Thursday, February 28, 2008

Locavore Travels

A road trip to Boston--and the pleasure of watching the Celts dispose of the Cavs--expanded my locavore eligibility. Loyal reader Jeff and I selected Boston Beer Works as the venue for our pre-game beer consumption.

I first tried a seasonal offering: their Saison Nouveau. It had little to no carbonation and featured a flavor I couldn't identify (indicating that I need to sample many more beers) and didn't particularly care for.

I switched to the Back Bay IPA. I thought it was delicious. But I wasn't sure. So I ordered and drank another one. Yes. It's a very good beer. I ordered one more, and it could've perhaps been called gratuitous except that it was useful in washing down my meatloaf.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Right In My Face

As if on cue, my friends at Smuttynose provided the perfect response to my pleas for a seasonal brew that involved risk taking: Hanami Ale.

It's another snowy night, and I'm longing both for spring and for the mild winters of Tokyo, where I lived for almost ten years.

In Tokyo, the hanami season is wonderful. The whole city gathers together under the beautiful cherry trees. There is eating, drinking, merriment, and joy. It's the single best holiday (and I guess it's not a formal holiday) I've experienced since I was ten years old and still believed in Santa Claus.

Here was a beer that combined the vision of springtime with the joy of hanami. And, it was brewed within my locavore radius by a brewery I respect for the quality of the product. A beer that combined those qualities with some risk-taking and experimentation--perfect! Kampaii!

The problem: the beer sucks. Weak, vinegary, sicky, cherry, flat, whiney flavor are descriptive words that come to mind.

I switched to wine (a nice, moderately priced California Cab) and found it to be a significant upgrade.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gritty's Scottish Stlye Ale

I drank a bottle (22 ounces) of Gritty's Scottish Style Ale last night and enjoyed it. It lives up to the "hearty" description on the label. It is strong--6.3% ABV--and fullbodied. The color is deep copper and the taste is malt, after a bit of a sweet "nose" initially.

The bottle also claims that it is not overwhelming, and I agree. Here's the problem: I want to be overwhelmed. This is a seasonal brew, I'd like the brewer to take a risk. Display some cojones. Brew a beer that stands up to Haggis. They've played it a bit safe with this one--it's as if they were wearing panties under their kilts.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Shopping Mall

I stopped by the Shopping Mall with some friends after work one day this week in search of a beer bargain. We found one: 22 ounce draft beers at the Sebago Brew Pub. The brew pub is actually not in the mall, it's a stone's throw from the Sports of Authority, hard by the Chuck E Cheesewiz Factory. The Shopping Mall is not one of my favorite places. But I am a sucker for hops. I drank a Frye's Leap IPA and quite enjoyed it. One member of our group drank something called Mich Ultra and tried to claim it was beer. It came in a beer like bottle but looked nothing like beer when poured into a glass. I looked it up later, and found it defined here.

The best news is that Sebago Brew Pub has a downtown location, diagnolly across Middle Street from Post Office Park. The $3, 22 ounce draft deal is also available there. It seems likely that I'll have many an occasion to mail a letter after work and while there, do what comes naturally--pop in for a pint. Except it's not a pint, it's bigger.

To keep track of the beer deals in Portland, check out this link, which was provided by loyal reader Snoop Dog: bargains

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Portland's 2nd Best Happy Hour

My research of the Dogfish Bar and Grille was woefully inadequate. So I went back in. In the process, I discovered Portland's second best Happy Hour. On Tuesday, all the draft beer at Dogfish is two dollars.

In response to loyal reader Snoop Dog's "size matters" post, I confirmed that both the Monday and Tuesday beers are offered in U.S. Pint glasses (473 ML). In addition, since the bartender couldn't readily and definitively say that the Allagash Dubbel tulip glasses were a full pint, he attempted to pour one (using water, no beer was damaged in the name of science) into a pint glass. It overflowed, barely. I believe the Allagash tulip glass is 500 ML, but may need further research to completely verify.

After starting my research with the Dubbel, I strayed into a new beer (for me): Stoncoast Brewery's Alt Beer (or, Altbier, I guess, in the German tradition). As a fan of Alt Country music, I had high hopes for this beer. It is quite tasty but leans heavily on the malt, rather than hops, end of things. The effect is smooth rather than bitter, more Norah Jones than Lucinda Williams. It left me longing for bitter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Portland's Best Happy Hour Bargain

I'd heard the rumors, and yesterday, in what was purely a research project, I verified them. Yes, it's true: The Dogfish Bar and Grille--at 128 Free Street--offers up all of their draft beer for a buck on Monday evenings. Well, at least yesterday and next Monday. That means Allagash Dubbel for a dollar (or it did until I drank it all, although truth be told SLM had a hand in finishing the keg). Sebago Frye's Leap IPA for a buck. Geary's Winter for a buck. Shipyard...well, you get the picture.

