Cheers To Belgian Beers 2017

With the Belgian beer festival last weekend, I took it upon myself to go down and see what was on offer. A friend came with and helped with some feedback on the beers, which is always welcome.

Here are the lightly edited notes:

Wolf Tree: The Belgian Dip-while I like the nose, which resembles a banana sundae, heavy on the chocolate sauce and vanilla scents buuuut, man do I not like this finish. It’s sour if you can believe that. And sour and banana, as my friend suggests, do not go well together.

35082392546_2195cf5e9b_cSolera: Soundgarden Gnome-a sour hibiscus ale that they skipped using hops on, this one has an interesting nose, bringing up the a sour flower. A very drinkable sour, too! Not too tart, and it finishes really fast-the flavors don’t linger. Definitely something I’m liking, even though as a sour, I’m glad it’s in small doses.

Bent Shovel: Summer Delight-the nose is like corn and old veggies. The flavor is overwhelmingly vegetal too. Sorry, this one is a miss.

Lompoc: The Laughing Gnome-light Belgian style. The nose has a tropical fruit quality, a bit like melon. This drinks like a pale though, a pub style beer that you could have a couple of and still feel coherent. I like this and I think I could have more.

35082393256_9326cc3119_cOregon City Brewing: Floodwater Belgian IPA-has a great nose of grass and a pleasant biscuit taste. It’s not super bitter either, which means that I can recommend it to non-IPA people, at least as a taster.

McMenamin’s Beware the Kludde Belgian strong dark-boy, the nose is great on this one. The sweetness of dried cherries is all over it. However, the malts skew very roasted and despite being an 8.8% beer, it just doesn’t feel like there’s any sweetness to support our the roast, nor any callback to the nose. It’s SO close, but in the end I can’t get behind it.

Horn Brewery: Walvis Bruin-Belgian style brown. There’s a meaty nose on it, like bacon, which is pretty neat. It’s really light though, and even though there is a hint of that smokey quality from the nose, it stays as a beer that you can drink and is refreshing.

35082393866_40f3055561_cThunder Island: Gnome de Plum Belgian dark. The nose has a massive hit of bubblegum, which is weird but not offputting. There’s a caramel candy flavor, with a bit of bubble gum but it has a definite sour note on the finish. I can’t say that I would recommend it-there’s a lot going on and the bubblegum might turn people off. But for me, this is an interesting  and compelling drink.

Little Beast: Dutchy-Fruited Belgian dark. This beer describes itself as an ale with cherries and cacao nibs and by golly, that is what it is. I don’t get much from the nose, but the cherry and Cocoa flavors combine for a really dry beer that I think would be excellent for someone. It just isn’t quite my jam. But it’s a solid beer!

Common Ales: Golden Road-Ride On IPA

33702899493_fc1aa22576_cHere’s what I knew before I bought this beer: I don’t know them, and I should try this beer!

Here’s what I found out shortly after buying the six pack: they are owned by InBevAB.

I hate unknowingly giving evil my money. I mean, I know that sometimes I’m going to do that, especially with this series. There’s just no way to avoid it. But I don’t like feeling duped.

It doesn’t really matter though. The Ride On IPA Hop nose is faint, but even and lemony. This is not a bad stretch for the beer itself; almost…like lemon detergent. Drinkable detergent.

The bitterness on the finish isn’t too strong-although it becomes a little more potent as the beer goes down-and all in all what I have here is a pretty inoffensive, fairly drinkable thing.

Which is the best I can say about it; ‘you can drink this’.

Respite 39/Second Pint GfM

34986044771_bcee9a91a0_cAgainst The Grain’s Tex-Arcana, which is a Belgian stout inspired by Dr Pepper, catches my eye. 23 ingredients, exclaims the description.

