barrel-aged

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

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.

Wait…no…

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Friday, October 26th, 2012 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

Soba Up, Buckwheat! You’ve Had too Much Oolong Beer!

Obviously, I’m still playing catch-up. This is a flashback to late-January. I assure you, though, it’s totally worth it. Well, if you like tea in your beer. Moving along…

Tea and beer are my two favorite beverages in the world. Yes, the entire world. Both are also extremely habitual and have a lot of history to them. As a result, becoming geekily obsessed with the minutiae surrounding either drink is an obvious conclusion. So, what happens when I learn that both have been – somehow/someway – combined?

Answer: Geek overload.

I have tried several examples where tea and alcohol have been combined. In some cases, it was merely scented teas – either smoked or aged in a barrel – but on the other end of the spectrum are the alcoholic drinks that use tea leaves as an ingredient. My favorites of those, to date, have been an Earl Grey/tangerine zest ale and a jasmine green tea mead. I had yet to run into a brewery that found a creative use for oolong, though.

In the Fall, a friend brought to my attention that Oakshire Brewing out of Eugene, OR. had done just that. Alas, I was a whole week behind the times. The stuff had long since been drunk dry. Fast-forward to January: The purveyor of J-Tea – the pivotal “J” himself – brought to my attention that it wasn’t all done yet. In fact, the beer in question had a second go-around left. Better still? It was a gin-barrel-aged, Belgian-style saison that was brewed with Taiwanese greener-style oolong as an ingredient. An oolong provided by “J”.

Josh Chamberlain brewing oolong in a keg!

Josh Chamberlain brewing oolong in a keg!

My brain exploded.

The tasting itself was being held at a cheese bar in Southeast Portland, and – as luck would have it – it was also one of my days off. Only one small snag, though. I was still sick from the second round of “Le Plague”. I didn’t care; this was worth leaving quarantine.

I was able to form a mini-posse with two other friends to make the trip. Matt Van Wyk – Oakshire’s brewmaster himself – was also on-hand to answer any questions about the brew itself. (And pick his brain, I did.) The name of it was completely awesome: Frederic’s Lost Arm. I couldn’t tell ya what it meant, though.

The brew itself? Needless to say, it was superb. The Oakshire folks know how to brew a damn good beer, and this was no exception. It was strong on the juniper note toward the front, followed by the sour Belgian-ish-ness in the middle. The aftertaste was both sweet and bitey. The only disadvantage was, there was no sign of oolong to be found. I guess all the cask-conditioning willowed away any punch the green Formosa could deliver. No surprise there. Taiwanese oolongs can be on the gentle side. However, if I tried – even through my clogged state – I could remember a bit of a honey-like texture to it.

Short answer: “Dayamn”.

*****

On a completely unrelated night that same week, I finally tore into a sample that was sent my way by fellow writer/blogger, Jo Johnson. She had seen mention of soba-cha on my “Tea WANT!” list and decided to impart some to me. I knew it wasn’t a rare tea to come by, but I was extremely grateful that she beat me to the punch.

For those who don’t know, “soba” simply means “buckwheat” in Japanese. I don’t know much about the grain other than the name being applied to idiots. That said, when I took a whiff of the stuff, I was greeted by a pungently nut-sweet aroma that could rival rooibos in its delivery.

Alas, the taste didn’t quite reflect the aroma’s sweetness, imparting a nutty brew that reminded me of rice, barley, and sweetened peanuts. While surprised with the change in profile, I still rather enjoyed it. The little granules held up to a boiled-water/five-minute brew-up with surprising sturdiness, and it was a far cry better than some rice-laden teas I’ve tried. (Yes, I’m talking to you genmaicha.)

Speaking of genmaicha…recently, I had an epiphany to one day try this blended with a kabusecha-style tamaryokucha (heavily-shaded, curly green tea from Kumomoto) and maybe a dash of Nishio-grown matcha. Maybe I’ll give it a try soon and record the results…but that’s a subject for another schizoid rambling.

