Alcohol Archaeology

I’ve got a couple articles on one Patrick McGovern who is trying to re-create beverages from ancient times. Not just beer, but wine and mead too, industries that were, apparently, intertwined once upon a time.

That makes sense as the basic ideas behind fermenting beverages are the same: sugars in a liquid eaten by yeast. After that it’s just a matter of keeping things free of contamination and adding whatever spices you’d like. It seems that many of the possible samples we might have for drinks made long ago are generally reflective of the wealthy, and that also makes sense. Poor people almost certainly had alcohol but they weren’t going to be preserved as well.

On a happier note, some of McGovern’s work is even represented today by more adventurous brewers like Dogfishhead, which is pretty cool.

Ordinary Brews: Mirror Pond

Now we’re on to the second of the Deschutes ales: Mirror Pond, their best seller.

Nose is a little skunky. This doesn’t seem right but it happens across multiple bottles. The rest of the beer is quite light but it also moves very quickly across my tongue. The flavor of malts and hops are hard to pick up. The finish is faintly bitter but the lingering flavor is less citrus or pine and more of that skunky flavor that the nose provides.

I’m wondering if I got a bad batch, or an old one. Or one that perhaps sat on the dock for a little too long. After the quality of the Black Butte, this is surprising.

Final note: the last beer in my sixpack tasted more appropriate. The nose had some pine notes, the finish was what I expected in bitterness and the skunky quality that I’d gotten in the other beers wasn’t nearly so pronounced. There’s still something a little awkward on the finish and this leads me to conclude that this particular sixpack had something go wrong. Nonetheless, based on the beer I bought, I couldn’t recommend it, with the caveat that this beer might’ve gone bad due to circumstances beyond the brewer’s control.


On The Rail: Culmination Brewing

“That’s a pretty ridiculous hat,” she says. She’s waiting for her drinks as I arrive and has commented on my appearance before my ass has even made contact with the barstool. She’s got got dishwater blond hair in a ponytail, a gray hoodie, with sharper features around her nose and chin.

“Thanks!” I reply, as I get settled in.

There is a pause I didn’t realize was going to be there until she speaks again.

“Any reason for it?” Her eyes are flat.

I look back, confused: I hadn’t realized this was going to be a conversation, exactly. It doesn’t feel like a fun one and it’s only the third sentence.

“Uhhh…it’s a long and dull story,” I tell her, trying to gently deflect from the subject. Why DO people wear clothes? Well…

“Is there a short and dull one?” Oh, fuck.

My braingears churn rapidly and finally I say:

“I liked a comic book character when I was sixteen and he wore a fedora, so I started wearing one.”

“Oh,” she replies. I can feel a wave of judgment. I don’t know what else to say. She gets her beers and I’m glad that she is returning to her friends. I do my best not to eavesdrop on the clearly judgmental conversation she’s having with her friends but snippets come through to me as I write. I get the sense that they feel this pub is theirs.

Good luck with that.

I get Culmination‘s “ReYnard” belgian yeast IPA. Belgian yeasts and IPAs rarely seem to work well together, because the yeast aftertaste tends to be competing for space with the hops aftertaste and this one…almost works.

The nose has a bit of funk to it, with a nudge of citrus and the finish repeats the nose but with the bitterness arriving first and then something kinda plant funky on the end. The body holds it all together, albeit barely: I’m pretty sure there’s some wheat malt, because the textures resemble a wit on my tongue, a chewy quality that keeps the whole thing from going off the rails.

It’s not great though. It holds together, that much I feel confident saying, but the sum of the parts don’t create a greater whole. Still, it’s a bold choice and interesting so I’m curious about the other beers Culmination produces.

The only other beer right now is a cascadian dark ale and I frequently do not like that style. I can only think of one beer in that style I’ve ever really liked so I’m feeling  dubious about trying it.

Still, the owners are here: April and Tom are their names and they are clearly enjoying themselves, talking about their business, visiting with customers as they can. The serving area has been open for all of three weeks, I hear, which explains the limited selection. It also makes me want to give them a bit of leeway: the first few months of any brewery often produces beers that aren’t quite on target, as the brewers dial the system in.  Let’s try the cascadian dark. (They call it an imperial black IPA, the 4&20)

It’s got chocolate and citrus in the nose, the chocolate barely there…but the flavors go in a stranger direction. It’s sweet! The chocolate is played up heavily in the malt and the bitterness isn’t too prominent, neither from hops nor a coffee astringency that many beers of this style are far, far too guilty of.

