Dec 31 2018/Second Pint LTT

So here we are, end of the year.

I always get pensive on this night, rarely allowed to be thoughtful. Instead, my brain wraps around the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’. I realize it’s not very helpful and when that’s the case, there really isn’t anything left to do but go for a walk.

Thankfully, my walk has brought me to the Proper Pint which has lead me to this beer. And it’s not easy to write when my brain is doing bad brain stuff….but the cure for that is to actually do the work. So I am doing the work.

My first beer: the Ninkasi ’14 Critical Hit barleywine.

It’s oxidized; I can tell because of the cardboard finish. Which is unfortunate, since there’s some good stuff going on before that finish, a lovely ribbon of caramel malt to drink…but you gotta stick the landing. To make matters worse, the landing has a chalky mouthfeel, turning me even further away from this beer.

Level brewing dunkleOK, round 2. This is the Funk A Dunkle from Level, and it’s pretty delicious. Light, chocolately and with a dry finish, I can drink another one of these. I don’t think I will because there’s always more stuff to try…but I could.

It hasn’t been a bad year, personally. I’ve quietly accomplished ten years of this blog and I couldn’t be more grateful for people who read this and support me doing what I’m doing. I’ve gotten to visit friends, travel abroad, drink some good beer, did some solid writing, and played games. I saw some excellent concerts and movies, read great books.

It wasn’t all good, of course-I also lost friends, in literal and figurative senses, and fighting against the decline of America is work that will wear a hole in you.

But for this moment, this beer; it’s for me. It’s for you, too; for all the struggles you dealt with, success or fail, for the accomplishments, the good and bad, hey; you’re still here. And it ain’t over until it’s over. And because this year isn’t much of a year if the people I know aren’t in it.

It’s 2019 in just a few hours. Let’s be careful out there. And happy new year, everyone.

Today’s second pint goes to Live Through This. As always, the disclaimer: I know the person who runs this and she’s awesome.

Common Ales: Full Sail Atomizer

Full Sail Atomizer IPA“Sci-fi suds for a wi-fi world” reads the label. So I think it’s fair to say that we know going in that there’s some self-hype nonsense going on, with more wording that promises ‘ultrasonic infused’ hops.

I don’t know where the ‘atomizer’ part comes in. I know there’s a marijuana reference in there but as far as I’m concerned, all it means is that they played Black Sabbath loudly at the wort. (As if there was any OTHER way to play Black Sabbath).

Fine, though; let’s get to the beer, right? That’s what matters.

The nose is really intense; pine, little bit of citrus. Definitely smells like opening a bag of Chinook hops: really green and intense. The first impressions are strong and positive.

There’s a big push of sweetness in the flavor. The Atomizer is lemony and bright but not cloying at all.

It’s a pretty good beer. I’d have another.

Common Ales: Ale Smith Nut Brown

Ale Smith Nut Brown aleLook at this: what a lovely shade of brown. I wish I’d seen this beer when I was brewing brown ales last year, because it would’ve been a great example of the style, visually. Translucent enough that I can see through it when I hold it up to the light, but dark enough that it won’t be mistaken for an amber ale.

The nose has a subtle nuttiness to it running behind some chocolate. Nothing strong but present and when the beer is drank; the exact same. It’s not sweet, like some of the peanut butter porters I’ve drank, which is a good thing. A bit of sweetness but it settles on the more slight bitter chocolate flavor on the end. It’s easy to sip on and very, very tasty.

Whatever You Say 48/Second Pint FBT

Everyone is coupled or grouped up at Bailey’s when I arrive I and I’m considering taking the author’s prerogative and picking whatever I want when a woman on the rail abdicates her seat to use the restroom.

I lean in to a man who looks like a stereotypical ski bum from the 80’s (long hair, wool cap, dirty woolen coat) and ask him, just as his glass arrives, what he’s drinking.

Ex Novo/Ft George collab IPA“Number 22!”I smile: he sounds like the cliche, too.

The number 22 is the Ex Novo/Ft George collaboration “Back & Forth,” a hazy IPA with rye. The scents fade rapidly, leaving me with a grapefruit flavored beer that has told sweetness to jump off a pier, followed up by the spiciness of the rye malt.

“Smooth,” the ski dude says and I have to agree, at least on my initial sip. We toast, and I let him get back to enjoying his date.

It’s also $8. That is wholly two dollars more than it ought to be, given it’s ABV (6.2%) and it’s style (basic IPA). For an $8 pint, I expect far, far more. The cost of setting expectations via your price point: when you miss, you burn a lot of customer goodwill.

Out of nowhere, the evening is disrupted by barking. An invisible dog decided to make herself visible and comes out from under a table of patrons to be vigorously and adoringly pet by other people. Sometimes, I love Portland so much I don’t even know what to do.

