Where I Want To Go: The Vern

I’ve come to the Vern because I need to be at a dive bar. It is a day for hating everyone and dive bars are excellent cover for just such activities. Plus, there is nobody here. Seething against the species is a good solo activity.

Of course, the bartender is a super friendly, almost jolly dude in a Social Distortion tee. He’s making the execution of my general irritability towards humanity more difficult than it should be. And, there’s Iron Maiden’s Ace’s High on the jukebox and no self-respecting metalhead can despise Iron Maiden.

On top of all that, there’s a pretty swell selection of beers too. How the hell is a writer supposed to compose screeds about how everything is fucked and it should be if there is good beer, agreeable atmosphere and Iron Maiden?

Despite the selection, I go for a Mirror Pond. I don’t want to challenge myself today with a beer I need to describe: Mirror Pond is my default beer because it’s good and I don’t have to try and make it interesting.

This is about the time AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells comes up and I have to reconsider my feelings towards wishing the Earth would burn.

Despite all that, I feel like dive bars might be good hideouts for a few weeks. I doubt I’ll sustain this malaise for a long time but divey bars are just good joints to hide in and I think I’m in need. They are what they are, stripped down and uninterested in pretending. The last thing that a good writer and a beer advocate should be interested in is pretense.

Beer is nearly done. Let’s try and find another dark space to meet in for next week.

How To: IPA (drinking)

Finally, we get to the good stuff; drinking the beer.

There’s a faint grassy quality to the nose but its not overmuch and the beer overall? Pretty solid. Not too bitter and the malts hold up nicely.

I am pretty sure this beer would be called a pale ale ’round these parts. I probably didn’t add enough hops in secondary to really give it the kind of nose an IPA is expected to have, and it’s possible I should’ve added more hops in the middle of the boil but who cares! It’s good and that’s what matters.

Grains
4 lb 2 row
1.5 lb C60
.5 lb Wheat

Fermentables
3 lb LME

1/4 tsp gypsum salt

Hops
.5 oz Centennial in preboil
1 oz US Magnum, 1 oz Chinook @ 60
.5 oz US Magnum, .5 oz Chinook, .5 oz Centennial @15

Yeast:
2nd use of Wyeast British II

OG: 1.065

FG: 1.018

Secondary 3/30

Added .5 Chinook and US Magnum hops

Bottled 4.5
ABV: 6.4%

Collaborator Judging

I was asked to be a judge for the Widmer Collaborator competition, which was really cool and I’m glad I got to be a part of that!

For readers who don’t know: the Collaborator competition isĀ  one that Widmer puts on in conjunction with the Oregon Brew Crew. The winner has their beer brewed by Widmer and sold around town. This is a definite feather in the cap of the brewer and Widmer gets to brew an interesting beer which they might make and market later so there’s a cool symbiosis going on there!

Collaborator judging is different from regular beer judging; we are looking for something that we feel will appeal to the market, not for something that is stylistically correct. It requires a bit of a shift in thinking but since I’m just a professional beer drinker, and not a professional judge, it wasn’t too big of a leap.

The picture is of the six beers I got to judge and while I’m sorry to say none of them went forward, I had a good time judging them. I didn’t worry about style, I concentrated on one question: Do I want another?

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t feel that way about any of them, because there were styles I was hoping to see, including an American Brown and Czech Dark Lager. I love it when really drinkable but underused styles are out there! Alas, they just had too many issues.

There was an IPA infused with pink peppercorn that almost made the cut but it wasn’t carbonated enough. As a result, the beer just didn’t pop like it needed to: it inspired some good conversation but in the end could not be recommended.

I found out later that three beers were chosen: a vanilla pale ale, a stout and an IPA age on Spanish cedar and I look forward to trying those!

 

Where I Want To Go: Roscoe’s

I’ve come to Roscoe’s because I feel like I should be getting to Roscoe’s more often. It’s reasonably close and the beer list is good so I wonder why I don’t make this a watering hole. The Commons Primavera Gold ale is on tap and it’s been a looooong time since I’ve had anything from them, so let’s have at it!

