I recently found myself at the Scoreboard Tavern. I had left my house in an attempt to evade the pressures of the evening, in a long standing tradition probably going back to the time of Oog. I was walking along the dark wet streets and eventually found the resting place of ages; the dive bar. 

Its exterior was uninviting, with slate gray vertical panels that say ‘hasty shack’ in over fifty states. The neon orange leaderboard sign that flashed the drink specials, upcoming games to watch, and breakfast served all day information was not why I went in. I quite simply needed a place to go after walking for half an hour, and I had never been inside this bar. 

The lighting was a combination of lamps that light up pool tables, neon signs, pinball games and televisions broadcasting ESPN, and while the smoking ban may have been in effect since January I’m pretty sure the smoke that was in that place just found a corner to hang out in and never left. On the plus side there was a nice greasy smell in the air, a signal that if I wanted something to eat, it would probably be hot and at least somewhat tasty. 

I cooled my heels at the bar, looking over my choices. Liquor-which I did not want-and beer, which in defiance of all that is Portland, was mostly the product of macrobreweries. But I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be someone who wasn’t easily part of this landscape. I wanted to fit in, to enjoy the anonymity of being an anyone, everyone. 

So I ordered a PBR. The Portland hipster of beers, choice of lowball alcoholics and bike couriers or anyone, really, who can scrounge up a buck-fifty and just wants the simple pleasure of having a beer. Any beer. I had no pen, no distractions, all there was for me to do was sit there and just be. The skunky nose on this beer providing the only sense of flavor, the rest of this liquid going down like some cheap cliche. 

I wasn’t ready for the sheer level of carbonation this beer had. The fizziness ran through my entire mouth like I’d been drinking a 9-volt battery, getting in the small spaces of my mouth causing my tongue to sweep through the gaps between my gums and lips, trying to get the sensation out. I am not drinking this beer for flavor so much as the sensation of putting something in my mouth. I wonder if the brewers of Pabst knew how flavorless their beer was, so tried to make up for it in tactile sensation. 

It was mine though, and nobody was going to hassle me. 

Eventually, another man came in. He looked around, sat down the required seat away from me and ordered a drink himself. Rum and coke. We sipped our drinks and eventually sized each other up. He was close to my age, head shaved, thin enough that there were no folds in the dark skin along his skull, with a pencil thin goatee containing tiny flicks of gray running around his mouth, loose gray jacket rumpled around his shoulders. The guy head nod was given; You’re here and I’m here and it’s all cool. 

We sipped our drinks, me a little faster than him as the experience of drinking PBR is not enhanced by drinking it slowly. 

“One of those nights?” he asked me.

“Yeah. Just gotta get out.”

He nodded, “I was returning movies, ’cause it was just like; the wife and the kids were starting to make me rargh! and it was just better to step outside for a bit.” He speaks it with a smile; he’s not really angry or upset, he loves those people but as with so many we love, they were driving him slightly mad. 

“I get it,” I say, though I have no kids, my wife is actually my girlfriend, and I had left the house for entirely different reasons. The principle holds. We were two guys doing what people have been doing since forever; sitting at a bar, saying, “You know, life isn’t so bad, but damnit I just had to get out of there for a bit.”

Oog and Florn did this in caveman days, but they sat over mastodon carcass and drank fermented milk. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the better deal. 

“Anyway,” he continues, “I was on my way home and I just saw this place and thought ‘I’ve never been in there. Should check it out.'”

“Really? It’s my first time in here too. Lived here for ten years and just never came in.”

So we start to talk. About the bar. About politics. Someone else at the end of the bar where it curves joins in briefly. I’m drinking a beer that’s been around since 1882-ish and no I don’t like the way it tastes it but I am just like everyone else, if temporarily. I can enjoy this beer, because I can enjoy this moment. 

Then my beer is gone. Do I want another? No; the a.m. hours have come upon me, and it’s time to walk home. I introduce myself to the guy next to me. His name is Carter. I hope I see him around again, if just for the head nod.


Sneak previews

A less-than-awesome shot of the belgian IPA I bottled today.

The first thing to know about this photo is that this beer represents the end of the carboy. The cloudiness of this beer is misrepresented in this shot-while filling bottles it seemed quite clean. There’s an excellent spiciness in the nose, not unlike mulled wine or hot cider. 

The beer drinks pretty smoothly but the finish is where things seem to go off the rails. There’s a dirty flavor at the very end. It doesn’t even show up until the beer has been swallowed, and then there’s this moment: wait, should I really have put that in my mouth? I may have made a very poor decision here.

This does not bode well. However, it could be due to an abundance of yeast in the beer I’m drinking, or other undesirables that come in at the bottom of the beer, it could be that after a few weeks in the bottle it will clear up, that the flavors will shift as the beer is kept under warmer temperatures for a little while, or it’s possible that I messed up somewhere, and this beer isn’t worth drinking. We shall see. 

What’s really weird is that the Brewer’s Calculator is telling me that this beer is 7.84% by volume! It doesn’t taste like that–but maybe it really is that strong, and the alcohol is throwing off the flavors too. I have to admit, after a couple sips it doesn’t seem so bad, so maybe the high alcohol content is a good thing.

