Archive for the 'Beer Culture' Category

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North American Organic Brewers Fest 2008

Joe, Linds and I headed down to this years North American Organic Brewers Festival on Friday night to sip some brews, enjoy the summer, and meet up with some of my coworkers. We tried several beers among the masses until Erin and Jade arrived, and helped locate Alan and his neighbors. Alan had been hanging out by the food at the Brewers festival, and I was a little incredulous until I realized that the reason was for shade.

I’ve probably said it before, but I think this festival is my favorite simply for the atmosphere. OBF is incredible, but size, mood, and venue for the organic festival is more to my taste.

Standout beers? There were a few. Maybe it was the weather, but here’s what I liked best:

  • Elliot Bay – Old Burien 600 Malt Liquor. I love a good malt liquor, and this was nearly as good as Walking Man’s Street Walker.
  • Crannog – Hell’s Kitchen Potato Ale. I’d be scared to brew with messy, messy potato startch, but this was a rather nice ale that seemed like a brown. Maybe not the best for 90F, but good.
  • Laurelwood’s Green Mammoth. Had it before, but really liked it again. The other IPAs I had (most were already gone) didn’t have the right body/bitter ratio. To be honest, the only other IPAs I had were Nelson’s and the Yerba Mate one.

I really didn’t have that many different beers this time around. I think I had 8 tickets, and ended up getting the malt liquor 3 times (It was really good). The only one I didn’t really like was the Yerba Mate IPA. Many of the beers I’d had before (at Sasquatch, etc) or the lines were just absurdly long (Hub, Hair of the Dog). Luckily, Joe and I found Hub’s IPA on cask at Pause afterward.

Linds and Joe at NAOBF 2008

Not that wide an audience

I just got a call from a market research company looking for beer drinkers to participate in a survey. I passed the first few set of questions, and I had hoped to pass muster. Then the question came up about whether or not I’ve purchased any of the following brands/beers in the last month. It was a laundry list of macro-swill. Most of the beer was from what I still wrongly think of as the big three (AB, Coors, Miller) but I need to start thinking of them as the big two, or eventually, the big one.

The list included all sorts of one-offs, like Hamms, Heilman, Pabst, Killians, Blue Moon, and all the lights, ultras and such. It also had a few imports like Guinness, Heineken and lastly Sam Adams. In all honestly, I had to reply that I hadn’t had any of those in the last month, and that I hadn’t even bought any of them in the last several months, though If I had to buy one of them, I’d probably buy Sam Adams.

The woman asking the question was a little shocked after my initial excitement regarding the quiz and the number of beers I drink per week. Out of her own curiosity, she asked what I drank. I pointed out that I’m from Portland and try my best to drink Oregon beers, like the Full Sail IPA in front of me.

I guess they were interested in a narrower range of beer drinkers. I kind of wish I’d passed. I was hoping it was about the InterBev-Anheuser thing.

Sasquatch 2008

I too love beer fests, but I’ve never been south to Eugene for the Sasquatch Brew Fest. Thanks to an invite and ride from Joe & Lindsay, I was able to visit for the first time. They are moving to Eugene in the late summer/fall, so were there are business, but it was a short bit of business, so we were able to spend some time at the farmer’s market then at the festival.

The Sasquatch festival was small and comfortable until around 5pm when it started to get a little thick with people. It was reminiscent of the first Organic Brewer’s Festival in size and atmosphere. Very laid back, very friendly, and the only time people went all crazy was when someone dropped one of the souvenier glasses. Two were dropped before 5pm, but in such quick succession that it signaled some change. We moved with the change and got Indian food before heading back north.

There were a lot of IPAs on tap – my favorite style by far – but there were also a number of really nice other beers that I did my best to sample before killing my palate. The Palo Santo Maron from Dogfish Head was probably the nicest of the non-IPAs, though not a single beer I tasted was offensive.

If you’ve got the time and a place to crash in Eugene, I recommend this festival for next year. As a lucky coincidence, I will have such a place.

