Tag Archives: pilsner

On The Rail: Scoreboard

I’ve come to the Scoreboard to meet a buddy and I get a Lagunitas Pils. The beer is…solid but I want to say it should be a little fresher. The nose isn’t very strong, the malts aren’t prominent enough and the finish is just kinda bland. Pilsners are difficult beers to brew though, and often fragile. The Scoreboard is the kind of place where you don’t blame issues with the beer on the brewer.

Which is fine. I’m really here to meet up with Dan anyway.23677318934_0cf94e91d4_z

Dan has been a football guy for as long as I’ve known him: over twenty years now. We’re catching up on the final playoff game of the day, he with a huge sigh of relief because the Seahawks won a nailbiter earlier. It’s quiet here, which seems out of sorts for a sports bar but I have no complaints.

I enjoy football but I’m not as big a fan as my friend is. He’s spent years following the Seahawks through good times and bad and while he’s pretty rational about most everything else, this is a space where he lets things get a little loose.

Sometimes, people get weird about the love of sports. I get it: Often sports, especially team sports, represents everything that was shitty about your childhood. I was terrible at sports for the most part and it was just another level of exclusion, a way to get me to feel worse about a life I already wasn’t that fond of. Not to mention the…well, the really shitty aspect of any sport: terrible human beings. And sporting events often seem to bring out the worst in people: fanatical devotion, win at all costs attitude and alcohol combining to create a pretty toxic mix.

It’s not always like that, of course, but for people who hate sports or find them boring, I see why they might be alienated, might even publicly protest about having to witness someone else’s joy or sorrow about sporting events. I personally find baseball to be devoid of anything resembling entertainment, while really liking videogames, so it’s not as if I am unsympathetic to subjects that are terminally dull to some people, while super exciting to others.

Here’s the thing; this is one of those instances where having nothing to say is better than saying how much you wish you didn’t have to endure someone’s interests. Especially the interests of someone you know.

Because the great thing about having a friend who is really into sports is that if their team does well, they’re happy, and you don’t have to do a thing. You can just be happy with or for them.

Conversely, the great thing about having an enemy who is really into sports is that if their team sucks, they’re sad and you can relish that. Again, you don’t have to do a thing.

People I like get to be happy, people I dislike get to be sad, I get to be lazy. This seems like a win-win to me.

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Where I Want to Go: Ecliptic Brewing

I wanted to like Ecliptic from the start. Just walking up to the big gray building drenched in white-blue halogen light felt good. The interior was a bit dimmer than I would have liked but still bright enough to play cards by and the televisions on the wall weren’t enough to overpower the rest of the place, if you didn’t want to watch the game.

Once I got in, I read a bit about them and found out they were combining astronomy and brewing, naming the beers after celestial objects. As a lover of sci-fi I was really looking forward to what was on tap. As a lover of brewing, I was excited to see what the former brewer for Deschutes was going to offer. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like I’d hoped.

I lead off with the Spica hefepils which smelled skunky, as if light struck. I don’t know how a beer served at night from a keg tastes light struck but I was dismayed at this discovery. As I continued to drink the beer, corn became a more notable presence but that didn’t help at all. It tasted cheap, with a finish that starts with a hit of sour, rapidly moves to a cheap, nasty bitterness with a final dirty override I’ve come to associate with organic organic beers.

I hate this beer. I cannot even believe I am writing this but it is true. The Spica tastes like an expensive PBR and I am loathe to finish it.

However, one beer is not the be all end all, right? And a pils is a very difficult style to master, especially on a new brewing system. Ecliptic hasn’t been around that long, so perhaps they’ll get that ironed out while being supported by the other beers. I had an Arcturus IPA and it’s much better, with a lime nose and finish, nothing overpowering but definitely pleasant. It wasn’t great but it was at least good.

In addition, I was with some friends and they all ordered food. It smelled delicious and they let me mooch some fries off their plates, which were fantastic. If you can do good french fries you’re well over halfway to getting everything else right, as far as I’m concerned. Good french fries are hard to get, man.

Between this place and the Tannery, I may have to start a new series with a redemption theme. Not a bad excuse to go visit a brewery that has as much potential as Ecliptic does.

Finally, this is the last post until next Monday, and that will be the last post until the Monday after. Happy holidays, everyone!

7pm The Kids Are Alright

“They’re the next generation,” he said to me with an eye rolling cocktail of despair and disgust.

