OBF 2016 Review

I had a realization walking through the 2016 festival this year: so long as the crowds aren’t insane, I really enjoy it. Because it’s one of the few places in Portland where I see people from different cultures coming to share beer. During an era of American politics where thick lines are being drawn to divide us from them, an event that’s just an “us” is nice to attend.

As always, these are the lightly edited notes. If I don’t think the description does enough, I’ll try to say whether or not I think one should try the beer. If there are mistakes, please forgive me, as I’m hurriedly trying to get these up so they may be of use to other festival goers.

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Old Town Brewing ale

Old Town Brewing, Kentucky Refresh-Mint: It has a mint nose, and a hint of lime at the finish. The goal was to make a mint julep beer and…well, I have to say they did it! I like it-YMMV.

Jing-A Brewing, Eightfold Path imperial stout: nose of chocolate pudding mix, dry, a little sweet. The flavors mostly match this, with a bitter chocolate note on the finish. But…this is a a collaboration with Elysian & 10 Barrel which means one of two things: This is a subsidiary of ABInBev, or it’s a way for Jing-A to get their way into the US. If it’s the latter, then the bummer is that I don’t know what a true-blue JA beer tastes like. If it’s the former…hey, it’s a good beer.

Collaborator, We Rye’d Like Kings, session IPA: This is a pretty subtle beer. Low ABV, lots of hops but nothing overwhelming, a little grainy flavor in the middle. It’s meant to be a really drinkable beer and it is.

North Island, IPA: NW IPAs have really taken a hold across the world, is what I draw from this beer from Japan. It’s pretty solid for what it is though! Grapefruit bent with a little malt in the middle before the hops take over, it’s a solid example of the style.

Shonan, Wiezenbock: This has a bitter finish that I’m not sure should be there. And I don’t get a bit of toasty malt flavors either. I think they overhopped it. There’s a creamy start to this beer that doesn’t quite jibe either; all in all, pass.

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Doomsday CDA

Doomsday, Cascadia Fault CDA: nose hints of gasoline and the finish is, once again, emphasizing the burnt roasted quality of the malt instead of the hops. I was hoping for something better, because the name of the brewery is kinda rad, but this beer is just not a good take on the style.

Seaside, Honey Badger Blonde: The honey badger may give no fucks, but this beer is entirely fuckable. That…didn’t come out quite right. This is a light, crisp ale with a solid malt nose and a super clean finish. There’s a nugget of sweetness in the middle and it’s an eminently drinkable ale.

 

 

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Melvin DPA

Melvin, 2×4 DIPIA: This is practically the definition of an exceptional juicy double IPA. Grapefruit nose, sweetness on the finish that’s strong enough to meet in a fine handclasp with the hoppy bitterness: have some.

Riverbend, Oregonized Love: It’s difficult to not let the good be the enemy of the great at this moment. Is this a bad IPA? No. But after the Melvin, it has too long a road to climb to meet the standard of the 2×4. I’d say give it a shot-but early.

Pints, Lemon Curd ESB: Lemon and a little spiciness on the nose. The lemon flavors pair quite nicely with the maltiness of the beer, with the lemon touching in enough at the finish to keep the beer really crisp. Recommended.

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Squatters Pale

Squatters, Bumper Crop: this has a great lavender nose and is super easy to drink. Sweet, with a little herbal pulse on the finish; I’m really enjoying this beer.

Brauerei Nothhaft, Rawetzer Premium Export Festbier oktoberfest/wiesn. This is exactly what it say it is. Complaint factor zero. It’s light, drinkable and a pleasant way to finish this festival.

 

Oregon Brewers Fest 2016

Twenty nine: that’s the number of breweries coming to the OBF this year that haven’t been there before. That’s a lot of beer to try and I’m pretty sure I won’t get to it all. On the upside, I’ve had beers from some of the local brewers already, so that narrows things down a little bit.

Still, looking at the list, there’s a pretty broad range of breweries, including a bunch from outside the US, which is super cool. The styles are, predictably, tilted heavily towards lighter fare; a lot of sessionable IPAs, lagers, fruit beers and the like. There’s still plenty of options though. So long as the beers are tasty, I don’t really mind the summertime bent.

I’ve got a press pass to the OBF this year and will be attending on the 29th. While I’ll be off all next week, I hope to have a post up either late the 29th or early on the 30th so people attending on the weekend can take whatever recommendations I’ve got. I’m not going to pick out any one brewery this year beforehand, because my process tends to lean more on “Is there no line for this beer? Let’s have that!” than “Hunt and acquire this.” What can I say? I don’t think lines are good for beer.

Underlying Systems

There is no more important ingredient in beer than water. Let’s face it: water may be the most important substance on the planet and its presence as a drinkable product is one that most people in this country never think about. Unless something goes wrong, of course.

