Contemplating Life and Beer in the Fall

Contemplating Life and Beer in the Fall

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

As I’ve stated before – belabored if you will – in two previous blog posts, I’m not a connoisseur or beer technology guy and my palate is not nuanced enough to discern the subtleties of beer flavor and criteria used to evaluate them in competitions such as the Great American Beer Festivalhttps://thebeerchaser.com/tag/thebeerchaser-and-the-taste-of-beer/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/01/07/leaving-2020-in-good-taste/

I certainly respect those who do have a grasp on the different elements of flavor including brewers such as Fr. Martin at the Benedictine Brewery, Mark Becker from Flyboy Brewing and Andrew Lamont, the Head Brewer at Old Town Brewing.  

Andrew Lamont of Old Town Brewing *1

Another guy who is an expert and writes great reviews on Bavarian beers is Rich Carbonara, who has a great blog entitled “Beerwanderers.”  Rich, who lives in Munich, and I connected through our blogs and I would love to have him guide me on one of this noted Bavarian Beer Hikes which you can read about on his blog.  (There’s more than 300 in Bavaria.)

Rich, in his narratives, evaluates each beer giving a summary of its taste, appearance, aroma and critical elements.  His descriptions are not so esoteric that they can’t be understood by someone who evaluates the quality of a beer by the way it tastes to them rather than a technocratic assessment. You will see more about Rich below. (* See end of post for external photo attribution)

And Then There’s Gimmicks

The typical beer-drinker doesn’t care whether the yeast is wild or domesticated, the type of hops, if it is barrel-aged or the attenuation percentage during fermentation. 

As I stated in my posts on the taste of beer, I’m also kind of a beer purist and have no use for beers which are brewed as a gimmick.  This bizarre trend was best summed up by a reviewer 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.     

When creativity goes too far

And they’ve even tried to pollute ice cream with this misguided attempt at creativity. In an effusive July 2021 press releaseKraft Foods and van leeuwen Ice Cream reported that:

“We are releasing limited-edition, macaroni and cheese-flavored ice cream today. If you’re looking for a conversation starter to kick off a meeting…this could work well.”

Let’s all hope that the term “limited release” is meant literally.

Focus on the Basics

Although the term “style” can be subject to some debate as pointed out by one of the nation’s foremost beer experts.  Jeff Alworth is a Northwesterner living in Portland; however, his books on beer – most notably The Beer Bible and his blog “Beervana” are resources used by beer aficionado’s all over the country.  He also teaches at Portland State University.

His comments about styles in The Beer Bible are edifying:

“When people refer to style, they mean category of beers like stouts, dunkels, lagers or witbier.  The word is ubiquitous and spreads yearly like a fungus as new subcategories and sub-subcategories branch out from their root style…….

The one very important caveat to note is styles are constantly in flux.  The idea of style should be descriptive not prescriptive….Use the term, but don’t fix it in stasis.”

That said, the most critical factors to me (for totally different reasons) are ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and IBUs (International Bittering Unit).  Alworth defines ABV as:

“…expressed as a percentage.  A measure of the strength of of an alcoholic beverage, based on the volume of alcohol relative to total volume.”

*5

Knowing the ABV of your beer is critical if you are driving or plan to drink throughout the evening.  In Oregon, one is Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if the Blood-Alcohol-Content (BAC) is .08% or higher.  While disclaiming that the sentence below is definitely not legal advice, one credible source states:

“On any given day, considering your body size, weight, and several other internal factors, you may have two or three 12-ounce beers before reaching a BAC of .08.”

A few bars have even installed a coin-operated breathalyzer including these two which were provided by Portland’s Gil’s Speakeasy (home of  “the Nicest A-holes in Town…”) and Bottles

While it would not be advisable to depend on this machine (which may not have been calibrated for awhile and may not be advisable in a COVID environment anyway) it could be a good double check of one’s own common sense.

IBU’s are defined by Allworth as “the accepted system for describing the hop bitterness (hoppiness) of a beer.”  The higher the IBU, the hoppier the beer, although he again issues a disclaimer: 

“….many breweries don’t actually have the labs to measure the acids chemically and predict them using mathematical formulae (to call this prediction ‘inexact’ is kind)….while hoppiness is a combination of flavor, aroma and bitterness, IBU measures only the last.”

