Category Archives: where I wanna go

Where I Want To Go: Baerlic

I have come to find Baerlic mostly because I said I would. I happened to be in the area with a little time to kill so I consider it a win-win. Who can resist a beer name like Haelwijn? Reversed ‘ae’ and an ‘ij’ kissing in the same word? Apparently means “Hell wine”? Gimme that.

This is a Belgian golden strong ale and I’m digging it. The nose is fruity, reminding me of raisins or maybe dates. It’s got a nice finish too: the Haelwijn practically disappears, which is a little strange. Frequently these beers linger with a sweetness that can get sickly fast. But this isn’t thin; it has a gentle viscosity that belies an alcoholic bite. Very subtle and potentially dangerous to the uninitiated because this is a 9.9% beer. They did right by the Haelwijn though; enough of the sugars have been eaten in this beer that it avoids any of the coyly sweet notes.

I like this environment to drink in. Big windows at my back helping light up the joint: the illumination is faux-date night and works for the midafternoon but I would enjoy it a little brighter in the evening. There’s a cribbage board over there so there is, at least, the notion that one could play games here. I always approve of that.

Baerlic has that new bar smell, still. Everything is shiny and in sharp contrast. It doesn’t yet have the lived in quality that makes the best joints awesome but at the same time, it’s comfortable, low key and ready to be populated with stories from the neighborhood. I look forward to seeing this place getting some stories to tell.

Where I Want To Go: Bailey’s

Was listening to Maserati’s Abracadbracab on the way over and I doubt I could have found a better song for the evening: lovers making out on the Burnside bridge in a final night of summer, two-thirds of the moon in the sky with the sun quickly saying goodbye behind the west hills, leaving behind warm air like a really cool friend who leaves beer in the fridge for you.

I almost kept driving. Why stop? Keep going, go until the sidewalk ends. It can’t last so ride it out as far as the pony will take you.

Of course, in the case of Abracadabracab, that’s almost eleven minutes and then I’ll have overshot my destination and I still won’t have a beer. I gave it some thought, though. It’s the kind of night where the impulse to wander is strong.

Baerlic‘s Stay Fresh, an imperial alt ale with fresh hops is my choice for the evening. The front end is a bit roasty and then it leads into this full citrus flavor, but it isn’t a sharp thing. However, the citrus isn’t blending well with the roasted qualities. I feel that there is a clash in this beer, between some flavors that tilt coffee and the orange at the end that isn’t working for me.

Still, it’s a good and interesting enough beer that I’d try something else by them. And they’re new to me, with a brewpub (sorta) recently open in southeast, so I think I’ve got another destination in mind!

Where I Want To Go: 13 Virtues

I almost hit a squirrel on my way here. It bolted out into traffic and as I swiftly hit the brakes, it doubled back, deciding that an encounter with my tires was against its best interest. This is a good thing. A little blessing in a year that has decided to emphasize the rough spots.

I’m in 13 Virtue’s tasting room, a cozy little space that is destined to be the start of some grand, open conspiracies; you know the kind, where everybody in the bar is talking about everything all at once. Good natured  shouting coupled with the occasional bleak joke, while all around in the restaurant everyone bellows nonsense.

Although the conspiracies are most likely to happen upstairs….oh yes. Let’s creep up there and trade wicked smiles, out of sight but not ear, so we know what we can get away with. Maybe sometime.

The Mildfire is a smoked amber: a delicate drink, sweet but light and with the smoke gently handled. I appreciate how carefully this beer was put together, the amber qualities enhanced instead of overwhelmed by the smoke. That takes some combination of practice, skill and probably patience that is to be lauded.

Don’t get me wrong; the smoke lingers. It’s the ghost whose presence is felt long after the initial impression is gone, though, easily swept away. But the easy banishment of that flavor is welcome, encouraging the next drink of beer and doesn’t take away from the nice qualities of the amber. I’m pleasantly surprised and definitely pleased.

The beer drinks slow, though. That may have to do with my tastes, however. I got a small glass and it was the correct choice. Not because it’s bad but because I can tell that I want to change the flavor profile soon. There’s a whole host of interesting ales to try and I’d like to see what else is going on.

Where I Want To Go: Mill Stream

Tonight I am a scene in a movie: Alone, heartbroken and in a town where nobody knows me, getting drunk at a bar that feels far from nowhere, with U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name on a jukebox that plays CDs.  I loved that song. Something about going into Nowhere and finding a place for yourself appealed to me. Where I was had been chipping away at me for so long, the idea that I could get out from under the city, the person I had been because of it, that appealed to me quite a bit. Still does, at least in concept and I like where I live now. It must be twenty years since I’ve heard that song, which is probably about how long it’s been since I’ve had a Moosehead.

Never really found a taste for Moosehead, though, despite being introduced to it at a very young age. I drink it now and it isn’t bad for a mass produced lager, though it skews a bit on the sweet side. Was it always sweet and I just couldn’t taste it or has the recipe changed over the past two decades, tweaked to appeal to a broader base? Tweaks like that have been done in the past but I didn’t much consider the taste of my beer twenty years ago so I have no point of reference.

