Tag Archives: IPA

Common Ales: Ft George Vortex

‘There’s just so much stuff, I never have any idea what to take’, my Dad said as we browsed for beer. To which I replied, ‘That’s why I’m doing the reviews!’ so let’s get back to it, starting with Ft George’s Vortex IPA.

Nose smells like pot. The hop additions skew heavy towards that dankness and pine but after so many grapefruit IPAs I have to say that it’s a relief to experience some variety.

There’s a solid malt quality  before the bitterness of the finish but somewhere in between I’m getting…watermelon? Yep. There’s a quality there that I associate with watermelon, a watery vegetal bitterness I’m not that fond of. It seems to give way to a more grainy flavor as I get further into the glass. That is a good thing for certain but it makes me a little wary of my own senses. I’ve slowed down my sips of this beer to try and get a better grip on it.

Restarting with a new beer, the watermelon influence isn’t notable. Was I mistaken or has the cold temp of the new beer blunted the flavor? I don’t seem to get the watermelon in this glass but in the end I have to approach with caution.

On The Rails: Loyal Legion

‘There isn’t any reason I should dislike this place’ is what I kept thinking to myself as I nursed Silver Moon’s Nelson the Spacefish IPA. The beer selection is broad and often rotated. The servers are good and more than happy to pour you a taster if you’re uncertain. Hell, tip is included in the beer prices, which is awesome!

Yeah, I could really, really do without the pretentious categorization of beer-I saw “Chilled” as a category on the menu not long ago-but the occasional snobbery is something one learns to live with when you drink craft beer. I would also prefer it if the place was reasonably well lit. Why is it that so many bars think that turning the lights down to faux-romance levels is a good thing? I want to see what I’m drinking. I want to play cards, damnit.

And then Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere came on. For the second time in an hour. Nobody seemed to notice but me.

That’s when it hit me: This feels like the fucking Yardhouse, except for people without children. It’s not bad or evil or I Hate This. It just is devoid of personality. It’s boring. It is Fleetwood Mac at their most likable, played over and over to people who aren’t paying attention to it anyway.

It is a bland environment for people who want craft beer but don’t want to have to deal with any of the possible weirdos who make craft beer.  I could be in San Francisco or New York or any metropolitan city. Without the relentless focus on Oregon produced beverages, I really could be anywhere at all.

That makes me sad. The scouring of personality is good for business I suppose but I wonder if it’s good for anything else.

On the other hand, I suppose it just means that when I go there, I need to bring an excess of personality. Make your own party, right?

Common Ale: Cascade Lakes Hop Smack

The gracious people at Cascade Lakes told me their Hop Smack IPA was their best seller. So away we go! Except for a photo. Which I swore I got! Twice! But it’s nowhere. I just need to hire someone for pictures I suppose.

First thing I noticed was there was not a lot of head retention, which is unusual for and IPA. The lemony hop scent sticks with it though through the initial impressions, so it’s got that going for it. I’m trying to get my head around the middle and finish. Citrus is definitely there but it’s around the corner from the middle which has some orange-gummy like sweetness.

Midway through the beer and it becomes more orange gummy/caramel sweetness than hops. The finish though, doesn’t really seem that hoppy. It’s bitter, yes but as appropriate for a pale I think.

It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. Not at all. I find this beer to be cromulent and worth a pint. However, I’m not certain that I want another-and that’s one of the qualities that many great beers have.

It’s good but I feel like I can move on.

On The Rail: Old Gilbert Road Pub

I just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron for the second time and what hit me on the second viewing is that AoU is about identity. Do these people know who they are? What starts to define them, when their life is one of conflict? Who is a monster, who can you trust if secrets are being held?

Now it all plays out with bombast and clever quips onscreen but the reason I think of it in this moment is because I’m at the Old Gilbert Road bar, which used to be Catican’s Corner. CC was a bar oft populated by bikers with live music and generally shitty beer. It had a culture and a vibe and you weren’t going to mistake it for someplace else.

The new place doesn’t have music: instead there’s a big TV screen over the stage area and another one above the bar.  The bikes are nowhere to be seen. There’s a terrible cover of Tom Waits’s I Don’t Want To Grow Up by some country singer on the PA. The beer selection is vastly improved, at least.

