Archive for November, 2009

Influencing Tastes

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Friday night at f/stop Niki was bartending, and she brought up an interesting point. How much does what we’re supposed to taste influence what we’re supposed to taste?

Back when Dennis brought Hop Yard Dog to our brewers dinner I was surprised. I wasn’t surprised because it was an amazing beer, but because it had much more hop flavor then his test batch that I tried. On the list of pale ales I’d stock it didn’t even make the long version, but it was better then that test batch. Last week though Dennis kegged this pale ale and Kirk purchased a keg to pour at f/stop.

First night I was there when the Hop Yard Dog was on tap Kirk and I dissagreed on wether or not it was a good pale ale. Thinking he could convert me I guess Kirk got me a taster of it so I could try it. First thing I noticed upon smelling the beer was a slightly soured milk odor. The bad part was it carried the taste associated with that smell onto the back of the tongue. I described the taste and smell to Kirk and he looked at me funny, then later he tried the beer again. When he did he noticed the same thing.

Friday rolled around and once again Hop Yard Dog came up, this time with Nikki pouring and Chuck at the bar with me. Both Chuck and I got tasters of the beer so I could prove that the smell and flavor were there. Chuck didn’t notice anything on the smell, but on the taste he found it, right where I’d said it would be on the back of the tongue.

Nikki pointed out though that both Chuck and Kirk had tried the beer previously and never noticed the flavor or odor. So, could my telling them what to look for caused them to find it? Or when they knew what they were looking for was it just easier to find what was there?

Honost Pints In Salem

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Yesterday I received an email from both Jack Box and Leslie Venti letting me know that Venti’snow serves bona fide honest pints. Venti’s blog says the following.

From Friday, 27 November 2009, Venti’s are serving beer in 20 ounce glassware with the cartoon rooster’s pointing index finger marking the 16 ounce volume level. A ‘True Pint’ pour line. A documenting image has been sent to the administrators so that Venti’s Cafe & Basement Bar will be certified as a Purveyor of an Honest Pint and appear on website’s list and map

Apparently Venti’s has always had 16 oz glassware (who knew?) but a true pint pour depended on your server and left no room for some head. While I don’t really care to much about glassware and all it’s still kinda neat to think Venti’s will make Beervana’s page. Interestingly enough Venti’s was a little slower in getting honest pours then ƒ/stop. From the get go Kirk has been serving up imperial pints for the same price as Venti’spints. Granted ƒ/stop doesn’t have the selection, and I’m pretty sure none of us purveyors of Kirks pub care to get it certified.

Congrats to Dino, Thane, Leslie, JR and the entire Venti’s crew on the new glassware.


Packing Bottles

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

packI just got my first bottles from trading this years batch of Deschutes Abyss in and I’m really excited about the beers I received. When I cracked open a bottle of this years Abyss to try I had plans to trade only 2 or 3 bottles of my half case, but my disappointment in it means more may be traded. Anyways here’s what I got from KCHophead. For two bottles of Abyss I received:

an ’09 Harvest Dance from Boulevard Brewing, an ’08 Reserve Barlywine from Schlafely, and a bottle of his Schlafely Tripple Clone that he brewed.

Sadly the Tripple didn’t come off well. Not sure if it was oxidized or what, but there was a heavy metallic flavor throughout. The other flavors were good though. Thanks KC. I plan on letting the other bottles age, so I’ll tell you what I think when I crack them.

This was my first beer trade, but not my first time shipping something heavy and fragile. I learned alot from this trade though both through shipping and receiving and figured a basic rundown is needed for people.

First off people over complicate the process in an attempt to prevent any damage to their bottles. There are two main things to consider though. Safeguarding the labels and glass (some people collect them) and safeguarding the contents.

Safeguarding the glass and labels is simple. Wrap the bottles in bubble wrap and then bag them. I just used old plastic shopping bags. One thing to make sure you do is tape every wrap. If you wrap the bottle in bubble wrap then tape it in place. If you bag the bottle tape that in place. If the bag and bubble wrap slip you can loose protection, or allow packing material up against the bottle which can cause damage to the label or glass.

The contents are a different thing to protect. The bag you used to safegaurd the label will keep contents contained if they spill. Last thing you want is a call from FedEx or UPS saying that they can’t ship your package because of some mysterious liquid seeping out the box. Also any spills will not soak the labels of other bottles. In terms of packing material I’d say it comes down to preference. In middle school science class our group won the egg drop project using the simplest design because we followed a simple principle. The goal of packing material is to isolate the bottles from the sides of the box and create a dense environment around the bottles. This provides cushioning, but also, because of the dense packaging distributes any jolts or shocks through the entire box rather then into the bottles. I used peanuts to pack because it was cheaper to buy a bag of those then buying enough newspaper to stuff the box.

