On The Rail: Prettyman’s General

Prettyman’s General is a space I don’t quite know what to make of. There are odd tables, things you could put your drink on but nothing else because they look like Tetris pieces stuck together. The seats at the bar have been resurfaced but otherwise left alone; hard, wobbly stools made of steel. For no particular reason I can suss out, antlers are stuck to the wall.

It’s exceptionally chill at the moment. The sun is out today so it feels brighter in here than it actually is but at night, I have a feeling that Prettyman’s contracts, drawing it’s patrons into a quiet, dim area where people talk about soft gossip and bedroom smiles. But I also see a tray with board games in it-Risk, Othello-so maybe the inverse is true. Board games usually encourage some kind of lively human activity. So who is this place for? I don’t know.

Natian’s Undun Blonde has a maltier, wheat nose but the finish has a nice hop bite to it-nothing too intense, just enough to set the sweetness of the middle off. After it all passes, there is a palatable flavor of wheat that creeps in- a counter to the counter. It’s a pretty easy ale to drink: I could see myself enjoying many on a warm day.

Overheard the bartender telling some future patrons that the Blazer game is going to be on the screen tonight and ‘it’s going to be frikken packed’. Hm. Maybe when the sun goes down, Prettyman’s becomes a riotous hive of local grinning drinkers.

The same bartender pours Irish whiskey over a single ice cube that fills the entire glass. The ice cube is far more interesting to me than the whiskey, smooth as a mirror yet easy to see through, ice that somehow increases the quality of the liquor poured over it. She gives it to a man in a blue tshirt that says “It’s Willamette, Damnit” and looks far too grumpy to be having a double whiskey at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Although I suppose if I had a reason to be drinking double whiskeys in the afternoon, I might be grumpy, too.

Old Haunts

I have taken another swing at making a brown ale and it’s come out as a solid beer, I’d say.

There isn’t a strong nose but that’s OK. It is nicely chocolatey, finishing with a little bitter note and then a fine bubbly to clear the palate. It’s a very mild beer with a pretty nice finish on it-and that finish really makes this beer better. There’s nothing too intense on the front end so it won’t overwhelm you and the clearance on the back end means that it can be paired easily with a lot of different food without distracting from that.

What’s really cool about Old Haunts is that the initial yeast I pitched didn’t take. 48 hours into fermentation, I had to pitch another yeast and that made me nervous. Yeasts often provide their own flavors and a yeast that didn’t take? Who knows what might be contributed? But this beer still managed to come out OK! It’s good to be working on a forgiving project.

Brew Date: 1.19.15

.5 lb C60
.5 lb C120
.25 lb pale chocolate
2oz black patent

Fermentables: 5 lb LME

1.5 oz E. Kent Goldings @60
.5 oz E Kent Goldings @5

Yeast: Wyeast 1099 Whitbread, starter made

OG: 1.049

FG: 1.011

Yeast didn’t take, added 1007 German Ale yeast 2 days after

Put into secondary 2/13

Bottled 2/16

ABV: 5.15%

On The Rail: Ground Breaker

During craft beer week, nearly everyplace worth drinking at is crowded to drink at and Ground Breaker is no exception…except at the rail. The tables are all full so I gleefully take a spot by myself, to take advantage of a chance to be alone in a crowd.

I got the imperial IPA at Ground Breaker because it’s their first imperial IPA and I want to know how it is. Some nights, it isn’t a complicated decision. And the nose is so good. So good! Flowery and a bit of pine, there’s a hint of fresh forest here that has me looking forward to the rest of this beer.

Unfortunately, there’s a medicinal note on the finish. I want to like this beer; it has a solid hop bite and the nose is great. It does what I want an IPA to do with just one notable flaw. It’s a flaw I can’t overlook however. So I rinse my mouth with water and try it again.

Nope. There it is, on the edges of the back corners of my tongue, a taste of medicine, of something that is there to stop my sniffling and sneezing so I can rest flavor instead of hops.

