Where I Wanna Go: Imperial Bottle Shop

The storms hit us hard last weekend; I’m told it’s due to a typhoon that rose up in the Pacific and burnt out on its way here. Wind and rain kept me in all weekend so it’s nice to finally get out and investigate the new bottle shop on Division, the Imperial.

It’s bright in here but a soft-bright, like I’m in a furniture showroom not a pub. I’m used to the harsh but inadequate lights of the Horse Brass or the dimmable lights of…well, damn near everywhere else, a feature that has driven me from the occasional bar because I can no longer see when I want to play cards. I have to say, the effect is quite pleasant.

See? I’m already sounding more ‘refined-British’ in my head, and that is just from the lighting. The porter is just there to complete the affectation.

Ah, the porter! Mazama‘s Pyroclastic porter is what I’m trying because it’s new to me but I am pleased to report that my curiosity is being rewarded. The coffee flavor is predominant but it is not without chocolate notes and as befits a porter, it’s lighter on the tongue. I would totally have another if I could. Alas, ’tis a school day tomorrow and I must behave responsibly.

About one-third of the crowd is here to watch baseball, but there is only one television and it can be ignored. The other third is there for a birthday event, which is pretty cool to witness at such a new place. The bottle prices from what I saw, were about standard. Nothing special, perhaps but something that can keep the neighborhood walking to get their ales, so I can dig it. The beer list was nice though and included a range of styles, with room for a couple ciders on tap, providing an excellent sense of variety.

I liked the Imperial and recommend it.

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So what else did you do when you weren’t writing?

Well, I went to Seattle and tried a few beers there. Well, OK, a great many beers but here is what I took notes on.

Firestone Walkers Pale 31 is wonderful. Spicy, lime nose, orange creamy finish, nice toasty caramel background. I guess that isn’t a surprise considering the pedigree of the brewery but sometimes, you have to have a gimme, you know?

Alaskan Bitter Biliken is an English style bitter that is too unbalanced with grapefruit bitterness.

12 Bar Brews Wicked Riff IPA (pic) is just a mouthful of grapefruit. A little spicy touch arrives as it warms up, but by then it is too late to save this beer.

I know that IPAs are supposed to be an unbalanced style but I am confused by people who want to make them taste like grapefruit rind. It’s just…no. Don’t do that. Malt is not a bad thing! Hell, hop variance isn’t a bad thing!

I also made my annual pilgrimage to the Elysian brewpub on Capitol Hill, where I had their Woodruff maibock. It was nice and pretty mild; I do get a red wine influence in the nose-it’s just a little tart there. I had something else but I was too busy eating lunch to take notes. Writer hungry!

However one of the best surprises was Bellhaven Scottish stout. I was introduced to this by friends, and it was fantastic. It has a whiff of whiskey in the nose and is super creamy all the way to the finish. A really lovely surprise. I think I need to find some more of that as soon as possible.

Where I Want To Go: Hopworks #1

Torn between the Summers End ale and the Powell Estate at Hopworks, the bartender recommends Powell Estate.

What a treat! Very crisp, a nice biscuit flavor in the middle and the nose, like many fresh hop beers, isn’t overmuch. I already want another.

Being at Hopworks is a little like being on a date with someone I ought to really like, but just don’t seem to click with, though.

One thing I want to do during this series is take the opportunity to visit a few places more than once. Maybe not quite a regular but enough to get a sense of what a place is like. Also, if I can’t use this as an excuse to frequently visit breweries that I enjoy, what’s the point? It’s always nice to walk into a spot and have the bartender recognize you.

However, now we get back to the date analogy I spoke of earlier. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was able to arrive early and get a nice seat at the bar. But it is getting crowded now, more than I am comfortable with. Too many people, too much television, very little way to engage in conversation. It would be different if I had arrived with someone, however most everyone I know works during the day. Hell, I don’t even know if I would want to attempt to come here when Hopworks is in full swing.

It’s not that it is a bad place. It’s just serving a culture that isn’t quite pub-related anymore. It’s crowd-related. It can never be quiet and rarely provide the environment for an easy conversation. It’s for something more raucous; a wedding party, maybe. Any circumstance where you know everyone.

I like this place but only when it’s not there for everyone…and that means that I can’t love it. You have to go all in on love: that’s just the nature of love. But I can like something when I like it. So lets just agree that I’ll be back here whenever time allows, because man, this beer is tasty.

Zythos

I saw the Zythos hops at FH Steinbart’s and thought: that name is awesome. So I picked up a few ounces in order to make a beer that used those and only those hops, in order to understand what they bring to a beer. I don’t know that this is the best or only way to really understand an ingredient (at least I hope not because nobody wants to drink a beer with only Carafa II malt, trust me) but when it is possible, why not?

This beer is a bit fizzy but that’s not a deal breaker. The nose is a bit lemon-lime: not sweet but definitely wafting those aromatics. The bitterness isn’t overwhelming on any front. Again, there is not quite as much body as I would like for this beer. The malt qualities are there but they don’t quite establish themselves as much as I had hoped they would.

