Archives: Beer

Battle for the Belt 2015

I’m once again hijacking this website for beer blogging purposes. Beer was sampled, it must now be written about. That’s how it works.

Yesterday I attended the annual McMenamins Battle for the Belt. Again. It’s like a duck migrating, it’s just what he does. Every year. McMenamins puts on this festival. So I go. Every year. The various McMenamins each brew a beer and bring it to the Hillsdale McMenamins for judging via ballot. The following is essentially a transcription of my raw tasting notes from both trays of beer, including the grade I gave the beer on a scale of one to ten. I’m curious to see if I can read my handwriting from the later entries.

Enough ado. Here we go.

Tolkien’s Birthday Extra

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I’m going to continue with the theme from last week, celebrating the birthday of the late, great J.R.R. Tolkien. Yesterday the family and I met some friends at the Kennedy School to take part in the annual Tolkien Birthday Bash festivities. For those of you who don’t know about the Kennedy School allow me a few lines to explain. The Kennedy School was, as the name suggest, a school. The McMenamin brothers, the dark overlords of a brewpub empire sprawling throughout the Pacific Northwest, purchased the defunct property and turned it into a hotel, brewery, restaurant, and theater. In addition to being able to belly up for a drink at the restaurant and outside the theater doors, you can get a pint at other locations in the school which the McMenamins converted  into bars: You can buy a beer (and smoke a cigar) in Detention, have a cocktail in the Honors Bar, drink in the Boiler Room downstairs, etc. Every year in January the Kennedy School throws an all day party to commemorate Tolkien’s birthday. They run all three of the “Lord of the Rings” films in the theater. In the gymnasium (where you can also buy a beer) a radio troupe performs snippets of scenes from “The Hobbit.”

That ought to give you an idea. Many people arrive in costume. In fact the event includes a costume contest. You can see children as young as three or four dressed as hobbits, or ents, or elves.

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And that, I think, is amazing. I was considering that while ordering off the special Tolkien themed menu (I ordered Mrs. Maggot’s Shepherd’s Pie – excellent, though oddly shy of mushrooms.) Every year parents bring in their children to share their love of the Professor’s creation. And a new generation grows to appreciate it. What a legacy, an ever expanding legacy. So many authors produce a lauded work that fades from the popular imagination after a year or a decade. Some may endure in the memory of a generation. But only a signal few influence and entertain generation after generation, inspiring movies, celebrations of the author’s birth, art, costuming, imitations, games, etc. Alexandre Dumas, perhaps. Arthur Conan Doyle. A few others.

What would Tolkien think of this? Would he despair at this ‘deplorable cultus,’ disturbed by the commercialization, the films, toys, games, and merchandise? Would he consider it a form of idolatry? Or would he appreciate the fact that others take pleasure in the very thing he did when it was little more than a personal plaything, an imaginary history in which to set his invented languages?

Who can say? What I can say is that I will endeavor to pass along my enthusiasm for Middle-earth to the next generation. Maybe she’ll like it. Maybe she won’t. I won’t push it. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

And maybe I’ll see you at the Kennedy School for next year’s celebration.

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Oregon Brewers Festival 2014

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I’m giving the usual topics a miss today in order to discuss beer. Specifically the beers I sampled at the 2014 Oregon Brewers Festival. I do wonder about the missing apostrophe in Brewers. Is not the Festival possessed by the Brewers? Well, never mind.

I didn’t ride my bicycle down to the Portland waterfront this year. For the first time in the twenty plus years I’ve attended the Brew Fest, it was raining. At least it kept the Wednesday afternoon crowd somewhat in check. I drove down with lovely wife Isa and lovely daughter Victoria. Isa drove back. Frankly I wasn’t too displeased to skip the uphill bike ride home.

With festival tasting glass and wooden tokens in hand I began to browse. I decided that this year I’d avoid my usual IPA-heavy selections, sample a wider variety of brews. That’s – mostly – what I did. Following are my tasting notes.

10 Barrel Brewing Company. Cider Weisse. ABV 5.7%. Refreshing, summery cider with a mild hop bite. Could use a touch more sweetness or a berry tartness.

Fort George Brewery & Public House. The Optimist. ABV 6.9% Verdant hp notes, light citrus. Not much nose. Could use more malt for balance. [Stepping away from my tasting notes for a moment. Yes, I said I’d steer clear of IPAs this year. I like IPAs. Lay off of me, why don’t you.]

Specher Brewery. Abbey Triple. ABV 8.5%. Very smooth Belgian Tripel. Tastes of honey-dipped biscuit.