I may be being shown off. That is OK, I suppose. Let the locals get their eyeful.

I think back to who I was when The Streets Had No Name came out and I wonder how’d I get to…U2 invading iPhones everywhere. Isn’t that what we do when we are confronted by our past? Maybe some people can shed everything but I doubt anyone can forever. There isn’t a straight line though, a stack of interlocking pieces that clearly say, “You were here, now you are here.”

Some moments appear, of course. Choices I made that pop up like signposts: where to live, whom to love, but so much more is nebulous. I cannot say I didn’t have a goal: I did but that goal has also failed me in ways I don’t know I could have predicted.

Do we need small, shitty towns stuck in the past to return to, to get us to examine our lives. A constant ghost in our own machines? That reminder that we should not outrun who we were but instead build on it? I don’t know and two Moosehead isn’t helping me decide the fate of tiny places, so I think it’s time to go home.

Especially since I could have spent the rest of my life without hearing Def Leppard’s Let’s Get Rocked, again. Nobody really needed to hear that song even once and some things that are in the past can just goddamn stay there.

Where I Want To Go: Stein Haus

The Stein Haus is almost perturbingly quiet. Like the opening scene in From Dusk Til Dawn, where there’s so few people I’m almost expecting something really crazy to happen at any moment.

Thankfully, nothing does. I think this place may be so empty because of a slight case of not knowing what it is. When this was the Agenda I liked it but then it became a strip club called Assets (which is almost a clever title) and I never went but now it’s a ‘new’ place which makes the third change in as many years. Hard to develop an identity under such circumstances.

I get my beer, an Altborish Dunkel by Ayinger, sit down and all is well. Dunkels are an interesting brew; a bit like the diet version of a more roasted, chocolaty beer. It’s sweet but it finishes very clean, so I don’t get the aftertaste that an actually sweet beer might offer up.

The beer list is tilted towards the lighter, Germanic styles; I see pilsners, dunkles, wheat ales and from brewers predominantly from Europe. Anything that’s local falls into the same category: Pils from the Commons, Octoberfest from Ninkasi, Roggenweizen from Occidental. The exception (sorta) is the India Steinhaus Lager, which I’m told is brewed by Rock Bottom brewery for the Stein Haus. This is probably the hoppiest brew on the menu, I’m deducing, falling into the new ‘craze’ of India Pale Lagers.

The bartender is pretty nice; indulges my questions, gives me a sample of a beer that has no description and tells me where the house Lager comes from. So the Stein Haus has some good things going for it.

I don’t know how this becomes a neighborhood bar-a little more lighting around the beer list would certainly help-but we need more little interesting places to get beers in the outskirts of the city. Maybe this time, the Stein Haus will stick.

Where I Want To Go: Hopworks (2)

I had an extremely busy August. Too busy, in some ways; it began to intrude on my writing.

I’m not sorry that I had visitors, or went visiting: this year has held a tremendous heartbreak for me and the presence of friends has gone a long way towards making things better. However, here’s where we get into the ‘stuff about being a writer’.

Curmudgeons that writers often are, we are loath to admit that we need people. This is, perhaps, less of a truism for beer writers because beer, especially craft beer, is an inherently social drink. People are part of the bargain. That doesn’t mean we aren’t still grumpy, just that we can easily find other, like-minded grumpy drinkers who are tolerable to us. But yes, we need people because writers are trying to explore the human condition and you just need humans for that.

So I sit at the bar with a FreshMaker-a Fuggle hopped beer-at Hopworks and am surrounded by people, most of whom are barely watching the football game. The beer is a nice one, with a lemony quality that runs into the finish but a malt forward nose so there’s a balance struck that makes it pretty tasty.

The other thing about being a writer, however, is that we have to do it alone. Nobody can put the words out for us. While this is often cast as a very lonely endeavor (and it totally can be) it is also a necessity for us to do our work. We must write alone.

And I have had too many people as of late. Posts for this week have been started at Ex Novo and the Stein Haus, only to be stymied by the presence of people and a willingness to engage with them rather than write. On the upside, this means I get to go back to those places (and you should check them out) but on the downside, I still had work to do!

The nice thing about Hopworks right now is that nobody knows me here and nobody cares. It is an odd thing to admit that I need a certain level of apathy to get my work done but it is clearly still true, and this is where we get into the ‘stuff about me’ part.

I like socializing with people and I’m perhaps too willing to ignore the work I need to do so I can engage with them. Normally? This isn’t a problem: I don’t live in a culture where talking to strangers is encouraged. But this August has been a blue moon for me so I am pleased to finally sit down, sip my ale and do the work alone. I don’t even need another beer (though I might have one) I just need to do the work.

Which is what managing heartbreak is about: doing the work. Engaging in the day to day, week to week tasks that keep your life from going off the rails, until you’re patched up enough to be human again. It is also, of course, what friends are there for, I just had to make a brief trade of one for the other, for a month.

Which is not so bad. Not at all.

Where I Want To Go: Viking

I am here and I am not here.

I’m in Spokane for the week and with my sister, I’ve come to the Viking to hang out with people and catch up. My sister is here to do the same, except she’s going to dominate the shuffleboard table too.