To be fair, the two young men were annoying. Boys, if I had to guess. Talking almost-too-loudly on the bus about such fictions of sex, rebellion and growing a beard this winter. Popping a bubble in the plastic tint of the window, talking of plans to see Dredd and sounding just a bit like Mugsy and Bugsy in their relationship as they parted ways.

I looked at this man with the grizzly gray beard, square glasses and red jacket and said: “I was them, not that long ago,” a shrug rolling from my right to left side. If I’m worried about anything, it’s what the next generation will learn from us.

I’m relating this over a Full Sail Hopenfrisch: their fresh hop offering. It’s a pilsner with Pearle hops and my initial sips were very, very favorable. Light, grassy elements that were pleasantly refreshing.

About one-third of the way through my pint, I have changed my mind drastically. The aftertaste on this beer is sticky and not in a good way. It could be hop bitterness, maybe: the beer certainly isn’t balanced well. This is surprising, because if I would have thought any style would benefit from the mildness of fresh hops, it would be a pilsner.

No. They went wrong here, somehow. The lack of malts means that the bitterness is overwhelming. This beer is actually challenging me to drink it, some kind of horrible gauntlet of bitter hop bite punching my taste buds with every sip. The fresh hop flavor at the beginning is overwhelmed by whatever they used for bittering and it’s ruined the beer for me.

But it was either this or the pumpkin beers and I have no interest in those. Those beers are for the next generation. People who love novelty more than beer because that kind of thing is new to them. Not that I resent a brew tasting like pumpkin pie, there’s just nothing to discuss about it and it’s not worth drinking any other time of the year.

I was one of those people too, not that long ago. Hell, sometimes I still am.

The answer is, ‘Yes with a but…’

lagerIn response to this question.

Looks pretty good, I have to say. Beer came out remarkably clear, which is nice. I think that if this was shown to someone who didn’t know anything about beer, they would probably call it a lager-or at least see the similarity between it and something like Budweiser or Hopworks’ Pils.

That’s about where the similarity ends, though.

The beer smells like a band-aid. Phenolic is the technical term for the flavors I got and they are there in spades. It even finishes this way so it starts bad and ends bad, with a touch of smoky middle just to ensure that nobody would want to drink it. Ever.

Which is a bit of a disappointment.

However, with failure comes opportunity. What’s wrong with this beer? Why am I having troubles?

These sent me on an internet learning mission and I discovered that I probably steeped the grains at a temperature that was too high, which also leads to chill haze, a problem I also frequently encounter. Learning about this has lead me to monitoring temperature a little closer and keeping the steeping temps closer to what they’re supposed to be.

It’s also possible that the beer was infected and without any stronger malt or hop characteristics, the flaws could not be covered up. This has had me re-evaluate my cleaning and sanitizing process. I was been using cold water to clean but because cold is uncomfortable on my hands I may not have been as thorough as I should have been.

So I’ve made attempts to improve things and hopefully beers made since then will show it.

52 Weeks 32: Southern Oregon Pilsner

In honor of the solstice and what I guess is the official start to summer, I had a pilsner. 

I shouldn’t have. The beer is fine. More malty than bitter, easy to drink, a fine concoction for a hot day. It’s not you, as they say, it’s me.

I rode down here on a storm of heavy metal. Pounding on the steering wheel like a prizefighter, the snare drums my jabs, whipping my head like uppercuts to the cadence of singers that bring more tyrannosaurus than Plant to the table, fingers riffing on my jeans fast enough to warm the skin beneath. 

And pilsner is not metal. Sure, sure, metalheads ’round the world drink it. Who hasn’t seen a rock show without  the promise of cheap libations, always pilsners. There are no ‘cheap’ IPAs. 

But the very promises of what pilsners are; cheap, forgettable, easily consumable, this is not metal. Heavy metal can be many things; fun, intense, rage to equal to a god, murkier than the motives of your ex lover, dense as an osmium brick, but it isn’t easily consumable. Shouldn’t be. 

Not to say that heavy metal excludes. No music should exclude anyone as a central characteristic, and even my use of the term heavy metal simplifies all the possible sounds (and opinions) you’ll hear in the genre. However, heavy metal is frequently enjoyed by people who get heavy metal, and if you don’t get it, no one, not me, not the Universe, can explain to you what we naively understand. You either hear those sounds in your soul or you don’t.

