Tag Archives: ninkasi

On The Rail: Bailey’s (Ninkasi Total Crystalition edition)

I attempted to go somewhere new, somewhere I had never been. Because the pleasant thing about new places is that they don’t know me. Nothing of who I was matters. When I need to hide, that kind of invisibility and reinvention is comforting.

However, the place I drove by either wasn’t what I thought it was or was closed so I have returned to Bailey’s. It is a little disheartening but not because it’s Bailey’s. Because I have felt, lately, as though I have nothing to contribute. I want to hide out and familiar places don’t let you do this. When dealing with a stranger, there’s no need to contribute but there’s also the potential that I can surprise myself. Or at least see the old with something new: they don’t know that I’ve told a story before and in a retelling, maybe I’ll see something new in that story.

Mostly, though, as I said, strangers don’t ask anything from me. Being human feels like a chore right now and doing even normal things feel difficult. If it wasn’t for the work, I wouldn’t go out. I would stay in, hide out, play videogames. Sleep more. Slump my shoulders and condense myself, grind out bad essays and poetry by hand with ink that stains my knuckles and wait for whatever bad brain storm I have to pass.

On Thursday, marijuana became legal for recreational adult use and it’s difficult to walk anywhere in the city now without smelling it. The guy next to me with a Snap-On cap and an NRA tshirt is visiting from New Mexico and is wondering where the nearest dispensery is, ‘Just to see it, you know?’I do: there are places across the river that he could walk to, if he wants to. “I ain’t walking. I have a car, man,” he says jovially. I chat with him briefly (he asks if the skate park beneath the Burnside bridge is still there) and in the back of my mind, an old proverb rises up. “You can never step in the same river twice.”

If every moment is new then every visit is new. I only carry the things I insist on carrying or don’t know how to decouple; there is no such thing as a moment where I am not inventing myself again. Even the familiar can be strange with this perspective.

The beer is adequate. There’s a metallic note in the finish that I’m not digging on. The more fresh hop ales I have, the more I think these are beers that are hustled out the door in order to preserve the qualities of fresh hops, while neglecting the question of whether nor not the beer is ready. It’s a strange trend to note in an industry that is known for being patient with it’s wares in order to produce beers that meet the standards we expect.

I suppose hype can overtake us all from time to time.

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: Panic Room: Caution High Volume

Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red greets me at the end of a long weekend and what has been the end of a long weekday. If this keeps up, I’m taking the rest of my life off.

The nose is very fruity, and while there isn’t much malt there, the beer is just sweet enough that when goes into the bitterness, I don’t mind. It’s still too hoppy for an actual red but as a beer, it’s solid.

The full name of this bar is Panic Room: Caution High Volume which is approximately three more words than the name of any bar should have. Or really, anything that doesn’t include the words: “the” or “of”. So there’s that. There’s also the biggest goddamn tv I have seen outside a sports bar. It’s like seeing a monkey with a boner. Even if you can look at the other attractions in the zoo, that TV is somehow omnipresent in your brain.

The couches look comfy though, and the food brought from the kitchen looks good. There’s a discreetly placed screen that shows what’s on the Pandora radio station playing in the bar, so if I hear something good that I don’t recognize I can just read the screen. That’s pretty damn handy, I have to say.

I’ve come here to hide out. It’s a good time to be here for this: almost nobody is inside, and it’s the kind of place where even those inside are going to step outside to smoke.

The length of my days has me feeling a little sore and resolutions have been on my mind even since I found out that the father of a friend of mine died a few days ago. He was a lively, funny dude, an electrician in Michigan when that meant you could sustain a proper family. And when Michigan wasn’t FUBAR’d.

A few weeks ago, the cat of another friend died. The cat had cancer and was clearly miserable. I was honored to drive them to the vet and to witness his passing. The cat died surrounded by someone who loved him. I hope that my friend’s dad could say the same.

I wonder how often we have the luxury of a pet, our resolutions and our deaths coming in the presence of someone who loves us. I hope that happens more often than not. I hope the fingerprints I have left on people allow them to feel settled, where I can. But, we don’t always get what we want. These days, I feel like I understand that better than I used to.

