Tag Archives: block 15

On The Rail: 1856

I am having Block 15’s Ridgeback Red. It has a hearty citrus bite at the end of it but the nose is faint, though steady. What’s weird is the middle. It’s practically flavorless but there’s a density to the mouthfeel; this beer has weight but not a lot of malt flavor. I don’t know what to make of that.

The rail at 1856 is small and feels unwelcoming. This is what happens when you let looks override practicality; the cement bartop is sturdy and fits with the aesthetic (clean, sparse) but has the feel of cement (so there’s a grittiness under my palms as I type) and it’s doesn’t feel very comforting. Bars should feel welcoming.

Now, this is a bottleshop and it tilts towards wine so there may be a quality I’m unappreciative of. I don’t think it’s really meant to be a local bar. I think it’s meant to be a local bottleshop: you walk down here, grab a bottle of decent stuff for your pals, head back home and try the new cool thing.  The bar feels more like a secondary purpose. You can drink here but they don’t really care if you do.

My critique is strictly about the place, though. The bartender was cool and did what he was supposed to do. I don’t fault him for working in an environment that doesn’t care if I stay.

It’s a decent view of the neighborhood, though: looking out I can see the houses that have clearly been getting paint, yards a little more attention. A spot that not too many years ago was a bit grodier is reaching to be a nexus for people to build out from. The clouds plod in like epic starships from the west, turtle-amorphous and white capped, their dark bellies shielding our eyes from the inner workings of the ships. It’s a pretty cool view and it is hard to begrudge that, even if I don’t think the bar is all that welcoming.

More than two-thirds done with my ale, my opinion of it isn’t that changed. I’m starting to pick up a little bit of roastiness underneath it all: that’s the malt quality but the hops are the overriding flavor in this beer. It’s not bad but I’m not excited by it either. It’s OK. They cannot all be winners.  I don’t get a reason to come out to the Northeast part of the city though and for today, that view is its own reward.

7pm Cold Seeps In

It took me a minute or two to decide but eventually I went for the Epic Double Skull doppelbock. Like sucking on a chocolate Popsicle, this beer offers me the essence of coca but not the solid. Also, and this is very, very weird but my first reference is a grape sucker, the cheap kind you’d get from the doctors office after a shot.

There are things I can explain but this is not one of them. I usually like Epic’s work but this beer? I can’t say it’s bad but I am hard pressed to recommend it, too. This dopplebock is not improving with warmth, either. It should be the perfect beer for a cold evening like this but it tastes thin and is coupled with a sweetness that is making me thirst for an ale with more body to it.

I think the holiday tuckered me out. Even for a Monday I feel a bit less animated, less engaging. More likely to say something I shouldn’t or, more exactingly, use words I do not mean to get across an idea that is dying on its feet.

Might be the chill in the air. Winter is finally descending onto Portland with clear skies and northern winds. It’s the kind of thing that sucks life away, down south, until I can fortify myself with scarves, whiskey, women and a steely eye.

I opt for a small Block 15 brown ale and I already feel better: this beer doesn’t taste as thin. Is that expectations or legit flavor making a case for itself?

Times like this, I wish I wasn’t drinking alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like these moments of contemplation but comparing notes when facing strange flavors is what makes this experience interesting.

Fortunately for me, someone comes in, asking for an IPA and weeds through her choices with that bartender to settle on the Pelican fresh hop ale. She’s visiting from Cleveland and loves the style; I tell her she’s in the right place. Wrong time, though: if she really wanted a bounty of IPAs, September would have been the time to arrive, with not only the traditional ipa bounty but the fresh hop ales too.

She tells me that there is a really good beer scene in Cleveland and somehow I’m not terribly surprised. A city like that, in the middle of the country is ripe for influences from all over and has an opportunity to bring the best ideas from everywhere to play. It may be a depressed place but where better to innovate?

It’s fun being an ambassador for Portland.

7pm Kin everywhere

block 15 lagerT’was an early arrival tonight so I could play some cards. Without any food in me, I went for the final Block 15 beer available, GLO Golden Lager. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see the lager still available because people just don’t go for the lighter beers when the sun drops off too quickly and I can’t say if that’s the result of conditioning or lagers actually being not as pleasant in the cold but this lager was not too bad. Hit a few too many corn and skunky notes for me to think of it as great but for something easy to drink with a large bubbly finish, it worked. Would’ve been better as my 2nd drink, because I got some ceviche from the Santeria that was way too spicy for me. Tasty but a bit too high on the burninating: I end up switching to the Green Flash Hop Head Red to douse the pain.

As an aside; I don’t know how many places do this but: tiny pubs that can make a deal with a local restaurant are so cool to me. It feels almost New York in the dealmaking: hey, I got this, and you got that and we’re only across the street…let’s make a deal.

My friend arrives and we play cards. It’s a pretty low key affair: Monday nights aren’t made for rockin’ when you’ve got responsibilities, which we both do. I spend a great deal of time not winning for reasons I’ll talk about elsewhere.

It’s about then I notice that there are a lot of gamers at the pub. People playing ‘regular’ board games and card games are all over and the couple at the next table recognizes the game I’m playing: apparently she used to play and he spent the Thanksgiving with someone who works on making the game, which is pretty wild. I didn’t want to take up too much of his time but he tells me about his friend a little, playing Dominos over the weekend and how his friend’s son was talking game theory.

I’ve had people attempt to mock me while playing Magic in public but mostly I’ve met, albeit casually, some pretty interesting people. I suppose it’s pretty hard to make fun of geeks playing a game when a third of the bar is doing the same thing.

columbia river dubbelI finish off my night with Columbia River‘s dubbel, which is pictured here on the right with Deschutes’ Stoic. It had a pleasantly roasty quality that helped soothe a particularly hard fought but lost match at the end of the night.

Ah well, it happens.