Friday, December 24, 2010

There and Back Again

This last week was consumed with traveling to Upstate New York and back, my old stomping grounds. It was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, which cleverly coincided with mine and my sister's birthdays. Outbound was a drive to Portland for the red-eye involving Houston and Newark before landing at the diminutive Ithaca Tompkins Regional (used to be County) Airport. The return, given Delta's reluctance in getting airborne when scheduled, involved cramming us into standby's that featured Detroit and Atlanta before getting back to Stumptucky. I was reminded of a story by The Onion whilst in transit. Needless to say, I took any opportunity I could to sample a refreshing beverage.

There certainly are more options in Ithaca than when I left there almost 20 years ago. Names like Saranac, Southern Tier and Magic Hat were evident. It was good so see that the Ithaca Beer Company was still around, and my perception was that the brews were better than the last time I was in the area around five years ago. If only they wouldn't serve them so cold. The old Chapter House, which actually housed a small brewery back in the late eighties and early nineties dispensed the best pint I think I had while in Ithaca; the Ithaca Beer Company's Flower Power IPA. This was partially due, I think, to it being served at a decent temperature and not over-carbonated. It was also nice to see that they finally fixed the lights in the sign.

Back in Portland, I had a chance to visit a few places in search of cask, a concept lacking in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Bridgeport Ale House on Hawthorne was suggested by Mr. Beervana, and as I had never been there I gave it a go. The Bridgeport IPA on cask tasted just like the pint I had a couple years ago at the modernized restaurant and brewery on Marshall. There's something dry and metallic about it that puts me off a little. The Ebenezer, however, was decent. I didn't even mind the atmosphere that much. After hitting Powell's, I had to pop over a few blocks to the Deschuttes gaff, since I know it has decent cask. It did - a drop of the classic ESB. Measure was off, though, but I didn't complain about not getting my entire 0.5 liter as I didn't feel like getting glared at.

Next up is a (wishful thinking) return to England to revisit proper pubs and to refresh my palatte. Cash and check donations for the travel fund can be sent to the pub via USPS or hand-delivered.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I was just reading the latest issue of the Northwest Brewing News, and there is yet another of those Best Beers sections. Missing from this list, again, are Bitter and Mild and anything on cask. I did notice that Cascadian Dark Ale is now officially a style. Well, here at the brewery I invented a style called O.R.A. - Oakridge Red Ale - that is a hoppy dark red ale made from leftover sacks of hops and grains. I wonder how long it will take to get the style noticed, approved and copied.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Them There Holidays

A small but satisfying part of the day was spent cleaning beer lines and trundling casks around. The snows are falling, and the ski resort up the hill will be opening on Friday. This means that the Winter lineup, as chaotic as it has been in the past given the size of our brewery and the amount of traffic that passes through here this time of year, is starting to take shape. First off, I tried again to make a Morland Old Speckled Hen Clone like I did last year. The results were better, what with actually using the specified ingredients instead of making a couple of substitutions. I'm having a pint right now.

Next up is our Winter Seasonal. The first cask of Tanninbomb is on Pump Number 5 (tm). This year's version of the Oak-Aged English Old Ale came out with a much fruitier nose and flavor that last year. Go figure. Same ingredients. It was probably the fact that I was on a fourth generation pitch of Nottingham from the half-gallon mason jar archive that did the deed. I have a suspicion that there are some insurgent bacteria strains that worked their way in, giving it a hint of sourness that I find quite nice, but I'll leave that up to all the bacterium experts clogging the airwaves (blogwaves) these days. This will be my next pint.

The third tipple on the pumps is a rare cask of the Cavatica Stout from Fort George Brewery in Astoria. The Grateful Deaf guy has been driving firkins around the state, and we traded with a cask of the Grateful Deaf American Pale Ale. I had a pint of this on gas when I was up there in September, and I have to say that the cask version really shines over the colder fizzy version.

All of this is not to suggest that the other three pumps are bored silly. Good stuff on those as well. Also, Winter Grub fills the plates, including our new and improved Proper English Hand-Cut Chips. Also also, on Friday and Saturday there will be live holiday music, with Americana with Craig and Tom (and maybe Steve) on Friday, and Celtic (drinking) songs on Saturday with the Lads of Leisure. See you at the pub.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Experimental Beer

Inspired by the discussions on "experimental beer" here and here, I'm going to use up extra and leftover ingredients tomorrow (Sunday) to make something reddish, hoppy and slightly roasty. The BJCP fans will have fun with this one. I've just trolled through the millhouse and hop storage and made a list of what's been sitting back there and needs to be used, now that it's November and we're losing money and need to use up what we have. I now have a list of 6 grainy bits and 5 pellety and aromatic things that are going into the Big Copper. The ratios are fun to work out, but I trust that whatever happens, my alternate aphorism of "what could go wrong?" will grind into gear and something flavorful and fermentable will employ its magic in FV1.

