Category Archives: portland

I’m a helper

Through the workings of the internet I became involved with Seamus Campbell’s Fearless Critic project, where 250 beers are reviewed by a panel, and then Mr. Campbell gathers up the comments and data and distills it into one page reviews. Last night was my first night helping with this project and we tried six different beers, took notes and then had a brief discussion. It was fun and low key, like these things ought to be-despite finding out I was rating such, erm, superlative beers such as Icehouse, Budweiser and Corona. Fortunately, better things are in the works.

Because 250 beers is a lot of beers. Take a look at the receipt:


You can imagine what we’re in for. As a matter of fact, I’ve even got a picture of some of the beers that are in the pipeline.

beers to come

I’m told that’s not quite one-third of what we’re going to do. The good news is that there are teams of people to drink and rate these beers. However, Seamus tells me that there aren’t quite enough people on those teams. So if you live in Portland, have some time in the evenings for a project like this that looks like it’ll go for a month or so, like beer, and are interested in this, drop him a line. It’s only once a week so it won’t take too much time out of your schedule.

For those wondering, of the lagers I tried that night I liked Harp the best and would actually consider paying for one on a scorching day with a hot dog.

Bailey’s 2nd Anniversary

Thanks to everyone who worked Bailey’s 2nd Anniversary. It was a long day, and I know you worked hard. Special thanks to Geoff for getting all these amazing beers for us to try. Now onward to mayhem!

Fuz was able to join me, along with his partner so between the three of us we were able to have a sip of every beer. However sips make impressions only, so I’ll be focusing on the beers I actually got samples off.

My first beer was Fish’s Leviathan, a barley wine kept in oak barrels but I thought it was kinda blasé. There was a vanillaish flavor that probably came from the oak, but I just didn’t find this beer that compelling.

Double Mountain Terrible Two brown aged in bourbon barrels was next. I got the bourbon nose and the malts took a back seat to them in the flavor, but not gently. In the photo my beer is on the right, Cascade’s Bourbonic Plague on the left, and mine Lompoc’s Pagan Porter in the background.

I had the Bruery White Oak wheat wine after this. Orangy and delish, this was one of my favorite beers of the event. A white wine dryness and hint of that flavor and it was awesome. Reminded me of champagne but without the sucking part that tends to go with champgane. This was also the first beer that light could escape from, so that distinction may have contributed to my love of this beer.

Lucky Lab’s Beljamin was a belgain golden and I found it tasty but not amazing. It was kept in Chardonnay barrels, and after the killer White Oak my expectations were high. Not a bad beer, but maybe one to have with some distance after the Bruery’s beer.

My notes say this: Had Firestone (Parabola) and liked it.
Fuz initially tried this beer and he thought it tasted like play-dough. I thought it was a great bourbon touched stout.  I didn’t dwell on the beer much; Fuz and I were debating the drink and it came down to: It tastes like play-dough. No, it’s awesome.

That there is some first rate analysis, baby.

I went for Deschutes Streaking the Quad after that, a quadrupel kept in bourbon barrels. It was very good and quite balanced. I didn’t get hit with the bourbon flavors, but I think that was because they were keeping a reign in on the quad’s sweetness. This was also a highlight for me, a quad that I thought reached across the isle to people who are turned off by the sweetness of traditional quads.

At this point, I was able to sip a bit of Block 15’s Super Nebula. I loved the name, but there were smoke and antiseptic flavors so I avoided getting any more.

Hopworks DOA followed this up, and I thought it was  solid but at this point it was getting a little bit late in the beer tasting day. My notes got a little less detailed.

Full sail amber came afterward, and I thought it was just tasty all round. I liked it enough to get a photo at least. The bourbon elements certainly boosted the beer beyond the traditional amber flavors, and made it noteworthy from Full Sail’s regular amber.

My final beer was Rogue’s John John. I’d had it a week before at the Belmont Station and liked it then so I thought it would be a good finisher. It was; some subtle whiskey elements, that as with Full Sail’s brew, elevated this from Rogue’s Dead Guy to a different but excelelnt beer.

Finally, I met a fella named Justin who recognized me from the blog. I hadn’t had a stranger recognize me from the blog before, so that was pretty cool. Thanks for reading man! (and to all the other readers too; thanks!)

Might have to try this

There’s a beer haiku contest.

Also, a cheap summer beer taste test. For those of you suffering in the heat, maybe a cheap beer made from the times when we didn’t know any better will help.

Finally, a list of events during Oregon Craft Beer Month-which is now!

Bonus section: the beer that I wasn’t meant to brew has been bottled. The OG (Original Gravity) on that beer was 1.062, the FG (Final Gravity) was 1.02. That puts the beer at about 5.44% alcohol by volume. I had a sip of the dregs and it tasted more acrid than usual on the back end. However, I know that’s not the best barometer of the quality of a beer. A couple weeks in the bottle and who knows? It may yet be drinkable.

