Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Simpler Times

There were simpler times, times when all the beer you knew was this color.

Times when the beer was cheap…say $3.99 for a 6-pk.

Times when you drank it because, well, it was beer.

These days you drink beer that is usually NOT this color, is more likely to be $13.99 for a 6-pk, and you drink it because it’s GOOD beer.

Then again, when you find a decently made pilsner, without any skunky or nasty aftertaste, that IS $3.99 for a 6-pk, is refreshing on a hot day and isn’t just 3.2% (5.5% actually), well, Simpler Times can still be yours.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

But Wait! There's More!

Yesterday I was a bit negative in the thoughts shared about the Oregon Brewers Festival.  Some of that negativity is my own damn fault.  What should I expect when I move out to Portland and away from drinking the beer I love with the people I love?  Of course OBF isn't going to stack up.  And then to do a direct comparison, and a negative one at that, is disingenuous at best.  I think my comparisons were pretty spot on, but I focused on the negativity.  My apologies.  Time to make amends.  Here are some additional thoughts.

Great Music
I really enjoyed the live music we heard yesterday and Friday.  On Friday, there was a interesting "trance/psychedelic" (I guess) band called Ruins of Ooah that consisted of nothing really more than a harmonica, drums, a didgeridoo and vocals.  Their music was creative, enjoyable and pretty original.  On Saturday we got to enjoy a bit of techno from a DJ as well as some fellow playing steel drums.  And you know what, it all fit the fest.  And it wasn't so damn loud that you couldn't chat with the folks around you.  I still think bagpipes would be a nice addition, though.

Beers - Not a Bad One in the Bunch IMO
I thought it was interesting that I didn't drink one beer, either day, that I didn't enjoy to some degree.  There were one or two that I maybe wouldn't purchase given other options, but I'd be happy to drink them again.  There weren't any beers I hated or decided to dump, and I pretty much tried as many different ones as I could (okay, except for the gruit).  There was a wide range of beers from sours to RIS to blueberry wheat to gruit...oh yeah, and IPAs.  Kris and I were excited to have our first nano-brewed beer as well (yeah, I know, no big deal, but it's the concept, you know).  Additionally, getting a 4 oz sample (a very strict pour) gives you a chance to really sample a beer.  One of the nice things about this event is that if you especially like a beer, they're willing to give you a full pour (about 14 oz typically, versus the 4 oz sample).  And, as I've learned, the purpose is to promote as many brewers as possible, not labels, thus the one-beer-per-brewery requirement.  I can respect that.

The Style
Saturday's was a markedly different crowd than Friday's and the beer shirts came out in force, thank god.  I also saw more Wolverine-style sideburns than anywhere else, at any time in my life.  Gotta love that.  We also, finally, saw the folks sportin' the wild and crazy stuff, like the guy with the watermelon hat, vest, pants, etc., the goofy beer hats and goggles, and so on.  Oh yeah, there was lots of cleavage too.

The Intangibles

  • This event had tons of port-a-potties ("Honey Buckets").  I never had to wait.  And the damn things were clean and smelled good.  Huzzah!
  • They had free rain.  Yeah, that doesn't sound like it should be a big deal in Portland, but it was kinda nice.  It was a huge, metal misting contraption that you see in hot, dry areas.  It was very enjoyable strolling through it on a day whose temperatures exceeded 90 degrees.
  • There were several food options inside the gates, but as this is Portland, there were probably 40+ food  stands within 2 or 3 blocks of the event grounds.
  • There certainly was a bit of diversity here.  And I'm not just talking ethnic, although there was more ethnic diversity here than at any other beer fest I've been at.  There were folks from all other the country and all over the world.  The 55+ crowd was also very well represented.  And, there was a wide range of douches, ass-hats, hipsters, wankers, buttheads, and so on.
  • Where else you gonna see a 6'5" sweaty turtle???

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thinkies on Oregon Brewers Fest

Yesterday was an exciting day as Kris and I hit our first beer fest, Oregon Brewers Festival ("OBF"), since moving to Portland. The fest has a good reputation and given that this IS Portland after all, our expectations were very high. Of course, being who we are, we couldn't simply enjoy the fest for what it was. Noooooo. We had to go and immediately compare every detail to some of our favorite fests like Great Taste of the Midwest and Autumn Brew Review. I assumed OBF would stack up well or even surpass these other fests. I was wrong. Here's why:

Sense of Excitement
OBF is a four day event and you don't need to buy tickets ahead of time.  That means, if you want to go to the fest, you can get in.  But wait!  Why's that a bad thing, you ask?  It's not, I guess.  But instead of having a fest filled with die-hard beer fans who are very excited to be there, you get a mixed crowd of families, casual drinkers, fanatics, etc.  Again, that's not a bad thing, but it detracts from the overall mood of the crowd (e.g. enthusiasm).  There was no countdown nor ragged cheer when the gates open.  Some people don't like how some fests can turn out to be exclusive events, but if you're fortunate to get a ticket, I think this makes the fest all the sweeter.  Yeah, there's a flip side to this that sucks.  But there's no denying a sense of excitement when you hold the hard-to-get-ticket.  But, this is made up, in part, with enthusiastic, random yelling (see below).

