Whatever You Say #35

After the first honest-to-god warm weekend in Portland, I have come to the Slammer on the first honest-to-god muggy as hell day of 2011.

I ask a dude with poor-hipster glasses what he’s drinking.



“Veneer,” he says again and I am certain something is wrong here. The bartender understands and she pours one for me and the patron says “It’s one of the lighter beers.”

rainier beerThat’s when I catch the R symbol on the tap handle and realize I’m drinking a Raindog–a beer I haven’t bought in nearly twenty years but also happened to be the first beer I bought when I came back to the States after a long college trip.

The patron goes outside to smoke, driven by a need for nicotine and a desire to get away from the music being played-he grumbles friendi-ly to the bartender something about En Vogue. Another couple obscured to me by the taps saunters up to the video juke and inserts credits. The first line from the speakers “I was a highwayman,” and I recognize Willie, even though I don’t think I ever really paid attention to the Highwaymen album.

The song isn’t all that great. What can you say, really; it was the 80’s and nobody had the strength to tell four legends of country music that Johnny Cash should never sing the line,  “I was a starship captain.”

Still, the song is about endurance and for a moment, I get what is best about-and why people still listen to-country music. Beaten but never destroyed, defeated but never crushed, enduring beyond strength because that’s just what you have to do sometimes, yeah. I get that. Even when it’s not done very well, the hope that there is something noble in just continuing on is a nice thing to echo.

I got some feedback.

A fellow OBC member, Erik, said he’d write something up on my last two beers. I appreciate his efforts, and if you’d like to see more of his stuff, he said I could direct you to his “mostly defunct blog.

I’ve added links to where I’ve written about the beer but that’s it; everything indented after this is his. Before I turn it over to him, I again want to thank him for giving me a day off.


The bottle cap came off with a pleasing little hiss.  A yeasty,
hoppy smell was evident without even leaning in for a sniff, which I
took to be a good sign.  Unfortunately, this didn’t end up being my
favorite beer.

This beer poured beautifully, with a thick, healthy head and a rich,
clear amber color.  The head stuck around for a while and was
accompanied by a nice level of carbonation in the brew.

At first I really enjoyed the flavor of this beer.  It had some
banana flavors along with an astringence which I assumed came from
the hops, which also lent an herbal character to the brew.  However,
there was something lacking in the balance which over time kept me
from wanting to finish the glass.  I think that something became a
bit too acidic, and eventually the astrigency which I found so
pleasant at first took on an overly dry, bitter character which
didn’t match my palate well.

Chocolate malt & Chai

This beer formed a big, thick, meringue-like head atop a deep brown,
transparent brew.  It gave a warm, inviting aroma filled with
cardamom, clove, and lime zest that made me eager to try the beer.

I found the beer to be very spicy, with lots of various herbal
flavors and a little sweetness.  It reminded me of Anchor’s spiced
winter ales, though it was too effervescent.  After the head started
to die down, which took quite a while, I loved this beer.  It struck
me as a perfect beverage for cooler weather, with a nicely balanced
hint of hops and a slightly acidic edge.

As the beer warmed, the hops started to emerge more and play around
in an interesting way with the spices.  This beer is definitely a
winning recipe and deserves more attention.  If the carbonation
could be improved I’d probably camp outside Dan’s place waiting for
it to be bottled.  It was impressively tasty and well done.

Citra IPA

Citra IPA

I’m pleased to say that this is pretty damn good. It’s fairly clear for a homebrew, especially one of mine. The nose has a wonderful citrus quality, somewhere between orange and lemon, courtesy of just-over-a-week’s worth of dry hopping with a notable but not overpowering bitterness on the end. The bitterness coats though; I can feel some of the oils on my tongue so I suspect after 3 or 4, you might notice a bit more.

Of course by then; Who cares?

I’ll get the recipe up on Friday. Need to drink more to better evaluate this beer and I’m sure you all understand.

Whatever You Say #34

Off to the Sandy Hut before dance class. Or ‘Handy Slut‘ as Barfly lovers (and probably most Portland bargoers) know the place.

My choices when I approach the bar are: ask one of the couple who are in the process of ordering or a dude with specs and a thin white beard, a lavender drink in front of him.

I go for the lavender drink. The couple next to me orders Guinness in the bottle (man) and two shots of something red (woman) so I feel like I dodged a bullet of some kind there.

mixed drinkWhen I ask the bespectacled man what he’s having: “Vodka with grape juice, ginger ale, orange juice and god only knows what else.” Well allllllll right.

The men watch Cincy-NY play baseball, talk about their kids. One man’s son has a terrible diet but wants to play football. The general consensus is that he’s not willing to attain the fitness of a football player. I tune that out pretty quickly to take stock of the rest of the place.

The couple is in their own world and I eye the woman’s red drinks with extreme suspicion. My instinct tells me nothing good will come of her combination of red stuff and his Guinness. The bartender has Sanctuary playing on a small TV perched high above the bar. Every so often her pace slows, between asking people if they’d like anything, and she looks up, watches a fantasy world and leavs behind the dingy daytime universe of bringing lunches to people who prefer their bars without windows.

