On The Rails: Bailey’s

Heavy rain makes people go in.

I can feel it as I move through the city: people on the streets are in more of a hurry to get where they want to be and now that I’m at my destination, I feel it all around; people have their shoulders turned in towards each other, surrounding tables like circling wagons. Dark, wet nights encourage people to huddle up, I suppose.

I can still overhear snippets of conversation and I wouldn’t say that the evening has people getting grim but this isn’t a night to meet strangers. One group is talking about their 99 year old grandma “Still drinking a glass a wine every day” another gathering of women is laughing up their dating experiences via Tinder (and how can anyone blame them) but the couple next to me is hunched over a smartphone, bitter tones eminating towards something or someone they see on it. If the weather was any worse, I wonder if I’d feel outright isolated.

I drink my ale, the Green Flash Second Son IPA. The finish is exceptionally dry; even the bitterness that builds up as I get further into my glass seems to recede fairly quickly. It actually reminds me a little bit of the Kenton IPA I had on Friday, without the spicy notation on the finish. Instead it’s a little more oriented towards the nose. More relevantly, I am barely detecting any malt profile and I’m missing that. A little more balance to this beer and it would be outstanding, instead of just solid.

Human nature kicks in eventually because sitting on the rail means you’re never isolated for long. Soon the couple next to me is talking to me about the bottle of Crux’s imperial stout they’ve gotten; is it good, is it worth the price, what is fair and how difficult it is to make an impression in Portland. It’s not a revelatory conversation but it’s a lively one and that’s always nice. Also, if I have a the money to spend, Crux’s beer is good. Or so I am told.

Hey look, the rain has subsided. Maybe it’s time to head home.

PS: It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m off visiting family, so no more posts until next Monday. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

Collaborator Kenton IPA

The Collaborator project is a contest that Widmer and the OBC hold every year, where homebrewers submit what they feel are their most commercially viable beers for judging. It’s an interesting contest, because adherence to style is less important than the overall appeal of the beer. The winner then gets to have their beer brewed on Widmer’s small system for distribution around town! It’s a pretty cool project and I happen to know one of the winners of this year’s contest, so when they had a tapping of the beer last night at the Horse Brass, I went to check it out.

I also stole a couple of moments with the brewers, Jenn and Jeremie McPolander, who were nice enough make time to tell me a little bit about the Kenton IPA they made. The story goes that they’ve been trying to make a great IPA since they bonded over the style on their first date, years ago-at the Horse Brass, no less. With the Kenton, the beer was actually an experiment between Gigantic and Hopworks ale yeasts and they happened to like what Gigantic’s yeast did a little better. The beer itself was a last minute entry but the risk paid off, clearly! When Widmer and the McPolanders went to brew the beer, Gigantic was awesome provided yeast for the beer, so they could really get what they wanted.

This beer finishes very crisply. Spicy hop note, from Amarillo hops according to the notes, leading into bitterness appropriate for the style but it comes off the palate nicely. Lemon notes finish it off, with a tingle of effervescence.

The malt is very subtle for me; it’s there but I have to work it between my cheeks to really pick it up. The Kenton is pushing the NW IPA angle and it shows. This beer is for hopheads.

But not just hopheads! What impresses me most about this beer is how drinkable it is. I promptly want more after setting it down. It’s definitely hoppy, no question about that but it isn’t overpowering and it’s so clean that it really encourages multiple sips. I’m told this is the first IPA that has been selected for the Collaborator and it’s a worthy entry.

Holiday Ale Fest 2014

Check out this list of beers. I don’t even know where to begin with that.

This is one reason why I always gravitate towards breweries I haven’t heard of before: it’s a method of dealing with option paralysis. Payette or Deluxe? Don’t know ’em. Let’s try! Because otherwise I will stand there for twenty goddamn minutes trying to figure out what I should have next. And that’s just crazy, especially during the winter and I’m drinking outside.

Still, there’s a promising list of interesting ales there. Last year I barely went wrong with my choices…except the part where I forgot to have lunch. I won’t make that mistake again!

On The Rails: Bare Bones

I really like the Bare Bones bar. There’s a huge, long bar to sit at that has a beautiful honey wood top with amber wood trim. I only wish it was easier to write at! There’s an older woman reading a book at the end, her glasses straight out of 1950. Everyone else is bundled up, even me, coats or hats on, everyone just shy of pretending we’re ouitside; November is being cold and cruel after an easy lead in.

