Tag Archives: great divide

7pm Mostly, More Is More

I’m sipping on Great Divide’s Hoss, a Marzen made with rye, as I contemplate the thoughts of homicide that I gleefully entertained driving downtown tonight. The comedian Louis Anderson once had a bit where he wished he could kill anyone. But not permanently, just for five minutes. They wake up, dazed, alive, able to go about their day, knowing they’d done something that maybe should’ve gotten them killed.

I like this idea, despite being concerned that I would lose massive chunks of my day, due to the irritation of strangers.

The beer is good at least. Rye gives this beer a bit of a bite, a bit more to taste than the standard Marzen might. The malts haven’t been suppressed by any means, the sweetness merely blunted by a nice shift at the end and some just-shy-of-stinging sensation in the carbonation.

I continue to ponder the Stupid. I believe it’s Hanlon’s Razor that says; never attribute to malice which can be credited to stupidity. Ol’ Robert J. might’ve been a dick and not that hot of a writer but I like his axiom. That and coming up with the word ‘grok’, which I also dig.

That said, I attribute most car-rage issues less to stupidity and more to the arrogance that people have, assuming that they, and by extension their destination, are more important than anyone else’s.

Unless you’ve got flashing lights on your car or you are in circumstances of equal direness, you are not important. You are just like everybody else and should get over it.

I’m regretting that I purchased a small Hoss. This beer has been a little too easy to drink and now I want another; if there’s a critique here, it’s that it’s a little too easy to enjoy. How’s that for a backhanded slam? “Bring me more of this awesome ale:I have drank it too fast and purchased too little!”

I could use more problems like that.

Edit: I was getting Robert J Hanlon confused with Robert Heinlein. I don’t know if Mr. Hanlon was a bad writer and a dick. My apologies.

7pm Density

After much deliberation and a bit of discussion with a fine gent who’s working on publishing a beer magazine in July, I finally settle on Great Divide‘s Rumble, because the description-an IPA aged in oak barrels-interests me.

This beer is quite woody. The oak is present to the point where not only is there a kind of astringent dryness at the end, but a slightly dirty barky flavor too. The mouthfeel is a bit thicker than an regular IPA and, though I’m not sure if the picture shows it, this beer is quite a bit cloudier than I would expect and IPA to be, at least from a professional.

It’s solid but I am not sure I would want more than the smaller glass I got. Even as this IPA has warmed up, the malt notes that might have balanced out the pine of the hops or smoothed out the oak qualities just refuse to come out to play.

This quality has led to a brief discussion about the ‘feel’ of a beer and how that comes about and affects taste. As far as I know (warning: Incomplete Knowledge coming) this is a function of yeast and malt, and how much of the malt sugars are eaten by the yeasts.

At this point something interesting happens: we are gleefully roped into a conversation about overpopulation and how to control it, which leads to a discussion about the nature and value of work-with the guy whom I’d spoken to about beer earlier, and his guest.

That is some heady stuff. It’s also why we come to the pubs, I think. There’s a kind of conversation that only happens when you’re outside of the norms of the house. I dig that, because it’s a chance to learn something and that’s always a good opportunity.

7pm The Last Roar of Winter

Fuz has come to visit. For me, this is a default Good Thing. Sadly, the Great Divide Hibernation from ’10 (a winter warmer) is not quite treating me. There’s a hint of a dirty flavor at the end; subtle enough to be curious about it, present enough that I know I’m not dreaming the flavor. Still, it washes down the burrito from next door pretty well and the nose is a pretty lush, chocolaty thing so it’s hard to complain.

Winter WarmerI think I was drawn to the Cascade because of the rain and the wind today; wind is to cold like humidity is to heat and the gusts certainly feel like hostility from the breath of Mother Nature herself, coupled with rain blowing into my face.

But: Fuz is here. And the thing about old friends being around simply this: none of that other shit matters. I see it nearby as some fellows meet up at a table, hugging each other as each one arrives, bright eyed greetings from their mouths. They don’t care about all the dreary shit that may be going on, they are just happy to be in each others’ company.

I miss my friends. Not all of them are in Portland and my oldest ones are certainly farther away. It doesn’t take a birthday for me to acknowledge this. I have a good beer: man, I wish they were around to share it with. I read a good comic, or book, or essay; I want to share it with them and talk about it. I want to play games with them: not just because I love games (though I do) but because it is a way to keep connecting to people I love.

That said; I’m lucky and have met cool people in the city who are also friends and care for me. I don’t wish to disrespect the new or the old, because I’m part of both of those worlds and am grateful to exist there.

When I consider this, the fortune or rough seas I have navigated, the skies roaring at me, the beer not quite being so perfect; that just doesn’t matter as long as I have friends to visit with, everything is going to be alright, man. Even if it isn’t alright, it still seems to work out alright. Let’s have a pint, you and I and tell each other a story. Let’s be Good Times together.

I bought this IV

Man, I hate it when I’ve got everything almost ready and then…stuff happens and I forget to post or get a photo. Sorry about that!

