Tag Archives: amber

An Evening At Kells

I don’t get to the NW very often so an invite to tour Kells‘s expanded brewing space and try their beer was one I wasn’t going to turn down. I hadn’t even known they were brewing, you know?

I quickly met Gerard, the owner, who was kind enough to fill me in on the history of the place and the story behind getting a new one. Apparently it was cheaper to put a brewery in the NW site than to try and add it to the Downtown one, because of plumbing costs but since he had always hoped to have a brewery, he wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity. Dave, formerly of Lucky Lab and Garrett, who apprenticed at breweries in Argentina,  were also on hand to talk about the beers they had made, a great deal of pride in their voices and with good reason: they had made some very tasty beers.

We were given samples of the current efforts, and the following is my semi-edited notes on them. (As an aside, they gave us some food to pair with each beer, and the food was well done and tasty but this is a beer blog, so I won’t talk much more about that.)

Irish lager: used a German yeast strain, had a nice bready end with a clean finish. Drinkable as all get out. It would wash away the taste of a fish & chips bite, without getting you any fuller. I overheard Dave talk about the creamy finish of this beer and he’s right-but I like that finish. He wants it more carbonated, and apparently the method that they use to server the lager downtown provides it (I heard something about how CO2 is injected but I didn’t catch the whole conversation.) What I find cool about this is how something that I would have thought was really ironed out by now-how beer is served from the tap-can shift a the flavor.

The amber is a beer you want to let warm up, I think. The hues of malt flavor grow after a few minutes, lasting for a bit longer which I preferred. They went with NW hops instead of English, because the NW hops were fresher. Since the beer is lower in alcohol, they want to provide the best ingredients they can, ensuring customers get their money’s worth. It has a hint of cherry at the end, which I’m told is a note of sour from the yeast. Dave mentioned using the same yeast as Guinness to provide this, telling me that yeast-influenced flavors were his favorite beer styles.

Amber on the left, IPA on the right

Finally, the Irish pale ale; hint of soap in the nose but that quickly evaporates for something tilting more floral, with a pine finish. They did some nice work here: it’s an IPA with a nice malt bridge but it’s not too heavy, so a few pints can be drunk. This was, the brewers admit, the point.  This beer also uses the Guinness yeast, so there is a sour touch after the hops. Somehow, this works; a slight plot twist that makes things work out.

All the beers finished very cleanly and were really good, I thought. Plus, now that they have expanded, they are looking forward to making seasonal ales, including (naturally) an Irish stout. However, next on their agenda was an imperial brown ale for the Holiday Ale fest, which I am very much looking forward to.

Glass Experiment: Third Shift Amber Lager

I got some of Third Shift‘s amber lager for the Glass Experiment because the last lager was so bad. Also, with 90 degree days coming up this weekend and god knows how much humidity, lager options are good. Finally, this allows me to justify trying something new. For science!

From the snifter, we both picked up more yeastiness than expected, which the girlfriend felt had a low level Belgian funkiness/fruitiness to it.  I noticed it more from the pint but that scent lingered longer from the snifter. But it finished very cleanly and there was just enough amber malt and hop bitterness to give this beer some body and make it drinkable.

We both agreed it was a solid beer and we would have another. She didn’t have a glass preference for taste, but the pint has visual qualities, maintaining a nice head throughout and ease of drink that pushed it forward.

The next set had a really interesting thing come up, visually. The mug seemed to give bigger bubbles, with a rapidly disappearing head. This made the beer seem blander to me. The carbonation was bigger and harsher, so it’s less pleasant. The schooner actually provided finer carbonation with a bit of scent traveling to us as we drank.

In the end, we both thought the schooner was the best glass for this beer, though I wouldn’t refuse a pint glass either. The mug was startlingly unwelcome for this one but the beer itself is worth the time, especially with an overly hot weekend coming up.

Amber Rye

I didn’t quite get what I wanted out of this one, but that’s OK.

Not that long ago at an OBC meeting, I overheard someone say: “If you really want to know if you like rye beer, then you need to just go all in and make a beer with nothing but rye.”

