Category Archives: out and about

What Can You Buy There #8: Bidassoa Brother Shamus Brut IPA.

I went back to Más que cervezas, and mined the Spanish section, where I found this beauty.

And I do mean beauty. Brother Shamus ale

The Brother Shamus from Bidassoa Basque Brewery is a brut IPA, the new style with illusions of champagne.

Most of what I’ve had in this style has met some of the profile of champagne–the dryness, the bubbles–, but the end product doesn’t satisfy, because the brewers have gone too far and the beer ends up overly biting and disagreeable. I wish there were a stronger brut IPA movement, to counteract the hazing of all our IPAs (please stop hazing all our IPAs), but I’ve largely been disappointed with what I’ve had.

The Brother Shamus is nothing like any of the brut IPAs I’ve had before. They’ve managed to pull the beer back from the brink, and retain some sweetness. While there’s definitely a drying note at the last, the front end is floral, citrusy (specifically, lemony), and tropical. It’s even a bit syrupy…almost as if they made the beer extra sweet to anticipate the consumption of sugars that happens to make a regular IPA a brut IPA.

Whatever they did, I’m a fan.

What Can You Buy There #7: Cerveza Madriz – “La Gata Orgullosa”

I’m currently in Madrid, and as I was wandering around, I came across a lovely store called Más Que Cervezas (More Than Beers) disturbingly close to my apartment. While there, the clerks and I joked about Belgian beers invading the Canada section on their shelves, one of them tried to sell me on the beer from his hometown, so I picked up two beers to try: one Belgian and one local to Madrid.

La Gata Orgullosa by Cerveza Madriz has an…aggressive pour.

La Gata Orgvllosa ale

It was described to me in the store as a blonde ale, which I’m willing to buy…but a dark blond.

I wish I could find more information out about this particular beer, but I’ll have to make do with what I have…eyes, nose, and taste buds. Eyes you’ve already heard about. Nose: it is beer. I wish i could be more specific than that. It smells like beer with a slight caramel overlay. 

Taste: It’s not unpleasant. It tastes a little bit like homebrew. And I’m not saying that to slight homebrew. But there’s sometimes where you’re having homebrew, and you think, “This isn’t bad, but a bit more polish and practice and this could be really tasty.” Well, this is like that. The front end is competently beery, if perhaps a bit watery and the back end drags some grains across my palate. If both parts were smoother, I’d be a happy camper. As it is, it’s not terrible, but I’d not reach for another if I had a choice.

Gold Presidente

It’s my second to last day in Panama. “Whatcha doin’ there?” My Dad asks as I reach for some beer at the store.

Flensburger Gold

“Taking advantage of an opportunity that won’t come again,” I replied. He nodded, and this is what I got off the shelf-I present; Common Ales, Panama Edition!

Flensburger Gold-for a beer that includes hop extract as part of its ingredients list, this is pretty drinkable. I’ll admit, that last statement is a little snobby. I wouldn’t expect a professionally made beer to use such ingredients but here we are. It’s as little sweet-there’s enough of a hint of hops in the nose (pine oriented) and just enough bitterness on the finish for this beer to stay in the ‘easy drinking’ zone. You know the one; where you find yourself drinking half a sixpack or more on a warm autumn evening. But the malt backbone of the beer holds it together nicely.

32443510528_3ea1c2886c_kThe Presidente appears to be from the Dominican Republic and it has the nose of a Pilsner; a little yeast funky, definitely old school, pre-craft beer revolution. As the head of the beer subsides, a little more malt comes up but as with most American-light lager styles, it’s just not enough to give the beer any body to speak of. I say that with the acknowledgement that if I was experiencing Panama in a warmer season, I’d probably be sucking these down like they were going out of style. As it is, I have the luxury of going back home to Portland and getting some much tastier pilsners.

The First One

Boquete Brewing paleFirst things first, I would like to express my gratitude to Fuz, for taking over the past two weeks. He did a great job and I could not have asked for a better host to step in.

