Tag Archives: lager

On The Rail: Hawthorne Hideaway

Hawthorne Hideaway on Halloween. It’s pretty sparse tonight, which as a writer I’m grateful for but as a patron I’m a little surprised to see.

Then again, it rained hard, for a long, long time today. Harder than I’ve seen in Portland in a year. Kids trick or treating carried umbrellas along with everything else, and every place I drove by seemed inhabited by more spirits than people.

The patrons here are split about evenly; half of them are into the basketball game, half of them are in costume and playing Cards Against Humanity. “My weird brother always messes things up,” I overhear them say. I start looking around for my sisters.

There’s really one more TV than there ought to be in here, a big one hanging from the wall in the entry space, but they’re trying to make up for that by displaying a lot of local art on the walls. A mixed bag I suppose but the mellow vibe has me favorably disposed.

I ordered an Epic hop lager and this beer is…not very good. Nose isn’t bad, with a grassy note but nothing too strong, however the finish really lingers in an unpleasant way. For a lager, even a hoppy lager, to have a vegetal finish is out of style and the bitterness doesn’t help. I regret my decision. Epic is usually a much better brewery than this so I’m wondering what happened.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk, later. The rain has both scoured the city clean and altered the landscape. The night is still warm though, and Halloween is always a good night for walking around in the evenings.

On The Rail: The Lutz

The Lutz was probably old school when it was old school. There isn’t a single light on, evoking the dive bar label it wears with more pride than any other bar I can think of in the city. Sure, there’s plenty of ambient light coming in from outside for now but not for long, and it’s dark enough as is that I look handsome.

Stools are set at a height before the days of men and women routinely breaking six feet tall and the bar appears to be formica. Though I could be wrong; it’s certainly dark enough for me to be wrong. The fixtures are equally old. Sometime in the early 80’s they decided to quit updating the decor, so now everything except the chalkboard menu is so clearly from a time before the modern dive era, the bar itself seems to be the wizened old timer, a movie set winking at all these kids who are trying for the motif but just can’t authenticate it.

In that spirit, I almost have an Old German in the can. The only problem with that? Old German tastes like it’s been through a dead person.

I instead go with Burnside’s Couch lager, their answer to Full Sail’s Session lager; cheap, easy to drink, low alcohol.

I almost miss Old German now. This thing tastes like Brussels sprouts topped by creamed corn. I’m going to finish this godforsaken glass of flavor because I paid four-I-shit-you-not fifty for it and goddamn if I am not going to get my full four I-shit-you-not-fifty worth of suffering out of it.

God. The nose is like canned corn. The midrange is hay that sticks in your mouth and the finish goes full vegetable. You never go full vegetable.

This lager encourages me to stop breathing while I drink it, in order to blunt the worst of it’s flavors. That is: all of them. Breathing in is terrible, because the nose is icky veggies. Breathing out it becomes almost mandatory to be a mouthbreather, just so I don’t have to smell my own exhale.

So the trick is breathe out, drink, set glass down, inhale. I should’ve gotten an Old German. At least they serve that in the can with a straw.

On the upside, I am getting to listen to The Sword and The Sword is awesome. I wish people who liked the music I like didn’t have such shitty taste in beer, damnit.

Although I have to admit, the beer choice is my fault. Pelican, Hopworks, Boneyard, Lagunitas: all had offerings on tap and I went full Space Monkey and tried the Burnside lager because I hadn’t had it before.

I feel like I should hang out here more, so long as I never drink a Burnside lager ever again. I think I could really get into the groove of this spot (although that may just be overwhelming doses of The Sword) so long as my beer is drinkable by humans.

Lagers Are The New Black

What goes around, comes around.

After a near relentless focus on ales for the past two decades, in part because lagers were sealed up as far as the market was concerned, craft brewers are (apparently, or at least according to this article) turning their attention to lagers.

This article is solid for a couple reasons; first if you don’t know what the difference between an ale and a lager is, it does a fine job of explaining that. Second, it does a reasonable job explaining why lager styles are being made by craft brewers and why American craft brewers have a chance to make inroads in the beer drinking populace with the style.

As always, I feel this is a good thing. There is no perfect sauce, there are only perfect sauces, as they say. More interesting beers to drink is better than less and summer is almost here.

On The Rail: Baileys (Sixpoint Edition)

It’s so pleasantly calm in Bailey’s right now I am having a flashback to five years ago. When you could count on being able to find a table and the intensity level was always just about right.

From my vantage point on the rail, I can see the chess board where the bartenders are occasionally making moves. I love this more than I can express: that pleasant way that everyone finds to fill in those soft minutes where all the work is done and you’re waiting for the next task. Everyone does it, in every job across the world. They found chess. Somewhere else, people are playing Go or Backgammon or have decks of cards. This is delightful.

