Mary McCleod (Devil’s Mother) 2019

Devil's Mother imperial milk stoutThis is the 2019 batch of the imperial milk stout I make every year.

The nose has a hint of alcohol to it, but also a little bit of dried fruit too. The flavors include elements of chocolate, milk sweetness, and I’d say fig. So that’s all good. It’s not as chocolatey as I’d like, and the dried fruit qualities are just a bit off of what I want.

I was told by a homebrewing pal that the dried fruit quality was the result of the beer starting to oxidize-to get stale, if you will. In this style, that can be OK, but in most styles of beer, that isn’t what you want! Which means I’m going to change the way I make beer-but we’ll save that for when the next batch comes up.

It’s a pretty easy drinking stout though, given its strength and flavor intensity. There’s a nice clearance of the palate with the effervescence, so it’s easier to take another sip. But it’s strong, so this is a beer that is good to share if a second bottle gets opened. Works pretty well with desserts, but isn’t as complementary with other foods.

Still, not bad.

Brew date: 9/28/19

Steeping grains
2 lb chocolate
.5 lb Carafe 3
5 lb Maris Otter
3 lb Opal 22
1 lb Golden Promise
2 lb Lactose

7 lb ExLME

Hops: 2 oz Mt Hood @60

Yeast: Imperial: Darkness (2nd use)

OG: 1.15

FG: 1.04

Bottle 10/29

ABV: 14.9%

Craft Within Craft

I suppose I should’ve seen it coming, but there are now places that do craft malting of grain. This interview is describes how the founder of ThirstyBear brewing in San Francisco got into that.

And it makes sense, right? I know there are programs at Oregon State University, the Yakima Valley, and in New Zealand that deliberately cultivate new strains of hops. Yeast has been studied for decades. Why wouldn’t someone try to take that same kind of specialist thinking to malt?

I don’t know what kind of frontiers will open up as a result but I think it’s cool that people are interested in it.

Round Two #38

Grains of Wrath Grave Dancer IPAGrains of Wrath’s Grave Dancer IPA has a guava note on the nose and keeps on playing that note all the way through the beverage. My initial sips say that it’s not bad, but it doesn’t go very deep.

And what’s with an IPA called Grave Dancer not being piney and dank? Feels like a missed opportunity.

I got the Grave Dancer, though, because one of my Grandmas died last week, and my sense of humor has this strike me as funny.

It’s weird, because I live in a culture where my fucking ex-girlfriend from high school can find out where I live, but I lost touch with someone who was kind to me for the first twenty years of my life. At a time when kindness seemed to be in short supply.

So I feel unsettled about that. My sister put some clarity on the subject for me, when she told me ‘Grandma Mary was the only one (of our grandparents) who was into being a grandparent.’

Right. Everyone else was…not into being a grandparent. I don’t blame them entirely: as an uncle, I don’t know how to be an uncle. There haven’t been any classes on it, and I don’t think I’m very good at it. I certainly try my best, but there is undoubtedly a gap between what a good uncle does and what I do.

But Grandma Mary was into being a grandparent and I will miss her.

As the Dancer warms up, it feels as little less sharp. Not exactly sweeter, but not as intense, either.

Glass two runs the same flavor profile. I appreciate the skill it takes to do that; I am not as thrilled with the guava flavor, coupled with the lack of depth but the Grave Dancer isn’t a bad beer by any means. Instead, it’s a great example of a beer that is not for me, but definitely for someone else.

Today’s second pint is put on hold, due to my credit card being hacked. We’ll get back to it next week.

Small Upgrades

I especially like this story because it takes place in a small town, with arguably small stakes. And yes, it inevitably comes to the money that is saved but I don’t care. Anything that gets people to care about and do things that help make life more sustainable for humans is a win, as far as I can tell.

Round Two #37

Beachwood Greenshift IPAThe Beachwood Greenshift IPA is 10% so I already am thankful for a smaller pour because whoa. 10% is a big, big beer.

The nose doesn’t come easily-it isn’t until my third deep inhale that I pickup any hops, but I’m fairly sure they’re West Coast oriented. With a touch of dank, forest happening, I’m guessing Chinook and/or Centennial.

And this beer is easier to sip than I thought. The hoppy bitterness is definitely prominent, but it isn’t too sweet and it doesn’t stick around in a ‘tongue scraper’ way. About one-third of the way in, malt sweetness makes itself known to help keep things in check.

All of that makes this beer dangerous. And maybe that’s what I chose it, because I’m trying to manage my anxiety. What better way than to confront danger directly, instead of just living with dread?

Maybe it’s just coincidence, maybe it’s because I’ve been paying attention more, but I’ve gotten a few more ‘how are you doing’ questions this week and the truth is: I’m anxious. There are Very Good Reasons for this, and none of those reason are within my direct influence to mitigate.

I can only speak my truth, behave as best I can, and do the work. The payoffs happen in tiny bits. Which makes me anxious, because the Big Picture is…less awesome.

But I don’t want to drink to manage my anxiousness. That’s a path to disaster: it works short term, maybe a month or so, but any longer and the treatment starts to become the disease.

So I’m approaching this beer cautiously. That feels like the reasonable thing.

The final swallows of this beer bring out more pine and I’m not unhappy about this.

The second pour has a bigger head on it and more pine comes through in the nose. I feel better about the second glass because it broadcasts what it’s about.

The Greenshift is one that will definitely shift as one drinks it: if you have it cold, the sweeter elements are muted, warmer, the bitterness takes a backseat but a little warmer than that and the sweetness gets muted again. It’s good in all three phases, at least for me, but for someone wanting a more consistent beverage, it may not be for them.

Today’s second pint goes to the Friends of the Gorge.


