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Front Porch Chats #101

Block 15's Altbier in glass on table outside.

With the Block 15 Altbier in the fading light of a Saturday, after helping steward at the Oregon Beer Awards, I am thinking about all the things that need to come together to accomplish anything.

The nose on the Altbier is faint, but a little roasty with almost a pinch of smoke. It’s interesting and drinkable but would definitely go better with some pub grub, I think. The flavors are strong enough that washing down something salty with this would be about perfect.

This is the first weekend of OBA judging and of the over 500 beers we had to process, we did well over 300 of them. As a result, tomorrow’s entries mostly consist of final round evaluations and people should be able to enjoy a short Sunday of work.

Don’t doubt; that is what it was. There is something about standing on concrete for eight hours that gives me an appreciation for people who have to do physical labor every day. It isn’t that I couldn’t do the job, it is more that it would take a toll on my body that I would have to work up to, and eventually pay for in ways I can barely imagine.

But between nine people we managed kick out a butt ton of beers to thirty six judges and get all of this work done in about nine and a half hours. (Credit to the judges too: they have to be on their game so that we can go home).

And that is just one thing, in a life full of little things, where people came together to make something work. From the music I was listening to on the way over-who wrote it? Performed and recorded it? Published it so that I could hear it? Produced a device so I could play it? Made the device-and on and on and on.

I wonder if the MAGAs really realize what they’d be disrupting, in order to see their hatred wear the crown for a little while, since they don’t have a vision for a better world-just one where the are “in charge” while everything else stays the same.

Because that’s all it would be-either because we’re all gonna die due to their horror, or because we’re going to say: No, fuck right off.

So I am trying to appreciate all the unseen and small but eventually massive forces that create a net my life can walk on.

Front Porch Chats #90/Second Pint ETO

Drinking the Cup of Judgment hoppy pils from Holy Mountain brewery, in glass outside on table.

On this Christmas Day, I am drinking Holy Mountain’s hoppy Pilsner, Drinking The Cup of Judgement.

Shouldn’t it be ‘Drinking from the Cup of Judgement’? C’mon, folks.

Either way, you can’t say that Holy Mountain is going for subtle with their names.

And….it’s a hoppy Pilsner. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, then the hop bite on the finish is for you, as it’s disproportionate to the beer itself. There’s a little toastiness there as well, which is a surprise because I notice it after the bitterness.

But, I think that’s it for today.

Except for this: wherever you are, whatever is going on, I hope the Christmas Day was nice for you-regardless if Christmas is a holiday for you or not. Regardless if the day itself frequently is burdensome.

Our long year has had it’s longest night. Let’s hope for some daytime soon.

Today’s second pint goes to the Energy Trust of Oregon.

Front Porch Chats #88/Second Pint LTT

Oakshire's Ill-Tempered Gnome, in glass on table outside

Oakshire’s Ill-Tempered Gnome for an ill-tempered day.

The wind blew and the rain fell all night and even this afternoon, there’s still a lingering gruffness to the day. Similarly, the Ill-Tempered Gnome keeps the lingering nose of pine, while providing a roasted beverage with an almost spiteful hop bite.

There’s also just a little spice here-I’m not sure if it’s from the hop character or if they added a little clove or something similar to give the Gnome a bit of zing. But I pick it up, as the beer gets a little warmer. Well, relatively warmer. It’s cold enough to keep your beer outside.

A friend brought me the beer, told me she liked it and she’s got good taste. It’s a very good beer for a day just like this, where everything is gray and drippy and the wind never really stops, because it knows that it’s making you suffer.

The Gnome was a gift when I needed it, from someone who cared about me. It’s been a discouraging week, by any measure, and the ol’ “will to live” meter was getting a bit low.

Sometimes something as simple as one beer is all you need to keep going. The next week awaits for no one, and I certainly am a someone.

Today’s second pint goes to Live Through This. Disclaimer: I know the person who runs this and she’s awesome. But she’s had a rough year so a little kindness towards her project is welcome.