52 Weeks 16, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

The Sierra Nevada was on, the owner of Bailey’s recommended it, and I didn’t see another beer that matched my criteria, so I went with it. This barleywine is exactly what it’s supposed to be, with the roasted nose and slight alcohol warmth, finishing off with an almost tannic flavor. I’ve no complaints here, except that barleywine really wants some food to compliment the beer and I don’t have any. I’m hoping something else comes up so I don’t have to have the War Pigs Wheat–mostly because that doesn’t fit the theme. If I get to do a heavy metal theme, then that’s first on the list. 

Why isn’t heavy metal reflected more in beer? What metalhead doesn’t love beer? Motorhead lambic. Metallica lager. High On Fire porter. Pelican imperial stout. Anthrax nut brown. Fear Factory amber. Pantera pale ale. Jesu dunkelweisen. Slipknot IPA. Oh wait! I could do this all day. Oh yes. 

More awesome things should be paired together. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate. Heavy metal and beer. Sure, you could have one without the other, but why would you ever do that? Maybe that will be a project for Spring; heavy metal beers.  I will oppose the joyous greenery of springtime with the power of Heavy. Metal.

Hm…I think I like this idea more than I ought to. 

Bailey’s is quiet tonight. There’s a couple playing Connect 4 behind me, Sparky-a man who resembles St Nick at 40-is once again at the bar, and there’s a little more Death Cab For Cutie on the speakers than normal. Maybe the quiet is inspiring my love of the riff to make beers loud. This is going to take some considering.

Coney Island Lager

So…yeah, I bought this.

At the time, I’m there with baeza and Fuz at the Belmont Station, and my first reaction is, ‘Hey, I’ve never seen this beer before!’ That’s always a positive sign for me; I always try something I haven’t if the price is reasonable. We’re all buying some beer, about to retire to the casa and play Magic for three hours, so I’ve got a chance to try something without any severe repercussions since there will be two other guys to take the beat of a bad beer.

So there’s the beer, right? A woman swallowing a sword; fits in with the carny motif of the company, what’s my problem? Is there a problem? My problem is that it was right next to the Coney Island Albino Python Wheat. Standing there with my compatriots, we all agreed; buying this beer is meant to get women to perform oral sex on you.

And I’m just not sure how I feel about that. Now, clearly not all of Coney Island‘s beers give this message, but two of them do and they’re just so obvious about it, I can’t ignore it.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into these things. It’s marketing right? Who gives a damn; the question is–Is the beer good?

And it was; I enjoyed this lager. It was crisp and easy on the palate, just like it should’ve been. Reminded me of Hopwork’s Lager, which I adore. The fellas agreed; this was tasty.

But the imagery being used is pandering to me and I’m not all that sure it’s sending a message that I want to support. I’m smarter than that, even if I’m not sexier.

You want what you want

I have become tired of stouts and IPAs. Not in a ‘oh man it’s miserable’ sense but all the beers around me lately are of those styles, and I just want something cleaner and not as dense as those two beers. Fortunately, I’m in a position to do something about that.

I went with an amber style although I’m really shooting for something in between and amber and a pale ale. This probably doesn’t exist as a style, I just want a place to start.

I steeped these grains at about 160 degrees F.
1.5 lb Munich 100
.5 lb Victory
4 oz Pale Chocolate (British)

The tiny amount of Pale Chocolate is in there to give the beer a little color and maybe a hint of flavors that wouldn’t be present in your standard amber ale.

The other malts I used where 6 pounds of Golden Light malt extract, and 3 pounds of Amber malt extract, added for color.  It took awhile for this to dissolve, and for quite a bit of time the top of my boil looked like this:

1  3/8th oz Newport at 60 minutes.
1 oz Autanum at 30 minutes.
Since there are quite a bit of malty flavors going in, I felt ok about using the stronger Newport hops for the full boil  This ought to give the beer a bitterness which I hope will balance the sweeter flavors. The Autanum hops were new to me but smelled raisiny, like UK Golding hops only a bit more intense. My notes say it has 8 % AA, which shouldn’t be a problem if it comes with that raisin flavor. 

Then at 10 minutes left in the boil, I added 1/2 tsp of Irish Moss to give this beer some clarity. I got a gravity reading of 1.07.

The yeast I used was Rogue’s Pacman. I had two packets of this, but one of them burst on me when I smacked it to activate the yeast. My plan is to let this beer ferment for a little longer in primary because I didn’t have as much yeast as usual to get to work. So far so good though; the beer is percolating along just fine.

52 Weeks 15: Ninkasi Imperial Sasquatch

I wonder if I can have a month of beers that are named after mythological figures? That would be pretty sweet, wouldn’t it? If I’m lucky and the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot holds out I’ll have a glass of that next week, and round it all off with the Elysian’s the Immortal IPA. That might be stretching the theme a bit, but what the heck?

Maybe a month of primitive man beers? There’s the Yeti Imperial stout, and practically anything by Walking Man…

Oh man. I can see some friends of mine having a ball with this idea. I’m here for the beer, but if I could work a theme like that in, that would treat me. Personally, I’d like a month of beers named after dinosaurs. Can someone get on that please? 

Maybe I’ll just have to do it myself. Ninkasi will help with their Tricerahops, but that’s the only one I can think of offhand. 

The Sasquatch is an old ale but it’s very hoppy given the style. On the flipside, the beer is a really big one; malty and rich so the hops actually feel balanced, and the bitterness of this beer is present, but never overwhelming. The alcohol warmth is faint but present, more in the belly than in the mouth. 

I find myself in a conversation with another homebrewer, and distracted from my task. Hard to complain; beer is an easy conversation piece around here.

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.

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