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!

Not That Portland Stout

I’ll just say it up front: I’m happy with how this came out. Really dense with flavor. Roasted, chocolate, with coffee coming in to clean it all up. As it warms up, there’s even a bit of tobacco in the finish. It’s a bit more effervescent than the style would call for, which means I may’ve overdone the bottling sugar, making this beer more ‘bright’ in the mouthfeel than the style calls for. But for the most part this beer rests on the palate like a stout should, I feel; thicker and with more weight than a porter.

Also, something happened with my readings I can’t understand. According to the Original Gravity reading, I’ve got a beer that’s just under 4% ABV. The mouthfeel tells me that this is impossible. Also; it flies in the face of the volume of malts I added to the beer.

So something is off. However, I also tried something new for this beer by steeping all the dark malts in cold water the night before I brewed. I don’t know why that would have thrown things off but when things get weird, I look to the new step in the process.

That said; if that’s what went wrong, then I’m going to go wrong a lot more often.

Brew Date: 11.12.14

.5 lb black patent
1.5 lb Chocolate
2 oz cocoa nibs
Steeped the night before
6 lb Crystal steeped before boil

Fermentables: 5 lb LME

Hops: 2 oz US Nugget @60

Yeast: 1084 Wyeast irish

OG: 1.056 (and this doesn’t make a lick of sense!)

FG: 1.029

Bottled 12.13

ABV: 3.65%

On The Rail: Baileys (North Coast Edition)

It was a weekend of two stories, one that I didn’t see coming and was amazing, and one I had started to write before it was over and saddened me.

So let’s talk about the Superbowl for a moment. Because I’ve been watching the Seahawks for years and the team is different now. They won’t quit, won’t accept a loss. Will make anything happen to try and win.

So naturally, when the Hawks, down four, had the ball on the Patriots 3 yard line with under 20 seconds to go, I was nervous but not concerned.

I had written this story out. I knew Seattle had the game.

Except they didn’t. It’s a little weird, because I still feel it today, that sense of being wrong. How could I have fucked that story up?

Also, I’m going to be reminded of this on Tuesday because I owe someone a drink, now. Still, I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for that drink and I like to think that I’m good natured enough that I can laugh this loss off, come tomorrow.

Saturday…Saturday was different. I had just left the Stormbreaker anniversary party (which had tasty beers!) with some friends whom I was going to give a ride home to. As we walked by a battered looking building with an open door, loud music could be heard coming down the stairwell.

“What’s going on up there?” someone asked as she wandered up the stairs.

Which is how I ended up crashing Grand Master Bro John Bryant’s 59th birthday party. I’m not making that name up; that’s what was on the flyers around the room.

As one of six white people at the event, it was impossible to blend in so I talked to strangers where I could, danced when the mood struck me and otherwise enjoyed an evening I never could have anticipated. I even got to spend some time with Grand Master himself, in his black suit with red pinstripes, red tie, red shoes and an impeccable black hat. I met him outside and joined him as he drove us around the neighborhood to the quick mart to break some $20s for change, so the bar at his party could keep going. He told me about how his family moved to a house “just a block down” when he was three, his family growing up on Mississippi Street. Watching it change from a place where “…you could just sleep out on the porch. You do that now, you’re gonna get yelled at.”

The owner of the mart smiled when Grand Master came in; “I’ve moved out of this neighborhood, but I always come back. We (Grand Master and his siblings) just sold the house where Mom lived, after she passed last year.”

Before the evening was over, I met Henry, Grand Master’s older brother, and Rita and Anita, his twin younger sisters. Along with a host of nephews and nieces. By the time it was over, I got the impression that it would be OK if we showed up next year.

So that’s quite a weekend, wouldn’t you agree?

I decompress at Bailey’s. Bartender recommends North Coast’s ’11 Brother Theolonious belgian strong dark and I don’t think there’s any reason to argue. There’s a sweet, dark fruit note in the nose, like chocolate covered dates and it’s a hell of a beer. Smooth, dense in flavors with a light finish so it can totally sneak up on you. The alcohol warmth shows up in my belly which signals; be careful with this one but there’s no question in my mind that this beer is delicious.

I exhale. The weekend is over, the week is beginning and there are new stories to come from new days. The full moon is up and out and low in the sky: I might wish it was raining and wintery and January-like but I cannot deny the beauty up above. I exhale again, calm like the moon. I sip my beer and inhale; letting the babble of the pub fill my ears to blot out the diversions of today, the weight of the weekend.

The fellow next to me is visiting from Atlanta. We talk beer. One thing leads to another and now I’m introducing myself to Josh. The adventure never ends.