Fall Classic Results

Last Saturday, I spent the day as head steward for the OBC’s Fall Classic. I handed off a whole lot of beer for people to drink and didn’t really get to try any myself….until the Best of Show round. I quietly sipped from every bottle I cleared away as the judges made their eliminations.

Some of the beers were pretty good. I remember the taste of solid amber and IPA entries. There were at least three, maybe five, that shouldn’t have been there at all; too fizzy, bad aftertaste, things like that. I spit them out–which feels weird at first but why drink something that tastes bad?

In the end, I stood by while the judges mulled over five beverages, debating which they should choose and I quietly sampled the entries as they debated. In the end, two were cut: one American Pale Ale (which was excellent) and a blonde ale (which was also excellent and took the Honorable Mention.)

The results are pretty astounding. A cider taking 3rd? It was like drinking a really good apple though. Not too crisp, not too sweet: just a really solid drink that could be had with almost anything.

Second place surprised me the most, though. I do not like cucumbers and I detest hot spices in my beer. But although the nose had a strong vegetal scent, the flavors worked together perfectly. I can’t explain it. That beer should have been something I hated and I didn’t. It’s the kind of thing I’d want to share because of the alchemy that makes a beer work, sometimes, even when it shouldn’t.

The title of first place porter doesn’t tell you enough: it was a raspberry porter that tasted like razor shavings of chocolate had been meshed with tart syrup and blended into awesome. It really deserved the victory and is a beer I would have stolen from the judges if I could have. It would’ve been like Prometheus taking fire to share with humanity, only with beer and I would’ve just shared it with my girlfriend.

But, you know. Close enough.

7pm The Return

Elysian Kama CitraWhew. I have returned from my travels and am glad to be back in Portland, sitting at a table with an Elysian Kama Citra. It almost tastes like a grapefruit candy; I’m not sure why I enjoy this beer (aside from its quality construction as a beer) because I generally do not like the taste of grapefruit. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that, in the end, this isn’t grapefruit but hops giving me this flavor and there’s a certain je ne se quoi about that. Could be a mental thing but I hope not. Grapefruit tastes burny and doesn’t give me a buzz.

It’s nice to be home and it’s nice to be back at Bailey’s. I can tell I’m back in the way I’m able to settle in quickly and end up having a conversation with a stranger about homebrewing. His name is Jan and he’s been doing this for about 30 years, he says. Teaches me about trisaccarides, then goes on to tell me about traveling in England, on a July 4th, back in the day.

“You used to be able to tour breweries and they’d give you free food and drinks,” he says, “so we’d stay in hostels and went through Europe on $2.17 a day.” Then he recounts going to a brewery in Burton-On-Trent and getting a free chit for the brewery’s beer, anywhere in town, for that day.

At that point, the only thing to do was to convince the Japanese tourists who were heading back to London that day to give him and his friend their unused chits. Which they did!

You can imagine the revelry, I’m sure.

“So we’re drunk and lost at two in the morning, when this nine foot shadow comes up behind us. I’m naturally more than a little startled, when I hear, ‘Can I be of any assistance to you gentlemen?’

“Turns out, it was a cop with one of those bobby  hats making him look huge. I take one look at him and say, ‘We’ve lost our tent.’ ”

At this point I’m laughing so hard I can barely stay in my seat. Only in England and certainly not in this century could a story like this happen.

“Cop says, ‘I believe I can assist you with that,’ and he takes us back to our tent. Makes sure we’re safe and settled in and then asks us, ‘Would you like coffee or tea, tomorrow?’

‘Coffee,’ I say because…” and I nod. What else are you going to ask for?

“Well the next day, sure as hell, cop shows up about 9 am, after his shift, two coffees in hand. ‘Happy 4th of July,” he says.”

Man, I love going to the pubs.

They’ll make beer from anything

Or at least they used to. Check out this post at Martyn Cornell’s blog. Cornell, of course, is the author of the excellent Amber Gold and Black, a history of British ales. What that means is: you’re reading someone (Cornell, not me) who actually knows what he’s talking about.

I think it’s pretty amazing that people used peas–and are still doing so, apparently, in those crazy craft brewing circles. Once again, there’s something to be learned from ‘how they used to do things’. If you will.

Nothing against the advances of science, though (careful, some unrelated but graphic photos). Better ingredients equals better beer: it’s pretty much that simple.

Great American Beer Fest

I know that I should want to go to the GABF and don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a pretty good time.

But for some reason I find it difficult to get pumped up about going to Denver. It’s less crowded than the big event I do attend, but for some reason I just can’t motivate. The Oregon Brew Fest is here. Portland is Portland: all these things come to us, eventually. Why should Mohammad go to the mountain when the mountain clearly wants to come to Mohammad?

Nevertheless, congrats to the Oregon breweries to took home medals!