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Homebrew Blogging Day

I’m trying to stay involved, so here’s my entry for Home Brew Blogging Day

When I went away to college in 1997, I lived in the dorms on a floor with a lot of other dudes. Their ages varied, but most were right out of high school. One guy had a significant bit of age on him, despite only being 4 years older. He and I became friends due to a number of common interests, one of which was good beer. He preferred the darker beers and preferred the bitters, but we both appreciated the other’s taste.

One day I walked in to the dorm kitchen to find him steeping something that smelled wonderful. He was doing a partial mash home brew – something that both piqued my interest in DIY and was scandalous at the same time. I was still a minor, but I couldn’t get in trouble for brewing it since it hadn’t yet fermented.

I helped him brew a few more times over the next 2 years – mostly off site since he got tired of living with teenagers. Most of the beers turned out passable, some were downright wretched. We bottled in to Grolsch bottles and those little 5 liter party kegs. The problem with the party kegs was that you had to drink them all at once or the ambient air you used to pump the beverage would oxidize the beer. One such beer left us all with wicked hangovers even though none of us had more than maybe 2 pints. He finished school 2 years ahead of me and we’ve kept in touch a little since. Still, he’s my patron saint of brewing.

For my 22nd birthday, my girlfriend (now wife), got me a home brew starter kit of my own. I was living with 5 other guys in a house off campus. I brewed a first batch around the horrible mess of a kitchen, and wasn’t shocked when the first beer came out infected. We used it for bratwurst, but only managed to drink maybe a dozen bottles. The second batch, a stout, was entirely drinkable, but not fantastic. Brewing in a kitchen used by 5 other guys, most of whom were slobs, posed a real challenge to sanitation. I’d spend 1-2 hours cleaning the bathtub and kitchen, start brewing, and about halfway through the boil, people would all get back from class and start making meals. I managed to produce some decent beer, and I had plenty of access to free bottles, but it wasn’t until I was home for summer that I brewed my first great beer. It’s amazing sanitization does for beer.

This year marks roughly my 10th year home brewing, and I’ve probably done 50-60 batches. Each year brings some new techniques and better beers (when I remember to rack them).

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Cold Activation Bottles

While there’s some cleverness to Coor’s new Cold Activation bottle labels, there’s something that’s also easy to make fun of. I’m not the biggest fan of Coors -> Molson-Coors -> SABMiller-Molson-Coors, so I like to make fun of them both in real life and on the internets.

The technology is nothing new. No fancy paint or chemistry. The logo on the bottle is actually covered with human taste buds. I’m not sure how they justify this with the anti-stem cell crowd, but sometimes the simplest technologies work best. Here’s how it works:

  1. The taste bud cells are white when they’re not too cold, and can otherwise taste things
  2. When the temperature drops below the tastebud’s ability to taste (when they get numb), the they change blue
  3. Viola! Your taste buds won’t notice any flavor either!

How do they get the human taste buds? The harvesting operation is quite simple. All employees have to go to the lagering tanks and stick their tongues on the pipe used for cold filtering. Since its so cold, everyone’s tongue sticks. As the employees struggle to free their tongues, a few of the taste buds are left behind. After each shift, someone from the bottling room comes through with a scraper and collects the cells for impregnating in the labels.

Have you tried saying “Activator” with your tongue stuck to a cold-filtration pipe? It sounds funny.

Cinco de Mayo?

I realize this is blurry – it was taken with a camera phone. It’s a billboard for Bud Light with Lime, which is arriving “May 2008.” Apparently the marketing geniuses working for Anheuser thought it was too blatant (or racist?) to just say “Arriving in time for Cinco de Mayo.” Maybe they realized it would be mostly gringos drinking it anyway.

Coming in May, Bud Light with Lime

This billboard is in a prominent spot just east of Interstate 405 in the Pearl District in Portland. It always displays some silly or suggestive Budweiser poster, like how aluminum bottles make the beer taste colder, or welcoming people to Beer town. It’s always annoyed me because the billboard is situated ~4 blocks from Bridgeport’s brewery, and less than a mile from at least 3 other breweries, and countless brewpubs.