Because a whole lot of infrastructure and effort goes into bringing people water, so when the OBC arranged a tour of the Bull Run Watershed, I jumped on that.

At 147 square miles, the Bull Run Watershed is a federally and locally protected area that has one incredibly important purpose; to provide water to the city of Portland and some of the surrounding areas. However, it also is also an area that is subject to some very big considerations, including nature conservation.

Nobody is allowed in without permission and although tours go through the area regularly, they are not allowed to go alone. There are cameras and gates along access roads to monitor the area and even being able to do upkeep on existing roadways is taken with great caution.

So getting to see this is pretty cool.

28369200556_3bb95f588a_cThis is Bull Run lake. Formed some 10,000 years ago by a basalt landslide, then dammed up in the late 1800’s in order to create a larger reserve of water, this is the place where the water for Portland starts. The watershed is a rainforest and it gets about 130″ of rain a year. In comparison, the city of Portland gets about 30″ of rain a year.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that this system was established and completed in 1895. That was the year that water from Bull Run first made it to the city of Portland. That means that everyone here is relying on a system that is over 100 years old. I’m not saying that there haven’t been updates to this system: of course there have. However, when people who work with these systems tell us that the infrastructure of them is starting to wear out, it’s worth paying attention to those people. We rely on this in ways I don’t have time to articulate and if the only time we really put any thought into them is when they break, then isn’t it too late?

Just something to consider when the next city bond bill for such matters comes up.

28297912052_dbd87604bc_cThe next photo is of a gauge that the Water Bureau uses to measure how much water is coming from one of the two springs that feed into the two reservoirs. I’m told that water moves through this at about twenty cubic feet per minute, whereas the water moving from Bull Run lake down to this spring measured at a rate of moving in feet per year. This process of filtration down to the springs is what enables the Water Bureau to do no manual filtering of the water. This saves the city a LOT of money and effort, which is one of the reasons it’s so important that the Bull Run Watershed remain a protected area.

However, that doesn’t mean the Bureau has no control over the spring: I’m told that they are trying an experiment where they will release extra water from the lake in order to provide some temperature controls for fish habitat downstream. Just one example of the Bureau’s interaction with the broader considerations of the world beyond merely providing water.

28369198976_81049083f7_cThe final photo is of the dam at Reservoir 1. Behind this dam is roughly 10 billion gallons of water. Usually, this dam would be open, feeding into Reservoir 2 (which holds roughly 7 billion gallons) but because Portland has had such a temperate summer, there hasn’t been as great a need. The dam itself was built in the 1920’s and was the prototype for the great Hoover Dam.

We didn’t stop in the actual treatment facility because of the potential health risks. As it turns out, while Portland water is mostly unfiltered (they do have to get out typical river debris), it certainly isn’t untreated. Chlorine and then a little later, ammonia are added to disinfect the water as it flows down 25 miles of pipes to get to the city. Finally, at a station downhill, sodium hydroxide is added to help reduce the corrosive effect the water can have on copper and lead pipes in homes.

One very cool thing is that this system is almost entirely gravity fed. It isn’t until the water needs to get to the hillsides in Southwest Portland that pumps are required.

And one thing I ought to mention is that the information I got almost exclusively covered the Bull Run watershed area. Portland does have a secondary water source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, which gets use in the summer to augment the Bull Run supply.

Think about that: we have access to 17 billion gallons of water and it still isn’t enough for a year. Last year, because of climate change, the Columbia fields had to be used for a record 130 days to help provide water. This water has to be dealt with differently, as it doesn’t have the advantage of being filtered through basalt rock.

We were lucky last October, when a week’s worth of storms replenished everything in the Bull Run reserves. Which, for me, is frankly an unimaginable number to wrap my brain around. Seriously. 17 billion gallons in under 7 days, coming from the sky…I’m going to need a beer for that.

But what happens when we don’t get that rain?

….I’m going to need another beer for that.

Proximity

My Dad sent me an article a few months ago about how people who live near pubs tend to be happier. I’m not sure how having a neighborhood community is exclusive to pubs but after a long, rather busy weekend, I am glad that the Old Gilbert Road is nearby so I can come in to have a beer.

The signs in the window advertise their 1st anniversary party this Saturday and that’s a pretty cool landmark for any business. I won’t be able to attend but still: congrats to them.

28297938132_a32716ce9a_kThey’ve got the Supersuckers on the PA and as I wait for my Breakside IPA, the lady ahead of me stumbles through her small talk with the bartender, thinking he’s the brother of an acquaintance when he corrects her, “I’m her ex-husband.”

But like the genteel punk bartender he is, he rolls with it, “How do you know her?”

