Tag Archives: elysian

A Correction

Awhile ago I wrote a post about 10 Barrel’s sale to ABInBev, basically telling everyone to stop acting like the sky was falling.

And then AB bought Elysian. The ensuing public conversation brought to light a few things that has made me reconsider my stance.

First: the business practices of ABInBev are pretty shitty. This is probably true of most mega corporations and I think that knowing this can and should influence the purchasing decisions of the consumer, beyond ‘does this taste good’.

Second, and this is the big one: this generation of craft brewers doesn’t have an exit strategy. That is to say; the men and women who started up these new, awesome and eventually successful craft breweries haven’t figured out, and I don’t think have a narrative for, how to pass the brewery along to the next group in a way that holds true to the founding philosophies of the brewers.

Let’s face it: The brewery that made Loser with it’s “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” tagline is not going to have the same values as the one owned by the largest beverage conglomerate in the world. And while the day to day operations may be managed by the original owners of Elysian, eventually, they are going to rightfully retire and their successors won’t have the same values.

Which means that inevitably, the product will suffer. The beer just won’t be as good and risks will no longer be taken. It will be corporate, shiny and very, very safe.

And I think this is going to happen in part because the people who own those breweries a) don’t have a way to reasonably grow their business under the current model–something I think ABInBev wants to protect, because they profit under it, and b) don’t know or have a method to impart that business to the next generation of brewers who, rising up in the craft beer world, might hold to similar values and have a local stake in their communities.

What this means is; I was right about 10 Barrel’s sale- the beer likely won’t change at first- but also wrong, because it will, someday, and not because of the vision of people who love craft brewing, but because of corporate marketing strategies. That, to put it bluntly, fucking sucks.

It is the way of the world, I know, but it bums me out.

On The Rail: Billy Ray’s

The seats at Billy Ray’s belong in the most uncomfortable 50’s diner in the world. They’ve probably been here that long, that’s for sure. Round red seats with chrome bands on the side, they both spin and wobble uneasily, barely large enough to support the asses that sit on them. The bar itself is copper topped, with not very pretty but certainly functional welds keeping the sheets together. Large, old, stainless steel fridges are behind the bar. There’s more metal in this dive than in most pubs I go into and I have to say, the look is pleasantly distinct.

On the far end of the bar, a lively discussion about how the city of Portland deals with gentrification is taking place. I can’t quite make it all out but they definitely have some opinions. The older fellow next to me is almost certainly from the neighborhood. He’s asking the bartender about people by name and the conversation is bantered with the kind of familiarity that comes from long time patrons. He’s drinking Miller High Life from the bottle, casually interested in the people around him, more content with the football games on.

A group of people are in exodus. The Wonder Ballroom isn’t far from here and we’re approaching a ‘doors open’ time. I can see getting your drink on here, sauntering over to the Wonder and sipping on only one drink there, buzzed and pumped on music.

I’m drinking Elysian’s Bifrost. It’s sweet, like an orange gumdrop but it finishes like an IPA, a pithy bitterness on the middle of my tongue. I’m not finding it to my liking; the sweetness is a bit much and the bitter is scouring. Something a little more balanced might be better. I usually  like Elysian’s stuff quite a bit so it feels odd to dislike one of their ales.

The punk rock is loud and fast and I am thankful because it’s helping calm my nerves. I’m waiting for a woman but can one ask a stranger on a date? Isn’t this more of a ‘assurance you aren’t a serial killer’ meeting?

If that’s the case, I should relax. I am definitely not a serial killer. Still, I wish that I had been more…I wish I didn’t have to explain myself every time I wanted to kiss someone. But I do and while that doesn’t make me unkissable, or unkissworthy, it does make me anxious. We are at T-10 minutes and my heart rate is not that of a man who is cool with this.

But I have nothing to lose. When I go home tonight, it will be in the exact same condition as I was when I left. I can’t get any more single. Why worry?

The Elysian Experiment

Makes for a pretty awesome photo, doesn’t it?

For those of you who don’t know what this represents, the Elysian brewery put out twelve beers in 2012, a new one each month, as a countdown to the Mayan Apocalypse. They enlisted illustrator Charles Burns to do the labels, and used unique ingredients for each month like beets, chilies, persimmons or blood oranges as adjuncts in the beer. From what I have been told, they didn’t do test batches; they just used their experience, formulated a recipe and rolled it out.

It was a really bold idea coupled with eye-catching illustrations and I instantly wanted to collect them.

The beers themselves were all over the map. The Torrent, a pale beet bock, really highlighted the beet’s earthiness without letting the flavor run over the beer. I’d say about half fell into this camp. Others, such as the Fallout which used cardamom, didn’t let the flavor establish itself in the beer. There was only one which I didn’t like: the Peste, using chocolate and chilies-but I don’t like spicy beer.

None of the beers were flawed, mind you: there were just times when I wish they’d been bolder. If you’re going to run with an Apocalypse theme, then don’t be afraid to make something that might be off putting.

On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that these beers are for commercial sale and need to be at least somewhat appealing, otherwise who’s going to drink them?

The upside of all of this for me is that the brewers at Elysian are more experienced in using different ingredients to produce more interesting kinds of beer. That’s awesome. Plus, if this experiment is successful, it will hopefully lead to some better partnerships with local ales and local designers: Burns lived in Seattle for a long time and his unique style of art was undoubtedly one of the cooler parts of collecting this series. More breweries could use a little visual flair to help their brand stand out, I think. Too many seem to be homogenizing behind a cleaner look and with beer becoming more local, why shouldn’t the look reflect that?

