More failures

So here we go again.

That is to say; after the last couple lager disasters I decided to go back to ales, this time using a lager malt bill with an ale yeast. Less complicated to brew, coupled with the things I learned after the last few less than awesome beers but with some of the lightness of a lager should equal awesome, right?

Not so much. Yes, some things are improved; the beer is clearer (which may not be so apparent from this photo but I do believe it to be the case) and a great many of the off flavors have disappeared.

Not to say that they all have; just a very tiny hint of phenolic hits at the end of the beer. I’ve since taken bleach to the carboy this beer was kept in, just to take an extra sanitizing step. If that doesn’t work, I’m moving to radiation.

But what IS quite visible is that there is no head on this beer. No carbonation at all.

And damnit, a lager just isn’t a lager without some foam to wipe from your lips. So it’s back to the drawing board. The off flavors are receding so I feel that I’m making progress along those lines; temperature monitoring and more effort on cleanliness seem to be improving many things. That’s a good feeling: I do X and Y becomes the payout.

But I have yet to find the X that equals a Y where Y  is “My beer is carbonated in an appropriate time.”

Sure, if I wait two months, the beer will be carbonated. Who has that kind of time?

Whatever You Say #28

I have come to Migration to meet a friend and play some cards. After the last two weeks of going to dive bars, I’ve felt a little more alienated. Everyone there knew each other, told their stories and had a sense of comradery that I just missed on. Approaching strangers was harder in a way, because the communities were set up and I am not one of them. So I was hoping that visiting with some friends would be a nice way to break that solitude up.

There has been a communication mixup though and I am all alone…and the Blazers game is starting. Playoff game vs. Dallas.

The Old Silenus Amber I have is good and so is my meatball sub. No complaints about the edibles or the service. But the crowd is into the game. I’m lucky; I can’t see the TV from where I’m sitting and as I look out at everyone, staring at the TV like Jebus has come back, slack jawed, glassy eyed, I am glad.

I’m starting to hate these people, utter strangers. They’re cheering and getting happily riotous for men who are running around to throw balls through hoops.Words like ‘foul trouble’ actually mean something. I get it at first but as the pub gets more and more crowded and fuller of fervor and I become more and more unhappy that I am here.

It’s like this all over Portland and Dallas and god knows where else, this crazed energy and attention towards shit that does. not. matter.

I have to get out of here and I can see rain hitting the window as I clear my plate. For reasons I’m making up but don’t  understand, it makes sense that the weather is going to shit when I want to leave, so I figure why not take advantage and get to the gone.

When I open the door to leave, hail is pelting the asphalt.

Perfect. Because why not?

My skin gets soaked, the wind blows raindrops off the brim of my hat onto my cheeks and I realize why I’m getting angrier and angrier.

This is what they cheer for. Not Bradley Manning’s transfer, not against GE’s greed.

The Blazers-a team they have no personal interactions or connections with, nor a game they are actually playing-winning a game. The world as this group knows it is collapsing and they cheer for proxies instead of themselves. Loudly, with a zeal that makes it impossible to think or interact with anything that isn’t a game happening thousands of miles away.

We are more willing to see ourselves in sports heroes than victims and I want to be anywhere but here.

Vacation recommendations

While in Spokane I had the pleasure of meeting some friends at Jones Radiator and I dug it. There was a broad selection of beers to choose from and the space was just big enough to feel roomy but not crowding.

It also feels old; I was told that it was once a veterinary clinic but prior to that, nobody knew. It’s in an area of town that has been around for awhile and has the railroad running nearby, so it’s got the weathered brick building vibe going on, along with the more compact build of old buildings.

Which means that while it’s cool, it’s still a little cold-feeling. What isn’t old brick is solid colors and straight lines. It’s not unpleasant by any means but it doesn’t quite have that comforting vibe that some of my favorite bars and pubs tend to have. I give it another year to grow into itself and I bet it’ll be pretty sweet.

And just so you know I’m not overlooking the most important stuff; I had an Avery Maharaja and an Iron Horse Double Rainbow and they were both excellent. So they take care of the equipment and look for good beer to serve. If you’re in Spokane, I say check it out.

Whatever You Say #27

Continuing my sudden theme of dive bars, I went to Lucky’s tonight because I always wanted to. It’s always seemed foreboding and crusty and what reason could I possibly have to walk in there, right? Fortunately for me, this blog is a great excuse.

I have a choice; ask the man what he’s drinking or the woman with the fuschia drink and a wedge of lime in it. I don’t want to be afraid to ask women what they’re drinking but I know that socially, it’s a little bit more loaded to approach women so I’m a bit more cautious about doing so. Plus; fuschia drink with lime wedge. I’m just not up for it tonight. I ask the man, distracted by three television’s worth of basketball (playing the same game) what he’s having and it’s Widmer’s Drop Top.

drop top at Lucky's


Lucky’s is astrange place. There’s a stylized painting on the wall; everything in straight lines and the men and women portrayed in black and white, underneath the caption reads ‘Seating for the Jammin’ Club’. There are no seats there though, just a coatrack. The wall-o-hol is topped with cages for the glasses and bottles inside but those bottles and glasses are empty. There are two wrought iron wine racks mounted on the wall, one of which is topped by a Oakland Raiders baseball helmet.

