Category Archives: 52 Weeks

52 Weeks 44: Collaborator Eilean Dhu

The Eilean Dhu is a wee heavy, because the name really doesn’t tell you that.

I’ve been temping for the past few days at a warehouse, doing work that nobody could find worthy of their time or effort-except the desperate. 

What I’ve noticed about the desperate is that they repeat; they do not have new stories, they do not dream. They are stuck inside a weird bubble of need which has at its center ‘the missing’. That is, a quality that they do not have (for whatever reason) and fervently need in order to keep their lives working on an acceptable axis. To be denied this quality means that everything circles around the orbit of this emptiness, everything comes back to what you lack and what could have been hopes get sucked into the hole instead. 

It is a hard thing, being amongst their number. I see the difference between not bothering to hope and understanding that your hope doesn’t matter.  

I’ve also gotten a taste, an admittedly small one, of what it is like for men and women who work the floors every day, living, as Wayne Kramer said, “By the sweat of their brow.” 

You come home aching in new ways. Cuts on your skin until it hardens from the work. Physically drained from the effort of the labor, you arrive home to mental voices that now demand attention, should you have any unanswered questions about your life and what it all means. The desire to be left alone, the need to just let the pain in your shoulders leech into the couch, is gargantuan. And those unanswered questions, should you have any? It’s your Jacob Marley visiting, chains rattling, howling your name with assurances of three spirits that will haunt you.

After awhile you just feel wasted all the time. 

If the payment for the work was proper, I think things would be different. Doing grindage work feels different when you’re getting paid enough to take your girl out for a nice weekend on the coast from time to time, treat the kids to a nice birthday at the water park, buy a round for your friends every so often. When you’re fretting about rent, or if the kids will have enough to eat, or how you’ll manage without the car for two months, the empty space in the bubble just gets bigger, the gravity of it stronger, impossible to ignore. Being civil to strangers becomes more difficult, and the attempt to be present in your life instead of staring out into the middle distance wondering when things will change, this becomes damn near impossible.

52 Weeks 43: Firestone Double Jack

I think the nose of this IPA reminds me of childhood tree forts, with pine resin seeping around the nails, camping trips where hands or pants become sticky with yellow goop that refuses to wash or scrub or wear off no matter how much dirt or soap you pound into them. Sitting in a tree, breathless from the climbing exertion after finally discovering a place where my butt could rest in some kind of comfort while at least one foot remains lodged in the crotch of tree branches and hands firmly gripping a bark that though adhesive will not keep me from falling. 

And I do not like falling. I broke both my wrists that way in 4th grade-or the summer after that year. Swinging high on a swingset, my friend and I leapt from the apex sailing the three feet to the ground. Disaster struck when I mistimed a release, didn’t get off the swing and held feebly onto it until it swung in the other direction and plummeted to the ground, hands in front.

The malts in this beer are like that; tenuously holding on against the malt bitterness only to collapse at the end, even the effervescence a poor cushion. If the bitterness units were any higher this beer might be too much for me to drink but as it stands I enjoy it in the moment. 

Outside in front of Mary’s Club a ropy man paces, his long sorta blond hair under a black backwards baseball cap, black tanktop and shorts with knee high black boots on. What can I say? He stands out despite being amongst the homeless parade of Burnside. Maybe it’s the chain that hangs from his belt with a silver cross at the end of it, maybe it’s the bike gloves he’s wearing. 

Most likely it is that he is pacing in front of a strip club and the possibilities for this man’s actions start to narrow considerably after that.

52 Weeks 42: Rogue Maierfest

This beer is aggressively banal. Let us speak no more of it.

Actually, let’s talk about it for a second. This is from Rogue and this is a brewery that helped introduce me to different styles of beer. Lately they’ve been playing it safe, doing beers that are desperately asking to be liked, as though they were the geeky, lonely kid at the party, telling every joke he knows to make an impression. But the jokes are cribbed from a movie–it’s like hearing “Do I make you horny, baby?” for the millionth time. You’re bored already and he hasn’t even asked you your name.

Fortunately, I’ve been engaged in some lively conversation. I’m on the rail, chatting people up and by chance meeting a fellow from the OBC named Jeremy. He recommends a Block 15 barleywine, so I think I’m going to try it.

52 Weeks 41: Three Skulls IPA

So first things first: Three Skulls is an awesome name for a brewery. It’s the kind of name that would almost allow for the beer to suck. There’s pirate treasure, black magic, Stephen King and childhood mojo all wrapped up in it. I hope there is a secret passageway into the brewery. Something you have to lift the fourth leg of the spider rune to get into and light torches to wander. 