Full Sail’s Wreck the Halls is on, so I get that since I haven’t had this year’s batch. It’s hoppy…hoppier than I would expect for a beer like this. It’s piney and has a oilyness to it that I’m not quite down with. Do I just need to cede the season to dark ales now? I hope not. (Note: this is because I’m expecting maltier like an old ale, instead of an IPA. Sometimes, it is best to set aside your expectations and accept things for what they are.)

I almost went for the Elysian Night Owl but…pumpkin beer, man. I just can’t get behind that. Maybe I should let go of the pumpkin part and just go with the spices. That’s really what it is, right? A spiced ale, meant to evoke pumpkin pie. I can get behind that idea.

What I don’t get about this bar is why it’s so empty. There’s a football game on but nobody’s too vested in it, commenting more on the fashion style of one of the announcers than anything else. It’s only lit well enough at the rail for people to read, so everywhere else you have to huddle for conversation.

But it’s a willing huddle: the Bare Bones feels cozy and warm, a place where you can wink at your sweeties and hide out in the corner if you like, or get up on that beautiful bar and join in with any number of interesting people who ought to be sitting near me but just aren’t.

Not that I’m upset: it’s good that Portland has awesome places for me to hang out in that don’t get really crowded. I need to know about those paces so I can find some respite from a tumultous year. House. Day. Something.

The Wreck the Halls isn’t improving as I drink it. There’s a dryness that I am scraping off the roof of my mouth now. That bothers me. On the upside, it’s nearly done.

Bourbon County Tasting Notes

This is a really neat but definitely very beer-geek oriented discussion of the current batch of Goose Island’s Bourbon County.

I’m posting it because it’s a cool discussion but also because for me it makes for an interesting counterpoint to everyone gnashing their teeth over AB-Inbev’s purchase of 10 Barrel, as I talked about last week. This product, owned by a massive corporation, is  pretty good.

So maybe we cut 10 Barrel some slack re: the quality of their product? At least until we see what they do.

Mystery Prize

It’s nice to finally have a beer come out without any significant flaws. Having three beers in a row get out from under me was starting to make me anxious!

This is the first beer I made from hops that were given to me by a friend. Hops I don’t know the variety of but who cares? Free hops are free.

And…it’s good but as I’ve been noting, fresh hop ales just aren’t that compelling.

However, there is a nice spiciness to this beer, both in the nose and on the finish. It’s not very forceful but it exists in just enough quantities to give this beer a little dimension. I’ve also used this with a chunk of wheat malt, which was to give the beer some body, something to stand on in case the hops didn’t work out. Fortunately, it’s unnecessary but as you might be able to glean from the photo, the beer isn’t extremely clear as a result of that. (I think).

I suppose you could call this beer a pale, although from a color perspective it doesn’t really look like it, from a hop perspective I feel I can safely put it in that category.  Also important to note: while there seems to be a lot of hops in this beer by weight, those hops haven’t been dried out, so they’re all still full of moisture after being picked. Their overall impact on the beer is lessened because those hops are adding water to this beer where ordinarily they would not.

Brew date: 9.14.14

Steeping Grains: 2 lb white Wheat

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

Fresh mystery hops from friend!
2.5 oz @ in preboil
2.75 oz @60
2.5 oz @30
2.5 oz @ 10
2.5 oz @flamout

3rd use of German wheat ale yeast from Wyeast

OG: 1.058

FG: 1.018

Secondary notes:
Moved on 10.5, added 3/8th oz mystery hops to secondary

ABV: 5.4%

On The Rails: Bailey’s

I walked across the Burnside bridge tonight to get to Bailey’s. It’s good exercise and I was going to arrive early, so parking on the other side of the river meant I didn’t have to pay for the privilege. Plus, it wasn’t raining and in November, that’s a bonus you can act on.

Walking across bridges is a pretty awesome thing to do in a city. If you’re driving the nature of transport is moving too quickly to safely appreciate what the view from a bridge offers you. That connection manifested physically in the mere construct of a city. The idea that once, there wasn’t a way to walk across water but someone looked at that issue and said; yeah, we’re going to fix that. The ties that stitch a city together, keeping it from being (entirely) the West against the East, the Southies versus the Northern Border.

Burnside view NOr, forget all the abstract crap and take this: Portland, you can be an awfully pretty city when you want to.

I’m getting closer to downtown when I start to catch the scent of food. That seems very odd–are the restaurants so dense now that we can smell them cook? As I get deeper into the city I discover the answer: homeless kitchen serving dinner in an old building near the waterfront. Move on. Let them eat in peace.