Eh, I don’t taste it. This definitely has a Belgian yeast note, which skews the beer unpleasantly. The rest of what I’m picking up is coffee flavors with a side of Belgian cloying sweet. I’m very glad I got a short pour, as I’m considering gulping it down so I don’t have to endure this beer for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

All my other choices we’re too boring or too reliable, though, which is weird to say. However, I know that I will probably like the offering by Modern Times. I know that I won’t have an interesting take on Pliny the Elder.

Well…sometimes you risk and you win. Sometimes you risk and you lose. Most of the time it’s about even.

It’s too loud in here, today. Too many shouted voices-one table is laughing too loud, the other having a debate on immigration-and it’s been a pretty heavy week, in my mind. I can’t recall living in a city hit so recently by a terrorist incident-and let’s not mince words, those men last week were murdered by a white power terrorist-but the undercurrent of dread is one that I can’t slough off.

Couple that with watching my country visibly go from the “leader of the free world” to a status that is mocked, via leadership that is cruel and stupid in under a week and I find myself less tolerant of human company.

Part of me wants to shout at them, just to get everyone to shut the hell up for a moment. We’re living through a crisis, right? Perhaps a more somber tone is called for?

However, I am reminded of something my friend Miranda says often: “Any little bit of joy”, and I cannot find it in myself to quash someone’s moment. They are with friends, they are together.

Together is how we are going to make it. I’d rather encourage that then extinguish it.

This second pint goes towards the fund for the girls who survived last week’s MAX attack.

Common Ales: Scotch Ales. Sorta

So I was telling my friend Noah that I’d had Gigantic’s scotch ale recently and thought it was good, but seen a fellow OBC member talk about Fort George’s scotch ale and thought it would be cool to compare them.

“I’m in for that,” he said and so we began a short quest to drink Scotch ales and compare them.

Here are our impressions:

33702901823_5bea06f7a1_cWalking Man; High Road Scotch Ale- a little smoke on the nose but nothing offputting. Noah points out that the sweet flavor is is very similar to the Innis, but that this beer is better balanced. He’s right; the sweet qualities in this beer are very similar but the roast note, with maybe a touch of peat? on the end keep this beer in check in a very appealing manner.

Innis & Gunn; Oak aged scotch ale- It’s sweet. It’s light, yes, and there’s a touch of smokey malt on the finish but we are agreed that “that’s very weird”. For me, there’s something cloying about this beer and I don’t like it. Noah is a bit more forgiving but he isn’t inclined to buy it again, either.

34513423255_71a093a120_cOrkney; Skull Splitter- there are a lot more hops on the nose-a bit spicy, and it pays out on the finish too, with a bitterness that overshadows the smokey malt quality. It plays out much lighter than the Walking Man, and a bit more quaffable. We are agreed, however, that this beer has the most Dwarven name ever. I mean-how can you not picture this ale being made by denizens of Middle-Earth?

Gigantic: Mons Meg- this beer is emphasizing the roasted qualities more than the others but it is far and away the best ale of the night. We both agree on that. What’s also interesting is that we agree that the higher ABV beers work better. Our conjecture is that the sweetness of the alcohol helps offset the smokey notes.

And that was it. I went looking for the Fort George beer but couldn’t find it-I was told that the Plaid was their seasonal and they’d moved on to a saison. All that effort to compare beers and we didn’t even get to try the one I wanted to try.

Until…we met up at the Upper Lip to play some Magic. For whatever reason, the taplist just wasn’t grabbing me so I sauntered up to the fridge to see what bottles and cans were available…when I saw out of the corner of my eye a very distinctive orange pattern.

Well, son of a gun. A late contender! So I bought us two cans on the spot.

34600117105_a41ac42639_cFort George: Plaid-  There’s a strong chocolate note, a lot like a brown ale but with something to distinguish it from a brown ale; weight. There’s a slicker viscosity to this beer than a brown would have. Still pretty dang tasty, similar to Walking Man’s submission. Noah more or less agrees; the beer is pretty good but for him fairly different than the other beers he had. He picks up a more smokey toasty quality on the finishing malts, distinguishing it from the others, though he still liked it.

