52 Weeks, #1, Ninkasi Sleigh’r

So, I’ve decided to start a new project, which I’m calling 52 Weeks in a totally original fashion.

Truthfully, the idea was inspired by the movie Smoke. There’s a point where Auggie Wren says (and I’m paraphrasing) “If you stay in one place long enough, the world comes to you.” So I thought; why not go to the same bar on the same day each week for a year, and let the world come to me? These posts will be part stream-of-consciousness, part beer related, and probably have poorly taken pictures from my laptop, but there you have it. 

I decided to go to Bailey’s Taproom for this project, because they’ll always have something interesting to drink, but mostly because I like it there.   

At 4p.m., daylight still exists, but I’m here for the dark alt by Ninkasi. While I don’t know the style, the beer smells very malty; carmels run through everything, with a hint of chocolate at the very end, and the beer delivers on this promise. There’s a slight hit of bitterness after the sweetness drops away, and I’m not sure if that’s because the beer is bitter, or because of an alchemy in my mouth that  brings bitterness to me after I have sweet things. I like this beer a lot, though. 

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this project, because I’ve got some life plans that might make this more challenging. But I like Bailey’s and it ought to give me a good beer to drink, even when I don’t have anything else to talk about. I’m rolling this slick beer under my tongue (it’s the kind of beer that turns your spit brown) trying to appreciate it, relax, and enjoy myself, but I’m thinking too far ahead. Food and drink insist on your presence in order to appreciate it, and I’m having trouble being here, now.

Maybe that’s what’s so nice about patterns: we get to set aside anxiety and appreciate the little things that appear only when we’re calm. Not that most of us do that; we just feel comforted by the familiar. Still, I hope to break that and notice all the little things I can get. After all, I have fifty-two weeks to go, and I have to prevent boredom every way I can.


Successes happen too


Of course, there are times when I get things right. I dry hopped this pale ale, so if there’s any real flaw in it, it’s that  you occasionally get tiny hop leaves stuck in your mouth.

But so what? This beer is crisply carbonated, gently bittered on the back end, and all and all does a fine sweep of the palate so I can have it with pasta or seafood or…well, damn near anything. Want chips and salsa and a beer while you watch football? Covered. Need a thirst quencher after yardwork? Bingo.

I did good with this one.

Fresh Hop Alefest Volunteer

Because I’m a member of the OBC, I occasionally have the chance to volunteer at beer festivals. Legally I can’t pour, but someone has to collect the money and give people glasses or t-shirts and generally be pleasant.

For some reason, it’s easier for me to be pleasant to strangers when they’re about to have a pint.

It was a nice day, and the festival took place outside of Hopworks in their parking lot. Now, after standing on concrete for five hours I’m pretty sure anyone would start to get a little grouchy. Especially since everyone else gets to drink beer, and the volunteers don’t as we are working. Well, at least not until the very end.

But my reward was twofold; first, I got to try some of the beers that were leftover. My impressions are not entirely accurate I think, because in some cases the beer had been poured and then stored in growlers. Basically; the beers were a touch old, but I’m not complaining. What’s really unfortunate is that I lost my program sheet, so I don’t remember all the details of the beers I drank, but the internet is good to me sometimes. (The beer I’m sad I missed; Hoptimus Prime)

The Black Flag imperial stout was not as dense as I would have thought, but was still very good. Hopworks’ Fest of Fury was the freshest beer, and was run through a Randall (a setup can be seen to the left) and was also excellent. I also had the Killer Green, and it tasted exactly like marijuana.  It was almost unnerving, because with that kind of similarity I had to ask; is this beer, uh, legal? ‘Cause it’s really tasty.

I was not so impressed with Roots’Hoppapotamus, but I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t like it, or because it was just old. Roots is hit or miss with me, so I’ll have to give it another chance. Fortunately, their brewery is not too far from my domicile so the opportunity is there, I just don’t take advantage as often as I ought to.

The real treat for me though was getting to see Hopworks’ brewery area. Check out this refrigeration unit!

