HI HEY HELLO!

Thanks for stopping by!

No seriously though I realize I need an SSL and to get some decent background stuff and images and all kinds of neat things going here and linking my youtube stuff But I’m trying to make a move happen and I don’t have the time I need to do all the things to get that done. I’m managing to keep it straight in a situation that doesn’t lend itself to easy decisions, with some work on my other projects and my actual life and when I find a place to relax it’s to sleep and not much else.

I’ve met some cool people recently and talked about my beer blog and there was more and is more and will be more to read, but if you’re just interested to see if I know shit about beer check out my twitter feed @rightaboutbeer, where I’ve got my untappd linked up and I try to keep track of most of my stuff through that format. I’m still compiling new stuff and there’s always the hypothetical research project on the burner, once I get the balls up to call around and ask questions about expensive choices people I don’t know make.

Which reminds me of something I heard today, from a realtor that was managing a shit-u-ation, if you know what I mean. It was her generous efforts to keep the deal on track that won the day, but she admitted that sometimes, she feels more like a therapist than a realtor or saleswoman, and I thought about it for a second.

It’s obvious isn’t it? Buying a house is the most intensive, expensive thing most people will do in their life, and they NEED someone to talk them back from the ledge, to keep them steady and justify the expense they’re about to incur. I hope I helped her realize that in that moment, she was super into the deal and deserved that pint she was about to drink.

WHICH REMINDS ME

AND FAIR WARNING

When you conduct your business at the bar or taproom please understand even the most polite and respectful bar neighbor is going to hear and, best case scenario, imagine all sorts of things. I am not such a person and was almost completely engaged in a writing excercise but I still overheard the story of my new friend and it was intense.
She was chill and it wasn’t anything private but it is one of the reasons I keep going to these places – you never know who you’re going to meet and what you’ll hear. Most of the time I’m reminded that, even in my most challenged moments, I’m better equipped to deal with life’s little curveballs than most, and even people with (apparently) money to burn still try to fuck each other over with zero benefit to either party. And so I enter this whole new era of my efforts to be famous enough to write and not like work till I fall dead from a heart attack with trepidation, for what I see is not an easy path.

Please check in again, If you made it this far also check out some of my other posts, which trend to ‘almost about beer’ in some cases. I am relocating to metro Portland from almost 3 years on the coast side of Astoria, and will be busy for the near future keeping my shit together. These moments tend to generate intense creative moments for me, and when I can grab ahold of it I’ll jam out something really good in a session, but it’s hard to bridge that product with the more mundane filler explaination shit like this. *shrugs

I’ve got a patreon out there somewhere, it didn’t want to link. track me down and buy me a pint for a private rightaboutbeer consultation! Ask me how I feel about the whole Stone situation AHAHAHAHAHA GOT YOU AGAIN all 3 of you that have read more than 1 of these posts…mwah.

The Astoria Tour Pt. 1

OR: How to drink beer in Astoria like a local

It had occurred to me that it’s been over two years since I completed anything worth posting, or as they used to say, desktop publishing to the internet. Buy me a beer if you remember that phrase because, ohhh boy I need one.  

Things have been sketchy out here on the coast for the pandemic, and I’m not gonna lie – I was in a precarious situation when this little bugger moved in from across the way and scared the shit out of everyone for a little while. I had been working at the Rogue outpost in Astoria on Pier 39 – see my new feature-length clip on YouTube for visuals – but the company as whole is just not really my jam, nor jelly. Neither is the beer, if I’m honest (and I am to a fault so let’s just get that shit out of the way – if your beer or your food suck I’m going to try to be diplomatic about it but you’ll know I’m uncomfortable lying to your face while I do it). It’s one of the reasons I’m out here on the far coast, literally almost as far as you can get into the Pacific Ocean before you fall into the water and drown. I bought a kayak just in case. 

So it is only fitting that I start my tour of Astoria in the place I started out. Rogue on Pier 39. It is a taphouse and restaurant, with a large board of sometimes-rotating Rogue beers. Almost 3 years after my first stop in here to drop off a resume, the beers on the board are 85% the same on offer that day. It’s a wide selection, but there’s something about Rogue beers that you either like or don’t, and it takes a lot of work to get there if you don’t. I always come back to Rogue when I talk about beer because for many across the country, it was one of the first truly craft beers they might have seen at a pub somewhere that was trying to offer something different. As a company, though, they haven’t really evolved as much as the scene has, and it’s a real shame. I have some inside information on the way they work from people who’ve been in the trenches in Rogue itself, but I can’t really talk about it. Let’s just say that I appreciate some of the beers they’ve developed over the years but they’ve left a lot on the table. 


If you’re doing the Astoria beer tour, Rogue is really the ideal place to start, assuming you’ve had something to eat ahead of time or like to gamble. Having working in the kitchen I will confirm over and over again that you’re rolling the dice here, as far as quality. I won’t say it’ll make you sick but the way things were done while I was there don’t portend great things when you’re the 4th large group to walk in on a Saturday afternoon and everyone in the other parties is asking for gluten-free stuff. I was there for a short time and managed less than 20 hours a week while training a very green n00b that had LITERALLY zero cooking experience.  Good luck, suck down a beer or two at (checks) $7 a pint – and get back across the pier, heading west. If you’ve got the motivation, head across the street and grab a bag of fresh-roasted coffee from the vending machine at Astoria Coffee Co. before making your next choice:  

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY WATER(FRONT) 

CHOICE ONE

Choice one will take you along the main drag through town, past the Safeway and a dispensary, past the strip club and the abandoned bakery to Hondo’s micro-brewpub. On tap you’ll find a selection of pooch-themed brews made on-site on the small system in the main room. There’s some decent brew on hand but you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re into the homebrew scene or the bigger-brewery action before you make this choice because it’s almost a holdover from earlier days, with very small batch sizes and a homey touch. It’s not a bad thing, honestly, it’s just something to consider. They’ve got 18 or 20 beers on tap, some more polished than others but all made on a very small brew system so there’s a good variation between batches, in some cases. They’ve also got a small kitchen to deal with the munchies situation, and you’re likely to sit down next to the owner at the bar if you pop in mid-late afternoon. 

 Rumor has it that there used to be live music and other events there on a regular basis but it looks like most of the random stuff and instruments have been put in storage for the time being – that is, post-pandemic summer 2022. If you need any emergency brewing supplies or a six-pack of craft beer or even a bottle of wine Hondo’s has you sorta covered – the selection is unique but not expansive. The espresso stout I had a pint of, for instance, was not listed on untapped and had a decidedly sour finish to it. At 7% it shouldn’t really have that funky-sweet cloyingly sour finish but I’d have to spend more time with it to figure out what went wrong…but it’s definitely not an espresso stout I’d be able to label as such. I haven’t spent as much time there as I might have liked but only because the other choices in town are currently more to my liking.  