This time I’ve got the Great Divide Claymore, a wee heavy scotch ale and I have to say, it’s making me pull back a bit from what Alesmith made me think Wee Heavies were. There may very well be hops in this beer but I can’t pick any up in the nose or flavor; this beer makes a case for an ale based on caramel malt and little else.

Now, I know there’s more to it; this kind of smoothness and lighter mouthfeel while keeping such a strong malt presence means that they’ve done a lot of work to help keep this beer balanced.

It also means that I have to accept that a less dense version of the Wee Heavy is probably more appropriate to the style. If everyone but one person decides the sky is blue, then who’s wrong?

Maybe that isn’t the best example, as I don’t think Alesmith’s Wee Heavy is a bad or flawed beer, nor that Great Divide’s is superior; they both have their merits. But they also both rest comfortably within the style in terms of the flavor profile so my challenge is to accept that beer for what it is, when I drink it. That’s always a good lesson.

The Local; Horse Brass

pint and computer at horse brassLet’s just get it out of the way: It’s my birthday today. I don’t expose this fact for acclaim, I do so to explain why I’m at the Horse Brass tonight with a Hercules Double IPA from Great Divide. It’s sometimes difficult to choose a pub to go to and I have a desire to save the really good pubs, the ones I know, for days when I’ll be in need.

But if not my birthday, then when?

To most Portlanders, especially those who like beer, there is no need to explain the Horse Brass. But for those who do not live here I shall explain. A Mecca of fine suds, the Horse Brass is about as close to a British pub as one could find in Portland, maybe even this side of the Rockies. Perhaps even the Mississippi. Until the smoking ban, everyone smoked and the yellow walls carry the memory of those times. British paraphenalia holds the walls up more than plaster and there’s a punk painting of Oscar Wilde in the kitchen. It’s dim, scroogly windowed and eschews televisions for darts.

One of, if not the first, bar in Portland to focus on bringing in beers from abroad in the 1970’s when good beer was a rarity in America, the Horse Brass became a locus of hop heads, anglophiles, lovers of the weird and Portlanders. The legend says that the founders of Rogue and Widmer planned their brewery from these beaten tables, and the owner, Don Younger is well known for his influence over the Portland beer scene. You’ll see him occasionally, sitting at the southwest corner of the bar as though he was keeping secret meetings. Never at at table though and who can blame him; the chairs come from a primitive time, when duration mattered and comfort was for sissies.

It’s a pub, damnit. And this is the coolest thing that ever happened to me here:

About four years ago I had come to the Horse Brass on a Friday night, writing away at a table that insisted on two chairs and barely accommodated one person. I was grinding away as writers sometimes do, but I was getting short on my second pint and I have a rule: after the second pint no serious writing can be done. Emo poetry, dirty limericks, odes to women to come and lost, theories about the dinosaur-republican conspiracy, the link between pot and liberals, all these things are fair game on pint three.

But there was no pint three; I was in a mood. Even in my mood though, I began to notice a general rise in the boisterousness of the Horse Brass. Not ‘my sports team is winning’; that kind of joy is too short lived. But an honest to god shift in the bar. What was once a lively Friday night became a cheerful ambiance where giving a stranger a hug would seem ok. It radiated from about four feet away from the table I’m currently sitting at, right under the portrait of Churchill.

I looked at the table. Three men, one woman. They were unpacking small clear pouches of tobacco; “Cherry ’03”, “2000 Blend” was the writing on some of them. Pipes were brought out, serious pipes, and the delicious scents of tobacco began to fill the air; vanilla, cherry, fine tobacco.

The ban on smoking is due to cigarettes. People wouldn’t object in nearly the same numbers if people smoked this kind of tobacco from pipes. Trust me. (Note; Cigars still suck balls)

The waitress came by, asked me if I wanted another beer. I waved her off. She repeated her request but this time I listened: “The table there is buying the bar a round. Are you sure you don’t want a beer?”

Little legos stacked together in my mind. Everything made sense! And yes, of course I wanted another beer.

And then other legos stacked. Friday night at the Horse Brass…and they bought the BAR a round? Holy shit!

Eventually, I worked up the courage to speak to the table. I thanked them for the beer; they asked me what I was doing and we talked about writing a bit. They were extremely congenial and turned the conversation very neatly away from themselves. Other people were thanking them, albeit briefly; I attempted to engage in a conversation…though not very well. I’m a susceptible to someone taking an interest in what I do as anyone.

The conversation ended, minutes passed and I realized I had stupidly not asked the obvious question. With an embarrassed tone I leaned over and spoke to the table again.

“Why did you do this?”

And there it was. A frozen moment. I don’t know if nobody had asked them or if they just were not sure how to answer. It was a second, tops, but a second in which I understood that they were making a private joy public by doing something awesome. That someone would ask why wasn’t something that had occurred to them.

“We just has a a really good day,” one of them said. Perhaps it is memory, maybe I actually picked up on something but I’m not entirely sure that they had a really good day. However I had just enough social graces to know that I’m being asked to drop the subject so I let it go. They wanted to do something awesome; who was I to ask for their bona fides?