My principle aphorism, by the way, is "if it ain't broke, fix it until it is". I'll be muttering both of these sayings during the rigors of the brew day. Now, if I can just decide whether to use the Mason jar of harvested California Ale Yeast (which I don't like as it's top cropping and doesn't let me observe the ale during fermentation) or the plastic tub of North Yorkshire yeast from the Grateful Deaf brew. I'll let you know. See you at the pub in a couple of weeks when we get to drink it and marvel at the simplicity of professional brewing. I'll be the first guinea pig.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Motley Crew

Yep. Another blog picture of casks lined up in the brewery. This time is special. Again. These casks, except for the brown plastic one on the end, are part of a Grateful Deaf brew project. A guest brewer by the name of Ken Fisher has been wanting to brew here for some time now, and that event is now a thing of the past. It was his recipe, and all the casks were provided so I didn't have to dip into my short supply for the regular batches. Some of them are stamped "Rogue", and there is an old Adnams and a Ringwood cask in there as well. I couldn't get the Adnams one clean, so substituted one of my own.

Ever since using the CypherCo plastic casks in England, I don't get that excited with the prospect of lugging around and cleaning stainless casks. They are too heavy for one thing. The older ones don't even have handles, so hauling them up to the second story on the stillage is a hernia waiting to happen. When I hoisted my last cask, the plastic cask, up to the cleaning sink after cleaning seven stainless ones, I had the experience akin to reaching into the fridge for the milk container thought to be full (and not) and crashing it into the shelf above. So light, friendly and stackable they are. And they roll well and have handles on both ends.

The formal unveiling of the Brewers Union Local 180 version of the Grateful Deaf American Pale Ale is to be tomorrow (Friday) at 4:00, but I have permission to put it on the board today. So I did. In fact, I'm sipping a half right now, and it's delicious. 5.2% ABV. The North Yorkshire yeast adds a nice subtle fruitiness. See you at the pub.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brewers's Fare

Casking-up day requires a certain amount of energy. All that exhausting five minutes of waiting between casks allows time for bothering the kitchen to provide the correct blends of proteins that pull one through. This time it was an experiment in spicy deep-fried meatloaf. I've paired it with a pint of malty special bitter, which brings out the gentle bite of the ketchup coating under the bitter batter made from our bitter. The mallet serves not only the purpose of knocking in shives and keystones, but also wards off intruders eager to rob me of my fare.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Our Fresh Hopped Beer

There's all this noise out here these days about these fresh-hopped beers. Festival after festival after festival. Release after release after release. Well, we've been growing some hops up the side of our rural Oregon house now for three years, and every year I insert an item on my multi-page list of stuff to do that I will indeed harvest some for a batch of beer that I hope people will drink. All eight casks. Gotta make a living somehow.

This year I managed to harvest 150g. I (really really) would've harvested more but the item didn't make it to the top of my list until, perhaps, too late. Notice the browning of the hops in the bucket. This might not be a Bad Thing (tm), though, as there was a nice aroma and lots of yellowy dandruff inside the cones. My wife, who purchased the rhizomes, can't remember what she bought, but they smelled a bit like Willamettes. Good enough for me to put in the copper.

My prior life as an engineer taught me to only change one variable at a time and measure the results. I broke this rule with this batch, as I've been starting a series of Best Bitters in which the finishing hop is the only changing variable. The original bitter, called "Wotcha" and weighing out at a hefty 4.4% ABV, went for two batches (4 UK BBL) this summer. A lovely pint, as I'm fond of saying. The batch that just hit the pumps today substituted 150g of Amarillo (thanks to Block 15 in Corvallis for selling me a little ziplock baggy of the stuff) for the 150g of E.K. Goldings that inaugurated the series. A break from tradition, methinks. And then the mystery hop got tossed in. Now we all have to drink it.