Yes, I know.

There’s a black man in a herringbone trenchcoat with a more salt than pepper beard talking to a dreadlocked white guy in a baseball cap, insisting that Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace dominate the paint.

Neither of those men are playing on TV so…

The bartender is a superhip woman in a hoodie (hood up) with a black dress and pink polka-dots on under that, glasses with big white rims and tattoos. It’s pretty clear that she knows everyone in the joint and at one point disappears for an indeterminate length of time to talk to someone outside. Nobody there seems surprised and it’s not the kind of thing that feels rude. I’m not sure how to explain that so I won’t. Nobody wants to talk to me; they are either watching basketball or playing the Rolling Stones pinball machine or somehow trying to make the most awkwardly placed pool table work for a game. Like the Reel M Inn, I think I’d have to come here multiple times to be accepted in some manner.

I suppose I’ve lost something in my continual travels; even those these joints have an adequate selection, there is still a community here that every so often, I feel I’m missing out on.

As I slide off my chair to leave, the bartender asks if I’m leaving already, as though she’s sorry to see a new face leave so soon. I give her a wan smile and say ‘It’s time’ but I think I’ll stop in again.


I’m about to head out for a few days-likely no Friday post and so in order to make my life easier, we have a selection of news-ish links sent to me by other people (though mostly my Dad) that you can read and I will attempt to have pithy comments on.

From Esquire the weirdest beers you may want to drink.

The thing about articles like these is that they really don’t take the art and science of making really strange beers very seriously. It’s more like a gawpfest. For anyone who takes their food and drink semi-seriously, I find it hard to imagine the response is more than ‘that’s cute but not impressive.’

PS: if you’re writing for a national magazine, phrases like ‘The, uh, feces beer’ are shit and you should be knuckle-rapped for using them.

While this article from the Sun Journal has a long intro that won’t really tell many readers of this blog anything they don’t know about beer history, it does have some recipes at the end. I think eventually, I may have to incorporate some eats into this blog but that’s something for a later day.

Finally, there’s a story from the Star Tribune that wants to give an overview of craft brewing at large while using local examples to show how popular homebrewing has become. I don’t have much to say about it, except that it seems like a pretty solid article that, if I lived in Minneapolis, would give me some places to start shopping for good beer.

Whatever You Say #26

PBR @ Reel M Inn

I have gone to the Reel M Inn. The man I ask has a hat from an East Coast fishing town and a beard to match. He doesn’t understand my question at first. The bartender helps me out. The fisherman smiles bashfully and leaves soon after, called away by unknowable business.

A woman sits nearby, empty shotglass with a wasted lime peel inside, beer back barely finished but clearly not in need of it, a man nearby who has had a tragic accident with his baseball cap is trying to put moves on her…they’re at about the same level of sobriety: “Everyone else is stupid and we’re so smart” so I’m not feeling like I need to do anything but listen.

New men come in to replace the fisherman: one smells of marijuana and patchouli, the other notes a reality-TV show spotlighting jails and quips, “That’s Multnomah county. Remarkably, I’ve never been there.”

I either need to come here a lot more often, or never again. Currently, I’m inclined to show up more often but without the encumbrance of a computer and camera.

On the other TV; Food Network. While I drink a PBR. It’s not exactly irony, but it’s something and that moment is not lost on me. At the bar is a sign, telling you the name of your bartender for the evening; Scott. There are hooks there, so you always know who’s serving you.

Overheard as I left:

‘Do you know where I work?’
‘Probably some strip club.’
~laughter-the busted kind~


I was able to visit Bushwacker Cidery a couple weeks back and the girlfriend and I got sampler trays.

I know, I know, cider in a beer blog?

But I like libations of all sorts and mixing things up is good to help keep the palate interested.

Which brings us to the sampler tray:

cider sampler

Pretty eh? Colorful and luminous, ciders don’t offer the same kind of weight that some styles of beer will. They’re all pretty drinkable and while the Bushwacker isn’t huge, it feels pretty spacious so it’s easy to get comfortable while you try out their wares.

In addition, they server multiple beer-cider mixes. I’m not sure if these would be officially called cocktails but we had a couple and they were very pleasant. I’m not going to insist that cider be a seasonal drink but I do think that Bushwacker is a place people ought to stop in during the summer months.