She’s got a quiet hopefulness to her and I like that. I can’t stay to ask her story because class awaits and by the demure way she checks to see if I’d like another, she won’t tell her story to just anyone but sometime, perhaps she might.

Too much of a good thing

Is too much. As you can see, here:

It’s not a bad beer. Off a little by being too Belgian-flavored-hints of clove and a touch sweet. There’s a sweetness in the nose that doesn’t ride through the beer but definitely indicates that something is wrong. The finish is really, really spicy though; to the point where I would not want this beer with something like nachos.

Every beer should go with nachos.

Well, ok; almost every beer. Since the plan here was to make an brown ale with chai tea but I didn’t get the kind of roasted flavors I was shooting for, I think the chai and the overactive yeast have made this a beer that goes with very limited amounts of food.

In addition, as you can see from the picture, the head on this beer is pretty much out of control. I have to pour the beer very. slowly. in order to get a drinkable glass and even then it helps if I give the beer a couple minutes to settle. Which I can do-but I generally don’t.

I also believe I pitched the yeast when the wort was a little hot. The impact of this particular error has me double checking my thermometer so I can get more accurate temperatures and pitch my yeast when I’m supposed to.

Recipe as follows:

Steeping grains:
3 oz Cafka Special 2
8 oz Special B
8 oz Chocolate
13 oz Crystal 40

7 lb LME
2 lb dry malt extract

1 oz Centennial @ 60
.75 oz Cascade @ 15
3 oz Chai tea @ 10

East Coast Ale from White Labs, WLP008

Whatever You Say #33

I have come to the Bazi Bierbrasserie and take a quick stock of the place; two men at the bar, one fellow with a laptop and a glass of wine, three couples obviously on dates…the bar it is. Strolling up to a gentleman in a trucker cap, I ask him what fine reddish drink fills his chalice.

They’re out of it. So the bartender recommends Flat Tail‘s Berry White lambic-not quite the same but close, so I go for it. Sometimes, you have to adapt and adaptability is one of the things humans are great at, if we let ourselves be.

I take a seat and the lovely sits across the table when the bartender, Johnny (who introduced himself three times over the course of the night-he just seemed to be one of those eager, people-persons) pitched a house made margarita with spices and a house infused I-can’t-remember-what to her. The eyes go wide and I know already; she’s having the tequila drink.

We settle in for our drinks when a man from a few tables away calls, ‘Those margaritas are the best things ever. He (Johnny) totally converted me to them a few months ago, which is why I had to steal him to come work for me. I went to Vegas and all I could get were margaritas made from Triple Sec and syrup. Terrible!’

I like living in a city where you can randomly run into people who own or at least have a personal stake in the pub you visit.

So I went to Columbia River Brewing

It was a business thing and I thought; Perfect. This solves problems for me because I always want to get to new(er) spots and there’s just so many places to go that sometimes, new things can get lost in the shuffle.

irish red aleThe pluses: the Irish Red ale was 100% solid. A fine demonstration of what you can do with a workhorse level brew like that. Bright, a nice malty nose, very quaffable brew that encouraged multiple pints. The people with me agreed; it was a fine ale.

The minuses: apparently Columbia River’s computers went down and they had to start taking orders by hand. There were delays due to technological failure. Completely understandable if your customers know what’s going on.

But we didn’t and for far too long; members of our table went thirty minutes without being approached for an order and that really puts a negative spin on things. Later, members of my table had to petition staff on the status of their food. Again, this just makes people irate.

Communicate with your customers. They will (frequently) be pretty understanding. Nobody has to put up with anyone being a dick (see also: non-understanding assholes) but people who know the whole story are more likely to be forgiving of the occasional hiccups in the business.

The question mark: the IPA. It was cloudy, looking more like an hefe than an IPA. Hypothesises were raised in order to figure out this anomaly; pushing the beer too quickly through and the kind of yeast used were both given weight. I didn’t drink it but when it came time to order another beer, people ended up going for the Irish Red ale.

Whatever You Say #32

Part of me wants to just post this photo of the ’10 Abyss and call it good.

It’s been a long night. Tango 2 classes have begun and I am trying to learn how to step differently. Shoulders forward, signals with your bicep, clavicle, step here, cross there, wait, wait, don’t move too much otherwise the follow will be flailing in a comical gesture of cross steps and unfortunate weight distribution.

Still, the reward was coming into the Green Dragon and asking a very nice couple what they were having. She had an IPA and he had the Abyss.

How do I refuse the Abyss, especially when the 2010 version has been so good? Coffee and long lengths of stout flavors that linger like a friend you don’t want to see go. There’s a brief discussion about blogging software-I am fool enough not to ask what it is that they may blog about though I got the impression that, like so many blogs, it was started and then left to languish in the sun, like a forgotten Corona. (All Corona’s should be forgotten but that’s a different rant.)

Nonetheless, I want to remain interested. If I don’t want to get too bitter or high and mighty then it’s important to take advantage and ask questions. People want to tell their stories, they want to be understood. Giving them a chance to talk actually helps me listen as it may help them tell a story.

I want to keep striving for that.