Friend of a friend, it turns out, and though the threads between them are thin, he continues his genteelness, saying “Yes, she’s a cool lady,” about his ex.

For all of Portland’s explosive growth, I am regularly reminded that it is a small city. Burning a bridge you do not need to is unwise. It helps if you like the bridge, of course but even with that in mind, it’s good to be graceful in such situations.

This IPA is not quite awesome. There’s pineapple and grapefruit notes and there’s just enough body in the middle to keep the beer on track, but after it all ends there is a slightly off flavor. I’m not sure what it is but I don’t want another one.

In a way, this place reminds me of another bar which I also like and don’t get to enough: Angelo’s on Hawthorne. It’s better lit here but the low key vibe isn’t something you can fake. It’s projected by the environment and staff.

Maybe that’s one of the other things that helps people live longer; that sense of calm in a public arena where every so often you can get away from even your most private stressors.

Work > Result

The day that Sherpa died, I had started to brew beer.

As you might imagine, everything stopped when we realized that he was going to have to go to the vet. I had water in the kettle moving towards boiling point and ingredients all laid out; that got put on hold. The rest of the day was difficult, to say the least.

After he died, the only thing to do was to continue with the work. Sitting around and mourning him wasn’t going to help anyone-although if I had decided to do that for the day, that would’ve been OK. However, I have found that when things go wrong, solace can be found in activity.

So I continued brewing pale ales because this year, that is what I am doing. The result was less than hoped for.

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In one respect, I feel bad. I had hoped that this beer would be a tasty one, that it would be a way to remember a creature who had been very kind to me. That it got infected and poured a glass after glass full of foam makes me feel like I let him down. That’s not a very comfortable feeling.

It’s also a little silly, because he was a cat and cats do not care about beer.

On the other hand, I feel as though I can hardly hold myself accountable for doing less-than-exemplary work on such a difficult day. I did the work and on that day, that is what mattered.

There is also a bright side: the nose on this beer did have a distinct, although not very strong, nose of Galaxy hops. So I’m finally getting closer to a style of beer that resembles a pale ale.

Sorry it wasn’t this one.

Brew date: 4.23.16

Steeping grains
1.5 lb Full pint
1 lb Vienna

Fermentables: 7 lb Extra LME

Hops
1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @60
1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @10

Yeast: Imperial barbarian (3rd use)

OG: 1.068

FG: 1.02

Secondary  on 5/6
Added 1 oz Galaxy hops to secondary
Bottled 5/7

ABV: 6.5%

Last Round At 15th St

I’ve stopped by the Hop House on 15th to quietly have an ale on my way home. It’s surprisingly under attended. If I was at the location on Hawthorne, I’d be hip deep in people.

I get a Wild Ride Quencher session ale. There is no such style as “session”, it’s just low ABV, people. Quit hiding your styles behind such nonsense.

28122480052_cd199f7eab_kHowever despite the cloudy look, this is a decent enough beer with a little hint of lime on the finish. That’s…weird but it isn’t bad. The lime might make it a little too not-beery for some people but for a pint? I’m good with it.

It’s also possible that the lime is there to cover a mistake up but I’m not getting any traces of infection. Perhaps this just an interesting experiment.

That’s all I’ve got, sitting at the bar. The country has had a terrible week-and more. I think it was Patton Oswalt who recently tweeted: ‘2016, you have been a terrible year on every level…fuck you’.

It’s difficult not to echo this. Not because my personal year has been so bad but because so many of my country men and women have to suffer. Daily.

Some days, doing the work is difficult, especially when that work is so clearly irrelevant to the crisis of the time. Writing about beer is one way of writing about people and people want to be listened to.

But they’re all justifiably angry and many more heartbroken. which is almost worse.¬† I get to sit here and have a beer, while others say the wrong kind of goodbyes.

The two women next to me are hashing out a man who is trying to gain the affections of one of them. This man–he is not coming off very well and fellas, this is the kind of conversation that when you hear it you think “men, you gotta step it up because holy crap you kinda suck…”

In a way, the mundanity of this conversation is a pleasant tonic to the toxicity of this week. The world keeps going. Men and women still try and work things out. Women still remind each other that silly men are silly and should not be tolerated, and writers gotta write.

But Nothing Changed, Right

I can’t say that I’m surprised to read that Goose Island has had trouble with their flagship beer.

I don’t want to believe that this is a “big vs little” problem.

No, the problem is one of attitude. If your attitude is to make as much money possible, then quality comes in second.

If your attitude is to make the best beer possible, then money comes in after. I’ve seen the examples time and time again: The attitude always comes through in the end, no matter what you do.

So despite reading from GI employees that “nothing has changed”, there are facts that make me wonder who’s fooling who?

