Advancing Into Autumn Part II

Photo Jul 03, 9 18 14 PM

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As September gallops along, it reminds me of the ambivalence we face each year with Autumn in the Northwest — do we stay home or go to the Oregon Coast and enjoy the wonderful weather before our eight months of daily drizzle commences?

OR

Do we journey to other parts of the country – either road trip or by air – and enjoy the less-crowded National Parks and scenic wonders in other parts of our wonderful country?

This year the decision is easy because of the renewed strength of COVID throughout the US and more importantly, the impending birth of our fourth grandchild in the second week of October.

But at the onset of this post, I want to depart from bars and breweries and relate a great story about a relatively young, but thriving distillery in Portland.   I’ll finish with another one of the innovations that Adam Milne of Portland’s Old Town Brewing has just sprung which will put additional fizzle into the fall……

Freeland Spirits of Northwest Portland 

While it’s probably obvious that I love to raise a mug of almost any malted brew whether it be an IPA, a lager, pilsner, etc. on occasion, I’m also very partial to distilled spirits – gin martinis (up with olives) — scotch and bourbon also periodically come to mind.

Thus when my son-in-law, Ryan, gave me a 750 milliliter bottle of Freeland Bourbon for my birthday in May, I was in for a wonderful surprise.  The bourbon superb – the best I’ve ever consumed in over seventy years on this earth (okay – during the fifty + years where I could imbibe legally….),

But it’s produced by two woman entrepreneurs who have a compelling story AND a high-quality product from the distillery they founded in 2017. (External photo attribution at end of post *)

As stated on their website:

“Freeland Spirits celebrates the women of the craft. From the gals who grow the grain, to those who run the still, we’re creating superior spirits that celebrate all the Northwest has to offer.

After COVID subsides and I can make on-site visits again, I hope to interview both CEO and Founder, Jill Keuhler and Master Distiller, Molly Troupe at their site and devote a full post to their vision for the future.

“Freeland Bourbon pays homage to the South, and to Grandma Freeland, the namesake of Freeland Spirits. Soft caramel, vanilla and spice dance into the whiskey from charred American oak barrels.

A final rest in Oregon’s Elk Cove Pinot Noir barrels adds an element of Pacific Northwest terroir. Blended with precision by our Master Distiller, Molly Troupe, to achieve balanced texture and harmony of flavors.

But I admit, I’ve become so fond of the bourbon, that I developed a routine of sorts during COVID, when I’ve become enamored with jigsaw puzzles – after all, I’ve got a lot more free time since I’m not making personal visits to watering holes at this time.

Before bed, I often spend a session at one of the 1000-piece puzzles accompanied by a “generous” pour of their bourbon.   When my wife saw how quickly the bottle had disappeared, she decided my shots would be less fulsome……although this led to a genteel debate about the term “generous.”

For example, according to Wikipedia, a small shot of liquor in the US ranges from 30 to 44 ml whereas a double will fill a glass with about 59 to 89 ml.  So if I had an average of 55 ml shot each session, the bourbon would have been consumed in only 14 sessions. 

Since I only spend about forty-five minutes each night, it certainly has taken me that long to get this far in one of the most challenging 1000-piece puzzles we have done to date (Galison Puzzles “A Day at the Bookstore.”)

And Speaking of Northwest Entrepreneurs…..

One of my favorite Portland breweries in the eleven years I’ve been Beerchasing is Old Town Brewing.  And only part of that sentiment is because of its great beer and pizza.   Like Freeland Spirits above, a major factor is the creativity and resourcefulness of the founder and owner, Adam Milne

He has demonstrated this entrepreneurial spirit, from the time he bought Old Town Pizza in 2004, when this Marcola, Oregon native was only thirty-three.  (He mortgaged the equity in his house and sold a rental unit to buy the establishment.)

The almost twenty-year history of this enterprise and Adam’s resilience, innovation and creativity is a remarkable story which took me two Beerchaser posts to chronicle: https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/02/26/new-energy-and-ideas-at-old-town-brewing/

And from my own experience meeting and interviewing him over beers at his Eastside brewery and pub in late 2018, Adam is also a great human being who is the epitome of an enlightened owner and manager.

Before telling you about Adam’s latest adventure, I will use the words of Carson Bowler his college Sigma Nu fraternity brother at the University of Oregon, and my colleague at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, (shown in the photo above) who has also represented Adam and Old Town on legal issues:

I’ve known Adam for more than twenty-five years.  We were in the Sigma Nu house and his reputation then was that he was the nicest guy in the fraternity.  Unfortunately, that reputation was accurate. 

One could never lie to, or ‘borrow’ from or prank Adam without the everlasting worry that God, Himself would punish any such shenanigans with eternal damnation. 

Adam always had one great idea too many until he didn’t and launched Old Town Brewing.  It was in this enterprise that his ambition, good taste, generosity and entrepreneurial spirit blissfully collided to produce pure-love in a pint.  Adam makes good beer because only good things come from Adam.”

Adam and Crew *8

Adam, like most small business owners has faced incredible challenges in the last two years.   At the height of COVID’s initial wave and when Portland was enmeshed in the lawless protests (a continuing saga), he was forced to shut his Old Town location down in July, 2020:

“‘The moment of a temporary closure became, sadly, clear on Thursday when our revenue for the day was $18.75,’ he says…..’Downtown businesses have been hit especially hard with the high density, vandalism and tents in front of our business.’”

But he rebounded and in May of 2020, Old Town Brewing launched a Drive-Thru Brewer’s Market with seven different breweries and cideries. Every Saturday from 11am-4pm, Old Town’s parking lot off of Killingsworth in northeast Portland –  a contact free drive-up experience with rotating selections from local breweries is filled with enthusiastic patrons.

And in February, 2021, he purchased Baby Doll Pizza on Southeast Stark  – known for its’s New York style pizza.  He didn’t change the name although it now features a number of the excellent Old Town beers on tap.  

