Smoked Lapsang Porter – A (Manly) Tea-Beer Experiment

Back in April, a few of us in the Tea Twitterverse bestowed the rank of “manliest tea” (oft-considered a contradiction) on Lapsang Souchong. We even postulated on effects said smoked tea had on the unwitting imbiber. The Chuck Norissian dialogue that ensued was also the source of inspiration for my first foray into “tea fiction” – The Legend of Lapsang. I won’t pretend it was a good story by any manly measure, but it got the point across.

Lapsang Souchong – in Fukienese, “smoky sub-variety” – is a black tea from Mount Wuyi, Fujian province, China. The region is mostly known for producing high-grade, high-altitude oolongs. The black tea is made from the “Bohea” leaf cultivar, but its true uniqueness comes from the way it’s processed during drying. There are several origin stories of how this technique came about; whichever one is true, the effect is the same. The tea leaves are placed on pinewood fires and smoked. The result is a tea with a smell of hickory and a taste of campfire. In short, a very MANLY taste…but enough of the Tea 101.

I was inspired by a post made by the “teaviants” over at The Tea Blag to do an experiment with Lapsang Souchong and alcohol – my fifth of this sort. I had fused tea concentrates with beer on a few occasions and even wrote about two of the most successful attempts. I’m not sure what brought about this brainfart, but it was high-time to do another. For this round, I meant to combine a smoked porter with the infamous smoked tea.

Finding the beer I needed didn’t take long thanks to the Almighty Google. Stone Brewing was an op out of my old haunt of San Diego, CA. I never visited their actual HQ, but their products were quite known to me – particularly the delicious Arrogant Bastard ale. Among their wares was a Smoked Porter, and they described it as, “dark, smooth and complex, with rich chocolate and coffee flavors balanced by a subtle smokiness.” Sounded like a perfect match for what I had in mind.

I brewed the concentrate like I always did for tea-beers and/or iced tea – 2 tsp. worth of leaves in 8oz of water, Russian zavarka-style. The porter was kept on ice until the tea had about five minutes of steep under its leather-scented belt. It didn’t quite darken as much as I thought it would; Lapsang Souchong usually took on the color of crimson and “quantum singularity”. One could see their soul practically disappear into the brew. I wondered if it’d be strong enough to handle the porter.

Lastly, I whipped out a pint glass and poured the Stone Smoked Porter into half of it. When the tea was done fermenting its death brew, I plopped my ailing/aging Teavana steeper cup above the pint glass to drain. (Sidenote: That very steeper committed seppuku a week later.) Alchemy commenced as the contents collided. The void-black liquor didn’t water down or dissipate at all on splashdown. It was like staring into an alcoholic abyss.

To my surprise, the mixture didn’t bubble up on contact like with other tea-beer fusions. The porter’s foamy head remained as thick and even as it had before the tea inclusion. The concoction did threaten to envelop the spoon I used to stir the drink o’ damnation. I felt like an apothecary over a cauldron in some long-winded sci-fantasy novel.

Now, to taste…

The first thing I noticed when I put lips to glass was how lukewarm it was. Tea-beer experiences of past attempts yielded a brew with an average temperature of 150F-160F. That was one of the best parts of the combination, a warm beer that was still foamy and nowhere-near-flat. While this certainly wasn’t flat, it was maybe room temperature at best. Not exactly a bad thing. Dark beers were great at room temperature.

Secondly, the palette and palate; it was as black as night. I expected the porter to dominate the tea addition by a fair margin. Holy Hell, was I ever wrong! The mahogany, robust chocolaty notes of the porter were present only – and I do mean, only – on the initial sip. The rest – from top note to finish – tasted like charcoal, brimstone aftermath, death-by-Armageddon, post-war campfire, and nuclear fallout…with a floral finish.

I cocked an eyebrow, then the other. I think I twitched a little. My throat felt cold “burning”. The sensation trailed down to my stomach. Gurgling could be heard and felt. Some semblance of unrest was a-brewing deep within my abdomen. I pictured smoke-billowing hellhounds wreaking havoc on my intestines. I asked myself, Do I need to take a dump?

Before answering the questionable call of the wild, I coaxed my brother into trying the hellish hybrid. He sipped, he pursed his lips, and he pondered. Then he froze.

“It tastes like…ash,” he said flatly.

And after that second opinion, I entertained the “number two” that demanded my immediate attention. Once that was done, I came to the conclusion that this was perhaps too much manliness for one drink to possess. Either that or my sensibilities were far too delicate to handle the sheer potency of so firestormy a fusion. From a connoisseur’s critical tongue, it tasted awful. From a testosteronal standpoint, it was a necessary trial by fire.

I will say this. After finishing the last of the pint, I did feel like I could wrestle a bear. Unfortunately, one was not present. There was, however, a Saint Bernard puppy nearby. Close enough.

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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 Beverage Blog, Steep Stories No Comments

Tea-Beer, Too: The Chocolate Puerh Stout

After the slam-dunk that was the strawberry tea-beer, I was eager to try other combinations. The particular flavor I craved was chocolate. Teas with that flavor profile were a gamble, but chocolate beers fared better odds.  The hunt was on.

Luckily, I didn’t have to look that far for the right tea. On a random run to Whole Foods, I spotted a Chocolate Puerh put out by Numi. In my tea journey, I had since graduated from “ye olde teabag”, but there were a few companies I returned to for a quality product. Numi was one of them, principally for their organic emphasis. Yes, organic does make a difference in taste. That and their Chocolate Puerh used no chocolate flavoring.

Ingredients were thus: “Organic Puerh, Organic Cocoa Powder, Organic Vanilla, Organic Theo Chocolate Cocoa Nibs, Organic Rooibos, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Nutmeg, Organic Cinnamon”…or so sayeth their site. Point being, they captured the essence of chocolate perfectly. Sweetener wasn’t even needed to invoke that sensation.

To my surprise, I actually had a harder time finding a chocolate beer. Whereas finding the tea took mere seconds, the right beer took – oh – a few minutes. I know; such a chore. Not that time was of the essence or anything.

I settled on a Chocolate Stout put out by Bison Brewing. It, too, was labeled as an organic product. This was perfect. Not only might I land a like-flavored tea-beer, but hippies would approve. That has always ever been my goal! (Er…not really.)

I quickly rushed home to begin the alco-alchemy.

A troubling thought surfaced when I started steeping the tea. The Chocolate Puerh bag contained roughly a teaspoon of tea/herb. That wouldn’t be enough to brew a proper concentrate. I could’ve gone with two teabags, but I was worried about flavor strength. I didn’t want the tea to dominate over the stout. Some might think, “How could a puerh tea supersede a stout in flavor?” To which I’d merely shake my head. Puerh brews strong…even as teabag fannings.

At the time, I had very few black teas at my disposal. The darkest I could find was a Ceylon blend put out by Smith Teamaker; their Kandy mix. Ceylon’s usually didn’t brew that dark, but I was desperate and it seemed robust enough. I added a tablespoon of that to the fray.

To my surprise, even with the smaller amount than usual, the tea brewed up quite dark. A dry, chocolaty scent emanated from the steam. Although, to be honest, it looked rather gruesome as it colored; like some kind of fecal swamp.

After roughly five minutes, the tea was done doing its thing. It was time to add the beer to the brew. The Bison was a thick stout, especially for beer from a bottle.  I couldn’t even see through it, and the rich, foamy head resembled that of a nitro on tap. Perhaps a thicker puerh concentrate wasn’t a bad idea after all.

I added the tea muck to the beer bulk. It was amazing to see a beverage blacken even more; like looking at an event horizon taking form in a pint glass. Concentrated cocoa evil. I betrayed a wicked smile. Usually, when a paler beverage is added to a stout – such as with a Black and Tan – they instantly divide into two layers. That was not the case here.  Both seemed to mix favorably.

Applying a spoon to the concoction to stir proved a bit of a chore. The foam, which had frothed more with the tea inclusion, clung to the utensil as if trying to swallow it whole. Demons couldn’t have conceived of a more fantastically devilish effect.

As for taste, it completely lived up to the promised namesakes of both. The cocoa-nib-laden puerh blended with the stout for a flavor that was on the favorable side of dark chocolate. It wasn’t as sweet as I would’ve thought, but chocolate worth its weight in wonderful isn’t. I was now two-for-two in my tea-beer trek. I still preferred the strawberry mix better, yet this definitely earned a savory silver medal.

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Friday, November 19th, 2010 Beverage Blog, Steep Stories 4 Comments

The Strawberry Tea-Beer Experiment

I have two loves in this world. Er, well, two “drinking” kinds of love. Tea (the one that’s good for me) and beer (obviously not good for me). What I always wanted to do was combine the two together somehow. Sure, I could have gone about the herculean homebrewing task of adding tea leaves to malt and barley, but I’m nowhere near that ambitious. There had to be a lazier way to do it. I had an idea, and all I needed were like-flavored ingredients. Two years ago, I decided to find them.

As luck would have it, this task didn’t take too long. Several years ago, I had a rather loud strawberry-laden blend from Stash; their Chanakara Red Berry Roobios. On the beer front, I encountered an equally berry-fueled beer at the North American Organic Brewers Festival. Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Ale. I knew how to acquire the first but was hard-pressed on locating the latter. By happenstance, I found it at a local Whole Foods. This shouldn’t have surprised me.

Now came the task of combining the two. In my mind’s eye, I thought the best way would be to cold-brew the “tea”. That process was simple enough; brew a heated concentrate (4 tsp in 16oz of boiled water) and fill a glass with ice.

The second step was even simpler. Divide the iced tisane between two pint glasses – halfway with each – then pour the beer over both.

The end result of the cold-brewed tea-beer tasted like…well…watered down beer. With ice in it. I even tested the combination on my stepdad, who – up ‘til then – was hovering around the alcoholic alchemy with eager eyes. His opinion matched my own. Something was “off”. I was almost there, but not quite.

Around this time, I’d forgotten about the re-steeped roobios concentrate. I had brewed it for a sleepy-time tea after the experiment. I also had about 4oz of the strawberry ale left as well. Had to finish that, too. I mean, you don’t waste good beer. Then I had an epiphany.

I combined the hot tea with the cold beer.

It was like liquid magic. I never thought to use hot tea because I feared it would take from the beer’s natural foamy texture. The complete opposite happened. The juxtaposed elements and temperatures actually gave the beer greater head, especially after a stir or two. The flavor also didn’t diminish. The naturally bitter ale complimented the nut-sweet rooibos, and both strawberry characteristics combined perfectly. End result was bitter on the foretaste, smooth and berry-filled in the middle, and finished with a crisp aftertaste.

Laziness had paid off…and inspired other combinations. Some more successful than others. But I’ll get to that at a later date.

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Saturday, November 6th, 2010 Beverage Blog, Steep Stories No Comments

My Website Bought this Beer – A 5th Anniversary “Speshul”

Roughly a month ago, fellow tea blogger Nicole “Tea For Me Please” Martin celebrated her five-year “bloggiversary”. Like any good mensch, I congratulated her. She followed that up with a query I didn’t expect. She asked, “How old is your blog now?”

That gave me pause. I had no clue!

I looked back through my “records” on Gmail. According to the rather lengthy archive, I activated the site on October 21st, 2008. Memories flooded back to me.

Back then, I did all my blogging on Myspace’s platform. It was a much simpler time. Words like “views” and acronyms like “SEO” hadn’t entered my lexicon. I mostly did it for the attention from friends – recapping prior adventures (usually involving alcohol), and pointless rants of very little import. And speaking of import…

Around this time, I thought, Why don’t I have my own damn site?

Sure, the Myspace platform was fine and all for basic practice, but there was no future in it. (Boy, how right that thought was!) So, I paid a friend a paltry sum, paid a webhosting company, and bought a domain. The last of which was the tough part.

What would I call this newfound site? The decision didn’t take too long. A nickname I’d adopted for myself on the writing front was “The Lazy Literatus”. It came about after a conversation with a girl. (Don’t they all?) We both dreamed of what the perfect retirement gig would be. I thought it’d be nifty to own a bed and breakfast for retired writers called: “The Lazy Literati”. For some reason, the singular of the latter word stuck.

And so, The Lazy Literatus was born.

After making all the necessary purchases, and getting the basic framework for the site set up, I had my cousin – Jason – design a banner image. He’d perfected a version of my likeness, and I figured, what better way to herald…myself.

The last thing I needed was content. So, I began porting over all my old blogs from Myspace to my site. While I hadn’t officially gone “live” with the thing, one of those entries “Stories I’m Glad I Never Wrote” got recognized by Tons of trackbacks and comments resulted. I had no clue what to make of it, but I prayed that this wasn’t my “fifteen minutes”. I’d barely started!

I updated the site sporadically for a couple of years, but took an extended break from it during the summer of ’09, and on to the end of August in 2010. In the interim, I did tea reviews on the side…which later led to tea blogging. What had started as an accidental hobby had turned into a full-blown geek obsession. But I hadn’t forgotten about my little unfocused site in the corner. Although, I will admit I used it as a bit of a writing dump.

So, here I was, five years later. The site still had no focus, but it possessed a bit of energy. I made it a point to update it more than I had in the past, and that seemed to be paying off. And speaking of “pay”…

Ever since its inception, this website has been ad supported. Kind of. I carried over an AdSense account I activated after a brief foray on HubPages. While I didn’t stick with the site, I was curious if this Google ad thingy could work on mine. A few days ago, I checked my totals.

Five dollars.

Five years of work resulted in five dollars. That…was…awesome!!!

I had to celebrate both of these minor milestones. Nothing really came to mind except one word: Beer. On a quaint afternoon after a rough work shift, I trekked out to the only place I could think of for such an occasion. The Green Dragon had shown up in more entries than any other bar on my website. The least I could do was celebrate my website anniversary there – albeit solo.

The final hurdle was what beer to order. This is probably something The Green Dragon staff wouldn’t want me to display in public, but fuck it…it’s my damn anniversary. Of the 50+ taps at that place, there is one that’s kept off the menu. Number 19 of the Top 20.