Beer Shirts
What?  Yeah, I said it.  Beer shirts.  Kris and I saw very few folks wearing beer shirts, hats, etc.  I mean, what's a beer fest without folks supporting their home team or favorite pub or whatever.  Based on the crowd, this could have been any kind of outdoor event.  I like seeing the beer geek crowd all decked out.  Hell, it's like going to Comic-Con and not seeing Storm Troopers or Spidey running around.  A certain important element is missing from the ambiance.  Also, and this is weird, as I was wearing a Surly work shirt (a very common thing to wear at GTotM or ABR), I got asked about five times about Surly beer, as though I was the brewer.  "What did you bring to the fest?"  "How long have you guys been around."  What the hell?!  I didn't ask the short white dude wearing a Pryzbilla jersey if he liked playing for the Blazers.  Goofy as hell, man.

No Food
No food could be brought into the fest.  Now, normally this doesn't really bother me much, although I think it's a bad idea.  But this means that all the creative pretzel and sausage necklaces had to be left at home.  I mean, what's a beer fest without pretzel necklaces???  And I didn't get a chance to eat any too-warm meat and cheese.  Thankfully, we did see a few guys who snuck in pretzel necklaces.

Volunteer Servers
All the beer was served by volunteers.  Many of these volunteers were quasi-knowledgeable about beer, but given that any Joe off the street could sign up to be a volunteer, many of them were clueless.  It doesn't help that most of them were serving beer about which they probably knew nothing.  So, there were no opportunities to chat with anyone who knew anything about a particular beer, brewery, etc.  You could get a tasty beer, but you certainly couldn't learning anything else about the beer/brewery.  But I can live this.  What I find unconscionable is the servers leaving full and partially filled pitchers of beer sitting in the hot sun when there was shade available.  Christ, if you gave a damn at all about beer, you wouldn't do that.

No Beer Stands
Beer at OBF was stored in large semi trailers and pushed through coolers into pitchers from whence they were poured into ones cup.  Tables were lined up, end to end, with the crowd on one side and the serving volunteers on the other.  Now, this is an efficient way of doing things and pretty common.  But it really lacks character.  I like when breweries get to set up their own little stands or personalize their spaces.  It tells you something about them and adds to the overall experience for attendees.

One Beer Per Brewery
Aside from special offerings in a buzz tent, each brewery/brewpub had one beer on tap at the fest.  There was no chance to explore several offerings from a place you'd never heard of or had the chance to visit, thus giving you a chance to evaluate the spectrum of their offerings and setting your overall level of interest in their beer.  Instead, you get a limited picture and run the risk of basing your opinion on a brewery/brewpub based solely on the merits of one beer.  Summit and Surly were both at this event.  Summit had their Horizon Red and Surly had Bitter Brewer.  Well, okay, Surly had Four in the buzz tent as well, but the damn yokels running the fest had the wrong beer hooked up for several hours, thus giving folks the wrong beer.  We learned this when someone told me, because I was wearing a Surly shirt, that my Russian Imperial Stout (at least he was in the right ballpark) was way too pale and underflavored.  *sigh*  But I digress.  If you were to base your opinion of Summit and Surly based on your sample of Horizon or Bitter, you'd really have missed the mark with respect to what these breweries are really doing with their beer.

Random Yelling
If you've been to a beer fest in MN, then you know that when you hear the roar of the crowd roll from one end of the grounds through the other or roll out in ripples from some central point, some pour sucker has dropped his/her beer glass and broken it.  You immediately get a warm glow from 1) not being that pour sucker and 2) being part of a superior majority of drinkers able to hold on their glasses.  OBF had a similar rolling-wave of yelling, but given that the tasting cups were plastic and the event was held on a grassy area, I'm not sure what caused the yelling.  Was it simply someone dropping a beer?  I made numerous inquiries but was disappointed by the blank-stare, shrugged-shoulder responses I got.  I was happy to hear the random roar of the crowd, but disappointed that I couldn't confirm why.  That didn't stop Kris and I from enthusiastically joining in the random yelling, though.