Not The Charm

Cream Ale round 3I have kept at the attempt to make a cream ale and the third attempt was…the okayest beer?

There’s a bit of cereal grain in the nose; it’s a little weird since I’m not used to that kind of nose for a beer. It isn’t unpleasant though.

The issue I’m having the most trouble with right now is that it’s hazy and I wish it wasn’t. The up side: I am fairly certain that this is due to chill haze, because before I put the beer into the fridge, I can see through the beer. So it’s a visual flaw but not a flavor one.

Still; the flavors here also include some cereal grains-I can’t quite shake the flavor of Cheerios, honestly. There’s a lot of malt sweetness, too, but the finish on this beer is surprisingly dry. Not crisp, but there’s a white wine element there that provides some restraint on this beer where it might otherwise be a breakfast instead of a beer.

Still, this could use some more work, so I may just may this the style I brew for 2020!

Brew date: 10/20/19

Steeping malts

6.5 Copeland Pils
2 lb Vienna

Fermentables: 3 lb Golden malt extract

.75 oz Mt Hood @60
@5 .25 oz Mt Hood

Yeast: Imperial House

OG: 1.055

FG: 1.01

Secondary: 11/3

Bottled: 11/11

ABV: 6.1%

Unhealthy Coping Strategies, 1 (McCarthy Single Malt)

Give the stresses at work as of late (which have been of the kind to summon a Munch painting to mind, except instead of one person making the “Macauley Culkin shaving in Home Alone” face, it’s been thirty or forty of us), I’ve been…supplementing my coffee from time to time.

McCarthy's Whiskey & cup

While I would not approve of this as a long-term coping strategy, or when you’ve got a number of face-to-face meetings, it’s certainly taken the edge off of a day or two recently.

I’d also recommend a cheaper brand, one that should not be enjoyed on its own with a drop or two of water. Unlike this, which is peaty and smoky and undeniably good with a splash of H2O. However, one works with what one has on hand.


Round 2 #36 \ Second Round LTT

This is the year where hope fails you-Slipknot

Fremont B-Bomb aleToday’s ruminations come over a Fremont 2017 B-Bomb winter ale aged in bourbon barrels.

Chocolate is prominent in the nose, with a little bourbon smokiness. The first sip follows along these lines, except there’s a hint of chili spice on it that rests on the middle of my tongue and wants to set up shop in the back of my throat.

I’ve been thinking about that Slipknot lyric a lot lately, but especially since Thursday, when it became official that the United States Gov’t was an enterprise run by criminals for criminal activities, instead of by citizens for the citizens. It was… disheartening, even if I knew what the result was going to be.

The chocolate quality in the B-Bomb is more cocoa than sweet, and that dry spark is adding to the overall spiciness. I like it, but the experience is not very deep: chocolate and chili is the kind of thing that makes sense but I was under the impression that winter ales had more complex spice notes.

I suppose anything with a spice note and a higher ABV will do the trick for winter ale, but the range for what it can be is still pretty broad. In a rare move though, I’m going to only have one beer for this series. The B-Bomb is 14% and that is just far, far too high for me to have a second and be happy tomorrow.

So…hope has failed me. Hope that the right thing would be done-that the appeals of people who were risking (at least) their careers, in order to do the right thing would be heard, in order to build a better world for everyone. I’d been taught that right matters in America and I’m not the only one. So I’d hoped that righteousness would take center stage. That hope has clearly been dashed.

I am left with the ugly truth that bigots, cowards, and despots hold enough of the levers of power to rule over us…what does hope offer us then?

My conclusion is that hope can only take you so far. Hope has to be the call to action and we have to take actions born of our hope, in order to get out from under the thumb of cowardly, fearful, terrible people. Hope might’ve failed us but the work still exists, whether we have hope or not.

The work doesn’t have to fail us, we just have to have enough strength to do it. The right thing was fought for and built on, until it gave us what we have now. I believe we are being called on now, again, to do the work of making a better world. That takes courage-and that’s what I think we need, even more than hope.

Slipknot’s song is very much about being defiant in the face of such odds and it’s ferociously angry. If anger helps me be brave against such forces, then I’ll take anger.

My final sips of the B-Bomb are dominated by a chocolate smoke scent, and a spicy finish. The spice lingers but it isn’t very intense and helps counterbalance the sweetness of the bourbon. It’s a pretty solid beer, despite its one dimensional quality but I’m glad I’m passing on a second.

Today’s second pint goes to the Live Through This project. As always: disclosure-I know the person who runs this. She’s awesome.

Penultimate IPA

I get a faint bit of pine from the nose but nothing too sharp. A little disappointed in that, since I was hoping for more.

Soapy IPA homebrewIt’s…ok? There’s some decent bitterness on the finish but nothing distinctive, and the middle of the beer has enough to keep it from just being all about the hops.

But I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I’ve spent time working on this and nothing quite seems to come out right.

One other thing: I noticed that there was some wild variations in bottle quality. A couple-not many but still-were clearly infected. Which is disappointing as I’ve been paying more attention to scrubbing and cleaning these bottles before sanitization.

Still, more drinkable bottles than not, so…take what I can get?

Date: 11/17/19Steeping malts
5 lb High color malt
2 lb Munich
1 ob Full Pint Vielna
.5 lb Caramel 30

Fermentables: 3.5 lb ExLME

2 oz Cascade, 1 oz Palisade @ 60
1 oz Cascade, .5 oz Palisade @30

Yeast: Imperial’s Darkness (3rd, final use)

OG: 1.065

FG: 1.019

Secondary: 12/5, .5 oz Palisade, 1 oz Cascade added

Bottled: 12/8

ABV: 6.2%