Category Archives: 52 Weeks

7pm Lazy Monday

I am very gently working my way through Hopworks‘ Bourbon De Ieso Spades IPA. It’s being served via the firkin and it’s quite tasty; their imperial IPA kept in bourbon barrels? Whoa!

But…it’s different enough that I can’t help but wonder how it wold be if it had been allowed to carbonate like a modern ale. I can see the tiny bubbles on the side, a faint, desperate show of carbonation and I can’t help but think: what’s the point?

This isn’t an argument against Bailey’s, understand. I need to say that up front: I love it here and I know they aren’t screwing around with their beer. I just don’t know that I see the advantage to an ale served from the firkin instead of being allowed to carbonate. It’s warm, the nose fades much, much faster than what I am used to and in the end, I am compelled to ask: Why is ale served from a cask such a big thing?

In the old days, bartenders mixed the beer according to a customer’s taste: younger beer with older beer in order to give that customer what he or she desired in terms of flavor, carbonation, etc. This was because younger beers were carbonated but older ales, with the maturity of flavor that comes from being aged in barrels, tasted better. So they get mixed and voila! A beer someone wants to drink.

Since all that has been done beforehand, what is the point of serving an ale to someone that is mostly flat and significantly warmer? This isn’t mixed to my taste: it’s just served as is.

Technology has allowed us to make better beer. Is the firkin now just some kind of hipster/elitist bullshit, that is trying to harken back to ‘ye olden dayz’, when men died from leprosy and women in childbirth? Or is there an actual shift that is lost because of the technology? It seems like an idea worth asking.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that the new should be embraced just because it is the new, nor the old held onto just because it’s the way we’ve always done things. I am just curious as to what the firkin brings to the experience of drinking an ale that is lost if served using modern tech. And unfortunately, I cannot compare right now.

Still: let’s put it on the list-compare a carbonated brew with the same kind served from a firkin. It’s bound to be educational. And even if it isn’t: beer.

52 Weeks (sorta) #54: Pelican Full House Imperial Brown

Reconstructed with notes taken from the Outboard Brain:

Sadly I have forgotten my camera. I always do that when showing friends the town.

But when friends do come to town and tell me; I want to get some of the beer you’ve been drinking and I only have one night, I bring them to Bailey’s. I don’t want to try and wrap them into my current theme so I go back to the original…and here we are.

It’s a strangely warm November night; sure it’s dark and the rain has made things seem a bit gloomy but the air is balmy. At least for November. I take a crack at the Pelican ale-something I’ve been wanting for awhile but just haven’t had the time to try. It’s good and strong and really smooth. Not a session ale obviously-8% is pretty high for a brown- but with the semi-sweet chocolate nose and a nutty finish I just dig it.

The others choose stouts and more mild ales-perfectly understandable of course but I’m not turning away a chance to catch up on all the beers I missed at the Killer Beer Fest. We catch up and celebrate the Giants winning the Series (even though I don’t care about baseball, my Grandpa would be happy.)

It’s a pretty good evening, despite my lack of photos or real notes.

52 Weeks 53: Cascade Imperial Wheat IPA

So, Fuz comes into town and we have a chance to get a beer.

What’re ya gonna do?

You’re gonna drink an imperial wheat IPA, that’s what you’re gonna do.

In a way, this is a preview to the 31st, when Bailey’s 3rd anniversary event happens. There will hopefully be more people in my party but Fuz and I will, in our own way, form the core of people there to amuse ourselves on interesting beers.

As a matter of fact, it’s him who points out the Cascade Imperial Wheat has a metallic flavor-an interaction, he thinks, between the wheat and the hops. Personally, I like what the wheat has done for the mouthfeel of this beer; it’s softer, a bit fuller, but the metallic sensation is a twinge off putting. Too bad, because I want to like this brew. Unfortunately for the both of us, Fuz’s Double Brown on nitro doesn’t fare much better. The coffee nose is a bit too strong for my tastes, and this brown on nitro just doesn’t seem to benefit much.

That’s OK though; Great Divide’s Yeti awaits and GD never disappoints.

We’re a nerd couple tonight-Fuz is doing some work on his laptop and I’m doing this blogpost. It’s almost adorable.

I feel a bit calmer here. After the Local is done I think I’ll come back to Bailey’s again. Not just because the beer selection offers more variety; the space just offers me the ability to settle my mind and observer a little more.

Not that my adventures are done. Oh no. There are some wonderful places to visit and I don’t want to be found lacking-but it’s always good to find a few home bases.