Well, the innovation continues and this time it’s “Out of the Barrel…”   As featured in Oregon Live’s Andre Meunier’s new column on beer and breweries (which is an excellent column you should check out) “Portland’s Old Town jumps into hard seltzer market with Upper Left”

“‘On Thursday (9/15/21) (Old Town Brewing) will release its Upper Left hard seltzer brand, becoming one of the first small breweries in the nation to do so,’ (Adam Milne) said. Old Town, no slouch when it comes to brewing awards, will continue to make its full line-up of craft beer, but it will augment that with an initial offering of two seltzers: Cotton Candy and Key Lime, with more flavors to be introduced.

‘The flavors are a throwback to the candies of the ‘70s,’ Milne said. He wanted to capture the retro flavors of confections like Now and Later, Laffy Taffy or Bazooka, or even the vibe of the corner pop shop or a saltwater taffy store. He wants the Upper Left brand to appeal not only to young adults but also to those who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Now, I loved Bazooka Bubble Gum when I was a kid and I’m going to give it a try, but I don’t know if a hard seltzer is going to replace my Freeland Bourbon when I embark on my next jigsaw puzzle.  

Cats in Positano, 1000 Pieces, eeBoo | Puzzle Warehouse

That said, I might substitute a mug of Old Town’s Paulie’s Not Irish (American Red) Ale which recently won a Bronze Medal at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival.

A good substitute! *14

External Photo Attribution

*1 – 3  Freeland Spirits Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/freelandspirits/photos/?ref=page_internal)

*4  Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shot_glass#/media/File:Three_shotglasses.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.  Author: Kelly Martin 16 November 2006

*5 – 9  Old Town Brewing Facebook Page  (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Baby%20Doll%20Pizza/1409561956008482/photos/)

*10 – 11  Baby Doll Pizza Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Baby%20Doll%20Pizza/1409561956008482/photos/)

*12 – 13  Upper Left Hard Seltzer Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/upperleftseltzer/photos/?ref=page_internal)

*14  Old Town Brewing Website (https://www.otbrewing.com/beer_pnir)

Leaving 2020 in “Good Taste”?

Image courtesy of Pam Williams

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The Taste of Beer – Follow-up

In my last post, I did a rant, of sorts, about beer reviews – where some of the descriptions of my favorite beverage, in the reviewers’ attempt to be creative, are ridiculous.   I had saved examples clear back to 2014 to illustrate my point.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/12/23/holiday-cheer-and-the-taste-of-beer/

The Von Ebert Boarmobile

The reaction was positive and I wanted to follow with one more current example – from Willamette Week’s 2019 Beer Guide.

It’s an excerpt from the eighth-ranking in their Beers-of-the-Year the Pilsner (4%) from Von Ebert Brewing – a small and good brewer right in Portland’s Pearl District

 I’ll follow with what I regard as some common sense advice on tasting beer from two experts.  I might add, that of all of them, this description was one of the most ludicrous although the brewery’s Pils is a great beer:

“When the first sip of Von Ebert’s Pilsner crosses your lips, it tastes as if you were reading a 19th-century love letter painstakingly translated from German.

Three different Pilsner malts, each with its own crackery nuance, join like the tiny gears inside an imported continental timepiece, ticking beneath a flowery blend of Perle, Saphir and Tettnanger hops lifted into your nose by spritzy natural carbonation. And after weeks of cold-temp lagering, you can actually read a letter through it.”

“Crackery nuance?”

Wie hat Ihnen diese Beschreibung gefallen?

Oh sorry, I meant “How did you like that description?”  I got so carried away with German that I forgot some of you may not be enlightened enough to know the nuances of German to English translation (much less the “crackery nuance” he mentions). The reviewer’s tirade of wacky similes made me laugh.

For some more practical advice, and because he is a smart and gifted entrepreneur with common sense and a great knowledge of beer, I asked Adam Milne, the owner of Old Town Brewing for his take. (His brewery also produces one of my five favorite beers – Shanghai’d English Style IPA – a 2018 Gold Medalist at the World Beer Cup.)  His e-mail stated:

“I always like one of two approaches. One is to use common terms that are known to beer drinkers, so the readers have a universal understanding. This can be words like bitter, hoppy, fruity, malty, IBU’s and many others. 

The second approach is to go outside the beer world for terms that apply to food and drinks that everyone is familiar with. This can be describing sodas, cakes, fruits or vegetables. Basically compare to any ingredient in a grocery store or made in a restaurant. This allows for people who are not as familiar with beer to easily relate.”

Goethe – did not mix German beer and love letters

Notice Adam did not use Shakespearean metaphors or an example from Wolfgang Von Goethe although the WW reviewer might have taken the advice from this 18th century German poet, playwright, novelist and scientist who opined:  “A person ‘hears’ only what they understand.” 

I thought another good source might be an article in Draft Magazine entitled “What a psycholinguist can tell us about how we describe beer flavors,” but unfortunately, Draft Magazine was discontinued in 2017 and the pieces is no longer available.

There was, however, a practical article entitled “How to Describe Beer Like a Pro,” that seems reasonable.  https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/how-describe-beer-pro

Finally, before I leave the subject, I have to give Parker Hall, the reviewer from Willamette Week at least some credit.  Although I think his beer reviews are pretentious, I respect his education and background.  He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music – a very respected institution, where he studied jazz percussion on a scholarship.

Oberlin – respected educational institution

“He remains a professional musician in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and is an award-winning homebrewer besides being a contributor to Portland’s alt-weekly Willamette Week.”

And While I’m Ranting About Reviews…

I guess before I depart from the subject of reviews, I’ll also talk a bit about book reviews.  Obviously, my exploits to new bars was stymied this year by the virus, so I read a lot more – mainly fiction, but also some good non-fiction works as well.