7pm The Secretary

The OBC is having a meeting tonight and because I am the Secretary, it trumps my usual writing responsibilities. Tonight’s meeting is at the pioneering Hair of the Dog brewery, founded by a former member of the OBC and always a treat.

I am given a glass of something that, when I’m told the name, I am unable to understand. It’s a guest tap and it smells lovely; bourbon and maple wrapped together in a fantastic helix. But the ale is flat and the beer tastes thin, watery. I really want to like this mystery beer but I can’t.

I try a variety of house ales that don’t suit me for various reasons, until I get a Fred from the Wood that’s been infused with a peach lambic which is excellent.

I’ve been the Secretary for the OBC for two years and it’s been one of the more rewarding volunteer opportunities I’ve had. I’ve gotten to write, I’ve been compelled to listen, I’ve had the chance to edit, I’ve learned information that has helped me brew a better beer and most importantly, I’ve had a reason to connect with other homebrewers. This is pretty awesome.  I’ve gotten to meet people and connect with people, which isn’t the easiest thing for me to do.

However, I also feel that I’ve put in my time. It’s been a great thing to help people remember past meetings or learn from the educational opportunities but I am tired of this obligation and wish to put it aside for a little while. I want to not have to worry about this for a little while. Someone else can take over and do the things I do, while I go an recoup some of the time I’ve put into this, into something else.

Nut Brown Ginger

Nut Brown GingerThis beer is close to but not quite how I hoped it would be.

I had a nut brown ginger at the NW Lucky Lab earlier this summer and liked it quite a bit. I also had a little inner glow moment when I thought: I could totally make this! So I gave it a shot.

I have to say that it’s not bad but the ginger flavors are a bit more dominant than the nut flavors and so it’s less balanced than the beer I had at the Lab. I’ll have to look into upping the malts that would provide those flavors–I don’t think chocolate is quite what I want but it does present an interesting thought: a chocolate ginger porter, maybe?

As a bonus, it’s the last recipe I still have before my laptop crashed so huzza for me! The next couple beers I talk about I won’t have anything but a vague memory of how I made. I’ll just have to take more photos, I guess.

I really should have someone teach me some photography skills.

Anyway, the recipe is as follows:

Brew Date: 7.15.12

Steeping grains
.75 lb C 40
1.25 CaraPils
.5 Chocolate

7 lb LME
.5 lb Wheat DME
1.5 lb Light DME

1 oz Wilamette @ 60
.25 oz Willamette @ 30
.5 oz Palisade @ 30
1.5 oz ginger, @ 5

Made starter from Summer IPA yeast
OG: 1.086
TG: 1.012

Abv: 9.71%?

7pm The Kids Are Alright

“They’re the next generation,” he said to me with an eye rolling cocktail of despair and disgust.

To be fair, the two young men were annoying. Boys, if I had to guess. Talking almost-too-loudly on the bus about such fictions of sex, rebellion and growing a beard this winter. Popping a bubble in the plastic tint of the window, talking of plans to see Dredd and sounding just a bit like Mugsy and Bugsy in their relationship as they parted ways.

I looked at this man with the grizzly gray beard, square glasses and red jacket and said: “I was them, not that long ago,” a shrug rolling from my right to left side. If I’m worried about anything, it’s what the next generation will learn from us.

I’m relating this over a Full Sail Hopenfrisch: their fresh hop offering. It’s a pilsner with Pearle hops and my initial sips were very, very favorable. Light, grassy elements that were pleasantly refreshing.

About one-third of the way through my pint, I have changed my mind drastically. The aftertaste on this beer is sticky and not in a good way. It could be hop bitterness, maybe: the beer certainly isn’t balanced well. This is surprising, because if I would have thought any style would benefit from the mildness of fresh hops, it would be a pilsner.

No. They went wrong here, somehow. The lack of malts means that the bitterness is overwhelming. This beer is actually challenging me to drink it, some kind of horrible gauntlet of bitter hop bite punching my taste buds with every sip. The fresh hop flavor at the beginning is overwhelmed by whatever they used for bittering and it’s ruined the beer for me.

But it was either this or the pumpkin beers and I have no interest in those. Those beers are for the next generation. People who love novelty more than beer because that kind of thing is new to them. Not that I resent a brew tasting like pumpkin pie, there’s just nothing to discuss about it and it’s not worth drinking any other time of the year.

I was one of those people too, not that long ago. Hell, sometimes I still am.

Beers made by walking

I found this to be a neat concept, one that, in many ways harkens back to how beers were brewed over a century ago: Go out, find edible things, steep them in (soon to be) alcohol. I’ll be out of town on October 20th but maybe someone else will go and return with tidings of interesting beers.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Willamette Week’s President of Beers event going on. Looks like they ‘overlooked’ the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (if Puerto Rico has as brewing scene that would be awesome) but a fun exercise nevertheless.


Edit: title said ‘Bears’. Don’t know what I was on.