Suddenly, everyone on the rail has an thought about chess; how it’s a game of perfect information and there is a known move set. Then like a rainburst, we’re back to our corners, withdrawing back into our own worlds, done.

I have to admit, I kind of need that at the moment. I almost went elsewhere to write but I’ve been missing Baileys and frankly, starting off my new year here is always a good idea. Being non-social is a requirement for my brain right now; I’ve just been too busy. It is time for a beer, alone(ish).

So I got the Sixpoint Crisp-their lager. I picked it up because Sixpoint has been making a push into the Portland market, getting a lot of press lately. Bailey’s usually focuses on beers from the PWN region so the chance to try something from the East Coast isn’t that common and I’m interested to see if Sixpoint is going to live up to the hype.

The finish is rather sharply bitter. The rest tastes like water gone fizzy. I’m wondering if I’m just being finicky or if this really is an inferior product to Hopworks’ pils. As I get further into the pint and a dryness starts to take over my mouth. This beer might work well with something spicy and it may even go well with Asian food, being so light that it won’t really interfere with other flavors.

But as a beer, it’s just kind of there and the dryness of that finish is pushing me away. I’m going to withhold judgment, of course, until I’ve had other beers they’ve made. Lagers are especially difficult and this may not be the best time of year to appreciate them but I can’t say Sixpoint is off to a promising start.

Where I Want To Go: Stammtisch

I want a Grevensteiner. It’s an unfiltered lager and I don’t know anything about that! How does that impact the beer? I need to know.

At the Stammtisch, because it’s hot as hell in Portland and a place that tilts towards serving German lagers seems like a Pretty Good Idea. It’s pleasantly cool in here and very busy, although on a hot day like this? How could it not be. Wouldn’t you rather go down to any bar instead of be at home, in heat like this? On top of all that, I brewed today, which means my home is humid from the wort boil I did, in addition to the heat so let’s get out of dodge!

It’s been a lame 24 hours. Mot awful but definitely not good. Under the circumstances though, what else is there to do but continue to do the work? Go out, get beer, write. If the work is available to me, doing it may be the only way to get out of the headspace I am in.

The nice thing about German is that words pretty much pronounce as they appear on the page. Even if I’m doing it wrong, I’m still kind of doing it right. Unless I’m in Germany, in which case things are very different.

The lager comes in a mug. I like that it has a handle to keep people from touching the cold glass. A hint of breadiness from the thick head, but nothing very intense. As I raise it to my lips, the scent gets a little funky, more yeasty instead of bread.

But it is sweet and tasty. The finish is very clean, with just an elbow nudge of hops, likely Saaz but I’m not enough of an expert to say.

What I do like is the body of this beer. My tongue can roll it around my mouth just a little, instead of swishing through it like I might with a lighter beer. Nothing heavy about it, not at all; better to say that this beer actually has density, where a straight up lager might not.

I’m not sure how comfortable this table is, though. Everything is flat and angular in this place, except for the curved metal designs in the light fixtures and chandeliers. I am not sure how human that is, although perhaps it’s traditional? Plus, I feel like I’m sitting an awkward distance from the table. Maybe it’s an accommodation for the larger bellied amongst us?

Feels strange, that’s for certain. Perhaps I should’ve chosen to sit at the bar, except the stools seem as if they are quite high. Like slouching might be a good way to relax at the bar. Maybe it is.

I should ride the rail again soon. You see things at the front lines of the bar differently than you do at a table. Nature of the beast, perspective is. Let’s get some.

Where I Want To Go: Barlow

I have come to the Barlow at the request of a couple buddies who are celebrating their last day of work. Their jobs have been outsourced and their futures, while bright, are unknown. It is…a good but potent reminder: no one is safe. As a consideration to the evening’s potential length, I have ordered a Sasquatch Session ale because when one attends the ending of something-a wake, for example-it is best to be prepared for the long haul.

And here I am, very late in the evening, composing my thoughts and glad I have chosen wisely.

Endings are often odd things for people, as we rarely choose them willingly. They often occur when there are no other choices, we must do or accept the inevitable, in order to be happy or moral or kind or just. Or just because the Universe has decreed: Fuck You.

In this particular instance, my buddies have had to accept that their jobs are being shipped overseas. They are smart, competent people and their biggest crime, I suppose, is that they want to be paid what they are worth, given their knowledge. Knowledge not only of the services they can provide, but of the pros and cons of American society: that there are those who are hoarding where they should share.

At the same time, an ending greeted with joy, with the preparation says that one is amazing, why that can be a launchpad into the new. And the weird thing about people is that as much as we seem to abhor the new, when we can confront it with all the tools we need? We love it. So much.

