52 Weeks 10: Ninkasi Vanilla Bean Oatis Stout

Yeah. 

I obviously like this
I obviously like this

I won’t apologize for liking this beer.  It’s velvety and chocolate with a hint of vanilla that starts at the nose and chases you through the entire sip. It’s good. Really good.

It’s the last day of Bush’s Presidency, and it is in that spirit that I enjoy this beer. A very strange and unexpectedly difficult time has been ushered into my country because of this man and the people he was backed by and looked to for support, and just like the rest of his life, he won’t have to deal with the consequences of his actions. 

I have never seen a man so hated in my lifetime, and it is almost enough to make me feel sorry for him. But he bought into a particular machine in order to gain power, and so all I can say is this: He earned the ire of my country. 

I ponder Bush’s ending as one of my own comes up. I have put in my two weeks at my job and the weekend, instead of being filled with a kind of joyous liberation was plagued by a sense of humiliation. This arrived on multiple planes, courier’d to me via those strange human pathways that life keeps hidden from you, but you know are out there nonetheless. Especially when they arrive with your name and the weight is awful but you have to sign for the packages; they are yours and that’s the way it rolls, man. Good luck, says the dude with the inventory sheet, your name and date scrawled on it in blue ink, tucked neatly beneath his arm as he walks away. 

However, this too will pass. Just as this stout changes as I drink it, the coffee elements starting to make themselves felt a little more than the chocolate, so will other little notes make themselves seen as I go on.

It’s going to be a new day in America, tomorrow. It always is though; and so it is with life. But you know what? The good healthy now of a vanilla bean stout is a fine reminder to exist in the moment, and not let things get away from me.

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I like it when they make the argument for me

I don’t even care if the article is attempting to be facetious, because that kind of snobbery is exactly why I avoid certain kinds of drinkers. Either you enjoy a good drink, or you don’t, and either you enjoy the people you are around, or you don’t. To make an argument of this kind is just crying for attention.

A fine line

Way back when, I made a stout. That beer has finally made itself drinkable, as you can see here:

Its the stout. The stout that I drink.So now that I can drink this beer, what can I tell you about it?

I can tell you that it isn’t a friggin’ stout. Or is it?

What is a stout, anyway? Well, according to the BJCP guidelines there are six kinds of stout, but they all have some pretty similar characteristics; deep brown to black color, roasted coffee flavors, occasionally with chocolate, low-to-no hop flavors.

Porters, on the other hand, only have three distinct styles. Given the specifications of the Brown Porter, I seem to match those stylings better.

It’s the color that I really missed the mark on. This beer is lighter, and that’s especially noticeable around the edges of the glass. I also have trouble making this beer a consistent one, as you can see here:

Not quite
Not quite

Stouts just shouldn’t have that kind of head. Hell, I don’t think any beer should look like that. So, there’s still a little refining to the process to be done.

This image aside, most of the time the beer pours just like it ought to, and it tastes really good. The oatmeal flavors aren’t present, and once again I think I just tried to rush my brewing process more than I should have.

I’ve also discovered there is another slight problem, but I’ll save that for the next post.

52 Weeks 9 Block 15 Belgian Brown

Belgian brown ales are a little weird. The yeasts are always in danger of being overrun by the coffee and chocolate malt flavors, and in the case of Block 15, I think that’s the case here. It’s not a bad beer, but the balance feels out of whack, with a slightly sour nose, and the hint of that flavor around the very edges of the beer, like a taste that plays hide-and-go-seek. But it’s not quite all that. It’s decent though, and it improves a bit as it warms up, so I look forward to trying a Block 15 beer again.

Since last week’s post (which you could just scroll down to, but I’ll link it) I’ve been thinking about the last OBC meeting. At the event, a homeless man had wandered into our meeting unnoticed. He was a little grizzled and had a slightly faded black windbreaker on, and a ruddy face born of spending days and nights outside. He got himself a nametag and for the most part was quiet and harmless…but he eventually did get noticed.

As the business part of the meeting started up, the president of the club announced that this part of the meeting was for OBC members only, not for random people off the street. And it was at this point that another member of the club escorted the homeless man out. 

As he left, I saw him wipe his eyes with his sleeves and protest “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be here,” and the man escorting him out saying, “I know, it’s OK, but you have to go.”

It’s a bummer that he got booted, insofar as it makes for a cool story; homeless man finds his way into a place to get a beer and makes it out without anyone noticing. However, it doesn’t surprise me that he got caught and had to go; the meeting is for members, right? What bothers me is that he was humiliated. It just seems like mention of him didn’t have to be made over the PA system. Something about my sense of fairness just chafes when I think about it. 

He was just a guy looking to get out of the cold and have a beer. Who doesn’t want that? Hopefully when I am in the midst of my misfortune, a little more discretion will be shown to me. 

