Where I Want To Go-Hawthorne Theater/Angelo’s

I am at the Hawthorne Theater to see the mighty High On Fire play. It’s a small luxury in what has been a fairly expensive year, so I’m quite happy I can attend. I won’t be having a drink here, though. It’s not because the Hawthorne Theater doesn’t have anything good: even the dive bars in Portland have incorporated the ‘we should have awesome beer’ message and something is at least available in the bottle.

No, it’s the bathroom. A zero privacy space that doesn’t lock easy that I refuse to use unless nobody else is in the building or I’ve gotten enough alcohol in me that I don’t care.  It’s a Monday night so I refuse to get to that point. It’s better to just enjoy the show and see if I can find something to slake my thirst later.

It’s a pretty good show, too the opening band Black Snake is about as generic as their name but aren’t bad and Windham is a jam band. I don’t care how heavy they are, a jam band is still a jam band.

Kveltertak is a bit like seeing five Andrew WKs and a drum beast filtered through Norway. Either that’s awesome or it isn’t and I thought it was awesome. Those lads are going to have to learn how to pace themselves soon though; you can’t headline on an hour of their breakneck rock. You’d just die.

As for High On Fire: If there is a more essentially metal band performing out there, I don’t know of them.

I left the Hawthorne happy, overheated and very thirsty. I was a little worried that I’d have trouble getting a beer at such a late hour on a Monday but I shouldn’t have been concerned at all. Portland seems to really like three things: strippers, reading, and drinking. Angelo’s was very quiet but it was open and the bartender was kind enough to sell me a Lagunita’s IPA.

Which tasted like awesome, because I needed one.

Holiday Ale Fest Tasting Notes

There were quite a few interesting experiences at the Holiday Ale fest, most of them pretty good but forgetting to eat lunch was not one of them. Despite that rookie oversight, I had a decent time; it was warmer than I thought it would be, there was a whole ‘skybar’ section which made me feel like I was drinking in someone’s awesome tree house, and I got to talk beer with the Taphandle people. The glasses sometimes gave off a weird plastic scent, but for the most part that didn’t wreck the beers so you take the good with the bad. Let’s get to the (mildly edited, as always) notes!

Mcmenamins-Mele Kalikimaka stout
Has a nice, warmly toasted coconut flavor but an odd aftertaste though that I can’t place. I can’t say it puts me entirely off, but I’m I do wonder if I’m missing something.

Elysian-Doom golden treacle pale
It might be a good palate cleanser, a nice contrast to the other ales but it’s not working for me. Something a bit viscous putting my tongue off and quite bitter! I was really surprised by that.

Deschutes-Abyss 07 imperial stout
Deschutes was running a vertical tasting of Abyss, 06-12 and I had to pick one. As always, this is just impossible. The flavors of coffee, chocolate and hints of black licorice are so strong, thus almost feels solid. It is sooooo good, though. I got to try the ’10 a little later on and it was also good but had a sour note to it which provided an interesting contrast.

Crux Fermentation-Oud Freakcake oud bruin/flanders
It tastes like a fruitcake in all the best ways. Hint of spiced rum, which makes this work or not work depending on how you feel abut that. Cinnamon, coriander all in there too, with a sour note that strides in at the end like a graceful lady in heels.

Deschutes-Virgin Sacrifice-cherry stout?
Flavor come in the wrong order, sour coming at the end when I wanted chocolate. Nope. Avoid.

Lath Neppur-St Dorothy’s peach cordial ale
Very good, dried smoked peaches in liquid form, it’s perfect for the in-between beer to break up the winter ales. I like it a lot.

Gigantic-Scut Farkus Affair holiday ale
A really nice beer, well balanced with a fruity quality up front, and a nice caramel to finish: one of my faves.

Kells-fruit cake ale
If they had called it a brown ale then I’d be ok with this beer but the expectations are raised and frankly, it does not rise to meet them. This ale would be great paired with a meal with but doesn’t really show off the skill of the brewers. It’s just a brown ale and when they use fruit cake in the name, I was hoping for more.

