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)

Beechaser Miscellany –

The Origins of Dirt – Followers of this blog may remember reading about how the nickname “Dirt” was bestowed on me as a freshman at Oregon State University.  And when my younger brother, Rick, started at OSU living at the same fraternity two years after I graduated, they named him “Dust.”  To see the origin of the story, check this link about Cracker Jack’s Pub in Portland.

The Origin of Dirt

The moniker Dirt has stuck all these years as you may be able to discern from looking at the blog header above.  I therefore chuckled when I saw the truck above in Lincoln City from the Rogue Brewery a few weeks ago.  The length of the trailer had this phrase, “Beer begins in the dirt.”

It’s Rogue’s campaign to promote the agricultural component of their brewery ranging from growing hops, wheat and corn to raising free-range chickens and pot-bellied pigs. http://legacy.rogue.com/roguefarms/

Update on Brewing by the Monks at the Abbey in Mount Angel

The Benedictine Brewery is moving forward in anticipation of opening in late spring with the Taproom ready for visitors in June.  Stay tuned and come down to see us at the Mount Angel Abbey St. Benedictine Festival which will be held on the Abbey Hiltop on Saturday, July 7th.

It’s a beautiful and historical location and you can look forward to ” an afternoon of great food, drink and things to do that are inspirational, educational and just plain fun.”

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/07/26/father-martin-grassel-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/

Check the link above to read about the Benedictine Brewery’s  Head Brewer and mastermind of the project (in addition to being this blog’s Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter last summer – Father Martin Grassel.)

Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter Update

Followers of this blog also know about my effort to highlight one person or group each quarter by bestowing the “honor” of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter four times each year.

Past recipients of this award include authors, war heroes, athletes, media personalities and other interesting folk that may or may not have anything to do with bars and beers.  (See the tab at the header to see a list of all former B-O-Q’s and click on their names to see the entire story of the three featured below.)

Amy Faust (4/11/17) Amy and her co-host, Mike Chase who are on the air from 5:30 AM to 10:00 each weekday morning on KWJJ -The Wolf are award winners and I mean National Awards.  The duo was named the Country Music Association Major Market Personality of the Year.

“The CMA Broadcast Awards are among the most prestigious awards given out in the field of Country Radio…..

(They) are judged on air-check ratings, community involvement, format leadership and biographical information.”  (We don’t know if Amy’s ability to play the mandolin was a factor in the last category….)

They received the honor on stage in Nashville, Tennessee when the November ceremony was televised nationally on ABC.

Perhaps radio management realized this was another reason why replacing them with a syndicated robot DJ in 2012, after they had been on the air for thirteen years, was a mistake and reaffirmed the decision to bring the pair back to the air in 2014.

Jay in his earlier rugby years

Jay Waldron  ( 3/29/16)  Portland lawyer, Jay, was named to the US Rugby Association’s Hall of Fame at the 2017 induction ceremony in San Diego.  To see why this honor was well deserved, check out the link.

You can also find out why he will never receive the same award from the US Boxing Association even though his ring (and IM Football) name at the University of Virginia was, “The Dancing Bear.” 

 

The Dancing Bear

 

 

Dwight “The Godfather” Jaynes (12/13/16) Dwight and Aaron Fentress started a new talk show which is broadcast on both radio and television each weekday from noon until 3:00 PM on  “NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio”

They’re a good combination and their debates show some real knowledge of both current and past events and personalities in NW athletics that you won’t get on any other station.   Dwight also continues to serve as a regular panelist on “Talkin’ Ball” – broadcast after each Blazer game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put These on Your Book list

In an effort to expand my list of regularly read renowned authors such as Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky and ….David Balduci……, I successfully requested two new non-fiction works at Christmas.  They’re both excellent to this point although I’ve only read the first few chapters of each so far.

I first saw Drinking with the Saints – The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour by Michael Foley in the Mount Angel Abbey Bookstore when I was there working on the Benedictine Brewery.

The book has a Catholic focus although readers (like Thebeerchaser) who are not Catholic  will also find it educational and entertaining.

Just take a few examples in the first twenty + pages and you can see why I am using my yellow highlighter when I read it. (And any book which quotes G.K Chesterton is a must…)

“As our Episcopal brethren like to say, ‘Where two or three are gathered in His name, there is a fifth.”  (Forward – Page x)

G.K. Chesterton – poet, writer, theologian, etc. etc. etc.