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Monday, March 26th, 2012 Beverage Blog, Steep Stories 2 Comments

In a Pickle

A week and a half ago, my brother/roommate (bro-mate?) and I decided to grab happy hour and a movie. It was our typical Tuesday outing. The theater in our neck of the woods sold cheap tickets on that day. Cheap food and good microbrews seemed a perfect pre-funk. Even if the movie was bad, the resulting fuzziness could lighten the suck factor.

Not this time, though. My brother had reign over our selection, since last week was my choice (the gods-awful Immortals). And what did he decide upon? Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. I was dumbfounded.

To be fair, I didn’t loathe the movies as most men do. Well, except the second one; that was pure alien shite. The first, however, was okay…if forgettable. The third – Eclipse – actually appealed to me on a visceral level. To its core, it was a war movie interspersed with crappy romantic moments. It also helped that it was directed by David Slade – an actual horror movie headliner.

This time around…ugh…

I could go on for pages on how awful the movie was. Even by Twilight standards, it was putrid. But that’s a subject for another blog. What I’m here to reflect on is what it did to me; that being, turn me into a blubbering manbitch.

After coming home, my brother and I got into an argument about housework. He commented that I didn’t take the garbage out correctly; I retaliated with something unintelligible. (To his credit, his argument was sound.) This went on for a good twenty minutes before ending in my passive-aggressive silence.

To escape the homebodied tension, I turned to the Internet. Unfortunately, I proceeded to get into a “dildo” fight over Twitter. Worse still? I was taking offense. To the Internet. I shut it off. What the hell was happening?

The realization hit me like a two-ton Avon delivery truck. That crapstain of a movie had vaginalized me. There was no other explanation for the whimpering pile o’ girl parts I was acting like. A cure was needed, something with a manly combination.

What is manly? I thought to myself. Something phallic? No, too gay. Something that implies “phallus”, that could work. What is shaped like a penis? Pickles! Wait, still gay. Okay…something that implies “pickles” that in-turn implies “phallus”…all for the sake of restoring manhood.

Image Owned by Norbu Tea

The answer was simple: Combat femification with something deemed feminine with a manly connotation. It was right in front of me the whole time. That same night, I reached for a bag of “pickle tea”.

To clarify, no, it was not literally tea made from pickles, rather tea leaves that had gone through a fermenting (read: pickling) process. I received a sample from Norbu Tea of a Japanese green tea that’d been on my “WANT!” list for awhile. Funny thing is, before they chimed in, I didn’t even know what the stuff was called. All I knew was that it was barrel-aged…and I wanted it for that very reason. Everything from a barrel was awesome – including monkeys.

The leaves for this stuff were huge, fanned out, lumpy, dark green, and possessed a kelpy aroma. In other words, everything a typical Japanese tea was not. There was even a vinegary aspect to the scent – not quite as offensively so as kombucha, though. Brewing instructions were also thankfully simple. This was a green tea that could take boiling water. Norbu recommended a pre-wash of ten seconds, like with a pu-erh to “open” the leaves, followed by a heaping teaspoon of leaves in a cup of fully-boiled water, infused for up to three minutes.

The result was a liquor that brewed almost completely clear save for a slight tint of yellow-green. Even the palest of white teas were darker by comparison. The aroma, however, betrayed its bold character. And its taste rounded out its odyssey of a profile. Unlike the usual vegetal, nutty, pan-fried-to-hell senchas I’ve had, this citrusy and tangy. I felt relaxed and revitalized, and a slight – er – tickle of pickle showed up on aftertaste.

This was the anti-sencha. Perfect catharsis for a movie outing that reminded me of bad sencha one finds in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Nutty and mulchy…like a chick flick that even women wouldn’t touch. I prepared this tea several other times until my testicular fortitude felt renewed. It took a week before I felt completely normal again, but the job was done.

I don’t apologize for being bad at machismo. I don’t regret being a male tea drinker. But I do regret subjecting myself to worst form of movie emasculation ever put to celluloid. As irony would have it, all it took was a tea to bring me out of it.

To buy Norbu Tea’s Awabancha, go HERE.

To Have the new Twilight movie spoiled for you in an entertaining way, go HERE. (There…I just saved you two hours.)

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Monday, December 5th, 2011 Steep Stories No Comments

I work for tea money.

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