Category Archives: commercial beers

Common Ales: Boneyard RPM

I forgot to get a picture of this beer! Which is unfortunate…but we’ll all make it through.

The nose is earthy and sweet; has a dank quality to it, without getting stinky. It lasts, too; like a good IPA, the gift keeps on giving, even 2/3rds through the beer.

The finish really threatens to overwhelm the RPM; it’s very sharp and intense, and those first few sips threaten to derail the beer into one of those mouth scouring ales. Drinking in sips helps, because I can roll it around and get some of the malt sweetness that my nose detected. It isn’t much, and not long after the finishing bitterness hulks out and takes over.

It’s just enough though to keep the beer from being a hop bomb and exclusively for IPA zealots. Don’t get me wrong-it’s still a beer that has a third rail of hops running through it-it isn’t balanced and if you don’t wanna touch that third rail of bitterness ever, then this is not for you.

But it’s balanced juuuuust enough to keep it drinkable and, I think, can even be paired with some food to help provide some contrast to a good meal.

Common Ales: MacTarnahan’s Amber

MacTarnahan's AmberWhen was the last time you had a MacTarnahan’s tho’?

I picked this up because it’s the equivalent of comfort food. MacTarnanhan’s has been a staple in Portland since I moved here 20 years ago. But also: it’s what people see in a store, and it’s been awhile since I dove into one.

The nose emphasizes the malt-it’s not quite bread but I certainly recognize it as a cousin to bread. The beer is on the sweeter side, with a little caramel malt in the middle to give it something. It feels thin though, even for a 5% beer. I’m not sure why that’s the case however it’s really the only detriment.

There’s a pleasant (but not overpowering by any means) hop bite on the finish to keep the caramel from running away with it all, and the effervescence does a decent job of cleaning everything away.

Unfortunately, the mouthfeel just irks me. I wouldn’t refuse one! But I don’t know that I’d seek it out.

Common Ales: Sam Adams Spring Wheat

Samuel Adams Summer aleThe initial nose offers sourdough, and then the finish gives me a little lemon zest quality.

But about a third of the way in, this flips and the nose has some lemon zest, with malts coming up more in the midrange. There’s also a spicy quality, maybe coriander? The summer ale finishes with more lemon zest, though.

It’s a very subtle beer and has a pretty light touch. Good to drink in the shade of a tree in the summer, or with any number of summer-related vittles.

Cream Ale Research

cream ale collectionThis year, I want to brew some cream ales and I thought that I’d get some commercial styles and see what it’s supposed to taste like. A baseline might help me understand where my versions differ or maybe are going awry.

Genesee’s cream ale: faint hop nose with a little spiciness to it. Fades quickly and now I get more malt qualities.

It’s easy drinking and I feel like there should be nachos involved with this beer. This isn’t exactly cold weather beer-the finish isn’t very crisp, as if the effervescence isn’t very strong. The head on this beer is pretty thin, so there’s some substance to that notion. It’s a little sweet without being bready. Not bad at all. Adequate? Yeah.

Buoy’s cream ale has a different nose-the malt comes out more, and there’s a subtle touch of forest in the hops. It’s not much and I’m really having trouble pinning it down. However, the two-row malt is all over this beer. And, despite the head on this beer being thinner that’s Genesee’s, the bubbles are more active. I get some sparkle on the finish and it helps this beer feel more drinkable: the palate cleanse is a positive for Buoy’s entry. As I finish the beer, I finally get it: there’s a slight lemon quality that’s helping it stay bright.

Pelican’s Kiwanda Has both the strongest head and nose; biscuit is clear and makes a statement. It fades fairly quickly and now we’re back to the basic two-row nose but the Kiwanda still has a really great lemon quality. It’s not quite tart but there’s enough there-it’s like lemon zest. Just enough to set the beer off from something else. This beer has the strongest malt nose and I think might be the best of the lot.

Common Ales: Ecliptic Flamingo Planet

Ecliptic Flamingo Planet aleThe first impression is: it’s cloudier than I’d expect a golden ale to be. That’s forgivable because of the fruit-there’s an unmistakable hue of pink, because this is a golden ale with guava. Fruit always has an impact in some visual sense, so I can’t really hold it against the beer.

While my initial sniffs give me some sweetness, it doesn’t take long for this to take off and leave a gently tart guava nose behind. That’s what’s in the body of the beer too, but with the added bonus of a not-quite-bready malt character.

Which is good; helps keep things from getting too uniform. But the concept I keep coming back to is lemonade. This beer is probably excellent on a hot day; the sweetness and tartness and temperature combing to be a real fine beverage to have after being out in the sun. As it stands, it’s a little early in the year for that.

That isn’t the Flamingo’s fault though: it’s still a very drinkable beer and if the time of year I have it makes it better, well that’s a keeper, as far as I’m concerned.


Forgot What’s In My Fridge #3

I was digging through beers on my top shelf (where I tend to keep the rarer things), and I came across an unassuming bottle. And found myself face to face with a…spring gruit?

Saltspring Gruit


This is the Spring Fever Gruit from Saltspring Island Ales. And I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable in spring! Or at least much, much closer to when I bought it.

There are some signs that oxidation has taken place–a bit of dullness on the palate–but what struck me most about this beer was how pleasant it still was. Sweet and malty, with some of the herbaceousness coming through as well, it aged far better than I might’ve thought.

Not the best beer to cellar by mistake, but I’ve had worse from the fridge.

Which means I should be drinking more.


A friend brought this commercial to my attention and I hate it.

Look: I am not going to lie to anyone, because I like beer and I like to drink.

But this is encouraging unhealthy behavior, making drinking at breakfast look like a great time to just kick it and relax. Nevermind the impact alcohol as on your facilities and whether or not you have to function.

That isn’t a healthy way to exist and I despise the message that it’s sending.

The Six #1: Hopworks Pilsner

“You should do this, but for Portland,” my friend Fuz tells me. My initial feelings on the notion are lukewarm, because does anyone need that? There are so many articles out there, what is one more?

Later that night, I run into two Irish tourists at Bailey’s Taproom and they ask me what places they should visit. I spend nearly an hour talking to them. Clearly, I have opinions, so I’m doing this!

These breweries and beers shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as ‘the best’; rather, I would think of them more as ‘the representative-ist’. Places that, should you be in Portland, I’d recommend visiting because of the quality represented, but also the history (as I understand it) of craft beer here, and the variety as well. I’ll try and explain each as I go, just to be clear about my own thinking. There is, thankfully, no wrong answer. Just; where do you want to go? What do you want to have?

I’ll also have a friend with me, in part to facilitate some thoughts on why we’re here, in part to get some real-time feedback before I put pen to paper, to give an answer to the question: why are we here? So if I mention another human, that’s why.

Hopworks' Pilsner

We start with Hopworks Pilsner.

I’m here because this was one of the first lighter beers that I can remember being brewed in Portland-which medaled at the Great American Beer Festival. This was a pretty big deal, because at the time Portland was known for hopping the hell out of every style it could get its hands on. Hopworks’ Pilsner brought hope to people tired of hops and helped set the stage for more styles to be available here.

This beer has a great yeasty bread elements to the nose, and you can absolutely taste the grain involved. I am almost certain it’s two row, but it has a flavor that mass market pilsners just don’t. Plus, it’s got enough of a bite on the finish from the hops that I get a contrast between the sweeter grain and bread flavors.

It’s a damn fine beer and you can get it lots of places in the PWN, but let’s face it; you should visit their pub. There’s a broad selection of ales, including a cider and while some of them come and go, the Pils is always on tap.