If you safeguard the bottles and contents then your trades will show up in great condition. And even with bubble wrap and peanuts it is cheaper then $5 to package your bottles. For a good beer an extra $5 is worth it though.

The Great Myth

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009


I’ll be up front and honost. I’ve never fully understood the local businesses first mindset that seems to plague people these days. I’ve always thought of myself as someone that ascribes to the “what is good to me at the moment” mentality. So it should come as no surprise that I’d assert that the idea of little breweries fighting the big bad BMC is all a myth. How can I say this with certainty? Well let’s examine it.

First off, what is BMC? Beer right? But what kind of beer? Light American Lager. Now for someone who thinks all beer is the same this part won’t matter, but if you read this blog I’m assuming your not of that mindset right? Ok, let’s continue then. Now if BMC makes light American lagers what kind off beer do their consumers generally prefer? Who else makes the kind of beer those people consume? Prior to the last 10 years how many craft breweries can you name that made light lager? Generally craft breweries make IPA’s, Hefeweizens, Porters, Stouts… The list goes on. How many corporate breweries in America prior to the last 10 years made these styles?

The realtiy of the situation is that when craft beer came on the scene the only beer available that tasted similar were imports. It stands to reason then that craft beers battle was for imports share of the market. Granted craft beer had to make inroads into the market that consumed light lagers, but for a long time those consumers shunned craft beer. So why all the talk about a great battle between David and Goliath? Because it sells beer and strokes egos.

Granted it’s true that corporations eventually battled through advertising (remember the bitter beer face and less filling commercials?), and to a lesser extant litigation, but the damage inflicted by these tactics mostly served to slow craft beers initial inroads into the beer market. Where do craft brewers get off whining then about how we’re in a battle? Why do they shout from the mountain tops about how it’s a little guy with quality vs a stranger in the park with a trenchcoat, candy, and a van with no windows?

Interestingly enough we live in a time of merging craft breweries. Also just the other day I finally saw Widmers commercials for Brrrr, and it reminds me of the admen accusations leveled at BMC. Why in the face of all this do craft beer drinkers act like loyal little soldiers, affraid to call an expensive average beer for what it really is? It’s high time craft beer drinkers became consumers who were truly concerned about quality rather then brewery clicks. Average beer is average beer, wether it comes from a small brewery or from Anhauser.

A Most Competent Thane

Friday, November 13th, 2009

vtweetLast night I finally got around to doing some footwork on the best beer in Salem project. I got off work, ran by the store, and then it was off to La Capitale to check out their beer selection. Upon arriving though I found out their bar closes at 9:30 on weeknights. I got a chance to talk with the bartender (can’t remember his name right now as last nights bar hopping washed it from my memory)  and discuss how he goes about choosing his taps. Overall the selection wasn’t Venti’s, but he does keep imports and some decent American beers on tap. In fact there was a saison that I wanted to try. Alas they were closed though so I figured it was time to start checking out other bars.

The next stop on my list was Browns Town where I was hoping to talk with whoever chooses their beers. On the way there though I passed Venti’s and figured I’d stop in for a pint before continuing. This was the undoing of my plan. Turns out Thane was bartending, and although we’ve met before I haven’t really had a chance to talk with him. I ordered a Russian River Damnation thinking this was going to be my one beer I had and Thane and I started chatting about beer. Next thing I knew it was last call and I’d added a pint of Collaborator Brown and Cascade Defroster to the pint of Damnation. Sadly I think drinking the Damnation first was a mistake. Damnation is a great beer and set the bar high for the other two, and despite their best efforts they failed to impress me.

Thane however did. It’s a rare thing to find a competent bartender (beer wise) in this state, let alone one who knows so much about beer. It was refreshing to talk with someone who shared some of my views on beer, brewers, and the like. He was also extremely helpful. We discussed what beers he could get in if he was so inclined, what beers he did have that were awaiting taps, and his selection process. However last call comes early on a Salem week night so I had to go.

By the time I left almost all bars in Salem were closing down, or closed. I’ve always thought Salems general last call of 11 is too early. Figuring the night was over I hopped on my bike and headed towards home. As I was passing  ƒ/stop though I saw their open sign was still in the window and cars were still in the parking lot. One thing I love about ƒ/stop is that as long as Kirks still hanging around the bars still open. Nothing like a good pint with good company to end the day and start the next.

Always Learning

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates and all the critical posts these days. This month is move in for the clients we’ve been developing a home for. With training, meetings, plus my normal work schedule blogging has fallen by the wayside.