No Bagpipes
I know there are many haters of bagpipes.  But I, for one, like a little bagpipe at my beer fest.  'nough said.

In Retrospect
I look back at what I've just written and can't help but feel that I've been too negative.  At the end of the day, OBF was a reasonably well-run, affordable, accessible, comfortable beer fest.  It was a good time and I drank quite a few tasty beers.  But it lacked the overall level of excitement and beer-dork ambiance that I'm used to having at premier beer fests.  Given the abundance of beer fests in Portland, I'm hopeful that we'll find some that provide the atmosphere we're looking for.  But as long as we've got good beer to drink, I think we'll be okay.

The New Beer Fridge

You’ll notice that the beer fridge has a new look. It’s shinier and it’s black, but it’s also smaller. We were here less than a week when we realized that it’s simply impossible for us NOT to have a beer fridge. Even a small one. Small or big, it still does one of the most important jobs in the house.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cool Can Answer

Deano has tried it and liked it; here's my take on the beer in the cool can.
Out of the can, the amber brew poured fairly carbonated so I let it sit a couple minutes.While I got the can shot posted the head had a chance to recede a bit and it was time for the sniff test. The result was a slight hop aroma...promising.

Now the taste test.Well, first swig says…have more! They didn’t hire a graphic artist first and a brewer as an after thought. This is actually a tasty beer. The gamble paid off.

I won’t say this is the best ever IPA, and I might even lean a little more toward pale ale than IPA (but that might be because there’s rarely a “too hoppy” beer for me). But it’s a solid beer that you could have a few of without burning out your palate.

So in the end, cool can, good beer, and well, it's in a can, which is a big plus if you're going to be somewhere with a "no glass" policy or you don't feel like doing the heavy lifting of carrying around bottled beer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cool Can

The question is, did they blow their wad making a cool can and forget that what’s IN the can is ultimately more important?

Let me know if you think:

1)Cool can but the beer is swill


2)Cool can and the beer is actually worth drinking, too

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jumped the Gun, But Not the Shark

Ok, so in retrospect, I jumped the gun with the last post. After feeling like the grass was greener on the other (not Blogspot) side of the fence, we've decided to jump back into familiar pastures.

Word Press may be cool, and maybe we'll end up permanently moving the site there in the future, but it's also not nearly as user friendly. So for the foreseeable future, we'll stay planted here at Blogspot. We might muse about some Minneapolis-St. Paul beer (hint, hint McG's), but mostly we'll be talking all things beer in Portland. So whether you just like checking in on our most recent ramblings or you're coming out this way and want some insight on beer out here, we hope you'll stick with us.

I'll also be reposting the posts that went up on the new blog in case you need to catch up. Be patient if you've already read about Cool Can, Cool Can Answer, and The New Beer Fridge. And if you commented on any of those, sorry, but I'm pretty tech stupid and am not sure how to carry your comments over.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We've Moved, So Too Does the Blog

We've been in Portland a couple of weeks now and although we love blogging about beer in the Twin Cities, there will be a lot less of that and a lot more blogging about beer in Portland for the foreseeable future.

With that in mind, we're trying out a new blog with Word Press. It's a work in progress, but if you'd like to see what we're up to lately, come on over and bear with us as we work on the site itself.

Click here to get there.

As soon as we figure out how to let you follow us there, we'd love to have you. Until then, patience. We're beer drinkers, not computer programmers. Just bookmark the new blog and have a beer.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Best Walk Ever

Having lived in the ‘burbs for the past 10 years, walks have been relegated to the “to do” list, something necessary to keep Cleo’s energy in check and therefore keeping the humans sane.

One of the things I was looking forward to about our move to Portland was living somewhere that walks could be more meaningful. Maybe to the grocery or other such errands, or maybe to an even better destination…say a good bar or brewpub.

As it turned out, our new home is .97 miles from Hopworks Urban Brewery. Although we pulled into town on Monday afternoon, a few days went by before we were actually able to embark on The Best Walk Ever.

Yesterday, however, there were no obstacles in the way so out the door the three of us went. A mere 20 minutes later we were seated on the HUB’s patio, the first round of beers in hand and Cleo trying to decide if she was thirsty enough to have a drink from the communal water bowl.

A few hours and a few pints later, a little buzzed, we retraced our steps. The only thing missing was a sugary, luscious donut from the joint across Powell, Acme. Oh well, there’s always next time…