A cute waitress had told me about it a couple of weeks prior. That’s where they occasionally put the really good (and rare) stuff. The last time, I ended up with the best Triple-IPA I’d ever had. This time…

The bartender said it was an imperial stout, but he didn’t know from where or what it was called. I ordered it anyway. When he brought the chalice back, he conferred with the same cute waitress that had told me about it. She confirmed that the beer was part of Ommegang’s Game of Thrones line – the Take the Black stout.

For the record: I hate Game of Thrones. Call me old fashion, but I like a little hope in my fantasy fiction. If I wanted gritty, realistic stories about awful people, I’d watch reruns of Seinfeld.

That said, I liked the beer.

I mean, really liked it. It was full-bodied for a stout with notes of chicory, hickory and hints of wood. Malt showed up toward the end, riding on a sled of smokiness throughout. I still hate the show, but this was a damn good beer to emulate it. That and the concept of The Watch is pretty nifty; I’ll give the book/show that. There were worse ways to spend my five-year blog anniversary.

I could’ve been watching Game of Thrones.

Here’s to another five years…and another five dollars!

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Monday, November 4th, 2013 Beverage Blog 5 Comments

“Tea Beer Fest” – The Teabeer Trilogy, Book 3

For Book 1 of The Teabeer Trilogy, go HERE.

For Book 2, go HERE.

It began with a photograph.

Back in August, J-TEA International posted a photo of spent leaves from three different types of tea. I chimed in on Google+ with my guesses: Silver Needle, Yunnan Golden Tips, and Long Jing (Dragonwell). Josh Chamberlain, J-TEA’s purveyor, informed me that my choices were spot-on. Apparently, I had a talent for spotting spent leaves.

I’ll add that to my resume.

What I didn’t realize was that this was a contest J-TEA was putting on, and that there’d be swag coming my way. About a week later, I received a J-TEA “tea”-shirt, some ’09 Li Shan black tea, and a tea tin with the company logo. Awesome. But it was the last thing that really grabbed my attention.

Josh had included a handwritten note informing me of an event in late-October happening at 16 Tons called “Tea Beer Fest“. And if I wanted to come down to participate, he’d put my drunk arse up for the night. I arranged for back-to-back days off from work the next day.

Two months went by without much incident, besides the usual teaing, working and writing. The week of the event, though, I was almost-literally swimming in teabeer. First was a birthday party at The Green Dragon, second was the Rogue release of a barrel-aged Lapsang Souchong porter. I’d gone almost a year without any teabeer, but then my pint ranneth over.

Finally, the day of the event came, and I made the drive down to Eugene, OR. My first stop was – naturally and obligatorily – J-TEA. I spent the better part of two hours talking shop with the owner, Josh. In the interim, I consumed a 1982 Gui Hua aged oolong, an ’08 Chen Yi Hao sheng pu-erh (which tasted like grapes!!!), and a Taiwanese Rou Gui variant. By the end of it all, I was sufficiently tea drunk…before getting actual drunk.

Afterwards, Josh gave me an impromptu tour of his operation. The highlight of which was the burgeoning garden of Sochi cultivar tea plants he had growing in the shop’s backyard. Never before had I been so excited about baby plants. What am I, 90-years-old? Yeah, probably.

We also had a brief conversation about Tie Guan Yin. I confessed that it wasn’t one of my favorite oolongs. Josh insisted that I simply hadn’t had the right one, and mentioned something about a Taiwanese/Chinese Tie Guan Yin blend that I needed to try sometime. The thought scared me a little.

Following an impromptu meal at a taqueria, Josh and I moseyed over to 16 Tons. A mere fifteen minutes after Tea Beer Fest’s start time, and it was already hoppin’.

I beelined for a menu, and examined the wares. Of the fourteen teabeers on display, I was surprised that I’d already notched off four of them. One just within the last week – Buckman‘s Rooibos Red.

That said, there were plenty to still choose from, including two made with J-TEA’s teas – Viking Braggot Company‘s Chai Dunkelweiss and Oakshire Brewing‘s 2013 Frederic’s Lost Arm. I’d already tried the Lost Arm from prior years, but this was my first time trying it as a straight, un-barreled saison. While those were definitely on my beerdar, I was transfixed by one particular beer as my first taster.

Walking Man‘s Lap Sang – a Scotch-style ale.

Ho-ly shite. It was amazing. Smoke on the front, kilt party in the back. It was like a zombie Highlander lit on fire in my mouth. One of my favorite styles of ales combined with one of my favorite kinds of tea. It wasn’t quite the mangasm that Rogue’s Lapsang Souchong porter was, but it was definitely nudging on that territory.

My next favorite was the Viking Chai. Apparently, Viking wasn’t a typical brewery. Their specialty was braggots. Why I’d never heard of a braggot up until that night is beyond me. When I talked with the brewers, they said it was their first attempt at a dunkel. Well, good on ya, boys. It was superb. Dark and spicy.

The bronze medal went to a brewery that I only discovered last month completely by accident – Base Camp Brewing‘s Meridiwitea. A tea-infused version of their Meridiwit, brewed with an emerald oolong from…somewhere. It tasted like lemons, hops, herbs, and wilderness. Y’know, like an actual base camp, I would guess.

The new batch of Oakshire’s Frederic was a close fourth for me. It would’ve been tops had it been like the barrel-aged version. As it stands, it was an extremely solid oolong saison, much stronger on the tea flavor than batches of yesterbrew. I had a chance to yack with the brewer – Matt Van Wyk – and he duly informed me that a new Pinot barrel-aged version was on the way by next summer. I’m counting the days.

Josh, of course, was pinting the Frederic like a proud papa.

You would’ve, too, had you provided one of the main ingredients.

Five hours went by in a blur. I’d expected to merely yack with Josh the entire time, but I ended up doing my fair share of drunken networking. Brewers, tea aficionados, and Eugenite regulars were all in attendance. I was also elated to finally meet 16 Tons’ owner, Mike Coplin, for the first time.

Sometime within the teabeer-fueled haze, Josh and I got to discussing the bourbon barrel he’d acquired. Thus far, it was resting in his teashop…but with no tea in it. He still wasn’t sure what tea he wanted to age in the damn thing. Somehow, in the reverie, we both came to a consensus that a cooked pu-erh would be the likely candidate for the experiment.

10PM arrived far too fast. The event had ended, and Josh and I retired back to his place. The “party” wasn’t over yet, though. We polished off half a growler of more Viking Chai, and at least two bowls of potato chips. Okay, nevermind, I polished two bowls of potato chips.

Not sure how this happened, but Josh got it into his head to brew some tea. Remember that Taiwanese/Chinese Tie Guan Yin I mentioned earlier? Well, he remembered, and brewed it up on the spot. We went through I don’t know how many cups. It managed to sober me up before I turned in for the night.

The following morning, I felt like I’d wrestled a very small bear. I honestly thought I was going to fare far worse. Oolong and aspirin worked double-time to prevent me from feeling nauseous. Other than a mild headache and a slight case of vertigo, I was ready to face the day.

Before parting ways, Josh hosted one last tea session. This time, it was a greener-style Ali Shan oolong. My favorite mountain.  I could think of no better tea to have before heading out on the road.

When I got home, I crashed. Hard. For three hours. I rousted around 6PM and hopped online to see if there was any commotion. Then I saw that J-TEA had posted this picture on their Facebook.

Oh, dear lord, what had I done?

A bourbon barrel-aged pu-erh was in the making, and I’d been a part of the initial beer-drenched brainstorm for it. I’m not used to being a part of tea history in the making. Even by proxy. Just…WOW! I hoped it would turn out majestic.

And with that, my teabeer week came to a close. I felt like I’d been put through the ringer, but it seemed…well…epic. No other word for it. Another saga for the archives.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

J-TEA Josh also passed on some Russian-grown tea for me to play with.

But that’s another story.


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Friday, October 25th, 2013 Beverage Blog 3 Comments

Beer. Earl Grey. Cold

Before I moved to my current location, I resided in a quaint little ‘burb on the outskirts of Beaverton, OR. All the houses dated back to the late 1940s, and were small familial dwellings. I didn’t associate much with the neighbors. They only saw me on the rare times when I walked my brother’s dog or came out to get mail in my pajamas. Yep, I was “that guy”.

However, one particularly social neighbor – the one that gifted me with some Ethiopian tea a few months later – put it upon himself to host regular neighborhood parties. My favorites? The monthly beer-themed bro-parties. Each month had a theme, and the attendants were tasked with bringing beers matching that theme for the rest of the class. The result? Well, naturally, some drunkenness.

The exception to the thematic rule was homebrewers. If you were awesome enough to brew your own beer and share it, you could bring whatever the heck you wanted. A friend of my neighbor’s was one such guy. Since I’m not sure how publicly he wants his name known, I’ll simply refer to him as JK. (Those were his initials, honest.)

I don’t recall what beer theme it was the day JK showed up, only that he brought a few of his homemade wares. The first of which he introduced rather bashfully as, “It’s a weird one. I used Earl Grey tea.”

That mention made me sit up instantly.

For the next hour or so, as he was passing the bottles around, I picked his brain on the process he used. It was a beer he called “The Kaiser of Earl”, which consisted of Pilsner extract, East Kent Hops, and Crystal Malt. In short, a pale ale recipe, but with the added benefit of 2oz. of Earl Grey tea leaves. More leaves were also added to a secondary fermentation process.

What can I say? The beer was gorgeous to look at. The liquor color wasn’t just amber, but crimson. The aroma was crisp and citrusy, the head was foamy and thick, and it poured beautifully. On taste, it was…well…criminy, it was an Earl Grey beer! I’d tried two or three different Earl-infused ales before. None of them ever retained the bergamot – not a one. This had the sour citrus rind throughout the palate. It was like drinking a pale ale infused with Earl Grey concentrate.

For what it’s worth, I resisted for a good four hours before I played the “beer blogger card”, and asked if I could do a feature on it. JK was happy to oblige me by saying he’d provide bottles for sampling the next time we met. Such an opportunity wouldn’t come about, though, for a few months.

In the interim, I’d forgotten all about the offer he made and continued my tea-beer quest as best I could. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was always one week off from seasonal tea-beer availability. Pyramid had a Chai wheat…but I was too late. Stone Brewing had two different sencha seasonals, but I found ‘em nowhere near my berg. The only available tea-beers were ones I already tried.

In the Spring, JK showed up to another party. Again, I forget what the theme was. (Stupid beer brain.) He gifted me with three bottles of the Earled brew. I caressed them lovingly, and stuck ‘em in the back of the fridge, waiting for a special time to break ‘em in.

I guess the special occasion I settled on was “Shitty Tuesday at Work”, and I broke open the 22oz. bottle with zeal. It tasted just as good as I remembered, if not more full-bodied. Not sure why; just more citrusy somehow.

In true me-like fashion, I delayed doing a write-up on the Kaiser of Earl. Weeks turned to a month. A month turned to…several months. Before I knew it, the summer was almost over. Even after all that time, though, I still remember that beer rather fondly. Like stupefied – but approving – Picard.

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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

Am I too Delicate to Drink?

This is a subject I’ve been meaning to write about for…oh…two days now. I know, a looong time for contemplating a write-up. But it is a something I’ve pondered in some form or another. My relationship to alcohol is a precarious one at best. There have been good moments, bad moments, and…moments I can’t remember. (Yay, college.) Lately, I thought I had that tightrope act down. I approached my relationship to beer as a cautious critic would – at arm’s length, like at a Sadie Hawkins dance.

Recent events, however, have prompted me to rethink things.

No, nothing tragic has occurred. No one was injured. My car is very much intact. The reasons for this pondering prose are far, far more pansy. And it all started Saturday.

I got off work early – like two whole hours early! Totally unheard of in my field during the peak season. My first impulse was to head out to a tearoom, which I did. Smith Teamaker, to be precise. And, boy, am I glad I did! Darjeeling samples greeted me on arrival. Fate is with me this day, I thought.

Afterwards, I made a jaunt over to Southeast Portland to pay a pit stop to one of my favorite haunts – The Green Dragon. For those not in the Portland know, it’s a bar owned by Rogue Brewing, and it has a “botanical” brewery called Buckman attached. Three or four tea-beers I’ve had in the past were notched off here. It also has the unfortunate reputation of being a well-known hipster den. Luckily, not so much the day I went.

I settled in on a bar stool with a pint – a beer brewed from shiitake mushrooms, no less. (Yes, you read that right.)

While I people watched, I also perused the ol’ Facebook newsfeed. A friend of mine – whom I hadn’t seen in a year – posted that she wanted visitors at her work. It was right next door to where I was barstooled. I chimed in and said I would jaunt over for a spell.

Making the merry trot a block down, I visited with said friend, waxed nostalgic a bit, and moved on to pint number two. A Ninkasi something-er-other. An IPA, I think; they all seem to be IPAs. A bit of time passed, and I got it into my slightly foggy head to visit another friend at his work. It was several blocks up, but I figured I could use the walk after two pints.

I’m not sure if it was the dual-dueling pints or the weather, but my senses felt heightened. Sights and sounds seemed more noticeable. Passersby, random sights, buildings of odd model-‘n-make were more fascinating to me during that jaunt. Particularly this doggie hotel. Seriously, I have no idea why I found it so hilarious.

Said friend wasn’t at his work, so I made the trek back down to where the other friend worked. She was about to get off shift, and a few minutes later we made our way to a bar across the street. A good couple of hours had elapsed; I figured I had one more pint in me. I ordered something from Double Mountain. An IPA, I think; they all seem to be IPAs.

Not sure why…but I felt incredibly socially awkward during that third pint. I was stuttering more, fumbling constantly. Vocabulary was still intact, but my delivery was more…autistic. Not drunkenly so, just…less lucid (?).

Upon returning home, I felt a headache forming. I surfed the net for a bit, then headed to bed. Still relatively clear of mind. No drunk-feeling to speak of. Or so I thought.

The next day…

Worst. Hangover. Ever.

My head felt like it was in a French press, my stomach cycled in on itself at the first budge of wakefulness, and I uttered a simple, raspy, “Owwww.”

It didn’t feel like I’d had three beers the night before; it felt like I’d consumed a keg. I stumbled for the shower, washed a bit of the “hurting” away, brewed some tea, got dressed, and headed out the door. It was 7AM. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention it was a work morning? Yes, I did.

Once I scarfed down two bagels, and clanged a pint of Ceylon tea, the feeling of festering faded. I made it through the day with nary a wince of pain, save for a grumbling bad mood. The whole day still gave me pause. Three beers never had that much of an effect on me, especially in such slow succession.

By Monday, that was a distant memory. Or at least to my infamous short attention span. The work day went by swimmingly – cheerfully, even – and I left during a patch of nice weather. It felt like drinking weather. As if on cue, I received a text from my ol’ beer buddy NinjaSpecs. He was down at The Green Dragon, following up on a text I’d sent him about a certain wine-and-whiskey-barrel-aged Belgian quad that was back on tap. I never knew my car was capable of light speed until that very moment.

I downed about two 10oz. teardrop glasses while I was there – felt fine. NinjaSpecs and I came up with the bright idea to draft a friend’s house for an episode of totally wanton – but completely responsible – inebriation. This was the first time in a long time I’d planned out a night for getting completely wrecked. We had a place set up to say – no driving, at all – and I had the next two days off. Plenty of time for recovery.

We stopped and ordered greasy fast food burgers on the way for alcohol padding. Everything was going according to plan. Upon arriving at said friend’s house, we broke in some card games, and busted out an oak barrel-aged stout for first of the evening’s festivities.

I lasted only 6oz.

It happened all so suddenly. At first, I was gleefully playing and laughing, the next…my head began to pound. Thud. Thud. Thud. THUD! Words ran together whenever I talked. Sentences started in reverse – Yoda-style. Was I having a stroke?!

The original plan had been to stay the night at the friend’s house, then I was to take NinjaSpecs back to his car whenever we rousted in the morning. My body had another idea in mind. It was telling me, “Get your ass home right now, or you’ll puke your brains out all over this table. Literally, your liquid brains!”

And at that point, I choaded out on my friends. Less than two-and-a-half pints in, from within a four-hour time-frame, I pussed out on the rest of the party. I gave my sincere apologies, and made the drive home in abject humiliation. Skull splitting the entire way.

When I returned to my apartment complex, I grumbled a bit. Someone was occupying my parking spot. A white car with a “Country Girl” bumper sticker and a community college parking pass. Mumbling something along the lines of, “Durrnnn kids these days,” I called the tow company. I felt like a 90-year-old man.

The headache was mostly gone the following day. Aspirin and generous helpings of tea helped keep it at bay. My sister/roommate listened empathetically at my neurotic retelling of the last few days. She suggested, “Maybe you have a gluten sensitivity.”

I refused to listen.

I wasn’t going to be one of the gluten-free people. First and foremost, it would’ve been an insult to people I knew who had a legitimate reasons to be gluten-free. As in, innards-melting good reasons. Being a beer-wussed old man was not a reason. At least, not without proper diagnosis.

Perhaps the reason was far simpler, and far less hippie. Maybe my drinking days were done. I mean, not “cold turkey” done, but severely scaled back. My body was probably telling me that those old partying days were over. Not that I was the type to get wrecked anyway.

For well over a decade, I had imposed a two-pint rule upon myself. Given my propensity for being a lightweight, and my genetic history, I chose to limit myself to two pints in a single outing. That was my sobriety threshold. Yes, I did violate that on a few occasions. (Damn you, 14-year-old Scottish whiskey, and your deliciousness!) But generally, that was the rule o’ thumb. My comfort zone.

And now, here I sit, head still slightly ringy; my body literally telling me, “YOU. CAN’T. GO. OVER. TWO!”

I think I’ll listen now.

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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 Beverage Blog 3 Comments

The Frederic Saga

Beverages often have stories to them, either of how they were made or about what inspired them. The story behind Oakshire Brewing‘s Frederic C. Noir is probably the longest and most varied I’ve ever come across. Practically a saga, even.

Here is the bottle description verbatim:

“Originally brewed for the 1st Anniversary of Eugene’s 16 Tons, “Frederic’s Lost Arm” was a collaboration with J-Tea International – a Saison made with Iron Goddess Green Oolong Tea. This farmhouse style ale was a tribute to the French writer Frederic Sauser who lost dominant arm in WWI before learning to write with his other hand. We laid the beer to slumber for two years with Brettanomyces Clausenii, a wild yeast evoking fruity aromas and earthy, funky flavors. Fred is light, crisp, and fruity with mild herbal noes and a pineapple-like finish. See what time has done for Frederic C. Noir! Cheers to three years of prosperity at 16 Tons!”

A year ago, I had the pleasure of sampling Frederic’s Lost Arm. (Man, that sounds wrong out of context.) Josh Chamberlain of J-TEA was the one who gave me the heads up. That batch had been aged in a gin barrel for several months, resulting in a very juniper-laden and sour ale that I adored. I didn’t get much of an oolong taste from it, but my nose was clogged at the time. Any gentle presence would’ve been lost on me.

J-TEA Josh – again – alerted the social mediasphere of a sequel to that batch. Yes, the beer had a damn sequel. How does that happen?! It was the remainder of the Lost Arm batch, but this time – aged in a Pinot Noir barrel for two years. I’m no stranger to wine barrel-aged beers. Many have graced my palate, but this was my first wine barrel-aged tea-beer. That combined both of my favorite pursuits – barrel-aged beers and tea-beers. The only downside…it was only available in Eugene. Two friggin’ hours away from my neck o’ the woods.

I mulled over the idea of a road trip for several days. Eventually, I almost gave up – telling myself, Eh, they probably ran out by now. Then a small part of me urged my fingers to the keyboard. I decided to contact 16 Tons via Twitter to see if they had any more Frederic left. By some small miracle, they did.

I was on the road to Eugene two days later.

My first stop was to visit the source for the oolong used for the beer – J-Tea International. While there, I was able to meet, pick the brain of, and sample the wares of the owner himself – Josh. He also informed me that the oolong used for the Frederics was a Four Seasons greener-style oolong from Taiwan. Not sure if this contradicts the “Iron Goddess” claim on the Frederic C. Noir bottle or if there was some confusion on my part. Taiwan does produce a Ti Guan Yin variant in the Muzha region. Eh, whatever.

The next stop was one of two locations that 16 Tons manages. For those that’ve never heard of it, it’s basically the specialty beer store(s?) in Eugene. Their reputation is well-earned. They carried many beers I hadn’t heard of (yet), and had several barrel-aged options on tap. After buying my precious bottle of Frederic, I was lucky enough to sample a wine barrel-aged beer produced by a monastery in Sweden. Absolutely wonderful way to pit stop.

In a display of profound patience for someone like me, I didn’t actually tear into this bottle until a week or so later. I wanted to do it in a more public setting than my usual tasting pattern (i.e. alone, in front of my computer). The perfect opportunity came in the form of a themeless party at a friend’s house in Camas. Yes, I know, Camas and I have some shaky history, but sometimes it’s well worth the risk. I may have been the only one drinking that early, but at least I was among friends. Still counts.

When I uncorked it, I braced myself for fizz. Nothing happened for a ten seconds. Then I pressed my nose to the bottle to get a good whiff. That’s when it happened…

A geyser of foam exploded up my nostrils. Luckily, it was a wonderful aroma that invaded my nose – sour, corky, and fruity. The liquor itself poured smoothly, and its color was a crisp, spring green with minimal head. It almost looked like a white wine.

And it kind of tasted like wine. The front was all Pinot – slightly astringent and kind of grapy – but the rest was a Belgian sour to the core. The finish was where I detected a bit of the oolong used for the beer’s water base. The herbaceous quality on the aftertaste was Formosan to a “tea”. I sipped this over the course of two hours while at the Camas party.

I departed early to make a second stop at a karaoke bar to meet some other friends. Somehow, someway, I thought it a bright idea to sing a bluegrass song whilst amidst the hipsterati of Northeast Portland. That was met with ironic stares. I giggled awkwardly on the inside.

I blame Frederic.

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Monday, May 13th, 2013 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

Weird & Beered

As I write this, I’m currently nursing a beer called “Kill Devil” from the Brothers Widmer – a rum barrel-aged brown ale. I was brainstorming – pint in hand – and itching for something to write about. I happened to be yacking with a fellow Facebook friend, and consulted her on one of three topics to write about. Given that I was already drinking a beer, she said I should choose that topic. And indeed I have. Since I’m currently drinking an odd ale, I figured, “Why not focus on odd ales I’ve tried?”

And here they are:

I “Seaweed” Beer, I Drink It

A few years ago, I attended an event dubbed Fringe Fest at a specialty beer shop called Belmont Station. I encountered some folks with whom I knew mutual people. While I had been there for a particular tea-beer, they recommended another ale from out of Scotland. They had me at “Scotland”.

The Williams Bros. brewing op resides in lloa, Clackmannanshire…wherever that is. All I know is that it has the word “shire” in it, which instantly makes that place awesome! Seaweed was an actual ingredient included in their Kelpie ale, which instantly made it doubly awesome! If I remember it correctly (and that’s debatable), I found the ale to be smooth, light, but sweetly vegetal. Like actual kelp. Whatever the case may be, I remember liking it.

Bacon Beer

I don’t remember in what context I heard about bacon as a recipe in beer, but it had something to do with a brewfest. One that I couldn’t attend, no less; I was in ire of that fact. Some brewery out of the East Coast had concocted a bacon beer. While I’m allergic to the stuff, I have been known to risk life and limb to try different bacoriffic permutations. Beer was my next phase.

A year or so later – after (you guessed it) another brewfest – a friend of mine had the drunken “jeenyus” idea to go to the Rogue Public House for dinner. Keep in mind, we were already three-to-four strong pints in, and I’m a lightweight by genetic design.

Anyway, Rogue had put out a hot pink bottle on the market called the Bacon Maple Ale. And, I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste exactly like that. Sweet, syrupy and…uh…bacony. It also made me sick to my stomach, but that could’ve been the pints prior. We almost got kicked out, for good reason.

Another year after – while enjoying some quesadillas at a specialty shop called Birra Deli – I had the opportunity to try another bacon beer. Instead of risking an entire pint, though, I went for a simple 5oz. taster instead. It was from Uncommon Brewers. I can’t remember what it was called, though. It was majestic…and it didn’t make me sick in my tum-tum.

Worst-Best of Both Worlds

On a random outing for happy hour at the McMenamins Imbrie Hall, a friend and I saw mention of a beer release event. One of the wares being whored was an unlikely combination – a lager aged in a tequila cask. If there were two more unholy ingredients, I couldn’t think of them. I hate lagers, and I loathe tequila. I have a few collegiate “porcelain god” memories (or lack thereof) thanks to “ta-kill-ya”.

When the day finally came, we sampled all they had to offer. All of them were “meh”, save for the darker ales and…*sigh*…the tequila-casked lager. Seriously, it was to die for. It was slightly spicy, incredibly crisp, containing only a partial liquor bite, and deceptively strong. And again, it didn’t make me sick in my tum-tum. I guess – as the old cliché goes – two wrongs can make a right. Or at the very least, a “right now”.

That’s just a smidge of the strange things I’ve sipped and usurped in recent months/years. The pattern isn’t likely to change anytime soon. If there’s an odd alcoholic combination out there, you’d better believe I’m going in once. Like a donkey show.

Hrm…donkey –flavored beer.


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Friday, October 26th, 2012 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

Braving the Oregon Brewers Festival

It all starts with a plan. You carefully orchestrate times, pass along invites, plot courses, and then carry it out. But as any good heist movie will teach you, nothing ever goes according to plan. At most, you can hope for 80% follow-through and a similar outcome. That is why a planner must be open to change, especially when “ooo, shiny!” speedbumps appear.

I can find no better illustration than my two-day excursion to the Oregon Brewers Festival. Over the last few years, I’ve been to a fair share. The first time I went, I didn’t know what I was doing. By the second or third time – consecutively – I had developed a few sure-fire strategies. I even wrote a guide about it.

Unlike years prior, I had it in mind to actually remember what I was trying and what the different tastes were. By “remember”, I don’t mean I ever left in an extreme state of haze, rather, a lot of beers run together. India Pale Ales, particularly.

Okay, some of the haze was from the alcohol, but that’s a whole ‘nother entry.

This year, I set goals. (1) Arrive early. (2) Use only the tokens I have been given, maximize tastings. (3) Stay away from IPAs (my beercandy). (3) Leave early before the night crowds arrived.

The first day of Brewfest went exactly as planned. Truth be told, I only planned on going that one day. Everyone else I knew planned to attend Friday and Saturday (July 24th-25th). There was no way I wanted to deal with the sardine-packed weekend herds. As luck would have it, another friend of mine had the same idea.

All settled, we embarked. These are the beers I tried on Thursday (the 23rd), and my impressions of them.. Er…not exactly in the order I tried them, though. (I had to stagger the best with the rest.)

Hop Valley Brewing Co. Alpha Centauri Binary IPA: This amber-colored India Pale had the usual hoppy nose, but an oddly mild citrus hint to it. It was pretty much a standard IPA with a slightly unbalanced aftertaste. Of course, I liked it (as I do any IPAs), but it didn’t deviate much from the norm.

Green Flash Brewing Co. Le Freak: This was advertized as an Imperial IPA/Belgian Trippel hybrid. Yes, yes, I know I was supposed to stay away from IPAs, but it was a mutt. It doesn’t count. The brew was tangerine orange in color with a floral-tart aroma from the foamy head. Tastewise, it had just enough sweetness from the Belgian aspect, but any pungency was counteracted by the IPA hop kick. Unique and good.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery India Brown Ale: Alright! Yes, it has “India” in the title, but it is not an IPA! It’s a hybrid flavored with coffee and brown sugar. The foamy head was about medium for a beer of its type (nut brown, IPA, what-have-you). The aroma matched the liquor color; dark, roasty, with a chocolaty finish. By roasty, I mean it seemed heavy on the barley – slightly bitter/nutty. I adored it.

Caldera Brewing Co. Hibiscus Ginger Beer: I loves me anythin’ with hibiscus in it. Ginger, not so much, but I hoped that would be understated in this low-hop beer. Luckily, it was. The liquor had a light crimson color – contributed by the hibiscus petals, obviously – and a sweet, slightly vegetal nose. It lived up to its name, spicy-tart with a sweet berry finish.

Sidenote: I meant to only photograph the ones I really liked this year; the Top 7. That was fast becoming difficult since almost everything – up to this point – was so damn good.

The Bruery 7 Grain Saison: A Belgian-style beer alright. It possessed a strong, sweet nose, light head, and looked like a Belgian blonde. Matched that in the taste, too. Crisp tasting, but “meh”. Then again, my palate is biased against Belgian beers to start with. No fault of the brewer.

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema: This was described as a honey-gold ale with Pacific Northwest hops. I absolutely loathed this beer. I didn’t want to be uber-negative in this entry – and I’m sure it’s a fabulous brewery – but I can’t disguise my ire for this. I won’t use superlatives, but I hope this never crosses my plastic pint again. Next time, Anderson, bring the Hop Ottin’ IPA. In the PacNW, that’s a safe bet.

Sidenote: It was about this time I lost my friend in the crowd. In my wanderings, I got even more lost – distracted by the most perfect, princess-like posterior in stonewash jeans I saw that entire day. Totally unrelated to the Cerveza Crema, but shortly thereafter.

Oakshire Pinot Barrel-Aged Strong Ale: Originally, I meant to steer clear of the Buzz Tent (i.e. the place for specialty, two-token beers.) However, this offering had a unique aspect I’d never run into. I’ve had bourbon cask-conditioned ales, but never one from a wine barrel. Had to have it. On even a small sample pour, this strong ale boasted a thick head with a dark body. The mouthpiece aroma was all berries, flame, and ass-kickery. Oh, and the expected wine notes. It was so wine-like and creamy, I wanted to – as my compatriot said – “hump the leg of the brewer.” But…in a purely hetero way.

Sidenote: When trying to locate the profile for this on the Brewfest handbook, it wasn’t listed. In fact, the only pinot barrel-aged beer they had on the Buzz Tent roster was put out by Hop Valley. I’m pretty sure the one I had was the Oakshire one since the sign matched the moniker, but I have no way of verifying that short of asking the brewer…and I’m too lazy for that.

Riverport Brewing Co. 5/5 Pepper Beer: I’m not a fan of pepper. I know I’m not a fan of pepper. My friend – who sampled this Buzz Tent two-tokener – even stressed that I wouldn’t like it because I didn’t like pepper. Well, he was right, I didn’t like it. It tasted like pepper. No fault of the brewer (again), just a palate preference.

Sidenote: The beer name was actually mispelled in the Brewfest handbook as “Peppper”. For the longest time, I thought that was intentional…until I tried looking it up.

Laht Neppur Brewing Co. Strawberry Cream Ale: Although I’m trying to avoid brewery info in these little taster blurbs, there’re a couple of interesting facts about this Northwest newcomer. They also brew their own wine, one being a port-style Syrah. I’m doubly anxious to visit it someday. That said – alas – I didn’t approve of their Strawberry Cream Ale, mainly because it didn’t taste like strawberry. Sure, it had a fruity aspect, but it was muddled and beaten down by the wheat aspect. Negative though that opinion may be, I’m still fascinated to find out more about this brewery.

Eel River Brewing Co. Organic Acai Berry Wheat: I’ve never been a fan of “superfruit” claims, like those made for acai berries. That said, everything with the berries I’ve tried – from teas to vitamin water – turned out delicious. I hoped that was the case with this wheat. It was orange-to-brown in color. The taste was dry, crips and berry-ish. Overall, I found it mediocre. Not bad for a wheat, though, given that they can be hit-or-miss on the subjective tongue.

Sidenote: My beerbud and I were discussing a tea-beer recipe mixing a strawberry tea concentrate with a strawberry ale fused with a stout. He told me to remember it for later reference. So I did.

Laughing Dog Brewing Dogzilla Black IPA: You can smell the hops on this from several feet away. It’s damn strong. As expected by the title, it was black. It tasted like an actual dog biting my face off with sheer awesome. I almost regret not taking a picture of it. I even swigged the rest, and let out a cathartic manly grunt. Well, “attempted” manly grunt.

Sidenote: The girl ahead of me in line was chatting up the obsidian-dark volunteer, wondering where his accent was from. She cooed, “I love your accent. Are you from an island, like Jamaica?” He smiled bashfully, “Uh, no. Ethiopia.” She left embarrassed for being way off. When it was my turn up to bat, I said to him, “That was the best exchange I’ve heard all day.” He laughed.

Moylan’s Brewing Co. Pomegranate Wheat: I looked forward to sampling this because of the pomegranate factor. Unfortunately, the vibrant, purple-colored brew kinda tasted like left-out fruit punch. It would probably have a better effect if I was trying it on tap from a fresher source, but overall I didn’t favor it.

Maui Brewing Co. CoCoNut Porter: Up until now, I’d never heard of Maui Brewing. The only Hawaii-based op I knew about was Kona. But this was a porter, and by mandate, I had to try. It was rich, dark, no foam to speak of, and heavy on the cocoa nose. I was almost worried that this was the skunk end of the batch. The taste changed that. It was sharp and tasted like liquor-infused truffles. Yeah, I liked it. This was dark beercandy.

Kona Brewing Co. Coco Loco – Big Island Brown: My friend and I weren’t sure what we would label this as. Originally, we thought it was a stout. It’s lightness then made us think, “porter”. Turns out it was a brown, as per the liquid color. Didn’t see that coming. The brew possessed a light head with a heavy coconut milk scent, and the taste was crisp and smooth. Not much more to say about it. I approved.

Oakshire Brewing Co. Overcast Espresso Stout: This stout lived up to its name exactly. I only wish it hadn’t been a sunny day while trying it. Per the profile, it was black in color, possessed a nut-roasted smell, and tasted like a mocha with a kick. I likened it to an Irish Coffee. Awesome.

Marin Brewing Co. Blueberry Ale: For a simply-named beer, it’s a shame it didn’t have a stronger flavor. However, it still smelled and tasted like blueberries, albeit on the light side. I chock that up to the pale ale bit.

Pelican Pub & Brewery Kiwanda Cream Ale: Touted as a 19th century-styled beer, this pale surprised me in its delivery. The liquor was gold in color, medium foam-age, and followed through with a suprisingly rich, blunt taste. What’s funny is that I’ve been to Pelican and had their sampler before. I don’t remember this one. Sacrilege.

Sidenote: My friend suggested we mix it with the Oakshire Overcast Espresso for shits-n-giggles. It was genius. They complimented each other perfectly. Not sure if either vendor would appreciate that experiment, though. (Heh.)

In addition, around the same time I noticed a raven-haired goddess on the arm of a rather large missing link of a man. My friend – in his best deadpan – said, “I could take him.”

Boulder Beer Co. Kinda Blue: The only other blueberry beer of the Brewfest, described as a “fruit-filled wheat ale”. It had a red/amber look to it on first pour, a berry-rich nose, and the wheat aspect was the flavor’s forefront. Alas, a little light on the berry, and its sweet finish was almost a little too much. Verdict? Okay.