Sneak previews

One of the awesome things about the OBC is how connected we are to the brewing community at large in Portland. Many brewers got their start and encouragement from there, and more than a few businesses benefit from the word of mouth that we provide. Often members can be found volunteering at festivals (something I hope to do more of this year) and doing community outreach in the form of public brewing demos.

It goes both ways I’m happy to say. Tonight the gracious people of Widmer brewing brought us some of their soon-to-be-released Drifter pale ale. I am thrilled to say I got a chance to sample it.

My impressions should be regarded with just a touch of salt; I got a proper taste, but not a full bottle of this beer, so your experience may vary. I also was lucky enough to abscond with a press release profiling the beer, so I can provide more details than I might be able to ordinarily.

First, my impressions; the nose on this beer is heavy tangerine. I don’t know where that comes from because I’ve smelled citrus, usually in the form of grapefruit, but nothing like this. This flavor amped up the beer; I don’t want to say it reached IPA levels of bitterness, but it was much more complex than your average pale ale, in my opinion. I liked this beer a lot, and hope that it’s a success just so I can see it again.

The press release says that it was bittered with Alchemy hops, which I’ve never heard of before, then Summit and Nelson Sauvin hops for aroma and dry hopping. American Ale yeast was used, and the malts to form the base were Pale, Caramel 20-L, CaraVienne 20-L, Caramel 80-L and Carapils.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of Alchemy or Nelson Sauvin hops or CaraVienne 20-L malt before, which makes this beer all the more interesting to me. If you like beer I say try it, and if you like pale ales or IPAs at all I say it’s a must. It walks that fuzzy line between the two styles and is fun to get lost in.

Barrel Aged beers

My friend Fuz sent me a link to an article on the resurgence of beers being aged in wood barrels.

While I appreciate the craft that goes into making these beers, I have to say the price tag makes me balk in a serious way.  That might be the point; these are specialty beers for special occasions, but I certainly hope that this doesn’t become a widespread trend. I would like a good beer for a reasonable price available to as many people as possible. If brewers decide to put the really good beers out of the reach of the  regular budget, then I feel like something has gone a little awry in the brewing culture. They already have to overcome misconceptions about the way their beer tastes (too heavy, too intense, etc.),  the fact that it costs more, and the still frequent condecension from people who derive status from their drink instead of the pleasure of good food shared.

Making $35 bottles for 25oz of beer is something I’d like to see kept as a rarity, if you don’t mind.

52 Weeks 8: Southern Oregon Old Humbug II

I sit down at Bailey’s for the first time in three weeks and order an old ale, chatting briefly with the owner who has to bow out to serve a rush of customers; girls and guys who ask about styles, kinds of beer available, where they should go next, can they try this or that or the other? Another person asks if they ever considered selling coffee here, and the owner replies yes, but someone else would have to do it as he doesn’t consider himself to be a barista. I cringe internally at the thought and focus on my drink.

Old Humbug II has a slightly sour nose, which resurrects itself about midway through the drink. Surrounded by the sour are roasted flavors of sugar; caramel and chocolate, but less sweet and more burnt. 

It’s nice to be back where I started. I’m sitting at the bar, which I don’t get to do too often. I like sitting at the bar, though because I get to see the place in action, both patrons and bartender in their social dance. I miss sitting at the bar, having developed a taste for it at Europa in Spokane. When I was a young drinker my friend A.Ho and I became regulars there, frequent visitors who knew all the bartenders by name (there were only two) and fueling ourselves on cheap beer and cheesesticks during happy hour. Cheesesticks weren’t the typical kind; they were more like mini-pizzas without tomato sauce. We’d get red sauce and ranch dressing to dip them in, and drink Alaskan amber ales and tequila (for him) and Jager (for me) and do the guy talk thing. Europa was damn near perfect for this; no televisions to distract you, the music at a level low enough to allow conversation, loud enough to obscure the nearby tables. It was a place where I could be found, and bring friends to for a good time, but not quite popular enough to destroy your sense of quiet privacy. 

When I moved to Portland, I tried to find a bar like that here but in vain. Some places just cannot be replicated. They exist in a certain space and time, and then some kind of glacial change comes along. I try to go back to Europa when I visit Spokane but it’s not quite the same for me now; most likely the glacial change has occurred within me, but it also feels different in a way I cannot quite pin down. 

And Portland for all its charms and fantastic places, does not have that build in friendly group of people for me. I have friends now, but our interests spread out; going to a bar, sitting down, and spending a few hours doing nothing but chilling out and eating bread and cheese does not appeal to people the same way it once did. 

Or so I think. 

As I begin to wrap things up, the owner of Bailey’s comes back to our conversation. Eventually the subject turns to the Transformers movie, and he lets me rant about that a little bit. He tells me that because he went into the movie expecting it to suck, when it didn’t totally suck, he was at least happy about that.

OK, so there aren’t cheesesticks here. I’ll live.

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