2020 warranted escapism so a much of my literary menu was thrillers by popular authors such as Lee Child, David Baldacci, Harlen Coban, etc.  But I found that relying on well known authors to rate their contemporaries is not very helpful in selecting a good read.  Usually, they are one or two sentence comments on the front or back covers and thrillers typically have phrases such as “fast-paced, a real page turner, superb plotting, absorbing nail-biter, an all-night read, etc.”

James Patterson writes of Lee Child, “I’m a fan.”   Best selling author, Lisa Gardiner writes of David Baldacci, “…one of the all-time best thriller authors,” and New York Times best-selling author Lisa Scottoline states, “Baldacci delivers, every time!”   One has to ask, with their writing demands and appearances, how thoroughly are these best-selling authors going to read and digest another writer’s book?

Perhaps others have arrived at the same conclusion as stated in a 2012 Los Angeles Times article,Why is Amazon deleting writers’ reviews of other authors’ books?”   The author quotes Amazon in a response to a reviewer inquiry:

Amazon Book Store

“We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.”  (emphasis supplied)

And, of course, this raises all kinds of questions such as, “How does one define ‘directly competing?'”  The article quoted one writer opining “….author-on-author reviews comprise so little of Amazon’s overall site content as to be nothing more than a “sparrow’s fart.”  Evidently, Amazon amended its position because the policy now allows authors to submit reviews of others’ books:

“….unless the author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process.”

A Solution?

Now since in the last blog post and this one, I railed against the over-the-top creative license by beer reviewers and now I’m slamming book reviews for being boring gibberish, one might ask, “Okay Don, what’s your solution?”

My answer – after giving it about the same amount of contemplation that Lisa Gardiner demonstrated in her review of David Baldacci’s book above – is in two parts:

First, since one of the purposes of book reviews and comments is to help readers avoid wasting their time on bad books and other literary works, reviews should be limited to those of lousy writers, poets and other artists.  To illustrate, I will use the example of English poet William Topaz McGonagal (1825-1902).

I became aware of him from a calendar of events in the Oregonian which noted the date of the death of the man “who is affectionately considered Britain’s worst ever poet.”  Upon researching, I learned that others “celebrate” him in more exalted terms – “The world’s worst poet.”

An excellent 2011 article in the British newspaper The Independent entitled, “The Story of William McGonagal” stated:

“In his lifetime, he was a music hall joke….He was paid five shillings for a public recital so that his mostly working-class audiences could jeer at his bad poetry or pelt him with rotten vegetables…..

….Yesterday, the writer and comedian Barry Cryer went on the Today programme to pay tribute to the Dundee bard, and recite the only poem McGonagall was ever paid to write, which was an advertisement for Sunlight soap:

Requires minimal elbow grease….

‘You can use it with great pleasure and ease — without wasting any elbow grease.'”

In concluding this section and without trying to overdo the topic –  albeit extremely fascinating –  I leave you with a poem he wrote after visiting New York City.  It gives credence to the Wikipedia summary:

“He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers’ opinions of his work….. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme.

McGonagall’s fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language.”

Empire State Building – Tall,  but more than thirteen “storeys”

“Jottings of New York” by William Topaz McGonagal

Oh mighty City of New York!  you are wonderful to behold,
Your buildings are magnificent, the truth be it told,
They were the only things that seemed to arrest my eye,
Because many of them are thirteen storeys high.

McCongagal died in Edinburgh in 1902 in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave  leaving behind a vast quantity of work and a reputation that endures more than a century after his death.

To reinforce my point – reviews of bad literary work are much easier to write, there is more consensus on the degree of unworthiness, it helps readers avoid wasting their time and it may actually help the author’s awareness.  (I just need to be hopeful that reviews of this blog and the manner in which I play the oboe since retirement will be only mildly disparaging when included under this standard.)

“Bard” Reviews

Furthering my argument to essentially limit critiques to lousy literature or maybe even substandard beer, I would submit that the model in the following article could be used to promote creativity and more inventive descriptions.    Book Bub published a captivating piece, “Twelve of the Funniest Shakespearean Insults” – replete with affronts which would be fit for describing either a shoddy literary work or hideous malted beverage.

For example, let’s assume you’re about 120 pages into a novel that is boring, puts you to sleep and has no redeeming literary value.  You could aptly describe it as, A fusty nut with no kernel,” (from Troilus and Cressida Act 2, Scene 1).

Now since my nickname is “Dirt” as you will see from the blog header above, I might take issue with the following.  It could describe an author who should be pursuing a career using his or her hands to produce a product other than the written word – O Gull! O Dolt! As ignorant as dirt!” (Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

Or let’s suppose you hit a new brewery and after sampling their flagship beer, you have to force yourself to swallow the loathsome malted concoction.  It would lead you to describe the brewer as, “Thou cream-faced loon,” (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3) while describing his brew as “(A) mouthful of foul deformity.”  (Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2).

This scheme could be expanded to other classical philosophers such as Machiavelli who might have been describing a writer when he wrote  – “……fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.”

Socrates (left) with buddy, Aristotle

Or perhaps, Aristotle, advising a scribe to pursue another occupation – “To avoid criticism – say nothing, do nothing, be nothing!”

Upon reflection, it’s unfortunate that some of these utterances were not employed during the election cycle this last year.   So ends my rant and I guess, if reading annoying and trite reviews is my biggest annoyance, I’m pretty fortunate.

So Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser.  We are thrilled and encouraged that our two nurse daughters both recently received their COVID vaccinations and let us hope that the vaccines end up in arms around the world in a rapid, safe and responsible manner.

That said, since I’m a healthy, retired guy under 75, my older daughter when I asked her when she thought I would get my shot, responded with the following photo and said, “Drink up, Dad!”

So, until then, I will be a faithful mask wearer as I hope you will be.

Holiday Cheer and the Taste of Beer

Image courtesy of Pam Williams

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

Happy Holidays, Beerchasers.  In what may be my last post of 2020, I will address one topic which is very interesting, yet tends to perplex and frustrate me. Let’s talk about

The Taste of Beer…..