Which leads me to the next thing: where the heck have I been? Well, Panama. Not the song (it would be weird if I could go to a song) but the country!  I’m on an adventure, and part of the requirements were that I not drink. You can read a little more about this at the blog my Dad set up, here.

Now that that’s answered, let’s get to the beer!

This is my first beer in nine days: the Mudate o Muerete pale ale, which I’m drinking at the Boquete Brewing Company in Boquete, Panama.

This beer has a nose that’s a little fruity, just a hint of citrus fruit in the middle and then finishes fairly bitter. It’s…well, just not all it could be. Now, I know: the possibility exists that I could have built up this ‘first beer’ in my mind, setting myself up for disappointment. However, I don’t believe so: I didn’t crave a beer-I was merely looking forward to having one and the fact remains that something is really off on the finish. It’s got a vegetal bitterness that skews the beer negatively. In Portland, this beer would be panned pretty hard.

Still, the fact that a craft brewery exists in Boquete is astounding by itself.

Because Boquete is a poor village that is rapidly being invaded by American money. In many respects, it reminds me of Portland-the tension between the poor and the wealthy, vying for homes, jobs, a livable city, only with a clearer division between the rich and the poor. The locals don’t have money, the foreigners do. Portland still has the semblance of a middle class.

By way of contrast, being in Boquete reminds me how far we can come when we do elevate everyone. For example, I have had to buy water every day I’ve been here and trust me, you don’t know how much water you need or use until you’re buying it from a store daily (something that residents of Flint would probably be happy to educate me on, too). I walked to this brewery with eyes darting to each side, no sidewalks to speak of to protect me from the street traffic and few traffic signs or lights at all to guide my way.

Which I don’t bring up to complain. My point is that when you go out into the world, it’s hard not to acknowledge how far people can go to bring everyone up…or what happens when we ignore doing that, because without it we get hamlets like Boquete, and you start to wonder how far you are from a situation where you are even more at the mercy of the rich than you already are.

Still; here I am, thousands of miles from home with what is an honest to god pale ale that is entirely drinkable. Is it home?


It’s damn nice to have a beer though.


Amber ale at FitzgeraldsThis is the house amber ale at Fitzgerald’s Pub in Manhattan, New York.

I’m in New York because an old friend got married and asked me and another buddy from Portland to be his groomsmen. I’m in Fitzgerald’s because the third groomsman, whom I hadn’t met previous to the day of the wedding, invited us to his bar the next evening.

To my surprise, the amber is made by Michelob but damnit, it’s tasty. Nice mouthfeel, just enough caramel malt to look and taste amazing and easy to drink.

“It’s 6%,” the bartender-and our host- says, a little apologetic, his Irish accent softened by years of living in New York, “so it’s a little high,” and I chuckle in response.

“We start our IPAs at 7.5 in Portland. This is great.”

I had a blur of a weekend, and 90% of it was in service to the wedding I attended.

But for just a little bit, after it was all over, I was able to make a little time to sit at the pub with some old and new friends, and have a drink.

That’s a pretty good deal.

Barley, Barrels, Bottles and Brews

I had a chance to visit the Oregon Historical Society‘s retrospective on beer in Oregon recently and I thought it was a bit tepid.

beer tumblers from the 1900sThe information about the early days when hop growers were first starting to get their businesses started was OK and I had no idea that a great many Native Americans were involved in the harvesting of hops back then. Unsurprisingly, many Chinese immigrants were also involved in the work back then, too. However, aside from one, maybe two lines on the subject, the racism they experienced or the contributions they made, aside from the work they did, didn’t get much exploration. No comment on the picture of children who were doing this work in the 1800’s, which again seemed odd.

There were also less than intriguing exhibits; at one point I saw a wooden box that had the notation, “Box for carrying hops” near it. That was it.

Last time I checked, boxes can hold anything; what made this box interesting or worth display? It wasn’t until I was walking away that I noticed a logo on the side of it for a company farming hops. While not of deep interest, the logo at least gave context to what I was looking at and it wasn’t even facing the audience.

Maybe don’t bury the lede?