Oh, and I was also pitching a harvest of California Ale Yeast of my last batch of "This Time For Sure" (Hoppy Pale Liquid Refreshment) into the stew, so there are now three variables butting heads in the cask. I'm not so wild about this strain, which will be fodder for a future post. Drinkable? Yes, definitely. See you at the pub.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Other People's Brewpubs

Now that I'm back from five days away, and have gotten through a weekend indicative of the decline in trade typical of October and November, I'm going through my trip notes. This the first time I've been able to try some new (to me) brewpubs in the Seattle area. Here goes.

Big Time Brewing Company. Up near the University of Washington. Loved it. This is the kind of place you can plunk yourself down and hang out for a while, so I did. As mentioned in previous posts, I really like bar service, and enjoyed being able to drift up to the bar at will to acquire my next sample. Beers were nice. I ran into the head brewer for Pike here, who had just been at my pub a couple of weeks before on his way to Crater Lake, and arranged to meet him at the Pike Brewery the next day. I wished the ABV's were posted on the beer chalkboard.

Hales Ales. I've been wanting to go here for a while. I met the owner up in Portland at a Belmont Station festival, and was eager to give his joint a try. Joy of joys, the beer engine was tethered to a cask of Supergoose, which was superb. The other pint I had there was the H.S.B. on nitro, which was also above average and a real delight. Parking was a real nuisance. Hales has much more of a restaurant feel to it, but the lighting and the wood in the bar area was not too bad.

The Cask. Not open until 4:00. It was 2:00. Drat.

Pike. I've been there before, but not for a brewery tour by the head brewer himself. They dispense a pumped cask ale every Monday, and as there was some left on Tuesday when I was there I promptly tucked in. My British friends would be horrified at the typical cloudiness of the cask offerings in the Northwest, but flavor is not compromised. The 30 BBL brewery is a beautiful piece of engineering, with an interesting spiral staircase that has to be ascended and/or descended 33 times during the brewing process.

Elliot Bay Brewing in Burien. I popped in for a quick bite and pint before heading back south to Portland. Definitely a restaurant that brews its own beer. They used to have two beer engines, but was told one was broken. The working unit was allegedly a permanent fixture, and when I was there was dispensing (another) IPA. Very nice though.

One last stop in Washington was the Fish Brewing Company in Olympia. I've also been here many times before on the way through the I-5 corridor to wherever. They still had a single beer engine pouring, and as has been my experience in the past, the liquid dispensed is spot on room temperature. I slogged my way through a pint of the warm Oktoberfest and wouldn't recommend it. Why can't they spend a few dollars on a cooler and stillage for the cask, and make a nice bitter?

My next trip away needs to be to GMT+0, and soon. I know it's wishful thinking at this point, but I need to hold it out there as a future goal.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'll Be Back

I'll be back. That could mean a number of things. It might be a quote from a Sci. Fi. movie, which in this case it ain't. What it is is one of the finest utterances that a new customer can offer (another being "that was the best pint of beer I've ever had.") A friendly couple was down last night listening to music and having a few pints. Turns out they have walked a lot of the same parts of Northern England that I have, and knew what pubs, craic and ale are all about.In contrast, we sometimes get customers that are clearly unhappy that nobody is waiting their table, and that they have to go "ALL the WAY back to the bar" for another pint. A few have gone so for as to urge me, for the sake of the business, to change my operating model. I try to explain how the character and personality of a pub is diminished when the focus changes from a place to get together (oh, and maybe have a pint or two and some food) to a place where one goes primarily to have a meal. But when the wayfaring traveler comes through the door and settles in with a pint, a book and a content expression, all is well and the sun shines on the bemused countenance of humanity.

"I'll be back" is also an assertion that I have a high probability of achieving later in the week, as I'm about to head out for a needed few days away from the pub. It's nearly a certainty. I mean, I might just end up on a plane bound for Edinburgh, but that idea will no double consign itself to the dustbin of wishful thinking. As usual. There are things to be accomplished in parts far removed from the locus of daily exertion, such as the simple act of thinking without interruption, and I'm determined to get on with it. There are some lovely rural parts of Oregon and Washington to mess around with, and I'll be checking out some Seattle and Portland haunts that I've never been to come mid week. Perhaps I'll be in your gaff, settling in with a pint, a book and a content expression. See you at your pub.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I was in Eugene last night to pick up the new dray wagon that's replacing Green Jeep (deceased) and managed to get in some walking and pub crawling. My boots directed me at one point to Cornucopia on 17th and Lincoln for to see what was on the beer list. Over a pint of Lagunitas Saison (alas cold and fizzy, but satisfying) I encountered a copy of a Northwest brewpub guide sitting in a mini stack of books at the back "bar". I just had to thumb through the whole thing, since it was published in 1996. That's 14 years ago! I was struck by how much had changed. Many of the listed breweries no longer existed. Eugene at that point had six; only two of those listed survived. The Southern Oregon Coast had three, and now they are no more. The North Fork Brewing Company up near wee little Deming, Washington was listed as up-and-coming, and it's not only open but thriving in an unlikely location.