Tall fella comes in, complaining about the heat. Walking two blocks to the store apparently was too much. God knows how he got here. The bartender replies, “Dude, there’s a reason both my jobs, my house and my car have AC.”

My beer is nearly done. I am going to dive home with the windows down, wind blowing, Corrosion of Conformity’s blaring. I may need to hunker down just a little longer.

Where I Want To Go: Basement Pub

I’m in the darkest part of the Basement pub, which is saying something since the whole place feels underground, despite being on the first floor. In the winter, this place becomes a haven for ghosts and unsightly spirits, hoping to bend your ear for a short haunting.

In the late spring though, with the sun still waiting to go behind the West hills, there seem to be no ghosts in supply…so I have taken up residence in the dark part, a cove that has not seen natural light since this place opened.

I was in Texas last weekend and I have a host of beers to tell you about (though not as much as I might, due to an extremely gracious host who shared his scotch). Attempting to be a polite houseguest, I avoided becoming overly intoxicated but I assure the reader that I tried enough flavors to get a sense that some quaffable ales are being produced in and around Dallas.

It was also a respite from my Oregon life.

Nobody wants a respite from home; the entire point of home is that home is where you find shelter from everywhere else.

In the end, though, home is just a name for where you keep your stuff. It is the people who matter and last weekend, there were people in Dallas for me to meet and enjoy. It was a form of home, despite limiting my access to the “comforts” of home.

Morphine’s Cure For Pain is on and I must smile at the coincidence. I have been searching for cures and finding them in the people I get to meet along the way and doing the work that comes with writing and the 9-5 that most of us bloggers have and perhaps questionable choices that happen when I don’t know what else to do.

Ninkasi’s ale gets sharp in its bitterness but not as sharp as maybe it should be. The Basement pub has much to recommend it including this cove that enterprising couples should make out in, just a little (I did, once upon a time) but it serves the beer in chilled glasses.

Normally I’d make a bigger deal out of this, but it’s warm in here. The door is open, there is a fan on the floor flowing away, some wire metal object working overtime to keep this place from becoming stifling. It’s working, barely. And while I may object to getting a beer in a chilled glass, I can only imagine what it would feel like to get a beer in a warm one. Icky.

Sometimes, you have to accept the limitations of your space.

Where I Want To Go: Starday

During the last Local series, I went to the Starday, which had so recently shed the Bob & Alice’s title that the only real change about the place was a vinyl banner above the door announcing the new name. I wasn’t very enamored with the place then but a reader suggested that I give it some time and try it later.

This appealed to me for multiple reasons but foremost because I like second chances. Going back to the Starday has been in my mental space for awhile and it’s time to clear that out. So, on a very cold evening when I didn’t really want to make a choice about where to go, I wandered down to see what had happened.

First, I can tell you that the beer selection is much improved. I’m having a Ninkasi Double Red ale, mostly because I have had a hankering for red ales lately but there were other solid options, especially in the bottle. This is always a good thing.

Second, it would seem that the advice I got held up: there was a band playing. Your basic bar-blues band, one part George Thorogood, one part Roadhouse movie; nothing special but you could dance to it.

And people did. The isolation I felt the last time I was there wasn’t really present, as it was clear there was a community of people enjoying themselves. I could join in if I wanted to or not if I didn’t. Sure, I couldn’t hear anyone talk, because they layout of the Starday is tiny and a band is the kind of experience that overrides most everything else but I have to say that overall, it’s a much improved venue.

One small complaint though: if the beer is listed at $4, it’s probably best to note, somewhere, that it’s $4.50 on nights with the band. I don’t mind getting in for free and paying an extra fifty cents, but I do mind not being told what my prices are. The bartender explained and all was well but she shouldn’t have to do that. It just makes things awkward.

New To Me: Double Up Bar

The Double Up is the joint I passed on 82nd as I was going to the Lion’s Eye and thought, ‘Welp, I suppose that place counts, so I’d better go.’ Do I want to visit this bland shack? Not particularly but in the interest of giving everything a fair shake, I feel like I should. Plus, I wasn’t too thrilled to go to the Lion’s Eye and that place was awesome.