And I thought: I should do that. Of course, I didn’t quite do that because I didn’t want to go crazy. But I did try and build something that was pretty heavy on the rye while following an amber recipe, because I felt that ambers allow for a malt-forward style and if I want to know about rye malt, that’s the kind of style I ought to do.

And this is a pretty solid beer. It has a caramel tint to the head, a nice malt flavor, with a soft grapefruit nose and a dryness to the finish that tilts towards something a little odd, like white wine with a little earthliness to it. Dirt, maybe? But not in a -ptew- way. It’s quite distinct, however, in a way that rye malt would bring to a beer and is the point, of course. One odd thing: the ABV seems off. It just can’t be right but without more sophisticated equipment, I don’t think there’s anything I can say about it, except that I may have mis-recorded my data.

After this, I don’t know that I’m willing to gamble on going all in on rye malt. I might consider more than this, something that really forces the issue but as it stands I can taste the rye and while I like it, I get that it’s not for everyone.

Brew date: 2.24.13

Steeping malts:
1lb Rye
.5 lb 2rod
.25 C120

7lb LME
1lb dry malt

.25 Fuggles + .25 Mosaic @ 60
3/8th oz Fuggles @ 30 + .5oz Mosaic @30
7/8th oz mystery tea mixture @3 min

Yeast: Reuse WLP104 3rd time-done

OG: 1.079

FG: 1.012

ABV: 9.07%

Put int secondary 3.16
Bottle 3.3o

Amber Recipe

This is gonna be what it says it is, about this beer.

Brew Date 4.1.12

 Steeping Grains:
.5 lb 2 row
.5 lb C120
.25 lb rye
.25 lb red wheat malt
7 lb LME
1.5 oz Crystal @ 60
1.5 oz Crystal @ 40
1 oz Pearle @ 20
Reused Pacman yeast from IPA
Boil was a little hot–over 200 in places but not crazy. We’ll see…
Put into 2ndary 4.10
Bottled 4.28
ABV: 5.56%

Amber #1, 2012

At least once a year I like to try and brew a few really drinkable beers. Nothing to crazy on the flavors and something that would be easy to deal with on hot summer afternoons. This plan might have been helped by some actual hot, sunny afternoons but so far, the weather has not been very cooperative in this regard.

Nonetheless, I have taken to making them, starting with an amber ale, which you can see to the left.  Not too shabby.

This ale has a bit of a yeasty nose, which is a little strange. Maybe I’m just too used to hoppy things now? I hope not. The nose isn’t unpleasant-a touch young bread there-so it isn’t offputting in manner. The midrange is a light maltyness and this isn’t a heavy beer at all. Definite sugars present though, almost something mapley.  It’s not cloying but it is a bit sweeter than perhaps the style asks for.

There’s a surprising dryness to the finish, which appears on the roof of my mouth and near the back of my tongue. It’s not offputting but it is a little unusual. On the other hand: that dryness might be just the thing helping keep that sweeter flavor in check. All in all, not bad. If there’s a drawback, it’s that the beer is so average that I’ve been having to bring in other beers so I don’t get bored with this.

I know that sounds like a negative but I’ve always felt ambers were meant to be something that one could potentially ‘overlook’ because they were just steady, easy drinking ales. That I happen to have the option to drink other flavors isn’t a negative: it’s the bonus of being a homebrewer!

Days later: I’m having the final beer to re-evaluate what I’ve wrote and yup, it all holds up nicely. I’d be proud to share this with someone, ’cause it’s pretty tasty. I’ll get the recipe up soon.

Birthday Amber

But not my birthday. The girlfriend asked me to make an amber for her for her birthday, so I did:


I wanted to take a more interesting photo but computer lighting is awkward.

Despite the picture, I pulled this one off pretty well. The finish has just enough of a bite to balance it off but not so sharp I don’t want another drink. It’s got a solid amber color, it’s pretty clear and the citra hops I used are all over this beer, in a good way. The nose and the finish have a strong tangerine element to them. Which is excellent, because that’s what she asked for: an amber with citra hops. I hope this isn’t the best beer I make this year but if it sets the standard by which the other beers I make need to reach, I feel pretty good about that. It’s a good bar to try to get over.