Hm…makes me want to start a secret brewery. 

Maybe that’s what I’d do with a million dollars. Sure, there’s the cliche answers. (Insert your cliche here.) But a secret brewery? It’d be like my childhood dreams of a awesome treefort + killer haunted house coupled with my adult dreams of hideouts and beer. That’s a dream worth winning a million dollars for.

And this beer wants to support my dream. It’s got a nose that comes on strong with citrus, but gives up quickly. By the time I’ve drank below the bulge in my glass the nose is more malty, even though the head on the beer remains; a sealant preventing the air outside from contaminating my precious beer.

However, it doesn’t finish noticeably bitter either. There’s a lightness akin to a lager there and it’s very thirst quenching. Of course, by the time I’ve drank below the bulge in my glass the bitterness has started to show up, an echo in the cave, bounced back from five minutes ago. 

I’d almost rather have this by torchlight in rough-hewn flagons, playing dominos and telling lies. Maybe you should join me.

52 Weeks 40: Anderson Valley Huge’r Boont

I’m sitting at the bar tonight. Usually I’m able to snag a table by the window, but there just wasn’t space when I walked in. It didn’t feel right. So I went to the bar. Twenty-one taps lined up, the Stormtrooper action figure hidden in a nearby statue. a list of beers on a blackboard in front of me. This is the bar. 

The Huge’r Boont is an imperial amber, which makes it very drinkable, but with an extra density that I’m having a little trouble defining. A hint of burnt flavors at the end, a chewiness that ambers generally don’t bother with, yet a highly drinkable beer. At 7%, it’s not that much stronger than an amber made to style, so the average beer drinker could have it and probably not feel ambushed by booze. 

I’m having one of those moments when I want to make declarative statements, like: NoMeansNo is the best punk band of the 90’s. Things that don’t really mean all that much–who can argue with my point of view, especially when I put it that way–but they feed a little aggro in me.

Maybe I’m just tapped into a little aggro of the country. Healthcare is under debate. Reforms are needed on Wall Street like a junkie needs a fix. Energy policies need to change. Foreign adaptations ask a different nimbleness of us. New ideas are being begged for, stagnation is being promoted usually in the form of some kind of rage that appears to be madness. An anger that comes from two directions: people who insist that the only way for us to keep the greatness we have is to enforce things we’ve always known, and those who insist that the only way for us to continue to be great is to accept change.

It’s all manifesting in energy that is either being too easily directed, or not usefully directed. It’s worrisome. I’d like to think that we could solve a lot of problems by honestly sitting down with a beer, and so long as that remains true then hopefully nothing will be beyond our reach.

But when someone doesn’t want to sit down and have a drink with you and listen (and vice versa)…we do indeed have problems. I like to think my country is one that still wants to sit down and have a beer with each other.

52 Weeks 39: Lucky Lab Beljamin

I realize I had this at Baileys’ 2nd Anniversary event, but some time has passed and it’s time to give this beer another chance. It both improves and suffers at the same time; this beer has a touch of sour in the nose, a tartness in the mouth, that liquid Sweet Tart moment that stops a few stations away from a sour beer. 

But it wants some food. While salty goodness is my default for beer, this one wants some light chocolate mousse, maybe a cheesecake with chocolate sauce. Cake might be too dense. Pie might work, as could ice cream. Either way, it is a dessert beer and a complimentary drink not a solo one-at least for me. 

I saw a giant billboard for Stella Artois on my way down tonight. I wonder how well beers like that really do in Portland. I mean, we’re obviously not all in the thrall of Widmer or Hair of the Dog, yet I really wonder who chooses Stella when Session is available. Or any other beer for that matter.

Occasionally, it’s hard to remember that there are places in this country that don’t care about the local brewers. Of course, being able to try beers from all over is a wonderful thing. Colorado, Maine, California and Vermont all are known for producing some amazing beers as a culture. Recently I’ve had brews from Michigan and Kansas that have been excellent. Getting to try something from across the country is a real wonder and it’s good to remember that in these times. 

But even when I lived in Spokane, which was not known for being a land of plenty when it came to cultural options of any sort (residents would occasionally proudly tout the city as an ideal test market; Spokane, the standard of Bland) I somehow learned that getting the thing that was made locally was always something to investigate over the ‘wonder’ that was made everywhere.  

I’m not here to make any kind of statement about the cost compared to quality of getting beer made from Japan or Germany vs drinking what’s made in your hometown. We like what we like. But I wonder; when was the last time you adventured? 

