Archives: Beer

NanoCon Mark IV Report

I’ve returned from NanoCon Mark IV and my stint as GOH. How about that?

It was a fun little con, held at the Longview Community College, just across the river from Rainier. I’d guess attendance came in at about two hundred. I’d consider it a success. I sold out of Under Strange Suns. I cut my inventory of Reunion in half. I met a number of intelligent and interesting people.

Among these I’d count James Wells, the great grandson of H.G. Wells (or the great man himself with a time machine and a convincing American accent.) We exchanged novels, so I have The Great Symmetry on my to-read pile now.

I had an engaging chat with James Omelina who runs several escape rooms in the southwest Washington area. I’m intrigued to check one out. I hear good things about the entertainment value of well-designed escape room, and James appears to have the design aspect dialed in.

I even managed lunch at the Ashtown brewery, a few blocks away from the convention. Well worth it.

The organizers were kind enough to invite me to return next year. I do hope my schedule allows it.

Tasting Notes

My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent have been away for a couple of weeks. Too long, really. Still the time intervening between departure and return must be filled. I’ve been reading, caught up on some films, gotten a solid push on the second draft of “Boss.” Productive, I think. Stimulative to the synapses, fueling the story muscles. But a man can’t work all the time.

And so, beer.

I managed to visit a few brewpubs that I’ve missed. It’s not hard to miss a new one. They spring up in Portland like mushrooms. I posted some pictures of last weekend’s beer exploration. Today I’ll provide some tasting notes and comments about this weekend. For those of you who read this web log solely for thoughts on books, speculative fiction, sci-fi conventions and whatnot, this is a good place to stop reading.

Fat Head’s Brewery in Northwest Portland is the Oregon branch of an Ohio-based operation. But it brew on the premises and appears to develop a good number of its recipes independently. It is a cavernous space with a lot of tables. Oregon was playing Cal on the tube above the bar. And I ordered a five beer taster for $11. A bit steep I think. Perhaps someone has a spreadsheet with the price of taster trays in the greater Portland area.

The thing is, I took notes. Perhaps less detailed notes than usual, but here they are.

Built for Speed IPA. 6.3% Typical West Coast IPA, but not in a good way. Revisit — Pretty good after food.

Semper FiPA. 6.5% Oo-rah! Sorry, had to. Grassy, undistinguished IPA. Revisit — unchanged.

One for the Road IIPA. 8.5% Raisin and leather balancing a near perfect amount of hops. Near to classic beer status. Revisit — Unbalanced.

Tortuga Tri-PA. 9.25% Pineapple wallop. Aftertaste a lingering cigarette bitterness. Might grow on me, but no an immediate favorite. Revisit — Unchanged.

Pimp My Sleigh. 10.5%. Belgian Style Christmas Ale. Tastes like a near textbook barleywine. Perhaps a trifle thin/vinegary. Could use a chewier, raisin finish. Revisit — Minor improvement.

I think I’d go back there, try some more options. I find it interesting that revisiting a beer after having run some different flavors over the tastebuds occasionally altered my initial impression.

I visited Great Notion Brewing because a local publication listed one of its beers as the best beer in Portland. So of course the pub was completely sold out of the beer in question. I’d say just my luck but I probably should have seen that coming.

Great Notion is a typical example of the Portland brewpub. A smallish, re-purposed space decorated in a vaguely woodsy, Northwestern fashion. I ordered a sandwich and a five beer-taster tray. The sandwich was reasonably priced, $9 for a sandwich and generously sized side salad. The taster tray — not so much. $14! That can’t be the going rate, can it?

At least the beer was good.

Strawberry Cream IPA. 7%. Slight bite of hops to offset the smoothness. Strawberries and cream…and hops? Who’d a thunk it? Works though.

Grassroots IPA. 7%. Solid IPA. ON par with Gigantic and — almost — Breakside.

Super Ripe IIPA. 9.5%. Grapefruit and sucrose. In a good way.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 7%. Sour. Apricot and lemon juice. Pucker up!

Midnight Fluff. 10%. Stout. Feeling diabetic after one sip. Dip a s’more in it or pour it over ice cream. This is dessert beer overkill. Good, though.

I’d go back. But I think I’d just order a pint of something and hope for the best.

Hey, if you’re enjoying my particular brand of nonsense, please exercise the like and share functions of your social media platform of choice. Think of the children.

Boise

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Another wedding, another road trip. This time, Boise, Idaho and another sibling getting hitched.

So, Boise. What to write about Boise? First, let me get something off my chest. Come on, Boise, put in some grocery stores. Seriously. And some convenience stores, not attached to gas stations, in locations that are — convenient.

Boise is brown. Tan, ecru, burnt umber, buff. Brown. Nice enough I suppose. Maybe an acquired taste, or I simply notice the somewhat monochromatic scenery because I’ve spent most of my life living the Pacific Northwest and my expectation is attuned to green.

