Archive for June, 2008

Father’s Daze

June 30, 2008

Alrighty, beer fans, so I’ll admit I kind of left you folks in the lurch last week. But before you take up your pitchforks and torches, you should know that I didn’t just waste away the whole week leaning back in a comfy chair and lazing about the apartment. I was out there, in the field, collecting beer experiences to share with all of you loyal blog-reading, beer-drinking patriots.

You see, The Dad was in town for one week and I owed him a full tour of Oregon’s beer bounty since the last time he was out here was over a year ago and we spent all our days in Targets and Goodwill stores getting me moved in. This visit, he was going to need a beer or two… or seventy.

For an east coaster like him, it was something of a culture shock. While he’s had the occasional west coast beer in his time, he really had no idea what he was getting himself into. Out there in the boonies of beer civilization where he lives, there’s the occasional pint of something tasty pouring in some secret backwater, but for the most part, you’re in Macro Land, doomed to settle for Sam Adams Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. So I plotted out a daring path that would send us to breweries near and far, styles familiar and unheard of, and schemed a programming of increasingly better beers to disillusion my dear old dad’s opinion that “Leinenkugel really isn’t all that bad.”

We hit breweries Double Mountain, Rogue, Deschutes, Pelican, Amnesia, New Old Lompoc, and Full Sail. We swooped into restaurants serving Mt. Hood, Siletz, Trumer, and Bridgeport. We attacked the North American Organic Beer Festival and indulged in some Roots, Hair of the Dog, Hopworks, Laurelwood and too many more to name. And we arrived at Bailey’s… over and over and over again. And it was at Bailey’s that we dug deep and confronted the insanity of beerdom head on, tackling pint after pint from a variety of breweries: Ninkasi, Pike, Hale’s, Beer Valley, Bend, Green Flash, and Alameda (again, just to name a few).

When the dust cleared, Beercation was over and it was time for my dad to get back to the harsh summers of the east, with its oppressive heat and drought of draught options. But before he left, we both vowed a short fasting of beer, so that we might share one final pint together, on the 4th of July at opposite ends of the country… and also because, well, our livers could use a little vacation, too.

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8.2.08 Don’t miss it!

June 26, 2008

Since Michael is apparently taking this week off from the blog (his dad is in town), I guess I need to step up.

Bailey’s Taproom’s one year anniversary is almost a month away, and I’ve been very slow about getting the word out. So mark your calendars for August 2nd! We will be serving up barrel-aged beers festival style (souvenir glass and dollar tastings). A list of probable participants:

Cascade, Double Mountain, Firestone, Fort George, Full Sail, Hair of the Dog, Hopworks, Laurelwood, Lucky Lab, New Old Lompoc, Roots

List of actual beers coming soon. Hope to see you there!

The Ten Minute Pour

June 20, 2008

I think my obsession for Nitro has become contagious. Geoff got the wild idea of throwing a CO2 keg on our Nitro tap and seeing what would happen. Why would he do that? Because he’s certifiably insane. But also because, well, think about the possibilities! Not many breweries offer Nitro kegs, and if they do, it’s almost exclusively on their stouts. But if we could just take any old keg and hook it up to Nitro, we could do whatever we wanted to. Nitro IPAs all the time! Nitro Wits! Nitro… barleywines?! Good (Beer) God, that way lies madness!

So what’s the difference between a CO2 keg and a Nitro keg anyway? Well, here’s what we think (but don’t quote me on this as the mother-lovin’ Truth): regular CO2 kegs are usually “conditioned” by topping them off with CO2; nitrogen kegs are “conditioned” with a mix of CO2 and nitrous oxide at somewhere around a 70-30 ratio, respectively. Both kinds of kegs are then hooked up to their respective gas tanks when they’re ready to be tapped (regular kegs to C02, Nitro kegs to nitrogen).

We figured that if there’s CO2 in a Nitro conditioned keg anyway, what would be the harm of hooking up a regular CO2 tank to the nitrogen gas tank? Wouldn’t it come out creamy and thick, just like a regular Nitro beer?

