They might be right, but I don’t have to like it

I suppose I’m being a bit of a snob here but when I read that fruit adjunct beers (beers that have fruit syrup added) are the next big thing, I feel a little sad. In college, this would be a little like having people find out I liked heavy metal, and having them tell me how great they thought the Bullet Boys were.

I mean. You can like what you like but that ain’t heavy metal.

Then again, I see people who like heavy metal now and I have to admit my tastes are on the popular fringe. What a lot of metalheads are excited about is just too out there for me. So it is with beer.

Although, I’m not sure that we can say that the rise of alcopops is really ‘out there’. That’s really more like the rise of Nickleback when bands like Cloudkicker exist.  But I had friends who tried the alcoholic root beer and dug it. Hell, I didn’t even find it horribly offensive (it really did taste like root beer and I like root beer). It’s just disappointing to see people go for the shiny candy when something even better from a crafting and style perspective is two feet away. Junk food is still junk food.

The other projections seem really obvious (breweries will close), really unlikely (defining Black IPAs or CDAs) or hopefully avoided (nitrogen in everything!)

CDAs are incredibly difficult styles to nail down: I’ve seen events where even the man who wrote the style guideline had difficulty picking the same CDA out twice. I think there’s a lot of wrangling to go before it gets settled.

The problem with nitro beers is laid out in the article itself:

…but the problem is a lot of them will be bad or uninspiring.

Exactly. Adding nitrogen to beer is a gimmick of technology that doesn’t actually improve the beer and I don’t think it will take long for consumers and brewers to figure that out.

Make good beer. Repeat. It’s not easy but it’s not gimmicky either.

Michigan Blues

A friend brought back some beers from Michigan to share, so I did a writeup on them! There were even a few beers I hadn’t heard of, which is always cool. Mildly edited notes follow:

24507414012_58d2295647_zJolly Pumpkin Saison X:
This has a nose of honey, lemon and ginger. The label says ‘spiced’ but is reluctant to tell us what spices were used. This isn’t just a saison; it’s got a bit of funk to it. It also has an element of citrus rind bitterness to it which shows up sharply and really torques the beer in a negative direction. My host offers me candied ginger and…it compliments the beer well! So, this beer has an issue but that issue seems to be solved with candy.

Founders Breakfast stout: the nose is like a cold up of coffee. Iced coffee, actually and this is a pretty good way to describe the beer as a whole. Plus, I think it’s actually a stout, not a porter disguised as one, which is always nice. It claims to be an oatmeal stout and I believe the body is there to support it. It’s 8.3% so you reaaaally can’t call this a breakfast beer but it’s still pretty damn tasty.

24247996029_cf7e7f2720_zArbor Brewing Ypsi gypsi session IPA; this has an orangey thing happening. Buuut there’s a papery finish that I have to scrape it off the roof of my mouth. I think this beer got old, unfortunately, and so isn’t giving its best impression.

Brewery Vivant Undertaker; Belgian style dark ale. The nose is…soft. The beer is, too. Almost supple, the rotation of roasted malt flavors over the tongue. It doesn’t present any strong flavors (coffee or chocolate) to latch onto, but there is a roasted malt quality here that lacks the viscosity of a stout. A crisp bit is at the end, too; this beer isn’t highly effervescent but it does have some bubbly to keep things lively. The nose all but disappears quickly, leaving a sweet ghost in its place, no more.

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca; the nose has that tart quality, the kind that usually means I’m about to drink a cup of vinegar. But the beer itself is nicely restrained. It really tastes like dry white wine, with an effervescent quality. I can get behind this in limited doses and certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

24320224650_b09b6f06cc_zBrewery Vivant Farm Hand french style farmhouse ale. That seems like a lot of buzzwords that don’t say a lot but here’s what I am picking up: the nose has a hay, almost horseblanket funk. The beer is light and crisp all the way to  the finish, where the funk comes back again but in a groove thing way, instead of a Fabreeze moment. I like it.

On the Rail: Club 21

24478461302_840c8d5a40_zHoly cow is this beer bitter. It’s arrived headless too, and I am unable to get a whiff of hops off it. That’s really not good news for an IPA. The beer seems cloudy as well: now that isn’t automatically a problem but the bitterness of this beer is passing into a dirty flavor so I just can’t trust it. I don’t know why, but I frequently have issues with Migration’s beers.

The ceiling looks like a child got to toss glitter onto it, red and green lights spackled all over. The vibe is definitely Portland new-dive, with more pinball machines than video poker games. That’s kinda cool.  The chalkboard nearby proclaims BANDS TONIGHT, but I’m here too early for music and you can still buy packs of cigarettes from behind the bar. The white tent outside is where you go for smoking.

Couple guys talking next to me are talking about the place; I think I’ll let them have the last word:

“Yeah, I’m just here until it gets crowded-I just got off work. I tell you ’bout my new job, dude? I’m tossin’ kegs around for McMins. Only problem is the hour and a half commute on the bus each way.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“No, man.”

“Dude, I got a buddy at a dealership, I think we can hook you up with a beater that runs.”

“That’s be awesome. All I need is somethin’ like that: I’m good with my hands so I can work on it, too. But yeah, I just gonna have couple-three beers and then get out of here before it gets too crowded.”

“Yeah. Doesn’t happen until around 8 but before that it’s a pretty mellow place to hang out in.”


Full disclosure, I know at least one of the people putting on this event.

That said, this is the very first Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference and I’m really excited about this. Just look at the conference schedule! They have some really interesting stuff in the seminars, which are  being put on by some experienced people. Names I recognize from either awards ceremonies or beer judging experts.

So I dig it. It looks like a great opportunity to meet and learn from other homebrewers, and since being an OBC member has certainly improved the beers I’ve made I always like to recommend events to help people brew better beer.

Uuuuunnnnnfortunately I can’t go. I have a schedule conflict that will almost certainly take me to Seattle so I’m going to miss the first one. But next year, damnit!


23865088133_252df50ffd_zI was a pouring steward for the Oregon Beer Awards competition last Saturday. What this meant was that I stood on concrete for ten hours and poured beer to give to serving stewards, who wouldn’t know what the beer was, to provide to judges, who also wouldn’t know what the beer was. A double-blind, they called it.

How good were the judges? A beer was sent back because the judges could identify the brewer based on the description. That only happened once but it still impresses the hell out of me.

There were 525 entries and I’m fairly certain every active brewery in the state of Oregon sent beer. Every beer they make.  From the every day to the weird rare stuff, I saw a lot of beers pass through that room. After it had been judged, I even got to taste some! This is one of the perks of being a steward, and we deserve it, don’t let anyone tell you different. Highlights included stuff from Long (whom I had not heard of before this event), Base Camp (the anniversary Belgian dark is good) and Deschutes (2013 Dissident ale is outstanding, as one might expect).

The winners won’t be announced until Feb 23 so you know as much as I do at this point. But, they let us take some of the unopened beers home after the competition was over and that’s always nice. If you’ve been following me on the  Untappd app then you’ve probably seen me drinking and rating the spoils of my work. I didn’t feel like there was anything thematic enough for a full blog post but I can at least do short bursts there.

On the Rail: Barrio

“I just put that on tap,” I’m told when I order the Stone Arrogant Red Aleca. I have no idea what I’m in for, I just read the sign on the chalkboard.

24155460840_176ceb4c05_z“Tell me what you think,” the barkeep says so I do: It’s maltier than I’d expect but the finish is quite bitter, like an IPA. If the nose had any kind of  hop presence I’d say it WAS an IPA.

“They call it Arrogant Bastard,” he says, “and it came recommended.”

I bet it did. But…why was this beer mislabeled?

Well, so much for trying something new. I’m complaining but I’m not exactly dissatisfied.

The signs behind the bar let patrons know they can get wine growlers. I have to admit, I would never expect someone to want a growler of wine. Bottles usually are enough, right? Still, I don’t judge.

It’s so quiet and low key in here, I can see myself coming here to have a soft discussion about violent things. It feels private, even if the space is wholly open.

Don’t Get Off The Boat

This amber ale is almost there.

It’s a solid enough beer but it tastes a little thin and that is because I added too much water to the wort after the brew.

See, I always have to add in some water because my brew kettle doesn’t hold five gallons of boiling liquid. It holds closer to four. So, I top the wort off and most of the time, that’s not a problem.

This time, however, I added in a bit too much water and that means that the malty qualities of this beer are muted, instead of prominent. An unfortunate mistake but one that is easy to fix and isn’t all that bad, honestly. Sure, the caramel notes of this amber aren’t as robust as I wish they were, but it’s not a bad beer by any means.