When I first got into homebrewing I was talking with a fellow brewer and had remarked that he knew everything about brewing. He responded with one of those cheesy you can’t know everything about brewing because your always learning comments. I knew then that what he said was true, but it never really seemed relevant until today.

When I first started this blog in February I was just starting to get serious about beer and made learning about brewing a priority. Because of this 2009 has seen huge leaps in my brewing skills and knowledge. No surprise then that when I pulled out my witches brew gruit recipe I made in February I couldn’t stop laughing. My early attempts at recipe development show my lack of knowledge about the brewing process at the beginning of this year.

Here’s what the recipe looked like when I first wrote it and brewed it

7lb light malt extract
3/4 lb Roasted Barley
1/4 lb Chocolate Malt
1/4 lb 60 Crystal Malt
1/4 lb CaraPills
1 tsp Irish Moss
2.5 oz Yarrow @ 1hr
1.5 oz Bogmyrtle @ 1hr
1 oz Sweet Gale add to fermentor
1 oz Fennel Seed @ 1 hr
Nottingham Ale Yeast

Since February I have switched from using the same light liquid malt extract for every beer to using a a few different dry extracts. I know some people think a serious homebrewer should be brewing all grain, but for my budget, equipment, and storage space malt extract works best, and with practice and knowledge you can brew really good extract based beer.

Another interesting thing is the original recipe has all the herbs being added for the full one hour boil except sweet gale. Apparently I didn’t follow my own instructions because I opened a bottle of this stuff a few weeks ago and there were some (not much though) complex herbal flavors. In those early brewing attempts my ability to get all the ingredients in the wort at the same time was limited since I was brewing highly concentrated wort in a spaghetti pot. This means some of the herbs were added, the pot became to full, I split the boil into two pots and then added the rest of the herbs. Also I didn’t have a scale at the time for measuring my ingredients, so my weights were guesstimates. Perhaps it’s better that this beer became a sour ale.

Needless to say I completely tore apart this recipe and rebuilt it from the ground up for brewing this morning. Now I just gotta pull that recipe down after I get back from yet another training/meeting.

You’ve Got Me Covered???

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Salem recently got a Cinebarre downtown, and from some of the reactions that were filmed at the opening you’ld think that Northern Lights Theatre Pub never existed. Interestingly enough is how someone described what Cinebarre brings to the scene beer wise. The guy announced that they were “carrying Rogue Dead Guy and 4 Deschutes handles, so for people who like their local beer we’ve got you covered.” Last time I checked Deschutes and Rogue weren’t the only local beers Oregon has, but when someone wants to serve local beer it’s what makes it on tap. The least they could do to make sure they had me covered beer wise is get in some more quality taps from around Oregon.

So is it economical to serve rotating taps of high quality beer? Absolutely! I mean we’re not talking about a tap room, or a gastro pub here. I mean you’ld at least think that more businesses would be copying Venti’s model if they wanted to make their bar a destination. Venti’s rotating taps keep things interesting, and considering that they generally tap as many kegs as days their open in a month (usually 26 tappings over 26 days) people are obviously buying it up. This makes me wonder why more bars aren’t doing this. Why is it that we’re so stuck on the PBR, Widmer, Deschutes, Dead Guy tap model?

While I’m at it anyone notice the varieties of Oregon wine bars will carry compared with varieties of Oregon beer?

Need More Input

Friday, November 6th, 2009


Ya, second Friday without a Things Beer Geeks Like Post. May just have to file that under ideas that didn’t work.

So it has been two weeks since I decided I was going to compile a list of Salem’s best beer places. I knew I’d have to do footwork on this, but didn’t want to risk missing some hole in the wall bar that actually had good taps. So I did what any good lazy blogger would, I tossed out feelers. I asked people in Capitol Brewers, The Salem Beer and Wine Group, twitted it to eatsalem, and tossed the question out to my friends and family. Here’s the problem, almost all the answers I received back were Venti’s and Boon’s. I know we don’t have the tap houses and bottle shops that Portland has, but we sure as heck have more then Venti’s, Boon’s, and Capitol Market. I know this for a fact. So do beer drinkers in Salem only got to the same two bars and buy all their beer at Capitol Market?

Now that my viral thing is gone it looks like my Wednesday and Thursday nights for the next several weeks may be spent bar crawling in an attempt to educate Salemites on what’s out there. Tonight though is reserved for Monty Python night at  ƒ/stop.