Today’s second pint goes to Families Belong Together.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Whatever You Say 47/Second Pint NPEP

Wolf in the Weeds IPAIt’s been a long day, this voyage home. I’m glad to get to Los Angeles, and while it isn’t my shelter for long, it’ll do long enough for me to have this beer with Leroy, a friend of my Dad’s who joined us on the trip to Panama.

Leroy drinks his beer quickly-we don’t have much time and we still need a sandwich before getting on the plane- but I pause as long as I can. We have to hurry, it’s true, but I’ve just gotten off of a 7 hour flight from Panama City. I can take an extra five minutes to tell you about what the selection for tonight was.

He’s picked the Wolf Among Weeds IPA at the Golden Road cafe in LAX. The nose has pine elements but is not overwhelming, and the finish goes towards that grapefruit bitterness. Nothing is too strong in that finish, and that’s OK. There’s enough sweetness in the middle and effervescent finish that, despite wanting to drink it quickly (it’s been a very long day of travel, with one more leg to go) I still want to hold off and sip it. We’ll be on a plane in mere moments and there’s no sense in rushing.

Today’s second pint goes to NPEP.

Gold Presidente

It’s my second to last day in Panama. “Whatcha doin’ there?” My Dad asks as I reach for some beer at the store.

Flensburger Gold

“Taking advantage of an opportunity that won’t come again,” I replied. He nodded, and this is what I got off the shelf-I present; Common Ales, Panama Edition!

Flensburger Gold-for a beer that includes hop extract as part of its ingredients list, this is pretty drinkable. I’ll admit, that last statement is a little snobby. I wouldn’t expect a professionally made beer to use such ingredients but here we are. It’s as little sweet-there’s enough of a hint of hops in the nose (pine oriented) and just enough bitterness on the finish for this beer to stay in the ‘easy drinking’ zone. You know the one; where you find yourself drinking half a sixpack or more on a warm autumn evening. But the malt backbone of the beer holds it together nicely.

32443510528_3ea1c2886c_kThe Presidente appears to be from the Dominican Republic and it has the nose of a Pilsner; a little yeast funky, definitely old school, pre-craft beer revolution. As the head of the beer subsides, a little more malt comes up but as with most American-light lager styles, it’s just not enough to give the beer any body to speak of. I say that with the acknowledgement that if I was experiencing Panama in a warmer season, I’d probably be sucking these down like they were going out of style. As it is, I have the luxury of going back home to Portland and getting some much tastier pilsners.

The First One

Boquete Brewing paleFirst things first, I would like to express my gratitude to Fuz, for taking over the past two weeks. He did a great job and I could not have asked for a better host to step in.

Which leads me to the next thing: where the heck have I been? Well, Panama. Not the song (it would be weird if I could go to a song) but the country!  I’m on an adventure, and part of the requirements were that I not drink. You can read a little more about this at the blog my Dad set up, here.

Now that that’s answered, let’s get to the beer!

This is my first beer in nine days: the Mudate o Muerete pale ale, which I’m drinking at the Boquete Brewing Company in Boquete, Panama.

This beer has a nose that’s a little fruity, just a hint of citrus fruit in the middle and then finishes fairly bitter. It’s…well, just not all it could be. Now, I know: the possibility exists that I could have built up this ‘first beer’ in my mind, setting myself up for disappointment. However, I don’t believe so: I didn’t crave a beer-I was merely looking forward to having one and the fact remains that something is really off on the finish. It’s got a vegetal bitterness that skews the beer negatively. In Portland, this beer would be panned pretty hard.

Still, the fact that a craft brewery exists in Boquete is astounding by itself.

Because Boquete is a poor village that is rapidly being invaded by American money. In many respects, it reminds me of Portland-the tension between the poor and the wealthy, vying for homes, jobs, a livable city, only with a clearer division between the rich and the poor. The locals don’t have money, the foreigners do. Portland still has the semblance of a middle class.

By way of contrast, being in Boquete reminds me how far we can come when we do elevate everyone. For example, I have had to buy water every day I’ve been here and trust me, you don’t know how much water you need or use until you’re buying it from a store daily (something that residents of Flint would probably be happy to educate me on, too). I walked to this brewery with eyes darting to each side, no sidewalks to speak of to protect me from the street traffic and few traffic signs or lights at all to guide my way.

Which I don’t bring up to complain. My point is that when you go out into the world, it’s hard not to acknowledge how far people can go to bring everyone up…or what happens when we ignore doing that, because without it we get hamlets like Boquete, and you start to wonder how far you are from a situation where you are even more at the mercy of the rich than you already are.

Still; here I am, thousands of miles from home with what is an honest to god pale ale that is entirely drinkable. Is it home?


It’s damn nice to have a beer though.