Paradise Creek Brewery. Huckelberry Pucker. Berliner Weisse. ABV 4.7%. Pale color, like diluted grapefruit juice. Tart, a cherry-berry blend, far from the stereotypical cloying fruit beer. I’m not usually fond of fruit beers, but this I like, and the Mrs. concurs (though she prefered the Cider Weisse.)

Sixpoint Craft Ales. Barrel Aged 3Beans. ABV 10.3%. Mocha – a vanilla mocha latte tempered with a beer bitterness. A dessert beer, not a beer drunk for beer’s sake.

Central City Brewing. Red Betty Imperial IPA. ABV 9%.  Okay, back to the IPAs. But an Imperial IPA so I’m not really cheating. This is terrific! Perfect balance.

Beer Valley Brewing. Heavy Sugars Honey Ale. ABV 7%. Looks like fruit juice. Smells like fruit just beginning to turn. The Mrs. says ‘no’. Taste. I agree. Remember the comment about cloying fruit beer? Here’s the apotheosis.

Heathen Brewery. Megadank. ABV 8.2%. Epitomizes the Northwest IPA style You either like that style or you don’t. I like it. [Yes, another IPA. I think I was remarkably restrained.]

Upright Brewing Company. Old News Saison. ABV 5.8%. Decent. Saison’s are distinctive. I tend to like them and I like this one.

Here end the tasting notes. At this point the negative aspect of bringing along my infant, no matter how fetching and delightful, manifested. The hour of departure arrived with wailing insistence. So, a brief foray. But, as ever, rewarding. I think I’ll keep an eye out for Central City. Good stuff.

Portland Spring Beer and Wine Festival

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Today I’m taking a break from my accustomed topics to write about a truly vital subject: beer. This weekend the Portland Convention Center hosted the annual Portland Spring Beer and Wine Festival, one of the big three fests here in a town that holds about one beer related event per day. So I went. The cavernous space of the exhibit hall provided ample space for more than a hundred and fifty exhibitors: breweries, wineries, distilleries, food vendors, assorted merchants, and service providers. That still left plenty of room for tables and a stage for musicians. Hard to get bored.

Brewing

Brewing

Today was brewing day.  I plan to have a five gallon keg of beer ready for my guests when I host a party next month celebrating the publication of my novel, “Reunion.”  So as I type this the kitchen smells terrific.  I brewed inside today for two reasons: one it is raining; two the propane tank for the grill is empty and I’ve been too lazy to replace it.

A friend of mine grows hops.  The vines run up the side of his house, providing shade, visual appeal, and – most importantly – wonderfully fragrant hop cones.  Today’s brew, therefore, is an India Pale Ale.

Oregon Brewers Festival

Assembled from the notes taken yesterday.

I’ve been attending the Oregon Brewers Festival since – oh, since before I was of legal drinking age.  I believe my first OBF was the second or third year of the event.  I have a cupboard full of plastic festival mugs to prove it, much to the dismay of the Mrs.  (This year the OBF switched to glass.  We’ll see how that goes.)

My wife does not care for the throng, finding the noise, the press, the dust, etc. oppressive.  Hard to blame her, really, but I find the beer sufficient compensation so long as I arrive early and leave before the crush reaches its peak.  So, this year I attended solo, biking down from home.  In the past this has been an occasion to congregate with friends and usually bump into people I’ve not seen for a few years.  But this year the usual gang of idiots had previous engagements, work-related or otherwise.  A sign of maturity, or aging anyways.  It becomes harder and harder to justify scheduling a day dedicated to sampling craft brews.  I understand that all too well.  Does youth fade or does it simply get buried beneath the ever mounting pile of responsibility?

This year, then, I brought just the one friend.

We’ll see how many chapters I can get through and if the OBF’s notorious and frequent spontaneous yelling that fills the tents will impair my reading more than the alcohol.

Now, time for another taster.

The people watching is, as usual, top-shelf.  Jack Sparrow just strolled by.  Bald, bearded Elvis strummed his guitar outside the fence for awhile before being upstaged by Darth Vader playing the bagpipes while riding a unicycle.

Report: I was terrified that a beer from Ohio – Ohio, of all places – would top my list.  Of course I handicapped the competition, skipping the local Portland beers.  I can get them anytime.  Thankfully my last taster was Bogart IPA from Fire Mountain Brewery of nearby Carlton, Oregon.  That dethroned Ohio Brewing Company’s O’Hoppy Ale IPA.

At about that point of the day the crowd of the OBF surpassed my comfort level.  And 6-plus miles uphill on the bicycle eliminated the (minimal) blood-alcohol level.  I deem this OBF a success.  I sampled some new beers and I’m pretty sure my caloric intake and expenditure was a net positive on the expenditure side of the balance sheet.

And how was your Saturday?