I’ve discovered some nice places. For example, in the Boise suburb of Meridian there is a terrific park with a world class playground for the kids. And I can envision passing afternoons at Payette Brewing, down by the river in Boise, sitting at the picnic tables in the beer garden or playing one of the lawn games, pint in hand. I’m familiar with the “Rustler,” a solid IPA. I sampled a couple taproom only IPAs and a barleywine. All decent to good. 10 Barrel Brewing is located downtown. It’s an offshoot of the headquarters brewery, but I’m pleased to see it maintains the architectural design aesthetic of the original Bend location. And the lettuce wraps were excellent.

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Unfortunately I can only eat and drink so much. So, there must be more. The zoo was modest, but entertaining. And the price matched, especially thanks to the reciprocity granted by my Portland zoo membership card.

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The state capitol is right downtown. That’s fairly cool. Downtown itself is lively on a weekend (especially a Bronco’s game weekend) though small.

I’m here for a few more days, so I hope to discover more to see and do. I didn’t bring my bicycle, nor attire for white water rafting (neither of which activities are suited to the aptitudes and proclivities of a toddler anyway) so outdoor recreation will have to wait until the next visit.

In the meantime, I have a wedding to dress for.

It’s Criminal

I suppose the appropriate thing for me today would be to write about last week’s Westercon. I’m used to doing the inappropriate, might be best you get accustomed to it as well. Today’s web log post will instead consist of a bit of upcoming news.

Country music holds a tradition of crime ballads, stories of men on the run, stories of alcohol and mistakes. Certain singers even attracted the label “Outlaw Country,” though the term might also come from the musicians bucking the established Nashville sound, pursuing instead a sound outside the norms. Either way, we got some excellent, evocative music from the movement. I grew up with it, and I still dig it.

You know who else likes it, even loves it? James R. Tuck. He loves it so much, in fact, that he put together an anthology of crime stories based on Outlaw Country songs. I bet he loves beer as well, because his consumption of a six-pack or so would go a long way to explain why he let me join in on the fun.

In a bit over a month from today’s web log post, Down and Out Books will release Mama Tried: Crime Fiction Inspired by Outlaw Country Music. My story, Copperhead Road, appears somewhere in the book. Here’s a suggestion for mid-August: Get yourself a copy, dust off your LPs, throw some Waylon and Willie on the turntable, crack a bottle of bourbon, and read.

Monterrey Supplemental: Beer. And Miscellaneous Updates

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When we gringos think of Mexican beer, we think of thumbing a wedge of lime into a bottle of watery lager, preferably while sitting by the beach or floating in the swimming pool. But this particular gringo is always sniffing out the local craft brew scene. It took some doing in Monterrey, but I did track down some microbrewed product. Given the enormous size of Monterrey, I’d hoped to find more little breweries, but I was able to sample the goods of six different craft brewers. I even — finally — found a grocery store that carried a reasonable offering. (Locals tip: the best selection of beer in Monterrey is at the Walmart in Gomez Marine.)

Funny enough, the tiny pub and bottle shop where I sampled the beers described below was about a block from my hotel. Sadly, I didn’t discover it until I’d been in town for three days. So it goes, right? Anyway, here are the notes I took in Cueva Carvajal. (An aside: many of the beer names are Spanish double entendres. Lost on me, but amusing to those fluent in the colloquial idioms.)

Sniff, Sip, Scribble, Repeat

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Once again I interrupt this web log’s regular programming to write about beer. Yesterday McMenamin’s Hillsdale Pub hosted the annual competition among the kingdoms of the McMenamin’s brewing empire. I dutifully sat down with taster trays and ballots and notepad. Below is a transcript of my tasting notes, which become inexplicably more and more illegible. Each entry is followed by my ranking on a 1-10 scale.

Brewing

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I got out the brew kettle yesterday. It’s been a while since I whipped up a batch of beer, but the entire process felt familiar and proceeded smoothly. And, of course, the kitchen smelled wonderful. The kitchen also required a thorough cleaning, but creating a bit of a mess is an unavoidable consequence of brewing beer.

There is a sense of satisfaction that accompanies making something yourself. A feeling of accomplishment. Something akin to ownership, but at a deeper level than possession of something you merely purchased. I made this, this is mine.

Writing provides a similar glow of pride. “I wrote that,” you think upon seeing your output’s publication for the first time, the final results of your dedication and craftsmanship. There is a difference, however. Once the brewing process is complete, you’ll want to drink the beer. When your novel reaches publication, you’re unlikely to want to read it one more time. The enjoyment of the product is vicarious.

So, if you’re feeling a creative urge, get out there and make something, build something, cook something, write something. You may end up making only a mess, but damnit, it’s your mess.

Oregon Brewers Festival 2015

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I am preempting this web log, once again, with beer commentary. Friday I pedalled to the 2015 Oregon Brewers Festival, the 28th installment of the venerable zymurgical institution. I purchased my tasting glass and tokens and got to it. Here, then, are my notes. Keep in mind I was sampling tasters, not consuming entire glasses. I’m pretty sure my notes would be even less legible had I done the latter.