“And I am in accord with G.K. Chesterton, who is said to have converted to Catholicism because it was the only religion that could reconcile the pipe, the pint and the Cross……..”   (Forward – Page iX)

“A Franciscan and a Jesuit, both fond of the drink, wanted to have a draught while they prayed the Breviary, and so they asked permission from their superiors.  The Franciscan was turned down because he asked if he could drink while he prayed, but the Jesuit’s request was granted because he asked if he could pray while he drank.”  (Introduction – Page xvii)

Foley has toasts, blessings, a glossary and how to make some great cocktails.  One of the first is the “Monk.”  (1 ½ oz. of gin, ¾ oz. of lemon juice and ¾ oz. of Benedictine)  “Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.” (Page 6)

The Beer Bible is written by author and blogger (Beervana), Jeff Alworth, a Northwest guy who has written about beer for over fifteen years including several books and whose blog has a national audience.

I am an expert on bars but not on beer, so I have eagerly become engrossed in the chapters detailing the different styles of beer, the history of the beverage and how to store, serve and taste beer like an expert.

The Military

We should all be thankful for the sacrifice and service of our military personnel.   There is no need to have a parade down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C. for us and other nations to understand the might and toughness of our military infrastructure and the quality of the men and women who serve.

However, like any large bureaucracy, there are many mistakes, humorous stories and facts which are stranger than fiction that are part of the ongoing story of the United State’s fighting forces.

Brothers Garry and Don Williams

My two brothers and I are veterans and we encountered  these during both training and while on active duty.

The story of my late brother, Garry, calling home when he was singing at the White House in 1972 and stood next to President Nixon when he was there with the West Point Glee Club still makes our family chuckle.

Garry (3rd from left) and the West Point Glees Club at the White House with President Nixon in 1971

Youngest brother, Rick, who like Thebeerchaser, graduated from the OSU NROTC program, became an underwater hard-hat diver and ultimately the skipper of a nuclear submarine the USS Spadefish (SS 668). 

He surfaced through the ice at the North Pole a couple of times among other adventures when the Cold War was still frigid.   He also has many stories, but still maintains he would have to kill me if he related them to me.

Captain Rick Williams at Spadefish change-of-command ceremony

But a recent article from the 2/15/18 Washington Examiner entitled, “Navy Acknowledges Air Crew Drew Penis in the sky over Washington,” caught my attention.  It was a Northwest story about an electronic warfare plane based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.  (The link above has a photo.)

The two-person crew was grounded pending an investigation after they, “….created skywriting in the shape of male genitals in the skies over Okanogan, Washington……Witnesses took photos and posted them on social media platforms (of course!) and they were widely viewed.”

The righteous indignation in the Navy’s response and apology statement is worth reading.  No word on whether the recalcitrant crew collected on a bet from their fellow pilots which might mitigate the effects of the punishment.  And how many discrete toasts to the pilot were there that night in the Officers’ Club for his creative use of the “joystick.”

And this one about the German Navy written by Tyler Rogoway December 23, 2017, in The Drive entitled, “The German Navy Decided to Return Their Bloated New Frigate to the Ship Store This Christmas,” makes one wonder when an exec from a military contractor will write a “tell-all” about some of the horror stories emanating from the manufacture of these technology-driven land, sea and air behemoths.

Another example – according to a 3/18/18 story in Seeking Alpha “The Pentagon estimates it will cost nearly $16B to modernize the fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets through 2024, including $10.8B for software development and $5.4B for deploying the updates.”

New German Frigate

The aforementioned German frigate (Baden-Wurttemburg class) which in size, although not armament and technology, is similar to the US Navy Destroyers – the “Tin Cans” which served heroically during World War II.  It was constructed by a three member consortium of German defense contractors.

Well this new ship because of its advanced technology including “an advanced command and control communications installation based around an open architecture concept and has a 360 degree surveillance and situational awareness system….,” is supposed to be able to have a crew component much smaller than ships of similar size and be able to deploy for a least two-years at a time i.e. it can sale very reliably.

However, during sea trials before commissioning of the ship, there were some real problems:  “A chronic list of 1.3 degrees to starboard…….(and) they are severely over weight.”  (like by about 356,000 pounds!)  And a few more technical problems like “There doesn’t seem to be enough internal volume to add a vertical launch system in the back of the ship’s main gun.”

The USS McGowan (DD 678) World War II Tin Can

Perhaps this account can make us feel a little less concerned when Vladimir Putin boasts about Russia’s capability to send nuclear missiles that could overcome any U.S. missile defense system – he used animated versions to illustrate the concept.

