for real instead of on TV.

I have come to Angelo’s for many years and I will likely come for a few more. The carpet is gone to reveal a weird shitty surface that only can be found in dive bars. The craptastic wood paneling has been decimated to show off a rough brick surface that almost feels ancient, like you’re getting to inhabit a place that has soul instead of covering it up with a veneer. There’s alcohol now instead of just beer. It’s dark. You make your connections in the fuzzy world of indoor dusk.

But if you’re cool, nobody cares. Pay for your beer, do your time, and don’t be a dick. That you don’t ‘fit in’ doesn’t have to matter if you are kind, honest and have enough confidence to not put up with the bullshit of assholes. It’s like that here, and it’s why I come back.

Well, that and the $2.50 beer specials daily. I don’t care how cheap PBR is, you cannot beat pints of Fat Tire, Dead Guy, Mirror Pond, Widmer Oktoberfest, or Ninkasi Total Domination for $2.50.You just can’t.

The Experiment part 5

The best part; the tasting.

belgain pialeThe Belgian pale has come out pretty nice. Pleasantly attenuated too; sugars eaten leaving me with a dryness at the end. The sweeter raisin flavors of the Golding hops come through the nose and there’s no hop aftertaste at all. The bubbly effect is similar to champagne, tiny perpetual bubbles that end up residing in the middle of my tongue, right where it crests when I press it against the bottom teeth and the upper corners of my mouth.

irish paleThe Irish pale is a different animal. The yeast aspect makes a tremendous difference; the effervescence is mellower, the head thin and what’s left of the nose doesn’t give me any scent at all, despite adding hops to secondary. Instead, I get sweetness much like the liquid malt I added initially so what I’m learning is that without some serious hops added to secondary or some encouraged bubbly, Golding hops added to secondary really don’t enhance the experience of drinking the beer. It’s also has a little harsher mouthfeel; the finish just isn’t quite as clean as the previous beer, is a little slicker and I’m just not sure that the malts added to this beer were conductive to improving the drinking experience.

If I was to learn anything from this, I’d say that something about your beer needs to be interesting; hops, malt or yeast, or an adjunct that affects flavors in an interesting way. It’s entirely possible that one could build a beer that is more than the sum of its parts, where the contributions of all the elements of a beer make it better than it would be but remove one of those parts and it collapses.

The Local: Bagdad

I have been dreading this visit. It’s one of the reasons I saved it for last; the other being that I was hoping there would be a movie to catch afterward. Alas, I am defeated on the second count, as Knight and Day started an hour ago (a movie I’d need beer to watch) so I start in on the Copper Moon pale from McMenamin’s that I drink at the bar of the Bagdad.

copper paleThere’s no head on the beer–I’m thankful for the extra pour of course but without a head on the beer I’m sadly unable to pull any fragrance from it. How can I appreciate the pale this way?

I didn’t want it to be like this.

Here’s the thing; I really like what McMenamin’s stands for. Taking old buildings, restoring them, putting in funky artwork with moons and jesters and making them cool places to hang out. I dig that. Schools as hotels. Renewed dance halls. It’s all very Portland and like so many things Portland it comes with its own spin on food and drink.

Which have always, always sucked balls. Seriously. Nobody talks about how good the McMen’s beers are, or how they’re hungry for the food here. The fries are greasy and limp. I was put off calamari for years because of an experience downtown. I’ve had inadequate burgers. No restaurant should fuck up hamburgers. Ever. I don’t come here to eat and drink, I come here for events.

So why come here at all, right? Well, like Zach’s Shack, this just has a place in the drinking culture of Portland. I don’t think they were the origin of the concept but they were the first place that I knew of that showed second run movies with beer and pizza and they’ve been doing so at least since I moved to Portland thirteen years ago. I later heard that there was (and is) a theater in Austin, TX that showed movies with beer + food and I believe the idea has caught on elsewhere-I’ve heard Spokane, WA has a venue such as this, but in Portland McMen’s has the greatest presence of the beer theaters.

And I love the Bagdad as a location. Old, with ramps leading up to a balcony. A balcony! Huge movie screen, lights paneled inside the walls to give off a glow so there’s already a sense of being quiet before you see the movie. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to the feeling of old movie theaters from Hollywood’s heyday and with every other row being replace with tables for your food and drink, there’s more than enough room to stretch my legs out and enjoy.

Halfway through my pale I’m comfortable giving it a swirl to see if I can get any hop character from it. I can’t. It’s a bit sweeter than I’d like but I know there’s hops in this beer because I can taste the finishing bitterness.

It’s not bad; not great, not bad. But it’s also a seasonal which I’ve always had better luck with than their regular beers. One after another, I’ve found their perennial beers are pedantic and dull, the kind of ale that makes you think about taking up wine. It’s exciting beer for people who don’t care about beer, maybe?

Or maybe it’s just safe. After all the other risks taken to revamp old buildings and make them interesting, wonderful places to visit, a bit more caution on the brewing angle is how they help ensure money will be made.

The last time I was here I saw Transformers 2 and there is no way to adequately explain how shitty that movie was, except to say that I had three shots of Jager before my arrival and a pitcher of beer to myself during the movie and the film still offended every sense of storytelling I had while freely allowing my pre-teen self to become angry at the fact that my heroes were being abused in such a manner, by men who cared nothing for the great myths and the power of story.

That I saw it at the Bagdad is somehow fitting–but considering my sobriety level at the time I concede that it was the safest option for all concerned.

I’ll give the Bagdad two things; first, the service was good. I’ve no issue with the men and women working here.

Second; the people watching during the warmer months is fantastic. Settle in behind the bar, look out onto the street and every kind of human in Portland will walk by eventually, maybe every kind of human in America. I may hate it here, but there’s something awesome about the location I have to appreciate.