Category Archives: portland

An Open Letter To The Pubs I Like To Drink At

I’m going to stay away for a bit longer.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Quite simply: my desire to go out and have a pint does not supersede the risks that you are compelled to be under. Risks we’re already having to deal with.

I don’t blame you: people are desperate and impoverished. They are being forced into inhumane, immoral decisions between having a place to live and having a life to live in that place.

I can afford to stay out of your way, order online and take things to go. So I’m going to keep supporting you that way, for at least a few more weeks. You can establish your rules and procedures and I can let that all happen safely from home.

I’ll be back, don’t you worry.

OBAs 2020

OBA logoThis weekend was the weekend of the Oregon Beer Awards competition, where I was a steward. I’m tired, and it’s a multi-tiered thing: mentally I’ve been processing information to serve beers, physically I’ve been working to serve beers, and emotionally I’ve been in ‘engage’ mode to be social to my fellow volunteers.

So, you know: I’m kinda done with my public face. Not because anyone was unpleasant-but because these things involve effort.

But. The people who put this on? Half of the volunteers were women. This includes management, where women were equally represented to the men.

OBA serving traysI bring this up because as we witness leadership that wants us to disavow reality, to insist that there are ‘forces’ that want to do us harm, while never being utterly unwilling to name said forces…

Well, when contrasted with reports of named white supremacists who want to do us harm..

It’s just gotta raise some questions, is all.

When I go out to engage a world that can be scary and join people who just want to put on a beer competition, I can see where a dilemma kicks in. That hovering fear, the clouds that seem to float over everything, well it loses a lot of threat when you’re actively working in the rain, already.

Engaging with people and doing something is stronger than hoping that fear will pass you by.

I think people want to do something and I think the leadership wants us to do nothing. So it’s important to remember that any action, however small, in the direction you want to go, is more than they want you to do. Plus, it’s pretty likely you’ll get people to help you along the way, because people want to do something. Even if that something is as normal as coming together to put on a beer competition.

OBA warehouse of beerAnd that’s worth it.

Today’s second pint will go to the ACLU.

Top Tens

The local paper has ranked the top ten beers of Portland for this year.

Setting aside, for a moment, that tastes are subjective and people are going to have a broad array of things they think are great, I have complaints.

First: at least two of these beers aren’t available now. Others might be but there’s an air of “it’s goin’ fast” or “bottle release next year”, etc. The issue I have here is that there’s no way for me to verify how good these beers are! It’s nice that they enjoyed it, however “trust but verify” kicks in for me.

Second: how nerdy is this list? Six of these beers have “experimental” or “sour” in the description.

Do you know why Deschutes’ best selling beer doesn’t have those words in them? Or Baerlic? Grixen? Sierra Nevada? Fat Tire?

Because sour beers have limited appeal. Doesn’t matter how good they are.

This isn’t to discount the quality of said ales; every one of these breweries has a strong history of making good beers. My issue is that most of this list sounds off putting to people who are unfamiliar with craft beer and utterly unpersuasive to people who aren’t into sour ales.

It brings me back to something that I’ve been thinking and reading more about this year: How it is apparently “the consumer” who’s always demanding the hot new style or trend.

However, here are these beer reporters telling us that the best beers are either a) niche styles or b) unavailable.

Am I to sincerely believe that there wasn’t a fantastic Irish red or stout available? A beer where “chewy” isn’t a proper descriptive term, ever? Or are those styles just too pedantic to be considered? Yes, there’s a hazy (it’s so hot right now) and an IPA, which has never gone out of style but c’mon. Whom, aside from beer nerds, have even heard of a “black bock” or thinks Brett isn’t the name of some shitty Supreme Court Justice?

I’m sure, to the author, it feels like they’re out there on the cutting edge recommending a “Foeder-aged ale with strawberries” and I don’t doubt that it’s a fine beer. I can’t help but wonder if sometimes, being out there on the edge is missing the point of appreciating a classic style executed well. At the very least, I question what’s driving the narrative that people always want the hot new thing.

How It Starts To End

With the sale of the CBA-which notably includes Portland’s Widmer brewing and Seattle’s Red Hook, here’s a bit of inside baseball on the subject.

According to the article, the former owners of Widmer have no regrets and I’m not here to insist that they should have them. But I can’t help feeling as if something important is now lost. That notion that the best thing you can do with a business is sell it to someone bigger feels…puny.