And on a personal note– there were 190 people looking at this blog around Monday. I don’t know who you are, but thanks for visiting.

Oakshire Imperial IPA (or, it’s hard to drink outside)

The wind is taking away the nose of this beer. Unfortunate, because it’s really, really bitter and there ought to be some real strong hop aroma from this beer. Oakshire’s IPA has a pine resin flavor, which coats the mouth and seems to compound the bitter flavors with every drink.

So I really wish there was something to smell to help enhance the beer. But I don’t object to the beer; it’s tasty. I object to the outside.  

I have to say, I like what’s become of the Green Dragon. The outdoor seats are spread far enough apart that it’s easy to navigate, with room to stand around if you want. There’s even a version of horseshoes to play out here, tho’ with rubber rings to make damage to humans less likely. The beer prices have become more reasonable, which is a huge plus. Still pricey, but not ‘Are you kidding me?’ pricey.  

Although I just stumbled on the beer and blog event, I was able to make it work. I met people, and they were nice and wanted to tell me about what they did. I think I might attend again, when the opportunity presents.

The Slingshot

There’s a lot of bars along Foster between 50th and 82nd. 

A whole lot.  I ended up in the vicinity last March, while on a walk for my birthday. It began to rain heavily (hell, it began to hail for fuck’s sake), and while getting soaked, I ducked into Dusty’s to hide out and have a beer. It was a sports bar with a rather pedestrian vibe at that. Nothing to really give it personality. The service was decent, but it just wasn’t my kind of place. I’m thankful it sheltered me from the rain, and that’s about it.

When the weather let up enough for me to get walking again, I passed by the collection of odd and end places on Foster. Gun shops. Piano stores. And lots of dive bar shacks. But behind dive bar I noticed a strange looking place called the Slingshot. I’m a curious creature; What is that, and why don’t I know about it?

So I crossed the street to look inside. It was remarkably dark inside for a closed bar, despite the large windows in front. But I made out some tables and a really large space to play pool or shuffleboard. It looked alright, and I’m always looking for new places to hang out and write or play Magic, so I filed it away under “Must do this sometime” and continued home to change my wet pants into dry ones and get my free beer at the Rogue brewpub. 

Well, “Must do this sometime” took about three months, but Fuz and I ventured into the space last Friday. And it’s remarkably roomy, with large tables we probably could’ve fit four people to and still played cards. The drinks are reasonably priced and strong. Plus, they were being poured by a guy who had a broken wrist. That’s hardcore, kids. (He’d had an accident and his arm was in a splint when he wasn’t working. Dude didn’t have enough cash to go to the doctor and get the cast on his arm he should have–and with a cast on your arm you really can’t work food service anyway. Call this part a little metaphor for what’s gone askew in America.) 

There looked to be a decent food menu, but we didn’t partake. There seemed to be collections of local artists on the walls, as places like this tend to do. The music was varied, although mostly heavy metal and punk there was also Johnny Cash, and some group singing in Spanish that sounded pretty enjoyable. Basically, it varied enough to keep you on your toes, but not so much that I didn’t get a good idea of what the Slingshot was about. Most importantly, the music was loud enough to hear, but not so loud you couldn’t easily talk over it. They hit that sweet spot, and most places miss it. 

Finally, there were no televisions. Personally, I think this is absolutely awesome. Some bars should have TVs, but most shouldn’t. They’re distractions frequently broadcasting things that don’t really contribute to the atmosphere of the bar, so instead of getting patrons that somehow contribute to how the place feels, they become drones. This isn’t true everywhere of course but when the bar is trying to project a personality, televisions get in the way of that.  

All in all, I’m going back. Best compliment I can think of.

A drake to ride

 Most of the time I just stumble on excellent beer because I usually look at the options and pick the one I’ve never had before. It’s one of the reasons I keep going back to places like Bailey’s and the Horse Brass; I don’t know what I’m going to get. This is a little weird for me personally because I tend to like to wander to different bars as an unknown, an explorer in the wilds of the pubs. Not with quite the same fervor as Bill, but I’m getting off track. 

This is the Gulden Draak, which my friend Fuz tells me translates to Golden Drake, but I seem to pronounce, as baeza says, like I’m sneezing. 

I initially said that this beer tasted like a banana split, but that phrase is woefully incomplete. It does have a myriad of flavors that seem to happen all at once, but it doesn’t really taste like a confection of ice cream and chocolate. Like the Dutchess, there’s a hint of sour in there, to offset a sweeter, roasted beer, but that sourness is less pronounced than in the Dutchess. Upon drinking it, I smiled so broadly Fuz said that he’d obviously chosen the wrong beer and proceeded to order that as his second. 

