Round Two #31\Second Pint VSA

‘There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”’ ― Kurt Vonnegut.

Welcome to the last post of 2019! I’m glad you’re here. I got a Plaid Habit from Boulevard, which is an imperial brown ale kept in Canadian whiskey barrels.

Boulevard Plaid Habit brown aleThe nose smells like cheap hooch and bad grandmas. Maybe you’re into that?

But tasting it gives me some dried cherry or raisin, a little bit of chocolate and a touch of whiskey. An offering of maple syrup arrives to keep things interesting though I’m not sure if it’s interesting enough. The aftertaste has that high alcohol burn that settles on the front third of my tongue. It’s far more drinkable than the nose offers, which I’m grateful for. Also, it’s a 13% beer so I don’t think I’ll have a second one. It’s good but it isn’t THAT good.

I think in this instance what I’ve got is a beer that is mismatched; brown ales need to be light, and even an imperial brown ale shouldn’t carry much weight but whiskey is strong stuff. This is something that needs the intensity of malts from a porter or stout to really stand up.

As I was saying; I’m glad you’re here. Regardless of how the year has treated you, you can say you made it to the end of one. Hopefully, you’ve made it through relatively unscathed.

I fear it won’t last. This coming year, it’s going to be one wild ride. Anyone who is paying attention should understand that, and that ride does not look like fun at all. We’re going to have to do extra work, looking out for each other-being kind enough to include everyone who needs to be included, and only mean enough to scare off those who would cause harm to us, just because we exist.

It’s a fine line. I doubt we will walk it perfectly. However, I don’t think we do the work in order to be perfect. We do it because it must be done, and if not by us, who? There’s no sense that I can tell, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good to the point that we don’t do the work.

And if this year has been difficult for you, then I’m sorry. I hope that 2020 is kinder to all of us-despite my fears for the coming year. Or may be in spite of those fears. That works, too.

Today’s second pint goes to Vote Save America.

Top Tens

The local paper has ranked the top ten beers of Portland for this year.

Setting aside, for a moment, that tastes are subjective and people are going to have a broad array of things they think are great, I have complaints.

First: at least two of these beers aren’t available now. Others might be but there’s an air of “it’s goin’ fast” or “bottle release next year”, etc. The issue I have here is that there’s no way for me to verify how good these beers are! It’s nice that they enjoyed it, however “trust but verify” kicks in for me.

Second: how nerdy is this list? Six of these beers have “experimental” or “sour” in the description.

Do you know why Deschutes’ best selling beer doesn’t have those words in them? Or Baerlic? Grixen? Sierra Nevada? Fat Tire?

Because sour beers have limited appeal. Doesn’t matter how good they are.

This isn’t to discount the quality of said ales; every one of these breweries has a strong history of making good beers. My issue is that most of this list sounds off putting to people who are unfamiliar with craft beer and utterly unpersuasive to people who aren’t into sour ales.

It brings me back to something that I’ve been thinking and reading more about this year: How it is apparently “the consumer” who’s always demanding the hot new style or trend.

However, here are these beer reporters telling us that the best beers are either a) niche styles or b) unavailable.

Am I to sincerely believe that there wasn’t a fantastic Irish red or stout available? A beer where “chewy” isn’t a proper descriptive term, ever? Or are those styles just too pedantic to be considered? Yes, there’s a hazy (it’s so hot right now) and an IPA, which has never gone out of style but c’mon. Whom, aside from beer nerds, have even heard of a “black bock” or thinks Brett isn’t the name of some shitty Supreme Court Justice?

I’m sure, to the author, it feels like they’re out there on the cutting edge recommending a “Foeder-aged ale with strawberries” and I don’t doubt that it’s a fine beer. I can’t help but wonder if sometimes, being out there on the edge is missing the point of appreciating a classic style executed well. At the very least, I question what’s driving the narrative that people always want the hot new thing.

Round Two #30/Second Pint DVRC

Pliny the Elder IIPAPliny the Elder.

Among beer aficionados and IPA geeks especially, those three words can cause no small ripple of hype. Once upon a time, I understood why; it was an outstanding beer, vibrant with hops in a way that I’d never had before- and I wasn’t alone. Beer lovers flocked to Russian River’s beer, one that has been credited with creating the Double or Imperial IPA style (IIPA).