Sticking To My Guns

After last week’s essay on what constitutes craft beer, a commenter pointed out that my definition would exclude Deschutes and Boneyard, as they entered into a “partnership”.

And here’s the thing: I’m OK with that. I like Deschutes, and I like Boneyard but the fact of the matter is, Deschutes effectively owns another brewery. They have distribution, which means that maybe not today, but eventually, Deschutes can and will turn to Boneyard and say: your beer needs to be like this in order to sell.

And since Deschutes distributes, Boneyard will comply. They’re no longer an independent entity. Neither is Deschutes, as their business model now relies on the ownership of a second brewery.

If Boneyard just got absorbed by Deschutes, then I’d say that Deschutes would still count as a craft brewery: they aren’t telling anyone who built their brand on a distinctly different model (very hoppy, very AVB intense beers) what works. Deschutes would just be incorporating the recipes and equipment under their brewery and continue making Deschutes beer, perhaps with new styles under offer.

All of which, however, is a way to dance around a larger point that I didn’t get to until that commenter pushed back on it.

It is, as Don Younger has said, not about the beer. It’s about the beer.
We shouldn’t live in a world where 5 breweries (or five of any business entity, see also: internet, food, banks, etc) are the only providers of what we want or need.

There should be space for small and mid-tier businesses to do their thing, too.

Because then, we can start having conversations about what matters; is this any good?

I don’t mention it too often, but ABInBev makes an incredible product, given what they do. I can have a Budweiser anywhere in the world, and it will taste like a Budweiser. I can have a Guinness anywhere in the world, and it will taste like Guinness.

That’s really hard to do.

If I can’t respect the effort that it takes, the skill-the craft-of making a beer taste the same anywhere in the world, then why even critique beer at all?

That those styles of beer are ones I’m not fond of isn’t the point. This is just about the skill it takes to do that. Plus, I won’t say I’m above a Bud sometimes. If that’s what I’m being offered, I’m not going to be snooty about it.

Because we have, at last count, close to nine thousand breweries in America. Do you honestly believe that every single one of those breweries are making excellent product? Hell, even good product?

The important thing about having smaller breweries is that we can just ask ourselves: is this good?

And good can mean multiple things! Is it a good beer? Is it good for the community? Are the employers good for their workers? Is the atmosphere a healthy one for anyone to walk into? Are the business practices as good as they can be from an environmental or social justice view? Etcetera, etcetera; we don’t, and shouldn’t, just focus on the one thing: is this product good?

Although I will admit that it is probably the most relevant question, even if it isn’t always the most important one.

Because part of why I avoid ABInBev’s products is because their business practices look skeevy as fuck to me from a “we’re corporate overlords who should get our way” perspective. They don’t want to just make a great product (and I don’t know that they want that, it’s just a by-product), they want all the money and do things accordingly. However, this is also why I don’t drink products from Melvin (sexism), Founders (racism) , or BrewDog (transphobia).

I had a friend in the industry tell me about shitty business practices of Old Town and Mt Tabor here in Portland. I don’t buy their product. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘craft beer’ or not. I have the ability to choose, so I will. Not everyone does and I don’t judge them. Should I hear that Melvin or Mt Tabor have fixed their issues, then I’m happy to give them money for something I like!

But the badge of ‘craft beer’ shouldn’t be the determining factor-and maybe it never should have been.

Front Portch Chats #55/SEcond Pint MFF

On an April day that feels chillier than March, I’ve got an All Ways Down IPA from 10 Barrel. Which is basically them saying; what if NEIPA, but translucent? Real groundbreaking stuff, guys. Clear beer!

10 Barrel All Ways Down IPA, in glass outside

Now on the one hand, I approve. I’ve seen enough hazy beers that had chunks in them and if there is one quality that I think everyone should agree on regarding beer, it is that it should never be chunky.

