Birthday Recommendation (44th edition)

I was out and about for my birthday yesterday and I was able to try a few tasty beers.

25709576120_33dcdfb4d9_cThe favorite was easily the Commons’ Boysen (the third taster from the left), which was a great mix of dark malt and boysenberry and far, far too easy to drink at 13.8%. That is a compliment to the brewers, as well as a gentle warning to the drinkers.

It was a strange birthday in some respects, especially since I had expected it to be rather sad, up until just a few days before the event.

Being a person can be difficult and being an adult person even moreso. There can be a lot of expectations that fall through for multiple reasons, not least of which is: Adults are often busy people. Having a birthday can sometimes feel like an onus to put on them-hey, want to come out despite having no actual event to celebrate?

However, as my plans for the day started to fall into place-games & beer here, food there, walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood-I realized that I wasn’t getting the birthday I “deserved” I was getting one that I wanted. I got nice messages and got to see people I care about, I got to play games and I got delicious food and drink.

That’s pretty cool. So thanks, everyone.

Finally, I’m going to be out for the next week, so there won’t be any posts until April 4th. Sorry-I’m helping my Dad move and don’t think I’ll have time to write. See everyone in a couple weeks!


On The Rail: Watertrough Saloon

There’s hockey on the TV and country music on the juke; I should’ve brought my friend Janine here when she came to visit. She’d’ve felt right at home. Next time, I guess.

Damn, that Stone IPA tastes straight up good. I apologize for thinking a dive bar might not care much about the beer but this has been served to me like it came right out of the bottle. Pine nose on a slide right into similar foresty bitterness. The glass is served to me by a tall blonde in a babydoll Ramones T. She’s got no hips and a horsefish-looking tattoo I can’t entirely make out along her right ribcage. She asks me how my day is going and I lie to her; I ask about hers and she tells me she went to Sacajawea Park and could see Mt St Helens and Mt Hood because it’d been such a nice day.

A family of four walks by: I smile through the big new window at the little girl holding her father’s hand, not enough time to wave at the baby on her mother’s back. They hustle past the dive bar, not a place for families or little girls. I don’t blame ’em, I hope they have better things to do this evening.

I scope out the place; it’s changed since I was here last, notably the pool tables. They have a cool blue felt and polished wood finish-between that and the etched window with the bar’s logo on it, clearly some money has recently been dropped into this place. Sure, the carpet is frayed and lumpy and for some reason the clientele hasn’t increased but Hawthorne still needs bars like this.

Dive bars safeguard the soul of neighborhoods in ways that other institutions don’t. You can be anyone and so long as you’re civil and the money is green, you are welcome. Image doesn’t matter. Drinking goes way back in humanity and hiding out maybe even moreso. The fact that I have to endure a couple making out next to me on the rail is just a cherry on the sundae.

“Is it true,” a woman suddenly asks me, “is this one of the older parts of town? ‘Cause the house I’m staying in was built in 1911.” She seems to be in a black tracksuit, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and she tilts her chin up to give the wrinkles in her face her a touch of nobility. She’s here from Montana on a houseshare, her three kids having moved to Portland.

That’s about all I get out of her but it’s a dive bar, man. Small talk, then go your way.

Rather Not What I Had In Mind

I’m still on a quest to make a decent pale ale and…well, the quest may be more Lord of the Rings in length instead of Green Mile in length. Getting it right is always a challenge worth taking on but I wish I had an easier place to point to where it’s going wrong.

Nose is sweet…hint of alcohol/malt sweet, a little veggie there but not vegetal. By that I mean, the sour taste of veggies isn’t present. It’s grassy, perhaps but not cut grass. So not bad, just not especially pleasing.

The malt is there; it makes a flashbang appearance but rapidly moves towards the bitter flavors. The bitterness isn’t terribly offputting, instead it’s almost textured. My mouth feels like I’ve had a very dry wine when it’s done, the bitterness is fading but still present.

It isn’t bad but it’s definitely short of my hopes for this beer. I can see this beer doing OK with some food; potato chips seem like an excellent choice for some reason. But on the whole, it just is a little too abrasive for the style, too focused on the back end and not enough up front to really love.

What is disappointing about this is that I dry hopped the beer in secondary for about 36 hours. Not very long, but the advice I got from better brewers suggested less is more here. A day, two at the most for dry hopping, before the flavors of the hops start to get ugly. Yet, there’s practically no hop nose to speak of. I suspect I should’ve used different hops for the nose but I wanted to remain consistent in what I’d used.

Brew date: 1.18.16

Steeping grains
6 lb full pint
2 lb C15

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

1.5 oz Falconer’s Flight, .25 Warrior @60
.5 oz Falconer’s Flight, .25 oz Warrior @30
.5 oz Warrior @5

Yeast: Imperial A01 House yeast

OG: 1.069

FG: 1.015

1 oz Warrior hops added to secondary on 1/29

ABV: 7.3%

I Hope I Can Have As much Integrity

I watched the founder of Stone Brewing talk about his business and decisions not to sell his brewery.