Tap lines going to bar
tap lines going to bar
Long shot of Hopworks refrigerated area
Long shot of refirgerated area

I love this stuff, because it lets me get into all those secret places you wouldn’t find otherwise, and see how they work. Not just brewing either; the roofs and basements of buildings, locked passages that are used for maintence, the metal doors in sidewalks that lead to stairwells or ramps that are used for storage, electronics, or who knows what.  I wonder if volunteering more would get me access to those hidden passages…

American Pale startup

A few weeks ago, I made this beer. I didn’t follow the exact instructions…again. However, I did so out of a choice this time, instead of necessity! Hopefully that will make it all right.

I started with steeping .75 pounds of Six Row malt, which is a first for me. That seems a little unusual, considering Six Row is one of those base malts that’s good for all kinds of beers, but recipies never called for it before. When I took a whiff of the grains though, I thought: that makes a beer. It was rich and bready, like the head of a really tasty pale on a  hot day.

The recipe called for about four differnet hop varieties, but with hops being as expensive as they are, I decided against variety and went for volume, with two ounces of Domestic and half an ounce of Willamette during the boil I’ll also be dry-hopping this beer with the low-alpha hops (Willamette), so I expect to get a more grassy nose, with a citriusy flavor. We shall see!

The other malts I added were:
1 pound red wheat
1 pound light extract
7 pounds liquid light malt

I wanted to make a starter yeast, but I hadn’t planned enough in advance. However, I’ll be using the yeast from this batch as I did with the saison, so hopefully I get two uses out of it. I used two packets of Wyeast’s 1056 for this beer, and it’s taken off quite nicely.

This is the beer, with a heat exchanger (left, foreground) and the carboy (right) just before I cool it and start to ferment it. Update next week on how it turned out!

Oh, and I completely forgot to get an Original Gravity reading. I swear I’ll get the hang of this someday.

East Coast day three and four

I know this is all getting posted late and such, but I’m doing the best I can.

My return to NYC had me sitting on the train, facing south. What was weird about the west side of the tracks was how lively the scenery was; buildings that were active, logos freshly painted on them, the sense of despair on the east side quickly drained for a more vibrant scene. There was literally a wrong side of the tracks!

Off to the banksy exhibit I went, to see animatronic creatures in disturbing poses, and then it was to the Four Faced Liar for drinks. I was in need of them, and they served…Yuengling. Now, I realize that’s no big deal to any of my East Coast readers…oh wait.

But I can’t get that beer on the West Coast, and so I’m dying to try it. And It’s…well, it’s a beer. A solid American style lager, with the kinds of flavors I’d expect (not much of any) except for a slight funk at the back end. It wasn’t bad–a bit skunky, but it was only noticeable due to the absence of flavors preceding it. My notes suggest to drink during summertime.

Next up, I went for the Sixpoint IPA. It was bitter, but not overly so, but it was a bit lacking on the nose. That’s where I would’ve expected to pick up a lot of the essences of an IPA, and there just wasn’t much there. At this point, however, I’m meeting lots of new people, and I’m getting distracted. In the interest of being sociable, I put down my pen and enjoy the company I’m with.

There was another bar after this, but I couldn’t tell you the name of it. I had switched to Jameson’s and was slowly working towards the Killing Joke show.

The Filmore is a good place to see a show; it reminded me of the best parts of Portland’s Roseland theater, with an upper balcony, two bars, a couple booths and a few places to sit as well as stand, there was plenty of space to see the bands. I’d arrived in time to see Ascension of the Watchers (who I thought was OK), which meant I had time to get a beer.

My choices: Bud, Bud Light, something, something = $6, Coronoa, Newcastle, something, something = $7, and then…mixed drinks which were too damned expensive.

OK, first; why the fuck would I ever order a seven dollar Corona when there’s Bud? I am not such a fool that I think paying an extra dollar for a lemon wedge improves my drinking experience.

Second…well, I guess there is no second. This isn’t Portland, and I’m going to get what I’m going to get.

But Killing Joke came on soon after, and they were terrific.  That tends to make those little inconveniences worthwhile. I caught the subway back home, and snagged a bag of Doritos and a Sierra Nevada because I was hungry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a bottle opener, and flying means I have to leave my trusty Swiss Army Knife behind. Sigh.

On my last day in New York, I mosied around. The pubs that we’d hope were open (like the Barcade-an oldschool arcade and bar) weren’t, so there was no new beers to try.  Soon it was time to get on the plane home, and after a brief disorientation on the subway, I found myself at JFK airport. I had enough time to grab a Sam Adams pale ale, which was surprisingly good, before getting on a plane home.

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