Just about a block up and across the street is a gas station that also doubles as Astoria’s Growler Guys location. Growler Guys is a bigger chain-ish operation with 30(?) taps that feature PNW beers and ciders. It occupies about half of the gas station here, with a short bar and indoor and outdoor seating options. Because they’re a larger chain operation, they’ll have beers from larger or more popular breweries rather than just Astoria-specific beers. You can buy beer by the pint or growler, as the name implies – just don’t get too confused about it because you can get growlers and crowlers at every location on my tour today, FYI. In Oregon you simply need a clean class or metal container that’s clearly marked as a half-gallon and you can put beer in it. The location of Growler Guys makes it an odd place to hang out and sample beers, but I have seen ‘regulars’ in that outdoor area spend hours at a time watching traffic. If you haven’t watched the video, keep in mind these two locations are on the main drag through Astoria – there is only one way east-west through town and you cannot miss Growler Guys or Hondo’s if you’re paying attention.

 
Growler Guys has an outdoor patio and several small seating options inside, but it’s also a gas station, I think they serve some fried foods but also have domestic beers and a selection of singles and craft tallboys that are good for beach adventures and such, if six-packs or cases aren’t. For me, it’s a weird place to sit and have a pint, but the draft selection is tailored to a more ‘popular’ regional selection, bigger breweries like Boneyard, Deschutes and Ninkasi…I think they have a live online listing so check that out for the real deal.  

From there you can just walk back to the waterfront trail and head west, it’s worth it to cruise by the Maritime Museum, you may even go in (DO IT!). Sometimes there are Coast Guard ships docked, you can take a look at them pretty close-up, or if it’s a nice day it’ll be tempting to just cruise around for a bit. Be prepared for wind and more likely spotty overcast with fits of rain, depending on the time of year…   

   CHOICE TWO  


Depending on when you start your day, or what your speed is, or if the trolley is running, you’ll head next to THE SEA Crab House LOUNGE for happy hour, something most places don’t have out here. I’ll grab some video so you’ll appreciate the location, the food cost is sorta high but it’s worth it to have fresh seafood to eat on the only remaining restaurant that sticks out into the Columbia in that central downtown area, now that Bouy is down(UPDATES BELOW KEEP READING) …and we’ll get to that soon. Anyways, happy features $3 pints of draft beers which includes (currently JULY 4th) Ft.George’s 3-way Ipa, Reach Break’s Hazy, some Astoria brewing ipa and a handful of domestics. I’m probably forgetting something, though.  
 
The happy hour on the deck I previously enjoyed has moved to the lounge, only, but is now from 3pm to 6pm 7 days a week. The best view is in the main dining area, honestly, but you can snag a pint and walk around if it’s not busy, and if you want some fresh seafood with a really really great view of the river go ahead and go down the hall to grab a seat on the deck, if you can. They’ve got ‘boil specials’ with mussels, shrimp and a seafood sampler. Looks good but it’s beyond my usual interest as I’ve got beer to buy and food just fills that space. It’s got a decent selection for day-tripping beer drinkers looking for something light to wash down that seafood you’ll probably buy once you see one of the platters going out. 

I’ve had some other ‘happy hour’ offerings from some other locations here in Astoria, namely the Silver Salmon Grille (it’s got that extra ‘e’) and the sushi house, as well as another mid-scale eatery called Caruthers. Those are usually some food deals and they’re worth looking at if you started early or in midtown. I’ve had spotty service at the sushi joint and the others are trying to be more upscale when they should be happy to grab ‘local and quirky’ instead. It can’t go unmentioned that my impressions were gained during the great covidemic, a time when these places could literally be closed at a moment’s notice and happy hours and regular schedules were not a thing to rely on. I’m also a single guy who doesn’t think too highly of himself to admit I’m also thrifty when given the choice so I don’t go outside of my comfort bubble – which is usually a brewery. I also tend to be disappointed when promised some amazing dining experience, even when I don’t expect much. See my yelp reviews for more on that, oy. 

The smelly, wet dog in the room 

I haven’t mentioned one of the other working breweries in Astoria much, ever, anywhere, except where I take a moment to look at Astoria Brewing’s building in my pilot episode and say that I basically don’t support their business. It sounds a little harsh but I’ve had a bad experience every time I’ve gone into either location, either because of terrible service or bad food or both. This may have also put me off on the beer but I simply cannot say I found anything I’ve tried there to be something I wanted to go back for. I’m almost always alone when I do these adventures, which would make me the easiest customer to serve, hypothetically, since I don’t have any special needs and I’m not OCD about anything but beer…so take my reviews with that in mind. I have been straight-up ignored at both Astoria Brewing locations on several visits over the years, and it was…almost intentional.  Moving on. 

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (a Spongebob reference of some sort)

Buoy… TUNE IN FOR PART 2 FOR THE EXCITING CONCLUSION!

55,000 comments!*

*sigh

If only. I had posted that pandemic freak-out and just left it, without considering the comments or anything, and didn’t check it for 2 years…oops. Well, sort of, if any of you out there have worked with wordpress you know it’s just an annoyance unless you really screwed up, because none of them ever saw publication and now I’ve got to go through and manually delete them one page at a time. Someday.

I know I haven’t done anything fancy here, honestly it’s a place holder and repository and place to at least air my thoughts to the public without having to deal with twitter or editing or anything else. The 4th of July is Monday and I’m in Astoria to find a job I can deal with, and reshooting some clips for my pilot RAB video. I’m not really happy with everything I shot last week but this editing software – Da Vinci – is powerful enough to remedy some of the stuff I don’t like. Half of the problem, though, is just me feeling weird about being on camera. All of the things I say sound great in my head in my head voice but when I try to get it out and not sound like a toolbag, I’m not so confident. Eventually, I’m told, you get used to it, but this is probably why most projects have the talent – me – and an editor. But I’m going solo because that’s how to really earn it, right?

I spent most of last week in Portland and made the obligatory stop at John’s Marketplace, since I was in the area, and I have to say I was happy to see some changes up front. The focus was more on the grill and burgers and sit-down dining that I had enjoyed previously, albeit now at a higher price (time marches on). Still, I doubt there are many better places in southwest Portland to grab a draft beer and chow a tasty burger while you stroll through towering isles of craft and imported beer. The featured breweries represent some of the best in the PNW and the coolers are stocked with plenty of singles and packs to-go and definitely not crack open as soon as you get to your car (it was 100 fucking degrees out that day, get bent OLCC).

It’s the beer, stupid

Work and fun at the same time!


I’m trying to focus on getting the media work done and since I don’t have a hard deadline for any of that it’s easy to want to grab a sixxer and get sloshy instead of keeping my mind sharp. Anxiety and depression have been partners of mine since I can remember, as a child, so that’s hard to manage when you’re also self-medicating and almost out of your illicitly-aquired but legitimately-used xanax. It’s incredibly easy to fall into a twitter hole or dig through youtube for distractions when the pressure to get something done makes you feel all floaty, but no matter what you distract yourself with you still feel the anxiety so you medicate and…still don’t get anything done. Science tells me that there are toxins that jam your sleep cycle, flooding your brain as it chews through the booze…but it’s hard to get to sleep in the first place when your mind spins from thoughts you can’t control. Over the years I’ve learned to keep the thoughts from turning darker, most of the time, with the use of cannabis and booze, because once I turn the devices off and have to spend time in my brain alone I’m prone to think about everything. Anything. All night. And the cycle has ran on for decades now.