My complaint is that there just isn’t enough of it. This is the kind of beer you need a pint to really appreciate completely and because it’s a Belgian getting a little over half that is pricey. At this rate, I’m going to have to go to Europe for drinks just to save money.

2002 vs 2008

At the Harborside they had Full Sail’s Top Sail bourbon porter on tap from 2002 and 2008. How could I resist?

For those of you who have never been to the Harborside, I recommend hitting it during happy hour, which I believe is from 4-6pm. The beer costs the same, but there is a fantastic selection of food for two bucks; hummus plates, french fries, burgers, all your basic Portland pub grub, and it’s very good. You want to arrive by 5 though, because it gets crowded very quickly. It’s loud but congeneal, mostly populated by folks just getting off work and wanting to relax for a moment before heading home. 

2002 Top Sail
2002 Top Sail

I started with the older beer and was handsomely rewarded. The head was the color of chocolate milk and the nose was all bourbon. The finish however, had a maple flavor to it that was more woodsy than sweet.  In between that it was all smooth porter; nothing too sharp, nothing hiding away, just a good beer.

The 2008 was a related cousin. The nose only hinted of bourbon, and the finish was the standard mellow coffee flavor I’d expect. The middle was a work in progress though. There was a roughness to the flavors of the beer that stood out. I described it as ‘white noise on my tongue’ to the other people at the table. 

The ’08 wasn’t a bad beer by any reasonable standard. I’d just had an uncommonly good beer before it and so in comparison it suffered. I would happily drink more 2008 Top Sail by itself, but comparing it to the 2002 almost seems unfair.

Throwing snowballs

While most of the city remained paralyzed by the weather, I got up, stepped aboard a bus and went downtown to work. As I was the only one in the office though, the place closed up early; noon on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m not one to stick around if I don’t have to. The afternoon busses don’t run as frequently as the morning ones though, especially with the road conditions being icy, so instead of standing in the cold I decided I would walk home.

All along my path, pristine snowpiles tempted my gloves, and soon I was grabbing fistfuls of snow, torquing my hands clockwise and counter, just to get a solid ball. I haven’t made snowballs in ten years, since I left Spokane for Portland and I haven’t had a reason to make them since I was in grade school, ambushing girls on the way home. They would return the favor, and winter became a came of cat and mouse between me and Jeanette and Jenny, to see who could catch whom unawares. 

But snowball season comes rarely to Portland, so I was going to take advantage. Every parked car I could take a shot at, I did; the snowballs creating perfect circles of impact when they hit, long cones of destruction when they miss. The hollow thunk made when I hit a dumpster, or the popping sound that comes from striking a building, the calculations I kept making to hit the next target when I miss: Higher next time. Plant your feet. Don’t sidearm if you want to get it that far. Be careful; it’s slick. Square your shoulders. Too hard; but it’s nice to know you can get it across the street. 

I was carrying far too much on my back; my shoulders ached like the muscles were tearing and I was starting to get a headache. No busses were coming along to take me home. It was time to stop for a beer. 

Epic Ale
Epic Ale

I dropped into Roots brewery. I still had forty blocks to walk if a bus didn’t come by, so I asked if I could get a glass instead of a pint, and when the barkeep said I could, I asked for their Epic ’07 ale. She gave me a small grin as she told me that this beverage only came in a glass, and that’s when I saw the description on the chalkboard: 14% ABU. 

Boy howdy you would not know it. The beer tasted like a banana that had been flambeed in rum. Roasted sugars, and not a hint of alcohol warmth, but good for the cold weather. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even close to being cold; I’d just trekked from downtown across icy sidewalks, and I could feel the sweat coming down my face. I wiped my brow with a napkin and went across the street to the Lucky Lab.

There were a few choices that appealed to me there, but when I asked about the Malt Bomb, the barkeep said, “Let me pour you a taste, because it’s hard to describe.” While he did that, I read the writeup posted on the taps. Apparently this beer is the third in a series; the hops and malts were kept the same, but the first time they used belgian yeast, the second german yeast, and this time american ale yeast. 

Malt Bomb
Malt Bomb

I wish I’d known they were doing this experiment, because I would love to know how these other beers stacked up. This beer had no yeast presence at all, and very little hops that I could tell. It was all caramel, with a pleasingly cutting fizzy mouthfeel. The finish left my mouth bitter, like the aftertaste of chocolate when the sugar is almost all gone. It suited me much better; a more quenching beer for someone about to make a long slog over ice to get home.


I threw snowballs the whole way home, and then did something I hadn’t done in a long, long time: