Beverage Blog

Two Trips, Bootleg Botanicals, and Shorty Cigars

As some of you know by perusing this website or my tea blog, booze and botanicals are kind of my thing. Especially, when they’re combined somehow. My love of teabeers, for example, is practically synonymous with my Internet persona. Imagine my surprise when my latest discovery in this pursuit…came from an old childhood neighbor.

It had been years since I’d seen Ryan Belshee (the childhood neighbor) and his wife Melanie. The last time was by sheer accident at a house party. My contact with Ryan over Facebook was a new development. When I heard that he and his wife were starting a business after a successful Kickstarter campaign – and that it somehow involved absinthe – I’ll confess I paid it only half-attention. Not a fan of absinthe.

However, when I learned that they were opening the brick-‘n-mortar space for this new venture, I thought it high time I give it a looksee. And my jaw dropped.

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Friday, October 17th, 2014 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

Three Trips, Two Kilts, One Miracle

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 1 – “Three Trips, Two Kilts, One Miracle”

At the beginning of 2014, I’d already come to the foregone conclusion that I wouldn’t get a vacation. That prior December, I burned through all of my paid time off to make ends meet at work. Hours were scarce, money even more so. The only trips I could afford were ones that were close to home, and some evenings that involved beer.

On one particular evening off, after a horrible work day, I decided to notch two breweries off my list. (Yes, there’s a list.) One was called Stickmen’s, and the other – the subject of this blog – was Two Kilts. The latter’s brews weren’t entirely new to me. I had tried their Scottish ale at a couple of house parties. It was – in an inappropriate word – fan-fucking-tastic. A trip to the source was in order.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I made the trip to Sherwood, OR. The “pub” itself rested in a business warehouse area off the only major “highway”. The fairly new op housed a bar in the office portion of the garage, whereas the body of it housed benches for sitting and the brewery lab in back.

The bar was instantly inviting. Various memorabilia lined the walls and bar proper, a giant monitor listed the beer specials, and the taps were front and center. Even the visually-impaired wouldn’t have difficulty adjusting.

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Sunday, June 8th, 2014 Beverage Blog No Comments

Diary of a Hopelessly Egotistical Rabid Manchild-in-Training

WARNING: The following story is going to paint the author (me) as petty, selfish, immature and hypersensitive. And that’s because, well, I am. No one is more fully aware of…uh…myself than…myself. I am a hopelessly egotistical rabid manchild…in training.

But let’s start at the beginning.

In 2011, a friend of mine decided to form a gaming group that would meet on Mondays. Originally, it was tailored as a roleplaying (read: D&D-type stuff) session with the possibility of other games thrown in on the off-days. And for a while, that’s exactly what it was – strictly a roleplaying group.

Earthdawn was the game du jour, and there were around six of us total. That changed, however, when the DM (i.e. Dude-in-Charge-of-Quest) had to bail out on the weekly sessions due to his work schedule. From that point on, it morphed into a board game/card game group.

A quick aside: I suck at games. All games. If it’s an exercise in competition, I will have no aptitude for it. I’m not smart enough, strategically-minded enough, patient enough, or focused enough for them. Videogames, included. Until that year, I was a “casual” gamer at best – a non-entity at worst. Unfortunately, it was the only way I could see this group of friends on a regular basis.

While the roster of participants was a revolving door, there were four regulars besides myself. Sansai was the de facto host – an army veteran and alpha gamer. Then there was NinjaSpecs, whom I’ve mentioned a couple of times – my monotone, hilarious half-Asian drinking buddy. Lastly, there was the married couple – Hubbit (he…uh…looked like a Hobbit and was a husband) and BBC, short for “Big Black C**K”. She was a tiny thing with a sweet disposition…that happened to act like a very well-endowed – and articulate – African American man.

The usual suspects, as far as games were concerned, ranged from Settlers of Catan to all incarnations of FLUXX, and further down the pit to Munchkin land. All of these games were fun, imaginative, inspired much laughter…and brought out the worst in people. The problems with a lot of games geared toward the nerd/geek set are the rules. Most of them encourage backstabbing, even the tame ones.

What does that mean for someone like me? Well, in every group or herd there is – what I like to call – the “weak gazelle”.

They are generally the slowest, feeblest and most gullible member of the group. By design or circumstance, they are also often the butt of a lot of the jokes because of the traits mentioned above. In my group, granted, everyone ribbed on everyone else. But it felt like I absorbed the lion’s share. Then again, I am a hopelessly egotistical rabid manchild-in-training.

Image mooched from The Cheezburger Network

Image mooched from The Cheezburger Network

As years wore on, so did my tolerance of this dynamic. One can only go so long being the foil. Eventually, the group – no matter how well-intentioned – seems like a chore. An activity that was supposed to be fun turns into a task. I started thinking of things I’d rather be doing than gaming.

I got the sense they could detect my drifting as well. Did I think they relegated me to punching bag on purpose? Heck no. They were all fine folks, and they did what was natural. Perhaps because of who/how I was, the environment continued to come across as toxic.

In the last month or two, I bandied words with my sister/roommate about my misgivings toward the gaming group. She thought I should maintain it, so that I’d remain social. I wanted to rebuke her with, “What you do you mean, I’m plenty socia-”

Wait a tick.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed. Not sure when it occurred or how, but I really didn’t have that much of a social life anymore. A mere five years ago, my calendar was always full with this-party or that-gathering. Sometime between ’08 and ’09, it all dried up. Aside from the odd special occasion – weddings, open houses, baby showers et al. – I was alone. My regular hangout crews were family members…and my gaming group.

Maybe my sister had a point.

On a recent Monday, I had to text the gaming group informing them I was bowing out for the night. My work shift didn’t end until 7PM. Even if I did make it to Sansai’s house, I would only be there for two hours. Not enough time, or at least that was my excuse.

I texted Sansai, saying I couldn’t make it.

He replied with this picture.

A bottle of bourbon barrel-aged Belgian quad. That wasn’t just a “nectar-of-the-gods” beer; that was nectar strait from the four teats of the Beer Goddess herself! The picture was sent fifteen minutes before I was off shift.

I texted, “Why are you trying to tempt me?”

“Peer pressure,” he responded.

At 7PM, I sighed. “Just got off work. On my way.”

As I drove, I thought to myself, Maybe I am being too harsh on the group. Perhaps I can keep an open mind – give it a go still.

I was there in ten minutes.

When I came through the door, everyone was well into a game of Dominion. I took a seat and saw the quad bottle in all its majesty. I also saw the contents of said bottle poured into the glasses of Sansai and NinjaSpecs.

“So, is there any left?” I asked. (Well, more like pleaded.)

NinjaSpecs pretended to examine the bottle. “I suppose you could lick the bottom of it.”

My lower lip practically quivered…and I almost wept.

I’d been beer-trolled.

There are some jokes made at my expense that I can take in stride. Tricking me with false information? Easy to do, I’m kinda gullible. Tripping me? Been done before, I can walk it off. Luring me to a game night with a rare f**king beer…and not saving me any? No. Just…no. I have my limits, and they are petty. As we’ve already established, I am a hopelessly egotistical rabid manchild-in-training.

My sadness turned into pure, seething (but quiet) rage. If I didn’t have a smart phone to peruse the Internet on, I would’ve flipped the table. So, I sat there. Silently. Chiming in only with the occasional grunt or word.

Their game of Dominion had finished, and they decided to start another. BBC looked at me and asked, “Shall we deal you in?”

I responded with…

That round ended a half-hour later, and the group agreed on Heroes of Graxia next. BBC asked again, “You want in?”

I responded with…

Somewhere down the line, I also mentioned I had to leave at 9PM. Early work shift the next day and all; it was mostly true. The unspoken kernel of truth was that I wanted out of their quicker than a vegan in a chop-shop.

NinjaSpecs chimed in with, “Are you sure? You don’t want any of this Belgian quad?”

“But that’s yours,” I grumbled. Taking a sip as I said it.

It was glorious, which made me all the angrier.

8:50PM, and I was done. I got up, said my farewells and headed out the door. The air was cold, the ground – wet. I shivered both out of rage and from my complete lack of coat. I drove home with no radio, teeth in a vice-like grit.

That was it. I was done with that group. Or at least, done with the gaming aspect of it. No more weak gazelle, no more foil, and definitely…no more beer-trolling. They could summon another sucker for all I cared. Was it too impulsive a conclusion? Damn right, it was. But what else do you expect from a hopelessly egotistical rabid manchild-in-training?

Ugh, there has to be a way to shorten that – an acronym, perhaps? Let me think.

Hopelessy Egotistical Rabid Manchild-In-Training.

H-E-R-…oh…

I see what I did there.

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Thursday, January 30th, 2014 Beverage Blog, Musings 2 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 io9.com. 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.

Fin

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Friday, October 25th, 2013 Beverage Blog 3 Comments

A Peaberry Coffee Confession

A small confession.

Okay, maybe a big one.

I’m Geoff and … *sigh* … there’s a coffee I like.

To those who know me as a “tea”-totaler, it may come as a shock to you, but I actually started off as a coffee drinker. During my latter years of college, I worked graveyard shift at a hotel. Even then, my young, supple body couldn’t stave off sleepiness for long. The mystical powers of caffeine had to help eventually.

So, naturally, I brewed a pot on shift. For many months, this worked just fine. The coffee wasn’t…great. (Up ‘til now, no coffee had.) On one unfortunate, sleep-deprived night, though, I brewed a batch at double-strength. It led do a three-day “flu”.

That put me off coffee for years.

In the interim, I became a tea guy. To some of my friends, I was THE tea guy. But even in my most snobby of moments, I admitted there was room for coffee’s existence. The occasional dark roast did make it into my cup. Those moments were rare, but they were there. Much to the chagrin of some of my tea brethren and sistren.

Still, there was nothing I truly loved about coffee. It tasted like burnt blackness with a hint of fire-swill. For the most part. Then…I encountered one that changed my palate opinion. And I have this li’l f**ker to blame.

My cousin, Jason, introduced me to peaberry coffee. What is that, you ask? I’ll friggin’ tell you.

It’s crack. Roasted. Crack. But more specifically…

A coffee “cherry” generally only has two beans (or “seeds”) in it at the time of plucking. They are usually ovular (I think?) and flat-facing. Every once in a while, though, only one of the beans is fertilized, but the other doesn’t flatten. Think of it like a normal chicken egg…but without the chick. That is a peaberry or “caracoli” bean. These are oftentimes collected to create a different type of single origin coffee. Many different regions produce and sort peaberry coffee – Hawaii and Tazmania for examples.

I’m not sure what happens between bean plucking and roasting, but whatever it is, voodoo must be involved. To a staunch tea drinker, coffee cannot taste that good. I likened it – in tea-ish terms – to a black tea from Yunnan province, China made up of gold-tipped, fully-oxidized leaf buds. The taste was even similar, if roasted.

Peaberry coffee – at least, the Ehiopian arabica, medium dark roast stuff my cousin fed me – tasted like burnt lotus blossoms by way of a burly Assam tea brewed as a concentrate. Floral, chewy, and painfully addicting. Oddly enough, it wasn’t as jitter-inducing as other coffees I’ve had. Nor was it as offensively astringent. This might be due to the anecdotal claim that the rounder bean roasts more evenly compared to its flatter siblings.

I’m convinced my cousin fed me this stuff so that I’d never ask for an actual wage when we worked together. We hammered out a book outline, and the start of a new comic project. And that was only on one cup of the stuff. Keep in mind, I was already tea-caffeinated for the day.

What can I say, I’m a peaberry whore now.

First cup’s always free.

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Saturday, September 21st, 2013 Beverage Blog 12 Comments

The Wood Made Me Do It

Short version: It was the week of my brother’s wedding. Family was in town. And – ooooh boy – it was epic.

However, this being my blog, I can only focus on one particular anecdote from that five-day period. The only one with an actual arc. Strangely enough, it was an occurrence that happened before the wedding. It all started at the rehearsal dinner.

As mentioned above, family was in town. What I did not know was how many family members came out to see my younger sibling tie the knot. I half-thought most of ‘em showed up to see it to believe it. Can’t say I blame them. (Two weeks have passed, and I’m still reeling from the idea of my baby brother being…uh…brided? I know, not a word.)

A rehearsal dinner was scheduled for the evening prior to the wedding day, as was custom. I wasn’t sure if I would make it, due to my work schedule. My average exit time was 6PM, and the dinner itself was at 6:30. Rush hour traffic was another concern, and the dinner was clear on the other side of town.

By luck or fate, I finished my work day at 4PM, leaving enough time to feed the cat, change, and head out. I opted for a lesser-used mini-highway that ran through the ritzy part of West Portland. Not only did I arrive on time, but I was early. And that never happens. The only hiccup I ran into was…well… all of Oregon City. I’m convinced that town was designed by a mead-hopped steampunk enthusiast.

Once I finally found a place to park, I came up to the restaurant as other family members arrived. They remarked on my hunched-over stance, and I adjusted my posture to something less…gorilla. I caught a glimpse of something (or rather someone) out of place. Someone who wasn‘t family. Some woman.

My cousin (we’ll call him “Bucky”) had mentioned that he and his wife (“RB”) were bringing a friend with them on their jaunt from California. What I did not expect was that she would be gorgeous. She was tall, waif-like, with a Mediterranean – olive-to-milky white – complexion. Long, brown, wavy hair spilled over her shoulders. We’ll call her “KG”, and she instantly caught my attention.