I’ve had to examine this whole industry and my relation to it over and over again as the years have gone by and I’ve spent increasing amounts of money on increasingly expensive craft beer. This blog was something I could’ve and should’ve done a decade or more ago but the struggle to keep myself alive made it hard to purge the noise and focus on my creative side. I’ve got dozens of short stories and unfinished novellas, I guess, mostly science fiction, all stored away on the cloud somewhere because I’ve had too many close calls with old hard drives. But I was always passionate about beer once I learned it could be more than yellow piss water, something I’ve said since the turn of this century.

Soo…back to the city, then?

Haaa yeah if it were that easy. The jobs are there, but my stuff is on the coast. It’s comfortable out here, even though some days I absolutely hate it. There is ONE ROAD through all of the area, and every asshat dickweed tourist and local knows it, and you can never get past them to get where you’re going. My other project is automotive related and it’s an understatement to say I enjoy driving, for the most part, even in a giant SUV like the one I tow my RV with. I fit in out here, but I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing behind the wheel. Follow me on my other project to know more about that stuff…it ties in to my other existence in the beer world, though, as I did a stint delivering craft beer and wine in the PNW and it was delightful, except for the driving part. If you drive in Oregon, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE LEFT LANE WHEN YOU’RE DONE PASSING. It is the law, and delivery drivers want to stab you in the face a hundred times for every second you pace that car in the right lane instead of getting over. Most of them would never say it, though, which is why I have that other project. Some of us are truly crazy about our car stuff.

The point is, though, that I took that delivery job seriously because I believed in the products and the mission to deliver fresh beer to people who wanted it. I still do. I love talking to the distro guys, because they know all the details. A good driver is observant and aware and when you make a dozen stops at bars and taprooms and bottle shops you can see what’s popular, what’s new, what’s been sitting in the back corner for months. The stuff you might find in Eugene at Bier Stein could be radically different than the stuff at Beer Mongers in Portland on the same day, even if they were from the same breweries. I wasn’t paid much at the time, so I couldn’t try even a fraction of the stuff I had wanted to. I’m not sure where I’m headed, exactly, but I WILL be making beer again in the very near future, even if I’m not working at a brewery in some capacity. Dumb video to follow, lol. If everything works out, I’ll be visiting breweries and bottle shops around the country, but that’s still a future dream. I’ll need help to get there, too.

RANDOM STUFF…sorta

The reason I was in Portland last week was initially to attend a Prof concert. He’s a white boy from Minny who raps about coming up from the bottom, so nothing new really – but I’ve been a huge fan of his for 7 or 8 years. He’s got a great energy and has legit bounced back from some things that might have wrecked the average schmoe. Like myself. He has embraced his creative passion and is now extremely successful, with his last album hitting the charts pretty high (Powderhorn Suites from Stophouse Records). The last time I saw him was a few months after I’d been hit by a car on my bike in ’18, the same day I was formally evicted from my rented room by the courts (illegal evictions suck) – so there’s some history. You could say I was excited for this show…but the energy was really weird. There were people staking out floor space during the 1st act, and some other weird crap going on, like some people haven’t been let out of the basement often enough to be socialized.

I have some other thoughts about insecure dudes and their girlfriends staying home but I’d like to steer myself away from that and talk about STONE BREWING COMPANY. haha that’ll be another post soon. Got ya! I’ve got to get editing and get out and shoot some more clips so if you’re in the Astoria area over the 4th weekend, keep an eye out for some nerd typing feverishly in the corner of Bridge & Tunnel. Don’t you dare talk to me about beer though, because once I get started I WILL NOT STOP. Because, goddammit, I’M RIGHT ABOUT BEER!

Action at the Bridge&Tunnel

The season that never ends – Beerfest Season

I sit in my trailer and listen to the waves of rain wash over it, just another day living near the Oregon coast, a few miles from the mouth of the Columbia. This little finger of land sits in the direct path of the river itself, but has been turned over the decades into more substantial ground thanks to the miles-long jetty constructed to tame the flow of the massive river as it dumps into the Pacific. It is mid-February, and it rains every day here, but still I gear up for a brewfest. I’m volunteer pouring at Festival of the Dark Arts 2020 (#FODA2020), and I’m excited. 

Fort George Brewing is well known for its array of beer, many of them dark and luscious and barrel-aged for longer than I care to think about, and they run a decent little operation in downtown Astoria that takes up most of a block. A while back they decided to host a beer festival celebrating the roasty, boozy, high-gravity delicacies they curate in barrels across their facility, and it’s become one of the top beer fests in the US, if not the world. This year, 2020, they sold out of 2,500 tickets in just over a half an hour – Astoria being a town of just over 10,000, ~100 miles due northwest from Portland. It is a touristy town, fortunately, because even with hundreds of rooms, they all book out.  

The ones who get it done 
 

This is where my story diverges from those several thousand ticket holders who got up early on Black Friday and prayed for a stable internet connection as they loaded the checkout page. I’ve been volunteering for brew fests for more than 15 years, all over the country, and I haven’t paid for entry into one for many of those years. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me personally, this is the best way to get close to the beers I love without spending small fortunes every weekend to do so. If you’re interested, read on… 

NANO beerfest, John’s Marketplace

This weekend is a bit different than most festivals I pour at because it requires that I have an Oregon Liqour server’s certificate (about $40 in fees and some basic online tests); most others – in Oregon at least – don’t require any training at all to be a volunteer. We’ll get to that, but this is one of the things that makes FODA such a high-water mark for beer festivals. The fact that you can’t just show up and pour ultra-rare aged beers without any experience makes for a better overall day for everyone involved (I assume, I will know for sure within the next 12 hours). 

It shouldn’t really be a secret that the big fests require hundreds or thousands of bodies to pour the beer and serve the thirsty folks who line up with tiny sample glasses on the fun side of the table. OBF (Oregon Brewer’s Festival) in downtown Portland, for instance, used to be a 5-day affair (now much-shortened), needing 100+ pourers for 4-hour shifts each and every day, as well as people to mind refuse stations and even the people exchanging dollars for tokens. You can essentially sign up to volunteer for multiple shifts a day, or several times throughout the week, amassing free tokens, t-shirts and glasses in the process – as long as you aren’t drinking beforehand. Every shift you’re given another sample glass and a stack (~20) of tokens.  

As a veteran of these events, I’ve moved up the ladder a bit – I’ve got the experience and connections to be a ‘supervisor’. At OBF, the beer is poured straight from a refrigerated trailer, and there’s one or two supervisors per trailer to keep an eye on things, in addition to the alcohol monitors and some event staff that watch over everything, literally. As I mentioned before there is NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED to volunteer for many of these events in the Portland area, so it’s important to have some folks with the right knowledge to encourage the noobs and train them on a proper pour. It’s not easy, since nobody is really paid, and some volunteers don’t take it seriously enough to take criticism or correct some very sloppy behavior.  

This is where FODA stands apart (I hope). I’ve heard every complaint ever uttered about short pours, or extra head, or how the last guy filled the sample cup for an extra token, on and on and on it goes. Most of those kinds of people won’t take the time to read something like this, but for those who do, just casually watch the action at the taps and you’re bound to spot this kind of behavior. Coupled with the actual lack of experience or knowledge, this is the kind of shit that can easily get carried away and cause problems for everyone else when a small handful of servers aren’t being responsible. Customers who get away with it once are going to try it again, and it’s more than an annoyance when every other person in line tries the same thing, trying to get free beer. You’re not being clever, you’re not even being unique, and adults should behave better.  It is 100% up to the person pouring the samples to uphold standards, to be sure, and the wide range of experience and personalities who show up to volunteer at most events leaves a lot of opportunity for the casual swindler.  