But I quickly found myself disillusioned with the beer-it felt overhyped and the expectations of Pliny soon outweighed what it actually was. Maybe what it could ever be.

I haven’t had a glass of Pliny in years. Until tonight.

The nose has a citrus and resin quality but that fades rapidly. The strength of the scents aren’t there, but they still linger; like the ghost of an ex, it won’t go away, even though the presence is gone. So let’s go in for the sip.

You know, it’s not bad at all. Citrus, with a strong ribbon of caramel wrapped around it, with a hint of forest on the final bitterness. The Pliny is more balanced than I remember, easier to sip on.

That bitterness lingers too; like the scent, except on my tongue and it stings just a little bit. Not in a bad way, but it’s definitely got that hop bite.

The second glass….is much the same. And I don’t mean to shortcut my impressions of that second glass but it isn’t what I want to focus on. Because the beer is good; it’s exactly what it was the first time. That consistency is frequently what makes a good beer good or even great.

What I can’t help but think about, though, is what may have changed. Certainly, the beer scene has changed since Pliny first arrived; but did the beer stay the same and I fall to the hype or did the exposure of new beers enable me to move on to something I liked more?

With all of the conversations surrounding breweries trying to find the new hot thing vs solid beers that we know are good, I’m just not certain.

I am glad that I decided to come back to this beer and try it again. It’s enjoyable and I might’ve let my ego prevent me from ever tasting it and discovering that it was still pretty good.

Today’s second pint goes to the Domestic Violence Resource Center.

And, since Wednesday is Christmas, I’ll be taking the day off. Happy holiday, everyone!


Thanksgiving Reviews #3

Wet Coast cream aleTime to wrap it up! (I…went a little overboard this year).

Wet Coast- Cream Ale (they were a new-to-me brewery, so I got a couple different beers). Faint hit of bread in the nose, but nothing too strong. The beer is sweet though; not sickly but definitely malt forward. The slight haze of the beer makes me feel not as bad about the cream ales I made, though this is clearly a better product.

Wingman-Stratocaster ale; a Belgian dark, kept on cedar planks. This is a fascinating beer; thick, with a hit of molasses. There’s a tart quality, too though-nothing very intense. Milder than any tart ale I’ve had, even the Flemish reds that I’ve had. But that’s a pretty good comparison. I dig it.

Northwest Brewing-102 IPA. WHOA that is a bright, clear beer. But the nose is faint and the finish is…grassy? Is this a fresh hop ale? I take a look at the can: ah. It’s 4% so this is a sessionable IPA, not an IPA. It’s not bad for that, but they’re damn lucky I read the label before passing final judgment.

Post Doc-Alpha Factor IPAPostdoc Brewing-Alpha Factor IPAs. Nice nose-a little grassy, a little spicy and dank, too. The flavors are surprisingly spicy but they still keep that grassy quality on the finish. Still, it’s not quite grabbing me-the spice quality isn’t playing nice with the other flavors and I’m not sure I am eager to have a second. It may also be that the grassy quality is starting to taste a little stale, this late in the day.

Kulshan Brewing-Red Cap Irish red ale. The nose has some immediate roast quality to it, and wow, do does the flavor. I think the roasted malt got away from the brewers on this one, because its presence is so strong, it almost has a smoky quality to it. Not sure if I’d want another.

Round Two #29\Second Pint Vera

‘I’d take a recommendation,’ I tell the bartender. She recommends Modern Times’ Blazing World.

Modern Times-Blazing World IPAThat’s as good a reason as any to pick a beer.

This ale looks bright and clean and I am feeling hopeful about it before I put it to my nose. When I do get the beer there, the scents are dried citrus fruit-orange & tangerine.

This one is a nice beer to drink. The tangerine quality is in front and at the final bitterness but it isn’t overpowering. Some caramel malt is allowed to escape through the bars, which is sweet enough to give the Blazing World dimension.

But, the finish is so clean and crisp, you could be forgiven thinking the Blazing World was a lager. There’s a little too much lingering citrus to get away with that but the brightness of that quality makes for a beer that’s really easy to drink.

