Archives: Beer

Monterrey Supplemental: Beer. And Miscellaneous Updates


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


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.



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


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.

Kona Brewer’s Festival

Kona Brewer’s Festival

Aloha! I’m writing today’s post from the lanai of rented condo in Kona Hawaii, overlooking palm trees, tennis court and ocean. The things I do for you people. Exhausting.

Take yesterday for example, when I spent the afternoon tasting beer, oceanside, in the sun and sampling the offerings a dozen local restaurants and caterers. Sheer torture, the Kona Brewers Festival, but I endure it for you.

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


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.


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.


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.