I’ve had people walk away with my bucket of tokens (they were caught and thrown out of the fest within mere steps of my counter, we have some aggressive security folks sometimes). There’s always someone who ‘forgets’ to hand over their token before trying to walk away, and of course there are scammers with fake tokens and all sorts of other stuff just outside the larger events (specifically OBF suffers from this every year – do not buy tokens from randos on the street).  People will complain endlessly about the beer (“I don’t like it I want my token back”) or the amount of head, not realizing that the person who took their token has literally nothing to do with the beer, or how it pours from the trailer, and probably doesn’t really care about how badly they’re pouring.  

I use this as an opportunity to teach people around me, when I can. It’s important that the servers recognize the impact they might have on a brewery’s reputation if they’re stingy (a difficult thing to criticize someone for, since technically there ARE rules) or can’t manage a 3oz pour without blasting the head to 11. I may take it more seriously than most fest goers, but I understand what’s at stake – Tens of thousands of people attend OBF over the course of multiple days, and if the server is pouring hot or stale beer (from a pitcher) or everyone is walking away with 4oz of head, that brewery isn’t getting proper representation. All those people sampling that beer will walk away with a less than stellar impression, most of them (again) unaware that the server and people at the festival aren’t invested in any way in making sure that beer gets the pour it needs to stand out against a hundred others. I’d like to say other ‘SupBEERvisors’ recognize and respect these issues, but most can’t be bothered. I’ve met several people at the supervisor level who gave away their tokens and never came to the fest to try the beer – if you can figure out what motivates them, I’ll happily fill your sample glass.  

Not all fests are the same 

I’ve been at this for a few years and lived around the country, so I’ve seen some weird shit go down, but been privy to some great swag and of course all the free beer I could get my hands on. Sometimes, a dedicated, persistent and capable person can walk-on and find themselves in the thick of it without much effort; In Albuquerque I got involved in a fest in 2010 and simply became the right-hand man in the week leading up to the event. I showed up early with my Leatherman and some zip-ties and helped set up the area, hanging banners and brewery logos and hauling ice and just doing what needed to get done. I was rewarded with several cases of leftover event glassware, whatever banners I could cut down, and several cases of beer brought by breweries in case they blew kegs. It was worth the effort I’d put in. 

Things have changed around the country since then, with festies being a staple of local and regional brewery scenes now that the industry has exploded, but on a state-by-state basis the rules may still be different. That fest in ABQ required that out-of-state breweries (Colorado, AZ and CA) be ‘sponsored’ by a permit holder/brewery in-state, AND that the area with OOS breweries be separated by a physical barrier from the area where in-state samples were. No beer was allowed to cross this line in either direction, and there was a checkpoint to ensure that your Colorado-brewed beer, served in Albuquerque, didn’t find it’s way into the section where someone else was enjoying some ABQ brew.  It was indeed bonkers, but that was the law as written. I can only assume those laws were adjusted, as the brewing scene in New Mexico has grown considerably in the last 10 years.  

In most cases in most states, the people pouring beer were/are in fact employees of the brewery (a fact that helps me understand the reactions of people at OBF, for instance, when they ask questions about a beer and get “IDK” for an answer). Especially in areas where it’s still a growing industry and the greater population doesn’t understand what craft beer is really about,  the brewery wants to represent itself and answer questions. Sometimes the brewers even show up to soak up the admiration and attention (they spend hours and hours alone in the brewhouse, it’s often the only socialization they get).  Some fests are really just corporate events put on by the big regional distributor (your favorite pushers of domestic adjunct lagers) or even a tourism board or city agency that turns to the local chamber of commerce or whatever for sponsors. I’ve avoided these kinds of events so I won’t get into detail, but they feature a lot of young pretty people pushing whatever the next big thing is from Bud/Miller/Corona whomever. I see a few advertised in the midwest from time to time, usually centered around some sporting event that also serves to market various beverages. I am not their target consumer, and I wager most who read this aren’t either…but at least they’re out there. 

 
YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY 

Keep in mind that all of this is just my observation, collated and summarized for your edification. Others don’t often see the same things I see, the way I see them, and so I feel it’s important to get some of it out to the masses. Later today I’ll be standing outside, hopefully under a canopy, before a thick-as-oil monster on tap, clocking in about 10% ABV, talking to people for the 30-odd seconds it’ll take to pour a 3oz sample and collect tokens. If I’m at a busy tap I’ll be doing this until the end of my shift at 7pm, but quite possibly I’ll be done sooner since there’s a limited amount of these beers and once they’re gone…they’re gone. If my keg blows they’ll find me another spot or cut me lose to sample the beers from the other side.  

Most of my ‘customers’ won’t be from Astoria, in fact many will have traveled hundreds of miles to get here in the middle of winter, for the sole purpose of sampling these rare beers. In most cases, a person would have to travel thousands of miles total to get anywhere near the beers all collected at this one location, TODAY ONLY! – these beers are usually only found on-tap at the brewery that made it. I have to say that my own personal expectations are quite high (if you couldn’t tell already). There is music, fire performers, lots of food and art, and hopefully the sort of comradery that develops among people who’ve willingly accepted the rain and wind and cold for that shared purpose.  You’d think we’re the oddballs…but then again, if you dig a little, we’re not so strange. Nor alone.  

There are other brew fests going on this weekend all over the country. Back in Iowa they celebrate BrrrFest, a winter gathering of the same sort as FODA, in late January, and of course you’ve got Valentine’s day as a catalyst for ‘chocolate beer’ mini-fests all over the country this year. Portland breweries host Zwicklemania this weekend (where customers visit participating breweries for in-depth tours and samples on the same day all over town). There’s a coffee and donut and beer event, and as we get closer towards spring you’ve got beerfests crowding out calendars every weekend through October, when the fresh-hop fests give way to Halloween events (Octoberfest, being in September, often overlaps with the fresh hops events).  

The best thing about all of this activity is that there are so many ways to get involved, even if you don’t have the cash to spend $25-$30 on an afternoon of beer tasting. My personal skill sets have given me access, literally printed me passes to get close to the action, without having to be a brewer or work at a brewery (presently). I’ve ‘worked’ alongside master brewers and total, complete NOOBS at festivals of every size and type and met thousands of people along the way – even if just for a few moments. These are the kinds of moments that make the brewing community what it is, how it gets strength and builds a future where your neighborhood brewery is a central component of your social life. We’ll need these foundations to be stronger than ever as our world changes, as politics and events beyond our control shape how we engage with the people around us.  

Come on out, volunteer at brew fest, and be a part of this community. No experience required. 

