Stumptown Tart review

The nice people at Bridgeport Brewing invited me to their debut of this year’s Stumptown Tart ale, so I went. I had a chance to try the beer and grill the brewers for a little bit, which I am very grateful for. After my questions, they gave me a bottle to try at home, which I’m very grateful for because it gave me a chance to properly evaluate the beer.

While at the event, the pours I got seemed flat, as though it was being cask conditioned. I couldn’t smell anything and that always concerns me when I’m trying to describe a beer for someone else. That experience was odd and didn’t feel like what I’d get when I bought it from a store. The beer was solid enough at the event, though, that I held off on talking about it for a few days, when I could get a bottle home, chill it and pour it fresh into a glass.

The brewers I spoke with, Kevin and Jeff, told me the beer had three kinds of berries: raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry, tweaked after made after last years batch. They blended a Belgian ale and ale made from their house yeast in a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio, which is the reverse of last year, in order to bring up the Belgian character more. They felt that last year’s batch didn’t have enough of that quality to it and the strawberry just didn’t come through at all. I believe they said they used close to 2000 pounds of berries, but I neglected to write down the number so I’m going from memory here.  Again; thanks to them for indulging me and answering so many questions.

Now, the Stumptown Tart itself presents an interesting set of questions for me. I will get it out of the way: I like this beer. It’s got a soft Belgiany funk at the beginning which rapidly gives way to the berry-ish flavors in the beer. Raspberry comes in at end with a hint of blueberry in middle. So in some respects, Bridgeport’s blending efforts have been quite accomplished.

It isn’t tart though, by any measure. I wouldn’t even suggest that this is a beer to start people off on sour ales, because it’s so mild. It may be the dreaded fruit beer. This would be less of a problem if having a tart flavor wasn’t in the name. There are expectations that aren’t being met, now.

That’s mostly fine, (even if I do wish there was just a teeny bit more) it just leads me to ask: Who is this for?  And I think it’s for people who want to get into craft beer but are put off by the hardcore IBUs, or the potentially dense, technical language of yeasts and malts. They just want to go to a store, look at something and go: yeah, I know Bridgeport, they usually do good stuff and this is different. Let’s try it!

There’s enough flavors in the Stumptown Tart in common with white wine that from a flavor profile viewpoint, it can be offered to many people, the label is fun and just cheeky enough that women (that I know, anyway) wouldn’t feel insulted or weird about buying it. It’s a nice beer that is meant to be popular and I appreciate how this could serve as a gateway beer for people who might not like or just be intimidated by the craft beer scene. I would buy it, especially if I was going to share it with people.

I do wish it was a little tarter, though.

Final note: I’m on the road this week so there probably won’t be a new post until next Wednesday.

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New To Me: Red’s

The Natural is on TV at Red’s, where I’ve come for the evening. I haven’t seen this movie in quite some time and despite my boredom with baseball as a sport, I really like this movie. This distracts me and is why I forget to take a photo of my Mirror Pond ale, served to me in a pre-chilled glass. Some things do not change.

The age range of the crowd is pretty broad, which I wouldn’t have suspected. Seems to be a strange mix of people, but it’s also packed: it takes me a few minutes to get served by someone who is too busy to take my money. It’s lively in a non-dreary way, although there is a pall of “we smoked here for 300 years” that may never leave.

However, there is a sameness to Red’s. Gambling, sports awards, neon signs, NASCAR endorsements on the walls; all representing a monotony to these places that I may need to get away from. How do these bars find customers?

To my left, I notice a photo on the wall of military personnel, signed in 2009, dedicated to the bar. There’s my answer: there is a tradition here, something about the people who come here leading to the next group of people like them, coming. It suggests that Red’s inspires loyalty and community, and that is a precious thing.

I am about to leave when it strikes me; there are people of color in this joint. It’s the first place I’ve been in in this series where I can really say that there is a mix of people who I don’t see hang out much, normally. That it took me so long to notice may speak ill of my observation skills, but I like to think that it speaks well of the bar. Anyone is welcome, so long as you’re willing to hang with us.

I Still Did It First (sorta)

CNN has a neat little story on the efforts to make a better beer container. It ends with the writer doing a comparison between a glass designed for IPAs and a regular pint glass.

Ahem.

Teasing aside, while I think it’s neat to have glasses specifically designed for a particular beer, there is one problem. With no less than 30 styles of beer and a minimum of two but usually three or more substyles beneath that, the obvious question comes up: “How would making glasses for each style be practical for anybody?”

