Notes from the OBF Brewer’s Guild Dinner

Taken on my outboard brain with photos managed as best I could. Thoughts after the fact in bold.

Ninkasi ronsom old Tom collaboration:
Unsure of style but it’s light and has a pleasantly hoppy-pine nose. Recommended


Hopworks Cronan the Barbarian
Strong ale and it’s really rich and tasty. Caramel goodness. Highly recommended.

Gilgamesh organic jasmine hefeweisen starts bitter faint honey nose and… Not sure what to make of it. Final decision is meeeh. Everyone else seemed to really enjoy this beer, so maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s just really hard to follow Cronan.

Pelican wienna wit
More Belgian like with a hint of sour bite at the end. It was OK.

Upright flora rustica
Got that sour Belgian nose dry finish but something kinda dirty there. Upright continues to not persuade me. Does give me a farmhouse feel but I am just not convinced.

Oakshire Perfect Storm double ipa
Wonderful caramel-grapefruit nose that went for the ipa part. Not balanced; stingy at end. Tasty. This beer is for the hopheads because wow does it bite.

Hop Valley Pollenation honey ale
Smooth and easy to drink. Aftertaste may be affected by ipa b/c there’s a weird bitter moment. Talking to others, that dirty aftertaste was present to them, too so maybe it’s not just me.

Ft George Hellcat Belgian
Nose slightly off-putting with a yeasty note but beer is hard to describe. A hard candy start and a pepper finish that doesn’t hit until it’s too late. This was, amongst the people I talked to, one of the most interesting and tasty beers there, and I agree with that. Try it.

I’m not sure how this happened

Somehow I’ve ended up on the list for press people to the OBF.

That’s pretty high up on the awesome list, to me. Please don’t tell them I don’t belong there.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking over the taplist and it’s pretty much overwhelming. There’s going to be eighty seven (87!) beers at the festival and I can honestly tell you that I have no way of properly reviewing that many beers to provide recommendations.

Eighty seven beers. Good lord. I couldn’t drink that many beers in a week. Still I do have some opinions:

I have tried 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon beer and know that it’s good for something but that drinking is not it. I don’t care how popular this beer is; they’re wrong. If you want alcoholic watermelon just get a melon and soak it in vodka. Try any other 21st Amendment beer; my experience with those has been very good.

The same force that compelled me to try Hell or High Watermelon will also say that I should have Dogfishead’s Black and Red, a raspberry mint imperial stout. I imagine other people will similarly be compelled by the power of Christ but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it so much as that beer is just too weird to pass by. If this was any brewer but Dogfishead, I’d approach it with trepidation but since it’s them, I’m really just curious.

I’ve tried Rock Bottom’s Zombie Flanders which, while I love the reference, just didn’t seem very tasty to me. Thin and not very appealing, I just couldn’t get into it.

However; I go to these festivals to try things I’ve never heard of, not stuff I know about already.

Three Creek‘s FivePine Chocolate Porter seems interesting, Old Market struck gold for me a couple years ago so I’m interested in their Berried Alive! (despite the fruit), Hollister Brewing’s German Alt scratches my itch for alt beers and Mt. Emily‘s Wildfire Red ale seems interesting.

Plus, I look forward to checking things out from old favorites like Elysium, Deschutes, Natian, Maui Brewing, and..well on and on. I just hope my stamina holds. Since I’ll be going on Sunday before my volunteer shift for the Oregon Brew Crew, my selection may be whittled down by virtue of time. I’ve been assured that all beers are expected to be on tap through Sunday but  I think that might be a difficult promise to keep.

Whatever you say #40

Rolling Rock

With a great deal of trepidation, I have walked into Smokey’s. I don’t know anyone. I’ve never been anywhere close to it. It looks grimy, dark and god only knows what’s going on inside.

Why am I going here?

Because if I can’t attempt things that are hard, then why work this theme at all?

On the main TV, the US is playing Japan in women’s fastpitch softball, finals. US is up 3-0.

So it’s worse than I thought, because of all the sports I cannot stand, baseball is the one that I am not only most uncomfortable with, due to finding it savagely boring, it’s also represents one of those barriers for me into the world of the normal.

Baseball, though it may not quite have the status is once did, is still an iconic American sport and to be an American is, in part, to know things about baseball.