A man who I believe is the owner is making out with his ladyfriend next to me and man, does anyone need that? But, if you own the joint…

I guess what I’m saying is; the OGR is too new to have a personality that I can identify. Who is this place for? I don’t exactly know.

However, it’s got a tidy crowd on the weekend which means that maybe there will be time for the OGR to develop a scene beyond the sports screens. I’d like that. Sports bars are by default generic. Places that can exist anywhere can’t help it: if they were unique, then they might put someone off who is afraid of the new. That’s one reason sports bars go for such over-the-top advertising, I think: they want to get their patrons to believe they are somewhere unique and different, while being as ‘same-y’ as possible.

I will say, the Old Gilbert Road has a start on some kind of ambiance: there is Bernie Sanders poster next to one TV and there’s a quote from Big Trouble In Little China on the marquee in front. The pool tables have been refreshed with purple velvet instead of the traditional green. The opportunity for this bar to snowball a sustainable crowd and create a personality is there, I think. I hope it gets a chance to show off what that is.

My Ninkasi IPA is a bit sweeter on the finish than I would’ve expected. It has the bitterness stand out maybe a little too sharply. But it’s almost done so I don’t mind. Some nights, it’s good to go home.

On The Rail: B Side

The B Side. Here we are.

“Darlin’,” the bartender asks a regular “want some vodka?” He declines, relating his soon-to-attend bachelor party, which will involve seeing Devil Makes Three and a party bus.

“Oh man. We don’t allow party buses here,” she smiles at him, knowing the kind of trouble they bring.

The beer fridge is covered in stickers, 95% band related, all of them carefully placed so nothing obscures anything else. Next to it, a framed posting for a dance at the Norse Hall in 1946. The black paint on the ceiling looks like a transient’s underwear,  a staggering victim of cigarette smoke, peeled paint, and water stains. A sculpture on the wall that is framed by a collection of bicycle gears, all the same shade of rust.

I’m almost certainly here too early. The sun is still up; everyone who is anyone here is sitting outside. I’m on the rail with three old men..am I an old man now?..and a Workhorse IPA. Another fellow comes up asking for tequila & lime shots. I’m sure he’s in for a hell of an evening.

“The other shot?” she asks, wondering who it’s for.

“Lady in the restroom.”

“She in the Chicago shirt?”


A conversation about living in Chicago launches off. Looks like my bartender might be thinking of picking up stakes with her two kids and living in Illinois. She’s left the collection of glassware and ashtrays from the outside on the bar in front of me so at the moment, I can’t say that I’d discourage that; suddenly everything I put in my mouth is tinged with ashes.

There’s a teddy bear hung by its neck from the ceiling about fifteen feet from me. A painted scimitar on the wall, creepy Cookie Monster paining behind me, signs to sell panties that say, “I like it in the B Side”. $15 bucks to tell someone you like to get fucked in the ass. Usually that’s free but if you want to pay for it, I’m not going to stop you.

Another two men come up “Can I get a Rainier?” He can. “It’s all I ever want,” he says to his bearded, bespectacled friend, “It’s like a Lone Star.”

There’s an endorsement. They quickly head outside, thirst quenching acquired.

I’m only halfway done with my beer and suddenly I want to go home. I’m alone in a bar with a face full of ashes in what must be the ultimate in Portland hipster dive. I can’t tell what’s affected and what’s authentic and it’s getting to me. It’s not a bad place but my IPA tastes thin and my tolerance is even thinner.

It’s a shame. It seems like a friendly place and I can’t stand it.

Common Ales: Terminal Gravity IPA

The fine people at Terminal Gravity told me their IPA was the best selling ale they had. I have to confess, it wasn’t until this moment that I really understood: oh, I’m going to be drinking quite a few IPAs, aren’t I? It’s a good thing I enjoy the style.

There isn’t a very strong nose; citrus hints but the head dissipates pretty quickly, so the hop scents don’t stand out as I drink the beverage. While this strikes me as very unusual for the style, I can’t say that it’s flawed.

The bitterness on the finish seems to match the nose though; citrus notes but nothing overpowering. It’s a pretty easygoing beer to drink.

What’s unique about the Terminal Gravity IPA is that it’s far more malty than other commercial beers in this style that I’ve had. There’s a strong midrange sweetness to the beer, capped by hop flavors that aren’t incredibly intense. I have to say, it’s a nice way to get the beer to stand out from other IPAs and it does encourage the drinkable quality of this beer. The short lived nose is a ding against it but it’s not a big enough ding for me. It’s tasty and worth drinking.