THIS IS NOT A LISTICLE

As the end of a year – and the end of decade, in case you missed it – comes to an end, the internet is awash in listicles – top-10 lists of the best of the year and decade, so basically double the laziness of any given end of year sprint to stuff empty content on pages to grab those clicks. I hate them for a number of reasons, not least of which being that most people can’t explain in any real detail why or what they like about a particular thing or how they come to compare and rank these items. The listicle exists to service and inform a willingly ignorant and often lazy reader/consumer – fight me if you disagree, and I’ll rank all comers based on some random criteria that I won’t name until after the first couple of fights. You see the problem here…

So, as a long-time beer nerd, there have always been some resources I could check on to see what was happening in the larger community outside of my local bottle shop. Beer Advocate and Untappd are the two most people are probably familiar with – if you aren’t, keep reading, and I’ll try to pry apart the differences and why neither one may fit your beering needs, but only after I finish this rant. Hold tight. I’m not really a fan of either, but I do find one much more honest and the other most of a posturing platform for people who think other people should really care what they think (haha you’d think I fall into that group but you’d be…right. Follow me on twitter and stuff…).

The Apps

I’ll start with the more accessible, Untappd. Pop into your chosen app store and do a search for beer apps and hopefully this will be at the top of the results. In fact, if you just search for beer, it returns as the first item, with many of the rest being oddballs and a ton of ‘note-taking’ apps for the semi-serious beer nerd who actually takes notes – the rare bird who attempts to record their tasting thoughts and combines relative merits to determine an accurate, consistent rating for beers they’ve actually had some time to examine. Untappd features a twitter-esque comments section where you can log whatever thoughts you have about a beer as you check it into your personal history, but there’s nothing to direct users to fill anything out, literally at all, or to limit their musing to the beer itself. I am more than guilty of going off-topic in a description box, but usually after at least 1 legit critical check-in where I record tasting notes and my overall disposition towards a beer.

This is where the two platforms – Beer Advocate and Untappd – start to really show the differences between the user knowledge level and intent of purpose. Many, many, MANY untappd users don’t bother to leave even a single sentence in their check-ins, usually just a low star rating and sometimes, but not often, a picture. You can also designate how you had a beer (can, taster, pint, growler) and where it was both purchased and consumed. It has integrated social features so you can mirror-post to your twitter and facebook (I think FB, I’m not a big fan of the Zuck machine) and you can even tag friends(meaning other app users you’ve friended) in posts, if you think they’d like to know about a beer you had or were there with you. It’s basically a comprehensive, if shallow, snapshot of a person’s beer drinking history, if it’s used in any significant capacity as designed…but again, I find that the bulk of users – say 98% or more – don’t bother to explain their ratings or comment on the events that surround their beer consumption. Most don’t use the other features like where they bought the beer, which really annoys the piss out of me because…I mean…why bother?

I can’t force other people to my standards, but I will explain the benefits I’ve found from taking a brief moment to use this app’s features – not least of which is the fact that I don’t often drink a beer I didn’t like more than once. I hate spending the limited money I have on a beer I had before that sucked, or one that looks good on the shelf but that poured flat and foul. I’m not making big internet money off this blog so I find myself reluctant to spend $15 on a four-pack of some exotic 5% ‘pale’ ale that’s new, when there are other reliable options that I’ve had before in the same cooler section. I’ve spent many many hours standing in front of the coolers at Belmont Station or Beermongers (both in Portland) with my phone in hand, digging through posted reviews and my own history to see if I really want to pull the trigger on a $10 wax-dipped bottle or spend the same on a 6-pack of some dank double IPA from a small place right up the street. When I walk into a place like John’s Grocery in west Portland, I have typically reserved 15 minutes or more to shop for a single beer purchase, specifically because I know I will be looking up my options on Untappd.

The issue I have is that, based on the bulk of other reviews, I still have no idea what a particular beer tastes like or why some rando from Eugene ranked it 5-stars or 1-star. Given my depth of knowledge, I can usually suss out the details based on the brewer’s description (but we’ve all fallen for that bullshit PR flak before, haven’t we?) and a few other details, but rarely can I count on a literal description from someone who has tasted the beer with a critical eye. I could have cultivated a following of friends that exhibit these skills thru the app, and I do have a feed of beers from other people I’ve met along the way to reference, but I’ve really had to accept that untappd is only as much of a help because of my efforts and existing knowledge base, and not because of the other people who use it, which was, theoretically, the promise behind a social beer tracking app.

That said, the various feeds you can tap into – local check-ins, for instance – can help someone in a beer-dense city like Portland stay abreast of the current trends, or watch a beer release from a distance to see if it’s worth rubbing elbows to grab a limited item. I find it’s almost as good as ‘Brewer’s Twitter’ for following these things, but again, it’s still limited due to the…proclivities of a transient social awareness (that is, laziness and a lack of critical analytical skills). It’s frustrating, to be sure.

Beer Advocate

So, beer advocate has been many things over the years, but it is essentially a web-based forum that branched out into print and other media over the years as the brewing thing got more popular and self-described experts gravitated together for the same purpose I use untapped for…just in a more classic, information-dense, self-righteous sort of approach. Where Untappd is a mobile, searchable database of simple reviews, BA is the sort of site you want to research on before you go shopping. There is no end to the forum sniping, elitist chest-pounding, and trophy-beer ass-kissing on Beer Advocate – it’s like wading into any other content-specific forum (think Honda fanboys and whatever the hell Reddit is up to these days), where the average poster is: Male, mid-30’s with a decent income, a wife and kid, and some need to be the all-knowing wise one on at least one topic, in this case, beer. I am not, in fact, on Beer Advocate (maybe…I may have a profile there from a long time ago), but it’s because I despise my own kind, and only one of us on this here internet is @rightaboutbeer, and that’s me.

Seriously though, aside from the posturing this sort of forum allows, there is actual information on the beers, tasting notes, and the reasonings people have for giving something a specific rating. Scrolling through the site – again, BA is web-based and does not appear to have an app – there is a fundamental difference to the quality of the data presented. There are listicles – always listicles – of the most popular, the highest rated, the up-and-coming trendiest, and whatever other ranking system you might want to reference for your own needs. The content is a mix of ‘editorials’ and user-generated stuff plucked from the forums, so you’ve got a decent depth to the content that isn’t apparent on untapped (which, it should be noted, is also available as a website, but exists mainly as a mobile bingo card for beer, with badges and such).

This is where things start to get murky for a guy like me – an early adopter, a sponge for information, someone who resists groupthink as a rule and is sometimes almost anti-social in my adherence to staying as un-biased as my limited mental capacity allows. Through BA the rise of the Trophy Beer has precipitated the short months-long popularity of new styles and ‘flagship’ beers from various brewers. What I mean is that, via this ranking format and given a platform from which beer nerds can bellow, popular beers rise up and become more sought-after than they might otherwise, simply from a social absorption standpoint. You’ve got dudes like myself that have spent thousands of hours posting reviews and comments on BA, and they in turn influence others’ opinions, and eventually you have groupthink about a particular beer or brewery that doesn’t actually reflect the quality or consistency of the beer itself, rather an elevated consensus that can be manipulated by breweries for their own gain.

For instance, today’s top ‘trending’ beers feature Founder’s in about half of the trendiest leader’s list. The KBS release has been much sought after for more than a few years now, as it has been a leader in the ‘breakfast beer’ style of barrel-aged stouts, itself a developing style of beer that wasn’t much known (or accepted, I.e. ‘Beer for breakfast?’) a decade ago. Founders has been pumping out great beer for the masses, and this article isn’t to critique them, rather an example of what I’m talking about with Trophy Beers. Simply because it’s on BA as a trending beer, more people will want some, more will check it in as a prestige item (badges of honor and glory), more people will talk it up as the best beer ever, etc etc, creating a cycle of utter bullshit as people pursue KBS and only KBS this year, instead of digging deeper to find the stuff that every neckbearded VP-level douchebag has passed over because it wasn’t in a top-10 listicle on BA.