In addition, it’s interesting to see how the seeds can be planted for future exploitation. Perhaps exploitation is too strong a word but: from the very beginning, A-B was in position to take advantage of those breweries and to me, their being sold off was inevitable. There was never a plan to expand beyond what A-B was going to give them or get out from under A-B, and once A-B became ABInBev, it was too late.

Mark my words; in ten, fifteen years tops-long enough for those people who are working there now to forget that it was ever an independent entity-Widmer will no longer exist, even in name. It’ll be Budweiser’s Hefe and I think we’ll all be poorer for that.

The Six #6: Laurelwood

Free Range Red aleSo, why am I at the Laurelwood public house?

I’m here because it is easy to forget our roots. The genesis of craft beer goes back to the 1980’s, and yet so few of those breweries have survived to the modern era. People talk about Dogfishhead or Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, Widmer, Fat Tire, but when was the last time you drank one of those beers?

Laurelwood has been a Portland staple since 2001. I can’t say their beers are flashy, but they are consistent. That IPA? It’s a solid damn IPA. The Lager? Hey it’s a easy drinkin’ and yet forgettable beer, just like expected. Are you interested in a stout? They got you covered, and dang if it isn’t a nice stout.

I went with the Free Range Red ale. I can smell the roasted malt well before I drink it, which is fantastic, and yet it’s still a Portland beer. By that I mean: They put some nice bittering hops on the finish, so it’s a little crisper.

It’s creamy in the middle, which is quite an accomplishment, given the other flavors goign on. Along with being a mild ale to drink-you can have it any time of year, with damn year anything to eat.

So I’m telling people they should come to Laurelwood as a way to honor our history: They been making solid beers they can be proud of for almost twenty years. I hope we get twenty more.
Postscript: Two days after I went here, news of the southeast location closing arrived. I was disappointed to hear that, in part because neighborhoods need places like this-it’s where I wrote this post from. I’m glad the location in northeast is still going strong and the beer is still out there, though.

The Six #5: Gigantic

48631906743_600dd8ca6c_cI was torn between the IPA and the Sassy Pony pale ale. But I went with the IPA because, oddly enough, it was a more balanced beer! Nothing wrong with the Sassy Pony; I think it’s delicious, but if I’m going to tell someone to come to Gigantic Brewing (and I clearly am) then the IPA is a fantastic representation of their work.

The nose isn’t too strong. Citrus, but not pungent. The malts are present but not cloying. It’s a really solid beer that is wonderfully representative of what a good IPA should be.

So why are you here?

You’re here because GIgantic hit the ground running with their beer, founded by two brewers with a ton of experience both in brewing and Portland life. Which meant that they were able to take some unique risks-and in this case, it’s wasn’t about the beer.

I’ll always remember Gigantic as being one of, if not the first brewery in Portland to make a serious push to have a visual brand that was unique. Employing local artists to make new labels for their beer, the art popped out to catch the eye before  it would catch anyone’s tongue. It was a moment that other breweries would follow, recognizing that the packaging of a beer couldn’t be ignored.

So while you’re here, take it in: they’ve got framed artwork of many labels used throughout the years and it’s worth looking at! The visual representation that Gigantic decided on helped their beer stand out, even as the labels themselves had wildly different looks.

It wasn’t long after that when I noticed that other breweries starting to do visual rebrands of their own. None of them were as daring as Gigantic was, but the idea that packaging really mattered? That is something that they helped bring to the fore, along with a beer to back up that cool art.

The Six #4 Breakside

48632260296_6710670c67_c Breakside has been making great beers, specifically IPAs, since they were founded. While they’ve built a business that includes many other styles-it’s summer right now, and fruit beers are prevalent- along with the hype for fresh hop beers soon to be tapped, the IPAs are consistently good.

Which is why I’ve gone with their standard IPA. It’s piney and has a little tropical fruit happening in the middle. The bitterness is a fine bitey thing that should go well with food but really suggests that maybe a second IPA is in order.

I recommend Breakside because of the exceptional beers, especially since IPAs are, no matter what anyone wants to say, still all the rage. Every brewery I go into has at least two, no matter how small the tap list.

So if you’re going to get an IPA, why not get some of the best Portland has to offer?