There are five people, including myself, in the Double Up. Two women serving bar, one short-haired, Asian and the other looks a bit like a spark plug, their conversation clearly indicating that one of them is about to end her shift soon, one older man, pencil mustache and flat arrowhead nose with the look of someone waiting for something, and a man at the video poker machines.

That’s it. At 8pm in the evening. How does a place like this exist if nobody ever comes in here? There is a menu posted on the wall, though. Maybe the food makes up for a lot?

I don’t see this as a restaurant, though and I can’t smell anything resembling food. I do see a flat screen with nine! different camera angles being displayed, shots from both inside and outside the bar.

I order a bottle of Ninkasi‘s Total Domination and it is served to me that way, no glass. I should have asked for one, because an IPA like this really needs to let the drinker get a sniff of it. In the bottle, I just get a whoooole lot of hop bitterness at the end and it’s making what is usually a very good beer a bit difficult to drink.

About then, another man comes in bearing Chinese take out, which he gives to the first. The gambling fellow leaves, his fortune given away to the laws of gambling. The two women continue talking, the one about to leave saying how she used to do some kind of “Power-walking, every day. 3, 5, 7 miles and then…”

“But isn’t it good for you?”

“Yes but you do the same thing every day for awhile and you just can’t do it anymore.”

I think about this as I sip on my IPA. I don’t really buy into her statement: I believe that when you stop doing the work then you end up looking like a spark plug, either internally or externally. You now need something else to fire, instead of making the effort to fire on your own.

Time to go home.

7pm: Plutonium or Neurosis

ninkasi sleigh'rNinkasi’s Sleigh’r is on tap and as a metalhead, I’m honor bound to have at least one pint of it per season it is available. Despite collecting my thoughts to the jazz riff coming through Bailey’s system, I can still recount the great metal riffs in my head with ease.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved fast songs. I was predisposed to love thrash metal, as soon as I heard it, because it was faster than anything else.  It took me awhile to come around to the heavy side of things; the difference between loving Into the Lungs of Hell and Ashes You Leave can be just big as loving Carry That Weight and A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh, if you’re not open to it. That those songs are cut from the same cloth doesn’t matter, so long as one is stuck in a mindset that insists on forming a reality instead of accepting what is there.

For awhile I did that, of course; one of the blessings of being a teenager is that everything is louder than everything else, but one of the curses is that everything that is not one of us is hostile. I count myself lucky enough to have been introduced to harmony at a young age and even now I gravitate towards music that has some sense of catchiness to it (though it may be without harmony) rather than the strict technical execution or overwhelming density that some of my peers may gravitate to.

Still, now I’m approaching the age where my presence might be creepy at shows and I wonder if I can find acceptance amongst them. Not that I was good at getting along with the brothers of metal before but there were at least a group I could be a part of. Yet I still love the downtuned riffs with kick drums that sound like they’re being run on by a long distance runner. Not like I used to but that’s alright. Let the next generation take up the mantle, let others carry the torch.

We (and they) have got a unique opportunity to learn from the past, because it is accessible in a way it never was before, in order to forge the future.

The Sleigh’r I’m drinking can’t ever be replicated in the future. Even if it’s the same, it has to be different, due to the effects of time, context of other foood, etc. It may still be good but the precise experience can’t be replicated.

Unlike Damage Inc, which will be the same-and easy to hear for anyone-this beer can only be shared in the moment I have with it. Maybe there’s chance for us to avoid the depth of mire (the mire is unavoidable) our fathers found-and we found after them- because the past is right there; a now as easy to flip to as a comic book page, instead of the ‘man yells at cloud‘ dreariness that follows us at the moment.

Notes from the OBF Brewer’s Guild Dinner

Taken on my outboard brain with photos managed as best I could. Thoughts after the fact in bold.

Ninkasi ronsom old Tom collaboration:
Unsure of style but it’s light and has a pleasantly hoppy-pine nose. Recommended


Hopworks Cronan the Barbarian
Strong ale and it’s really rich and tasty. Caramel goodness. Highly recommended.

Gilgamesh organic jasmine hefeweisen starts bitter faint honey nose and… Not sure what to make of it. Final decision is meeeh. Everyone else seemed to really enjoy this beer, so maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s just really hard to follow Cronan.

Pelican wienna wit
More Belgian like with a hint of sour bite at the end. It was OK.