I only talked to her for a little bit during the rehearsal din. Most of the time was spent yacking with family I hadn’t seen in years. After a couple of hours, though, my cousin, Bucky, mentioned they wanted to close the evening off at a bar or two. His sister, “NK”, also wanted in. While they were in town, this was the only night I had available for just such a debauched evening. My default suggestion was one I always gave to out-of-towners – The Green Dragon.

The five of us got there shortly after 8PM. The first question I asked the bartender was, “Anything barrel-aged?” Yes, my beersnobbery had reached that apex. The Green Dragon was one of the few places that carried bourbon-barrel-aged or cask-conditioned ales on tap. Pricy, yes…but palate-sating.

As luck would have it, they had the “Gentleman’s Club” series on tap – a collaboration between Widmer Brewing and Cigar City Brewing. There were three ales total – one aged in a bourbon barrel, one in a rye whiskey barrel, and one in a new oak spiral (whatever that is). The idea behind these concoctions was to create a “cocktail”-like feel. Lucky for me, Green Dragon was offering a sampler of all three.

I sniffed each 4oz. taster. Can’t say they reminded me of cocktails, but they were indeed what I hoped for. In fact, they reminded me of many whiskey barrel-aged barleywines and strongs I’d tried over the years. Before I could grab all three glasses, though, the phone rang.

It was my sister/roommate. She was locked out of the apartment, and she was demanding my immediate return to let her in. Our apartment was a good half-hour away. I looked at my cousin, his wife, to the lovely KG, and down at my sampler. I wasn’t going anywhere.

We made our way to the outdoor patio area, all the while, my sister was texting me repeatedly to come home. I ignored most of them. That hour was awkward as we mulled over our drinks, and I cursed under my breath. By the fifth text, and after downing the bourbon barrel-aged Gentleman’s Club, I had the solution.

I looked up our apartment’s website for a contact number, called that, and was redirected to a 24-hour service number. Emergency maintenance issues (including lockouts) could be handled thusly. I gave that number a dial.

The maintenance guy’s response was priceless. Something akin to, “Aaaw, man! I was just out there!”

My reply was a more polite version of, “Well, go out there again!”

He informed me that there’d be a service charge. I didn’t care. After that convo ended, I called my sister and told her that maintenance was on their way. She thanked me profusely and apologized for “almost ruining my evening”. Truth be told, I hadn’t even started yet.

Crisis averted, we resumed the “business” at hand. The bench we ended up crowding around had various games strewn about. I’m not sure who grabbed it, but someone whipped out a bunch of Jenga blocks.

To our surprise, these weren’t typical Jenga blocks. Bar patrons of yesterbeer had written on them – drinking game suggestions. Some of the “dare” tips were far too risqué, even for our group. Others were more pedestrian.

We formulated our own rules for the sport. If the commands on the blocks were too outlandish, the person who placed it could tell an embarrassing story instead. For members of my family, we called this “a Tuesday”. Embarrassing stories were our bread-‘n-butter. Over the course of the game, we related our best/worst sexual experiences, weirdest dates, and other unmentionables. I finished all three Gentleman’s Clubs and felt each one of ‘em permeate my skull with buzz.

Another drink was en route when my turn came up again. The Jenga piece I drew had the following message scrawled in uneven, drunken scribbles: “Kiss a perfect stranger.”

© Tanya Kang Photography

© Tanya Kang Photography

I could’ve opted out of the suggestion. Heck, I even had my embarrassing story planned. But…there was only one stranger in our group – KG. Somewhere in the recesses of my prudish mind, a little voice – one I’d long thought dead – whispered one simple message: “Go for it.”

“Well, there’s only one stranger at this table,” I said with bravado. And then I pointed at KG. “Stand up.”

She did so.

“You know you only have to kiss him,” RB suggested. “It could even be the cheek.”

But, nay, she followed my lead. And I kissed her. For awhile.

When we…uh…parted, she remarked to the group that it was the cleanest kiss she’d ever had. Not sure if that was a compliment or not. Both my cousins – Bucky and KN – looked at me dumbstruck.

I shrugged, “First kiss in three years.”

“Dude!” Bucky said. “That’s not something you say to a girl.”

But it was the truth. Until that night, I’d been on an unplanned sabbatical from anything related to dating or women. The thought hadn’t really occurred to me to make a move or put myself back out there. Somewhere amidst the brown-haired goddesses and brown-colored ales, I’d rediscovered some semblance of a mojo again.

I blame the wooden Jenga piece.

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Monday, September 9th, 2013 Beverage Blog 1 Comment

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

I work for tea money.

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