Dark obSession

Thirstday Thursday night Michelle, Madeline and I walked over to Saraveza for their Black Session tailgate party. It was a warm evening, but the place was crowded. We tried to get on a list to try the beer, ended up sharing a table with a great couple who were also there to try the new darker sibling of session. After a bit of a wait, we had our first sample of the dark substance. Simply put, it’s a good beer. The darkness is actually a nice nutty and almost but not quite peaty version of the lighter session. The beer is simple but still interesting, and really could be the perfect domestic answer to something like Negra Modelo.

The brewer John Harris was on hand and mingling. I thanked him for last fall’s doppelboch and picked his brain about their use of super high alpha hops (CTZs) as the only hops in Grandson of Spot IPA. Then I had to eat dinner. It was one of the best (if not the) best Bratwurst I’ve ever had. The brat itself was perfectly cooked, juicy, spicy and sweet. Then, it was topped with mustard, ketchup, onions, sauerkraut, and sweet relish. I was rather nervous about the relish, but it was great.

Happy Craft Beer Month

July in Oregon is awesome. Our governor will soon proclaim this to be Craft Beer Month, and we’ll celebrate the work of our brewing sons and daughters. How do you celebrate craft beer month? Find an event of course! There’s the obvious Oregon Brewers Festival later this month, but there are so many smallish events this month that there’s probably something pouring near you. The Oregonian (it’s one of those old fashioned newspapers) had a great pull-out in the June 30th edition that you can fold up and stick in your pocket like a smartphone, though it works better for swatting flies than does a phone.

An unlikely review

I live in a fairly urban neighborhood in North Portland. I also live on a common route for bottle collectors to pass by on their way to the grocery store to refund bottles. Last time I was brewing, one of the neighborhood women who collects bottles all day stopped to see what I was doing with my dangerous multi-tiered system. When I explained that I was making beer, her interest piqued, and she mentioned that she’d never had any home-made beer. I told her I’d save her a bottle.

Well after a couple weeks, I finally got some bottled from the keg and was able to get it to her. I explained that it was a Scottish-styled beer and that it was a little darker, smokier and sweeter than she’d typically have here. She exclaimed that “it may be Scottish, but tonight it was going in to an American.”

I chuckled, then watched in stifled horror as she poured the beer from the glass bottle in to a used Gatorade bottle wrapped in a plastic bag and capped it. She then tossed the glass bottle in with her collection, thanked me, and went on her way. I was a bit shocked. I tried to remember a recent discussion on glassware and aesthetics, but ultimately just hoped that she enjoyed it. When I saw her a few days later, she let me know that she had indeed enjoyed it. Her review was that short, and I’m hoping she wasn’t just saying that to be nice. I’m saving some of the cream ale for her as well.

Patron saint of aphids

My wife brought home a tub of ladybugs that I’ve placed on my two hop plants. Aphids hit them hard the last 2 weeks and the ladybugs had no reservations about taking up residence. This morning I found 10 of the lil’ bugs still hanging out on the plant, working on their quota of 50 aphids a day. I’ve also found a clutch of ladybug eggs on one of the leaves that I swear wasn’t there yesterday.

exterminator in residence

exterminator in residence

Scenes from last brew day

I’m still brewing on a proto-tier system and taking notes about the height, usability and relationships between vessels so I’ll know exactly where I want things before I make them static. I used to be somewhat sensitive about that state of my “brewery,” until I started looking at other people’s tiers on the internet. Now the white towel rack from our first apartment no longer embarrasses me. And I know it’ll be retired soon after a second productive career.

I started heating water in the HLT at 6 am on Monday (it was light and so very nice out) and was really happy working in the quiet and cool morning, and I’ve grown so very fond of brewing outside, so I’ve got to make sure this system is still portable and can be broken down to store and transport. As I was setting up and breaking down, I started to realize how many piecemeal items that were added along the way can be made a permanent fixture and save time. I also realized that my wort chiller needs some modification to work in my new brew kettle.

Oh, and I still dislike pelletized hops. Such a mess.


I broke what must have been my forth or fifth hydrometer while brewing on Monday morning. It’d only been used like 3 times. The little research I’ve done suggests that plastic hydrometers are crap. Have you done away with hydrometers and rely completely on a refractometer?

Stan, Stan, He's our Man Cream Ale

My grandfather passed away last weekend, and he was a big fan of my brewing, even if only in theory. He still hadn’t opened the IPA I brewed for my wedding nearly 8 years ago so he could show people the bottle. He was more of a macro-drinker, and combining that with his being Nebraskan and his love of cream can dinners, it only seemed appropriate to brew a cream ale of the pre-prohibition style.

I’m not going to stick with period ingredients, but I think he’d be happy enough with the results to keep a bottle on his desk well beyond the “best by” date.

I’ve not used corn before, so this will be yet another adventure.


  • 7 lbs Pilsner Malt
  • 3 lbs 2-Row
  • 1 lbs flaked corn
  • 0.5 lbs Carapils


  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 60 min (4% alpha)
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 10 min
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 5 min

Should be interesting. I’ll probably just stick with Safale S-05.

Beer, Grilled Cheese, the?

Michelle’s coworker Tim sent us a link to this grilled cheese recipe made using beer and onions. Looks fantastic.

These pipes are clean!

I’ve been meaning to get a draft cleaning kit going for nearly 4 years. I’ve gotten away without simply because I (we) manage to drink the beer quickly enough that by the time the detritus and germs seriously affect flavor, there’s nothing left to taint. However, I recently had a pony keg of Laurelwood Hop Monkey on since I didn’t have any active brews, and since it lasted longer, the flavors were seriously injured by the end.

So I purchased Micromatic’s basic hand-pump cleaning system and am going to aim for a weekly line cleaning. The process is frighteningly simple and should make for better draft product coming out of my refrigerator door.

The first time I tried it though, I was also watching both girls. I was getting interrupted every 2.5 minutes, so I had to constantly wash my hands to make sure all the caustic was off, put out an emotional fire, then get back to the lines. It took a little longer than I expected, but real world results usually differ from “ideal conditions.”

Hop planting

Yesterday Ella and I cleared some ivy off the south fence and turned some compost in to the soil before plating two rhizomes. I’ve grown hops in the past, but when we moved to NoPo, someone stole the 1/4 barrel keg I was growing them in, and I’ve not planted since.

We picked up our rhizomes from Portland Nursery, who sells around 8 potted varieties for $7 each. A little pricier than getting them from someplace like Freshops, but we were in the neighborhood and I love Portland Nursery. I got my first Nugget rhizome there a few years ago, but this year they have a wider selection of hops. I went with a Willamette (to stave off a shortage), and a Centennial. Ella picked Centennial over Cascade, but wasn’t to interested in learning the potential uses or characteristics and wanted to get back to putting gravel in the bird bath. (I cleaned it out, don’t worry)

Anyway, I hold high hopes for the plants. I love brewing fresh hop beers and will have two options this September.