However, I’m not in a place to provide smart commentary. What I can tell you? The evening has devolved. What I can tell you is that the Sasquatch has a subtle run of lemon through it, making it a light, thirst quenching beer that I should totally have more of. It’s not extremely distinctive, but it’s a good session ale. I’m expecting almost nothing and I’m getting some actual beer! The Barlow is a cool pub and the Sasquatch is a solid beer. Have at ’em, folks.


As a homebrewer, there are few things more discouraging than opening your beer and not getting the snap of carbonation leaving the bottle.

Here’s the story: I was trying for something that was a lager (light, easy to drink) without having to go through the trials of making a lager (refrigeration, which I don’t have; time, which I don’t care to spend) so when I came across the idea of using a California Common yeast as a substitute for lager yeast, I thought: awesome!

What I read suggested giving the beer a bit longer to drop out so that I really got the clarity of a lager. Unfortunately, I think I let the beer go for too long. The yeast pooped out and didn’t come back to readily carbonate the beer. As a result, the finish is a little too sweet, there’s no crispness on the tongue and while I can’t sense any really off flavors in this beer, I can’t call it a success by any means.

Knowing that I may have let it go too long means that perhaps I can shorten up my process a bit and make a better beer. Next time. Recipe follows:

Brew Date: 3.15.14

Steeping Grains
1 lb Vienna
1 lb C30
1.5 lb 2 Row

7lb Extralight malt

.5 oz Sterling (dry)
.5 oz Millenium (pellets)@ 60
.5 oz Millennium @15
.5 oz Sterling @15

Yeast: White Labs California Common WLP001
Made starter 24hrs prior

OG: 1.064

FG: 1.012

Put into secondary on 4.3
Bottled 4.12

AVB: 7.04%

An Evening At Kells

I don’t get to the NW very often so an invite to tour Kells‘s expanded brewing space and try their beer was one I wasn’t going to turn down. I hadn’t even known they were brewing, you know?

I quickly met Gerard, the owner, who was kind enough to fill me in on the history of the place and the story behind getting a new one. Apparently it was cheaper to put a brewery in the NW site than to try and add it to the Downtown one, because of plumbing costs but since he had always hoped to have a brewery, he wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity. Dave, formerly of Lucky Lab and Garrett, who apprenticed at breweries in Argentina,  were also on hand to talk about the beers they had made, a great deal of pride in their voices and with good reason: they had made some very tasty beers.

We were given samples of the current efforts, and the following is my semi-edited notes on them. (As an aside, they gave us some food to pair with each beer, and the food was well done and tasty but this is a beer blog, so I won’t talk much more about that.)

Irish lager: used a German yeast strain, had a nice bready end with a clean finish. Drinkable as all get out. It would wash away the taste of a fish & chips bite, without getting you any fuller. I overheard Dave talk about the creamy finish of this beer and he’s right-but I like that finish. He wants it more carbonated, and apparently the method that they use to server the lager downtown provides it (I heard something about how CO2 is injected but I didn’t catch the whole conversation.) What I find cool about this is how something that I would have thought was really ironed out by now-how beer is served from the tap-can shift a the flavor.

The amber is a beer you want to let warm up, I think. The hues of malt flavor grow after a few minutes, lasting for a bit longer which I preferred. They went with NW hops instead of English, because the NW hops were fresher. Since the beer is lower in alcohol, they want to provide the best ingredients they can, ensuring customers get their money’s worth. It has a hint of cherry at the end, which I’m told is a note of sour from the yeast. Dave mentioned using the same yeast as Guinness to provide this, telling me that yeast-influenced flavors were his favorite beer styles.

Amber on the left, IPA on the right

Finally, the Irish pale ale; hint of soap in the nose but that quickly evaporates for something tilting more floral, with a pine finish. They did some nice work here: it’s an IPA with a nice malt bridge but it’s not too heavy, so a few pints can be drunk. This was, the brewers admit, the point.  This beer also uses the Guinness yeast, so there is a sour touch after the hops. Somehow, this works; a slight plot twist that makes things work out.

All the beers finished very cleanly and were really good, I thought. Plus, now that they have expanded, they are looking forward to making seasonal ales, including (naturally) an Irish stout. However, next on their agenda was an imperial brown ale for the Holiday Ale fest, which I am very much looking forward to.

History of Lager

Here’s a really cool video on the history of lager beer-which, as much as snobby beer people may turn up their nose, is still the most popular style in the world. Plus, when it’s done right, it’s a pretty solid beer to drink, especially on warm days. When it isn’t…well, bad beer is bad, regardless of the source.

What I like about this history is how it links technology to push a development (as with the development of the lager yeast) and that development to push technology (improved refrigeration to store and transport the new pilsner style.) It’s kind of a mini-history of cool things in general; check it out.