Dick’s Brewing Co. Dick Danger Ale: Described as a hybrid, I couldn’t tell ya what it was paired with. My immediate guess (at the time, too) was a porter and a brown. The profile states that it’s also coffee-flavored. The dark palette supports that. On splashdown, it produced no foam to speak of, but it sported a decent creamy aroma. Tastewise, it was malty, the creamy aspect translated to the body, and not too strong on the coffee connection. Nod of approval? Earned.

Rogue Ales 21: I usually dismiss Rogue prematurely. A lot of their beers have the same palate to me, variants of the Dead Guy Ale formula. This was way different from anything they’ve produced, or that I could remember. It had a liquor hint to the taste, bourbon-like. You could taste the 8% ABV out of this.

Maui Brewing Co. Heaven & Earth BalreyWine: Yet another two-tokener from the Buzz Tent, and all I had were two tokens left. It was one of the few barleywines on display this year, and I’d never heard of Maui Brewing up until trying their CoCoNut porter. Seemed like a win-win to me. I didn’t add a lot in the way of taster notes for this. All I scribbled out was, “Bourbon-y but mild.” I guess that means I liked it.

Sidenote: I’m still curious if it was really called “BalreyWine” or if that was yet another handbook typo.

And so closes Day One…


Here is where “The Plan” took a turn for the ‘tarded. As mentioned, I originally only set aside the one day for Brewfest to try everything I wanted to. About noon the following day, I received a text from a friend of mine who was in town from upper Washington. We’ll call him BrewMunkey (since that’s the name of his taster blog…and he knows more than I do). I was in touch with him for most of the day prior relating beers to look out for. He and BrewMunkeyBride were planning on staying until the place closed.

Since I hadn’t seen them since – oh – the last Brewfest, I figured a second day wouldn’t hurt. I also found out an ol’ high school bud was also making the rounds in the afternoon. Now I had to go. I already had the cup, I still had two tokens, I figured another $10-worth of tasters wouldn’t hurt. So, off I went into the brew-fray…again.

Horrible mistake.

By the time I got there, it was already 2:30PM. The park was packed to the fences. The two main tents were at carrying capacity. Shouts of “whooooo!” could be heard from the street. The air smelled of collegiate drunken reverie. It was no longer Brewfest…

It was “Bro”-Fest.

Upon entering, it was even worse. The average attendee was male and in his mid-20s-to-mid-30s. He sported a sportive tank top to brandish his Larry the Cable Guy-ish “right to bare arms” and matching tribal tattoo. And – if he was lucky – he came with arm candy; an attractive, dazed damsel who wouldn’t know a real beer from a ‘tini drink. These folks were the median.

Sure, scattered about, there were legitimate groups there to enjoy a really good beer, but the norm were the fresh-out-of-college, still-in-party-mode binge drinker. And while I still fall in the age demographic for this group, I abhor it. Maybe it’s my glasses, or a bout of premature old age. When I have a libation, I appreciate peace – a tinge of my tea drinker aesthetic spilling over into my pint glass. Friday was anything but peaceful.

With the few tokens I had, most of my time was spent at the Buzz Tent. I also made the uneconomical move of accidentally sampling things I tried before. I didn’t realize this until I looked at my notes a few days later.

In all, only six new beers tried on the second day. Here they are:

Alaska Brewing Co. Alaskan Barleywine: When I escaped the swelling crowd, I was relieved to find the Buzz Tent reasonably populated. I bee-lined for the barleywine. This offering from Alaska Brewing was very strong on the barley taste, had a wonderful hop finish, and went down smoother than any I’d had so far. It was a good way to start.

Sidenote: I found my group shortly before trekking to the barleywine. Afterward, I went with the espresso stout from Oakshire, thinking I hadn’t tried it before. Upon returning, I lost sight of ’em again due to the crowd. Didn’t find ’em again until an hour later, but I always defaulted back to the Buzz Tent.

Three Skulls Wreckage Barleywine: As far as barleywines go, this one felt medium in strength, easy to swallow, and a nice (almost floral) finish. The after-belch kinda burned, though, but that’s not a judge of bad character. Well, except mine.

Sidenote: Upon my second go-around to the two-tokeners, I had difficulty choosing between a cask-conditioned stout…or another barleywine. Out loud – and in front of the volunteer – I said, “Eenie-meenie-miney…Barleywine.” She looked at me strangely.

After leaving the tent, and walking the periphery in search of people I knew, the odor of marijuana filled my nose. Wonderful. Yep, definitely Bro-Fest.

Natian Brewery Destinatian: Dubbed the smallest – or “nano” – brewery at the festival per the profile, this was a Portland-based outfit and a new one to me. For a dark amber, I thought it was surprisingly light. It had a wheat-like aroma, a note of honey to the taste, and a crisp bite of citrus at the end. I enjoyed it immensely.

Eugene City Brewery Honey Orange Wheat: I know I tried this, my notes say I did, yet I couldn’t find the brewery listed in the handbook. Googling didn’t help either, except for mentions of a Rogue annex with the same name. Too bad. This was wonderful. The liquor had a vibrant orange color, a predominately wheat nose, but it was like tasting orange juice mixed with cider and a dash of mead.

Sidenote: It is here I should mention the absolute, undisputed King of Brewfest – Sunburned Obese Button-Down-Shirt Fat Guy. Sir, I raised my glass to you. You were awesome. Second Runner-Up was Handlebar Mustache Goth Kilt Guy. He trailed only by a margin.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Ollalieberry Cream Ale: I’ve never even heard of an ollalieberry before. What it tastes like, I couldn’t tell ya. For this ale, I simply could not get passed the sour taste. There was a berry profile alright, but it was far too sweet and face-implosive. However, I’ll fault my palate for that. I don’t like really sweet-n-sour things to begin with.

Sidenote: I had a beer snob moment with the volunteer who was serving this. He was about to poor me the last bit from an almost-empty pitcher. I stated that I didn’t want the skunk end and pointed to a full/fresh pitcher next to him. Both he and another volunteer insisted that the skunky sediment was fresh as well. I insisted on the other pitcher. They acquiesced…but only poured about halfway. Jerks.

Buckbean Brewing Co. Original Orange Blossom: In reading from the handbook, I was surprised that this was a brewery from my old Alma mater – Reno, NV. This ale might be enough to make me visit again. It was citrusy, sweet, but with a balanced floral character throughout. I would say this was the best I tried my second day at Brewfest without question. The perfect summer ale.

I closed my day with a recommendation from a friend to try the Rogue 21. Of course, I already tried it, but I didn’t know it at the time. I liked it better the second time around. Fresher batch, mayhap. I said my farewells to BrewMunkey and BrewMunkeyBride, and to the others I knew. Crowd-worn, I dragged my feet to the lightrail.

In the end, regardless of earlier frustration with the populace, it was still worth the jaunt. There were those I missed that were more worthwhile than I thought, and I notched off two more barleywines in the process. In those terms, it was a success. However, in the future, I’ll stick to my guns for only doing it the first day.

I’m not a party person…

Despite evidence to the contrary.

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 Beverage Blog No Comments

I work for tea money.


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