An Evening At Kells

I don’t get to the NW very often so an invite to tour Kells‘s expanded brewing space and try their beer was one I wasn’t going to turn down. I hadn’t even known they were brewing, you know?

I quickly met Gerard, the owner, who was kind enough to fill me in on the history of the place and the story behind getting a new one. Apparently it was cheaper to put a brewery in the NW site than to try and add it to the Downtown one, because of plumbing costs but since he had always hoped to have a brewery, he wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity. Dave, formerly of Lucky Lab and Garrett, who apprenticed at breweries in Argentina,  were also on hand to talk about the beers they had made, a great deal of pride in their voices and with good reason: they had made some very tasty beers.

We were given samples of the current efforts, and the following is my semi-edited notes on them. (As an aside, they gave us some food to pair with each beer, and the food was well done and tasty but this is a beer blog, so I won’t talk much more about that.)

Irish lager: used a German yeast strain, had a nice bready end with a clean finish. Drinkable as all get out. It would wash away the taste of a fish & chips bite, without getting you any fuller. I overheard Dave talk about the creamy finish of this beer and he’s right-but I like that finish. He wants it more carbonated, and apparently the method that they use to server the lager downtown provides it (I heard something about how CO2 is injected but I didn’t catch the whole conversation.) What I find cool about this is how something that I would have thought was really ironed out by now-how beer is served from the tap-can shift a the flavor.

The amber is a beer you want to let warm up, I think. The hues of malt flavor grow after a few minutes, lasting for a bit longer which I preferred. They went with NW hops instead of English, because the NW hops were fresher. Since the beer is lower in alcohol, they want to provide the best ingredients they can, ensuring customers get their money’s worth. It has a hint of cherry at the end, which I’m told is a note of sour from the yeast. Dave mentioned using the same yeast as Guinness to provide this, telling me that yeast-influenced flavors were his favorite beer styles.

Amber on the left, IPA on the right

Finally, the Irish pale ale; hint of soap in the nose but that quickly evaporates for something tilting more floral, with a pine finish. They did some nice work here: it’s an IPA with a nice malt bridge but it’s not too heavy, so a few pints can be drunk. This was, the brewers admit, the point.  This beer also uses the Guinness yeast, so there is a sour touch after the hops. Somehow, this works; a slight plot twist that makes things work out.

All the beers finished very cleanly and were really good, I thought. Plus, now that they have expanded, they are looking forward to making seasonal ales, including (naturally) an Irish stout. However, next on their agenda was an imperial brown ale for the Holiday Ale fest, which I am very much looking forward to.

Canada pt 2

Squamish is a small town and to be frank, there isn’t much to do there.

But there is a brewery: Howe Sound. I had a few of their beers during my stay, including a few that I enjoyed but didn’t take notes on. The next day, I went back and got a sampler; here’s what I wrote about those:

The pumpkin ale (far right) has a nice biscuit quality, evoking a pie crust, and I appreciate the brewery’s take on things, even if I’m not fond of the style. And let’s face it, pumpkin beers are the pumpkin spice latte of ales: trendy and trying to appeal to everyone.

The base hefe (far left) is very nice, the banana and orange elements are pronounced but not overwhelming. The wheat gives it a good backbone. It’s ok but the truth is, their King Hefe is a better beer. Get that if you have the option.

Troller (the red next to the hefe) has a marijuana stink in the nose. It’s also a bit too thin to support this intense aroma, and the resiny finish doesn’t have the middle to balance it.

The IPA (between the two redder ales) is mining the NW IPA style and it should appease any hophead. Clearly restraining the malt in order took emphasize the hop qualities, it is eschewing balance to appeal to what is one of the most popular styles in the NW area.

Canada pt 1

Well, sorta. En route to Canada, I stopped by the Chuckanut Brewery in Bellingham for a sampler! I have a friend who lives there and she’s raved about them, so I felt fortunate to stop by and try the sampler. The following are my notes, arranged from the top left corner of the picture, going across, then down and to the right.

Fest 2013 is quite good, malt forward while being exceptionally light. I liked this beer quite a bit and ended up getting a growler to go.