Damnit. I normally would have the Dark ale, which I really like: the chestnut flavor is not only unique but delicious and I have always enjoyed it. I don’t regret taking a chance on a new thing; that’s one of the glories of loving craft beers but it’s a bummer when the beer comes so close to the mark and misses.

Hardly Knew Ye

Oh man is this bad beer. I had to pour it out without even bottling it, because the finish on this ale was so bitter it reminded me of aspirin. It’s no fun pouring out beer, even bad beer. There’s that voice that keeps whispering: ‘I coulda been a contender’.

But it was either pour it out or waste time, water and effort carbonating this and finding out in two weeks that, yes, this is indeed undrinkable because it tastes like aspirin. Why put anyone, especially myself, through that?

The good news is that the folks at FH Steinbarts told me to bring some in, to see if they could tell me where I went wrong. I’ll try and bring some by this weekend, see what comes of it.

On The Rail: The Commons

The interior of the Commons is so new, I have to stand at the rail. This is…uncomfortable. I won’t lie to you: this is a building for people who work for a living and I’m currently standing on cement. I see some tables to my right but those are new from my last visit. People stand around barrels and the space at the rail is limited. Nothing is comfortable for long.

But the 3rd anniversary bourbon barrel stout? Oh man. Bourbon soft in the nose, rising through the thin head. It doesn’t run into the middle though; the bourbon flavors appear in the finish, warm, a touch hot. There’s also a density there, the weight of malt and alcohol and chocolate that lingers.

And it’s the chocolate that really makes this beer. It’s sweet and delicious yet somehow this beer still feels light. I realize this contradicts what I just said but I think that is a testament to the quality of this beer. It doesn’t have a viscosity that I’d look for in a stout yet this is clearly not a porter. Almost. Maybe. No; when I cut my tongue through a mouthful of the 3rd Anniversary Stout. I get just enough resistance to know that it’s definitely in the stout style.

The bartender tells me a that this beer is one they’re going to make every year and I couldn’t be happier to hear that.

Because for this beer, I’ll stand. They’re getting chairs; should be here in a month or so but until then I’ll do what I have to to do enjoy this beer.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

The head on this is amazing: like velvet, it hits the upper lip. It’s also super clear: deep¬† umber clarity through the glass. This puppy looks good, I tell you.

The beer itself…falls short of the IPA I was going for. I didn’t stick the landing. There’s a solid malt backbone in here but I didn’t get much in the way of a hoppy nose nor a appropriate finish. Grrrr.

I’m bothered by this because I feel like I used an appropriate amount of hops in the brew, along with a secondary hop addition to provide the scent notation that I’d like this beer to have. It’s not as though this beer is ruined! It’s perfectly drinkable. But Coulda Woulda Shoulda isn’t what I was going for and I wish it was more on target.

Brew Date: 1.11.15

Steeping Malts
2.25 lb Irish Pale
2 lb Munich
2lb 2 row
1 lb Carabrown
1 lb C40

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

1 oz Simcoe, 1 oz Warrior @60
1 oz Cluster @20
1 oz Warrior @5

Yeast: 1084 Wyeast, 3rd use

OG: 1.09

FG: 1.024

1 oz Simcoe in secondary on 1.25.15
Bottled 2.8

ABV: 10.16%

On Labeling

I think that this guy has said most of what needs to be said when it comes to what smaller breweries need to be thinking about when they name and label their beers. I believe it needs to be read and considered because shelf space is at a premium, especially in Portland and marketing your beer is a frequent source of discussion here.

There’s a great deal that can and has been said about the way Budweiser markets their beer but nobody ever looked at the name or label of one of their beers and got upset. There’s a reason for that and it is something those deciding to market those ales ought to be aware of.

On The Rail: Slingshot

Am I sleeping? Have I slept?