52 Weeks 52: Terminal Gravity Foursome

Now that I’ve sold out to get the kinky sex crowd, (’cause you just know that a whole new group of people will stumble on this blog because of the word ‘foursome’ and I can’t turn down readers) let’s get this party going.

“First of all I’d like to thank my connect,”-Jay-Z.

A heartfelt thank you to Geoff and the other staff at Bailey’s who’ve served me drinks. I’d mention them by name but I don’t wish to presume a familiarity upon them and I certainly don’t want to forget someone, which is always a danger at times like this. I took their time and certainly my share of space but they were all unfailingly helpful and pleasant. 

I’m drinking a flight of Terminal Gravity beers; two old ales, Festivals from 2008 and 2009, then two barleywines, Bucolic Plague from ’02 and ’06. As one might expect, the ’09 old ale is smoother and fuller, more roasted and mature in flavor. I haven’t gotten to the barleywines yet. 

I’m in the back chamber again-it’s been redesigned since I sat here last. The table is this big chunk of wood-maybe even a former railroad tie- that’s been cleaned up and smoothed out. It’s shiny and dense and it feels like the kind of thing to put your beer on. It’s almost a place to stand at. You can lean on the wood, rest your drink in front, and enjoy…if you’re about six inches shorter than I am. Maybe four.

This area isn’t quite done yet, I’m told, but it’s going to be a hell of a space when it’s done I promise you that. The space is just wide enough for beers, so it encourages your hands being free; a bonus for someone like me who tends to gesticulate when he speaks. 

Sparky; this moment is for you. 

And now it’s done. (Sparky  had asked, months ago, to be mentioned in the final post and I said I would oblige him.)

Oh man. That 2002 Bucolic Plague is so good. Like alcoholic caramel, warm from a street vendor, with a buttery nose and a fierce heat to it, fighting the winter off with a battleaxe. I think this beer may be solely responsible for the unseasonable warmth of today. 

I have to confess, I’m looking forward to becoming a customer again. A regular customer, that is; someone who can sit at the bar and visit or just people watch without having to both internalize the situation and externalize it for readers. Don’t get me wrong; next week there will be another post, a new (if similar) theme and I look forward to doing that but our favorite spots are favored for a reason; they are shelters where we don’t have to present our external selves all the time. We can smile in crooked ways and people understand that our laughter is still straight. 

That isn’t to say I won’t ever blog from or about Bailey’s again; I undoubtedly will. But I’m part of the scenery here now and that changes things. I’m going to take some time to figure out what that means. I’m going to take some time to just enjoy the space I’m in.

I suppose if I’ve had a theme this year, time has been a key part of it. Or at least the idea that I ought to inhabit the space I’m in as much as I can, enjoy it, or at least be in the now, this has been a recurring idea. 

There’s been a shift change; I can tell because in the middle of Duran Duran’s Rio (which I like quite a bit) the music has cut out and shifted to a song I don’t immediately recognize. I almost think I should’ve asked if I could play my iPod tonight. It would be all Pelican, all the time. If my choices are Duran Duran, some kind of hip-hop and heavy fucking metal, then…
/short laughter

The 2006 Bucolic Plague is a bit different, a touch more sour than it’s older sister. Not quite as much body; an interesting brew but I think I would’ve preferred to finish with the ’02. Ah well; that’s life.

I’ll see everyone next week, bad photos and all.

52 Weeks 51: Bayern Doppelbock

Technically, I think I’ve gone over. Borrowed time, if you will. I know I missed one week due to weather and I believe I missed another because I was ill. A year has passed-if the calendar is the only thing that matters. Let’s pretend it isn’t. 

This doppelbock has some red wine tendencies; a faint grape-sour nose, maybe even something tannic on the back end. Gives the beer a dryness that I wouldn’t have expected. It’s sweet in front though, so it all works out. 

I’m here early. You may have deduced that from the photo. The pub is quieter, for the most part and I get to have a nice conversation with a longhaired dude who knows a thing or two about music. He’s from Wisconsin and is about to go home for Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, there’s even a reasonable crowd of people here  for 4:30. 

I don’t remember it being quite so lively this early a year ago. This may just be a random impression; anecdotes are not data, right? Still, glad to see one of my favorite bars doing good business. 

I unwisely chose Heater Allen’s Pilsner after my doppelbock and I just can’t make out the subtleties of that beer. Usually it doesn’t matter but I may be fending off a slight cold. A sore throat at least, so my senses may not be as sharp as I’d like. A good beer I’m sure but everything has context, right? Serenity  is a fantastic movie if you’ve seen Firefly. If not, then it’s just a decent sci-fi movie. So it is with a pilsner post doppelbock. Sort of. 

