Spokane 2014 pt 2

And now I conclude my Spokane adventures with more notes!

Trickster IPA from Coeur d’Alene. There is no body, there isn’t any nose, and it’s got a dirty bitterness on the finish. I actively hate this beer and don’t want to drink more of it.

Ramblin’ Road: dubbel (pictures) and Grisette. The problem is the aftertaste. In both cases there is a drymouth effect with a dusty flavor at the end and I ended up not liking either. This is a new brewery I’m told, less than a year old and there are close to 13 ales on tap. That is a huge chunk of work for a new place so I’m not surprised to taste beers that aren’t up to snuff. I think they may be trying to do too much in a short timeframe. Maybe in a year things will improve.

Perry Street Brewing pilsner: it is crisp and nice; has a reasonable ping of bitterness on the finish and is very easy to drink. There’s juuuust enough hint of body on the sides of my tongue to encourage me to appreciate this over a mass market pils. The day is just hot enough to justify a pils and I almost want some tacos to go with this beer, just because that’s what ought to be paired with a pilsner. Also: tacos are good.

The Double IPA doesn’t feel like a double IPA. It is quite bitter, that part is for certain. The lingering dank on my tongue is coating so they didn’t short the hops by any measure. The malt presence? Not so much there. This beer has a very nice golden color but it isn’t balanced…which, admittedly isn’t the point. The hop presence is so strong on the finish that I almost have to approve of it. This isn’t flawed, this is a beer saying: you want  hops? HERE

About halfway through the IPA, the bartender behind the counter and I have a chat; she used to live in Portland before moving back to Spokane with her husband who’s the brewer at PSB. Next thing I know, she’s introduced us and he’s taking me and my friend on a brief tour of the pub, which has a seven barrel system in the back that is as new and shiny as a whistle. He talks a bit about how they are trying to make this a neighborhood place and confides how much difficulty he has providing a name for his beers, a plight I can sympathize with myself. He tells me how he runs a 50′ hose from the brewery to the refrigerator to pump the beer into kegs and then we visit the fridge for a moment, while he pours us a little of his upcoming imperial farmhouse saison.

You need this beer. A gentle funkiness in the nose that leads to this well rounded wheat based beer with the barest touches of sour that just tastes excellent. So good. I would camp out at Perry Street while that beer was on tap, if I could. So thanks for the tour and the taste!

Spokane 2014 pt 1

While I was on vacation in Spokane, I didn’t spend it forgoing beer. That would be silly. And potentially stupid, as visiting Spokane is an activity I enjoy but requires heroic doses of heavy metal and steady drips of beer to endure. Fortunately for me, craft brewing is pretty much everywhere now so there were some new beers to try! And that’s why I go anywhere, now.

So here are my notes on what I drank. I’m saving the best for last, which will appear Friday.

River City Vanilla Bourbon Stout (picture)- has a smoky, wood nose, and the vanilla has a pretty solid undercurrent in the beer BUT there is a smoky finish too, coupled with a beer that is really thin for what I feel like a stout ought to bring.

Raspberry Wheat by Icicle. Nose is sour, off-white wine fruit scent that isn’t bad but it isn’t encouraging. The flavor itself is thin, without much in the way of malt at all and then moves to just a raspberry syrup note to the end. I just can’t get behind it.

There isn’t much in the way of a nose on the Iron Goat Impaler IIPA (picture)-I fault the glasses here. Please; give me the pour I have paid for, but provide glasses that allow the beer to have a head and give me the nose the beer deserves. Because this beer is a solid one; there is a strong caramel middle to help set up the citrus bitterness that is quite punchy at the end. This is the third of three Iron Goat beers I have had so far (including a blonde, which didn’t excite me, and a pale that did) and I have to say, they’re doing something right.

The Goatmeal stout (my fourth beer from Iron Goat) is an excellent porter. It is not a stout; it’s thin, and at 5.4%, the alcohol content isn’t there to provide that kind of density that I feel a stout should have. That said; it is super tasty, with the cocoa flavors and dryness at the finish it’s really good. It just isn’t what I am expecting, so I have to knock it.

Where I Want To Go: Viking

I am here and I am not here.

I’m in Spokane for the week and with my sister, I’ve come to the Viking to hang out with people and catch up. My sister is here to do the same, except she’s going to dominate the shuffleboard table too.

What can I tell you about the Viking, really? It has no windows. It’s been around since my parents went to college and it’s been one of the few bars in Spokane to push craft beers of any sort , at least since I started drinking. It has a disturbing level of beer and sports pennants hanging from the every possible fixture that could have one attached. And they give you a bowl of free popcorn.

It’s that kind of place: the kind that might’ve considered being pretentious  but decided, eh, fuck it, here’s beer. So it’s not so bad, really.