In addition, Dogfish offers their tasty appetizers (mussels with chorizo, for example) at half price.

The Dogfish Bar and Grille occupies the space that housed the Free Street Taverna for years. Like its predecessor, it is a live music venue. It differs from the Taverna in that the food at Dogfish is great. Beyond that, there's been aesthetic upgrades--like the upstairs dining room and clean, functioning, restrooms that add mightily to the drinking and dining experience. They've managed the upgrades while maintaining the local tavern "feel" of the main bar downstairs.

In other beer news, someone has finally addressed the hops crisis. The source is unlikely. The macro of micros (or is it the micro of macros?), Boston Beer (Sam Adams) is sharing their hops. You can read about it here.
Thanks to loyal reader Sam (no relation to Adams) for the tip.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gritty Beer

I have under-represented Gritty McDuff beer on this blog, and, for that matter, in my beer sampling. I'm going to fix that over the coming week.

Loyal reader Jeff has offered up Gritty's Best Bitter as a potential for the Portland's Best Session beer category. This recommendadtion--from a highly credible source--merits investigation. I did have an opportunity to sample the Gritty Scottish Ale (I liked it) and the Gritty Pub Style (I thought it was crap) and both beg for further sampling.

This (beer sampling and reporting) is tough duty, but someone has to do it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

HGH Works!

As the photograph here indicates, there's a fair amount of evidence that Debbie Clemens' HGH usage helped her to a more attractive swim suit photo shoot. More impressive, however, is her husband's Miller Lite and HGH enhanced "equipment", which seems to be too big for her to handle.

The Congressional hearings were quite theatric, with Clemens morphing Jethro Bodine, using words he invented like "luded" (as in "I luded to Debbie using the HGH earlier") and misremembered (as in anybody who thought he talked about using performance enhancing drugs must've "misremembered").

In other sports-related political news, Charles Barkley made headlines by speaking his mind, and the truth:

Okay, back to beer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Sober Sunday

I spent much of Sunday afternoon--normally a prime post-workout drinking time--standing in line freezing my ass off while waiting to caucus for Obama. I wasn't alone. I'd read in paper that the caucus was at Portland High School and foolishly thought we'd get to go inside the school (we did, but only after a couple of hours). I wore a light jacket and no hat, the snow storm was uncomfortable. Once inside though it was an Obama storm! A landslide. Hope lives!

Back to beer:

I've really been enjoying the Shipyard Brewer's Choice: Royal IPA. My only complaint is that it is too balanced. I really like the taste of hops and the hops flavor gets a little lost in the other wonderful tastes in this beer.

I sampled a couple of these at Flask, a relatively new sports bar on Spring Street last night, before heading home to sample a couple more. Flask is at the site of the longtime gay bar (had several names through the years) between Katahdin and Miyake. Maybe it's still a gay bar, although there was at least one woman among the 15 or so patrons when I left, in advance of a meatball tasting contest. They have a nice (although limited) selection of local brews on tap. I didn't sample the food. The place has a nice local tavern feel but I found the odor of fryolator a little off-putting (although authentic).

What is Portland's best session beer? Two candidates immediately come to mind: Old Thumper and Geary's Pale. I believe I will explore this topic thoroughly once I polish off the last of the Royal IPA I have on hand.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Congress Tackles Miller Lite

Our nation's lawmakers, evidently completely satisfied with the direction of our foriegn, domestic, economic, and environmental policies, have turned their attention to doping in baseball and videotaping in football.

As the photo posted here indicates, there is some evidence that they will lump Miller Lite, an over-the-counter product marketed as a beer-like substance, in with other known performance enhancing drugs. Pictured here, in addition to a now empty can of Miller Lite, are the syringes and gauze used by Roger Clemens when he injected steroids and human growth hormones (which he calls "vitamins").

A confession: at one point--and consider this a youthful indescretion, kind of like our president when he took all that cocaine while establishing his chicken hawk street cred by dodging the Vietnam war--I tried Miller Lite in an attempt to improve upon my softball skills (I've long since given up that pursuit). The horrible memory is still etched in my brain. Drawing on that, I offer my tasting notes, so you don't have to.