Hurm. I seem to be a little scattershot today. Maybe it’s the time but I think it’s more likely that the pressure of doing something is there. As a matter of fact, I know it is; I can feel it, alien-chestburster-like, (images not for squeamish and may be frowned upon at workplaces) the feeling that I should say something important or…well, I guess that’s what I’d have a chance to do here, right? Say something important.

However, what I’ve realized is that change is primarily about changing the focus of your energy. So things won’t end, they’ll just shift for awhile. Why say something big and ‘final’ if things aren’t going to end? I’d be like the guy who screams that the nukes are coming and then emerges sheepishly the next day from a bomb shelter, humbled by the beauty of a sunrise and a city that hasn’t changed at all. 

Next week will be the final 52 Weeks post (at least the final of this edition) and I can’t say I have something special planned for next week. I believe that’s how it ought to be. Like I said; I’m on borrowed time already, so I might as well just enjoy. I’ll be done with the writing by 8:30 though, so if readers would like to come and have a drink, feel free to come down.

52 Weeks 50: Great Divide Stout Trio

Stout taster I’m cheating a little bit, tonight.

A few days earlier, I came to Bailey’s and played a few rounds of cards. Through the graciousness of my friends (thank you Jim + thedrowningman) I was able to try the delectable group of Yeti stouts from Great Divide.

Usually when I come to do my 52 Weeks post, novelty is important. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I chose to post from Bailey’s is that I was able to try new beers and discuss them, however peripherally.

Truth be told, I damn near  had Ninkasi’s Transcendent Golden Ale. It was even recommended to me by someone (although I have to confess I do not remember whom: such is the nature of drink, yes?) and I like to try things based on someone’s suggestion. Not that I doubt Ninkasi; they do good stuff.

For those who are interested, I am drinking the Espresso Stout first, followed by the Chocolate, and finally the Cask Conditioned. Most favorite last; I like the oak flavors that are imparted to the stout best and coffee flavors least. Not a surprise if you know me; I’ve never had a taste for coffee, ever.

I’m also sitting in the back corner at a table that is too high for me to write on comfortably. No, I don’t like it, but I felt it was important to come back here and sit, drink, and exist in this space that I usually ignore. Across the street from me are two shops that have closed recently; one a record store, the other a locksmith shop. I have to say; I worry when stores close, especially small ones, that provide local services that aren’t fungible. Making keys is important. Providing vinyl for trance and hip-hop shows as well as being a space that is welcoming to those cultures (via flyers, t-shirts, etc.)  is an important service.

They’re gone now. Something else will take their place I’m sure, I just worry that it will be another restaurant, an establishment that Portland is glutted with, instead of a more diverse business.

I worry because I am out of work.

I know, I know, last week I said I wasn’t going to focus on the negative. But the best laid plans of mice and men, yes?

I had a rough week, last week, and positives are harder to see when blankets of misfortune cover the couch of your life. Sure, you can throw off the blanket but is it so the warmth of the morning can be felt, or is too early and night’s grinning chill can make its way up your toes and into your undies?

Do you really want to risk getting a chill in your undies?

Of course, the chocolate Yeti fights off a chill something fierce, so there’s a reason to drink stouts in the winter, folks. It’s yummy and warming like hour three chocolate cake.

Theory #402: beer makes life’s risks more acceptable. Chill in the undies doesn’t seem so bad if there’s stout.

Let me tell you about the back corner of Bailey’s.

In the computer light I cast a glow in the window; ghostly and muddled. My reflection is doubled somehow, making me look a little like a 3-D drawing, only in washed out colors of streetlight peach and laptop gray. The conversation of the Brits to my right is funneled down to me, unlike the main area where sound gets obfuscated by walls, music and hanging mobiles. I can’t make out what they’re saying-but I’m not trying to either.

It is the spot to make deals in, the spot for dark talk skullduggery style, the spot for sweetness that nuzzles your neck, the spot where you tell your friend that yeah, you’re bonded to her, that you’ve got his back, or you become bawdy and loveably raucous. It is a wonderfully private space in an otherwise open pub. It is a moment where you can be raw and nobody else will mind.

I’m onto the oak-aged stout now, and let me tell you it is fyyyne.
/I’ll probably hate myself tomorrow for doing that, but what the hell. I’m cheating.

Edit/Correction: I’m told the record store is still there (the papered up windows just fooled me) and the key store has gone mobile. So things aren’t as bad as I thought. Lesson of the evening.