Early homebrew text by F EckhardtSimilarly, although perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on them for this, there was a massive gap in information between the time when Prohibition started and the 1980’s, when craft brewing started to take root. Sure, there was a small section devoted to Fred Eckhardt (who helped found the Oregon Brew Crew, amongst other things) and Don Younger (a huge promoter of craft ales and Oregon beer at large via the Horse Brass pub), as well there should have been, but I’m absolutely certain that things happened between the end of prohibition and 1980, when the craft beer and homebrewing movements started.

The section on the Pink Boots society was nice but felt underdeveloped-which is an apt way to describe most of the information on the modern era. The efforts of modern breweries and homebrewers was almost unmentioned but they did have a portion of the exhibit dedicated to the hop growing and fermentation programs at Oregon State University.

The interactive portion of the exhibit was neat though; you could smell hops and read about what they would be used for in brewing, and a couple of large touchscreens that people could play with to get simple overviews of beer styles and the brewing process.

It was free, though and in this instance I suppose I got what I paid for.



Oregon Brewers Fest 2017

The OBF is ramping up with what is, once again, a truly daunting list of beers to try. My hope is to get to the festival on the 27th, thus having a post up on the 28th for everyone to view & use as a guideline for my triumphs and mistakes!

However, instead of talking about what I’m interested in or disappointed by (looking at YOU, 21st Amendment with your x-year-in-a-row shoving of that shitty watermelon ale at us. You’re better than that. And we deserve better.) I’d like to highlight was is, for me, a new program: the Safe Ride Home.

Let’s be straight with each other: people get intoxicated at festivals. You know it. I know it. I am someone who has gotten drunk at a beer festival. Just so nobody thinks I’m getting high and mighty about the subject.

Which is why when I go to these festivals, I take the bus downtown and the bus home. Honestly, it’s a relief; I just don’t have to worry about anyone’s safety.

So I want to encourage readers to behave in a similarly safe and responsible manner and I’m really pleased that the OBF is highlighting methods for people to both attend the festival and have fun, as well as get home safe and sound.

See everyone on the 27th! (Or the 28th, if that’s when you read the blog!)

Bay Area 2017 (pt 1)

I was fortunate enough to visit the Bay Area recently, so I recruited some friends for advice and in some cases as a tour guide, while trying as many beers as I could. Here are those notes:

35042163792_31a99227be_cDrake‘s IPA: nice pine nose-oh how I’ve missed that. The pine finish in the bittering qualities is also present, and it’s definitely prominent. The midrange isn’t very supportive at first, but as the beer is drank, a smidgen of malt starts to show up.

While I can’t say that this is balanced, I can say that for an IPA it’s pretty solid and definitely is good for the hop head audience.

Track Seven: Left Eye Right Eye DIPA: another IPA with the dank pine nose. I suppose the grapefruit craze hasn’t made it to San Francisco/Oakland? This is a pretty solid beer too; there’s a very nice malt quality in the middle to keep up with the Bitterness Jones’s. I’d have another.

Faction A-Town pale: ok so this makes it official-the grapefruit IPA craze has not made it south. THANK YOU GOD. A marijuana skunky nose takes the stage but it isn’t pungent and the beer finishes like a regular ol’ pale, though with a slightly sharper plink on the bitterness. Not sure if I can recommend this; it isn’t bad, but the bitterness is sharp enough to overwhelm the rest of the beer.

35042165602_9419ef5705_cOld Kan Standard Pub Ale-this is described to me as a British pale and that’s a pretty solid turn of phrase. There’s a malt note to keep the beer a beer instead of colored water, and just a enough bitterness to keep it real. Otherwise, it’s an easy drinking beer-the kind that you want to serve a bunch of in a pub.

The Woods specialized in non-hopped beers.  A friend brought me there and we got taster trays of what they had on offer which you can get an impression of here: Some were more successful than others and I was too busy conversing to really take notes. What I want to point out is that this is the kind of place that any beer enthusiast should check out, because they’re creating stuff I don’t see very often at all.