So Geoff got a keg of regularly conditioned Pike’s XXXXX Stout to test the theory. On the bright side, the stout pours with that beautiful Nitro creaminess and soft pillow thickness; taste-wise, you’d never know it wasn’t intended to be that way when it was kegged. But there’s a catch—it takes FOREVER to settle and a lot of good beer goes the way of the foam. It takes about ten minutes just to pour a pint.

Now, we’ve had trouble with Nitro kegs before where they took awhile to settle and as we got through the keg, the settling improved and didn’t result in so much extra foam. We’re hoping that will eventually happen with this beer as well. In the meantime, here’s what I suggest: the Pike’s XXXXX Stout is really incredible on Nitro and shouldn’t be missed, but order it at the same time you’re ordering your first beer. That way, by the time you’ve polished off the first pint, the stout will have finished settling and there won’t be any waiting time where you might accidentally sober up.

As for the future of the Nitro tap, it’s good to know that we can put whatever we want on the tap and it will come out as Nitro goodness, but we’ll probably stick with Nitro conditioned kegs most of the time and break out the CO2 keg only when it’s a style we really want super thick and creamy.

I Love A Mystery

June 19, 2008

People are always bringing cool stuff into the bar to share with Geoff and I, but yesterday was especially interesting. One of our loyal regulars showed up with two giant bags filled with various unopened bottles of stout, some of them originating from the early 90s. Apparently, a fellow he knew by the last name of Stout had been saving the bottles in his office as a sort of novelty decoration item; not being a drinker, he had never actually consumed any of them.

The regular brought in a selection of these beers for us to use, either to extend our already spectacular bottle collection lining the window sill or to sample for ourselves. Highlights include North Coast, Sierra Nevada, Rogue, tons of English beers, and several microbreweries that have since gone out of business; it’s a pretty sweet blast from the past.

While we’re betting that most of these stouts have gone bad by now, we’re holding out hope that some of the stronger ones, a couple of imperial and double stouts for instance, might have actually held up after all this time. Ten year old imperial stout could be ambrosia… or a disgusting mess. Is it killer or will it kill us? Whatever the case, there’s nothing I love more than a beer mystery.

Of course, Sherlock Geoff has to first work up the nerve to crack one open…

All The Beers I Have Now Had!

June 17, 2008

PHEW! It took some courage, some fortitude, some strenuous beer glass lifting endurance, but I’ve done it. I am now completely caught up on my beers and can deliver you folks the straight dope on what’s pouring at Bailey’s. So, without further “abrew”…