Damn. This is the beer I should be trying to make for summer! Forget lagers. They are a pain in the ass, especially for a homebrewer. This is sweet, with a clean finish and an effervescence that keeps it crisp. Thank you, Commons, for telling me I don’t have to chase that dragon. Plus, now I know what style to make next.

Roscoe’s is very quiet tonight. I’m a little surprised. I’m not complaining, since the lower-key atmosphere gives me a chance to enjoy the pub without feeling overcome by people. If it was like this all the time, I might take up residence.

A third residence, that is.

I ponder the beer list at Roscoe’s, trying to decide what my second beer should be. I don’t know who’s picking out the selections but they do a good job. Broad range of styles, from sours to kolsh to a stout on nitro, and with breweries still, amazingly, concentrated on Oregon (with WA & CA smatterings). Plus one beer from Denmark, which seems to be the case rather often, here. Some beer from across the seas makes it in, just to remind us that Americans are not the only ones making interesting beer.

I approve. The sooner we remember that we aren’t isolated, the better. Plus; who doesn’t want to see what those crazy Danes are doing?

I feel like I want something more aggressive, next. This golden is quite tasty but it is not hitting the spot, most likely because it’s no longer 90 degrees out. Three days ago, or a month from now: totally different story.

I could just ask for a sampler but how easy is that? Too easy. No. Let’s just go big.

I’m move to the Aussie IPA (the second in Bridgeport’s three anniversary beers)
and I have to say, this isn’t working for me at all. The grapefruit is overwhelming! I don’t understand why this beer has been selected for a highlight. Because-and I know they know how to brew this- provide a strong caramel backbone to this beer? It becomes amazing. A pale instead of an IPA, perhaps, but who gives a toss? Pales are good! As it stands, this beer feels like they are trying to get away with one: undermalting the beverage to overemphasize the hops.

Let’s ask the bartender next time. Prodigal Son’s Fatted Calf stout or Crux’s On The Fence pale. Both nitro. Bartender likes them but at the moment prefers the Crux. I go for it.

I am staring at the nitro settling, creamy density becoming clarity and I try not to think of it as a metaphor for life that cost me $3.50. Sometimes it’s like that though; if it wasn’t the poets would all starve.

Generally I disapprove of a pale ale on nitro; part of the glory of the style is that it has such a nice nose. I even cringed a little as I watched the bartender pour the beer, scooping out a head so thick that she cannot fill a proper glass. I am concerned.

But it all works out. The dense foam of the nitro cannot stop the hops and the creamy qualities that the nitro brings to the ale actually mesh nicely with the hop bitterness. I don’t know that this is the first pale that I’ve had on nitro but it’s certainly one of the best.

Although this really just confirms how much I like Crux. They do such good beers.

2 of 3 for the night. I’ll take that.

Birth of a hop

I found this article at Craft Beer to be a fascinating study on how a hop variety comes to be. It’s not too deep and there’s some nice historical information there as well but there’s also plenty on how plants are cultivated and new varieties are grown.

I had no idea that hops were one of the most labor intensive crops in the world, though! That could mean some very interesting things for the price of beer in the future, as hops become more and more relevant to the styles people want to drink.

 

Craft Matters

In a changing marketplace, where beer sales, especially from big brewers, are down, it’s this article at NPR that helps explain (for me) why there is a wrangling over what “craft beer” means.

It’s about the money, of course. I should’ve seen that coming but alas, I was fooled (and foolish) thinking that these terms were about some insistence that one person or brewery is cooler than another. There’s even an attempt to ‘sell’ it like that in the NPR article; implying that the essence of craft brewing is being ‘watered down’.

But this is entirely about money and which breweries of which size need representation from an organization like the Craft Beer Alliance, and which probably need to exist on their own merits now, Sam Adams and Widmer chief amongst them. Of course, it does lead me to the question: who supports the ‘midrange’ brewers?