I start out with a Sockeye porter which is pretty darn tasty but switch soon to Iron Goat’s pale ale, brought to me by my friend Aaron because he insists it’s the best beer there.  I don’t have cause to doubt him, as it’s very, very good. But Sockeye is good beer from Idaho! That is a kind of wonder unto itself.

Yet I am also not here. I am in Portland, I am telling my story to people who haven’t seen me in a while and my story isn’t new it isn’t in Spokane, either.  I do my best not to live in my story while I am telling it (it has been a rough year) but it is the nature of stories to compel us into the moment of their narrative.

So I ask for their stories instead. Businesses, moving, children, how to navigate a new or an old-but-new relationship, or any relationship, really; all kinds of things to discuss. It is a good evening, with (mostly) good beers. I’ll tell you all about what I had this week, promise.

I don’t get a picture of any of my drinks this evening though, which is disappointing. It is an oversight but that happens when visiting.

The Labeler

Someone took umbrage at the label for a beer, and understandably so. The label is not very funny or clever as these things go and thus crosses into offense. So the question is, who says these labels are OK? Apparently, it’s this guy. Which is an interesting subject to me.

Not because a discussion about the treatment of women in the craft beer scene isn’t interesting or important to have, it just isn’t new. Anyone who has been paying any damned attention at all knows that that many women are often treated or portrayed unfairly so to take outrage at this all of a sudden just leaves me with the question: Where have you been?

No, what is more interesting to me at the moment is that there is a job out there, staffed by someone who wants to be called “Battle”, which exists to approve of the labels that beers get to have. Reading the entire article, I get why that position exists and it sounds fascinating. The job is clearly focused more on health issues than expression which is the way it ought to be, it is still a very interesting example of how expression can be monitored in our country.

Finally, I’m going to be out of town for the next week so the next post probably won’t be until the 25th. Cheers!

Where I Want To Go: Bar of the Gods

Tourist week part two! Another person has arrived for me to show off everything I can about Portland and we’ve met up right around dinner time, so it’s a prime opportunity to go to the one of the darkest bars I know that still has solid food, the Bar of the Gods.

I get a Zig Zag lager because I’m on a budget today (hey, it happens! The life of a beer writer is not all glamor and tasty beverages). The beer is good; unremarkable in the way of a solid lager, while still having some body to it, and it is nice to have something lighter with the heat that’s been glowering over the city like an unhappy uncle.  Sadly, the menu no longer has the meatball subs with provolone and bacon. Those sandwiches were worth starting your own country for.

I don’t let it get to me though; there are still things to show off around Portland! Mt Tabor park, a trip to the Horse Brass, an opportunity to redeem myself in the game of cribbage, which I did.  You don’t fuck around playing cribbage, man, even if the game is friendly.

My honor restored, it was time for a final visit to Bailey’s before parting ways.  The month is barely half over and I still have two trips coming up, so it’s going to be a heck of an August.

So many places to go, I’m going to be exhausted soon. I should do posts from home for a week.

In Thar Hills

Successes aren’t always glamorous to talk about but a good beer is a good beer. After getting a reminder from the Commons that golden ales exist, I am very glad that I have given this style a go. I may’ve used slightly darker malts than I should’ve: there is a strange zone for goldens to inhabit between actual ambers and lagers, or even pales.

Color is a funny thing for beer and I’ve never quite gotten it down. Between the red of an amber and the straw of a lager is…everything else? Anything that isn’t obviously a brown, stout or porter, anyway. Still, I suppose intention is what matters here and I was intending a lighter, maltier ale and I got one! It’s tasty and that is what matters. I deliberately kept the hops low, in order to emphasize the malt but there’s still a little zip to it.

Brew date: 6.8.14

Steeping Malts
3 lb Vienna
3 Golden Promise
1 lb Crystal 15
1 Maris Otter

Fermentables: 3.5 lb LME

1 oz US Hallertauer @ 60
1/8th oz Glacier @ 60
1/8th oz Glacier @30
.5 oz US Hallerltauer @ 30
.5 oz US Halltauer @10
.75 oz Glacier @ 10

Yeast: White labs Cali Common-3rd use

OG: 1.07

FG: 1.012

Secondary on 6.18

ABV: 7.8%

Bailey’s 7th Anniversary

Because I had company, I was unable to do the full day at Bailey’s for their 7th Anniversary event.  This worked out though, because I was able to get in on a tasting upstairs instead, which was really wonderful. It was a mellow event where I could sit down and get some good notes taken and enjoy my beers. As a bonus, there were some very tasty things to nibble on while I  had the beer, so I started seeing what happened when I combined some food with these ales and was quite surprised.

As always, congrats to the people at Bailey’s for another successful year.

