A Correction

Awhile ago I wrote a post about 10 Barrel’s sale to ABInBev, basically telling everyone to stop acting like the sky was falling.

And then AB bought Elysian. The ensuing public conversation brought to light a few things that has made me reconsider my stance.

First: the business practices of ABInBev are pretty shitty. This is probably true of most mega corporations and I think that knowing this can and should influence the purchasing decisions of the consumer, beyond ‘does this taste good’.

Second, and this is the big one: this generation of craft brewers doesn’t have an exit strategy. That is to say; the men and women who started up these new, awesome and eventually successful craft breweries haven’t figured out, and I don’t think have a narrative for, how to pass the brewery along to the next group in a way that holds true to the founding philosophies of the brewers.

Let’s face it: The brewery that made Loser with it’s “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” tagline is not going to have the same values as the one owned by the largest beverage conglomerate in the world. And while the day to day operations may be managed by the original owners of Elysian, eventually, they are going to rightfully retire and their successors won’t have the same values.

Which means that inevitably, the product will suffer. The beer just won’t be as good and risks will no longer be taken. It will be corporate, shiny and very, very safe.

And I think this is going to happen in part because the people who own those breweries a) don’t have a way to reasonably grow their business under the current model–something I think ABInBev wants to protect, because they profit under it, and b) don’t know or have a method to impart that business to the next generation of brewers who, rising up in the craft beer world, might hold to similar values and have a local stake in their communities.

What this means is; I was right about 10 Barrel’s sale- the beer likely won’t change at first- but also wrong, because it will, someday, and not because of the vision of people who love craft brewing, but because of corporate marketing strategies. That, to put it bluntly, fucking sucks.

It is the way of the world, I know, but it bums me out.

Wastewater Treatment

This is going to be a short post today because this very cool story about using treated wastewater for beer has been popping up. I think you should read it and I think you should be interested in it.

Brewing, as an activity, produces close to five times the wastewater per product. Or: nearly 5 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of beer (roughly). We need ways to reuse this water for human consumption and beer is a hell of a good way to convince people that this is not only potable and sustainable, but a damn good idea.

On The Rail: Angelo’s

There is no room at the rail for me, because there is a dog on the only empty seat.

I don’t know if this is a ‘very Portland moment’ or if it’s just something you have to deal sometimes with when you live in a city: a dog will be more valued than a  human. Then again, the dog is willingly jumping through hoops for spectators, now. What am I offering?

There is a solidly inebriated human nearby, slowly working his way out the door. His designated driver leads the way but the departure of a drunk is always slow, full of distractions and goodbyes that would be uncomfortably long under any other circumstances.

I got a Hopworks Abominale, and I sip at it with the mind and fingers of a distracted man. It’s been a difficult couple weeks, getting focused while I’ve been out. I have been coming with a brain that’s a little burnt out from the weekend and perhaps I need to heed that sign and pull back from my lively social life a little bit.

The ale isn’t bad though; there’s a front loaded sweetness that has a pretty big hop bite at the end so it all works out. I don’t get much in the nose but by the time I remember to start smelling it the beer is half empty. A victim of my overall distraction.

The dog is back on the stool, content. Perhaps I should take a cue from that and head home for some comfortable contentment.

Ordinary Brews: Widmer Hefe

To start this series off, I wanted to begin with one of the most well known ales one can find in this area: Widmer’s Hefeweisen. I didn’t want to assume that this was their best selling beer so I emailed them to ask but didn’t hear back. I went with it anyway: if someone from Widmer wants to correct me, I’ll drink another beer. Promise.

The nose has a faint stinkiness to it; belgian yeast funky, almost. It went away almost immediately but then it reappeared as I drank further into the glass. I’m told by the guidelines there ought to be wheat notes, with maybe some spice hop character but I’m not picking it up.

The beer doesn’t really provide dominant flavors at any stage of the game, actually. Nose isn’t too strong, the wheat notes exist but I think the wheat malt is there more to provide some body. The finish is fairly clean until the effervescence passes and then there’s something sticking around that just isn’t appealing to me.

I’ve realized what it is: this beer is sweet. You know that sourish note that can come after you have a really sweet piece of chocolate? That’s what I’ve got.

I think that this hefe really isn’t an ‘all season’ brew for me. I can see this working on a hotter day, and I totally get why people serve this beer with lemon; the tart contrasts well with the sweetness of the malt. The lemon also contributes to the ‘summery’ feel of hefeweizen.

I don’t think I’d get more of this beer because I don’t know that I’m in love with this iteration of the style. I don’t hate hefes but I don’t think; Yay, gimme! That’s me, not an issue with the beer. The fact that it’s overly sweet is far more problematic. If I’m only supposed to have this beer with a lemon wedge for contrast, I’m not sure that I can recommend it. I feel like the sweetness that’s probably there to encourage the casual craft beer drinker is actually discouraging me from enjoying it, which is a strange spot to be  in.  I don’t want to suggest that my tastes are better than the average bloke’s but I cannot deny that the imbalance of this beer is off-putting to me.

Fortunately, Widmer makes a ton of other stuff that I do like; it’s just an interesting spot to find myself in.

On The Rail: Lion’s Eye

I walked to the Lion’s Eye, the rain coating everything and as I cut through the park I passed by a man nonchalantly pissing. He had the courtesy to step off the path and turn away from me but I couldn’t help but laugh. Pissing in the rain: if that isn’t a metaphor for most of our endeavors, I don’t know what is.