This bit from Fight Club is going through my head right now and should tell you where my brain is at. I’ve just come home from a trip to Seattle (which is why there was no post on Friday, sorry!) and I’m knackered. On the upside, after a road trip I never feel the need to make dinner, so I always take myself out. A tradition I picked up from my parents after camping trips.

I’m at the Slingshot for a beer and a sandwich. I walked here, just to give my legs some action after sitting and driving all morning and I feel dazed. Have I written here for this theme? I can’t remember.

I do recall that I haven’t had anything from Base Camp in awhile, so I get their NWFest Amber. It’s a beer I instantly want to make:¬† Malty with a crisp finish, there’s something spicy on the periphery of my tongue. I think that’s from the hops and I may have to do some research on the recipe for this one. A good amber isn’t always easy to find and I like this beer.

The rail here is cement, like the 1856, but it’s set at chest height so while it’s not very comfortable to write at (I feel like I have T-Rex arms) it IS pretty easy to lean on and enjoy my pint. The north corner of the rail is crowded and I’m closer to the south end, so I get to people watch a bit (as much as I can) given my ability to focus.

An older fellow comes in, sits at the south end of the bar and the bartender already knows what he wants. I love that, because it means that the Slingshot has become a neighborhood joint. Regulars with connections to the people who work here. That’s always cool.

An Evening At Cascade

Or, a post for Des (who does this), because Des loves sour ales. So does Fuz, for that matter but he gets to come down and try some whereas Des is on the East Coast and I get to rub her nose in it just a little more…

What? I never said I was above such things?

Moving on! I was invited to Cascade Ale House to try a few of their beers and listen to their plans for the future. Cascade has been a fixture (and shining spot) for sour ales in Portland for quite a few years and now they have plans to develop more space to serve sour ales in.

I hadn’t been in the production area in quite some time, so I was surprised to see huge tanks where many barrels used to be. They also had a bottling machine, adapted from one that used to bottle champagne, so they could bottle in house. Kevin, their lead blender, told me that they had to wait until the beer was bottled before putting labels on it because they wouldn’t know what the ABV of the beer was until practically the day of bottling.

And alllll that stuff is going to get moved out to a storage warehouse near Beaverton, where the kegs that used to be at Cascade have been moved to. This is going to open up the retail space a whole lot (the head chef at Cascade seemed especially thrilled to have a large kitchen) the brewers were looking forward to the possibility of new creations. They let us sample a few current (or soon to be released beers) and here are my notes:

Apricot Amaretto:
A definite nose of amaretto, which was just restrained enough on the sour that I could appreciate it. Apparently the almond flavor came from the brewing process-the pits of the apricot, I’m told-and not from any other barrel or flavor additions. It made for a study in contrasts, as the amaretto nose was sweeter, blunting the tarter liquid.

Blackberry 2014:
With a wheat ale base, this too has a sweetly fragrant nose that, once again is a pleasant contrast to the tart quality of the beer. This one seems a bit more sour than the apricot but the fruit character is dominant and the beer tastes pretty clean, as though they really captured the tartness of the blackberry over any other flavors.

Kriek 2014:
This beer was too sour for me; with it’s sour pie and bing cherries, the sour flavors were quite strong. It had a warm nose, with a hint of spice and this reappeared in the finish on the sides of my tongue. That seemed kind of interesting and although this beer isn’t for me, it’s definitely for someone because that spice note gives it some depth.

Sang Rouge 2013
This beer was unique because it was the only one of the four that did not have any fruit added to it, merely soured and kept in pinot noir barrels. I could even pick up a bit of maltiness in the nose! But the sour element kicked up sharply after half a beat on my tongue, fought with the effervescence for space and then everything cleared out. It felt sparkly! I was told by one of the brewers, Steve, that it was based off a Flanders Red style and I can see it, even if it is coming on a bit stronger than the Dutchesse does.

So that’s it! Cascade is expanding and their lineup of ales proves that they’ve earned that expansion. I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.