The kids line up to see Gwar; the lights aren’t even on for the venue and they are trying to urge themselves into the building through closed doors, via sheer will. I step gingerly around men who are sleeping in the nooks, not quite 7pm and they’ve decided it’s been a long enough day, then past the Right 2 Dream 2 encampment-going on 5 years? more?- and nobody knows how to find a place for people to transition out of homelessness in a safe way. I’m almost there. I look forward to my trip back, seeing more of the denizens of the city.

I’ve decided on the Block 15 Sticky Hands-Southern Exposure imperial IPA on the recommendation of the bartender. It’s a damn solid IPA with lots of grapefruit notes to it, but nothing pithy or too intense. I sip it pretty steadily trying to drown out the cackle of the group behind me; too lively and happy. Shrieks coming from them that are at the same time, joyous and incredibly piercing and bothersome. False celebrations, a pretend play to make you look sexy in front of someone who should love you already.

Sometimes, you ought to respect the people around you drinking and NOT shout in a crowded pub. Just a thought.

Thoughts on 10 Barrel’s sale

10 Barrel was sold to ABInbev and there’s been more wailing and gnashing of teeth than I would expect. Heck, even I’ll admit that my cynical first reaction was that this was the act of a startup internet company: make a splash then sell out as soon as you can.

Which is not only silly, it’s pretty disrespectful to the work that everyone at 10 Barrel does. 10 Barrel is a known entity in a pretty competitive market and that’s impressive, even if you aren’t incredibly fond of their beer.

Everything I’ve heard about ABInbev’s acquisition of Goose Island, for example, has been pretty positive from the Goose Island people. Customers have claimed that the quality of their mainstay beers has dropped but I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it’s sour grapes. People can be awfully fickle and I don’t have enough experience drinking Goose Island’s products before and after to say.

I do have some experience with 10 Barrel’s stuff and it was fair-to-middlin’. If that maintains, great-hell, it might even get better. If it declines, unfortunate. But there’s no way to tell until they actually make product.

In addition, I don’t see this as evidence that ABInbev is going to ‘take over the world’. They already have. If this is 10 Barrel’s attempt to run with Widmer, Deschutes and Full Sail then let them have at it. If the beer truly suffers then we probably won’t drink it.

It’s not like we don’t have options.

On The Rail: Pints

I’ve come back to Pints because I like redemption stories and you can’t have a redemption story unless you go back. I wasn’t fond of the beer here last visit but it’s been two years and 1) Enough time has passed that they should have a handle on their brewing system and 2) they’re still in business. So there must be something to it, right?

This time I go for the Aldstadt altbier and this is nice! Biscuit in the nose, with chocolate up front then a biscuity finish. After a few sips though, there’s an aftertaste that I can’t recognize. When I look up the style in the guidelines, it’s noted that there may be notes of sulfur in the finish and that could be what I’ve got.

I get some water because I want to see if I can get a fresh tongue on this beer and have a moment of lament that I am by myself. Another perspective on this might be helpful. I’m not sure if it’s sulfur but something tastes just a little burnt, a malt flavor that is a little rougher than the rest of the beer wants to be. That said, I feel like this is a tremendous improvement over the other beers I’ve had here and I could definitely see coming back.

Unfortunately, I’ve arrived on an evening where the bar has been crashed by a woman’s birthday party and people are in various stages of festivity, along with creating a huge line to get a damned beer. I suppose that’s not too bad but for some reason I feel oppressed rather than enlivened. Perhaps it’s just because they have taken over the pub, instead of becoming a component in it?

Or maybe I’m just in a mood. It’s a bar and people are doing bar things, except over half of them are wearing glowing circles around their neck.

Then the clock strikes and the birthday group rounds up and heads on to the next joint. Immediately a couple moves from their table to the bar mocking the group that just left for drinking wine. The vibe in the place immediately settles down and I can hear music on the PA: I thankfully note that there is no Danger Zone.  The elitist beer drinking group begins to connect with another group via oddly similar roots: Michigan start, Georgia middle, now in Portland.

How the heck do those people run into each other? Out of all the people in the city? That kind of coincidence is always fun to witness.

On the other side of me, the bartender is having a conversation about the woman he’s trying to break up with. I do my best to tune it out: that subject is a sore one for me at the moment and that particular conversation is really none of my business. This kind of coincidence is one I’m going to stay as far away from as I can.