I look forward to the next cool thing.

7pm The Return

Elysian Kama CitraWhew. I have returned from my travels and am glad to be back in Portland, sitting at a table with an Elysian Kama Citra. It almost tastes like a grapefruit candy; I’m not sure why I enjoy this beer (aside from its quality construction as a beer) because I generally do not like the taste of grapefruit. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that, in the end, this isn’t grapefruit but hops giving me this flavor and there’s a certain je ne se quoi about that. Could be a mental thing but I hope not. Grapefruit tastes burny and doesn’t give me a buzz.

It’s nice to be home and it’s nice to be back at Bailey’s. I can tell I’m back in the way I’m able to settle in quickly and end up having a conversation with a stranger about homebrewing. His name is Jan and he’s been doing this for about 30 years, he says. Teaches me about trisaccarides, then goes on to tell me about traveling in England, on a July 4th, back in the day.

“You used to be able to tour breweries and they’d give you free food and drinks,” he says, “so we’d stay in hostels and went through Europe on $2.17 a day.” Then he recounts going to a brewery in Burton-On-Trent and getting a free chit for the brewery’s beer, anywhere in town, for that day.

At that point, the only thing to do was to convince the Japanese tourists who were heading back to London that day to give him and his friend their unused chits. Which they did!

You can imagine the revelry, I’m sure.

“So we’re drunk and lost at two in the morning, when this nine foot shadow comes up behind us. I’m naturally more than a little startled, when I hear, ‘Can I be of any assistance to you gentlemen?’

“Turns out, it was a cop with one of those bobby  hats making him look huge. I take one look at him and say, ‘We’ve lost our tent.’ ”

At this point I’m laughing so hard I can barely stay in my seat. Only in England and certainly not in this century could a story like this happen.

“Cop says, ‘I believe I can assist you with that,’ and he takes us back to our tent. Makes sure we’re safe and settled in and then asks us, ‘Would you like coffee or tea, tomorrow?’

‘Coffee,’ I say because…” and I nod. What else are you going to ask for?

“Well the next day, sure as hell, cop shows up about 9 am, after his shift, two coffees in hand. ‘Happy 4th of July,” he says.”

Man, I love going to the pubs.

OBF wrapup

Once again, general impressions about the fest from my Outboard Brain. Extras in bold.
The festival  itself seemed to be well run and  I thank everyone who served, worked, and gave me a touch of bonuses as a blogger to write about it.

It’s just so cool to be a part of neat stuff. Thanks to everyone who made it possible!

Hollister, Altered State:
Bready nose just a ping of hop bitterness in a clean ale

Deschutes, Chainbreaker
White IPA? Nose is a touch strange as though a hint of I don’t know what, however beer has a nice mouthfeel; smooth with hop bite

Full Sail, bohemian pilsner
Corn nose and finish and it’s not quite refreshing enough

3 Creeks, Fivepine porter
Nice but maybe served a touch cold and settled like a weight in my belly. Flavors seemed a bit muted and I think if I hadn’t been in a hurry to taste as much as I could have, this beer might’ve impressed me more.

New Holland, Golden Cap saison
Very light and crisp as hell. Post porter this is a real treat.

Elysian, Idiot Sauvin ipa
Very tangerine. Reminded me a bit of Widmer’s Drifter, which is a good thing.

Blue Frog, Ginger and Meyer Ann
Ugh the finish tastes like feet.

Goose Island, Pepe Nero
Farmhousey but no it just doesn’t appeal kinda icky at the finish. This beer did improve after being allowed to warm up; both the farmhouse qualities and the finish changed for the better.

Mt Emily, imperial red
Tasty but a touch watery. That said; I enjoyed the beer.

I was tempted to try Rogue’s offering but was told by a friend that it may have been the worst beer he’d ever had. While that is something that piques my curiosity, I’m not sure that ‘I should try it because it’s bad’ is really a philosophy I want to start following.

I also had to start volunteering at the OBC booth and while I was able to sample more brews, the day became more about chatting up than taking notes. However I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention that I had an chance to try Rock Bottom’s Zombie Flanders which I suggested people should avoid and you know, I actually liked it. My evaluation of that beer wasn’t wrong the first time I had it but I have to admit that when I tried it at the OBF, I would have unhesitatingly recommended it to anyone who enjoys sour ales.

Final note: I’m going to be away for a few days, so no post on Friday. Back for Monday.

Men’s Room Red

mens room red bottleI dig this beer. First, I like that logo. I know, there’s cliche all over the place but it’s fun and there’s still plenty of room in the beer world for fun.

Second, I like the concept. Elysian seems to be doing some cool tribute beers (I’m thinking of the Loser here) and this brew, connected to the Men’s Room radio show helps support military families through the Fisher House. So that’s a win.

Finally, I like the beer as a beer. It’s a good red with some nice bitterness at the end but hearty malty goodness to give it a bunch of spine. At 5.6% ABV it’s strong enough to be ‘manly’ (I can’t quite convey irony with that yet so you’ll just have to accept a parenthetical) but not so powerful that you can’t have a few.

And I got it as a gift for Thanksgiving from a friend. So it’s a win all around.