But maybe the better question is: do those brewers really need support? Clearly their business model is working. What more do they need from an organization that is supposedly all about the small businesses?

It does seem like there is a point where you can let go of what you had, because what you’ve got is so much better.

 

Where I Want To Go: Lucky Lab (SE)

I am enjoying the Solar Flare pale ale. It’s got a soft maltiness but it’s just enough to keep the beer in line. I’m having trouble getting a nose off this beer-maybe because I’m outside? I sense a whiff of grassiness, which I like, but it’s faint and I can feel my face warp grumpily for a moment because I can’t get anything else.

I hate being outside. I really don’t understand why people want to be outside during times of year that aren’t July-Aug. And I don’t really understand being outside when it’s so damn hot out. Mostly because I want to relax and outside is just not a relaxing place. Too cold, too windy, too hot; being outside is like a conspiracy of things that exist to make me uncomfortable. So I just don’t understand being outside in general, I suppose.

But, there is beer. That makes things a lot more bearable. Most things are more bearable with beer, now that I think about it. It doesn’t hurt that I’m here to play cards as well; and more things are bearable with people, too.

I’m losing my game though. So maybe it’s just the beer that makes this better.

How To: IPA (bottling)

As with nearly all things brewing, the first step is to sanitize everything. All the bottles, all the wands, the bottle caps, the siphon, everything.

This takes time and has to be done in batches so I use an iodophor solution so I can get it all done with the same amount of water.

Next up, I transfer the beer into the bottling bucket. This is mostly done to give me greater access to the beer so I can add bottling sugar, and to take it off the final bit of debris at the bottom. It also makes it easier to get a final gravity reading, which is always nice.

While that’s being done, I’m making a simple syrup of sugar (and it’s just plain white sugar, I don’t get fancy about it) and add it to the beer. It’s important to mix this up a few times as I bottle so that the sugar gets distributed evenly through the beer.

The other advantage to siphoning to a bucket this is that it’s another filter for the beer. As you can see, I’ve dry hopped this batch so this helps separate the liquid from the hops used, meaning less hops will end up in the beer that I drink.

Some hops will still be there. I’ll pick out the occasional leaf but that’s not so bad, really.

Next up, bottling the beer. I’ve got my bottling wand in there to make bottling easier and help prevent overfilling and spilling…which I eventually am going to do anyway because I am trying to take photographs of this for the blog.

Such is life.

As I go, I try to place bottle caps on the bottles. This is to keep other things from falling in but it’s also to create a small barrier, so that if the yeast is starting to eat the sugar, the CO2 can start pushing the oxygen out now. Oxygen is bad for beer (but it’s great for yeast, which is why some brewers oxygenate their wort). Even if it’s not much oxygen being pushed out–or none at all, I’d probably still do it, to prevent anything else from getting in the beer.

And here we have the filled and capped bottles. The two gold caps (seen in the upper left box, bottom middle) are there so I can make some kind of clear notation as to what this beer is. That way I don’t have to check my spreadsheet every time I want to know what beer is coming up next.

Now that the beer is capped, I put it aside to carbonate, and clean everything up.

I Get You Mean Well

This isn’t a bad article from Men’s Journal on the 5 most commonly used hops.

My issue is that 3 of the hops (Cascade, Centennial, Citra) all use citrus as the descriptive baseline for the flavor and the other two mention tropical fruit and leafy qualities.

What needs to be emphasized is the differences, not the similarities. How do we tell that the Citra hops are not the Cascade hops?

On the upside, beers are suggested to taste to help make the comparisons, I just wish they provided more information about the flavors we should be looking for in order to distinguish between the hops. What flavors are we tasting in the Flying Dog IPA that tell us these are Simcoe hops and not Mosaic? The differences seem so subtle in the brief descriptions, I feel that in this instance, more would be better.