What I especially like about this video is the admission that money matters. “I can’t run my business without it,” Koch says.

Yeah. It’s all well and good and really easy to talk about how easy it is to sell out, or tell everyone who wants you stay true that you have righteous fury and will never yield to The Man.

End of the day, though, some kind of yielding is necessary, if you want to do what you want to do. The question is: how far do you yield? For Koch, it seems that he’s willing to yield enough to keep the money rolling in and his business thriving…but understands himself well enough to know that he doesn’t need more. That kind of self awareness is worth appreciating.

On The Rail: Culmination Brewing

It’s been about a year since I was last at Culmination and at the time, they had only been open for a few weeks. The beer then was OK but clearly the product of a new system, and I thought it would cool to check in and see what may have changed or improved.

I get the Phaedrus IPA. The nose gives a Rocky Balboa punch of grapefruit. There is merely a wisp of head on this beer and the nose is still heavy grapefruit so I’m feeling some trepidation as I start to drink.

The beer itself isn’t nearly as grapefruit pronounced. A strong sweet flavor is in the body of the beer, so when the hoppy grapefruit notes kick in at the finish, it’s not nearly as insistent as other beers I’ve had.


I’ve had so many goddamn grapefruit IPAs in the past two years, my tolerance for them is in a small percentage. A percentage, I am happy to say, that the Phaedrus falls within. It’s a good beer among a sea of grapefruit IPAs. A year ago, when Culmination was starting up, the beers tasted like a start up. Now; they taste like they ought to and the difference is worth noting.

Common Ales: Hop Valley Alphadellic

25073760884_aa17af0cb7_cThis was another beer that I just went for: the cans seem to be in every store I go to so I figured that even if this isn’t Hop Valley’s most popular beer, it’s got to be close.

The nose is grassy, which I really like. I may hate mowing lawns, but the scent of fresh cut grass is still a good one and this beer makes the most of it. Unfortunately, the nose evaporates really quickly. This just leaves the beer and the beer is.

It’s not bad. It’s got the sharp bitterness that IPAs ought to finish with and I can’t detect anything wrong with the style but the nose goes so flat so quickly that the beer itself tastes very one dimensional.

Still, first impressions count. The Alphadelic gives a good one and that can carry it a long way. I’m not sure that it carries it all the way for your average beer drinker but for a hop lover, it should work just fine.

Beer for Flint

Every so often I talk about cool innovations in brewing that I find that are environmentally friendly. I really think it’s awesome when brewers and farmers and everyone involved in brewing, homebrewing, craft brew, macro brewing, comes up with ways to help preserve resources that everybody needs to use.

The situation in Flint, MI has reached international headlines and if there’s one thing beer people know, it’s this; you need water to do anything.

So I’m just going to take this moment to use my platform to promote a fundraiser my homebrew club is doing for the city of Flint. If you have the means, please consider a contribution. Thanks for your time.

On The Rail: Hawthorne Hop House

The plan was to go somewhere new-or at least new to the blog. I started off this plan on Friday but just couldn’t quite summon the gumption to leave the house. Saturday, I was going to head out but a friend pinged me and I went off to play cards with him. Priorities!

Sunday, I had some options but when I met up with a friend who was in need of food-preferably cheap food-it was off to the Hop House for their all day Sunday happy hour. Hard to object to a place with good food and an extensive beer list, so I didn’t.

25592135275_2bffe21a2b_cMy choice is Pints Dragonstone Abbey Tripel. It’s got a sweetness, coupled with a soapy quality making it sickly sweet. As the beer warms up, it does not improve. I had high hopes for this one, as the last time I was at Pints I found the beer to be pretty good! This just isn’t working for me, though.

Next up, Backwoods Winchester Brown, which is better! Light with enough flavor to it that I can enjoy it. It’s served on nitro and I’m not sure if that is improving my experience but the base beer is good enough that I’d try it again.

But not right away, because Wingman’s Stratofortress is on tap and one should not pass up an opportunity to taste that beer.

More Toast, Please

25176592185_4e1dc16690_cThe goal here was to make an amber ale, with a focus on toasted, bready notes.

The nose is not very distinctive: a whiff or oranges, the kind you get when your first start peeling one. It’s good but I’m surprised there isn’t more intensity, given the head.

A bit of malt sweetness in there, which is not too sweet and the finish isn’t very bitter or dry. All in all, a solid, drinkable little beer! However, I was hoping for something a little more toasty, not quite as sweet.

I brought this to the local homebrew club meeting and the response I got was fairly positive, which is great. I mentioned what my intentions were, though and one fellow promptly said, “Biscuit malt.”

Well, of course. I mean, it’s so obvious, as soon as someone smarter than me points that out….

Oh well. OK, next time, biscuit malt!

Brew date:

Steeping malts
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

OG: 1.075

FG: 1.014

Secondary on 11.21

Had to add Windsor dry yeast after 24 hours to get fermentation going.

Bottled 12/5

ABV: 8.3%