Common Ales: Miller High Life

What? Sometimes the common ale is…common. And if I’m not drinking the regular stuff, the beers that everybody drinks sometimes, then I run the risk of losing touch with what makes the whole experience worthwhile.

Miller High Life in a glass on a table

The nose is a little stinky, reminding me of sulfur and the 1970s stuck into a shoe. There was a reason why people insisted that beer was an acquired taste and this nose is absolutely part of that.

Thing is, as soon as I break the seal-have my first sip, taking the head of the beer away that nose fades considerably. Almost as if I was imagining things to start with.

The beer itself is on the sweeter side: corn is absolutely present, if you realize it’s there. Not as sweet as creamed corn, but I attribute this to the presence of a graininess that restrains that sweetness just a little bit, about 2/3rds of the way in.

The finish is where this beer really does kill it, though. The carbonation snaps on the tip of my tongue, and eventually removes all traces of itself.

In this respect, it’s perfect; it can be a thirst quenching thing, or a good beverage to wash down other food, while being almost completely absent itself.

But it can also evaporate, as if you hadn’t had anything at all. What better motive to have another one, if you don’t even feel like you’ve had the first thing? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.

On the other hand, how can I recommend it? It embodies both the style it represents and nothing at all, as it leaves no memory of itself.

I wouldn’t refuse one. But I wouldn’t buy one. That sounds about perfect for what this is.

Front Porch Chats S2 #8

It’s quiet in Portland today, due to weather that can only be described as fucking hostile.

Protector brewing IPA in glass, on table

So I’m up in the sunroom again, a glass of IPA from Protector brewing, thinking about spending the night in the city of La Havre, France nearly three decades ago.

I was traveling through Europe with a couple buddies, on my way home. From the continent we were going to catch a ferry to Ireland and after a week there, fly to London, and after a week there, I was finally going home. I had a year’s worth of luggage with me, (as did my pals) because I was wrapping up a school year in Italy and we were all just north side of broke.

Plus, the ferry started boarding at 7am, so we had to be there early and thus it was decided that we would just sleep at the dock near the ticket booth.

It was the middle of the night when I woke up because my feet were wet. Part of us was under an awning, but my legs stuck out and now I’m wet-but not soaked-and it’s the middle of the night in France, there is no one coming to help me. I am lonely and it has been a very, very long year.

I just wanted my Mom, you know?

I distinctly remember thinking This sucks, before curling up and huddling against the wall, nothing to be done about anything until the sun rose and we could get on the ferry.

The rain didn’t last long and all in all everything was fine.

But I got the barest taste for what it was like to not have a room with a bed in it and no way to access one, and I did not care for it one bit.

So last night, when the weather advisory really kicked in and the wind was howling outside like an engine possessed by the Ghost of Christmas Future, sleet pelting the windows sounding like scree sliding down the mountain, I sipped my beer and had not just a little thought and concern for my fellow citizens out there who are unsheltered.

They are unsheltered because money and that is the worst fucking reason for anything bad to exist. They suffer because money and honestly everything about that makes me angry enough to consider treason.

It is almost certainly true that someone died last night, because they could not find shelter from the weather. And that is a statement I fear will become more common in Portland as I get older.


The IPA has a guava nose, but the finish is so intensely bitter that it really weighs the beer in a negative direction. I don’t hate it, but the balance is off and that makes me want to have something else, instead of more of this.

When I pour out the last of the can, a sludgy detritus comes out-the trub that exists at the bottom of bottles of homebrew I make. I have a moment: Oh, this is why it tastes weird. Hey, even the professionals fuck it up.

Happy holidays, folks. Stay safe out there.


I got sucked into this rabbit hole of the World Barista Championship. If you’ve got about 90 minutes, I’d say give it a go.

The skill of the baristas is off the charts, and the way they talk about their beverages is the envy of any cicerone. It would be a real treat to have beer served like this-but alas that just isn’t the way beer works.

I’m not complaining about that, per se. Just acknowledging that part of what makes the World Barista Championship work is the time it takes to make, prepare, and pour a drink. There are spaces in between all of those things where we are allowed to be informed and take in what is being offered.

Which is pretty cool.

Front Porch Chats S2 #7

I am having the Night Shade Imperial stout from Kings & Daughters this week, a beverage that should be sipped due to its strength. I’m using this beer as a metaphor, because taking a pause is a skill I was reminded I need to keep working on.

The nose on this one is so roasty it is almost smoky. And that roast is very sharp on the finish. I’m not certain if this is for me, but I’m going to give it some time to warm up, write this blog, and try it again at the end.

A couple days ago, I was attempting to return something to the store: I had the item, I had the receipt and all I wanted was my $4.

And I was told: No, there’s nothing that can be done.

What I need to make clear is that there was no reason why this couldn’t be done. There was a policy-my receipt did not have a bar code on it, for reasons that have nothing to do with me, and I didn’t buy the item with a store rewards card, an item I don’t own and didn’t need to make a purchase in the first place. But there wasn’t a reason.

So, you see the problem.

