Whatever You Say #21

I was driving in the neighborhood a few weeks ago when I saw Breakside Brewery and remembered posts at the New School about it. ‘I need to go there,” I thought.

Then last week I saw a post at It’s Pub Night about the place and I figured that was a sign. Time to get out there and see what they got.

The fellow I ask is typing away on his smartphone, sitting next to a friend/sweetheart who is also typing on her smartphone. Modern romance?

He’s having the house IPA. I am too-though I have to wait a brief moment while the keg gets changed. IPAs are still popular all around the city, I suppose.

I slip in at the bar and try to get a measure of the place. I don’t know why but it feels a little chilly in here. Probably just me but I almost feel like I’d come back in the summer and find the place very comfortable.

I love the bar though; there’s a wood frame around what appears to be a series of old steel plates forming the surface -I can see the welds in spots- that’s been smoothed over and coated with something transparent so you can still see the years of wear on the metal. I’m not sure if this is recycled or has been weathered to look this way but I dig it a lot.

The rest of the space gives me a vibe that stops just short of hipsterism. It’s a nice place but like so many nice places in Portland, nobody is insisting that you conform to an elegance or acting as though they’re too good to be here. I have a feeling that this place can get amusingly racous on the weekends or annoyingly loud and I’m not sure what would push it one way or another.

breakside ipa

Sitting at the bar though, I get to watch the staff interact a bit and I’m leaning towards amusing because they seem to be an easygoing bunch.

The IPA is a good one; milder than the usual and with a pleasant orange blossom/citrus nose/bitterness. The bitterness sneaks up too, and a little over halfway through my glass I’m noting a very pronounced bite to the brew. Good in small doses for those who don’t like the bite, good in larger ones for those who do.

Was it worth it?

north coast aleSo, check that out. This beer was recommended to me by an employee of Belmont Station and at $25 I balked at the price.

“It’s worth it,” he assured me.

This is North Coast Brewing’s Old Stock Ale from 2009 and it smells like a bourbon barrel plus raw maple syrup with hints of chocolate underneath, even suggesting red wine. The head diminishes quickly, though there are tiny bubbles that ride through the whole experience of drinking the contents of my glass.

And it is luscious. Everything you might like about a very nice sip of whiskey, with the softness of an old ale, and on top of that there is a nutty, maple finish that shows up at the end hugs your tongue goodbye when it leaves. It’s sweet from the malts but halts short of cloying by a respectable margin. If you drink this beer on an empty stomach, you’ll feel a little heat in the belly from the 13+% alcohol but that doesn’t make itself known in the mouthfeel at all.

As it happens, I’m drinking this with a little Anchient Heritage cheese made from sheep’s milk. It’s a very mild cheese that melts easily on the roof of your mouth and has just enough sharpness to allow for the next taste of beer to come through.

The Old Stock Ale is really, really good. It’s also really, really expensive with just over a pint in the bottle I purchased. I can’t say that I agree with the expense on a regular basis but I will say that should you have the opportunity to try some, jump on it because it’s truly wonderful.

Whatever You Say #20

One bonus about a holiday is that I get a chance to go to places that are otherwise a touch too crowded to adequately visit otherwise. Such is the case for my visit to Hopworks.

Now, make no mistake; I don’t begrudge the success of the HUB; rather, I think it’s a great thing. Despite my adoration of places that aren’t too successful, {admittedly so I can have the space to get a beer whenever I want} I think that rewarding good people who do good work and have an ethic that wants to look at success long term, ought to be rewarded. It just means that when I decide to visit for a blog post, I need to pick a time of day that makes my writing possible. On the upside, it means that my girlfriend can join me and I am absolved of having to approach a stranger. All in all, a pretty cool situation.

porterShe’s having a Kronak the Bourbarian, a bourbon barrel aged porter which means so am I. Truly, this is what it means to suffer, right?

This beer has a bourbon strand running through it like a big carmel colored thread moving through a quilt. In the nose, in the finish but softer in the mouth, the caramel flavor of bourbon waves hello like a neighbor you’re always happy to see. On top of that, it’s light and complex without feeling thin. Quite an accomplishment.

In short; it’s good. Very good and if you like the style, have some.

The girlfriend and I chat. There is a deliberate attempt to keep things light, because we have been making moves toward purchase of a house. It hasn’t been all serious business but it’s been a bit more intense than usual and I think that anyone who’s been in a relationship for awhile understands that if things are intense for long enough, sometimes you just have to go out, have a few beers and some chicken strips and laugh. Burning the candles for too long just leads you to ash, you know.

helles

I’m finishing off my porter, she’s still got about a third left when the announcement comes from a redheaded woman with long, poofy hair and olive green waders that HUB is putting a new beer on tap: a Helles Bock. And everyone is invited to try a pint for free.

So not only am I having Whatever You Say, I’m having Whatever They Say. That is pretty awesomesauce, I have to say..

Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the Helles.  I want to be, understand. I like Hopworks and I know they do good work-especially in the pilsner arena. On top of that, it’s free. Complaining about a free thing feels very much like a dick move.

That said; for me, this beer was just a bit too effervescent and had a hint of metallic taste to it. I didn’t get much malty, bready flavors and I couldn’t pick up much in the nose either. I tried to pick up those notes and everything just got washed out by the carbonation. It’s possible that this brew just isn’t for me or that those initial pours just weren’t quite ready yet. My girlfriend couldn’t detect any problems so I’m willing to concede that I might be missing the qualities of the style that make it great. But this sample did not encourage me to try another.

I have no complaints though. After an intense weekend a proper beer was deserved and HUB is a great place to get one.

Evil

From the same mindset that gave us Arrogant Bastard, we now have Concentrated Evil from Fifty/Fifty.

concentrated evilTake a look at that logo. That’s the kind of thing that was destined for a person like me. How am I going to resist trying this at least once?

I’m not. I think I’ve made it pretty clear in the past that I have a weakness for this sort of thing and you can shrug your shoulders and smile and we’ll just go on from here, OK?

The only thing left to discuss is; how is it? The beer claims to be a Belgian with exotic sugars and flavors from raisins and I have to say, the raisin flavor certainly comes through. The nose feels full of really good brown sugar. Nothing exotic or weird about it to me but it’s certainly potent.

There’s a touch of the Flemish Red influence here, I think. The beer doesn’t finish sugary or overly sweet; instead there’s a touch of sourness there that keeps this beer firmly on the rails and prevents me from noticing the 11% alcohol. I don’t know that it’s for everyone, since the sugary nose might be off putting for some and the flavors of the beer don’t follow through with those who may love the nose. That it has discernible flavors despite being that high in alcohol is a big mark it the beer’s favor to me. There’s something I can actually describe to people aside from an alcoholic warmth.

Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like it’s evil enough. It’s strange but I feel like beers with names like this are out to challenge and making them drinkable somehow goes against the point of giving them such names. I have similar issues with Arrogant Bastard. If you’re going to get out there and insist that your audience isn’t worthy or is going to enter into Concentrated Evil then by god I want a beer that pushes some buttons.

On the other hand, who wants an undrinkable beer?

Is this what a lager looks like?

lager I hope so.

I’ve never made one because the style is very difficult to brew. Temperature considerations and delicacy due to the lightness of malts and hops make this style a real challenge for homebrewers like myself who haven’t invested in refrigeration equipment. But I had a proper garage this year so I thought that now would be as good a time as any to give the style a shot. I tried to stay away from my typical tendencies to dabble with the recipe or so anything quirky and just brew this batch straight up.

Pictured is the carboy, just before I bottled the beer. How did things turn out? I don’t know. It’s been put into the bottle and then back in the garage to finish cold.

Spoiler alert: the prognosis does not look good. But if the pros can have the occasional hiccup, then remembering to give myself a little slack is probably appropriate. How does it all turn out? I’ll tell you next month.

Whatever You Say #19

The Agenda feels almost like one of those places that could only exist in Portland and still be criminally under attended. They have a beer list that is way beyond what it ought to be for a bar on 82nd, including a dominant local selection with a wide variety of styles, including Deschute’s Miss Spelt and sour ale from Bear Republic.

Seriously. Who does that but dedicated sour beer spots or serious beer bars?

Plus, they have a giant Jenga game that people are playing. That is practically an autowin right there. I know at least one friend that when she finds out about this, will make the Agenda a must go destination, just to play giant Jenga.

stone pale aleIt’s unfortunately almost deserted and there isn’t anyone who I feel I could approach without being rude. So I explain my dilemma to the bartender who suggests Stone’s Pale Ale to me and we go from there.

A man comes in from the street, complaining about another place he was at where happy couples surrounded him. He finds shelter here and is clearly a regular as he gets a drink and I never hear him order it. He mentions prostitutes as a better option than this lousy holiday and my feeling is; whatever it takes to get you through the day, just don’t hurt anyone.

He’s observing the Jenga game, quietly coaching from the bar, the drama of a ready to topple tower quietly gripping, more interesting than the basketball game on the three televisions despite it’s lack of running and beer ads. There’s an interesting strand of hip-hop on the speakers which gives the joint an undercurrent of pleasantry that I can’t quite capture. You know it when you hear it and I like that.

It’s weird; 82nd roars not but 15 feet from me, the rain and the wind batter about outside but none of those things seem to make it in. The Agenda has, at least for this evening, managed a neighborhood bar feel despite not having a neighborhood. Again; only in Portland would this be ignored.

I almost feel bad about being here, telling people about this place. Everybody needs a bar to go hide out in, friendly enough that you can hang out but anonymous enough that you can become camouflage if you want and I wouldn’t mind having an escape hatch like this place. The beer is good, the price is fair, the happy hour goes until 8, it’s friendly enough that I could be known but on the days when I don’t want to be known, nobody would know me here.

Not that they do but that, of course, is the point.