A Portland “grunge” classic

Although this blog is primarily about bars and breweries, I often mention beers – especially those produced by the various breweries visited and which strike a chord.   

I’ve covered “basic” beers from the $1.50 Happy Hour PBRs at the historic Yamhill Pub  *1 in downtown Portland and the $1.00 draft Hamms (it used to be all day on Wednesdays…) at The Standard in Northeast Portland.

Buck pints – gone but not forgotten

*1  A November story in Willamette Week stated that this institution – at one time it sold more PBR than any bar in Oregon and in the ’90’s was no. 5 in North America – may have to close.  “General manager Kevin Hill has launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the Yamhill Pub, which is struggling financially during the most recent governor-ordered restrictions on dine- and drink-in service.” 

And conversely Janet and I enjoyed a Grolsch Premium Lager in Amsterdam’s Cafe Karpershoek in 2013 – the oldest pub in Amsterdam dating back to 1606 when Dutch sailors and merchants bellied up to the bar.

We’ve experienced some of the wonderful and innovative craft beers such as the Shanghai’d English Style IPA – a 2018 Gold Medalist at the World Beer Cup produced by entrepreneur, Adam Milne at Old Town Brewing – in Portland, Oregon where one can enjoy some of the finest micro-brews on the planet.

Janet at the bar in the Cafe Karpershoek

Now, I also remember life at Oregon State University in the late ’60’s, when the brew choices were all essentially “beer you could see through.”    I loved Schlitz Dry beer although Blitz Weinhard was plentiful on campus.  Of course, when one of the frat bros made a trip to a state in which you could buy a case of Coors – not available in Oregon until 1985 – he gained immediate popularity and new friends. 

However, what mildly irritates me are reviews – those where beer geeks – similar to some snooty wine connoisseurs – go into extravagant, grandiose and sometimes ridiculous detail describing how a beer tastes. 

That said, I realize that producing the ingredients for beer and the brewing process itself has gotten very technical and increased in sophistication to produce the outstanding mix of products from which beer drinkers can choose. 

For example, programs such as the Oregon State Fermentation Science Major have trained and educated outstanding brewers and enhanced the quality and flavor of beer immensely –  “a hands-on applied science addressing the biological, chemical and physical processes of fermented foods, including those used in the production of wine, beer, and spirits…..”

How cold was it? Sign outside Lumpy’s Landing

I’ve  progressed from not really knowing much about beer except that it’s much better really cold and in a frosted mug and have gained an appreciation for the rich history of brewing which goes back thousands of years.

“…..ancient Chinese artifacts suggested that beer brewed with grapes, honey, hawthorns, and rice were produced as far back as 7,000 BC.”  (Wikipedia – The History of Beer.)

I’m trying to educate myself on types of beer (ales and lagers – depending on the fermenting process), brewing styles, differentiation in ingredients and elements of taste.

A prime resource for beer education

There are some great online references and books such as the highly-rated The Beer Bible by Northwest author, Jeff Alworth who is also the originator of the Beervana blog. His almost 600 page book, with five appendices, could fill an upper-division college course on beer.

Lisa Morrison – also known as The Beer Goddess and a previous Beerchaser of the Quarter on this blog also wrote a good basic book on NW regional beers in 2011 – Craft Beers of the Northwest.

And after viewing the following sentence on page four of Jeff Alworth’s book, I thought that perhaps I was being too cavalier in dismissing the intricacies of beer taste.  Was I missing something when I raised a mug?

“When you sit down with a glass of beer, you do a lot more than taste it.  You will eventually put your papillae to the task, but they won’t work alone.  Your eyes take in its color, clarity and vivacity. 

Your nostrils detect sharp or subtle aromas drifting off the surface.  When you taste, you’ll be smelling the beer while its inside your mouth.  Your tongue, meanwhile, will be noticing whether its prickly with carbonation or smooth and still, whether it is thin or creamy or thick.  You don’t merely taste a beer, you experience it.”

However, after looking up the definition of “papillae” (a small rounded protuberance on the tongue) and realizing that I don’t really think about the prickly nature of beer while quaffing, I realized that I should not alter my own approach. 

Beer expert, Jeff Alworth at the Benedictine Brewery structure raising in 2017

I really love beer, but a major factor in my enjoyment is the social interaction with companions while imbibing.  That and drinking in the ambiance and unique character of each dive bar and brewery I frequent. 

Focusing on “mouthfeel” which is defined on page 599 of The Beer Bible as “Qualities of beer other than the flavor; includes body and amount of carbonation,” would detract from my Beerchasing experience.

I also respect those home-brewers who want to enhance their expertise and those in the brewing industry where it is a bonified occupational qualification to possess this technical knowledge.  And there are national and international brewing competitions such as the World Beer Cup.

It’s the world’s largest beer competition and labeled as “The Olympics of Beer.”  In the 2018 competition, there were 295 judges, three-fourths of them from outside the United States and beers from over thirty countries.

One can also choose to become a:

“….beer judge and work your way up the ranks evaluating beer to the Grand Master level. The (goal is) to remove as much of the subjectivity involved in evaluating beer during competitions as possible by giving all certified judges the tools needed to objectively evaluate the beers they judge.” https://winning-homebrew.com/evaluating-beer.html

But many of the beer reviews one reads in publications are pretentious and questionable.  My favorite example was so ludicrous, I saved it from five years ago. The reviewer, from a Portland weekly newspaper, was describing a new Gose beer introduced by an Oregon coastal brewery:

“”The first sip of the brew was like tasting the salty foam just as a large wave crests off the Oregon Coast.”

“Gasp – Gurgle – Glub – I think I have salt in my lungs….” (Off Lincoln City, Oregon)

I haven’t seen any more reviews from this columnist who most likely drowned while pursuing his next review, but there are others which also struck me as set forth below.

Small anti-hero??