The sheer unfairness of it all was so angering to me that my higher functions just ceased to work. I had done everything I was supposed to and I was there in good faith. I was being told “there’s nothing I can do” and frankly, I was having a reaction internally that I can only admit was unreasonable. There wasn’t a ‘let me speak to someone who can fix this’ there was only an urge to yell at this bizarre impediment to my objective: “What in the fuck is the problem??

I didn’t do that. So, on the upside, not yelling at some person who just doesn’t want to get fired for following directions is a good thing.

That feeling of unfairness was something that goes way back. I remember feeling like this so often as a kid, and there wasn’t anything I or apparently anyone else, could do about that either. “That’s life” is what I was told.

And that’s bullshit but it’s also a long time ago-at least on human terms.

I’m an adult now-most of the time, anyway. And I need to deal with things in a way that don’t have me boiling over.

I didn’t recognize where that feeling came from until the day after, though. By then, I’d left the store, seething hot, leaving the item and the receipt on the counter. They asked if I was just going to leave my things, I replied “Yup,” in such a manner that suggested that further conversation with me would be a Very Bad Idea.

So…I suppose there are a few things to learn here. First, that there’s still stuff to learn. Second, that I need to recognize when my brain is short circuiting and somehow press pause on that.

On the upside, now that I know where this is coming from I can catch it before it gets out of hand and I can’t think.

It’ll take practice but I’ll get there.

The Night Shade has warmed up and while the roasted quality isn’t as sharp, it’s been replaced with an ashy one. Yike. This beer needed a little counterbalance for me. It doesn’t have the kind of flavor that encourages me to drink more of it.

A Pint of Plain

This old BBC report on porter. But not just any porter, porter the way it was poured once upon a time, when a publican had to have a pouring skill. Pouring from two different kegs meant that the publican had a great deal of power over the way the porter was experienced by the customer.

We haven’t lost the style of course, and obviously I understand that a consistent beverage is more valuable than one precisely tuned to the consumer-at least from a production standpoint. Still, I appreciate that it is a skill that has been left behind.

Front Porch Chats S2 #6

Steeplejack's Kolsch in a glass on a table outside.

Though it isn’t exactly seasonal, I have decided to try Steeplejack’s kolsch today. The chill in the air really does make for a better dark beer season, but a crackin’ beer is good anytime.

And this is one of ‘em! The nose has that sourdough quality that I love in this style. The kolsch is pleasantly grainy, really showing off its malt profile. And it finishes very clean and sparkly. I’m impressed, for sure.

This week, a fellow I went to college with died. He wasn’t feeling well, decided to take a nap and just didn’t wake up.

So I am that many years old now. The age when the losses will start to come to rest at the door instead of gains.

I can’t say that I give death too much thought. I still don’t: It’s inevitable. Nobody’s getting out of here alive. So I try not to worry about it too much, beyond; let’s try to keep the body in as good a shape as possible, so I don’t suffer horribly on my way to death.

That’s the part I don’t like: the suffering part.

In small ways it’s already happening of course: My back needs specific exercises to keep it from hurting, my ankles are inclined to break at inopportune moments, and I swear I absolutely despise the daylight bright headlights on cars. We live in a city, damnit. We do not need klieg lights on cars!

I wear gloves starting in September sometimes, because my hands will ache in the cold. It’s not bad, but if I don’t have to endure pain, why should I?

Still, the alternative to the suffering of getting older is, well, not getting older. And there is still plenty of work to be done-on myself and for others. Along with good beer to drink, and friends to see, and kisses to receive.

So, I guess we should keep taking care, ya?

Common Ales: Deschutes Obsidian Stout

Been a time since I’ve had Deschutes’ Obsidian Stout, so let’s see how it’s holding up.

Deschutes Obsidan Stout bottle, next to a glass of that stout on kitchen counter

It took me quite a few draws off the top, but finally I figured out what this beer smelled like: coffee nougat. It has that kind of pillowy quality, strong but on the sweeter side.

The body of the beer takes a moment for me to get used to. It’s what it is supposed to be, but after years of having stouts that are double or triple ABV, or barrel aged in casks brought down from the Devil’s bargain caves of whiskey, it is unusual to get a beer that has normal viscosity on my tongue.

The finish though is quite sharp. Lots of coffee, not a lot of sweetness or balance there. It’s just shy of roasty in a way that I’d find unpleasant. And by just shy I mean; the bus is on the edge of the cliff and a couple ounces is going to put it over.


Last night I went to Workers Tap to meet a friend and the bartender recognized me, which is always nice!

“Been a little while,” she noted.

“Yes, but I’m trying to change that.”

“Well your timing is great, because we were broken into last night.”

Then she tells me how the thieves came in, went for the safe, and left.

“It could’ve been worse,” she said and I get that. I’m just glad that I was there that day to give them money. Supporting the good places are what we gotta be about.

But also! The bartender had made a call to nearby Brewery 26 to let them know that there were thieves in the neighborhood and Brewery 26 promptly sent Workers Tap a keg gratis, to help them recoup their losses!

Which is a story too nice not to share. Swing by those places and get a pint.