Recipe is as follows:

Brew date: 1.8.12

Steeping grains
.75 lb 2 Row
.25 lb 6 Row
.5 lb Special B
.5 lb C60

7 lb LME
1.5 lb Dry malt extract, light

.75 oz Citra @ 60
.75 oz Citra @ 15

Rogue Pacman from Wyeast




Transferred to 2ndary on 1.5, added 1.5oz Citra to 2ndary as dry hop

ABV: 8.12%
Hm. Not sure this is as alcoholic as results state

Whatever You Say #28

I have come to Migration to meet a friend and play some cards. After the last two weeks of going to dive bars, I’ve felt a little more alienated. Everyone there knew each other, told their stories and had a sense of comradery that I just missed on. Approaching strangers was harder in a way, because the communities were set up and I am not one of them. So I was hoping that visiting with some friends would be a nice way to break that solitude up.

There has been a communication mixup though and I am all alone…and the Blazers game is starting. Playoff game vs. Dallas.

The Old Silenus Amber I have is good and so is my meatball sub. No complaints about the edibles or the service. But the crowd is into the game. I’m lucky; I can’t see the TV from where I’m sitting and as I look out at everyone, staring at the TV like Jebus has come back, slack jawed, glassy eyed, I am glad.

I’m starting to hate these people, utter strangers. They’re cheering and getting happily riotous for men who are running around to throw balls through hoops.Words like ‘foul trouble’ actually mean something. I get it at first but as the pub gets more and more crowded and fuller of fervor and I become more and more unhappy that I am here.

It’s like this all over Portland and Dallas and god knows where else, this crazed energy and attention towards shit that does. not. matter.

I have to get out of here and I can see rain hitting the window as I clear my plate. For reasons I’m making up but don’t  understand, it makes sense that the weather is going to shit when I want to leave, so I figure why not take advantage and get to the gone.

When I open the door to leave, hail is pelting the asphalt.

Perfect. Because why not?

My skin gets soaked, the wind blows raindrops off the brim of my hat onto my cheeks and I realize why I’m getting angrier and angrier.

This is what they cheer for. Not Bradley Manning’s transfer, not against GE’s greed.

The Blazers-a team they have no personal interactions or connections with, nor a game they are actually playing-winning a game. The world as this group knows it is collapsing and they cheer for proxies instead of themselves. Loudly, with a zeal that makes it impossible to think or interact with anything that isn’t a game happening thousands of miles away.

We are more willing to see ourselves in sports heroes than victims and I want to be anywhere but here.

Whatever You Say #27

Continuing my sudden theme of dive bars, I went to Lucky’s tonight because I always wanted to. It’s always seemed foreboding and crusty and what reason could I possibly have to walk in there, right? Fortunately for me, this blog is a great excuse.

I have a choice; ask the man what he’s drinking or the woman with the fuschia drink and a wedge of lime in it. I don’t want to be afraid to ask women what they’re drinking but I know that socially, it’s a little bit more loaded to approach women so I’m a bit more cautious about doing so. Plus; fuschia drink with lime wedge. I’m just not up for it tonight. I ask the man, distracted by three television’s worth of basketball (playing the same game) what he’s having and it’s Widmer’s Drop Top.

drop top at Lucky's


Lucky’s is astrange place. There’s a stylized painting on the wall; everything in straight lines and the men and women portrayed in black and white, underneath the caption reads ‘Seating for the Jammin’ Club’. There are no seats there though, just a coatrack. The wall-o-hol is topped with cages for the glasses and bottles inside but those bottles and glasses are empty. There are two wrought iron wine racks mounted on the wall, one of which is topped by a Oakland Raiders baseball helmet.

Yes, I know.

There’s a black man in a herringbone trenchcoat with a more salt than pepper beard talking to a dreadlocked white guy in a baseball cap, insisting that Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace dominate the paint.

Neither of those men are playing on TV so…

The bartender is a superhip woman in a hoodie (hood up) with a black dress and pink polka-dots on under that, glasses with big white rims and tattoos. It’s pretty clear that she knows everyone in the joint and at one point disappears for an indeterminate length of time to talk to someone outside. Nobody there seems surprised and it’s not the kind of thing that feels rude. I’m not sure how to explain that so I won’t. Nobody wants to talk to me; they are either watching basketball or playing the Rolling Stones pinball machine or somehow trying to make the most awkwardly placed pool table work for a game. Like the Reel M Inn, I think I’d have to come here multiple times to be accepted in some manner.