And when was the last time that adventure was close to home? Or even on the path to somewhere else; stopping to try the wares of that town en route to the city instead of just driving through.

So many of us spend our time not going to the places or events that ‘everyone’ does, because that’s what the tourists do. New Yorkers who never go to the Statue of Liberty, San Franciscians who don’t go to Alcatraz or eat the sourdough, Tuscans who don’t bother with the Duomo, Spaniards who don’t go to Las Fallas

Don’t get me wrong; travel is good for the soul. It’s certainly been good for my soul. I wonder, however, how many journeys I’ve missed because I decided to go there, instead of stay here.

52 Weeks 38: Off the Rail Bon Scott

I’ll admit, I have a weakness for AC/DC, especially the Bon Scott era. The the constant wink and nod in the wordplay, the bravado of someone who I’m pretty sure had seen a scrap or two, and the flat out rockin’ all contributed. I came late to the band-later than everyone else anyway-but quickly found my way. Thirty years later, you can still play It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll and get even the most hardcore metalhead going. It’s the bagpipes, though I doubt most of us will admit it.

The name of this hooked me but the beer follows up with a smoky nose and peaty flavors, like I was drinking a tall cool glass of very mild scotch. My guess is that my own scottish ale won’t reflect these qualities. I’m not complaining though. The beer is a tonic after a long day. 

There’s someone at the bar: I swear I’ve met him before and the associations are not good. Memory is tricky though. Do I place confidence in my hazy recollection, or do I give the benefit of the doubt? It’s not quite like asking, Who do you believe, me or your lyin’ eyes, but it’s close. Probably best to let it go; if my memory is serving me well, then I’m better off staying away and if it isn’t, then no harm no foul. 

I like this photo. I’m all blued out, shadowy. The streetlights haven’t come on, so the whites that do exist stand out; fingernails, the rapidly fading head on the beer, a tiny mark on my cheek, so you can tell I’m smiling. If I had a ever so slight snarl, I might be the Night Prowler. But without the murder.

The fact that I need a  haircut is pleasantly hidden-although the shadows give me a kind of afro-ish effect.

I have begun temping. It is the kind of event that would inspire someone to drink if they didn’t drink. The people are nice enough, but they all seem to agree that the job is an easy kind of tedium that they are in need of right now. The trouble is; what does it mean that I’m temping, eh?

Is it a sign, or is it just the way things are now? Who you gonna believe, your heart or your lyin’ mind?

It’s not that simple of course-I don’t believe that a life can be as easily deconstructed as a group of Legos. Sometimes, temping is just temping. Don’t panic. Get the towel, learn, and ride on.

Bailey’s seems to be a little quieter than usual for a Monday. The tempest of Saturday has passed-and I’ll have much to write and photos to post for Wed-but now we just take it easy. Sip the scottish ale, roll it around my tongue a little and enjoy.

52 Weeks 37: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

It was 101 degrees in Portland today. 

One-hundred and goddamn-one. So hot that the style guides say I can use numbers instead of writing it out. I’m drinking a beer with a port wine nose and that I’m told comes in at 21%. 

And I’m late. Much later than usual. Takes awhile to bar-b-q a whole chicken. And bottle beer. So it’s dark now and there isn’t even the death whisper of a breeze in Portland. 

I appreciate the heat but Portland isn’t built for it.

The Oregon Brewer’s Fest was a good time and I’ll talk about that more on Wednesday. Werewolves, lemonaid and short reviews await you!

Let me tell you about this 120 Minute IPA. 

It’s a really good tripel. I don’t know what kind of madness Dogfish Head is trying to convince all of us of but everything I’m getting off this beer screams tripel. A port wine nose joined by caramel notes, sweet flavors until finish, when it goes sour-just sour enough to keep the beer from being sickly. Almost like a good vinegar is involved somehow. Alcohol warmth. Which let’s face it; can’t be hidden. At 21% I can honestly say this is the most potent beer I’ve ever drank and I’m oh so grateful there’s a short glass of it. Forget the alcohol, the density of this beer becomes an uphill climb to drink in heat like this. I could pour it over pancakes.

Everyone walking around outside looks just a little less than happy about it. 

Let me tell you about Portland. Portland is for people who have decided that the whimsy of weather is worth trading for consistent if frequently overcast days.  Air conditioning just wasn’t a consideration for most of the city’s life.

We do not do heat. This is not Arizona. We laugh at rain, hide from snow, and accept the sun in order to grow tomatoes. 