This is especially surprising as my notes remind me that this is a beer where I did have to add in a second yeast in order to get the batch fermenting. Mixing yeasts can have weird results but it looks like I got away with it this time!

Brew date:

2 lb pale wheat
3 lb Maris otter
1 lb 2 row
2 lb C120

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

1 oz Glacier, 1 oz Palisade @ 60
.5 oz Glacier, Palisade @30

Yeast: Wyeast American Ale 2
Had to add Windsor dry yeast after 24 hours

OG: 1.075

FG: 1.014

Secondary on 11.21

Bottled 12/5

Common Ales: 21st Amendment, Brew Free or Die

While nobody got back to me from 21st Amendment (I’m starting to wonder if I should hassle these breweries on Twitter, instead of polite emails!) the Brew Free or Die IPA is the beer I see most often in the stores. It’s a little bit of a bummer for me to see so little variety, because I generally like 21st’s beers, even if the styles aren’t my thing-see the watermelon ale.

The nose of the Brew Free or Die has some grassy undercurrents. It’s sweet like fruit otherwise: I want so say something mango-oriented present but it’s not overwhelming.

This sweetness isn’t in the finish though; it’s just a strong bite, the kind that would turn a lot of people away from IPAs. The hoppiness vs bitterness debate kicks in here and I can’t say this beer is balanced at all. The nose is a good one but the midrange for malt flavors is practically invisible.

It’s a solid beer but probably for people who are more well versed in the style and interested in IPAs than for newbies to the craft brew scene. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means that the sharper flavor may be a shock to someone who isn’t ready or interested in it.

On The Rail: Scoreboard

I’ve come to the Scoreboard to meet a buddy and I get a Lagunitas Pils. The beer is…solid but I want to say it should be a little fresher. The nose isn’t very strong, the malts aren’t prominent enough and the finish is just kinda bland. Pilsners are difficult beers to brew though, and often fragile. The Scoreboard is the kind of place where you don’t blame issues with the beer on the brewer.

Which is fine. I’m really here to meet up with Dan anyway.23677318934_0cf94e91d4_z

Dan has been a football guy for as long as I’ve known him: over twenty years now. We’re catching up on the final playoff game of the day, he with a huge sigh of relief because the Seahawks won a nailbiter earlier. It’s quiet here, which seems out of sorts for a sports bar but I have no complaints.

I enjoy football but I’m not as big a fan as my friend is. He’s spent years following the Seahawks through good times and bad and while he’s pretty rational about most everything else, this is a space where he lets things get a little loose.

Sometimes, people get weird about the love of sports. I get it: Often sports, especially team sports, represents everything that was shitty about your childhood. I was terrible at sports for the most part and it was just another level of exclusion, a way to get me to feel worse about a life I already wasn’t that fond of. Not to mention the…well, the really shitty aspect of any sport: terrible human beings. And sporting events often seem to bring out the worst in people: fanatical devotion, win at all costs attitude and alcohol combining to create a pretty toxic mix.

It’s not always like that, of course, but for people who hate sports or find them boring, I see why they might be alienated, might even publicly protest about having to witness someone else’s joy or sorrow about sporting events. I personally find baseball to be devoid of anything resembling entertainment, while really liking videogames, so it’s not as if I am unsympathetic to subjects that are terminally dull to some people, while super exciting to others.

Here’s the thing; this is one of those instances where having nothing to say is better than saying how much you wish you didn’t have to endure someone’s interests. Especially the interests of someone you know.

Because the great thing about having a friend who is really into sports is that if their team does well, they’re happy, and you don’t have to do a thing. You can just be happy with or for them.

Conversely, the great thing about having an enemy who is really into sports is that if their team sucks, they’re sad and you can relish that. Again, you don’t have to do a thing.

People I like get to be happy, people I dislike get to be sad, I get to be lazy. This seems like a win-win to me.

Hoppiness vs Bitterness

This is just a nice article that I felt pretty clearly delineated the difference between the two subjects. It’s good to remember these things (for myself), especially since hops have multipurpose uses in beer and because I’m starting to work on making a pale.

Reading this also gave me an idea for the next hop-oriented beer I make: Maybe I should try and add the bulk of the ops in the last twenty minutes or so. I’ve had difficulty getting any real hop character in the nose of my ales, so I’m thinking this might be worth a shot.