Portland Craft Beer Fest 2016

While Sunday was spent serving beer, Saturday I was at the OBC booth at the festival to talk to people about homebrewing. While there, I had the opportunity to try some of the beers and get some comparisons in with other members working the booth with me. As always, the mildly edited notes:

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Grixen brown

Grixen: Summer Brown Ale-this is a really nice, mild beer. Man it’s tasty. It’s not carbonated at all and that’s a little bit of a drawback but it still works, which is a testament to the quality of the beer. I can get a little toasted nut and dried fruit flavor but even without carbonation, this beer is so light that it doesn’t weigh on the palate at all. I’d ding the beer for lacking carbonation except at festivals, sometimes shit happens.

Old Town Brewing: Summer of 74-Not quite as sure about this one. There’s a fruity quality-the description says tangerine, hibiscus and green chili. I get some of the herbal note in the nose but the fruity quality is dominant. The chili is, thankfully for me, nearly invisible. Nearly. As the beer is just finishing, there’s a little extra ping on my tongue, almost metallic, that I think is a touch of zip from the chili. A nice beer but not for me.

Natian: Cease & Desist Imperial Milk Stout-this is…not as good as milk stouts I’ve made. The nose is solid-a hint of cream to the coffee. The body is not very rich, though and there is a metallic finish, kind of like putting my tongue on a 9-volt. One person suggests an element of smoke and that might be throwing me off too. But I think keeping it in oak barrels warped the more delicate flavors.

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Commons Pils

Commons: Pils- there is a faintly tart scent in the nose, with the pilsner malt up front-a touch of honeysickle there. But this beer finished with a touch of perfume and then poof, it’s gone. Very clean, very drinkable, another success from the Commons.

Royale: Fat Unicorn pale- The nose really isn’t very hoppy, though it does offer hints of perfume. But the finish is extremely bitter and the lack of balance is turning me off. It’s supposed to be more malt forward, according to the description but I’m not getting it. I’m trying to rub the bitterness off the roof of my mouth with my tongue and that’s just not fun.

Pyramid: Ditto IPA- at 4.5%, this is a session IPA but it’s possibly the best session IPA I’ve had. It’s light but not too bitter, the nose is floral without having the sharpness of something perfumed. It’s quite possibly going to be an unappreciated beer at this festival and that’s too bad. It’s worth a pint or two.

Uptown Market Brewing: Oatis Reddin’-This is under the red ale category and by golly you can smell the caramel malts right up front. It’s got a barleywine flavor to it, along with a creamy feel to it that I am really digging on.

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Rev Nat’s cider

Reverend Nat’s: Sacrilege sour cherry cider-the nose has some cherry and the middle brings the apple sweetness, but it’s the ginger spice finish that comes as a real surprise. It’s quite refreshing and very good-at first. However, the ginger is so strong that it lasts a bit longer than I’m comfortable with. The burning sensation at the back of my throat is making this a bit too uncomfortable and I’m just not so hot about recommending it. It’s almost great but for me the ginger is eventually overwhelming.

I had a Sasquatch Woodboy IPA after that but the ginger from the Sacrilege was warping my palate. I couldn’t get a good sense of the beer, so I feel it would be unfair to talk about it.

A Tale From The Frontlines

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Credit to Will M for the picture

I was a server at the Portland Craft Beer Fest on Sunday-I’ll have a writeup of beers I tried later this week-and for the most part, it was a very good experience. The staff was on top of everything, the volunteer servers remained in pretty good cheer despite many kegs pouring foamy and for the most part, attendees were understanding and good humored.

Now, when I pour at a festival I try my best to hit the pour line. Getting under is bad-people will rightfully complain. Getting a little over, no one has said anything bad to me yet. But when I hit the line? That feels pretty good. A rare moment when I just nail it.

It isn’t my goal to hit the line and ONLY the line. A little generosity goes a long way, especially when you’ve been standing in line for a beer. But sometimes, I just hit the line and that feels good.

So when this older fellow holds up his mug critically and then gives me the eye, I tell him:¬† “It’s to the line,” and he wordlessly sneers and walks away, he’s not doing himself any favors.

His ladyfriend in an orange top snipes at me, “They don’t pay you enough.”

“You’re right!” I say. She is confused. As though she does not know what the word “volunteer” means.

“And the marketing sucks.”

So I smile my biggest, beamingest smile and stare back at her. The beer is poured and this conversation is over. She haughtily turns her shoulders and walks away. And I thumb the fuck outta my nose at her.

But you know what? I could’ve just raised my hand and told the staff that “These people have had to much to drink: they shouldn’t be served further.” Because I’ve been told by the staff that if, for any reason I don’t think I should serve someone, they will have my back. And a shitty attitude is a prime example of drunken behavior. Don’t you think?

Be nice. We are here to help you. Do not fuck with us.