I like this beer! I like it quite a bit. It’s got a similar issue as the previous one; the sum of the parts don’t necessarily make a greater whole but I’ll be damned if it isn’t interesting and it’s tasty enough that I’d want to share it with other people and talk about it. So I’m intrigued. Let’s see some more beers from them, and check back in a couple months.

Peanut Butter Bitter

This is the ESB-ish sorta kind beer I made that Shane gave me feedback on a couple weeks ago. Personally, I more fond of this beer than Shane was. It’s malty and I’m not detecting a peanut butter quality. But there is a sweetness in the nose, something that may be what Shane was talking about?

I also get a hint of the hops in there, the Chinook spiciness just under the surface. It’s a sweet beer though; malt is present and forward. However, it’s also sweet in a  different way leading me to think that, Shane is right; the yeast could’ve produced some unwanted sweetness. It’s not fruity though, which is the characteristic I usually associate with yeast pitched incorrectly. I’m hard pressed to understand how to pitch the yeast at the correct time-the moment when it’s at the height of reproduction, instead of starting to eat itself, but that just means there’s more to learn. I’ve also incorporated into future beer recipes the temp at which I pitch the yeast, just as a data point.

The other thing is, it doesn’t taste like a 7% beer, given how light it is. This could be because there’s a steady effervescence that runs throughout the beer: even 3/4ths of the way done, it’s still got a pretty foamy head on it and carbonation is steady. It may be flawed, but it’s certainly drinkable.

Brew date: 12.6.14

Steeping Grains:
S2 lb ME Pale Ale
.5 lb C60

Fermentables: 7lb LME

1oz Galena @ 60
Handful Chinook @ 60
Handful Chinook @40
1 oz Galena@10
handful Chinook @10

Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale-2nd use

OG: 1.066

FG: 1.01

ABV: 7.6%

On The Rail: Gigantic Brewing

I arrive with a friend in tow, who has been kind enough to pick me up after I dropped my vehicle off to get repairs. Beaverton is a long, long way to drive and I’m very thankful to have people in my life who are willing to help me out. We sit and have beers, me with the Catch 23 Experimental Hop pale ale and her with the Pipewrench IPA that’s been aged in gin barrels. Both beers are deemed to be worthy. My Catch 23 is very drinkable, the hop presence mild but enough to offset the malts. It’s a pale, if by margin.

As the evening goes on and the beer warms up, though, I begin to weary of the Catch 23. If I’d gotten a 16oz ale instead of a 20oz one, I think my feelings would be much more positive. Portions matter, as strange as it seems and the Catch 23 wears out its welcome a little faster than I would’ve expected. Especially since my initial response to the beer was very, very positive. The first few sips are incredibly drinkable and got me to look forward to having the rest.

But the Catch 23 doesn’t stick the landing. Partially because it’s just a little thin; there isn’t much to taste as the beer gets finished. That’s OK, because this is an experiment and so I expect Gigantic to refine this beer and come back with something even better. I knew what I was getting into so I’m not going to complain that it’s a work in progress. On the other hand, my compatriot is enjoying the Pipewrench and it seems to be improving as she drinks it. Sometimes, it just works out like that.

The woman next to us is reading a book; I keep glancing over to try and see what it is she’s reading. I like to read and as someone who often writes in a bar, I feel an affinity for people who read in one.

Finally, I just ask and as it turns out, she hates what she’s reading. It’s not enjoyable for her at all. I tell her: “Reading shouldn’t make you suffer. If you hate it, quit. I’ve tried to ready Ulysses twice and both times I hated myself. Fuck that. I acknowledge that Joyce is an important author but I don’t have to read that bullshit. I can be happy instead and read something else.”

She says, “Great. Do you want my book?”

Which is how I ended up with this:

Aging Beer

This is one of those concepts that I both appreciate and shrug my shoulders at. I don’t have the patience for aging myself, despite appreciating what others do. I’ve talked about it before so I’ll try not to retread my talking points.

Still, there’s some interesting data here! I had been under the impression that hops, because they are a preservative, would allow for IPAs, especially imperial IPAs to last quite a while in storage. Looks like high alcohol content matters more and I would’ve thought that keeping beers on their side would be a good thing but nope, not at all.

Keeping beer out of the light is as good idea, period. That much I had known–and hopefully everyone does.

Ordinary Brews: Black Butte Porter

When I asked Deschutes what their best selling ale was, they said it was Mirror Pond but added that their flagship ale was Black Butte Porter. Well, why not have both then?

So I start with the flagship ale, and this is a well earned flagship beer. It’s working an interesting tension, because as a dark ale-and make no mistake, in the glass it looks like a place that light flees from-the expectation is that it will be heavy and dense.