I’ve seen breweries rise and fall on these listicles, and BA certainly has some responsibility for the rise of breweries IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING NOWHERE like Toppling Goliath and Treehouse gaining massive popularity because of the Trophy Beer listicle effect. (As an aside, I’ve had multiple drafts for articles on both of these operations, and can’t find a way past my own bias to give either a fair examination, yet. And so these drafts will languish for a while, but this topic here is absolutely integral in the way these breweries have become so popular-g8). It’s hard to know for sure how these kinds of sites/apps have impacted the larger growth of the beer industry, but it’s pretty clear that getting your beer in the midst of these longtime top-10’s can jumpstart your national presence in beer coolers and bottle shops very quickly. I’d wager that even ABI has marketing folks watching these social sites as they ponder their next buyout or big competitor – all that user data is just sitting there, compiled for free from potential customers, who are practically begging to be monetized so they can be the first spotter of the next big trend. It’s kind of repulsive, if I’m honest, but this is where we’re at 20 years into this modern century and about as many into the craft brew industry’s’ resurgence.

And…then what?

Take this article as a think piece, with no real conclusion meant from my perspective to the reader. I want other people to engage more with these forums and apps, if only to help myself choose beer from the bottle shop that I won’t want to dump down the sink (I would never. I give away beer I don’t like). Untappd would be a great resource if more of the people using it would take a minute or two to describe their experience with it. As a user and reviewer (I also do yelp and google reviews, or did, as needs require), I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to be diplomatic about a restaurant’s overall presentation (how do you describe a bathroom wall covered in dirty grease in a way that isn’t immediately as offensive as the wall itself?). I know it isn’t easy, and there are times when I don’t get as deep as I’d like to – like at OBF, where an intrepid beer explorer can sample more than 100 different beers in a single day with enough money. But the bulk of my reviews hold some commentary on the beer itself.

But what if you’re not a beer nerd, and just want to keep track of stuff you liked without going balls-deep into cicerone territory? That’s a fair point, not everyone can or wants to learn the skills to describe their beer. Not everyone has a dog-eared copy of Jeff Alworth’s ‘The Beer Bible’ to look up generally excepted style guidelines, even if they should (books make great anytime gifts, people). I can’t expect some 20-yr-old kid in deepest Kansas to be able to describe the differences between two mostly- similar beer, for simple lack of experience…but then again, as I’m reading the ratings and reviews of a user, I need something to go on in order to weigh a reviewer’s rating against the others and how much it means to me at that moment. It’s like popping into yelp to see if a place is any good, and there’s a 1-star review at the top from a person who has only posted that single review. Without any commentary, and just a bad review, what have I got to go on? If that single review was articulate and detailed the reasoning behind the 1-star, it’s easier to give that review consideration. I know this sounds obvious and yet these platforms leave all of that interpretation up to the end user, most of the time.

I’d like to encourage more people to engage deeper with these platforms. The more I look, the more room there is for personal experiences to influence this industry. As the money it generates grows and breweries fight over market share, there exists an opportunity for people with the desire to engage in this deeper review style to become leaders and step outside of the beer nerd bubble. Breweries NEED consumer info to decide on their next project, they need honest, legit feedback from people who aren’t around solely to inflate their own ego and kiss the ass of a brewer they’ve never actually met (fanboys are the real problem here but that’s another article). I’ve used my check-ins and many hours talking to people to help grow my own understanding of this thing I love so much, and this blog is the logical, if much-delayed, extension of that desire.

My goal will be eventually to help other writers develop this space (beer writing generally not my blog), but that can only happen if we foster the kind of critical conversations and knowledge base that is currently dominated by a small handful of people that aren’t really interested in sharing the space with others who might steal their thunder. I’ve got an ego too, but I’ve earned it, because I’m right about beer. You could be, too.
Have a Happy and Safe New year. I’ll be back soon with some actual researched items and more about my own beliefs in a few weeks. Thanks for stopping by… gravit8

Beer Giving…always happy!

Cheers! I’d hoped to have something more significant posted today, I’ve been working on a bit about how important distribution is for a brewery and how that might change based on some factors that aren’t obvious to the layperson. I know enough to go for days, apparently, and every thing I manage to cover in rough outline begs for more research and a few late-night brainstorming sessions…I don’t know as much as I’d like sometimes, and in order to feel comfortable I’ve got to invest serious time that my current life platform doesn’t provide easily. It’s currently rather cold out here on the coast and killing time with a few dollars to spare can be a challenge in a small town like Astoria.
So instead I’ll write about beer as a gift. It IS that time of year, and most of you reading this will be out and about in the next few days. Like any retail business, most breweries depend heavily on some seasonal sales. Aside from the visit to throw back a much-needed pint after a day of frantic shopping, most breweries offer some sort of take-out option for their beer that can be easily gifted the next time you see a friend. It’s really hard to go wrong with this option, as someone in your immediate vicinity is surely a fan of beer and who would turn down a six-pack or crowler full of local beer? Not someone on my Christmas list, to be sure…
Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t be waiting until Christmas to be gifting beer to people you know. And complete strangers. You’ll make an easy friend if you buy a pint for the person sitting next to you, and the guy toiling away in the back to make the beer won’t mind a bit if you buy them one either, even if it’s just a symbolic thank-you. As a cook, I appreciate a thank-you, and cash tips are nice, but if a server tells me a patron bought a pint for the cook I’d be pretty damn impressed with myself.
So how do you send beer to someone? Ideally, most independently-brewed beer is ‘live’ beer, which is to say it’s not pasteurized or treated significantly to expand it’s lifespan. That said, modern canning and packaging methods have drastically improved reliability and stability, even if the contents aren’t refrigerated continuously. Some beers can handle more abuse than others, but as a rule you want to keep your beer cold as long as possible, drinking soon after purchase. Modern brewing has given us beers that are inherently short-lived as a byproduct of the ingredients. Very hop-forward beers are often meant to be consumed within a month or two of production, while pilsners and ales may sit for a 6 months or more, and porters, stouts and barrel-aged beers have an indefinite lamount of shelf time before they’re due to drink.
Personally, I don’t have anyone local to give beer to, so I spend some effort shipping beer. The postal service technically prohibits shipping liquid products, specifically booze of any sort, but flat-rate shipping boxes offer an easy way to send a small selection of local bombers or tallboy cans quickly and cheaply across country without much worry about mistreatment. Properly wrapped, there is little risk your package will be damaged and disposed of, which is a legitimate risk. UPS and FedEx aren’t known for treating packages kindly, and I’ve never had a flat-rate box arrive with damage…but your experience may vary, so use your own judgement.
Packaging can be easy enough, I run down to the dollar store and grab a 10-pack of kitchen sponges for a dollar and some big ziplock bags. A couple copies of the local weekly paper to fill in any gaps in hand, and you can send a decent amount of beer for around $20. A beer nerd will always cherish a package with beer they’d never otherwise get to try, or old favorites they can’t get where they’re at now. I tend to try most of what I send beforehand, so I could include my own tasting notes if I was really thoughtful – but I usually geek out and send spoilers before the box arrives. If I manage to get the packages together before drinking all of the beer, another pitfall I hopefully don’t have to explain…
So while you’re sitting around the table, ask your family or friends what kind of beer they like, and think about them while you’re out battling the consumer masses. There is no shortage of reasons to buy locally-made craft beer as a gift for the people you care about, and it impacts the economy in ways more significant than your other purchases might. It’ll give you a reason to stop in someplace you haven’t been before, or just ask questions at your local bottle shop. I hope to add more reviews and even reader-submitted information about local breweries across the country eventually, but until then, head over to twitter and dig around, you can find almost all of them readily available to get you their beer.
Now I’m off to throw burgers and fries at people who who’d rather I do the cooking tonight. Have a safe and warm weekend, wherever you are this year!

