Tag Archives: barleywine

On The Rail: Baileys (Unita’s Barleywine Edition)

I have gotten the Unita’s ’14th Anniversary Barleywine on the recommendation of a new bartender. The beer is a complex one, I can’t deny that but the acridity of the dark malts overwrite everything on the back end. It doesn’t matter that the nose has subtle toffee or that there is something in the midrange-it’s all blown out by the finish which, the more I sip on it, the less I enjoy it. Burnt coffee is bad.

You win some, you lose some, right? I had a surprising number of choices tonight-IPAs, Blondes, Imperial Reds- but I made this choice and there’s no going back. That choice isn’t eternal and I keep this thought in my mind as I drink the ale. Choices are for now, not forever.

I’m torn at this point, because I would like to get a (small) ale to replace this one and my options are among three breweries I have not heard of and one I know will be excellent. How I decide to make this decision is more complicated than one might think.

I believe I’ve shown a willingness to try any beer I haven’t had before. I refer to myself in this sprit of adventure as a Space Monkey: someone has to go first, try the new thing, get shot into space. Might as well be me, right?

Buuuut. I just got burned. Don’t I deserve something safer? Something I know is good? “Good money after bad” is a sentiment that comes to mind, along with a whole host of voices and advice about what is ‘best’ and the fact that I know there’s an exceptional beer up there (Green Mammoth) that I don’t get to have very often. I’ll be passing up an opportunity to have something I know I’ll enjoy, all to have an experience like this barleywine? Why the hell should I do that?

Because someone had to try Green Mammoth, once upon a time. Someone had to try to make fire. Someone had to fly the kite in the lightening storm. Do I get timid because the first attempt didn’t work out? Why should I do that? I’m not going to die if the next beer isn’t good…

These decisions feel whimsical. Sometimes I go for the known quantity. Usually under the justification of ‘I deserve this’. Sometimes I keep pulling the lever on the bandit, trying to hit the slots that give me something nobody else has had a chance at and I can’t say what drives me on those nights. Ego? Thrill of adventure? Apathy?

Tonight, I go for the new thing: a Snipes Mountain IPA. It’s called Father Wingbat and if you haven’t been a long time reader of the blog, then it’s my pleasure to tell you: I go for beers with weird names, especially when they want to evoke fictional monsters. And Father Wingbat sounds like the leader of a Batman cult, so I’m in.

The beer? Eh, it’s OK. You win some, you lose some.

On The Rail: Baileys (North Coast Edition)

It was a weekend of two stories, one that I didn’t see coming and was amazing, and one I had started to write before it was over and saddened me.

So let’s talk about the Superbowl for a moment. Because I’ve been watching the Seahawks for years and the team is different now. They won’t quit, won’t accept a loss. Will make anything happen to try and win.

So naturally, when the Hawks, down four, had the ball on the Patriots 3 yard line with under 20 seconds to go, I was nervous but not concerned.

I had written this story out. I knew Seattle had the game.

Except they didn’t. It’s a little weird, because I still feel it today, that sense of being wrong. How could I have fucked that story up?

Also, I’m going to be reminded of this on Tuesday because I owe someone a drink, now. Still, I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for that drink and I like to think that I’m good natured enough that I can laugh this loss off, come tomorrow.

Saturday…Saturday was different. I had just left the Stormbreaker anniversary party (which had tasty beers!) with some friends whom I was going to give a ride home to. As we walked by a battered looking building with an open door, loud music could be heard coming down the stairwell.

“What’s going on up there?” someone asked as she wandered up the stairs.

Which is how I ended up crashing Grand Master Bro John Bryant’s 59th birthday party. I’m not making that name up; that’s what was on the flyers around the room.

As one of six white people at the event, it was impossible to blend in so I talked to strangers where I could, danced when the mood struck me and otherwise enjoyed an evening I never could have anticipated. I even got to spend some time with Grand Master himself, in his black suit with red pinstripes, red tie, red shoes and an impeccable black hat. I met him outside and joined him as he drove us around the neighborhood to the quick mart to break some $20s for change, so the bar at his party could keep going. He told me about how his family moved to a house “just a block down” when he was three, his family growing up on Mississippi Street. Watching it change from a place where “…you could just sleep out on the porch. You do that now, you’re gonna get yelled at.”