Common Ales: Bridgeport Hop Czar

It took a little searching but I did find a six pack of Hop Czar, which I was told jockeyed for the best selling Bridgeport ale.

This is a beer I can get behind. It isn’t obscenely hoppy but the citrus nose is there, the bitterness is resiny but not scouring and there’s an actual middle malt flavor to the beer that helps balance it out.

I feel like this beer is allowing Bridgeport to make a statement: “See, we can make awesome IPAs too,” and if someone had tried their gateway beer and was looking to give something else a shot, they would totally be rewarded by a beer that tastes distinctly different from their ale but still is good, flavorful and worth their time.

Common Ales: Bridgeport IPA

The fine people at Bridgeport told me their best selling beer year ’round was their IPA (with Hop Czar occasionally jockeying for first as well). I haven’t seen the Hop Czar yet but the IPA is, of course, all over. So let’s get cracking!

Pine in the nose but nothing too strong. The beer itself reads a bit like this too; the hops have a nose slightly reminiscent of what I’d get from a commercial lager, in addition to the pine. Familiar but not.

There isn’t too much malt on the tongue but despite that, the bitterness is fairly restrained. This ale isn’t flavorless by any means but it’s not very adventuresome either. Now, I have to admit that this isn’t a bad thing. If someone didn’t know what else to buy and bought this, I don’t think they’d be sad about it.

I just wonder if they’d be interested after that.

To it’s credit, the IPA holds up nicely over the course of the drink. The nose doesn’t falter, the head remains steady throughout and a little more malt arrives as the beer warms up. Overall, I have to say this is a solid beer, the kind that might just lure someone who IS interested in craft beer into trying something else Bridgeport does but the limitations of needing to appeal to such a broad audience means that I am not feeling the hook.

On The Rail: Ground Breaker

During craft beer week, nearly everyplace worth drinking at is crowded to drink at and Ground Breaker is no exception…except at the rail. The tables are all full so I gleefully take a spot by myself, to take advantage of a chance to be alone in a crowd.

I got the imperial IPA at Ground Breaker because it’s their first imperial IPA and I want to know how it is. Some nights, it isn’t a complicated decision. And the nose is so good. So good! Flowery and a bit of pine, there’s a hint of fresh forest here that has me looking forward to the rest of this beer.

Unfortunately, there’s a medicinal note on the finish. I want to like this beer; it has a solid hop bite and the nose is great. It does what I want an IPA to do with just one notable flaw. It’s a flaw I can’t overlook however. So I rinse my mouth with water and try it again.

Nope. There it is, on the edges of the back corners of my tongue, a taste of medicine, of something that is there to stop my sniffling and sneezing so I can rest flavor instead of hops.

Damnit. I normally would have the Dark ale, which I really like: the chestnut flavor is not only unique but delicious and I have always enjoyed it. I don’t regret taking a chance on a new thing; that’s one of the glories of loving craft beers but it’s a bummer when the beer comes so close to the mark and misses.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

The head on this is amazing: like velvet, it hits the upper lip. It’s also super clear: deep  umber clarity through the glass. This puppy looks good, I tell you.

The beer itself…falls short of the IPA I was going for. I didn’t stick the landing. There’s a solid malt backbone in here but I didn’t get much in the way of a hoppy nose nor a appropriate finish. Grrrr.

I’m bothered by this because I feel like I used an appropriate amount of hops in the brew, along with a secondary hop addition to provide the scent notation that I’d like this beer to have. It’s not as though this beer is ruined! It’s perfectly drinkable. But Coulda Woulda Shoulda isn’t what I was going for and I wish it was more on target.

Brew Date: 1.11.15

Steeping Malts
2.25 lb Irish Pale
2 lb Munich
2lb 2 row
1 lb Carabrown
1 lb C40

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

1 oz Simcoe, 1 oz Warrior @60
1 oz Cluster @20
1 oz Warrior @5

Yeast: 1084 Wyeast, 3rd use

OG: 1.09

FG: 1.024

1 oz Simcoe in secondary on 1.25.15
Bottled 2.8

ABV: 10.16%