52 Weeks 49: Leavenworth Nosferatu

Lompoc Nosferatu redI pretty much had to get this beer because of the name. Next week it just wouldn’t be as much fun to drink.

Tho’ honestly, it’s not that much fun to drink right now. For a red ale it feels a little thin in the body and has quite the bitter punctuation afterward. I can’t help but think that I’m just missing something with this beer, though. Maybe it’s intentionally tilted towards IPAs? But neglecting the body of a red ale-that just seems out of whack, you know? I realize the name is something to live up to, but I’d rather sink my teeth into this beer than have it the other way around.

I’m drinking it in a hurry, so I can have another. I don’t feel I can be blamed for this.

Reflecting generally makes me pensive. Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, anniversaries; I tend to look at  things in such a way that tilts toward the grim. I’m going to try and change this for the coming event. I can’t say that things have turned out the way I thought they would when I started this project but I’d like to try and frame my viewpoint in a way that lets me see the benefits this time.

If change is a constant in the Universe (and let’s just say that it is) then that makes the rough times easier to endure, the better days sweeter to enjoy, and maybe the ability to let it all be what it is and let it go when things are said and done. I don’t mean to get too metaphysical; some of the hard truths of my unemployment are there right in front of my audience. But it isn’t all bad and I would like to approach the next three weeks with that in mind. 

A man just walked into the joint, navy blue fleece with a white logo on the back and a baseball cap, unhappily demanding a shot with a $100 bill. When he found out there was no liquor to have, he bought someone at the bar a drink in an exasperated way, tipped five bucks, and left. Outside the bar he had what appeared to be a fruitless discussion with another man in a white jacket and baseball cap (but no blue logo, which would’ve been delicious) and disappeared. 

In comparison, I’m having a pretty good night as I happened to be at the bar when this gentleman ordered his drink, so I got the beer. A Hale’s fresh hop ale, which is smooth and biscuity. His loss is certainly my gain, so I’m giving a little ‘thanks, man’ to that random stranger. Someday I’ll have $100 to break and by god I’ll buy someone a beer with it. 

And finally, a brief apology to my readers; I had Friday’s post all set up and I just forgot to publish it. Of course, this comes right after I have a conversation with Jim about respecting your audience. The timing is perfect, right? Just like when the color announcer in a football game tells you that the Seahawks haven’t thrown an interception all game, you just know that the next play Hass is tossing it to someone he shouldn’t. 

Ah well. I’ll post it soon.

52 Weeks 47: Elysian Pumpkin Ale

That’s right, pumpkin ale. 

I suppose it ought to be said right now; I think pumpkin beers are not for serious beer drinkers. Or even not-serious beer drinkers. 

Pumpkin ales are for people who think of beer as a novelty, a plaything that they can get their friends to try; check out this beer made from X! Where X equals some weird plant, like garlic or zucchini. It just so happens that pumpkins are associated with a very tasty food and we happen to have a fuckton of them around during this time of year, so why not do something with them, right? 

So for you dear readers, I have decided to have a pumpkin ale. 

The nose is quite strong and puts me into the Wayback Machine for sure. Nutmeg scents remind me of my mother’s kitchen; its olive green stove right next to the fridge in a classic design scheme, lights dimmed while everyone else is in the living room or dining room, entertaining while I wait for pie to finish. 

And the taste?

Well…I won’t lie to you, it’s quite a bit like liquid pumpkin pie. There aren’t hops or malts to speak of here; it’s all dessert spices and enough sweetness to keep the whole thing together. I’m almost surprised the beer isn’t served in a glass made of flaky crust. It’s remarkably velvety too, like well beaten whipped cream. 

I hate to say it, but it’s a decent beer to have a glass of and it evokes pumpkin pie in some remarkable ways. That said; I’m glad it’s only around once a year. I cannot imagine drinking this stuff on a regular basis. 

273 words. Is there more to say a this point? I feel like there ought to be but perhaps this is not the night for it? It’s windy in Portland, a mild summer giving way quickly to an autumn that is bluster and chilly. The inclination is to grouse; the football games sucked yesterday, I’m going mildly broke and there’s a coil of tension in my chest somewhere behind my heart, that keeps reminding me that somewhere I have chosen poorly all of which wants to be said somewhere. 

But not here, eh? Because I didn’t choose poorly; the beer was good, I’ve got my hat and the night. No complaints.

52 Weeks 46: Natian Mild IPA

Now this is one of the more interesting beers I’ve had in awhile. A mild IPA? Wouldn’t anyone even reasonably educated in the ways of brewing say that those styles don’t really mix well? 