A Fort-tuitous meeting

On the bucket list for quite some time – basically not long after I got to Portland – Fort George Brewing sits in historic Astoria just a few feet from the old site that Is said to have been the original ground of the first ‘European’ settlers to the area in…some far distant past. I’ll be honest, the details aren’t my thing, but the gist is that there’ve been white-ish settlers in the area for 300-ish years now.
I bring up the history only because this entire area exists with one foot in the past and one in the not-too-distant-past. A small town that lives off of tourists and coastal travelers, just a few miles from the mouth of the Columbia where it dumps into the Pacific…
And now, A Loooooong interlude….
I didn’t get much written during my visit at Fort George.. I’d had a strange day – more fogged window thoughts and a growler of Rogue’s finest NW IPA had left me with a mid-day hangover that even a nap couldn’t dispel. I was working my way through a pint of dubel – a challenge if you’re not 100% on the day. It’s not exactly a palate-quencher and I didn’t have any food to pair it with. So there I was, sitting at a table in the open brewing area when some ladies walked past looking for a place to sit. I’ve been working hard at engaging with people in a positive fashion lately – there’s not enough of that going on these days – and so I flagged them down and offered them the bench across from me.
We ended up talking for quite some time, and they were great company. We, or I, really, talked about beer and Astoria and changing cultures and all sorts of topics that I wouldn’t have immediately expected to engage in based on appearance alone. It’s something I’ve come to cherish about the brew scene, the ability to walk into a craft beer spot and strike up a conversation with total strangers about a shared hobby. I’ve got a couple thousand words down already about past experiences like this, and why it ‘s more likely to happen over craft beer than most other forms of social activity. Given my relative newness to the area I don’t really have any friends out here on the coast but I’ve been single for quite some time and I’m starting to wonder if there’s someone out there for a guy like me…It should go without saying that an appreciation for beer would be required to get along with me…
Anyways, it’s a complicated topic and I hope I can unravel some of it eventually but for now I’ll have to back out of this little moment and get back to the beer. Jen and Sara, if you read this, it was nice meeting you 😉

So this history of Astoria… I think I was just making shit up as I went. I’ve been learning bits and bobs, but the things that stick out are pretty funky; Astoria has burnt down almost completely at least twice, and the piers that dominated that waterfront were rebuilt and then abandoned as the canning industry died out here. It’s got that supreme rugged outdoorsman fisher vibe, and when the tide rolls in you can smell the saltwater and funky sea fog. – I think I just named the next popular hazy NW IPA right there. I get a cut.
There are a ton of reasons to set up a business here, and Fort George is one of them. I became aware of Vortex pretty early on, it was on tap at a few places with $3 pint happy hours (expect some thoughts on pint pricing soon). It wasn’t my favorite example of IPA from the region but the quality was apparent. Cavatica stout was available in cans at the local plaid pantry a few blocks from my house, and I’d see Matryoshka and 1001 years of silence placed prominently in local bottle shops. When I found out that they throw an annual celebration of dark, thick-ass beers called the Festival of the Dark Arts (tickets go on sale this coming Friday) it climbed up the list significantly.
The problem was that, when I first arrived in Portland, I didn’t have a car. Life in beervana is easily managed on bicycle, and I actually endorse cycling while beering in Portland up to a reasonable point…but you can’t get out here without a car. Astoria is a solid 100 mile drive due W/NW, and it’s not really on the way to anywhere else unless you’re traveling up the coast. There is a miles-long bridge connecting Oregon and Washington here, so there’s a lot of traffic, commercial trucks and RV’s and travelers on vacation heading to beach houses and gorgeous sunsets…
Fort George is will situated to take advantage of all these travelers. Spread out over two-ish city blocks on a hill, the two-story restaurant portion and adjoining subterranean brewery room are warm and open with a worn-in vibe and plenty of seating options. The ladies from my very pleasant interlude mentioned that they couldn’t really find a decent spot in the main area, not a huge surprise on a Saturday night just before thanksgiving. The Lovell Taproom is in the basement area, a small and very cozy little space with room for about 6 at the bar and another dozen plus at tables. I’d been sitting in the more open brewing room, at a picnic table overlooking the stainless fermenters and a giant red tank made up to look like a pig.
It’s apparent Fort George is pushing out a lot of product – the canning line takes up a sizeable amount of space next to the fermenters, and there doesn’t seem to be much unused real-estate aside from the setback for the taproom area (I’d be willing to bet there’s some resentment there, since you could probably stuff a few more fermenters in the space where I was sitting). It had all the right smells and you can feel the energy being spent making beer in the air. Or maybe it was the CO2 bubbling up from the nearby overflow airlock. Knowing nothing else about craft beer, you’d still have to be impressed with the place – there’s no denying effort here. That they are consistently busy and selling tourist-priced food is a testament to where they’re headed as a company. Someday these reviews might include details about volume and numbers, but for now I’m just sticking with my instinct. Get at me in the comments.
The Beer
I started with that dubbel, ‘A little dab will dubbel’, a’ traditional’ style brown ale originally developed in Germany (as I get better at this I’ll drop region info but I don’t have my ‘Beer Bible’ handy so deal with it!).
Dubbels are very malt-forward, and this was no exception. It takes a different approach to drinking than an IPA, as I mentioned above. Imagine trying to chug a slice of rye bread – it’s not an easy feat. The character of a dubbel is indeed similar to a dark bread, in this case, with a dark caramel brown color that played with the light. It’s a clear finish, without any noticeable sediment or leftover proteins floating about. The smell is a bit nutty, a bit earthy, a bit dark fruity. The brewer’s description is mostly accurate – I try not to read too much into the menu descriptions until I’ve had a chance to taste a beer ‘blind’, for the sake of my own honesty, but they’re pretty honest here at FtG.
I had thought to start with this beer because it’s fairly light on the ABV but dark enough for the theme of my night – the dark barrel-aged monsters of the Fort. Dubbels don’t really fit this pattern though, not really – they still have a fairly high ABU of 68 (if I recall correctly) and a brisk, lightly bitter, cleaner finish that leaves a hint of the malt body as a reminder of what you just put down. It’s a good beer for colder weather, something that compliments the kinds of food we’re all about to enjoy as the holidays roll through. A guy could put a few pints of this style down while putting away some pumpkin pie and leftover turkey slices, for instance (and in that order). It comes in a 16-oz flared pint glass to showcase the color and body and focus the yeasty quality of the tiny co2 bubbles that dissipated quickly. It’s not a beer that I’d try to push on most people if they weren’t familiar with the style, since you have to know the ‘why’ of a dubbel to really judge an example of it. That said, I ranked it highly, it’s a well-executed beer.
For a follow-up, I went for an 8oz pour of their 2018 Matryoshka BBA with vanilla and blueberry. This heavyweight Russian Imperial Stout was aged in bourbon barrels and clocks in at 12.75ABV. Served in a wide snifter, It sets itself apart immediately with a very active foamy head rising off the inky-black syrup underneath. I’d had a quick taste of Nightfall, their bourbon AND brandy barrel aged dankness, so I was prepared for the blast of booze straight off the top. That first sip of a beer like this is a moment to take in and savor while you’re blasted with the bourbon.
The vanilla rounded out the bourbon sting a bit but it’s not exactly hiding the strength of this beer. I spent some time with it, letting the head fall off in a few minutes and then doing the swirl and sniff tests like the beer snob I am. This beer is dark, it’s a feature of the huge amount of dark malts they used to get the ABV up before the barrel ageing. It took me a minute to pick up on something else, that blueberry on the back end. At first I only noticed it when I exhaled after a sip, some coming off the beer in my mustache (yes it does help me taste beer) and I had to chat with the bartender to figure it out; They’d used fresh blueberries in the barrel, and it’s possible they started to ferment from their own natural yeast. When I went back for another sip, sure enough, it’s almost sour and the flavors became much more clear in my mind.
It’s funny how that sort of thing works out, when you know there’s something going on in a beer but can’t quite place it until you get some scrap of information that unlocks a deeper understanding of the liquid in your glass. That’s one reason I thoroughly enjoy spending time at brewery taps – the chance to bend the ear of a brewer while you digest and examine their work is pretty good, and the rest of the staff is usually much better informed than the folks at even your best non-brewery taproom. That said, taprooms like Loyal Legion and Apex offer an avid consumer the chance to sample beer from multiple breweries at once, so those adventures have a place in my travels as well.
I sampled a few other beers at the Lovell taproom, the one sticking out the most being Nightfall, a bourbon-and-brandy-barrel aged boozy leviathan that curled my nosehairs and actually intimidated me. This is an uncomfortable admission – I used to pride myself in drinking and enjoying big beers. But this was an assault, all I could get off the nose was boooooooze and that was it. When I tossed it around on my tongue it was the same. I’m going to have to go back and face that one, as it’s not a proud moment for me… but I didn’t want to melt my face off while I was talking to my new friends, either.
I was the last person to leave the taproom, having taken my time with some lovely beer, and I headed down the street to a local place called the Capricorn, and bought a can of Crysknife, a hazy-ish IPA that has been available in cans for a couple months now. The name is a reference to a weapon in the movie/book Dune, showing that the powers that be (TPTB for Buffy and Joss Whedon fans) are still grounded enough to play to their customer’s nerdy tendencies in their branding.
Crysknife is a complicated beer, especially out of the can – it’s got the hazy hoppy juicy fruity earthy thing going on, and there’s no real opening for any one quality to be front and center. I think I had it on tap a few weeks ago when I visited Fort George for a job interview, but the memory is just as hazy as the drops on the rim of the can when I was done. I’m not a huge hazy fan but Fort George is one of the pioneers of the style out here in Oregon, working for a few years now with several different breweries on a collaboration called 3-Way IPA. It’s hard to keep track of what they’re up to, if I’m honest, since they do different versions with different breweries and so I can only speak to one or two of the various batches, and not in detail. But I’m told by people with regular access to each release that they’re exceptional, and I don’t disagree. Without getting a sit-down with a brewer or looking at a recipe I can’t say much more than that, but at least I’m honest about it. I’m right about beer, so…deal with it?