Upright flora rustica
Got that sour Belgian nose dry finish but something kinda dirty there. Upright continues to not persuade me. Does give me a farmhouse feel but I am just not convinced.

Oakshire Perfect Storm double ipa
Wonderful caramel-grapefruit nose that went for the ipa part. Not balanced; stingy at end. Tasty. This beer is for the hopheads because wow does it bite.

Hop Valley Pollenation honey ale
Smooth and easy to drink. Aftertaste may be affected by ipa b/c there’s a weird bitter moment. Talking to others, that dirty aftertaste was present to them, too so maybe it’s not just me.

Ft George Hellcat Belgian
Nose slightly off-putting with a yeasty note but beer is hard to describe. A hard candy start and a pepper finish that doesn’t hit until it’s too late. This was, amongst the people I talked to, one of the most interesting and tasty beers there, and I agree with that. Try it.

The Local: Bar of the Gods

I walk in to Busta Rhymes‘ Gimme Some More. It’s the kind of place that fearlessly bleeds hip-hop and punk rock.

The BOG used to be a dive but I’m not sure it qualifies anymore. The back room became a kitchen, they expanded eastward and now there are windows letting in natural light. The bathrooms are no longer supremely cramped locations you have to walk a maze to get into. There’s a back patio with heat lamps and shelter from the rain. It has, in a word, upgraded.

bog ceilingThen again, the tables are longer than the seats, awkwardly sticking out into the walkway, the walls are emo black, I’m pretty sure the floor tiles had some kind of color once and there isn’t a non-muted source of light. The windows have large thick velvet curtains to stave the sun away. It hasn’t strayed too much, is my point.

The BOG is a place that likes the dark. If you can see clearly, something is off. It also likes it loud; the music causes everyone to shout even when talking about really boring things. Hard to appreciate that in a bar. I think this place is at it’s best when the sonic level is just a bit lower.

There are a few really interesting things about the BOG though; first, the food is really good. Surprisingly so, really. Chicken strips that are really lightly breaded, meatball subs you can get with bacon, secials like roasted red pepper, white bean and artichoke heart dip served with some veggies and pita bread; just the kind of stuff that I want with my Ninkasi Double Red.

Second; it’s the only bar I’ve been in where someone actively doesn’t like me. There’s a woman I see sitting at the bar sometimes and she seems familiar but I do not recall her. And that’s the weird part; as far as I know I haven’t interacted with this person. I don’t know her name, I only know her because she’s in the ‘hood. When she looks at me though, her eyes hope something bad happens to me soon. So I don’t try to talk to her.

Fortunately, she is not here tonight. I do not know how I may have offended her but maybe it’s for the best. Everyone needs a nemesis, even if it’s a low key one.

Two Great Things

While I don’t talk about it much here, it’s no great secret that I love heavy metal. I come late from the second generation of metalheads, when it’s younger punk brother was starting to size it up and borrow the skills, and the metal kids were taking the attitude and style. Everyone was still in exile from the ‘normal’ world but snarls and solos kind of bridged the gap.

Now, heavy metal and punk are this big sticky mess of sound. Being ‘pure’ doesn’t matter that much to people who love the music, in no small part because we’ve all grown up and can see now that those lines we set up? They were pretty meaningless. With Black Flag railing against the cops and Metallica spitting in the face of TV preachers, insisting that one genre was inferior to the other was something that you do as a kid but didn’t make any sense after 1991. Once the Seattle groups insisted that punk and heavy metal could be friends…well, being dogmatic about your music got a bit silly after that.

And now we’re all grown up. (In a way.) Grownups do things to honor their past though, especially when it comes to honoring something we could love without reservation because we knew nothing of betrayal. So it is that beers like this one, honoring the group Mastodon has come to pass.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this kind of convergence; Ninkasi with their Sleigh’R and Maiden the Shade brews evoke Slayer and Iron Maiden, respectively.

You just know that these dudes were drinking terrible beer early on because that’s what kids at metal shows do; drink the cheapest stuff they can so they can pay to get in the door. Seeing the music is more important than beer…until you grow up and have juuuuust enough income for both. Then suddenly, having a good beer matters and if you’re in a position to make it yourself, why not?