Except the last time I did anything that resembled baseball, I got hit in the nuts. And while football to the groin will always be football to the groin, baseball has always resembled a dense, boring mystery that I had to pretend to know about and absorb by osmosis, faking my way through masculine rituals and all the other bullshit that comes with sports that I suck at (which is pretty much all of them) growing up and now getting old, I never hesitated to take a shot at baseball when I could, in part to dissociate myself from the kinds of obsessives that I can’t talk to (though have plenty in common with) and in part because sports obsessives tend to view me with distain-though they have plenty in common with nerds.

So everything I know about America’s Pastime I have learned through absorption from my Mom and my brother-in-law.

And I shimmy up to the bar and ask what a man in a coat advertising plumbing services from across the street is drinking. Which is how I end up with a Rolling Rock, watching women’s fastpitch.

In Smokey’s there is one pool table, a pinball machine that hasn’t been turned on in I don’t know how long, as bar stools sitting in front of it and what appears to be a small water heater sitting on top of them cut off the possibility of playing the machine, and every single wall seems to be part of the definition of cheap. Fake brick around the lights, cheap walls from the 60’s, splotty paint and plaster covering various holes: I wonder for a moment if Smokey’s was ever a nice tavern, where the locals came, celebrated and went back to their homes.

Now it seems a little sad, surviving on a crew of people I do not understand…but are friendly to me. I fake baseball knowledge, I watch plays and I listen. Guys with unlit cigarettes hanging from their lips chat and are OK with me talking to them about the game. The young punks who come in to play video poker have smiles for the old guys at the bar, under their tough veneers and edges born of being poor.

I could stay here and have another. The bartender even asks if I want another, and I have the feeling that if he didn’t think I was alright, he wouldn’t ask. But I have to go; the theme demands it and honestly, I’m just glad that things didn’t play into what I was afraid of.

It’s a good lesson for not letting my scares run away with me. Go, check it out. Be nice. Have a beer. Listen. You might just enjoy yourself, internet pundits be damned.

Imperial Brown redux

Here’s the recipe I used to when I attempted to re-do the imperial brown I made for my birthday:

Steeping  grains:
1.5 lb pils
1.25 Crystal 40
.5 lb chocolate
3 oz Carafa II

7 lb LME

2 lb Dry Extract malt, light
1.5 oz Centennial @ 60
1 oz Fuggle @ 15

Reused yeast from Choc-Chai-WLP 008, 2nd use

Original Gravity
Final Gravity
Likely Terminal Gravity

My notes during the process:
This one went a little hot on me–sparging was good but steeping/boil was just a touch over
Smells hot-possible infection?
Added .5 tsp yeast for carbonation but not sure it’s needed.
Sweet but not crazy so, carbonation may help.

So how’d it turn out?
imperial brownNot bad at all.

It may be a touch overcarbonated for a brown ale but that works in this case because the slightly overheated steeping gave this brew some cinnamon and a touch of estery banana flavors.

The carbonation helps finish all that off pretty cleanly, which is good because otherwise don’t think it would be as impressive. The alcohol warmth doesn’t show up much and it’s pretty easy to drink.

It’s not perfect; I think I held back on the darker/more bitter flavors and that means the beer doesn’t have quite the balance I’d like. The hot sparging may have also brought up flavors I really didn’t want and though I do try to keep a rein in on the temperature when I’m cooling the wort, it’s possible I didn’t drop the temp enough before pitching the yeast.

Still, it’s a solid brew and I’m pleased.

The Slayer of craft beer

I can’t say I really agree with the assessment of Stone Brewing at Decibel but I do like how it mixes two things I love a lot; heavy metal and beer.

I think metalheads ought to be asking for the best beer they can get. Shitty lagers are for people who aren’t into brutal amounts of hops, yeast or malt, which ought to be the same kind of people who are into brutal kinds of bass, guitar, drums and vox.

I don’t think you could get brutal water that was drinkable but if you could, metalheads should drink beer made from it.

Although I have to admit, when stuffed into the subhuman conditions that are indoor heavy metal concerts, a lager might be the best thing to keep you from getting dehydrated.

Whatever You Say #39

The man on the rail of La Merede is pretty much your classic hipster. Poorly color-coordinated clothes, shorts with a longsleeve, with thick black rim glasses and a mustache that he constantly twirls both ends of, like a nervous spy.

rainier beerHe’s drinking Rainier, which somehow makes sense. Could Raindogs be taking over as the cheap shit beer of choice? Rainier has a NW connection via the name, and who can forget those classic commercials?