Fogged Window Thoughts Fri, 11/22

This is as much a personal project as anything, but it’d be nice to turn my love of beer into more than a passing hobby. I moved to Portland to immerse myself in the beer, and I have enjoyed the long soak – but not really the everyday struggles to get through life. Many of my beer stories come from those struggles though, so it’ll be a positive if I can use it to progress my passion into new areas.
I’m writing to you from the front seat of my truck along the waterfront of Astoria, Oregon. It’s cold out and the windows are fogged and I’m trying to work through a couple dozen different drafts I’ve had sitting around for this very site for a long time. Whenever I engage with people in breweries and pubs on the topic of beer someone asks if I’m a brewer or something (I am but on a strictly personal small scale). I don’t even have a proper serving certificate so I can only pour beer as a volunteer at festivals – which I do. It’s a love-hate relationship, this one I have with beer, because there are pitfalls, and it’s not a cheap hobby to keep up with.

That part about writing from my truck will be a recurring theme for the next few weeks at least because in my pursuits of beer and the life I dropped the ball back in October. I had a nice steady 40 hour a week working at Timberline Lodge on Mt.Hood and decided I didn’t want to do the cold/snow thing in my 25 foot travel trailer, and the coast looked nice. I interviewed for cook jobs at several coastal locations and thought I had a job in Cannon Beach but something fell through and I ended up hunting for work in a time of year when hours get thin behind the grill in an area that lives off tourists. I ran out of cash, had to put my trailer in storage and here I sit watching the ships go by on the Columbia River killing time before work.

I did get a job at a brewery, just not the one I’d expected (and it seems I may have dodged a bullet there from what I’m hearing). If I’d started work a week or two sooner I’d be warm and comfy in my trailer but at least this time it’s not for lack of trying. My friends and coworkers at Rogue on the pier have been supportive and I’m really digging the vibe in Astoria – it’s a lot like the midwest but the farmers are fishers and loggers. I can see myself in this area indefinitely, despite my desire to rove the countryside harassing local brewers with stupid questions about how they market their beer to potential partners. Being ultra-mobile is a feature of my life after being hit by a car in Portland, so if I can turn this blog into a decent resource I may eventually live off of, it’d be a lifelong dream realized. If I can focus on writing, I’ll have more than just dumb beer thoughts to publish as well.

To that end, I hope to work with others on my other domain, writeaboutbeer.com – at some point I want it to be a portal for other writers who might want to drop in from time to time. Someday I’ll get some traffic in here and those comments will inform the direction I take so do your worst down there. I paint in broad strokes unless I mention otherwise, I get things wrong and do miss entire slices of the industry I love simple because I’ve had limited resources and had to balance un/employment with the rising costs of sitting on a bar stool at reputable establishments. I will absolutely take your donations however they come, if things go well I can use my other skills to manage other content.

I’ll get around to explaining my experience and why I think people should hear what I have to say, but there’s plenty to go on. Find me on untapped, which is a fairly accurate if incomplete picture of where I’ve been over the last couple of years beer-wise. I became interested in better beers while studying german in high school and my dad’s random purchases (‘Blackened Voodoo’ and the St. Paulie girl stand out). There were a few breweries operating in Iowa and New Mexico in the late 90’s and early 00’s and I am proud to have drank their terrible beer. I was a first-day customer at more than a dozen breweries that continue to thrive to this day, and met some of my best friends at places that closed a long time ago.

I may not be any different than anyone else but I can hack together a story and probably kill time – both mine and yours – while I do it. Stick around, lend a hand, call my bullshit with your own – when you’re right about beer, you’re right about beer.