Perhaps this is the challenge of those who pen reviews – trying to be creative and interesting, thereby using superlatives and hyperbole to capture the readers’ interest.  It happens with book and movie reviews too, as exemplified by this review of “The Joker” which hit theaters in 2020:

“Joker is so monotonously grandiose and full of its own pretensions that it winds up feeling puny and predictable.  Like the anti-hero at its center, it’s a movie that is trying so hard to be capital b – Big, that it can’t help looking small.” 

Let’s take this example from a Willamette Week’s Parker Hall 1/22/19 review of Day Runner IPA from Portland’s Threshold Brewing.  Now perhaps more sophisticated beer experts could truly discern the flavor he describes but take a look:

Rub your hands together and then give a “high” five…..

“A blend of Columbus and Ekuanot hops brings piny tar and tropical funk furnished by a tiny bite of freshly baked sourdough that makes your mouth water for the next sip, it smells like your hands would after an afternoon trimming Portland’s second favorite intoxicant. 

It’s a welcome and decidedly West Coast interpretation of the style that melds classic lupulin bite with deep hop flavor….”

Now remember, the reviews I’m talking about are not those in beer geek periodicals, but newspapers and publications for a general audience.   Heater Allen – a wonderful family brewery  in McMinnville, Oregon, gets a number of raves for its beers including this one from the 2014 Willamette Week Beer Guide where its Isarweizen was rated number six out of the top ten Beers of the Year.

“If you’ve only guzzled Widmer or Blue Moon, prepare yourself. This beer will thump your nostrils with the smell of clove and then strike your tongue with the taste of banana.  It’s creamy and crisp, something like chewing a slice of Juicy Fruit gum – in the very best way.”

“So sweet, you can’t help but chew” – and in the very best way!

Now while brewing creativity is a good thing, one reader argued about restoring some sanity in his clip entitled, “Holiday Ale Festival Gone Amok” when he described a disturbing trend in the annual Portland event in 2018 as:

“The festival’s hallmark has always been wonderful strong, winter ales and cask conditioned brews. Just the thing to blast me out of my IPA rut. But this year the festival got too cutesy and lost its way. The so-called stouts all tasted like milkshakes or Snickers bars.  The ales were so fruity that a better name might be the Kool-Aid Festival. 

And then there are the sour beers. There are probably some folks who actually like this stuff, but how many sour beers does it take for the rest of us to learn what we truly don’t like? Let’s take the Holiday Ale Festival back to its roots and put great winter brews back where they belong.”

To demonstrate how the trend to get a sweet confectionary flavor has escalated, let’s look at a few more.  Ten Barrel Brewing released The Last Blockbuster which was described as “having a light body and smooth finish with nuances of red licorice.”

“Nuances” of Red Licorice……

And here’s another one that I’ve saved about Priem Brewing (Hood River) Vienna Lager

“The relaxed toastiness, gentle caramelly sweetness and elegant body that define (this Vienna Lager) are all present, as are deeper notes of liquid toast, caramel apples and hints of toffee. A swallow brings out smooth cashew butter and dried, herbal hops balance the semi-sweet finish.”

The composer would judge the symphony of flavor as “classical”?

Now, Pfriem references the beer as a “malted symphony that would make Mozart proud….” and the review above was even in Draft Magazine, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen “liquid toast”.  (Although the Urban Dictionary defines “liquid bread as “A beer with a high specific gravity at the end of fermentation resulting in a dense beer.”)

It also sounds like this reviewer would get the same eclectic taste by stuffing the entire contents of his Halloween bag in his mouth in one gulp.

After griping about this brewing pattern, I’ll end the comments about beer reviews on a more positive and healthy note (except for the “chocolate milk” reference below).  While I’m not a great fan of stouts and porters, I did like the description of Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout from Gigantic Brewing – another Portland brewer. 

It was also in the WW 2014 Beer Guide and was favored as the 10th Best Beer in 2014: “In a beer scene lacking in big, bottled Imperial Stouts, Gigantic’s might be the czar.”  

“Thick as chocolate milk and black as the Mariana Trench, it masks its 10% ABV in a complex, aromatic palette of flavors, intermingling touches of raisin and prune with deep caramel and nuts.  It’s dense and robust, not to mention, dark – like a Russian winter’s night.” 

We need to add some raisins and nuts

For accuracy sake, I would also point out that while one would expect the Mariana Trench which reaches depths of 36,000 feet in the Pacific to be black, the hue in its ocean floor is actually “….a yellowish color…because of all the decaying plants and animals, animal skeletons, and shells that are continuously deposited there.”  

(If you’re wondering why I’m quoting from  2014 published reviews, it’s because I’ve been meaning to write on this topic since that time….)

Scriptural Guidance?

Since this is the Christmas and Holiday Season, I thought there might be a Biblical reference – from the Holy Bible versus the Beer Bible -which would provide some direction on the issue of beer flavor and taste – and I discovered one.

Proverbs 20:1 states: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” 

A brawler…..

A “brawler” would hardly be perceived as a brew with “nuances of red licorice” or a “gentle caramelly sweetness” or for that matter, “creamy and crisp – like chewing a slice of Juicy Fruit Gum.”  This – in contrast to an imperial stout or porter, both characterized by their dark color and full body.

The gold standard probably being Guinness Draught, which Guinness states is “distinguished by its legendary stormy surge upon pouring.”  That and a brew such as Smuttynose Imperial Stout can definitely be considered as “pugnacious.”  (Perhaps those who prefer dark beer can consider this as Old Testament Divine Guidance.)

The Beerchaser’s Favorites

Since I talked about beer itself – rather than breweries in this post – I’ll end by offering my five favorite Oregon beers (in no priority).  And hats off to the beer aficionados who are into the more esoteric brews.  But I graduated from an aggie college and have less refined and expansive preferences based on my education at Price’s Tavern in downtown Corvallis.

I am not offering any flamboyant or eloquent rationale except, “I really like them!”