The owner of the mart smiled when Grand Master came in; “I’ve moved out of this neighborhood, but I always come back. We (Grand Master and his siblings) just sold the house where Mom lived, after she passed last year.”

Before the evening was over, I met Henry, Grand Master’s older brother, and Rita and Anita, his twin younger sisters. Along with a host of nephews and nieces. By the time it was over, I got the impression that it would be OK if we showed up next year.

So that’s quite a weekend, wouldn’t you agree?

I decompress at Bailey’s. Bartender recommends North Coast’s ’11 Brother Theolonious belgian strong dark and I don’t think there’s any reason to argue. There’s a sweet, dark fruit note in the nose, like chocolate covered dates and it’s a hell of a beer. Smooth, dense in flavors with a light finish so it can totally sneak up on you. The alcohol warmth shows up in my belly which signals; be careful with this one but there’s no question in my mind that this beer is delicious.

I exhale. The weekend is over, the week is beginning and there are new stories to come from new days. The full moon is up and out and low in the sky: I might wish it was raining and wintery and January-like but I cannot deny the beauty up above. I exhale again, calm like the moon. I sip my beer and inhale; letting the babble of the pub fill my ears to blot out the diversions of today, the weight of the weekend.

The fellow next to me is visiting from Atlanta. We talk beer. One thing leads to another and now I’m introducing myself to Josh. The adventure never ends.

7pm Jimmy

I am sipping on Boulder’s Killer Penguin barley wine. Which is such a great name, I don’t even know what to tell you. If you don’t like it, I’m not sure how we are friendly. I’m uncertain if I’m fond of this ale, though; the warm, caramel notes I would expect don’t pop up, so I sit and wait for the beer to warm up a little. Barley wines often shift a bit with some warmth; I might as well give this a little space to breathe and see what happens.

It’s a little quieter than usual this evening, just one reason it is a pleasure to run into Geoff (the owner) tonight. We get a chance to talk, which, given the mild rarity of this event, I always appreciate. The window into the business of slinging suds holds almost as much interest as brewing for me, because both are inexorably tied with people and people still fascinate me.

The barley wine is starting to shift now, tasting like a caramel dipped tangerine. If that doesn’t convince you to give this a shot, I don’t think I can persuade you any other way. Is the Killer Penguin great? Noooo, but it’s worth your time to have some and see what you think, I say.

I ask Geoff about his new(ish( decor and he tells me what he was hoping for there. I like it: informational, classy, something to read, what more could I ask for?

It’s at this point he notices one of the staff playing with a top, bought from the dollar store.

“That reminds me,” he says, “I always meant to get a twenty sided die for this place.”

I can’t help myself: “Do you need some? I can pick them up at PAX or hell, even now: I have a bunch.” I’m here, dude, Party on. Let’s go. 20 sided? 6 sided? Tokens? I got it all…

“No,” he says, “I need one now so people can roll for beer.”

I dip into my bag; “This one (white with black print) or this one (red with white print)?” I pick those dice because they will be easy to read under the bar lights and because I have no fear of replacing them if I have to.

He holds them up, unsure. He turns to one of the barkeepers, Scott, who I know is a geek, “Which one?” It’s a setup and I know it, even if nobody else does. Scott is going to choose the red with white because that the style of die that came with the D&D game in The 80s .

Which he does. I suggest that they give the die a name, like Jimmy or Darla, so that when someone asks, ‘What should I have?’ the barkeep can tell them, “Well, Jimmy says, (quietly rolling die) this beer!” Another bartender picks up on Jimmy almost immediately, so I suppose that’s what will stick.

Who is Jimmy? The oracle at Delphi. Sort of. But ,with beer.

And that is my contribution to this pub. Which is nice, because my writing is online and thus, ephemeral. Nobody can hold an essay I wrote about being here and read it while drinking here. But they can roll a die and let a random chance decide their fate…a random chance I held in my hand. Pretty sweet.

7pm Indecision

I am briefly stymied by an overabundance of choices. It doesn’t happen too often but occasionally I just have no idea what to try because enough new beers have come up and so many look good that I don’t know where to start. Being on a budget certainly helps, because I can’t suddenly cry, ‘Drink all the beers!