So the bartender gives me a bottle and says “It’s two dollars, baby.”

I have this odd moment and ask “Did you just call me baby?”

He shrugs and gives me a ‘whatevererer’ look “Two dollars, baby,” he repeats and I chuckle so he knows I’m not mocking him.

The strange thing about Rainier is that it tastes like it’s from a can, even though I’ve got a bottle. A twist-off no less and my tongue is a little startled by the strange texture of the lip of this bottle; it’s been that long since I’ve drank from such a container.

The whole bar seems like Portland in a 15×35 area. What appears to be a rotary phone is on the wall next to a touchscreen for drink orders. MD 20/20 on the wall-o-hol next to expensive tequila. (Note, I remember the MD not the tequila so I suppose that says something too.) A woman in the corner, her leftover meal wrapped in foil shaped like a tropical island, smokes from an electric cigarette–when the tip glows with an almost halogen color, I feel like I’m in the future. The isolation is there but conversation can be eavesdropped on and even eased into, if you do it right.

And if you want, there’s even better beer. But you’d better ask for it.

Better late than never

A little while ago I promised to post the recipe for the citra IPA I made. Then stuff happened and I didn’t get to it. So here it is:

Steeping grains
1 lb Honey Malt
1.5 Special Roast

7 lb LME

1 oz Centennial @ 60
.5 oz Citra @ 60
1 oz Citra @ 30
.5 oz N Brewer @ 15

.5 tsp Irish Moss @ 5

Final use of Laurelwood ale yeast

Original Gravity:

Other gravities: unknown because I broke my hydrometer and didn’t get it replaced in time. Ah well.

Went into secondary after 10 days with  .5 oz Citra hops (maybe even .75) added to 2ndary for dry hopping, bottled six days later.

And yes, this beer is one of the best I’ve done this year.

Whatever You Say #38

My choices are limited tonight due to the fact that my car has been brought in for repairs. As I trudge away from my car to the care of the mechanic, I do quick calculations; I can go to the Bridgeport, which has been remodeled since I was there for The Local, or I can try that new place just a few blocks away.

So I walk into the Sunshine Tavern aaaaaand I am not hopeful. The place looks empty, which, while not surprising given the time, means that my theme won’t be enacted. I step in and the place is wood and gleaming everywhere, with a couple near a window, glasses of wine on the table, one red, one white, with nobody else in the tavern except staff.

The couple is clearly doing something else. I am not to disturb them. So I wander up to the bar and sit down. A menu is produced but I quickly explain I just want a drink-and here is my problem.

The bartender gives me the initial bartender moment, wanting to suss out what I like, what my mood is. That’s precisely not the point. I try to explain a bit until finally I stumble on the idea I’m trying to convey.

“If you were sitting where I am,” I ask, “what would you be drinking? That’s what I want.”

A switch goes off behind his eyes and he nods. Rye whiskey is poured into a glass with a generous splash of red bitters. Another glass hangs out with Pernod in it, which is later tilted and slowly, slowly rotated the bright clear green liquid coating the bottom third.

“I’m making you a traditional N’Ow’ns sazerac,” he says, and I give him a quizzical look. I think he says ‘north’ at first and I don’t understand.

“They make them different all over,” the barkeep says, “but the traditional ones from New Orleans are my favorite.”

I nod, finally understanding what’s going on and smile when my drink arrives.

sazeracIt’s a lovely combination of anise flavors, lemon and sweetness, reminding me of large jellybeans I got as a child during Easter. It’s also brilliantly refreshing, which if summer had decided to become fully present in Portland, would be a wonderful toxicant. I can see why this is a New Orleans drink, because it’s just the thing to shut down oppressive heat.

The bartender and I chat. He likes working at the Sunshine; it’s welcoming to kids so it truly is a neighborhood place, with people coming in to enjoy themselves and a familiar contingent from the residential apartments upstairs. The people watching on Division never ends, he tells me, and it’s easy to see why because the windows are taller than I am and wrap half the tavern.

I gently finish my drink, prolonging this moment of rest between the unhappiness of needing my car repaired and the preparing to briskly walk home, enjoying the pause and then, finally, I thank the bartender, who has been more than kind to me and walk home.

I lick anise from my teeth all the way home, looking forward to my next chance to visit the Sunshine. They haven’t been open long but I’d like to go back.