The drawback to cider, for me, is that there is no nose. Of the 6 samples, I could really only get a scent off the blackberry cider and the ability to smell it helped push it to the fore of my favorites. The house cider was also very tasty, so resembling a white wine that the girlfriend and I agreed that if we hadn’t been told it was cider, we could have easily mistaken it for wine.

The lack of a nose on most of these samples though made it difficult to get a sense of them. Smell matters a lot and every good beer taster will start of with how it looks and smells. Tasting ciders, as a result, present some challenges I’m not used to. It’s possible that they should be approached more like wine, breathing in little sips of air while the cider is in your mouth, in order to get a better sense of flavors.

Instead, we noticed things like mouthfeel, where the cider felt dry on the tongue, if there were sweet or tart notes and where they rested in the mouth; all in all, the more physical characteristics we could accumulate, the more interesting the cider was. For a neophyte I feel like I found something to start with on these ciders and the next time I come back, I’ll have more context to judge them by.

As an added bonus, before we left we were able to strike up a conversation with the owner, who told us of some of his hopes for future cider batches and gave us a taste of a smokey cider that he said wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but would be in a few weeks.

It was smokey and a little sweet, cloudy and a bit mad sciencey looking. I do believe I’ll be returning soon to try the more mellow version.

Whatever You Say #25

Bill suggested the Landmark Saloon to me, so away I went. I come in and notice there’s a space for band and there’s signs of I get why there is a band about to play, but…I’m not sure this place is big enough for anything with an amplifier. It’s a house that’s been converted into commercial space and while it’s cozy, I wonder if a band wouldn’t just take over.

Drinking HUB‘s Survival Stout, as recommended by a bald man with a reddish goatee who is typing on a smartphone and would like me to leave him be.

I manage to strike up a nice conversation about beer with a nearby fellow who dreams of visiting England, Belgium and Germany and making a tour of their breweries. He seems especially fond of the idea of trying the various forms of German lagers and I can’t blame him; they really do some of the best ever. He recommends some stuff from Deschutes and we talk about mixing beers-lambics and porters, specifically-in order to create some of the best drinks ever. Then he’s off for a smoke.

The conversion of this house into a pub feels a little weird, extra doorways in the front, rooms with clearly different feels in habited by furniture to help suit-a red velvet loveseat in the furthest room, wood barstools in front seating me at a bar that is right out of open country sensibilities-the wood in front is still textured with knots and wooden imperfections, the middle room has a decorative rug hanging on the wall that looks like it is probably done in the mesa indian style. Horseshoes hang here and there, no real rhyme or reason to them that I can tell.

But it’s also very comfortable. In a rare moment, I can’t quite imagine what this place might be like if it was really busy. I can’t pick up what the vibe is: the presence of what appears to be a country bar in the middle of the alt-punk universe baffles me. But the song that’s playing over the speakers has a slide guitar and fiddle and that’s kinda great. There’s a grilled PB&J sandwich offered on the menu. Something weird is definitely going on.

I don’t hate it, I just wonder what the hell it’s doing here. Then again, maybe the neighborhood needs it. The universe is, thankfully, made up of more interesting things than the Decemberists and Portlandia-but only if there’s a contrast to the Decemberists and Portlandia.

Brewing at Hopworks

One of the benefits of working on the board for the OBC is that I have opportunities to brew in new environments with people who really know what they’re doing. As a homebrewer, I can’t tell you how cool it is to have the chance to work in a professional setting and with experts.

It’s pretty rad, as they used to say. Especially after having to pour out ten gallons of beer.

So when Hopworks offered to let us use their nano system to brew on and the board decided the respected Fred Eckhardt as the leader of the brew, I jumped at the opportunity to assist. Since Fred, respected as he is, hasn’t brewed in quite some time and so it fell to younger people to lift forty-eight pounds of malt and over forty gallons of water to make the style Fred had selected, a maibock.

Leading the way was Assistant Brewer Amelia, who was just smashing through the whole thing, answering questions, kidding around, keeping things on track and generally being very upbeat, especially when confronted with concerns about ‘are we doing this right?’ Thanks to her, we pretty much were.

Plus, I got to learn some new things about how all grain brewing works, how important recirculation is, what a Vorlauf pump does; all kinds of cool stuff.

I got to hold onto devices that I didn’t understand. The photo on the right shows a mechanism that allowed us to aerate the beer as it was pumped into a fermenter. I have no idea what it’s called.

Still, pretty cool, huh?

Normally, this is the part where I’d post the recipe, if I had one, so other people could see what we did.

This was the recipe basis:

5.5 lbs Lager Malt
5.5 lbs Munich Malt
1.0 lbs Light Carmel/Crystal Malt

7.5-9.6 AAU’s of bittering hops
.75 oz flavor hops
.5 oz aroma hops

Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

This is what actually happened:

Easier to read version, here.

The beer should be ready in about a month! I’ll let you know how it is or if there’s time, let you know when it’ll be served so you can try it yourself.