Although that’s probably for the best.

lucky lab barleywineIt’s with a certain relish, though, that I see Lucky Lab‘s ’07 Old Yeller barleywine on tap. I feel like I never get to try enough Lucky Lab yet they’re in my neighborhood (ish) so I ought to be better versed in their ales.

I am rewarded with a mostly fine ale, smooth and chocolatey but there’s a harshness on the finish; a certain woodiness that stands out against the ‘Awww yeah‘ funkiness of the start. It’s still good, mind you and I won’t be struggling to finish it by any means. There’s just something keeping it from being great.

It feels a little more lively tonight. No idea why, since it seems like there are less people in the pub, overall.

As the Old Yeller gets warmer, the woodiness recedes and a slight whiskey/alcohol bite comes in at the end. I have to say, I like that better.

I’m enjoying my solitude tonight, to the point where I’m almost considering another brew. I’m feeling a bit like hiding out and I currently have the luxury of doing so in the corner, plenty of space to write and nobody to disturb. Doesn’t suck. On the other hand, I only have thirty minutes left on my laptop’s battery: this is not a lot of time left to finish this beer and enjoy another.

Plus, the woodiness of this beer has come back. Damnit, why won’t this barleywine just make up its mind?

Then again, I’m still pondering another ale, so who am I to criticize indecision?

7pm The Old and The New

I was writing a post where I started to talk about ritual.

Then some silly computer thing happened and I lost it all.  Unfortunate, since I cannot reproduce the work and I had half a mind to just chuck it all, let people know I had computer problems and call it a night. They would understand: computer frustration is a reasonable excuse to quit, right?

Then my table companion, in his pursuit of food, mentions that he is definitely getting something special, because it is not often that he is released from his Monday night ritual. Now maybe that’s a sign, maybe not but let’s give this another crack anyway.

As the old year passed and we celebrated, I saw a friend receive a marriage proposal. Two rituals rolled into one night. Here I am, writing a post again while having a brew, back to a ritual again.

I don’t believe in doing anything just because you do it. I want to know why, I’ve always wanted to know why; a source of occasional frustration for my parents and friends. Nevertheless, I do understand that ritual matters and how important it can be if you know why you’re doing it.

So, we say goodbye, we say hello and recognize the accomplishments and trials and everything we can remember. Reasons may differ but if we’re doing it right, I think that we’re engaging in those rituals to honor our past while looking forward to our future. “That happened. I accept it. Now I welcome the next thing.”

Which is why I’ll start sacrificing children to Ra tomorrow.

In truth, so much these days pushes us ever forward and although our pasts become more and more accessible every day, there is a Very Loud voice insisting on the right now, on the next thing. Rituals ask us to stop and actually exist in the now and acknowledge our pasts. We don’t have to live there, nor demand that the now or future mirror the past but I think that it’s important to pause and take a look at the past if for no other reason than because those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

I recognize that I’ve spent the past few weeks breaking some of the rituals I’ve had while writing and it’s been throwing me off my game. In this case, my ritual is part of my toolset and if I don’t use my tools, how can I ever get better?

alaskan barleywineTonight I’ve had an Alaskan barleywine, recommended to me by Neil. I rhave met him before, during the “Whatever You Say” theme and he consistently recommends solid beers to me. He said, “It’s caramel and roasty, without being cloying, and a nice hop bite at the end.”

All I can add to that is to say that the hop bite is a grapefruit flavor, which lingers pretty strongly and helps keep this beer along a tight line, with those sweeter flavors corralled back into a palatable range. But know when to leave it, I say, so I won’t add any more to Neil’s description.

What I am going to say is: Thank you, to everyone reading, wherever you are. (The stats tell me people in Africa have viewed this blog. I can’t even imagine!) May 2012 fix things that are broken, improve the things that are awesome, and allow the rest of the shit to slide off your back.


The lass and I head to Bailey’s tonight in an attempt to escape the restlessness that being in limbo for too long inevitably brings.

I’m old enough to know that some progressions in life happen rapidly, bam-bam-bam! This is not one of those times. I’m tired and I’m nearing the end of my patience tether. So much that will come that is reliant on the goodwill of strangers, so little that can be done by the sweat of your brow.