Nebraska Apricot Au Poivre-Saison. This is like a white wine spritzer. I mean this in the best way; it’s light and tart, and despite the visual cloudiness of the beer, it tastes very bright. There is a black pepper note at the finish too, but this tweaks the beer in a way that I’m not overly fond of. I know this would go over like gangbusters with some people but for me, the saison elements are so overshadowed, I can’t quite get into it. There’s a peachy faintness to the nose, barest whiff. I dig that but the beer overall just doesn’t make it. Offset with a little apple though, and this beer becomes much more palatable.

Firestone Walker Agrestic-American wild ale.  Nose like bourbon and sprite. Light, bubblyish nose, even though I am not tickled by effervescence. Flavors are that way too. It’s a sour ale, but extremely restrained in its presentation. Lemon twist finish that doesn’t linger at all. It’s hard for me to get a handle on this one. The sour qualities (again, referencing a white wine) overrun much of the other flavors but I’m not unhappy about that. Then I get my hands on some very sweet raisins and eat them. This beer shifts enjoyably when offset by a touch of sweetness. Otherwise, it’s just a bit one-note.

De Struise Pannepot Reserva-Belgian Strong Ale.  I get some french oak barrel nose. Maybe a little chocolate and maple, too? An undercurrent of vanilla, just barely. Very, very smooth beer. The alcohol warmth doesn’t arrive until it’s in my belly. Part of me wants to suggest that this beer is thin,  but I don’t think that’s the case: I think it just finishes really lightly. The dark malts-some flavor between chocolate and coffee, but not definitively either-ride my tongue easy and then disappear when I finish my beer. A bit of parmesan cheese and a little salted almond and suddenly this is a fine ale to have things to nosh on. Not quite as awesome with brie so I think the sharper/saltier flavors are the way to go here.

Block 15 Super Nebula- stout. This tastes like chocolate soda. Holy moly. It’s amazing. The saltier cheese I had kinda works but not exactly. The nose is such a nice chocolate nibs scent but with sweetness that it’s impossible to resist. The beer itself: good, though it finishes a touch hot at the very back of my throat. It is a nice sipping beer. I want to swirl it while I pet a white cat and plot the demise of my enemies. Oh yes. Let’s kick the crap out of something. Get evil. I want it.

Against the Grain 70K Imperial Stout. No nose that I can tell. Hm…well. Let’s get a sip of that and….yeah. Let’s put this over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which is on top of a waffle and let’s GO. I don’t know that it’s got any lactose qualities beyond being very, very smooth but the bourbon and chocolate flavors rock the rocking; however they aren’t too friendly to sweeter compliments, (apple, grape) and the saltier options doooon’t quite work. A nice surprise: blue cheese. Huh. I would not have seen that coming.

North Coast Old Stock Ale-old ale. Whoa. Warm, sweet, syrupy. Raisin present, too. Let’s get some pancakes, baby, put strawberries in ’em, then pour this over them and chow down. There’s a slow roll of chocolate underneath it all but this beer really, really needs to be consumed in small doses. It’s intense, the heat of it starts a little early and I’m hard pressed to find a proper compliment to it. Anything sweet is too much, and the saltier things feel like a turn off right now; maple sugars and salt just don’t feel quite ‘together’ here.

It hits me: sour, as in a sour ale. I pitch the idea of blending this beer and the Firestone Walker and it takes root; I get a little sip of a 70/30 blend of the Walker/North Coast, as blended by Geoff (who owns the place).

It works. The sweetness and volume of the North Coast compliment the thinner feel of the Firestone, while tapering down the sour qualities making the whole drink really solid. We should totally do that again.

Where I Want To Go: Cascade Ale House

I have gotten the pale ale at Cascade but I barely remember it. I am entirely distracted by my opportunity to do one of my favorite things ever; show Portland off to visitors. Visitors who, in this instance, want sour ales.

While I’m not a huge fan of sour ales myself, Portland has a beer for pretty much anyone. On top of that, I’m lucky enough to know a thing or two about how sours are made so I can tell them about blending ales, the casks stored in the back and brettanomyces as a souring agent.

We just get to talk too. Des and her fiancee have come in to Portland to do work things: I am catching them at the tail end of their work and attempting to provide the semblance of a vacation in the two days I get to run them around Portland. Books! Ciders! Parks! Why the sun is so punishing here!

So we talk. And I do not write about the pale; I sip it and I tell them as much as I can about Portland. Where to go tomorrow, what was great today; I evangelize the city while they tell me about NYC and occasionally bemoan the lack of sour ales there. They argue over whether or not the Strand or Powell’s is the better bookstore.

For an evening, I am reminded why I go out to be at a pub: I go out for the people.