Now I really want to know why. What are the stories behind these ventures? What might I be able to learn that could help our little pub to survive? Having made it over two years in an "economic downturn", I'm much more aware of the number of things that can go wrong. Cash Flow. Taxes. Penalties. Staffing. Broken equipment. Stress. Long hours. It's a fragile business. These days the Internet, while useful in some ways, can be poison. A single bad comment or review will travel around the world before a good comment even gets its britches on. Nevertheless, a measured amount of determination and hard work will continue to be employed here. We have a nice little pub in a beautiful location. We have SPAM on the menu. We have proper pints of real ale. What could go wrong?

A new batch of porter will likely hit the pumps this weekend, and Tanninbomb is in FV1. See you at the pub.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I grew up reading Richard Scarry. My kids were subjected to it as well. Under certain circumstances I can still happily leaf through a volume of "HUCKLE CAT'S BUSIEST DAY EVER". Just what exactly this has to do with this post is still in question.

Mountain Bike Oregon brings a lot of people to town. They like bikes. They like trails. They like beer. On Thursday, as they head to Greenwaters Park to set up camp and get oriented, they find themselves becoming hungry and thirsty. Fortunately, there is a nearby pub that offers solutions to both. And even more fortunately, as we are sponsors of the event, each rider, guide and industry personnel gets a ticket for a free pint of our ale. There IS such a thing as free beer. It's obviously the first introduction to some to the goodness that is real ale, so a brief explanation is often required. I had one person come back up to the bar and yell "this beer is warm", to which I replied "free, too". He did manage to get through it anyway. That's the good news. The bad news that's also good news is that we're running out of beer again. The pumps certainly have been busy. A cask of Union Dew (as dispensed at the 2010 GBBF) was dispatched in two hours on Thursday, and the hoppy amber died shortly afterward. I now have to get back to brewing, as the brewery is full of empty casks that need washing and eventual filling.

The sad part of the busy weekend was the sudden passing of Green Jeep. Green Jeep has been with us for 15 years, leaving trails of motor oil as it has delivered casks to remote backwaters such as Corvallis and Portland in the last few years. Chef, having borrowed my car, was coming back from Eugene with the food run for the weekend when he was hit by a driver trying to shave off a minute or two on his way to the valley. Just why these things happen, along with the death of the ice machine, on a busy weekend, I'll never know. He's OK, recovering from some injury to his hand, and will be back on duty by the next weekend hopefully. Green Jeep will need to be replaced with a new dray wagon once we find out if the money I've been paying to the insurance company for 15 years will pay off.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Superannuation # 2

It's been two years to the day since the pub opened. I don't really remember those first few weeks. I do remember working almost all the time after that, often until two or three in the morning, until October when business started really slacking off. I had never run a pub and brewery before. What I learned about it I picked up in a foreign land, brewing beer, working an English bar, fixing stuff, and finding out what really goes on behind the scenes. But we're still here - amazing considering the economy and the unusual weather this winter and spring. And I'd like to write more about this, but I have to work the bar at noon and it's already 11:35 AM. Come visit us today and bring presents.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Who has the time for this? It's the busy season - no time to sit in a corner with a laptop and dribble some drivel. However, a pint was sounding pretty good, so off to the couch in the front parlor of the pub for a typing session of random bits and pieces.

Bit # 1: It's been two weeks since I was up in Portland at the Belmont Station for the OBF Fringe Fest. I didn't go to the OBF, since it's just too big and impersonal for my tastes. Much more fun to pull pints for the punters and rub shoulders with brewers and so forth. Two firkins of real ale were drained by 3:00 on Sunday. I'd never seen so many tickers and notebooks in one place.

Bit # 2: I visited some new places and some old while up in Stumptown. As for the new, I tried Migration, Coalition and Apex. Portland definitely has an architectural obsession with the big shiny metal and brick box motif. I hope they do well, but I'm still looking for cozy and 6 pints of session.

Bit # 3: I often wonder how many brewpub owners in this state wash dishes, bus tables and work their own bars.