  1. Hale’s Kolsch—I was thinking that I wouldn’t like this beer, but actually, of the lighter beers on tap right now, it just might be my favorite. Definitely a session beer, it’s got a dry taste, just a little tinge of sweetness, a slightly straw like flavor, and a tiny hop bite at the end (actually, more like a hop nibble). The more I got into it, the more I realized that it tasted an awful lot like a Pilsner… even suspiciously so… but since Kolsch beers are fermented with ale yeast, that’s impossible, right? Whatever the case, it’s tasty and perfect for hot weather.
  2. Sierra Nevada Summerfest—First of all, here’s what I got right: this beer definitely has that distinctive hop finish that anyone familiar with Sierra Nevada’s products is going to recognize. In fact, it pretty much tastes like a Pilsner version of their Pale Ale, if you can wrap your mind around that. If not, let’s put it this way (and keep in mind this flies in the face of my earlier prediction): it’s definitely sweeter than the Kolsch and the hops aren’t so much bitter as they just kind of stick around in the background and thicken up the mouthfeel. Still a pretty clean beer, but it gets just a little cloying. Oh, and here’s something else I got wrong for those keeping score: Sierra Nevada doesn’t do a Summer Ale; I was thinking of the Sam Adams Summer Ale. Yes, I know I’m an idiot, thank you very much.
  3. Anchor Summer—Even sweeter than the Sierra Nevada Summerfest with just the slightest tinge of citrus and low—but present—hoppiness throughout. Actually doesn’t taste like a wheat beer at all, even an American version; the body’s a bit too thin for it. It’s actually very similar in taste to the Kolsch and Pilsner. I was right when I guessed it wouldn’t be as sweet as most other summer ales I’ve had; but this one’s also much lighter tasting than I was expecting.
  4. Hair of the Dog Greg—This was nowhere near as sweet as I thought it would be, either. But that’s a good thing, because I was prepared to make ugly grimacing expressions. Actually, for the first second or two after you take a sip, there’s absolutely no taste at all, then there’s this slight apricot flavor that eases in (the squash, I’m guessing), becomes prominent, disappears with the emergence of some hops, and then returns again on the finish. This is a much milder beer than I would have expected and far more subtle and quiet than any other Hair of the Dog beer I’ve had. But I do like it; up there with the Kolsch as a really solid choice for a hot day’s session beer.
  5. Salmon Creek Oaked Scotch Ale—Probably my second favorite of the night, this scotch ale has a beautifully rich malt sweetness that’s tempered by a very mild oakiness that only fades out when the mild hops show up at the end. It’s far, far mellower than most scotch ales I’ve had, which is actually a welcome change, as some I’ve had were tooth-achingly sweet. Definitely one of the better scotch ales we’ve had on and a really great example of a well-balanced beer.
  6. Walking Man Sasquatch Legacy—I had no idea what to expect with this one. An Imperial Vienna? What the hell does that mean? Turns out, this beer actually tastes a lot like a hoppy pale ale or slightly mellow IPA. I know it’s impossible for a German lager beer to taste like an IPA (Geoff told me so himself numerous times), but I’m telling you: the hoppiness of this beer is pretty intense; it permeates all the way through, only allowing in little peeks at the rich toasted Vienna malt flavors and the background flavors imparted by the lager yeast. Not sure how I feel about this one; I guess, as a Vienna beer, I’m not crazy about it, but as an IPA (or IPL, I guess), it’s pretty interesting and damn tasty.
  7. Lucky Lab Triple Threat IPA—Okay, I think I nailed my prediction on this one. Really thin body, big piney Northwest hops, and a slightly cloying sweetness. This is definitely the kind of IPA that will stick around in your mouth. For hopheads, it’s a slam dunk; personally, I like a little more body in my IPAs, but this is still a solid choice.
  8. Beer Valley Leafer Madness Imperial IPA—This beer doesn’t mess around. Big orange scent, lots of citrus, huge hops. Everything you’d expect from an Imp IPA. Hops are the dominant flavor though, and this actually isn’t quite as sweet as the Molten Lava, so that was yet another thing I was wrong about…
  9. Baron Uber-Weisse—Geoff and I argued about this beer for about ten minutes. It’s a Dunkelweizen, I told him. It’s a Weizen-bock, he countered. Well, he’s kind of right, since there’s a lager yeast at work, but I swear this tastes like a really rockin’ Dunkel with its roasted chocolate and banana esters (think Banana Split with hot fudge… mmmm…). After a few sips, I did notice just a little bit of that tart, winey flavor that you get out of weizen-bocks, though, so I’ll concede that there’s some of that as well, even if it isn’t as dominant as the Dunkel flavors. Anyway, we decided to just call the argument a stalemate and the beer “delicious.”
  10. Cascade Cuvee de Jongleur—I was frightened. A sour beer? “Oh God. What am I getting myself into?” Turns out, there was no need to fear. Sour though it may be (and cidery too), this Flanders is remarkably easy to drink (though by no means a guzzling beer) and nowhere near as overwhelming as I was expecting. The body and carbonation is just big enough to support the raspberry tartness that builds with a sip and then fades away pleasantly. As with the lambic style, it’s so drastically different from what most people know of beer that it will scare some away, but for those willing to take a chance, it brings its own rewards.

Alrighty, manifesto concluded! I don’t know about you folks, but what I’ve gotten out of all of this, besides hand cramp and a pounding headache, is that I should leave the predictions to the fortune tellers, the tarot card readers, and the astrologists and spend a little less time behind the computer and a little more time at the bar with a taster tray of new beers in front of me. If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations! You totally deserve a beer. Golly… might I recommend one of the TEN I just listed?