A rapid progression through the list and I quickly discard my alternatives for Walking Man‘s Ol’ Stumblefoot, ’09 Barleywine.

walking man barleywine

I hate to say it, but it seems to be a victim to the common casualty of PWN brews: overhopping. The nose is exceptional, with a ton of toffee notes and a little bit of orange in there, like a really warm dessert coming up. Between the name and the nose, I want to love this beer.

The body of the beer is thin, though, the alcoholic warmth giving me the most lasting impression but before that, a finish that is far too citriusy and bitter for what the nose of the beer offered. Even as the Ol’ Stumblefoot warms up, the improvements are slim, the malts making a little more of a stand but it’s an Alamo thing, where none of them make it to the finish.

I’m tired. This beer is not where I’m at. I wanted something luscious and dark and with a finger in the mouth of Evil. Something with enough weight to scare a toddler. Something that beats the hell out of a downtuned chord for five minutes with no remorse. Let’s go home and growl at our shit until it’s time to move.

52 Weeks 52: Terminal Gravity Foursome

Now that I’ve sold out to get the kinky sex crowd, (’cause you just know that a whole new group of people will stumble on this blog because of the word ‘foursome’ and I can’t turn down readers) let’s get this party going.

“First of all I’d like to thank my connect,”-Jay-Z.

A heartfelt thank you to Geoff and the other staff at Bailey’s who’ve served me drinks. I’d mention them by name but I don’t wish to presume a familiarity upon them and I certainly don’t want to forget someone, which is always a danger at times like this. I took their time and certainly my share of space but they were all unfailingly helpful and pleasant. 

I’m drinking a flight of Terminal Gravity beers; two old ales, Festivals from 2008 and 2009, then two barleywines, Bucolic Plague from ’02 and ’06. As one might expect, the ’09 old ale is smoother and fuller, more roasted and mature in flavor. I haven’t gotten to the barleywines yet. 

I’m in the back chamber again-it’s been redesigned since I sat here last. The table is this big chunk of wood-maybe even a former railroad tie- that’s been cleaned up and smoothed out. It’s shiny and dense and it feels like the kind of thing to put your beer on. It’s almost a place to stand at. You can lean on the wood, rest your drink in front, and enjoy…if you’re about six inches shorter than I am. Maybe four.

This area isn’t quite done yet, I’m told, but it’s going to be a hell of a space when it’s done I promise you that. The space is just wide enough for beers, so it encourages your hands being free; a bonus for someone like me who tends to gesticulate when he speaks. 

Sparky; this moment is for you. 

And now it’s done. (Sparky  had asked, months ago, to be mentioned in the final post and I said I would oblige him.)

Oh man. That 2002 Bucolic Plague is so good. Like alcoholic caramel, warm from a street vendor, with a buttery nose and a fierce heat to it, fighting the winter off with a battleaxe. I think this beer may be solely responsible for the unseasonable warmth of today. 

I have to confess, I’m looking forward to becoming a customer again. A regular customer, that is; someone who can sit at the bar and visit or just people watch without having to both internalize the situation and externalize it for readers. Don’t get me wrong; next week there will be another post, a new (if similar) theme and I look forward to doing that but our favorite spots are favored for a reason; they are shelters where we don’t have to present our external selves all the time. We can smile in crooked ways and people understand that our laughter is still straight. 

That isn’t to say I won’t ever blog from or about Bailey’s again; I undoubtedly will. But I’m part of the scenery here now and that changes things. I’m going to take some time to figure out what that means. I’m going to take some time to just enjoy the space I’m in.

I suppose if I’ve had a theme this year, time has been a key part of it. Or at least the idea that I ought to inhabit the space I’m in as much as I can, enjoy it, or at least be in the now, this has been a recurring idea. 

There’s been a shift change; I can tell because in the middle of Duran Duran’s Rio (which I like quite a bit) the music has cut out and shifted to a song I don’t immediately recognize. I almost think I should’ve asked if I could play my iPod tonight. It would be all Pelican, all the time. If my choices are Duran Duran, some kind of hip-hop and heavy fucking metal, then…
/short laughter

The 2006 Bucolic Plague is a bit different, a touch more sour than it’s older sister. Not quite as much body; an interesting brew but I think I would’ve preferred to finish with the ’02. Ah well; that’s life.

I’ll see everyone next week, bad photos and all.

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.