Miller Lite is weak yellow in color with a generally balanced watery taste. Hints of dishwater are present at the front of the tongue. There's a sour aftertaste, featuring traces of urine and burnt rubber.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Presidential Issues

Loyal reader Snoop Dog has uncovered a link which indicates that the presidential candidates are being questioned on the key issues that effect quality of life. You can take a look here.

I'll post the answers as soon as they come out.

In somewhat of a conflict with the whole "wine-tracker" thing, Obama spanks all the other candidates in the vital "who would you like to drink a beer with" question. Click hereto check the results and to vote for yourself.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beer Related Political News

Clinton is the"beer-track candidate", while Obama is a "wine-tracker". Democratic "wine-trackers" never win, evidently.

For much more in-depth analysis go to Portland Psst! and follow the link or click here

I don't know, I think it's still a contest and I'm still pulling for Obama. It's also hard for me to imagine Hillary kicking back and pounding a few session beers.

On the other side of the aisle, the teetotaling Mormon is getting spanked by McCain. I'm very surprised by this. Huckabee seems to be hanging around, too, so we still have the possibility of getting the Constitution to match up with the Bible, Huck's stated goal.

The most important issue though is that NONE of the candidates have addressed the hops crisis!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Field Trip

Friday afternoon and evening blew in a wintry mix--which is the current weather euphmism for a nasty combination of snow, sleet, and rain, all accompanied by a driving wind. Two of my homies--let's use the names Benny and Swope' le manifique (SLM)--and I cut out of work a little early and took shelter from the storm at the Allagash Brewery. While there, we took a tour, learned about Allagash Brewing, sampled the wares, and stocked up for the weekend. It was well worth the trip.

I could, obviously, drill down scientifically and pontificate on the variety of BTF, PH, refractometers, airlocks, carboys and girls, carhops, fuggles hops, and diffusion stones used in the brewing process at Allagash. But you and I both know all that. We did, however, learn some stuff so I'll focus instead on what we learned.

Our tour guide was a lovely young woman who is extremely knowledgeable about all beer related issues. She was very impressive. Benny and SLM peppered her with questions and she had all the answers. Occasionally, I would test her knowledge by giving a false answer and she graciuosly corrected me and set SLM and Benny straight.


1. Allagash makes great beer--all of it Belgian Ale inspired. Belgian Ale includes a fairly wide variety of beer. It is unique and creative and full of hidden surprises like spices and flowers and fruit. Many Belgian beers have a significantly higher than typical alcohol content. Much of Belgian brewing was historically done by Trappist monks, who strayed from tradional monk activities such as praying and pedarasty to make some wonderful beer.

2. Allagash has several year round beers, including White, Dubbel, and Tripel. Grand Cru is an ongoing winter seasonal. They recently started brewing a stout (Black), and they now have a Four. They have several other special offerings, among them, the marvelous Curieux (which is the Tripel aged in Jim Beam barrels).

3. The White is far and away their most popular beer. I generally only drink it in the summer but found in sampling it at the brewery that it held up well despite the winter storm raging outside. The Dubbel is a wonderful malty full-bodied brew. Much of its flavor is derived from the five different malts used in the brewing process. The Tripel is less malty and not as dark and has a flavor quite different from the Dubbel. It also weighs in at 9% ABV. My favorite of the "regulars" , and the beer I went home with, is the Grand Cru--the hoppiest of their normal offerings. More on that (a new post) after I thoroughly sample it.

4. The brewery itself is a brand new, spotlessly clean, attractive facility in an industrial park. There are 11 employees and even our lovely tour guide is occasionally called upon to jump on the bottling line. Owner and Brewmaster Rob Tod joined the tour for a bit and talked some about the business side of brewing.

5. The Hops Crisis is real, and is a problem! Fires have destroyed hops crops in the west, our government has subsidised farmers to pull up hops and grow corn, the weak dollar and increased transportation costs have further shrunk supply. It takes three years for a hops crop to mature, so even if more hops were planted tomorrow, we're years away from an increase in supply. Brewer Tod told us that a pallet of hops which cost $3 not very long ago now costs $25. In addition, there is a glass shortage. Face it, folks, we're going to be paying more for our beer! This terrible news has yet to be addressed by any of the presidential candidates, to my knowledge.

After the tour, Benny bought some Dubbel, I grabbed the Grand Cru, and SLM seemed to have bought everything they had remaining, forcing our lovely tour guide to the warehouse to re-stock. We struck off for home in the storm, confident that even if we were snowed in for the weekend we were well-provisioned.