Keep Portland Beered

Jim Johnstone, a coworker, sent me a picture this morning of the Bridgeport billboard next to the Hawethorn Bridge. I had just spotted it last week myself, but failed to snap a picture. Jim, no stranger to danger, snapped a picture to send my way.

Keep Portland Beered

Kudos to the clever turn-of-phrase wizards at the advertising company that thought of this one. I applaud your creativity. For those of you not from Portland, you may not be aware of the Keep Portland Weird motto and matching bumper sticker that’s as common around here as rusted wheel wells are in the Midwest.

A visit to HUB and Green Dragon

After what seems like years of waiting, Michelle and I finally visited Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) and the Green Dragon on Saturday night. I’ve been eagerly awaiting both, but neither is in the immediate neighborhood, so we’ve typically opted for the closer venues.

We had dinner at HUB, and although there was a line for a table, we only waited for about 10 minutes. Just enough time to grab a beer at the bar and start checking out the place. I’m probably going to sound like a toadie, but it’s clear that every detail at this place received some consideration. After watching photos on the blog, I was still surprised at how nice the place was. We only had brief interactions with the staff, but from observation, they were well trained, and moved with purpose. The interior is cleverly decorated, the art was interesting and appropriate, and pub just felt, well, like the culmination of someone’s dreams. According to the menu, that’s what it is.

Several of the beers have been available for some time now, and I’ve been pleased to sample them at the various festivals, then at various pubs while waiting for the HUB’s own brewpub to complete. Michelle had the IPA (which I’ve had many times before – its terrific) and I had a doppelbock and a pilsner. Both were excellent and true to style. I personally feel that the pilsner could use a bit more of a hoppy kick, but it was a delightful summer beer with a very clean flavor. I was also tickled to see that you can order a Radler – a beer and lemon/lime soda concoction designed in Germany to satisfy a cyclist without sapping their initiative. I look forward to having one when I ride to the destination.

Green Dragon is also a delight for beer lovers. The bar is lovely, and although we only passed through the cafe portion briefly, it looked nice and cozy. The beer selection was great, and I would have liked to hang around longer and try more. While it may not be fair to compare Green Dragon and Hub (they’re different creatures), it’s hard not to. Green Dragon seems to have many mixed themes. There’s Tiki, there’s brewerina, and there’s pinball. I may be alone, but I’ve never really though tiki while I’m reaching for a Belgian ale. Small issue though, because the service, the beer, and the atmosphere (live music too) was nice. Kind of out of the way, but nice. The bartender let us sample the gin they’re distilling which was good, but the packaging is very cool. I’ll have to find a bottle once gin an tonic season is upon us again.

Internet Brew Battle

Since I don’t have anything of substance to post, I thought I’d link to fellow brew-bloggers at Monday Night Brewery who just ended a several month long internet feud with another brewer with a head-to-head tasting. Its been fun to watch, and laughs have been had (not being among the insulted parties). Both parties, I think, came away looking good since neither beer was a flop, and I think a weird internet camaraderie was formed.

You can see the shots fired by CNYBrew (some clever stuff), as well as the reasoned response. Finally, a use for tags that makes sense.

Sling Shot release

Last night I attended the Sling Shot release party at Pyramid with friends, including one of the brewers. It was a fun time, and 2 dollar imperial pints are hard to beat. Sling Shot is a souped up lawnmower beer – really simple malt body that has a clean flavor, though it packs a wallop at 6.2% abv. I was kind of surprised that the beer is being released under the MacTarnahan’s label, but it’s a good name. While there, I noticed several GABF medals for the Saxer dark lager. I’m hoping we’ll see something like this return – Portland could still use a few more lagers. Or maybe Mac’s in cans again.

Oh, and the kettles in the brew house are gorgeous. I love copper.