Common Ales: Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

34633901590_56190a7f60_cFirestone Walker is a bit higher end but they haev a good rep and they can be found almost anywhere now. I actually like most of their stuff. However as you’ll see, I wasn’t as enamored with their Union Jack IPA.

Sticky limes is what I get from the nose. Somewhere warm, tropical and with a solid citrus fragrance comes to mind.

The middle isn’t very strong. I suppose…I mean, yes, it’s a pale ale but when the liquid gives way to that strong lime bitterness right away, I feel like I’m missing something. Sure, it works but can’t I get something more?

It wouldn’t take much. A little malt in there and I’d get something to lead me into the bitterness. As it stands, the imbalance in this beer just isn’t working for me.



The complete genome for barley has been sequenced! This could have some very cool impacts on “cereal grains” at large which, of course, means some more interesting beer.

The article has more; check it out.

Also, I just want to let readers know that I’ll be out of town for the next few days, so there won’t be a Friday or Monday post. Everything should resume Wednesday and, if all goes well, I should have some cool beers from California to talk about soon after!

Respite 38/Second Pint CPJ

I picked up Widmer’s Rainy Days & Mondays IPA with flaked oats. I wanted to give it a go, because I always like it when established breweries like Widmer, Bridgeport, Sierra Nevada, or Red Hook, etc., provide me with a beer that even as a beer geek, I can stand by.

While this entry into the NE IPA style (cloudy visuals, grapefruit-tilted flavors) has good first impressions-nose softly citrus, a more pillowy mouthfeel due to the oats with nothing overwhelming.

However, 1/4th of the way down, the bitterness of the finish lingers and lingers and lingers without any pushback from the front. The faint mouthful of pineapple I can taste just isn’t enough to balance it out. That’s a bummer.

I’ve been watching Sense8 season 2 and enjoying it. What I’ve noticed most about this season is that when there are moments during the story where characters who are supposed to act lovingly towards other characters, they do it. It can be parents to children, lovers to lovers, family, friends, and ranges in between but again: If the story has set these people up to be loving towards each other, they are. They stand up for each other, they look out for one another, and they tell them that they love them.

In the wake of Chris Cornell‘s death, this seems especially relevant.

I really liked Soundgarden. One of my closest friends introduced me to them when I was a teenager; it was a small space of sonic commonality and it bloomed into a friendship that continues to this day. They were loud, they were weird and they were seemingly immune to the forces that ravaged the Seattle music scene. I considered them to be the Led Zeppelin to Pantera’s Black Sabbath of the 90’s metal scene; they helped expand people’s notions of what heavy music could include and sound like.

Until they broke up. They day I found out I remember exclaiming “What the fuck?” loudly and in public, in a way that I would’ve been embarrassed by if I hadn’t been so shocked. I was sitting at the Bagdad theater, with the person who introduced me to the band. Fifteen plus years later, Soundgarden got back together. Such is life, right? People you love and who love you remain in orbit, somehow.

Whether Cornell died by suicide or because of a medication interaction (a fact that is still unknown as far as I know) doesn’t really matter to me, because the important part-the part where people who should love you act lovingly towards you and you towards them-is the lesson I want to take away from that.

Because people are weird, sometimes really weird. They are frequently difficult but more relevantly, people can just seem so different from you. There is a very loud voice currently supported in America that wants to insist that anything that is different from you shouldn’t be cared for, is not worth the connection.

Yet, when I saw an African American man sing Black Hole Sun at karaoke the night Chris Cornell died, people of all sorts stood, sang, and raised their glasses in support of the singer, in memory of the lost, I couldn’t help but think that that loud voice is wrong. That the supports against the different are misguided, to say it kindly.

Cornell’s art helped bridge a connection between people-and that connection doesn’t exist if we are different. It only exists in the spaces we are the same.

Which I think is worth keeping in mind as we face something that feels overwhelming and decisive.

Today’s second pint goes to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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