Play Dead Mac

Thursday, November 5th, 2009


The beer that started it all for me was a MacTarnahans Blackwatch. I still remember trying it and falling in love with dark beer. I also remember thinking that it had a dry dusty aftertaste. It wasn’t very surprising that Obsidian Stout quickly took over as my favorite beer not long after. Sadly my initial experience with MacTarnahans was doomed to be repeated over and over. I’d try one of their beers and find it almost likeable, but still every single one had some quality that either killed it, or there was nothing memorable about the beer.

Now enters Humbug’r. I tried this beer back during Salem Beer and Wines winter seasonal tasting. Like most people I found the art an instant turn off, but I’d told myself I’d like it anyway. After all, all the Portland bloggers keep talking about MacTarnahans attempting to reinvent themselves and make better beer. Also, none of the bloggers I’d read had given an overly positive review of it yet so I thought there would be some hope. After all, they’d all said Grifter was either ok, or good. They’d also said the same of Lip Stinger, and both times I thought the beers had failed.

When we did taste Humbug’r there were some initial positive reactions from some people. For the most part though people found it generic. In fact I think that was the exact word Steve described it with. Even when we compared it to another porter on hand we couldn’t find anything that distinguished it. I walked away with Humbug’r filed away in the not worth buying category and just left it at that.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I began seeing positive reviews. I swung by Beervana and seeing the title thought for sure Jeff would call it for what it was. Jeff it turns out gave it a B. I thought a C would be generous, but then I thought “Hey, difference in taste right?” Going through the comments though I saw Bill gave it an A. Now I’m thinking  I must’ve had to much to drink that night, or maybe my sense of taste was off. After all, I ranked WinterFish last. (Then again so did everyone else in the group and that beer’s managed a B on Beeradvocate) Still, several of the other people there thought Humbug’r was average. Apparently two other commenters on Beervana weren’t ecstatic fans of it either.

So what is the verdict? Does MacTarnahans new seasonal make the grade? Is it just personal taste? Or is this what Doc Wort was talking about when he would call Portlands bloggers “Cheerleaders”?

As a side note Humbug’r is a B+ on Beeradvocate with one review, and an overall 3.09 on ratebeer. Reading the ratebeer reviews though there is a 2.4, 2.5, and a 2.7. One of which mirrored our experience with Humbug’r. Cathcacr pretty much summed up my opinion with their review.

A Glimpse Into The Past

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Because wordpress is stupid I recomend you click the title to view the actual post. For some reason wordpress won’t let me define the table to fit within the perameters of the main page.


Sorry there hasn’t been any updates for awhile. Between work, meetings, and a viral infection I’ve been battling posting here has been an arduous task. So please forgive both the lack of updates, and the fact that this one is another post on history.

While I was attempting to recover I decided to do some more reading in “Fermented Alcoholic Beverages, Malt Liquors, Wine, And Cider”. This book was written by an assistant chemist named C.A. Crampton in 1887. The book covers some brewing basics, but mostly covers what the writer calls adulterations. The book is dry reading, but interestingly it includes consumption figures on alcoholic beverages. Here are some of the numbers that Crampton gives. All numbers are in US gallons

Year Gallons of Beer Produced Gallons of Beer Imported Total Wine and Spirit Consumption Beer Consumption per Capita Wine/Spirit Consumption per Capita
1840 23,162,571 148,272 23,310,843 71,244,817 1.36 4.17
1850 36,361,708 201,301 36,503,009 94,712,353 1.58 4.08
1860 100,225,879 1,120,790 101,346,699 202,374,461 3.22 6.43
1870 203,743,401 1,012,755 204,756,156 296,876,931 5.3 7.69

For the sake of saving hours of data entry I thought this 30 year span would fit my purposes today. Back in September I postulated that lager beer saved brewing. I’m not the first to toss this theory out. In fact prior to the last 40 or so years it was generally accepted that lager beers made brewing the profitable business it is today. Granted back in September I said finding data on consumption and production prior to 1810 couldn’t be done. Turns out I just couldn’t find it because no one really publishes those numbers. Well that and the national numbers weren’t really kept track of until 1810.

Looking at the numbers on the chart though it’s easy to see why people attribute lager to the rise in beer consumption. The 1850’s saw the first massive immigration from Europe. Nearly 1 million German immigrants fleeing impending economic issues came here, often arriving with money, and were able to start businesses in their new communities. This also gave them purchasing power. Many of Americas German breweries were founded during this time frame too. Throughout the 1840’s it wasn’t uncommon for immigrant breweries to fail after short periods. Some managed to last, but the numbers weren’t high. When the mass waves of immigration hit Americas shores though the ones that had survived could not pump out enough beer for the masses. Breweries like Stroh and Best’s were founded by immigrants who saw opportunity and Americas beer revolution began.