Black Habit

 1.  Black Habit Brown Ale – (7.8%) the flagship beer of the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary brewed by Fr. Martin Grassel

2.  Sticky Hands IPA – (8.1% – 110 IBU) Block 15 Brewery in Corvallis 

3.  Oakshire Amber Ale – (5.4% – 24 IBU) from Eugene’s Oakshire Brewing 

4. Shanghai’d English Style IPA – (6.5% 65 IBU) – Portland’s Old Town Brewing

5.  Buoy IPA – (7.0% – 70 IBU) from Astoria’s Buoy Beer Company 

But I Can’t Forget….

And I would be remiss without this honorable mention.  Now, I realize that this American lager is a Wisconsin – not an Oregon beer – from the brewery founded in 1844 and unfortunately now produced by Miller Coors, but it’s still a great beer. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) – (4.74%)  Pabst Brewing Company

An outstanding honorable mention

Besides, in Thebeerchaser’s opinion:

“PBR tickles the olfactory epithelium with a pleasant and satisfying aroma and provides a hint of the forest on a fall day.  And the smooth malt-infused taste this sophisticated pilsner gives mid-palate is memorable.  

Topping it off is the no-nonsense hoppiness which creates an emotional mouthfeel similar to the crest of a wave breaking in the Pacific off Lincoln City, Oregon at high-tide.  PBR is tantamount to the Nectar of the Gods!”  (Don Williams 2020)

Christmas and Holiday Blessings from Thebeerchaser

And may all your shots be Pfizer rather than Vodka!

Old Town Brewing – Part II


In Thebeerchaser’s first post on Old Town Brewing, (hereafter OTB) I sketched the story of the founder and owner, Adam Milne and his vision which has become a reality.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/02/26/new-energy-and-ideas-at-old-town-brewing/

The Old Town Brewing Trademark

(Note:  This is a long post and even if you don’t peruse it in its entirety, be sure to check out the videos towards the end of the post.  But to check them out, you will need to click on the blog site rather than look at it through e-mail.  Just click on the title in your e-mail. You will be glad that you did…)

The prior post elaborated on the great ambiance and rustic environment, the team concept Adam espouses and briefly touched on the unfortunate legal battle with the City of Portland over the iconic OTB trademark in which Adam and his team prevailed after years of litigation.

But, the story is not complete without a detailed discussion of the beer and the creative marketing which goes into making it a gem in the NW micro-craft industry.  The list of awards for OTB beer is extensive and the styles of beer garnering awards diverse as can be seen from this link below:

https://www.otbrewing.com/dock-sales

Gold Medal Winners – Pilsner and Shanghai’d IPA

For example in 2018, there were two Gold Medals – – OTB’s Pilsner and Shanghai’d IPA – at the World Beer Cup in Nashville – Adam described this as the “Olympics of beer competition.”

And at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 – the “Academy Awards of beer” according to Adam – they brought home a silver medal – Sun Dazed Kolsch – following by a gold in 2015 for Shanghai’d IPA.

The honors continued in 2019 with three medals at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend where brewers from 33 states compete.   Shanghai’d won again with a bronze – also one for Paulie’s Not Irish Red and a silver for Dark Helmet.  I was impressed that besides the reaffirmation of Shanghai’d IPA quality, that OTB has garnered medals for a diverse group of brews.

Head Brewer – Adam Lamont – educated in his craft

Adam credits a lot of this to the fortuitous hiring of Andrew Lamont.  He had spent about eight years with the Boston Beer Company two and one-half of which were as brewer for Samuel Adams Research and Development Brewery.

Adam was looking for a brewer in late 2014 and thought, “There’s no way he will work for me.”  Fortunately, Andrew, who was pursuing a PhD, decided he wanted to relocate to Portland.  This was after Lamont had earned his Master’s in Polymer Science at Southern Mississippi and his Master Brewer at UC Davis.

But it’s a team approach that Adam credits for their success as can be seen from this photo from the OTB website and his statement:

“”We feel our biggest strength in brewing quality beer is creating a team approach that feeds all of our passion and excitement,’ he says. ‘It was important for [head brewer] Andrew [Lamont] and I to create atmosphere that allows our management crew to lead and have a voice in the beer creation process.’”

Adam Milne and his team – creativity can be fun…….

While it would be easy to do an entire post on the following issue, we should touch on  the trademark battle with City of Portland – an example of bad judgment on the part of the City – an ill-advised bureaucratic foray which drew the ire of the micro-craft community, business groups and those who value common sense…..

Many citizens wondered why Portland was taking on this small business when OTB had applied and been granted the image for its logo by the US Patent Office.  Moreover, Milne had come to the City offering to compromise before the fight escalated.

For those interested, a detailed account of the fascinating legal issues involved, check out Jeff Alworth’s blog Beervana:

https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2017/11/13/the-city-of-portland-versus-old-town-brewing

Now, Intellectual Property law can be very technical, but if you want to see a summary of the settlement use this link from an article in Craftbeer.com

https://www.craftbeer.com/editors-picks/old-town-brewing-portland-end-lengthy-trademark-dispute

Carson Bowler

Brien Flanagan

As I mentioned in the first OTB post, on both of my two visits I was accompanied by two very skilled lawyers who are also both wonderful human beings – some may think the categories are mutually exclusive.

Carson Bowler, a fraternity brother of Adam from U of O days in the ’90’s, and Brien Flanagan were in our group.

On the second visit, Carson, Adam and I got two flights of eight – a good idea given the variety of good beers and a very reasonable $10 – only a buck more than a flight of four.  My favorites on that visit were the Sun Dazed (German-style Kolsch) and the Belgian Tripel – a collaboration with Rogue Brewing with an ABV of 9.8%!

The three of us – based on the experience Carson and I had on our first visit, got another of the House Special PizzaThe shop favorite since 1974. A combination of pepperoni, salami, mushroom, black olive, bell pepper, and homemade Italian sausage.”