Glass two, the twinning. I pick up more grassy qualities in this-the citrus is still there but it’s blended with a lawn element. No, I don’t know what to make out of it, but I checked three times and by golly, there’s a something grassy there.

I’m also getting more malt in this glass. The tangerine is present but the caramel wants to saunter up and make itself known. I can’t object to this; it’s a tasty beer still and this isn’t a radical departure from the first one I had, but I’m getting a little more from it, which is nice.

What’s been interesting is that there’s been a rise in the “dankness” of the Blazing World. A moist forest scent and flavor that is trying to cuddle up to the tangerine and it’s working! But it’s different.

Today’s second pint goes to Vera Institute of Justice.

Thanksgiving Reviews 2019 #2

Let’s keep this Thanksgiving trip rollin’!

Nightmare brewing hazy IPANightmare Brewing: Exposure IIPA with cryogenic Mosaic and Citra hops. Look at this label. Holy crow. I bought it just because of that, and am rewarded with a fairly solid hazy IIPA! It’s not too sweet, but it isn’t so grapefruit oriented that I feel like I’m just eating pith. Nicely done, people!

Matchless-Hedelhell Helles lager. I do like me a Helles ale. However, this tastes like I’m drinking sparkling water, not a beverage with hops and malt in it. This is because I cannot pick up a thing on the nose, even after multiple attempts. All that leaves me with is what’s on my tongue and that…just doesn’t give me anything. Sorry. No dice.

Triceratops Brewing Co- Mrs Vorhees Peanut Butter Stout. Um..ok, so while it’s not bad, it’s lacking peanuts. Even though the beer says it contains peanuts, I do not taste them. But it’s a nice stout aside from that. Still, if you promise me peanuts, then you ought to deliver on that.

Loowit Shimmerglow imperial stoutLoowit- Shimmerglow Imperial Stout-Some coco in the nose: this tastes like a stout. Coffee, burnt malt flavor and I dig it. Also, the can is amazing: it’s got a giant dragon on it. What more do you want?

Silver City Brewery- Old Scrooge Christmas ale. What the heck is a Christmas ale?Nose has some caramel, maybe a bit of red apple too. The beer itself has this as well. Not a lot of spice at the front but there is a lingering back end, hanging out at the back of my throat of some spice. This is getting better as I sip it and that’s always a good sign.

Airways– Pre Flight Pilsner-while there’s some  malt there, it’s just a bit too light for me to really dig on. Crushable, but tilts too far to the light lager family for me to endorse heartily.

Wander Brewing- Synthesiah Kveik IPA. I expected more, getting a Kveik yeast IPA because I’ve been reading about this yeast online-…but it’s just a hazy. It’s not bad, but I don’t get anything special out of it, certainly not $5 worth for a single can of beer.

Thanksgiving Reviews 2019 #1

The bonus of being on vacation: Lots of new beers to try! So here are the lightly edited notes, taken in between chats with family, a little television and a lot of card games.

Paradise Creek Brewery-Hop Pyramid IPA. Orange nose? It disappears so fast I can’t get a grip on it. The hop flavors aren’t too strong: lots of caramel flavors, with only a hint of hop bitterness. Feels pretty standard, and I wouldn’t be opposed to another.

unknown hazy IIPAWhat is this beer? Who made this beer? Omnipolis-Fatamogarna? Iberia IPA? What wording there is could be a black metal album logo and the fine print is…well, fine. This is a weird way to market this beer. But it’s reasonably well balanced and not too sweet. I’m not just a little surprised by how tasty this hazy is but I am definitely baffled by the marketing choices.

Wet Coast Brewing-Soppin’ Wet wet hop ale. While the nose is hop forward and a little tangerine, I don’t associate that with fresh hop ales. Still; the beer itself is pretty mild and very juice forward. It’s not so sweet that I recoil form the beer and as a mildly juicy not quite hazy ale, I can get behind it.

Blackberry Farm-Classic saison: this is classic in every sense. Funky,  with a solid malt backbone to it. It’s a proper sipping beer, with just enough funkiness to balance out the sweetness.

Fat Orange Cat blonde stoutFat Orange Cat-All Cats Are Gray In The Dark-blonde stout: this smells like goooood milk chocolate and holy crow it tastes like it too. Wow. I like it a bunch.