The pilsner was too drinkable. I literally couldn’t take one sip without taking another. As a warm lazy weekend brew, this would treat and I was hard pressed to stay away from it.

The kolsch was nearly invisible until the finish, which had a gentle roasty quality appear. Nothing too forward though and this beer would go so well with lighter fish dinners. Quite good but as the third lighter beer in a row, it may not have stood out as much as it normally would.

Nearby, four old guys reminisce, one of them commenting that he never watched tv until he got married… except the Olympics when he was in the service in Europe, he just never watched tv until he got married. Then they bought that set…the conversation trails off a little. He doesn’t speak with regrets, more of a “isn’t that interesting?” vibe, as though he is pondering his life without television, the way I sometimes wonder about the impact the internet has had.

Back to the beer: the British IPA is just that: British. I’m unsure that I can tell the difference between a British IPA and a pale ale, anymore. The NW has skewed my palate, I guess. Is it good? Yes. Is it an IPA? I leave that question for more refined tongues than mine. The finish is very clean and I dig.

The Alt I was a bit less fond of. Very crisp finish but the body was thin and I couldn’t get much malt from it.

Finally, the robust porter is a great example of the style. Strong flavors but clean finish and nothing heavy about it.

Eventually I left, went through the border and arrived at Fuz’s place. He had a dark Belgian thing in his fridge that I don’t remember the name of. But it was dark, evoked Satan, and tasted good.

Where I Wanna Go: O’Malley’s

After being on the road for four days last week, I could not find it in me to seek out anyplace far away. All day drives burn out the spirit and part of me wants to just stay home and curl up with a book but I am blessed with places within walking distance to get a beer. If I cannot avail myself of these awesome things, what’s the point?

So I’ve come to O’Malley’s due to its proximity to home and am delighted to discover Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack IPA is on tap. After discovering them at Bailey’s last week, the opportunity to try more of their wares is most welcome.

And it is damn good. Hop flavors are clearly bent to the US-piney flavors of hops, with a solid aroma that holds throughout the beer and a finishing bitterness that is nicely bridged by a present but by no means too big malt. It’s very good and I would have another if it wasn’t a school night.

It’s quiet this evening and I’m not sure if that’s just because of Mondays or the onset of Autumn. It always takes people a little time to adjust to the oncoming darkness and despite unseasonally warm weather, fall is certainly here. There are three women playing pool in the corner and an older gent at the bar, beard white as snow, drinking a Rainier tall boy. I mostly ignore them and slough off the tension of the day. It’s going to be a very busy week, preparing for the OBC’s Fall Classic (I have an entry this year!) because I am Head Steward again. This may be the last opportunity I have to relax until November.

I stare at the last quarter of my glass. It’s time to go home but I’m finding it difficult to work up the inertia to leave. I am a body at rest.

800

I’ve come to Bailey’s for the 800th post because seriously: where else would I be? The photo is of Bockor’s Cuvee des Jacobin Rogue, a Flanders red but the best ale I had this evening was Barley Brown’s Handtruck pale ale. It had a magnificent pot/piney nose with a wonderful balance of hops and malt. I thought I had photographed it, but I ended up having some nice conversations with the people around me instead.

I spent my time in the new upstairs area, which I feel like I shouldn’t mention, as though it’s a space for the regulars that I should protect and ya’ll should just stay away, so we can enjoy it.

But it’s wonderful and I have to tell you so. It isn’t always open but when it is, it’s worth having a drink there.

As always, there is an impulse to say a great deal about this moment but the only thing that really matters is:

Thank you.

PS: I’m in Canada this weekend so no Friday post. Canuck adventure report next week!

Bad Brown (it’s not a feature, it’s a bug)

This is bad. There’s no way to get around that fact. The beer contains traces of (in no particular order) anise, molasses and a banana split in the nose. The flavors include all of the above and a solid chocolate note to top it all off.

So this didn’t work out; too sweet, too many weird flavors that aren’t meshing well.