On the flight path….with Carson and Adam

On the first visit I got a pint of their award-winning Paulie’s Not Irish Red Ale.  As a fan of red ales, I can state that it lived up to the description: “Impeccably balanced and malt-driven with notes of sweet bread and caramel, partnered with a medium hop bite and soft finish.”

While having a reputation for great pizza, OTB also has some other good eats including five different salads, pasta and six toasted subs of which the Meatball is the house favorite “Sliced meatballs covering a garlic buttered roll, mozzarella, cheese and house-made marinara dusted with Reggiano cheese and fresh basil.”  

The first trip to OTB was a belated 70th birthday present from Carson and Brien and they paid deference to their elder by letting me have the extra slice of the House Special Pizza we split.

Belated birthday present – as you can see from this picture and the last, Carson when being photographed holds his head at an angle and adopts an intellectual pose

Brien is also a Beerchasing regular and, in fact, his last foray on this blog was right in the same neighborhood at Billy Rays Neighborhood Dive Bar. You should stop by this great dive bar on a trip to OTB.

Flanagan (in the center) in a visit to BRNDB

One of the more impressive aspects to this enterprise is their creativity, which is demonstrated in the development and production of new beers – for example their Mushroom Ale – which some purists pan, but has gotten some good reviews.  Hiring a scientist as your head brewer allows adventures like this one that Andrew first tried as an experimental beer in 2015:

For example, this 11/29/17 review from Ratebeer.com:

“Not only does this beer give you an experience that I can guarantee you’ve never had, it also tastes amazing. Like drinking carbonated maple syrup with a touch of umami character. Amazing.”

https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2015/8/5/old-town-brewing-mushrooming

Experimentation yields results….

But also the display of their product in the cans which commenced in 2018 (as evidenced by the pictures below and this statement on their website:

“There’s much to be appreciated about beer cans. We trust these sealed vessels with the momentous task of transporting our precious cargo safely. We outfit them in our finest digs to help celebrate and convey our stories about who we are and what we stand for.”

Another innovation was the delivery of beer by bicycle, which started in 2012 – perhaps you will soon be getting a Glow Torch IPA by drone in the near future….

Although they don’t still deliver beer by bike, Adam says:

“We were the first brewery in America to do that based on our research.. I had the idea and called the OLCC who expressed doubt it was legal. They called back and said they all met and couldn’t find a reason it was illegal.”

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/portland-brewery-delivering-beer-on-bikes-149010975.html

One of the most innovative Brewery advertising methods I’ve witnessed since starting Thebeerchaser in 2017 is their video series. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but I thought these great ads were somewhat under the radar – “Beers in Paradise.”

They feature OTB’s Sales Director, Joe Sanders.  This four-part video series is extremely well done, humorous and shows what having an in-house creative artist and media expert can develop.  I asked Adam how this idea germinate:

“We decided to do something that spoke to our audience and communicated our seriousness for making beer in a really fun way. Once we made our first video, with Joe as our front-man…. the snowball started to roll. People loved them and we had so much fun making them.”

https://www.otbrewing.com/latest-news/2018/4/3/weekly-beer-hunting-beers-of-paradise.

My favorite was the Pillow Fist IPA although you should check all of them out.  (They’re slightly hidden on the Website under the drop-down “Latest News.”)  And for a fascinating article – again on Jeff Alworth’s Beervana blog, read about the process as described by Creative Director, Jordan Wilson.

Creative Director, Jordan Wilson

The process starts with naming of the beer, the context and set for the videos and is followed by evaluating the effectiveness of the videos through metrics.

“It’s total DIY….this feels like a unique strength for Old Town – we keep everything in house and avoid the high cost of creative overhead. And because of our lower investment, we can play with it more. Throw things at the wall, see what sticks.….(the videos have) become an extension of our brand and how we tell our stories.” 

https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2019/1/30/how-we-use-video

They also use videos to announce new releases.  Take a look at this one that announced Figaro Imperial Stout  – brilliant!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuE6X_dAxrS/embed/?autoplay=1

As you can see below, Adam gives his staff credit for their success – one of his core values.  For example, this notice on their website about Staff Appreciation Day.

“2018 was incredibly fun and certainly the most memorable year for us to date. We kicked off with a major rebrand of our company, canned our first brews, made it through a dispute that brought our community together and forever changed the way we hold our love and admiration for this industry, we started our videos series, collaborated with some of the most amazing and talented people, drank amazing beer, celebrated more“

Team values reinforced!

Another example was during the 2012 fire, when the Brewery and pub were closed for three weeks.  The staff’s pay was continued during the closure.

There’s no question that those who want a good brewpub experience have a multitude of options in Portland, but this 12/7/18 Yelp review summarizes the composite experience well and illustrates why you should drop by and say “hello” to Adam and his team:

“Delicious brews and FIRE pizza! The space is large but cozy. I was recently there for a work event and the food was AMAZING plus the service was top notch. Their bartender Tony got our 20+ person party drinks quickly and he was SO FRIENDLY – not the usual response to large parties in PDX. The vibes were great! Of course, I’ll be back!”

Old Town Brewing                   5201 NE MLK BLVD

New Energy and Ideas at Old Town Brewing

Old Town Brewing’s brewery and taproom on MLK Blvd – photo ,courtesy of Old Town Brewing

Notwithstanding the fact that there are many thriving breweries in Oregon, the micro-craft business in Oregon – it ranks fifth in the US for the number of breweries per capita – is extremely competitive.

An eastside mainstay closes its door in early 2019

This is evidenced by the closure of three major players in the Portland brewing scene just in the last several months – Alameda, Bridgeport and Burnside.  (Click on the links on the names of the last two to see Thebeerchaser’s reviews.)

And Widmer Brothers, the Lompoc Tavern and Portland Brewing have also closed their pubs – gone, but not forgotten as good places to raise a mug.

Bridgeport joins the legendary Slab Town in closing its doors in NW

While some not familiar with the brewery business, have a dream of establishing their own operation based on their enjoyment from home brewing, it takes considerable planning, risk tolerance and devotion to long hours and meeting challenges to sustain a successful brewery or pub – and there’s also the initial capital to even open it.