If your IPA glass is great at keeping carbonation up throughout the drinking process, then what does that do to a style like a stout, which isn’t supposed to have the same level of carbonation? If the solution is: well, just get a stout glass, then the cost starts to get really absurd, if you like to drink many styles of beer (as I do) and you assume a cost of $10 a glass.

I have better things to do with $300. This is also why I didn’t care about glassware for the longest time: it was the kind of issue that seemed more trouble than it was worth. Even as I do the glass experiment, I have to admit that in most cases the improvement on my beer is notable but not overwhelming. Which brings up the next obvious question: “Why bother? Just give me a clean glass.”

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the functionality of a proper glass or the cool idea. Just because it’s a pain, doesn’t mean that the proper glass doesn’t improve the drinker’s experience. Advances that are too expensive now can be improved on and hopefully made cheaper, so we get better glassware for our across the board style of drinking. That doesn’t suck.

Lager (Or Not) 2013

Tt’s time to talk about how this beer came out.

There is a faint funk in the nose; something is off in this beer and it’s likely the result of the combination of old and new yeast. But it feels a lot like a saison or a wit and I like it. It’s lighter and would go well with some hearty cheese. When I put this into secondary on 2.17 and there was a bit too much malt sweetness; I was  concerned that it won’t dry out enough. I can’t say that this beer dried out but is isn’t sweet. All in all, things could have really gone wrong and they didn’t, so I’ll take it as a win.

Brew Date: 1.20.13

Steeping Grains:
.5 lb Honey
.5 lb Dextrin

Fermentables: 7 lb Extra Light malt extract

Hops:

1 oz Mosaic used in Xmas 2ndary @ 60
.5 oz Saaz @ 30
.5 oz Saaz @ 15

Yeast: Reuse of McPolander yeast (whoa!)

OG: 1.058

TG: 1.01

ABV: 6.5%

Notes: added half Mosaic early before boil to smooth out hop bitterness
Added water to wort at about 68ish, waiting for startup before lagering
Added another package of yeast on 1.28, Ocktoberfest by Wyeast

New To Me: O’Malley’s

In addition to being the first place in this series that has its own web site, O’Malley’s also seems to exemplify the weird building structures that I have been dealing with while going to bars on Foster.

The entrance has an enclosed area, which is long, narrow and stretches to the left, looking almost like an elongated porch. This area then opens to the right into a room full of pinball machines, doubles back into the ‘main’ room, with has a very long bar on the left and a final area opening on the right where there are pool tables, and behind those are a series of booths!

I imagine that sounds a bit dizzying and I promise you, even walking in there the layout is an unclear one. It makes sense pretty rapidly (it’s weird, not confusing) but it still suggests a kind of…adaptability when it comes to making spaces work in the odd buildings along Foster.

And it’s a space I like quite a bit, honestly. The music is interesting, diverse and never too loud. The beer selection rotates pretty regularly; I had a Breakside Woodlawn pale, which I enjoyed quite a bit and it was the first time I’d seen that beer. There is lots of space to socialize in whatever degree of sunlight suits you and the booths, while windowless, are lit up well enough to allow me to play cards. On top of all that, wallspace has been adorned with the work of local artists.

I think I need to arrange a night to try some of the food here. If it’s good, there may just be a new local awesome hangout space.

A short re-review of a beer I made a year ago

I always set aside a couple beers from every batch I make to drink later. This is mostly to allow people who don’t live in Portland a chance to drink what I make. Generally, this beer gets drunk within a few months but this dunkel which I made last year, escaped my clutches.

Since I found a couple bottles, I thought it would be a neat thing to talk about what’s happened with this beer now.

There’s a slight funk in the nose but a nice, easy chocolate note running through the beer. It’s similar to what I would think chocolate soda pop would taste like, actually, because of the sweet aftertaste. It’s sugary without being sickly or overwhelming, like a soda might be though.

All in all I’m really surprised that it’s this drinkable. My understanding is that most beers can last this long, they generally aren’t meant to, unless designed as such with high alcohol or hop content. Granted, this beer isn’t excellent but after a year? Not bad.

Arsenic in beer?

Yow.

As a homebrewer, I don’t think this affects me very much; I rarely use clarifying agents in beer these days. Instead, I choose to look at this information as a reminder that not everything needs to look ‘pretty’ in order to be good. We make these assertions and there is a reason for it; cloudiness in a liquid frequently IS a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean it always is. And if we can get better beer by accepting a bit of cloudiness? I’m good with that.