(Oh, and Geoff: if you even think about putting another new beer on tap today, I’m going to drown you in a kiddie pool full of Schlitz.)

MORE Beers I Haven’t Had Yet

June 16, 2008

So, my whole strategy to come in Friday and test out the five beers I hadn’t tried yet fell through, but I figured it was no big deal; I’d just postpone until Monday and deal with those pesky newcomers then. But what did I discover at work on Saturday? Five additional new beers!

Of course, this all means that I’m due for a showdown of epic proportions tonight. Overmatched though I may be, at least I’ll be armed with a little knowledge of what I’m getting myself into. Based on some pure speculation and a few educated guesses, here’s how I’ve sized up tonight’s enemies:

  1. Beer Valley Leafer Madness Imperial IPA—From what I’ve seen, folks are digging this one just as much or more than the beer it replaced, the legendary Double Mountain Molten Lava Imp IPA. I’m betting: sweeter than the Molten Lava with the emphasis just a little more on the malts than the hops. I’ve no doubt that this is an aggressively hopped beer, but I’ve got a feeling it’s just a little smoother and sweeter than its predecessor.
  2. Cascade Cuvee de Jongleur—A Belgian sour beer? Crazy! Never had a Flanders before—on tap or otherwise—but from what I hear, these beers are traditionally allowed to ferment naturally instead of pitching a specific yeast. I seriously doubt Cascade took that course of action, but who knows. Hearing that this beer is T-A-R-T. Big time. Don’t usually look for sour in my beers, so I’m predicting this one won’t be for me, but for rare Belgian style enthusiasts, this could be a home run. I’ve heard a number of good things about Cascade/Raccoon Lodge’s Belgian experiments.
  3. Sierra Nevada Summerfest—I believe this is a different beer from the Sierra Nevada Summer Ale. The Summerfest is listed as a Pilsner on our beer menu and certainly pours paler than the Ale. Anyway, I’m predicting this is a more aggressively hopped Pilsner than most traditional styles with those trademark Sierra Nevada piny hops shining through. Probably also light in the malt department, dry, and with a fairly subtle—but present—aftertaste.
  4. Walking Man Sasquatch Legacy—What the hell is an Imperial Vienna? I have absolutely no idea what this beer is about. But if it’s Walking Man, there’s about a 90% chance that I’ll love it.
  5. Baron Uber-Weisse—Alright, so I actually did have a little taste of this after hours on Saturday night. But I’m going to pretend that I didn’t so that I can have at least one accurate prediction: big roasted, slightly chocolaty notes smooth out and into a banana sweet and sourness with just a really tiny hop bite at the end. Delicious. It’s listed as a Weizen-bock, but it tastes more like a rocking Dunkelweizen to me. Er… I mean, I’m predicting that it tastes more like a Dunkelweizen…

Don’t know how reliable my taste buds are going to be after I get knee deep into new beer territory, but I’m aiming to tackle all ten of these monsters tonight and bring you the full blow-by-blow tomorrow. Wish me and my liver luck. Or even better, show up to cheer me on!

All The Beers I Haven’t Had Yet…

June 13, 2008

As I’ve pointed out before, Bailey’s averages about 5 new beers a week… some times more, some times less. And since I like to know what to recommend, I try to at least test a 5 oz sample of each beer on the week that it’s tapped. I thought it might be a fun feature to make some informed predictions about each new beer out this week here for the public record and then report back later to see if any of them turned out true. So, here goes:

  1. Lucky Lab Triple Threat IPA- Betcha at least one of these threats is the hops, but more likely the name refers to three different hops used for the IPA. Lucky Lab does some pretty insanely hopped beers, and their SuperDog is always a reliable standby if you’re looking for a Northwest IPA. My guess is that this isn’t quite as hoppy as that beer; I’m expecting a light body, mild sweetness, and big piney bittering hops at maybe 60-70 IBUs all the way through.
  2. Hale’s Kolsch- I don’t know if I’ve ever had a Kolsch that got me excited. Maybe it’s just not my kind of beer, or maybe it’s just because I haven’t ever had an accurate representation of this German style. Regardless, Hale’s is really going to have to bring their A-game to wow me. The Kolsch is a very light style, lighter than a Pilsner, probably lighter than a Helles or a Blonde Ale, though in this country I think they’re all synonyms for one another. It’s up to the brewer to very carefully add some subtleties that give this style a character beyond being beer flavored water. Knowing that Hales produces solid but mild session beers, I’m a little skeptical that they can pull off the subtlety, but we’ll see.
  3. Hair of the Dog Greg- A squash beer? I guess that’s not too weird, as I’ve had plenty of pumpkin beers, but… hmmm… I’d be a little nervous about this choice if it wasn’t coming from Hair of the Dog. Their beers are just about flawless. My guess on this beer, by the low alcohol and what I’ve seen so far, is very light, very sweet with probably something kind of funky (the squash) coming in at the end. I predict it will be unique—as all of their beers undeniably are—but not necessarily the kind of beer I’d want every day of the week.
  4. Anchor Summer- While I’ve had plenty of the Sierra Nevada Summer Ale before, I don’t think I’ve ever had the Anchor version of the style, or if I have, it’s been a really long time. Expecting big citrus notes, probably a little dry, with a medium body and a really light hop bite at the end. Definitely thinking this will be a session beer, but given Anchor’s products, I’m betting the yeast will add something a little quirky to the mix and it won’t be as sweet as some of the other summer ales I’ve had.
  5. Salmon Creek Oaked Scotch Ale- This is probably the beer I’m looking forward to the most. Don’t really know what to expect, not being much of an expert on scotch ales, but I do love the complex malt character of the style; it’s a delicate balance between becoming overly sweet and not rich enough. The oaked aspect should cut through the sweetness a little and add another dimension, notably, well, oakiness. I’m betting this beer has a number of small, subtle flavors playing around the edges of the sweetness and just a little warmth from the alcohol. Hoping for a bigger body to contain it all.

Anyway, those are my guesses. They’re based on pure speculation and could be totally wrong, but if they taste anything like the style they claim, I can’t be too far off, right? (And if they are, I can just edit this post to prevent myself from looking like too much of an idiot.)

I’ll try these beers and report back to you folks next week with what I discovered… or you can try them out before then and decide for yourself!

Take It Outside, Buddy

June 12, 2008

Drink it in, beer fans… or drink it out! Bailey’s now has outdoor seating! Bring a friend to enjoy the fresh air with you over a pint, or come alone to indulge in some primo people-watching. But be sure to get here early to snag a spot at one of the four new tables right on Broadway; with the weather turning nice again, these things are going to go faster than our IPAs. Now that the secret’s out, tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your friends’ enemies’ friends. It’s the best thing to hit Portland since sunshine!

The Beer Days of Summer

June 11, 2008

Man, I sure do love the summers in Portland. That is, when they finally come around. Is it really 57 degrees and cloudy out again?

Anyway, what I love most about the summer besides all those beautiful blue skies and warm sunny days are the beer festivals. It’s truly absurd how many of them there are. It seems like every other week, somebody somewhere is putting 100 beers or more up for grabs. But with so many beer festivals on the horizon, it’s easy to miss out on the truly great ones, so for your convenience, I’ve put together a handy cheat sheet on this summer’s top festivals.

June 27-29: North American Organic Brewers Festival—Depending on who you ask, organic beer is either a healthier, more natural, and better-tasting beer or it’s a giant gimmick. I’m on the fence. But I do know that when solid local breweries like Double Mountain, Hair of the Dog, and Roots are joining forces with international sensations like Samuel Smith, Dupont, and Pinkus Mueller, it’s cause for celebration and experimentation. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what a foreign organic beer tastes like, in addition to finding some new west coast breweries that I could recommend to Geoff for the bar.

www.naobf.org/

July 18-20: Portland International Beerfest—A mere staggering distance from Bailey’s Taproom in the Pearl, the International Beerfest is promising 130 beers from 15 different countries. I’m ashamed to say that my foreign beer knowledge is severely limited. While I love a solid German hefeweizen, a Belgian saison, or a Czech Pilsner, I’m a novice when it comes to which breweries are the best and who represents the styles most successfully. So, the opportunity to take three days and really get to know all the wonderful beer being brewed in the rest of the world is a really alluring proposition. But even better is tasting some of the truly unique and rare styles of beer that you won’t find anywhere else.