To close out my two weeks, here are some exceedingly brief reviews of the beers I consumed while DnDing* this afternoon:

Twa Dogs Parting Kiss Bourbon Barrel Ale: I must confess, I didn’t know much about Twa  Dogs before this tasting. It turns out that they are actually connected to a distillery, which produces whiskey, which explains why they have whiskey barrels to age their golden ale on. They do age the beer on Maker’s Mark as well; however, the label “bourbon barrel aged” seems a bit of a misnomer. (Unless it’s that they age the whiskey in Maker’s Mark barrels, which they then use to age this beer.)

This beer is charming. It’s boozy in the front end, with all of the flavors you’d expect of a barrel-aged ale (toffee, vanilla, and wood on the back end). It doesn’t feel as full-bodied as I might have hoped, but it was pleasant enough.

Ravens Mórrígan: Again, another brewery that I don’t know much about, and again a pleasant beer. It tastes like…stone fruits (I got hints of peach and apricot, but apparently there’s plums in there as well). The sourness is the merest hint of pucker, and doesn’t work against the soft sweetness of the fruits–think a splash of vinegar over a fruit salad.


Thank you for letting me share this space; it’s been fun! Your regularly scheduled programming will resume Monday.

*The important question: I’m a dwarf barbarian/druid. So…definitely against type.

What’s In My Fridge? (A Two-Part Series). Part 2: Mistakes Were Made

Last time I posted about the beers in my fridge, I noted that sometimes, the beers accumulate. I had laid the blame at the feet of Mr. Fuz, who buys too many beers that he won’t open on his own.

I have my issues as well. I hold on to beers and wines, waiting for the right moment to strike before I open them. I want the occasion to match the beverage. As a consequence, I’ve occasionally held onto things too long. In this case, perhaps almost a decade too long?

Yes. That is a 2008 Deschutes The Abyss.


And, when I opened it, I had hopes! There was no crud around the cap! The bottle smelled like the Abyss–at least, what I remember of the Abyss. There was a nice pour–the head was a little thin, sure, but not bad for a decade old. And there was even carbonation in the glass. O frabjous day!

And then I had a sip. And…


It’s not bad.

The nose is wine and leather, but…exhausted–the dregs of the barrel, the worn and muddy wineskin. Some of the flavors come through as expected–black liquorice and brown sugar are present. It still is rich, but it has too many idiosyncrasies to put up with: stale cardboard here, a muted flavor there, and a random off-note or two that disagreed with me when they popped up.  I’m surprised this beer did as well as it did, given its age and some of the storage conditions, but I’m still not going to soldier through. Fortunately for me, I’ve already looked up some plans for beer beyond its date.

I wish I could say that was the only venerable Abyss in my fridge. But, dear readers, I’d be lying to you.


What Can You Buy There? (# 1)

As promised on Friday, I’m going to write briefly about the kinds of beers I can find in my bottle shop in small-town Western Canada. And I’m doing so because our regular host lives in one of beer’s current Valhallas–one of the places in the US where you could most likely get any beer you might require.

But I don’t recall, even in some of the best bottle shops in Portland, seeing a wide selection of Canadian beers. And so my goal is to give you at least one brewery–perhaps more, we’ll see how the day goes–to keep an eye out for. Or, heck, even to cross the border for.

Four Winds (in Delta, BC) was mentioned when your host came to visit me in September; we shared their Meli, a delightful farmhouse ale made with honey and pollen. Four Winds is one of the more experimental and daring brewers in BC, while hewing closely to a style guide than might be described as Belgian, writ large*.  While they make quite good pilsners and oat stouts, to give a few examples of standard beers, they first came to my attention with their Zephyr series, which combines NW IPA hoppiness with some of the yeasts and esters we might think of as belonging to the world of Belgian beers.

Their Juxtapose is a Wild IPA–an IPA made with wild yeast. And the nose** brings that across. You get hints of mango, stone fruit–but also the barnyard funk you’d expect from a wild yeast. And, finally, a bitter note–the bittering of hops.

The front end is quite surprisingly malty, and gives way to a spicy breadiness in the middle–cracked pepper water crackers?–, and, in the end, the dryness you’d expect from both a hoppy beer and from the barnyard element. As the beer warms slightly, there’s a richer front mouthfeel; the middle spice disappears, but some previously undetected melon come to the fore; and the end exhibits more of the funk, less of the harsh bitterness of the colder pour. But at no point does the funk imbalance or overwhelm the beer–it’s one element working in harmony with the rest.

You could have this beer on its own. I paired the end of the glass with an “old” cheddar***, and was delighted as to how well the creaminess of the cheese brought new notes of the barnyard to the fore. I’d not go the bleu cheese route, but would stick with creamy and relatively neutral cheeses for my pairing.

*Their more experimental beers tend to hew more closely to Belgian beers for inspiration, but most of their products tend Belgian in identifiable ways.

**To the extent I have a nose today. Think about what I’d be writing if I could actually breathe through both nostrils.

***Old, my foot. Middle-aged, at best. Were it a human, it would have just stopped finding Buzzfeed quizzes relevant.