Thursday, December 4, 2008

Domestic Beer

I get asked this quite a bit: "Do you have any domestic beer?" In the true sense of the word, I most certainly do. "Domestic" has its origins in the Latin domesticus, from domus, house. So, yes I do have domestic beer, being that it travels the distance from the back of the house to the front. In fact, I have the only establishment for 50 miles that does so.

The Needs of the Few

There's a well-known scene in a well known science fiction movie in which a well-known pointy-eared individual raises the poser about whether and in which situations the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

So this guy walks into a bar. Or rather a pub. Mine, in fact. And wants to know whether a certain individual in the Tuesday night pool league could bring in his own beer, seeing as we don't serve "regular" beer in our pub. This certain individual apparently drinks a case of Keystone Light (or is that Lite?) a day and is unhappy with our selection. Now it has been obvious to anyone who wanders by on a Tuesday night that the large majority of the pool players really really don't want to be at our establishment. The standard trappings that surround pool league activities in small Oregon towns are conspicuously absent, among them being smoking and "regular" (or "domestic") beer. This is a jolt to the creature of habit. It's almost painful to watch this sullen crew from behind the bar, well-stocked with quality West Coast ales and our own six hand pulls.

Now, for the remainder of the pool league period (which is woefully too long at this point), I am being asked to stock fizzy canned rice-squeezin's just for one or two guys who pointedly inform me that they don't like my beer.

[Author takes deep breath]

The needs of the few. Hmmm. It is tempting to see a few wee happy faces on a Tuesday night, but, Keystone Lite? And just for a couple of guys for a couple more Tuesday evenings? I was informed that if I were to pick up a couple 12-packs, I could be making a bit more money if I did so. Doing the math here, I see that I could sell 14 cans of rice-water for $1 each, making $0.50 per can, so at the end of the night I could elevate my bank account by $7. Woot!

The more I think about it, the more I am liking the new Thursday night pool league that is starting up, which actually wants a smoke-free room and something real in a glass.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

AAAARRRRRRGGGHH! or Where Can a Man Get a Decent Shive Around Here?

All of you know what a shive is, of course. You are all discerning readers, you've been around the block a few times, traveled a bit, seen some stuff, read the occasional book, taken a few classes; all in all, smart people. All I'm asking is for one of you to politely inform me as to where to go and acquire myself a baggie of a few hundred plastic shives. And don't say Murphy and Son, because they seem to have discovered that the large body of water that separates us is too intractable a medium over which to distribute the nice yellow 52.3 mm units.

This is a giant country - 300 million people or so, from what I'm told. But you'd think I could find a little round piece of plastic to whack into my plastic casks. Apparently not, at least not the right kind. I managed to find a source over on the East Coast that provides the Eurobung shives (at right in picture), but the diameter at the sealing surface is 1 mm too much. They also have a peculiarly designed hole for the spile, which not only takes a more profound whack with the mallet to penetrate, but then engulfs too much of the spile making it difficult to gently remove so as to ascertain the conditioning of the beer

But the shive on the left - ahh, there is a shive to die for. At 52.3 mm at the sealing surface, they mate nicely with the plastic CypherCo firkins. I kept this last used unit as a memorial to what a great shive should strive to become.

So, for all you alert and discerning readers, please contribute to the proper sealing and venting of real ale casks in Oregon by dropping a few hundred workable shives into a cardboard box and mailing it to the Brewers Union Local 180 in beautiful Oakridge, Oregon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cheers to the Cascade Brewers Society

I just had to make a quick note here, amidst this desk full of brewery paperwork pileup, to thank the Cascade Brewers Society for coming up with the bus and 30+ punters to visit our little establishment on Saturday. For the statistics file, 115 servings (pints or halves) of real ale, brewed in-house, were served by 5:00 PM. All six of the beer engines were engaged, and I was pleased to hear from those in the group who were certified beer judges that all the ales were true to style.