We also do not do cold, but in winter I can drink Dogfish Head 120 Min IPA (amongst a great many beers) and feel warm. There is not the same luxury of choice during the summer. And by gods I want another beer, but it is not wise. 

That said I’ve noticed a trend in Portland of late. Not that we’ve given up our IPAs or our big beers, but there has been a sprouting of excellent lighter beers (Lompoc’s Heaven Helles comes to mind as the most recent, however many summer beers have been leaning this way) to help us get through our brighter, blinding days. 

Summer here, well the sunsets cannot be beat. Raspberry bands of light on the horizon breaking gently into orange, then into blue night with a sliver moon? It’s a ring on the finger of the horizon. Puts Vegas nights to shame.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to have a beer to help get you through the daylight. 

Bring on the night, lovely.  Bring it on.

52 Weeks 36: Caldera Cauldron Double Hemp Brown

I’ll admit, tonight I’m truly  not up for it. 

The beer, though, the beer is delicious. Brown and sugary, with a tackiness like salt water taffy lingering in my mouth. Though the beer is supposed to be a Winter one-and I can totally see why, because of it’s rich mouthfeel-I see it more as the Spring or Autumn beer. 

There’s such a chocolate presence in this beer that I wonder why brown ales (or at least this one) aren’t marketed as such. There are legions of chocoholics who would probably really appreciate a brew like this. It actually reminds me of my own IRA (which I’ll be talking about this week) so I wonder if the beers have anything in common?  Aside from, you know, mine being a happy accident and theirs being on purpose.

52 Weeks 35: Alameda Irvington Juniper Porter

It’s a pretty solid porter, but there isn’t much juniper to taste. 

Or is there?

Like so many things involving beer, patience is required. Put the hops in for 60 minutes, not 35. Wait three, four weeks while the beer ferments, wait one, two, three weeks while it’s in the bottle so it will carbonate. Sometimes, I wait for the beer to warm up before tasting it. It’ll probably take about as long as this post will to write before I can drink it, and that really doesn’t do anyone any good; I’ll be done writing, you’ll be done reading and neither of us will know how this beer is. 

It’s not as though I can force you to go away for five minutes. It’s 8:47 now; do you mind? Time becomes a much more fungible element online; you can trade your time for a window into my life, but while you’re waiting for the beer to warm up you can listen to a song, or read someone else’s post, enjoy comics or a short skit. The possibilities open up now, whereas before you were stuck until 8:52. 

It’s not easy filling up five minutes. You have to practice it. Waiting is usually not something we do well, and it’s something I do especially poorly without distractions. A book to read, paper and pen to write with, television, card games, videogames. Conversation, if there is someone to converse with. To sit and just wait becomes a kind of endurance that I’m not used to, nor welcoming of chances to practice. 

Five minutes have passed. The porter still tastes like a porter; drinkable, coffee, faint barista nose, but still no juniper. No pine. A faint dryness that wasn’t there before at the end of the mouthfeel. Is the beer flawed, or does it need more time? Do I have the qualities to give it ten minutes? Do you have the time to wade through this text to see what I experience? 

The Christmas in July  celebration at Bailey’s continues. I’m almost convinced now that this celebration has torqued the weather for my fair city, giving us a cooler month than we ought to have. Mayhap I’ll see snow before August is upon me. 

Ten minutes. There’s a space in the middle of my tongue that goes numb when I drink this beer now, as though there is a void of flavor there. The dryness of the beer, more pronounced? Juniper trying to peek out from under the porter? I’m nearly halfway though the beer now and it still remains veiled. Certainly a perfectly tasty beer for what it is but when one adds strange words together an expectation of the unusual arises. Juniper and porter ought to be wrestling here but juniper seems to be happy to let the porter take the stage, lazily working the ropes behind the curtain. I don’t have to show up, you know.

Fifteen minutes. Long enough for me to set aside the request that this beer be something that wears a bold costume with strange symbols on it. It merely sits at the table, jeans and black tshirt. Why be special, when you can just be solid? This is a porter, like the porters before it, and it doesn’t have to prove anything to me, right? I can drink it, wish for a double cheeseburger and be satisfied, damnit.

Tease. 

Now I really want a double cheeseburger too. Grrr. 

Twenty minutes. This is long enough; anything that should be there ought to be there. It is possible my palate is unwilling or unable to appreciate the nuances of this drink, just as it is possible that there is no juniper for me to take in. Hard to say, but at this point I think I’ll move on.