What can I tell you about the Viking, really? It has no windows. It’s been around since my parents went to college and it’s been one of the few bars in Spokane to push craft beers of any sort , at least since I started drinking. It has a disturbing level of beer and sports pennants hanging from the every possible fixture that could have one attached. And they give you a bowl of free popcorn.

It’s that kind of place: the kind that might’ve considered being pretentious  but decided, eh, fuck it, here’s beer. So it’s not so bad, really.

I start out with a Sockeye porter which is pretty darn tasty but switch soon to Iron Goat’s pale ale, brought to me by my friend Aaron because he insists it’s the best beer there.  I don’t have cause to doubt him, as it’s very, very good. But Sockeye is good beer from Idaho! That is a kind of wonder unto itself.

Yet I am also not here. I am in Portland, I am telling my story to people who haven’t seen me in a while and my story isn’t new it isn’t in Spokane, either.  I do my best not to live in my story while I am telling it (it has been a rough year) but it is the nature of stories to compel us into the moment of their narrative.

So I ask for their stories instead. Businesses, moving, children, how to navigate a new or an old-but-new relationship, or any relationship, really; all kinds of things to discuss. It is a good evening, with (mostly) good beers. I’ll tell you all about what I had this week, promise.

I don’t get a picture of any of my drinks this evening though, which is disappointing. It is an oversight but that happens when visiting.

Where I Want To Go: Bar of the Gods

Tourist week part two! Another person has arrived for me to show off everything I can about Portland and we’ve met up right around dinner time, so it’s a prime opportunity to go to the one of the darkest bars I know that still has solid food, the Bar of the Gods.

I get a Zig Zag lager because I’m on a budget today (hey, it happens! The life of a beer writer is not all glamor and tasty beverages). The beer is good; unremarkable in the way of a solid lager, while still having some body to it, and it is nice to have something lighter with the heat that’s been glowering over the city like an unhappy uncle.  Sadly, the menu no longer has the meatball subs with provolone and bacon. Those sandwiches were worth starting your own country for.

I don’t let it get to me though; there are still things to show off around Portland! Mt Tabor park, a trip to the Horse Brass, an opportunity to redeem myself in the game of cribbage, which I did.  You don’t fuck around playing cribbage, man, even if the game is friendly.

My honor restored, it was time for a final visit to Bailey’s before parting ways.  The month is barely half over and I still have two trips coming up, so it’s going to be a heck of an August.

So many places to go, I’m going to be exhausted soon. I should do posts from home for a week.

Where I Want To Go: Cascade Ale House

I have gotten the pale ale at Cascade but I barely remember it. I am entirely distracted by my opportunity to do one of my favorite things ever; show Portland off to visitors. Visitors who, in this instance, want sour ales.

While I’m not a huge fan of sour ales myself, Portland has a beer for pretty much anyone. On top of that, I’m lucky enough to know a thing or two about how sours are made so I can tell them about blending ales, the casks stored in the back and brettanomyces as a souring agent.

We just get to talk too. Des and her fiancee have come in to Portland to do work things: I am catching them at the tail end of their work and attempting to provide the semblance of a vacation in the two days I get to run them around Portland. Books! Ciders! Parks! Why the sun is so punishing here!

So we talk. And I do not write about the pale; I sip it and I tell them as much as I can about Portland. Where to go tomorrow, what was great today; I evangelize the city while they tell me about NYC and occasionally bemoan the lack of sour ales there. They argue over whether or not the Strand or Powell’s is the better bookstore.

For an evening, I am reminded why I go out to be at a pub: I go out for the people.

Where I Want To Go: Bailey’s

I get a Pfriem Belgian Strong Dark; the malt does a nice job of keeping the belgian yeast flavors in check. Dig it. I’d have another if there weren’t so many things to try, tonight. But that’s the last note I get to make about beer for the evening because it’s so lively at Bailey’s.

I still love it here, and this is partly why:

I have come to Bailey’s to play some Magic with Noah and shortly after we grab a table, we run into a couple that he knows from work. So we invite them to sit down and have a nice conversation: Noah and I just set aside our initial reason to be here so we can talk. Cities we’ve visited, short personal histories and beer recommendations are exchanged.

Eventually, his friends decide to head down to the Oregon Brewer’s Fest and that allows us to break out the cards and start to play…but the next thing I know two English ladies, Dawn and Joyce, have joined our table. Boom. “What can you tell us about how to play this game?”

They’re on vacation and are interested Magic. No, I don’t get it either. Suddenly, we are giving them an overview of how to play and it’s an experience that is both odd and awesome at the same time. The ladies are friends, currently living in Amsterdam and Shanghai respectively and had decided to meet in Portland to catch up and vacation together along the West Coast. Pretty cool!

I mean, they ended up being oddly entertained by two geeky Americans and weren’t nearly adventurous enough in their beer choices in my opinion (they got the same thing over and over) but what the hell. It’s a strange life sometimes. Let’s keep it that way.

This is why it is good to go out into the world: when the plan has to change and you just never know what the hell will happen, it’s usually at least interesting.