On the other hand, it’s just a grapefruit beer. Grapefruit nose, grapefruit middle, and the common failing finish of the All Ways Down’s hazier cousins is there too. I could have Squirt with gin in it and I’d probably be happier, especially since the icky pith flavor on the finish wouldn’t be involved.

But, you know what? I don’t have to finish this beer. I don’t have to do anything with it anymore, now that I’ve tried it. I can move on and do something else.

Which, as messages go is pretty obvious, I will confess. Then again, it is also a metaphor I wish I’d figured out a few years sooner than I did.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to like this. I want to like any beer that is poured for me, even if I’m pouring it myself. However, I don’t believe in forcing myself to finish a beer just ‘cause.

Life’s too short, right? Which, again, pretty obvious. I suppose some weeks are just like that: you get the obvious signs because the subtle ones haven’t been making a dent.

Today’s second pint goes to the Minneapolis Freedom Fund.

Front Porch Chats #49/SEcond Pint PAI

Sometimes, a series of words is put together in such a way that I think to myself: well, I gotta know what this is about.

Such is the case with Asheville’s Dark Cherry Saison. I just had to know what that was about.

The nose has a tart cherry quality, and…well, it overwhelms the beer. It isn’t bad, but a Flemish Red ale would have similar tartness and offer me a little chocolate or sweetness, too.

Asheville Dark Cherry Saison in glass on table outdoors.

This just gives me cherry. I’m not sorry I tried it; it is mostly what they said it would be, right? But I cannot pick up any citrus or peppery qualities, the cherry is just too strong.

There’s a wind blowing from the South and it’s giving me a chill, which means I don’t want to be out on the porch right now. Then again, I never wanted to be out on the porch but…we do what we must.

There’s a list of must things that need to be done, I suppose. Setting the minimum wage to $31/hr would be one.

We’re going to be lucky if we get $15 out of an “elite” class that doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread, and people are going to needlessly suffer because of it.

Needless suffering seems very on brand for 2021. The right wing of this country is going full Nazi cult and money seems perfectly happy to support it. If anyone was ever about needless suffering, it’s the Nazis. And if money was ever about anything, it was almost certainly about needless suffering.

I don’t expect changes to happen overnight but…it is demoralizing to see such political cowardice from the Democratic leadership, in particular.

Biden has no elections left to win, so why is it important to compromise with people who are out to crush democracy as we know it?
Why is it important to coddle Nazis?

I want to know why the apparent leader of the nation doesn’t seem to have a dream big enough for it?

We deserve better than this and while it isn’t a problem that we have to fight for it, it would be better if we felt like someone with the authority to go after these grifting goosesteppers and violent dickheads was doing that job.

I mean look at this. What batshit reality have we stepped into? I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the criminals responsible for the state we’re in be held to task.

Today’s second pint is going to the People’s Advocacy Institute, for the work they’re doing trying to ensure people in Mississippi can get water.

N O P E

Not long ago, I had an IPA made with Norwegian Kveik yeast. This yeast has been getting a lot of hype lately, because of its unique fermenting properties-able to operate at very high temps without throwing off unwanted flavors.

Except the IPA tasted awful. So bad that I immediately messaged a friend to tell him how bad it was. It was a hazy IPA that had the finishing notes of burnt paper. Grapefruit + burnt paper. That was not appetizing.

Little Beast belgian ale in glass, with can, on table

But maybe it’s the brewery, right? It was a beer that was brand new to me (Hyper Scream from Dekker brewing) and maybe they just suck.

One month later, I’m drinking a Folkvanger from Little Beast brewing, a brewery I know is solid. The Folkvanger is a dark ale made with the Norwegian yeast and…it tastes like singed butthair. It was so bad that I wanted other people to try it, just so I didn’t feel insane for thinking that something a professional brewery made could taste this bad.

I feel like there’s a massive joke being played on people right now; that this thing which, admittedly, does something cool and unique, is touted as also being tasty and…it really just isn’t.

Not at all.