I suppose I’ve lost something in my continual travels; even those these joints have an adequate selection, there is still a community here that every so often, I feel I’m missing out on.

As I slide off my chair to leave, the bartender asks if I’m leaving already, as though she’s sorry to see a new face leave so soon. I give her a wan smile and say ‘It’s time’ but I think I’ll stop in again.

Salvaging pennies

With five singles in my wallet I come to Angelo’s. Yeah, yeah I was here not long ago but I think everyone understands; sometimes you’re broke.

Plus, I can walk here, saving gas and all of these things add up because I’m off to the PAX (which I affectionately call the Geek Riots) this weekend. I’m just solvent enough to afford such trips while being just insolvent enough to clutch at the quarters that spill from my pocket consciously, concerned about holes in my pocket, slippy fingers, the exuberance of one beer more.

So with a Fat Tire amber ale, I catch the easy lingo on the rail at Angelo’s. The beer is notably biscuit flavored and nearly absent any hop presence. It reminds me that I need to do an Irish Ale quest soon.

The bar is populated this time, everyone knows the bartender and they’ve got the easygoing conversation that they can make out easily over the Social Distortion. Things feel loser in here tonight, which is fine by me. There’s a guy wearing a vest and no shirt and jeans so tight I’m fairly certain he’s stepped out of Saturday Night Fever. The barkeep has just tossed the hair of his friend at the bar and they’re casually throwing away a brief trouble spot from an earlier encounter the way good friends tend to do.

It’s almost as though if you had any issues, walking through the door deflated them.

The best places have a knack for doing that.

The Local: Nick’s Coney Island

I wasn’t going to come to this joint, because it seems like an eatery first, bar second-which amorphous as it is, is my only criteria for a Local but Bill suggested I check it out. So here I am.

Nick’s has been around since 1935 but I didn’t come into the place until late 2009 because every time I walked by the place, it was closed or very, very dark.

So I assumed that it was owned by the Mob. Call it Occam’s Imaginary Razor; the most likely preposterous explanation is the one your brain will come up with and run. What was I supposed to think? It was a bar in a bustling, hip neighborhood that nobody ever seemed to go into or out of. How does a place like that stay open, except as a hideout for shady businessmen?

Admittedly, it’s not the most interesting theory. It could’ve been a bar sent back in time through tachyons, a haunted space from the future, full of newspapers with terrifying, Fark ready headlines like: Redheads extinct, California quake splits state, raises Godzilla, Liz Cheney ‘elected’ President, Aliens have mercy, kill us all.

But no, I simply go with Mafia. Not really a great writer’s imagination at work.

According to the timeline though, Nick opened the place, sold it to Frank, who retired in ’08 and sold it to Ty who spends a year or so renovating the place and…here we are.

Yet, despite all that history and an overwhelming amount of sports related memorabilia on the wall (much of Yankee related) Nicks doesn’t feel like there’s much of a vibe here. The music is early 90’s alternative. The TV is baseball or softball. There’s nothing wrong with this place but I’m not sure what is here to bring me back.

Look at it this way; if you read this blog, you’re reading in part for my perspective. The other good beer blogs around Portland (or anywhere) do the same thing.

And there’s nothing wrong with Nick’s, but what’s right?

nicksWell, let me tell you; they have their own beer. I doubt it’s brewed here but unlike any other place I’ve been to on the Local, they have their own brew, Nick’s TKO, an amber bock that’s malty enough to put up a good backbone against their food and fizzy enough to wash away the flavors and get you ready for the next bite.

That’s pretty cool, as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it would’ve been pretty awesome to have a haunted time-travelling bar from the future but a nice bar with a decent amber is a close second.

Also; the service is good. Bartender was prompt, friendly and from the neighborhood. I like that.

And next time, I think I’ll arrive hungry. The menu seems to have a certain swagger when it comes to their food; I think I’d like to put it to the test.