Hop History

This isn’t a long article but it’s definitely the kind of thing I’m thrilled to see: a short profile of someone creating a history of Polk County, Oregon’s involvement in American brewing.

The quote at the end is the cherry on top though, because it emphasizes how something like beer relates to living and why that’s important.

The Cara 20

Cara 20 beer in glass on countertop

This is a pretty clean beer. In some ways, it feels a little ‘classic’. The head on it is fluffy and consistent The nose has some malt qualities and the body is on the sweeter side for sure.

But the finish has first a decent hop bite-takes the sweetness away without being a tongue scraper- and then a dryness to it. Which is pretty neat! It gives this beer a drinkable quality that I appreciate. 

The color here is just a touch on the orange side and I think that’s due to the Cara 20 malt. If this beer was a bit clearer, it would probably be a lovely color but, given my inability to negate chill haze, it looks a little less inviting.

Still, it’s tasty, and that beats everything.

Brew date: 1/29/22

Steeping grains
5 lb Bohemian pils
3 lb 2 row
.5 lb Cara 20 (as a Vienna possible sub??)

Fermentables: 4 lb pils extract malt

.75oz Galaxy, .25 oz Warrior @60
1.25 oz Warrior, .25oz Galaxy @5

Yeast: Imperial House (2nd use)

OG: 1.072

FG: 1.014

Bottled 2/5

ABV: 7.9%

Front Porch Chats #105

Dog Days brown ale from Away Days brewing, in glass on railing outside

Once at dinnertime, when I was a kid, there was a report of an earthquake in San Francisco where my grandparents lived. Many details were unknown but things seemed serious and I said to my Mom: Well maybe they are dead and we won’t have to worry about money anymore.

Which was a cruel, shitty thing to say and my Mom was furiously hurt. I attempted to pass it off as a joke, which was true, as I liked my grandparents, but…it was also true that I was being callous and selfish.

I was a child so I didn’t understand a lot of things, but I did grok that my family didn’t have a lot of money and my parents fought about that. I also knew that my grandparents DID have a lot of money but the reasoning for why escaped me, since I knew my Dad worked every day, and my Mom was soon to join those ranks.

It was the first lesson I can remember in the harm in wishing people ill.

Yet here I sit, Dog Days brown ale in front of me, chocolate espresso nose, with a chocolate espresso caboose, the middle almost airy, it is so light. A damn fine ale from Away Days brewing for early Spring…

It has been over thirty years since I said such cruelties. Yet I am confronted on a daily basis by stories such as Diane Feinstein’s deteriorating mental health. That Mitch McConnel’s wife calls him the Leader. That Bill Gates has pulled strings at the WHO to keep the COVID vaccine from being demonetized, and Joe Biden knows that millions of Americans are drowning in student debt, medical debt, the cruel incarceration of people for emigrating, or selling weed….

And nothing happens to them. The power they grip is unloosened.

I am once again confronted by a darkness that I have to admit, has a point: It would be better if those people were not in the way. “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest,” right?

However, what confronting that leads me to is an ever more troubling line of thinking: these people have and continue to design and enforce a system where inevitably, it seems like they need to be dead so that we can fix the problems facing us, instead of looking for ways to cooperate.

Who stands in the way of our cooperation, really? Who is really pushing us into a system where I’m thinking “well, death would fix some things…”?

I don’t like those answers very much. But they all seem to come back to a small group of people with too much money, and not enough compassion.

And we deserve better.

Common Ales: Block 15’s Joy pale

I think the question Block 15’s Joy pale is wants to ask is: will people like a hazy pale ale, as opposed to a hazy IPA.

Block 15's Joy pale ale, in glass on desk, next to a can of same

Because it’s playing all the notes of a hazy IPA; grapefruit nose, cloudy ale, sweeter body. The finish is a bit different, going for a dry feel, maybe similar to a white wine but not so far as an english cider.

What I’ll say here is that: the Joy pale isn’t playing those notes as intensely as hazy IPAs do. The resulting beer has citrus juice qualities but are reeled in and balanced by a bitterness that seems appropriate for the beer.

I’m actually a touch impressed. I still don’t think this beer is for me; I am just not fond of juice ales, but this beer is far more drinkable than I would expect and I would certainly recommend it to someone who likes the notion of hazy IPAs but find they’re just too much.

The Best*: Breakside and Assembly

Breakside sampler tray with four tiny glasses

At Breakside we got a sampler tray!

But I started with the Breakside IPA because it seemed to be the classic NW piney IPA. It’s basically a classic NW piney IPA. I think it properly restrained-not too piney but definitely what I think of when I think of IPAs from the late 90s.

I also ordered the Jarmusch, a Czech dark ale with coffee, and the Cheeky Muppet because the name. The Cheeky Muppet-a golden with a little pineapple flavor in the profile, which I liked, but the Jarmusch was…a but dour, too roast, not enough sweet. I did enjoy the nose, which resembled a cup of joe, but not being a coffee expert, I couldn’t tell you how good that cup of joe would be.

My friend picked the pils, the altbier and a berry sparkler ale. All three of these were solid-and the berry sparkler ale wasn’t as sweet as one might’ve suspected. The pils is a crushable ale and the altbier is especially delightful for a long night of chatting with your peeps.

I wasn’t surprised by this because Breakside consistently does very good beers, but it’s always nice to have it confirmed.

At Assembly brewing, I started off with their NW IPA, and my first impression is a fantastic lime nose from the beer. It’s a good thing.

Assembly Brewing's NW IPA in glass outside at night.