Instead, Black Butte is very light. The toasted notes from the malt are absolutely present and forward in the nose but the beer itself doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Some chocolate in the middle, a coffee on the finish to keep anything too sweet from lingering and creating a sourness, all in all it’s just a nicely put together beer.

I want to say this falls in the Robust Porter category, because of the dryer, roastier coffee flavors involved. While being a pretty light beer on the tongue, there’s just enough body to suggest that it’s a bit more than the Brown Porter style. But I definitely like it and would say Black Butte has more than earned it’s place on the store shelf.

On The Rails: Bar Maven

On the chalkboard listing of beers at Bar Maven, there is the Session Export. I ask what it is and he tells me it’s a style of beer from Belgium. I’m thinking: There is a style called ‘Export’ but no; he means the style is based off one from Belgium.

I’ll give him this: this beer is pretty good. Light on the palate, sweet at the end, easy to drink. Should practically come with a bag of potato chips. There’s a corn-like sweetness to this beer, faint in the nose but definitely on the finish so I’m guessing that an adjunct has been added. If this beer is still around in the summer, it might be one of the go-to picks of the season.

There are far too many Sessions on tap here: five by my count and it makes me wonder if that brand is taking over Full Sail’s operations. Don’t get me wrong, I think a light, tasty ale that is nudging at the marketplace that the macro breweries have carved out is a good thing–but I wonder what Full Sail may be doing to develop their own brand more. They make solid beer and I’d hate to see it be overshadowed by their cheaper works.

“Is there a Blazer game on today?” someone asks as he comes up to the bar.

“No, and this one’s at halftime. Clippers and Dallas, I think?” is the reply.

That exchange tells me something about this bar. Sure, there are three TVs and all of them are showing the same game, which says something about a bar too but that the Blazers are being specifically asked for tells me it’s a hometown (sports) heroes kind of place. One can only hope the Thorns and Timbers games get time when they air.

Though it’s unlikely, I’ll give you that

The bartender asks me if I’m writing a review. I try to explain what I do on Mondays but end up handing him a card and hoping for the best. The Monday at Bar Maven is so casual that I want to come in again when I can spend more time here but maybe not on a night when a Blazers game is on: That would just be too much for me.

Sixpoint Brewing

Some of you may recall one of my recent trips to Bailey’s, where I had Sixpoint’s lager and wasn’t all that fond of it. Shortly after that post, I was contacted by Shane of Sixpoint who invited me to an event they were having at Bailey’s to try some of their other beers. Plus, he saw that I was a homebrewer and was willing to give me some feedback on my own beer, if I was willing to bring some.

Hell yes. Let’s do that.

Shane’s in the hat

So last Tuesday I was lucky to join Shane and some of his friends to sit down and try some other beers from Sixpoint. I didn’t get to talk to Shane much–though when we did have time, he gave me some wonderful feedback on my beers, and thank you for that!–so I didn’t get as much information about Sixpoint’s brews as I would’ve liked. I did, however, take some notes on what I had so here you go:

Bengali: nice pale. Resiny finish: El Dorado hops, I’m told. Pine nose, slightly floral and it’s not too potent. It’s pretty easy to sip on and the bitterness is nicely offset by the effervescence on the finish. I like it; it feels commercial in the best sense: A beer that is well within style but isn’t meant to drive people away from the style by pushing the sharpness too far.

Beast Mode porter with coffee. THIS is what I expect a porter to be like. It’s tasty, flavorful, chocolate with hint of coffee in the nose but the body is appropriately light. It leaves a bit of coffee on my tongue from the finish but it’s not heavy at all, pointing out what I like and expect out of porters, vs. the density and viscosity I would expect from a stout.

I also had a Resin IPA and it’s good. A solid entry into the NWIPA style market out here but I didn’t have an opportunity to sit down and take notes, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Next up: Shane gets to try my beer. He told me that I need to pay more attention to yeast. It’s been the one thing I’ve neglected and I suppose that’s the next stage. I’ll paraphrase the feedback he gave:

Stout: pretty good, with a touch of funk on the finish that is making it stand out from the average. (Unfortunately, I have no idea how I got that funk. I suppose I will just have to brew it again and see if that repeats).

The ESB (which I’ll talk about soon), good but Shane detected a soapy/peanut butter scent in the nose which he told me means the yeast started to eat itself. This suggests that the starter I made was pitched after it’s peak time. I may need to do research to try improve my yeast pitching schedule. In addition, I used an Irish Ale yeast for this beer and I should used an English Ale one, to provide more ester (sweeter, fruity) qualities. But that’s what I get for going by the seat of my pants all the time!