Backwoods Brewings’ second location in the Pearl District

That is why I have so much respect for the entrepreneurial spirit of some of my favorites including Mark Becker of Flyboy Brewing, the Waters family of SW Washington’s Backwoods Brewing and Jim Mills’ from Caldera Brewing in Ashland – and these are just a few.

Add to those, Adam Milne, the founder and owner of Old Town Brewing (hereafter OTB) in Portland.  I had dinner and beer with Adam and lawyer, Carson Bowler, on my second visit to Old Town’s operation in NE Portland – the brewpub and actual site where they brew their six flagship beers in addition to a number of limited batch seasonal brews.

By the way, due to the breadth of the story of Adam Milne and Old Town Brewing, it will be covered in two separate blog posts rather than the customary one narrative.

Adam Milne – young entreprenauer

The original, and now companion location is the well-known historic Old Town Pizza site.  And the story is interesting and fulfills a dream – similar to those of the people mentioned above in their enterprises.  Adam first visited Old Town Pizza when he was only nine years old.  It was owned by the Accaurdi family who opened it in 1974.

“It was in the historic Merchant Hotel in Old Town and a hub for like-minded people with a radical agenda. It stood as a beacon for the local community; a place to break bread and enjoy your neighbor.”  (Old Town Brewery web site)

That visit had an impact and demonstrates this young entrepreneur’s vision since he bought Old Town Pizza in 2003 when he was only in his early thirties – 33 to be exact.

He subsequently expanded to NE Portland on NE Martin Luther King Blvd in 2008, where he built the brewery and pub.  Assistance came in the form of a low-interest loan from the Portland Development Commission in its effort to promote enterprise close-in NE Portland.

It now houses, in 6,000 square feet, an attractive and bustling brewpub in addition to their brewing hardware and canning/bottling equipment.  Adam and his family live in the same neighborhood.  This review will focus on the NE location rather than Old Town Pizza brewpub which is still located on Second and NW Davis Streets.

Those who view the story on the OTB website will see that the enterprise, since that time, has had two major expansions and thus may conclude that it’s been a smooth ride for this native of Marcola, Oregon, but that’s not the case.  He graduated from Mohawk High School – with twenty-one other classmates in his senior class.

In 2003, to raise the capital to purchase Old Town Pizza, Adam mortgaged the equity in his home and sold a rental house to make the down payment.  Only one month into the new venture, their primary refrigerator went out – they had no cash to replace it.  He had to buy all new refrigeration and new pizza ovens.   When I asked how they resolved, Adam chuckled and said, “I suppose that’s what credit cards are for!”

Attractive recovery from the 2012 fire in the second story

Then there was the fire upstairs at the NE brewpub in 2012, which resulted in closure of the pub for two to three months.

Many people are also familiar with Adam’s battle with the City of Portland over the Old Town Breweing trademark – the iconic “leaping white stag” – which was not only stressful, but the multi-year legal battle, resulted in significant attorney fees before OTB eventually prevailed and settled with the City.

Source of mult-year legal battle…

On both of my visits to OTB, I was accompanied by Carson Bowler, a partner at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm and with whom I had the pleasure of working for a good portion of my 25 years at the firm.

Starting in 1990 and for four years, while at the U of O, Carson lived in the same fraternity – Sigma Nu – as Adam.  Carson also bears a strong resemblance to former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Art Vandely, President of Vandely Enterprises.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/01/31/beerchaser-of-the-month-art-vandelay/

Art Vandelay in his executive role has a different legal perspective…

This environmental attorney has enjoyed his friendship with Adam and stated:

I’ve known Adam for more than twenty-five years.  We were in the Sigma Nu house and his reputation then was that he was the nicest guy in the fraternity.  Unfortunately, that reputation was accurate. 

One could never lie to, or ‘borrow’ from or prank Adam without the everlasting worry that God, Himself would punish any such shenanigans with eternal damnation. 

Adam always had one great idea too many until he didn’t and launched Old Town Brewing.  It was in this enterprise that his ambition, good taste, generosity and entrepreneurial spirit blissfully collided to produce pure-love in a pint.  Adam makes good beer because only good things come from Adam.”

We will get back to Adam in the second blog post, but first let’s talk about their quarters in NE Portland.  The architect was another Sigma Nu at Oregon, Eric Aust, now practicing in Newport Beach, CA and who specializes in custom residential and commercial development.

https://www.austarchitect.com/old-town-pizza

He succeeded in making Old Town Brewing one of the most impressive and comfortable brewpubs I have visited in seven and one-half years of Beerchasing.   Thebeerchaser is not conversant with technical design concepts and themes, but I know what I like and that was definitely the case with the environment at OTB.

While some of the new breweries and brewpubs in the Pearl are sleek and modern-industrial, the OTB building is rustic – large fireplaces, dark wood and a home-grown Northwest ambiance.  And there are interesting historic photos as can be seen below.

For example, most of the wood in the two-story structure is reclaimed from an old tobacco warehouse in Kentucky.  When we were touring,Adam stated, “You can still smell tobacco,” – (well, at least somebody without the sinus issues that plague me probably could….)

The round barrel tables are former sewing machine stands purchased from an antique store in nearby Aurora.  The bar and backbar are very attractive and there are a variety of seating options.

Attractive bar

Okay, ambiance is nice, but what about the beer?  OTB fares very well in that category which is evidenced by the extensive list of awards on their website dating back to 2013:

https://www.otbrewing.com/dock-sales

I will cover the beer in significantly more depth as well as the food and the trademark battle and show some of the pictures from my first visit – this time with two lawyers – the aforementioned Carson (not Washington) and his fellow lawyer in the Schwabe Natural Resources GroupBrien Flanagan, the Group Leader.

Bowler and Flannagan

Old Town Brewing        5201 NE Martin Luther King Blvd