Two Beers brewing-Overhang Imperial Porter, bourbon barrel aged. Kinda like I’m chewing on a piece of wood. There’s a sour finish-is this infected? The nose seems smoky,  and then my friend says “The sound you’re making is horrible, so I can’t imagine that it’s good.” And he’s right-I am just not enjoying this beer, I’m trying to lick the flavors out of my mouth. It tastes like flat coke with rum.

Counterbalance brewing-IPA; this tastes like a classic, dank IPA. Not as much malt flavor as I’d like for balance, but a hop lovers delight.

Round Two #28\Second Pint H4A

Baerlic Gray Scale lagerBaerlic’s Gray Scale, which is a coffee-Vienna style lager. That’s weird: coffee stouts and pale coffee stouts are both things I’ve had and, as visually weird as a pale stout can be, it’s still pretty tasty.

But a coffee lager is a new thing and I cannot pass up a chance to try a new thing!

The coffee is in the nose but it isn’t oppressive. That’s good, because this is a lighter style of beer and could easily be overwhelmed. The scent is constant, though, all the way down; there’s no point where I don’t know I’m drinking a coffee flavored beer.

The Gray Scale is…challenging. Because there are some sweet flavors here, undoubtedly from the malt, that keep this beer in check. I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone how intense coffee flavor is, though and there aren’t lots of other flavors in the Gray Scale to keep that coffee back.

As it warms up, the beer gets a little sweeter and the finish becomes crisper, making it easier to drink.

Glass two: I have a chance to notice how quickly the head on the beer settles: a good centimeter and a half in not more than 30 seconds!

The nose is again a solid coffee sweetness, but when I drink the Gray Scale, I’m able to pick up a little more effervescence this time-a bit more pop on my tongue.

That backs off quickly and now that I’m in the middle of the beer, I’m drinking coffee sweetened without milk. Which I don’t ever think I’ve had, and maybe that’s why I’m so puzzled by this beer. I don’t drink coffee, so part of the experience is simply lost on me.

I really like the first beer, but in the second glass I’m experiencing palate fatigue and I don’t want more of this. Despite having a short pour, that second glass is a struggle to sip on. I’m torn between wanting to pound it down, or just take my time.

I settle for taking my time. The final third of the beer again becomes crisper but I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t’ve been happier with an even shorter pour than I got.

Still: for one glass? This is a damn solid beer.

Today’s second pint goes to Hygiene 4 All. Disclosure: I know a person working there and think what they’re doing is cool.

Proof-A Review

I recently finished Proof by Adam Rogers, which is about the science around alcohol.

Longtime readers of the blog know that I really like the science behind beer; the  processes that go into making a glass of lager or ale can easily connect damn near everything in the world. A book like this is definitely in my wheelhouse.

Proof, however, slides past beer pretty quickly and focuses more on distillation and the science around it. The book makes a pretty solid case for doing so; it’s discussion about fermentation goes into how this is a natural process, whereas making spirits is something humans have engineered.

But that was fine by me, because the science is still the science and discussions around yeast, ethanol, chemistry and how these things interact with humans generally apply regardless of the style of alcohol you consume.

However, the science was occasionally a little unclear for me: discussion on how fungus evolved in Japan to make sake, for example, didn’t have much depth and felt like they were being pushed quickly through. Similarly, the chapters on ethanol’s interactions in the human body used a lot of new terms without giving me enough distinction between them for me to feel like I understood the subject. This may be to prevent getting laypeople confused but I wish it had been clearer, even if this meant more explanations.

But Proof is no less fascinating for these flaws: many parts of the book detailed scientists working on things I was surprised that we didn’t already know-for example, how, exactly, does alcohol affect people? What happens when you’re hung over? What happens to alcohol inside a barrel?

Along with other questions that I just didn’t know and found cool answers too, like How many flavors can a person detect? How did different cultures approach getting fermentation to work?

The dive into these questions were intriguing! I got windows into different cultures, history lessons, science lessons (turns out people can easily detect about six scents if trained, four if not, and then the brain starts to lump things together!) and of course, the people who invest their lives and time into this subject. I enjoyed this read and recommend it if you have any interest in the subject.