But this beer works. There’s a bitterness in this beer that reminds me of strawberries. You know that hint there in the fruit, especially if it isn’t quite ripe, that’s leafy and green? That’s what I’m getting in the midrange flavors and bite. But the front had a sweetness and the nose doesn’t give me hops, just a hint of caramel. So this beer has some complexities to it but it also holds to the mild style in drinkability. Very easy to sip on, drink fast, great for hot days, a good beer to have before dinner, just an all around excellent drink. I didn’t know of the brewery until now but I look forward to more offerings from Natian-who apparently is savvy enough to have a Facebook and MySpace page, but not a website of their own.

Then again, they have more followers than I do, so who’s laughing now?

My Dad is visiting and so he’s come with me to this edition of the blogpost. Now what’s interesting is that when Fuz visits, we tend to talk over me writing, just as when my girlfriend has come out with me. Dad is content reading The Drunkard’s Walk, sipping Lompoc’s Oktoberfest. We’ve had a pretty nice visit and most of the beers I’ve been offering him have gone over quite well. I may not be a professional grade brewer, but I can offer a drink to my Dad knowing it’s good stuff so I’ll take it. 

Then again, we had quite the adventure in the one block to took to walk here. maybe a bit of solitude is appropriate. Two homeless looking people shouting at each other about who had the headphones for the other’s iPod; the questioner strangely still, the responder with a raised golf club to keep the former away. We passed by as the incident was dissipating, the person with the golf club telling the other that they were a moron and their headphones were in their pocket. We wove around the argument and narrowly missed cutting off a scrawny white man in Joker-purple pants with a lilac colored shirt sliding into Mary’s strip club, and between two black men who seemed to be talking about their angle of approach to…something, the words faded behind us as we walked up to the bar.

Dad asked me why I chose Bailey’s as the bar and I told him; it was close to where I worked, I liked the place and there was a constant rotation of beers there that would insure I wouldn’t repeat myself.

But I also come here to touch Portland’s character. I know I don’t need to show off Portland to my Dad-he’s been coming here since before I was born-but I do like introducing him to my favorite bar, which I imagine he’ll say he enjoys due to the lack of televisions and reasonable volume to the music. It’s meant to be a place where you can read a book while your son dabbles in technology and I think that’s awesome.

Of course, the most interesting parts of the conversation are yet to be had. That’s how it is with my Dad; you can’t write it up while it’s happening because you’re engaged. Otherwise you aren’t involved. Not that he insists upon it, just that you’ll miss the best part if you’re trying to do something else. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a visitor.

52 Weeks 45: Fanno Creek Oktoberfest

Fall has arrived which I know because despite arriving early to the bar it is dark. Forget the chill in the air, the calendar date; it’s fall when I arrive at the bar and it’s dark outside.

The Oktoberfest is a little thinner than I was expecting. It’s not a bad beer but it doesn’t have much presence. I want my oktoberfest beers to be a little more hefty; it’s autumn, the harvest is coming, long days of work (I hope) and long nights of cold will be here and that beer ought to prepare us for it. Instead, it seems to be a straggling beer of summer. Again, it’s not a bad beer but it wants hot weather and a BBQ. 

Maybe I’m just misinformed about the style. It is descended from the lager style so having a very drinkable brew is the main goal but I’m just not convinced this time. Maybe this style is trickier to do than I thought.

At week 45, the first verbal discussion of ‘What next?’ has come up. Between Geoff and Sparky, there’s a question as to what will be done after the 52 Weeks project is over. I’ll admit I have no idea. One thought that’s come to me is ‘Let’s Have A Drink’, where I and a guest meet for a beer and then I write up our thoughts. It would be a chance to bring other perspectives on the beer and let me be a little social. Being social is one of the reasons we go to bars and I wonder if I’ve ignored this over the past year or so. The drawbacks would include trying to find a weekly guest, making a conversation interesting enough to write about, and arranging a place to drink. 

There are advantages to continuing the 52 Weeks project as well but then there’s the risk of boring the audience. On the other hand, this is a beer blog; the focus is narrowed by the nature of the subject. Sure I can talk politics but I have to jump to it via beer. Unless, of course, it’s a 52 Weeks night and then I have a little more free reign. Obviously this requires a little more thought and I’m open to suggestions but once this project is done it will have to change just a little bit. If for no other reason than because projects should end. Incompletion is for the Sagrada Familia or the Mystery of Edwin Drood but not for sub-geniuses like myself.