Pints-Hibernation weizendoppelbock
Why does it smell of cheese? It’s a hefe and a decent one at that but maybe I don’t like hefes? Sour note at end which I’m not too thrilled with.

Vertigo-Polar Blast barrel aged porter
This is an excellent porter: thin as fitting style, but with great chocolate and vanilla notes and it feels really light.

Fish-Gingerbread ale is..what it says! That isn’t a recommendation or a condemnation. If you want this flavor, have it. Be prepared for poor glass scents to ruin a perfectly good beer though.

Eel River-Gargantua imperial strong ale blend
A very well executed bourbon aged ale, that is well balanced and worth drinking.

And there you have it! I hope you are able to enjoy the Holiday Ale Fest too. Don’t forget to have lunch!

Wingman Visit

I hope everyone’s holiday went well! I was in the Seattle area and met up with Fuz with what little free time I had. We made our way over to Wingman brewing and I was able to hang out there for a little while, trying their single malt, single hop (SMaSH) beer, made with Topaz hops. I was even fortunate enough to talk to the brewer, who was serving that night. He was great and answered as many of my questions as he could in between serving others, so thanks to him!

Now, the Wingman serving area smells awesome when you go in, because it’s just a sectioned-off part of the brewery. The drawback to that awesome is that it was difficult to pick up nose of of the Topaz ale. As it warmed up, grapefruit starts to come out but it’s quite bitter on the finish from first sip to last.

In this respect, it’s difficult to evaluate the Topaz SMaSH; is it properly displaying the hops? Yes. Has it been paired with a malt to show that off? Yes (the GWM Pale Ale bag in the background was used). But I feel like SMaSH ales are frequently excellent examples of why we blend ingredients. The Topaz needs more flavors to counterbalance its bitter qualities and standard pale malt by itself just doesn’t cut it.

On the other hand, there isn’t anything wrong with the beer and these kinds of experiments are not only ones I approve of and want to support, but that I find educational as a drinker and brewer. How else am I going to really find out what something is like, if I don’t just go all in on it?

I don’t want to give the impression that Wingman cannot make a good beer, though. I took some sips from the P-51 porter that Fuz got and it tastes like a more well rounded beer, and it’s quite good. I tried their Ace IPA and found that to be more to my liking, again because I felt it was just a more complete beer. I also appreciated the willingness that the brewer had to talk to me about what he was doing, because that helped inform a great deal of what I had to say about the SMaSH beer and I look forward to visiting Tacoma again.

Which is not a sentence I thought I would write.

Where I Want To Go: Nick’s Coney Island

I don’t talk about it much, but I really enjoy pro football and tonight Seattle was playing New Orleans in a game that was going to be a Pretty Big Deal. Playoff implications, two great teams, the whole shebang. In addition, one of my friends, who is probably the biggest football and Seahawks fan that I am aware of, was hosting a Monday Night Football event at Nick’s so why not go there? Support my friend AND watch the game? What’s not to like?

I’ll tell you: Rusty Truck’s blueberry ale. In my defense, I can only say that I did not know it was a blueberry ale when I ordered it. I just saw a tap handle and thought: Hey, I don’t know what that is! Get it!

I should have done a little more research. The beer was thin, vaguely hinted of blueberry and didn’t really provide much encouragement to drink another. It was just not a very wise decision.

On the upside, I got to hang out with some really nice people who were very enthusiastic about the game. I could almost see the appeal of sports bars, especially when the team you’re hoping will win is winning; everyone is vibrant and excited and happy. I’m not so sure I would want to be there during a blowout loss…

In addition, I was able to rectify my unwise decision with Ninkasi’s Sleigh’r, which is a much better beer. I’m not sure that it completely washed the taste of weak blueberry out of my mouth but at least I finished on a high note.