Also for the statistics file, by the end of the evening 145 servings had been pulled, making a new pub record. This even beat the best of the visits by the fall fire teams, who will have to strive to do better next year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Bought a Sign For the City

It's up. Only took a couple of months, but it's up indeed. I had applied in August to the Oregon Travel Information Council for what they call a Tourist Oriented Directional Sign out on the main highway that winds from the Southern Willamette Valley to the Willamette Pass and beyond; four signs, actually, as they require two in each direction of the turnoff. As I had already thumbed my nose at conventional wisdom by not putting my pub and brewery out on the main highway, I thought that I'd see if we'd qualify as a tourist destination, such as a winery or a museum, and get some big signs put up to pull people off.

The State did issue me an approval, but required that the city put up an additional sign over the bridge to further direct the thirsty traveler my way.

There it is. Ain't it purdy?

Now I get to see how long it takes for the State to do their job. Ski season is quickly approaching, and I can't think of anything finer than a few rounds (see previous post) of real ale to top off a lovely day on the slopes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The customers last night inadvertently reminded me of something (one of many) that I really miss about the UK, and that is, namely, The Round. I'm trying to recall if I've even seen a single session of rounds since I've opened just over three months ago. Sure, you get the one member of a party that volunteers to cover the entire tab after a meal and a few drinks, which is invariably paid with a credit card. But, The Round; it is a beautiful thing, full of nuance and subtlety, and it involves beer. I don't now why I find this interesting, but there it is - 5500 miles away a group of lads will come up to the bar with 20 pounds sterling and order four pints, which will be consumed roughly at the same pace. Then, by the Mysterious Round-Selection Algorithm, another of the party will do the same. And so forth. And so on. But, alas, over here in the Colonies I have to record randomly selected beverages and food items on a piece of paper, to be paid for either before or after The Meal by a credit card (again).

I often am left with the impression that perhaps we don't have a culture, this being a subject which I often think about but find myself unable to articulate in writing. Where are these rituals that define us? Oh, I know they are there, but they have an arbitrary, intertwined quality, as if still struggling to assemble into a cohesive pattern. In September when the firefighters were out and about in force, and thankfully supporting my pub, I struggled through the complications of figuring out just who was going to cover who's tab at the end of the night amongst 20 or so random and circulating government contractors. I have to admit to witnessing numerous acts of generosity, but not a single definable and namable expression of said.

I'm presently sitting at the High Street Cafe in Eugene, Oregon. They have food, WiFi, and beer, of which I could write stories about (along with my impressions and opinions of McMenamins). I lurk by myself, sitting in the nice corner seat by the bathrooms (yes, I know there is no bath in there). I'm not buying anybody a round. Why? Because I'm playing the frantic businessman on a resource-run to the local city, using the spare moments to write a potentially useless blog about a ritual that only works when all are in agreement and share an engaging tradition. In other similar situations, given a society of social gray matter, I might be inclined to buy a round. Too bad that the staff would not be impressed with a representative of a group of blokes ambling up to the bar every 34 minutes with a 20 dollar document of legal tender for yet another round. Let's just run a tab. (Author rummages for credit card).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bob drank his first "dark beer" tonight

Bob doesn't like beer. He told me this a couple of times this afternoon, as I worked the full day-long shift at my pub. He had always disliked the fizzy beer, for decades, but drank some (and poured some on the ground when not in the crosshairs) so he could be out with the boys, play a little pool, walk the walk, do what it is that the guys do in a small Oregon town.

Bob drank a cask-conditioned porter tonight. I told him I wouldn't tell anyone, but maybe I was just talking in jest. No last names have been given, after all.

Our country has a "black" president-elect. Bob drank a "black" beer. And while Bob reacted favorably to the flavor of the beer, and the quality of the brew, and the gentleness of the carbonation, hopefully (before my analogy breaks down) I would wish that the disdain or prejudice against the unknown, against a color, might have been eroded just a wee bit. Maybe, just maybe, we have a little flavor going on here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bad Beer? A Very Important Question

A recent blog I was reading by some guy who has a rural inn in Cumbria reminded me of a question, or rather a statement, that has been periodically and emphatically uttered by one of the prominent local beer enthusiasts.

Here is is --> "There is no such thing as bad beer".

By application of the laws of reason, this may be restated as "all beer is good."