All in all, I’d put the Zythos as a good compliment hop. Something that might buttress other flavors, or be really good in a malt-forward beer that someone might want to add just a little zip to, or something that could be dominant in a pale(er)/lager style, because it doesn’t give me an overpowering flavor. It will be noticeable but not aggressive.

Recipe as follows.

Brew date: 7.19.13

Steeping grains:
1.5 lb C 80
1 lb Crystal Rye

Fermentables:
7 lb LME added @ 20

Hops (all Zythos)
1/8th oz in preboil
.75 oz @ 60
.5 oz @ 20

OG: 1.052

FG: 1.012

2ndary on 7.28, added .25 oz of Zythos

ABV: 5.42%

Bottled 8.7.13

How and Where We Search For Beer

One neat thing I found during my vacation was this guide on how and where we search for craft beer. In particular, I think it’s really interesting how social media has changed the game.

Last century, you could go from town to town to have the local beer, but there wasn’t an easy way to tell people about something great that you found, no easy way to generate excitement about something amazing. Now: you really can and this article demonstrates how things like Google searches can show what we’re interested in and how word of mouth starts to effect people.

Well maybe not you or me. But someone with expertise! Or maybe just a whole lot of passion. Let’s face it, passion can make up for a lot of other shortcomings.

I linked to the last story in the series, because it had a nifty map at the bottom that showed how the searches for craft beer appeared across the US but if you’re into the wonkiness of it, the whole thing is worth a gander. There’s a neat comparison of the search terms of ‘microbrews’ and ‘craft beer’ that probably has something deeper to say about language and how we use it, but I leave it to smarter people than I to work out.

Where I Wanna Go: Montavilla Station

Huh. I’m clearly still a bit rusty on the blogging thing, since I had something ready to post on Friday and clearly forgot to hit the “Publish” button. Ah well. Onward!

I’m at the Montavilla Station, on the recommendation from a commenter a few months ago. I was wary coming on a Monday because of football but I’m in luck: it is pretty low key tonight.

I like football but I like it at home, or on fortunate occasions, in person. I don’t really see the point of going somewhere to watch tv and ignore people but perhaps I just have trouble getting into the spirit of things. It wouldn’t be the first time that accusation has been leveled at me.

The upside of the Station is that it has some dive bar character: music posters near a small stage and 45s on the wall, a really lovely station for alcohol, lots of wood…and wood paneling, which still holds the stain of cigarette smoke and gives me a sense of how old it is.

The regulars are here though: speaking a partial code I have no cypher for, laughing and commenting and using the phase ‘booty up!’, which the bartender is kind enough to tell me is in reference to the boot she’s wearing to protect her Achilles. We have a short conversation about how important it is to run or walk, so your brain can just zone out and process crap and she tells me how she’s looking into other exercises because “I ain’t wearing stretch pants during the winter.”

I guess that is a bad thing for some reason, but I respect the statement. She’s got standards, damnit.

I’ve sip my Deschutes Red Chair, a nicely balanced pale, the kind of thing I expect from Deschutes, because my choices are limited. I have choices, though, mostly Widmer and Deschutes on the craft end: about what I’d expect from a dive bar.

It’s about this time a fella in a Zelda shirt comes in for a pint of PBR. Bartender tells him the can costs the same and he gets 2oz more, because the glasses (with a Coors Light icon) are cheater pints.

“Anything with a logo on it,” she tells me, “is 14oz instead of 16, and they still try to call them pints!”

Sigh. Still, awesome bartender is awesome. I could consider becoming a regular with cool people like this serving, if I didn’t  have such wanderlust. Both for place and for beer, now that I think about it. I just couldn’t come here every week and drink Deschutes, you know?

So, how’d that dunkel turn out?

Not bad.

It’s a little thin. This is a theme that seems to be coming up occasionally in the beers, where I am doing partial-grain mashes. I may have to work a bit harder on sparging well, or flat out acquire another pot so I can just DO it, instead of slowly transporting water from A to B.

But that criticism aside, the chocolate notes are there and there is enough body to this beer that it doesn’t feel or taste watery, so all in all I’m going to say this is a step forward. Future partial-grain brews will involve as much sparging as I can manage and I’ll keep an eye on the water I add at the end too, when I top off the carboy. It’s possible I am adding an extra gallon or half gallon of water that the beer doesn’t need or want.

Recipe as follows:

Brew Date: 7.13.13

Steeping Grains:
5 lb wheat
6 oz C120
6 oz Carafa 2

Fermentables:
3 lb LME

Hops:
.75 oz US Hallertau @ 60
.25 oz Hallertau @ 30
.75 oz Willamette @ 30
.25 oz Willamette @ flameout

Yeast: reused Chamomile ale wheat

OG: 1.046
FG :1.01

2ndary on 7.18
Bottle 7.23

ABV: 4.8%