I don’t know what happened. I added black tea at the end because I thought that a hint of the spicy flavor would be interesting with a brown ale. Nothing in the off flavors suggest black tea however, save, perhaps, for the anise. Which I still think would be interesting if everything else had worked out.

The most likely conclusion is that I pitched the yeast at a temperature that was too high but I’ve been really good about that sort of thing for awhile. I know that anything above 78 is bad news so I do my best to shoot for cooling the wort to 70-75.

Nevertheless, screwing that up is the most likely conclusion. That, or I should just stay away from tea-related adjuncts forever. The worst of it is; in addition to being barely drinkable, I can’t have more than two at night or else the caffeine from the tea keeps me awake! It’s like a terrible rum and coke.

The funny thing is, last Saturday I tried the Bananas On Fire by Stickmen brewing, a dunkelweizen with rum soaked vanilla beans. And it had the exact same off flavors as my brown, excepting anise.

So I guess it’s OK when you do it on purpose? The Stickmen beer tasted like it said it would so I can’t say that it’s flawed, I can only say that it doesn’t seem like beer ought to taste like this.

Brew Date: 8.18.13

Steeping Grains:
2 oz Black patent
6 oz C120
.25 lb Brown
12 oz C60
.5 lb 2 row

Fermentables: 6 lb LME

Hops:
.75 oz Crystal @ 50
.5 oz Athuam @ 60
.25 oz Crystal @15
.5 oz Athuam @ 15
1.25 oz black tea @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale

OG: 1.062

FG: 1.02

ABV: 5.6%

History of Lager

Here’s a really cool video on the history of lager beer-which, as much as snobby beer people may turn up their nose, is still the most popular style in the world. Plus, when it’s done right, it’s a pretty solid beer to drink, especially on warm days. When it isn’t…well, bad beer is bad, regardless of the source.

What I like about this history is how it links technology to push a development (as with the development of the lager yeast) and that development to push technology (improved refrigeration to store and transport the new pilsner style.) It’s kind of a mini-history of cool things in general; check it out.

Dance Class Interlude

I’ve stopped for a Chasin’ Freshies by Deschutes before dance class. It is a terrible name for a beer because I sound hammered trying to say it and I’ve nary a drop.

It’s a good beer though, emphasizing the lemony bitterness of the hops strongly on the back end, but not ferociously.

Meanwhile, I kill time before class at the Slow Bar.  It’s more crowded than I expected, given how early it is. But I suppose Portland is a drinking city and if you have the time, then it’s time for a pint and the crowd here, which seems to cross age and income brackets, supports this notion.

I try not to think about dance class. It makes me nervous. Practicing a skill is good but when I practice brewing, the only one who has to suffer with the consequences is me. Dancing is a kind of public practice that opens you up to mockery, although that mockery is entirely internal.

Still, I’m here during happy hour and I get to have a fortification beer. Hard to complain, ennit?

Where I Wanna Go: Hair of the Dog

An OBC meeting is tonight, a rare instance where my business of writing and drinking overlap. I’m not complaining though; I can kill two birds with one stone and still have some fun while I am at it. We’re out at the Hair of the Dog brewpub and they are graciously serving us some tastes of their latest batches.

I try the HotD Doggie Claws, which has something fruity, cloying maybe? about it that is impeding my enjoyment. I seem to have this issue with many HotD beers: something about them that just doesn’t make me happy. The Blue Dot IPA has something filthy at the finish, as though the lines weren’t cleaned. The Ruth smells like a can of creamed corn. The Adam has a near-burnt caramel flavor at the end and that’s probably the most drinkable ale.

I’m told by other members that HotD makes beers that you really want to store. They are vastly improved after a few months or even years, sitting in the bottle. While I don’t oppose that philosophy, it runs in direct opposition to my own, which says that a beer should be drinkable as soon as it’s ready. If it isn’t ready, you don’t sell it.

You know what I do enjoy? Cities at night. The HotD brewpub is located in the SE industrial area, which is bad for immediate views and fascinating for your encounters with the dispossessed, but great for staring across the river to see the buildings, barely backlit by a fading sunset, green draped behind them like a seascape. I could almost believe in was in Rapture