IBU’s – for many breweries — an inexact science *6

To provide some perspective, I’m showing the ABV of a few of my favorite NW beers (and also PBR) below.  The IBU is shown when available.  You will see that I am inclined to go with the less hoppy options:

More on ABV

Beer ABV IBU
Pfriem Brewing – IPA 6.8% 50
Migration Brewing – Pale Ale 5.8% 55
Benedictine Brewing – Black Habit 7.8% NA
Block 15 Brewing – Sticky Hands Double IPA 8.1% 110
Fort George Brewing – City of Dreams Pale Ale 5.5% 40
Pabst Brewing (SAB Miller) – Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) 4.7% NA
Flyboy Brewing – Fighting Redtails 9.0% 90
Sun River Brewing – Rippin NW Pale Ale 6.0% 50
Old Town Brewing – Paulie’s Not Irish Red Ale 5.60% 30

In reading Rich Carbonara’s aforementioned blog, I was interested in some of his comments about the ABV’s of various German beers he reviewed. He commented on one of the beers he reviewed: “The finish is clean and dry with a nice bitterness. Dangerous at 5.3%. (emphasis added)

Given the chart above, I was a little surprised by this characterization so I exchanged e-mails and he clarified with the following interesting perspective – another reason why I think Rich’s blog is worth following:

“Most beer here, hover around 5%. It’s always been the benchmark percentage. The feeling here is you want a beer you can drink a fair amount of without getting drunk. In Biergartens, you can only get liter mugs (at least at night) and obviously drinking stronger beer in that size vessel is dangerous.

I know, during Starkbierzeit (see note below) they serve 7-8% beers in such measures. So, you have you have some stronger beers (Bocks, Doppelbocks, Festbiers) but generally speaking, it’s about 5. If anything is really missing here, it’s lower octane offerings like Schankbier which is more in the 3-4% range.

In England, you still find things like Milds, though less so than in former times. It’s nice to be able to go out and drink 8-9 beers and not get really drunk. Have a look at my Beer Styles section, where you’ll get a feel for the ABV of various styles here.”  https://www.beerwanderers.com/beer-styles/

*7

Note:  “Starkbierfest is held for three weeks during Lent, between Carnival and Easter,[82] celebrating Munich’s ‘strong beer’. Starkbier was created in 1651 by the local Paulaner monks who drank this ‘Flüssiges Brot’, or ‘liquid bread’ to survive the fasting of Lent.[82] It became a public festival in 1751 and is now the second largest beer festival in Munich.”  Wikipedia

And Speaking of Giving Someone Else Your Keys…

I was, however, surprised to read recently that Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) is going to break the mold, with this year’s release of its Utopias Beer as reported by CNN Business on 9/21.  Now, don’t try to get one of these 25.4 bottles in Oregon or ……

“The brewer releases a new version of its Utopias brand every two years, and the twelfth edition will be on shelves starting Oct. 11. But don’t bother looking for it in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia.

Utopias are illegal in those states because they contain 28% alcohol by volume, more than five times the potency of typical US brews.”

(These beers may be blissful, but not Utopia(s)!

And Finally….

Regardless of whether you make a point of checking out the ABV of your beer, be cautious driving when you are hitting your favorite bar or brewery – especially around Halloween and the forthcoming holidays.

When I started Beerchasing, I decided to be cautious and as an extra check, purchased my own breathalyzer.  The BAC Track S80 you see below now costs $130, but at that time was less expensive.  (I guess the demand became higher during the pandemic.)  

An Investment Worth Considering

I’ve never come close to the .08% threshold, but felt it was a good investment given my retirement hobby.  There are pros and cons to this idea and according to The Atlantic article, less than 1% of the US population has one.  If you do get one, be sure to have it calibrated or it may defeat the purpose.

In any event, drink responsibly and drive carefully.

Cheers

By the way, how about the Oregon State Beaver Football Team.  According to Oregon Live, “It’s not known the last time OSU had sole possession of first place in the conference standings, but it’s at least not since 1975.” 

Go Beavs! Beat the WSU Cougs.

External Photo Attribution

*1  Old Town Brewing Website (https://www.otbrewing.com/aboutus)

*2 – 4  Beerwanderers Website (https://www.beerwanderers.com/)

*5  Wikimedia Commons (http://By Lynnea Kleinschmidt – Digital photograph made by myself., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6091802

*6  Wikimedia Commons (http://By Schlemazl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22601592

*7  Wikimedia Commons (http://By holzijue – https://pixabay.com/de/menschen-oktoberfest-m%C3%BCnchen-3237513/ archive copy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69055677)

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