So I congratulated then and said thank you once more, packed my journal into my bag, tipped my had and said goodbye.

It was, hands down, one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me and someday I’d like to do it myself. Because raising the happiness experience at a place like that seems pretty damn amazing to me. Who wouldn’t do that if given the chance?

52 Weeks 50: Great Divide Stout Trio

Stout taster I’m cheating a little bit, tonight.

A few days earlier, I came to Bailey’s and played a few rounds of cards. Through the graciousness of my friends (thank you Jim + thedrowningman) I was able to try the delectable group of Yeti stouts from Great Divide.

Usually when I come to do my 52 Weeks post, novelty is important. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I chose to post from Bailey’s is that I was able to try new beers and discuss them, however peripherally.

Truth be told, I damn near  had Ninkasi’s Transcendent Golden Ale. It was even recommended to me by someone (although I have to confess I do not remember whom: such is the nature of drink, yes?) and I like to try things based on someone’s suggestion. Not that I doubt Ninkasi; they do good stuff.

For those who are interested, I am drinking the Espresso Stout first, followed by the Chocolate, and finally the Cask Conditioned. Most favorite last; I like the oak flavors that are imparted to the stout best and coffee flavors least. Not a surprise if you know me; I’ve never had a taste for coffee, ever.

I’m also sitting in the back corner at a table that is too high for me to write on comfortably. No, I don’t like it, but I felt it was important to come back here and sit, drink, and exist in this space that I usually ignore. Across the street from me are two shops that have closed recently; one a record store, the other a locksmith shop. I have to say; I worry when stores close, especially small ones, that provide local services that aren’t fungible. Making keys is important. Providing vinyl for trance and hip-hop shows as well as being a space that is welcoming to those cultures (via flyers, t-shirts, etc.)  is an important service.

They’re gone now. Something else will take their place I’m sure, I just worry that it will be another restaurant, an establishment that Portland is glutted with, instead of a more diverse business.

I worry because I am out of work.

I know, I know, last week I said I wasn’t going to focus on the negative. But the best laid plans of mice and men, yes?

I had a rough week, last week, and positives are harder to see when blankets of misfortune cover the couch of your life. Sure, you can throw off the blanket but is it so the warmth of the morning can be felt, or is too early and night’s grinning chill can make its way up your toes and into your undies?

Do you really want to risk getting a chill in your undies?

Of course, the chocolate Yeti fights off a chill something fierce, so there’s a reason to drink stouts in the winter, folks. It’s yummy and warming like hour three chocolate cake.

Theory #402: beer makes life’s risks more acceptable. Chill in the undies doesn’t seem so bad if there’s stout.

Let me tell you about the back corner of Bailey’s.

In the computer light I cast a glow in the window; ghostly and muddled. My reflection is doubled somehow, making me look a little like a 3-D drawing, only in washed out colors of streetlight peach and laptop gray. The conversation of the Brits to my right is funneled down to me, unlike the main area where sound gets obfuscated by walls, music and hanging mobiles. I can’t make out what they’re saying-but I’m not trying to either.

It is the spot to make deals in, the spot for dark talk skullduggery style, the spot for sweetness that nuzzles your neck, the spot where you tell your friend that yeah, you’re bonded to her, that you’ve got his back, or you become bawdy and loveably raucous. It is a wonderfully private space in an otherwise open pub. It is a moment where you can be raw and nobody else will mind.

I’m onto the oak-aged stout now, and let me tell you it is fyyyne.
/I’ll probably hate myself tomorrow for doing that, but what the hell. I’m cheating.

Edit/Correction: I’m told the record store is still there (the papered up windows just fooled me) and the key store has gone mobile. So things aren’t as bad as I thought. Lesson of the evening.


There are times when it’s easy to select a beer even when the list is very, very long, as it often is at the Horse Brass. The Horse Brass is the kind of dive that should exist everywhere; no TVs, lots of dartboards, a huge selection of beers, solid if slightly greasy food, and a revolving cast of laughing patrons, about half of them smoking. I don’t even know if it can be called a dive, since everything costs what it’s worth but the lighting is shit, the walls hang posters that haven’t been changed since 1981and are tainted yellow from smoke, and the customer service can be spotty sometimes, and if that isn’t a dive bar sign, I’m not sure what could be.

But when Fuz and I walked in and saw written on their blackboard in luminiscent blue: St Bridget’s Porter-Great Divide Brewery, I knew I had to get it, just to tell someone what it was like. Fuz, being a lover of maltier, darker beers, quickly agreed with my selection and we sat down to order.

The St Bridget’s arrives, and it’s strangely thin. I get that porters aren’t supposed to be stouts and I was certainly expecting more, since Great Divide has as reputation for strong beers. Their Imperial Yeti stout and Hercules double IPA are some of the boldest and tastiest beers I’ve had. Fuz agrees with me; it seems like there ought to be more there, but we’re not sure what.

Maybe I need to go back and try it without expectations.