I’m isolated at the Lion’s Eye. Apparently, rainy evenings are for  couples turned in towards each other which leaves me to sit, drip all over the floor and write. I get a Natian imperial stout. It feels thick, like pudding, and soft on my tongue. Easy to drink and tasty. I’m pleased; this tastes and feels like a stout and I often feel stouts are too thin.

As I sip the beer, a bit more coffee bite starts to show up on the finish. A dryness too, like chalk on the fingers. I am already thinking about my walk home, though; distracted, diverted. Trying to think of the path that will both lead me under trees and get me home quickly.

I remember being on a walk in the Sullivan’s Gulch area during the afternoon a few months ago. It was raining and I was making my way back to work when I hear the pum-pum-pum of a runner carrying a load. A little boy, 7 or 8, Transformers backpack bouncing on his back as he ran, came up next to me, matching my stride. Every so often, he would twist, as though trying to dodge something invisible.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi. What’s got you running?”

“I’m trying to avoid getting wet,” he said.

“Ah. Makes sense. How’s that working out for you?” I asked him.

I could see him think about it through his jog, “Not super well.”

“Uh-huh. It’s like that, sometimes,” I said, knowing exactly why someone runs through the rain to not get wet.

The kid crossed behind me to my right side as we crossed the street. He kept pace with me, which is impressive for I do not walk slowly. As we came up to a house with a long driveway, I noticed a woman standing on the porch, arms crossed like she was waiting for someone.

“See you later,” the boy said, veering off into the driveway.


I can’t dodge raindrops and I don’t try to, anymore. Well. Most of the time.

Decisions Decisions Decisions

Look at this:
I mean, just look at this!
Those are two different pictures I took at the Fred Meyer on 28th and Broadway and it doesn’t even cover the entirety of the craft beer section or the selection of 22oz beers available.

That is an absurd amount of choices, choices that, for the most part, beer writers don’t talk about. It’s the kind of thing that gives me option paralysis. But this is what most consumers are looking at, every time they want to buy a craft beer: these are the choices. And we don’t talk about them! How does that make any sense?

Don’t get me wrong: I know that Belmont Station, Beermongers, John’s Market, Saraveza, etc, are all doing a huge service to beer lovers in Portland. I just feel as though there is something that doesn’t get talked about much and maybe it’s time to take a swing at that.

So I’m going to ask some of the larger craft breweries what their best selling beer is, one that I can easily buy in a grocery store, and then purchase and review it. It’s going to take me awhile, I know, so bear with but I think it’ll be valuable both as a drinker and writer, as chance to look at what’s making these popular beers popular beyond marketing, and hopefully for a reader, as a way to narrow down the field when looking at all these choices.

Nothing Happening

I like the Nothing Happening. It’s a pretty low key beer that has turned out better than I expected! There’s a bready smell, possibly from the yeast but I’m hoping the malt contributed to as well. A solid, long lasting head on this beer, with a nice amber color. Pretty clear, too!

The taste is definitely a winner. Malted, toasty flavor but it’s all very light. The finish is clean, effervescence contributing to the lightness of this ale; it just tastes good and is really, really drinkable. Hop presence is pretty low which isn’t bad: I’ve been trying to work more with malt lately anyway. A hint-not a strong one-of some bitterness on the finish is there but overall, this is a malt forward effort.

I suppose this might be called an ESB? I honestly don’t know. I failed to note the base beer style I was going for so now I’m just stuck with something I can’t categorize properly but is tasty.

Tough life, right?

Brew Date: 11.1.14

Steeping Malts
1 lb Caramalt
.5 lb Crystal
1 lb Medium Brit Crystal
.5 lb light Brit

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

1 oz Glacier @ 60
.25 oz mystery hop
.5 oz mystery hop @30
1 oz Glacier @5

Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale

OG: 1.066

FG: 1.028

Put into secondary: 11.11
Bottled: 11.15

ABV: 5.15%

On The Rail: Baileys (Sixpoint Edition)

It’s so pleasantly calm in Bailey’s right now I am having a flashback to five years ago. When you could count on being able to find a table and the intensity level was always just about right.

From my vantage point on the rail, I can see the chess board where the bartenders are occasionally making moves. I love this more than I can express: that pleasant way that everyone finds to fill in those soft minutes where all the work is done and you’re waiting for the next task. Everyone does it, in every job across the world. They found chess. Somewhere else, people are playing Go or Backgammon or have decks of cards. This is delightful.

Suddenly, everyone on the rail has an thought about chess; how it’s a game of perfect information and there is a known move set. Then like a rainburst, we’re back to our corners, withdrawing back into our own worlds, done.

I have to admit, I kind of need that at the moment. I almost went elsewhere to write but I’ve been missing Baileys and frankly, starting off my new year here is always a good idea. Being non-social is a requirement for my brain right now; I’ve just been too busy. It is time for a beer, alone(ish).

So I got the Sixpoint Crisp-their lager. I picked it up because Sixpoint has been making a push into the Portland market, getting a lot of press lately. Bailey’s usually focuses on beers from the PWN region so the chance to try something from the East Coast isn’t that common and I’m interested to see if Sixpoint is going to live up to the hype.

The finish is rather sharply bitter. The rest tastes like water gone fizzy. I’m wondering if I’m just being finicky or if this really is an inferior product to Hopworks’ pils. As I get further into the pint and a dryness starts to take over my mouth. This beer might work well with something spicy and it may even go well with Asian food, being so light that it won’t really interfere with other flavors.

But as a beer, it’s just kind of there and the dryness of that finish is pushing me away. I’m going to withhold judgment, of course, until I’ve had other beers they’ve made. Lagers are especially difficult and this may not be the best time of year to appreciate them but I can’t say Sixpoint is off to a promising start.