I can't go there. Is there no room for objectivity when it comes to beer? I would hope so. If I were to throw 1 Kg of Maris Otter into 2 BBL of boiling water, ferment it out, and serve it to ANYBODY, I believe it would be a non-starter. So what if one guy out of 8 billion were to like it, it is still objectively a really, really bad pint. Now I'm not talking about a beer that has soured or otherwise wandered off the straight and narrow, but one that was intentionally deivered into this world by brewers that supposedly have pulses and want to keep their jobs.

I haven't tried the new Budweiser American Pale yet, and I suppose to be fair I should, but I can't help but think it is going to be a bad beer, to the distant cries of objection to my blatant a priori.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Way Too Calm Around Here

I suppose everyone is home now doing their last minute voting. Oregon has some interesting laws: you can't pump your own gas, there's no sales tax, and you get to vote by mail. This last one, I'm convinced, is what is keeping people at home, instead of patronizing their local. While the voters' pamphlets and ballots were mailed out weeks ago, many of us (I'm convinced) have just filled it out this morning over a pot of tea and some eggs and B.

I did. Well, I had coffee. Good coffee.

I've seen numerous stories in the press about pre- and post-election anxiety. This particular form of anxiety is described as "gripping" people, like some sort of industrial-grade adhesive, or a robot homunculus with it's frenzied oversized fists. But for me, it's not the State or National elections that are the concern. I'm more interested in the outcome of the local City Council, for which I'm not eligible to vote as I live outside the city limits. It will be the results of this contest that may have the most impact on local jobs, quality of life and overall civic demeanor. And I don't see how propping oneself up in front of the tube day in and day out watching CNN is going to make any whiff of difference.

They say that in periods of recession and times of national disquiet, people consume more beer. But bits of folding money are also a factor, and it's up to the president to fix that, or so they say. I think it's up to individuals exercising their personal responsibility. And their personal responsibility also extends towards supporting their local brewery.

I'm still waiting out that new IPA I put on this weekend. I think the strange odor is coming from the yeast - some sort of esters that need to mingle with the other beer molecules for a few more days. Perhaps it might be a fitting post-election brew.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pesky Finings

The post-24-hour-stillage tasting produced a pint of a somewhat cloudy offering that smelt a bit like fish guts. I either messed up the finings and adjunct, or am pulling a bit out of the yeast bed. I drew another right now and am working through the rigors of a proper investigation. I suspect that with a 5.8% IPA, I might need to cellar it a bit more to bring it to maturation.

After a few more pints, though, I might be delving into the meat of the cask where better results are to be found. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another 180 - Fuggles and Goldings Oust Cascades

In a cart-before-the-horse move, I'm submitting blog post numero uno about a beer I haven't tasted yet. I had originally crafted a superb piece on Web 2.0 for my first ever at the age of 44 blog post ever (ever) and had to stash it away because it looked dumb the next day after a quick  read.

This beer that I haven't tasted yet, but want badly to write about, was just rolled onto the stillage, giving the finings a good stir. And I want to tap it now but know better. In another of my affronts to the citrusy West Coast IPA, ABV 6.7%, hopped up with palette numbing Cascades overkill, I have brewed a 2 UK BBL batch containing 3 Kg Fuggles, 2 Kg E. Kent Goldings, and 1 Kg Hallertau. Now I'm not trying to say that citrusy West Coast IPA, ABV 6.7%, hopped up with palette numbing Cascades overkill is not a good thing. I love the stuff. But where is the subtlety? Most breweries popping up in Oregon are brewing the same thing: [name of pet dog] Pale, [local geographic landmark] Porter, [obscure political reference] Stout, and [aggressive language] IPA (citrusy, ABV 6.7%, hopped with palette numbing Cascades overkill). And did I mention cold, gassy, and in a dimunitive 16 oz tumbler containing 14 oz of beer?

But not Dearth and Surfeit, at ABV 5.8% and two weeks old. It certainly won't be cold and gassy, and being housed in the proper lined glassware which is in turn housed in a proper public house, I have to ask myself "what could go wrong?"

Tonight. Yes, tonight will be the visit to the cellar with the tap, spile and rubber mallet. The pint glass. The eager palette.

Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow the horse will be inserted in traditional orientation relative to the cart, and with pint glass in hand I can wax eloquent on Real West Coast IPA. Either that or edit that Web 2.0 post.