The bitterness is strong-and it’s imbalanced for a normal IPA but when I remember that this is a NW IPA, going overboard on the bitterness sounds about right. The midrange sweetness really isn’t present.

That said, the finishing bitterness isn’t overdone, either. Is the beer unbalanced? Yes. Is it overwhelming? No. It’s fairly drinkable despite being tilted, and certainly the nose helps a lot.

My second beer was the stout, and it smelled and tasted like a chocolate covered espresso bean, which I like! My friend tried it and agreed with my assessment of the beer-except they do not like chocolate covered espresso beans, so they did not enjoy the beer.

Still, points for consistency!

Finally, I got a taste of their Kolsch from my friend and it’s a damn fine beer. A better Kolsch than I had had in awhile, and I was very surprised by this. I might have to come back for more of that.

Front Porch Chats #104

It’s a cool April evening with an Out Cold from Brick West Brewing. I’d brought this beer back from Spokane with the intention of writing about it for the Common Ales series but life has been a little busy to make time for such an event.

Brick West Brewing's Out Cold IPA in a glass on a table outside

And it’s my last can of it anyway. This is a ‘Cold IPA” and while I can’t say the term means much to me-I hear it as marketspeak not as an actual style unto itself, but that might just be cynicism kicking in-I can tell you that it’s got some work to do.

They beer is citrus in the nose, tilting towards lime and the beverage itself lines up with that, mostly. The finish is very crisp, almost reminding me more of a Pilsner than an IPA. It’s also a little…sharp on the finishing bitterness. Medicinal. I can’t quite get behind that.

I suppose this might be best after a longish day of work, or in the late shade of a summer evening. I’m not objecting to it now, understand. Just visualizing where the Out Cold could be its best self.

Being their best self is something I wish more people would put some time thinking about. Maybe that focus would lead people to notice things they hadn’t before, start paying attention to all the little ways that they are unkind. Or redirect their attention from being unkind to the vulnerable and instead on themselves.

I won’t say it’s easy. I will confess to sitting on my laurels in many aspects of life, but when it comes to ‘how can I be a better person’, that is one space I don’t seem to find any rest in. There is rarely a ‘fuck it, we’ll fix it in post’ button for being a better person. At least for me.

But damnit, there absolutely has to be a better way to live than looking at any class of vulnerable people-be they queer, or Black or Brown, or Muslim, or disabled or whatever-and thinking: fuck those people.

They deserve better-and so do we.

The Next Wave?

This article from Beervana is useful for a couple things, I think.

First, of course, it provides information about the strides that the industry is making with malt and malting, to change how beer tastes.

But I also think it is a window into what brewers will play with next: hops have gotten the limelight for nearly 30 years and scientists have been playing with yeasts forever.

I’m looking forward to what they do with new malting knowledge!

Front Porch Chats #103

Alesong's Rhino Suit stout in glass on porch outside

Got a rare bird today with Alesong’s Rhino Suit. Objectively, Rhino Suit is just a fantastic name: is it a suit made of rhino? A rhino in a tux? A suit to make a person look like a rhino?

The world may never know. I suggest to you that there isn’t even a wrong answer. They’re all interesting in their own ways.

This particular Rhino Suit is an imperial milk stout that’s been aged on bourbon barrels. The nose faintly gives this away, too with that smoky harshness in the background. I will say that this one strikes a better balance than last week’s beer though; the lactose sweetness blends with the roasted malts to give me the impression of sweetened cold coffee that’s been doctored up, if you get my drift.

And I think you do.

I’m having difficulty deciding if I should start writing in pubs again. I’ve already been doing some of that-but outdoors, when possible or when it’s low tide, and only briefly. As Mr. T said; the virus ain’t over, fool.

I would like to be around people again. At least in small doses, people are great.

But I would also like to not give into this….puzzling apathy about a deadly disease. First off: I would like to not get sick and die.

I’d like to die reasonably healthy, and spitting into the eye of Marjorie Taylor Green. Not because Kimmel told me to, but because she’s fucking trash and if you’re gonna spit in the face of evil, she’s as good a representative as anyone.

I mean. There’s a list, right? If you’re reading this, you can come up with at least half a dozen, I’d bet, before I finish this beer.

However, there are still priorities: Namely not dying due to a pandemic partnering with late-stage capitalism lubed up by fascism.

On the other hand, I would also like to not die mentally broken because I have been so isolated that I’m starting to get….weirder.

It’s a lot.

It’s a lot for anyone, and so hey; keep fighting the good fight. Do what you can, heck, sometimes even give doing what you can’t a shot. All things considered, what’s there to lose?

The State of Things

The local weekly paper has their annual craft beer roundup to go along with the Oregon Beer Awards, which they sponsor. And which I help out on!

Tiny plastic glasses, stacked up in boxes

Here is a picture of almost all of the glasses that were prepped and used for just the first weekend (there were two) of judging for the awards. There were over 1000 beers that were judged over two weekends and let me tell you, that is A LOT of beer.

I bring this up in part because hey, I think I participated in a cool thing. But also because while I was doing it, multiple judges thanked me for my work. It struck me, again, that none of this is possible without the efforts of a great many people and in this instance I am just one helper in a crowd of many.

One of the organizers thanked me for my work and I told her it wasn’t work. “This is me helping my friends.”

Which is a nice way to think about it, because standing on concrete for 8 hours a day for two weekends makes me sore.

But also, it makes me wish I could think about, or have the same help, when it comes to, say, any form of house maintenance that I do not understand. Which is most of it.