www.portland-beerfest.com

July 24-27: Oregon Brewers Festival—This is the big one, folks. Going on its 21st year, this is the beer festival to crush all others, held at the Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, less than half a mile from Bailey’s. This year is especially cool, because they’re celebrating the 21st amendment, which as any good beer fan knows, is the amendment that overturned prohibition. As usual, this will be the beer festival with the most breweries represented with the majority of those breweries hailing from the west coast. It’s the best party for craft beer out there and it goes on for four freakin’ days.

www.oregonbrewfest.com

August 2: The Bailey’s One Year/Tons o’ Beer AnniBREWsary– What’s this? First you’re hearing of a special shindig going down at your favorite beer bar? I’ve said too much already, but stay tuned for more details…

Secrets of the Taproom

June 10, 2008

Part Four: Because You Asked So Nicely… Over and Over Again

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. But most of you have the same questions, and it’s not that Geoff and I mind answering them over and over… and over… again. It’s just that we figured we’d go ahead and answer them here, in full definitive form, so you guys and gals wouldn’t have to ask them again… EVER.

Q1: “How long have you guys been here?”

A: Bailey’s has been open since August 1st, 2007. It will remain open until the world ends in fire or ice or we go out of business.

Q2: “What beer should I get?” AKA “What’s your favorite beer?”

A: Hell if I know. Look, we’ve got twenty different taps and a whole inventory of bottles. Give me a little bit more to go on, buddy. Do you like hoppy or sweet, heavy or light, high alcohol or low, clean or complicated, fruity or chocolaty? An IPA is completely different from a pilsner, which is completely different from a stout, which is completely different from a barleywine, which is completely different from a hefeweizen, which is completely different from a lambic, which is completely different from a smoked beer… and on and on and on. Even if you like every style out there—and there are about seven people in the world who do—surely you have a preference for a particular style or flavor or brewery. I’m happy to help out, but consider posing the question this way: “I like (style of beer, name of particular beer, attributes of a kind of beer). What would you recommend?”

Q3: “Can I have a rum and coke?”

A: Sure. But not here. Bailey’s does not/has not/will not serve liquor.

Q4: “Are you the owner?”

A (Michael): No, I just tend bar twice a week to help out the actual owner, Geoff, who works the other four nights of the week, orders all the beers, sets the prices, designed the place, picked out the location, made the signs, bought the board games, pays the rent, chose the furniture, invested the money, and conceived the rules. I just pour beer, act like I know what I’m talking about, and write the blog.

A (Geoff): Yep.

Q5: “Do you guys sell pitchers of beer?”

A: Nah. But we’ve got Imperial pints, which, if you order enough of them, are just as good as pitchers.

Q6: “Can I get some water?”

A: Help yourself. As the Good Lord intended it, water is free and available at the register for self-service.

Q7: “What kind of food do you guys offer?”

A: We’re currently down to olives and chocolate pretzels, a mouthwatering combination if I’ve ever heard one. We’re taking a break on the cheese and chocolate and may revisit it at some point in the future. But for right now, we’re just focusing on stocking great beers. If you’re hungry, though, feel free to BYOF from anywhere else. Personally, I’d recommend burritos from El Grillo across the street from us.

Q8: “Where is this beer from?”

Our beer menu describes the style, brewery name, origin location and alcohol by volume for every beer we carry (well, most of the time). All our beers are from west coast breweries… except the rare examples that aren’t.

Q9: “What’s a (insert beer style name)?”

Flip over the menu to consult a handy cheat sheet on beer styles that breaks down the hoppiness, alcohol, and predominant flavors of practically every beer style ever invented. But NOTE: just because we list the beer style back there doesn’t mean we’re currently carrying a version of it on tap or in the bottle.

Q10: “Can I buy you a drink?”

A: Heh. Just kidding. Nobody ever asks me that. Bastards…