So it is with this beer. Everyone could enjoy this. Nothing wrong with that. Probably should enjoy it later this week, when the temps get into the 80s and we’re all reminded again that there’s no friggin’ air conditioning in Portland. Even tonight Bailey’s has the front door open-something that seems more like a portent than a necessity.

But it ain’t metal. And I’m in a metal mood
/ah, c’mon. You knew that last link was coming.

Camouflage

I recently found myself at the Scoreboard Tavern. I had left my house in an attempt to evade the pressures of the evening, in a long standing tradition probably going back to the time of Oog. I was walking along the dark wet streets and eventually found the resting place of ages; the dive bar. 

Its exterior was uninviting, with slate gray vertical panels that say ‘hasty shack’ in over fifty states. The neon orange leaderboard sign that flashed the drink specials, upcoming games to watch, and breakfast served all day information was not why I went in. I quite simply needed a place to go after walking for half an hour, and I had never been inside this bar. 

The lighting was a combination of lamps that light up pool tables, neon signs, pinball games and televisions broadcasting ESPN, and while the smoking ban may have been in effect since January I’m pretty sure the smoke that was in that place just found a corner to hang out in and never left. On the plus side there was a nice greasy smell in the air, a signal that if I wanted something to eat, it would probably be hot and at least somewhat tasty. 

I cooled my heels at the bar, looking over my choices. Liquor-which I did not want-and beer, which in defiance of all that is Portland, was mostly the product of macrobreweries. But I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be someone who wasn’t easily part of this landscape. I wanted to fit in, to enjoy the anonymity of being an anyone, everyone. 

So I ordered a PBR. The Portland hipster of beers, choice of lowball alcoholics and bike couriers or anyone, really, who can scrounge up a buck-fifty and just wants the simple pleasure of having a beer. Any beer. I had no pen, no distractions, all there was for me to do was sit there and just be. The skunky nose on this beer providing the only sense of flavor, the rest of this liquid going down like some cheap cliche. 

I wasn’t ready for the sheer level of carbonation this beer had. The fizziness ran through my entire mouth like I’d been drinking a 9-volt battery, getting in the small spaces of my mouth causing my tongue to sweep through the gaps between my gums and lips, trying to get the sensation out. I am not drinking this beer for flavor so much as the sensation of putting something in my mouth. I wonder if the brewers of Pabst knew how flavorless their beer was, so tried to make up for it in tactile sensation. 

It was mine though, and nobody was going to hassle me. 

Eventually, another man came in. He looked around, sat down the required seat away from me and ordered a drink himself. Rum and coke. We sipped our drinks and eventually sized each other up. He was close to my age, head shaved, thin enough that there were no folds in the dark skin along his skull, with a pencil thin goatee containing tiny flicks of gray running around his mouth, loose gray jacket rumpled around his shoulders. The guy head nod was given; You’re here and I’m here and it’s all cool. 

We sipped our drinks, me a little faster than him as the experience of drinking PBR is not enhanced by drinking it slowly. 

“One of those nights?” he asked me.

“Yeah. Just gotta get out.”

He nodded, “I was returning movies, ’cause it was just like; the wife and the kids were starting to make me rargh! and it was just better to step outside for a bit.” He speaks it with a smile; he’s not really angry or upset, he loves those people but as with so many we love, they were driving him slightly mad. 

“I get it,” I say, though I have no kids, my wife is actually my girlfriend, and I had left the house for entirely different reasons. The principle holds. We were two guys doing what people have been doing since forever; sitting at a bar, saying, “You know, life isn’t so bad, but damnit I just had to get out of there for a bit.”

Oog and Florn did this in caveman days, but they sat over mastodon carcass and drank fermented milk. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the better deal. 

“Anyway,” he continues, “I was on my way home and I just saw this place and thought ‘I’ve never been in there. Should check it out.'”

“Really? It’s my first time in here too. Lived here for ten years and just never came in.”

So we start to talk. About the bar. About politics. Someone else at the end of the bar where it curves joins in briefly. I’m drinking a beer that’s been around since 1882-ish and no I don’t like the way it tastes it but I am just like everyone else, if temporarily. I can enjoy this beer, because I can enjoy this moment. 

Then my beer is gone. Do I want another? No; the a.m. hours have come upon me, and it’s time to walk home. I introduce myself to the guy next to me. His name is Carter. I hope I see him around again, if just for the head nod.