Tag Archives: whiskey

The Big Woody Fest

I’m probably being unnecessarily uptight here but the name of the barrel aged beer and whiskey fest this weekend feels overly puerile. Perhaps that’s the point and this event is meant to be a bit loosey-goosey? I dunno. It just feels like I keep coming across beers and festivals that want to allude to somebody’s penis and I’m over it, especially when it’s not very clever.

I bring all this up because I’m getting to attend, though. No point it talking about it otherwise, right? So let me tell you about the beers I’m looking forward to…except that, in a genius stroke of marketing, the website lists only the brewers at the event and mentions nothing about the ales that will be served.

The whiskey guys all have it figured out: their page is full of description and is easy to navigate. Some anchored links so users could bounce from one distillery to another quickly would improve it but aside from that, at least all I have to do is scroll down.

The beer page makes two massive mistakes: first, it doesn’t tell you what specific beers are going to be at the event, and second, it forces users to click through to get to more information, information that is nothing more than a profile of the brewery. So not only is information being kept from me (which I’m not too irate about, as it’s likely they don’t know) but I have to click through to reach a dead end, and this does irritate me.

Still, I am going and there will be a review of the event on Wednesday.

Also, this cool site came up via my Twitter feed: http://beerlabelsinmotion.tumblr.com/

It’s rad.

Whatever You Say #32

Wandering around as I tend to do, I saw a Grand Opening poster for the Bare Bones Bar stuck to telephone poles around the neighborhood.

“A new place?” I thought, “Well, I have to check that out.” So I have wandered down to the BBB to have a drink. If it had been open, I would have included this place in The Local series as the bar is close enough. Fortunately for me, despite the general unpleasantry of Portland’s weather lately, tonight is warm so my walk is unencumbered by rain or a chill, which is nice, considering it’s May.

The Bare Bones is a bit more lively than I was expecting. Patrons line the tables outside; an impromptu arm wrestling match is about to go down as I step inside.

twilight and johnny walker blackTonight, I am drinking Johnny Walker Black with a Twilight ale chaser. The man who’s drink I copy has a tiny notebook filled with neat black printing and a touch of gray to his hair, like fog has touched his follicles. He kindly listens to my explanation about the blog and we start to talk Portland. He’s a recent arrival, coming from San Francisco and we swap suggestions of places to go, eat, drink. In a rare instance, I get to tell some stories about my experience with this blog and the people I’ve gotten to meet, which I’m doing in part to seem less weird. We both agree that approaching strangers is a bit awkward and he thinks that the concept for this theme is pretty cool. It’s always nice when people dig on your ideas.

He’s come to the Bare Bones because his closest pub is within a block of his home and he just felt he wasn’t earning his beer. Walking a half mile for his drink made all the difference and as a man who likes to walk around, I completely understand.

At one point, he admits he’s out in part to decompress from work and I ask him about his task.

“I make the web,” he says with a touch of Dante’s Lament to it. He goes on to quickly explain that he doesn’t hate his job but that he’s under deadline this week, and while it’ll all be over on Friday, getting out to relax for a little bit makes all the difference. He goes on to heap praises on the Bare Bones, telling me the food is pretty good and that it’s a fairly good spot to hang out in. I can tell that there are spots where plenty of light will get in and I could play cards here, which is always a bonus whenever I go to a new place. I file this pub away as a spot to come back to for some vittles and Magic.

Eventually, we thank each other for ¬†the time shared. It’s a school night and neither of us can make an evening of it but I think everything has turned out pretty well.

The Vertical

mccarthy's whiskeyLast Saturday I was able to do a small vertical tasting of Clear Creek‘s McCarthy’s whiskey. I had bottles from ’08-’10 and was able to pour samples for me and some fine tasters, while we chatted and generally had fun.

The ’08 was the most mellow of the whiskeys; a very strong peat flavor but so smooth that even those of us who aren’t fond of the peaty flavor still enjoyed it. Of the three, this is the one that I felt didn’t need any water to bring out any other flavors but of course doing so was very nice.

The ’09 had the sharpest flavor to it. Of the three it was the one that had the largest whiskey bite at the end and sensation of alcohol to it. A drop of water really brought out some nice aromas and let the hint of vanilla in there shine a bit more. One person liked it the best because it was so bold and I have to say, that position holds a lot of merit for me. Be what you are, I say, and be bold about it.

Finally, the ’10 batch of McCarthy’s seemed to split the difference between the ’08 and ’09. It was a hint sweeter than the ’09, which helped take an edge off the bite at the end and with a drop of water, nearly had the smoothness of the ’08 batch.

All of these whiskeys were really good but I am mildly surprised at how easy it was to notice differences between the batches. Consistency is something I value when I’m trying to make beer-and I’m not suggesting that McCarthy’s isn’t consistent because it was easy to tell that the liquor was from the same family, just that small batches seem to allow for some variance that makes for an interesting whiskey, to me.

Historical Potables

Once again, my friend Ed alerted me to this story on beer. The short version: a firefighter at the Hindenburg disaster found some beer that survived the event and a bottle is going up for auction now.

In a related tale, explorers have discovered some of the whiskey that Ernest Shackleton left behind on his failed journey in the Antarctic.

One interesting difference between these two stories is that the whiskey might still be drinkable. Granted, this is partly due to storage conditions and the preservative agents in whiskey vs. beer but to me this is also about the culture. Beer just isn’t meant to be kept forever; you sit down with people and you share it.

Whiskey, especially good whiskey, has that ‘save it because it’s precious’ vibe that has most people waiting for that moment. There are some beers that do this too; I’m thinking especially of the hype (and oh man, the HYPE) surrounding Deschutes’ Abyss stout, but other winter ales frequently inspire a ‘collector’s’ vibe to them too.

The difference between the first two stories and the collector’s vibe, to me, is simple; the former are historical artifacts. They tell us about the past and with study could further inform us about the effects of time upon these things. Collecting food just to have it strikes me as an act of the starving. Some people do store beers like Abyss (which is a fine stout, I just tire of the hype) so they can do ‘vertical tastings’ that is, samples from a beer over a range of time to see, for example, how the ’05 stacks up to the ’09 and these tastings are usually done in groups but I’m not sure what they prove.

On the other hand, they don’t have to prove anything, they can just be fun. My hope is that people are collecting for just such a tasting, as an excuse to get together and enjoy not just horde for another day.