And it makes at least this guy have a renewed appreciation for the manner in which those World War II ships stayed in combat service.  For example, the Destroyer USS McGowan, which served valiantly in the South Pacific in World War II, with heroic engagements from Guadalcanal to Okinawa to the Leyte Gulf.

Websites

Since I use a lot of on-line resources to research and write this blog, I find it annoying when entering a brewery website and it has a question about whether the user is twenty-one years or over.  Of course, any enterprising minor regardless of how rules-oriented he or she is, probably won’t feel too guilty and “getting older,” to access the website.

Avery Brewery in Fort Collins

And ever wonder what happens if you answer that you are not of legal age.  I tried it with two of my favorite Colorado breweries – Avery and New Belgium – both in Fort Collins and also Oregon’s Rogue Brewery.

Avery takes a simplistic route and states piously and directly, “You must be new to the internet.”

New Belgium is more empathetic and states in large letters,Take Solace.”  It then goes on to console the minor that he or she will “someday be 21 years old,” and cites statutory prohibitions, but continues in the conciliatory vein by stating, “However, if you would like to learn more information about our brewery, our business practices or our Core Values…..contact us by phone or e-mail.” 

New Belgium Brewery

The e-mail address was not that of Shawn Hines who Janet met while he and his wife were touring a winery a few years ago on a visit to the Yamhill Valley.  He was high-up in the New Belgium exec ranks with a title of “Pharaoh of Phlow!”   Shawn invited us to tour the New Belgium facility when we were in Colorado – it was a wonderful tour.

The most innovative approach is that of Rogue which immediately upon the indication that the computer user is under age, redirects them to a website for Disneyland.   (Try it….) https://www.rogue.com/

This rant reminds me that another reason those warnings annoy me is that most have drop down menus for year of birth, and it takes me three “Page Downs” to get to mine!

And while on annoying  trends, how about the robo calls that start with a lifelike voice that states, “HI, I’m Kathy.  I hope you are having a good morning and just wanted to talk to you about your bathroom drains (Fill in the topic.)” About that time I interrupt Kathy (who keeps on talking) and tell her she should be in a holding cell because I realize it is a taped call.

Or how about those automated receptionists who answer your call with, “Please listen closely because our menu options have changed,” even though the last time they  modified them was in 1999.

This from a brief clip in The Week (a magazine which is a good source of news and irrelevant tidbits like this one) about Mya, an artificially intelligent “chatbot” who “can evaluate resumes, schedule and conduct applicant screenings and even congratulate you on your first day of work.”  If I had retired later, I might have avoided listening to all of those candidates reel off their boring strengths and weaknesses.

Tidbits

In my research (and since I’m retired) I save a lot of miscellaneous bits of information to share with others in the hope that they will appreciate my sometimes cynical sense of humor. They get thrown in a file folder or electronic file – sometimes without date or info to allow proper attribution, so please indulge me, but below are a few:

Has Mount Rushmore but evidently not enough micro-breweries

The Week (5/5/17) – “A South Dakota man was arrested after he pushed past police and firefighters and ran into his home to rescue his beer……..He emerged clutching two cans of Bud Ice Premium, but officers quickly cuffed him and charged him with obstruction. A police spokesman said (the guy) had demonstrated ‘poor judgment.’”  (At least there was no collusion.)

The Beer Celebrator(Fall 2017) – “America, it should be noted, has more breweries than colleges.” There is no source or data to back up this statistic, but perhaps they need more in South Dakota….)

Parade Magazine (no date) – Abe Lincoln, among his other qualifications, was a licensed bartender.

Concerned about a lot of trends…..

The Oregonian – George Will’s column – (1/3/16) – This conservative, but erudite columnist, railed against some trends in 2015 that he felt were ludicrous.  He was concerned that “The common thread is the collapse of judgment in, and the infantalization of society by government.” Below is one example:

“The University of Georgia said sexual consent must be ‘voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest.”

The Week (6/2/17) And finally, this one about the village of Wacken, Germany. They are “building a 4-mile network of pipes so that it can funnel beer to thirsty attendees at the world’s largest heavy-metal festival.  (75,000 attendees)  …….In previous years, tractor trailers have turned the fields into a giant mud pit…”

Pipeline Solution

This got me to ponder if corporate execs decided to change the focus of the much maligned and delayed Keystone Pipeline from carrying oil to beer, would they gain bi-partisan support and mitigate environmental concerns.  They wouldn’t even have to change the name…….

Cheers!