Bit # 4: The Great British Beer Festival was this last week. There is evidence that a firkin of Union Dew from the Brewers Union survived the rigors of a Trans-Altlantic journey. I really need to get back over there someday.

Bit # 5: We're running out of beer. I'm brewing twice a week now to make up for the increased traffic and to prepare for the onslaught of Mountain Bike Oregon. Low ABV cask ale does sell.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Real Festival

I've been invited to the Oregon Brewers Fringe Fest this coming Saturday at the Belmont Station in Portland. Some beer was invited too. This sounded so like my kind of festival that I wrangled another couple days away from the pub. That's how it should be, really; a few days away every now and again. I like seeing the words "brewer" and "founder" in the listings. There should be some good elbow-rubbing and lore-exchanging going on.

As this last weekend's Mountain Bike Oregon event decimated by ready supply of firkins, I have to be careful of what to bring so as to keep the home front steadily supplied. I'm even brewing two days in a row this week, today and tomorrow, to make sure that all those empties get filled when I get back. The selection is going to be "Wotcha", a golden Best Bitter, ABV 4.4%, and "60 Love", a hoppy amber liquid refreshment, ABV 5.4%. This last one is exactly the same as the last batch of "This Time For Sure" that was poured at the Belmont Station back in April, but using 60 Lovibond Crystal instead of 15. This will be the first cask of the batch being tapped, so I'm hoping it doesn't turn out to be rubbish.

Friday, July 9, 2010


We had a well-behaved international motorcycle rally here back on the 26th of June. I just discovered some photos in my grainy iPhone archive. The other side of the street was equally endowed with well-loved machines. I didn't notice any Dneprs or Urals this year, but it might've been because I was pulling a lot of pints behind the bar.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adventures in Dry Hopping

I was gently prodded by another blogger last night that I hadn't blogged in a while. I knew that, and one of these days I'll explain why (hint: long hours). I do have a backlog of exciting and provocative topics in the queue. This is one of them.

Having ready access to firkins in their beautiful simplicity, seeing as I'm the guy that washes and fills them, I recently conducted raw science on levels of dry hopping in aforementioned vessels. As you all know but I'll say it anyway, dry hopping is a way of increasing the hop aromas in that pint that you are feverishly clutching. Here at the The Brewery I use Type 90 Hop Pellets, for reasons that for the time being will remain in my queue of unposted topics. These (hint: convenient and space-saving) objects are measured out and dumped into the cask prior to hammering home the shive. The last two batches of "This Time For Sure" (BJCP style designation: Hoppy Pale Liquid Refreshment) employed 50g of Cascade/firkin. Batch 3 was the victim of true science, for I bunged 100g in one of the eight casks, and another received 150g.

Take Home Lesson: Don't do it; unless you want to annoy the publican attempting to draw the first few pints. It clogs up the hop filter at the end of the tap, and seems to get stuck in other things as well. After a couple water rinses through the line and a few pints dispensed in the time-honored gravity method out of the cask, a normal state of dispense was achieved. The gravity pints, albeit delicious, were left with a thick green sludge at the bottom.

I'm brewing another batch today, since somebody drank the last eight casks. I think I'll try 75g/firkin this time, across the board.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Anticipation of Summer

It's not here yet. Last year at this time there was a bright shiny object up in the sky. Vitamin D was plentiful. Trails were dry. Campgrounds were full. The woods were heaving with happy boots, spokes, fishing poles and small watercraft. But sadly, we've lost our Winter season due to lack of snow and now our Spring and Summer has been delayed for six weeks due to a surfeit of precipitation. Nevertheless, in anticipation of the outdoor patio saturated with satisfied punters, I now have three session beers on the pumps, and will be brewing another probably this weekend. 20 oz. pints that are 4% and under usually sell for $4.50 here.

Currently pouring:

  • Cwrw Bach, a Welsh Mild, ABV 3.6%

  • Black Wooly Jumper, a Dry Irish Stout, ABV 3.7%

  • Bob's Yer Uncle, a Bitter brewed with a Belgian ale yeast, ABV 4.0%

along with the other usual suspects.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cargo, Revisited

Another trip to Portland, a month after the last one. Extraordinary. Sometimes it takes a couple of months before I can get away. I have yet another opportunity to revisit last month's fantasy, but I suspect I'll just forge ahead and do The Right Thing (tm) and deliver the goods as promised. This time I'm off to a Meet-the-Brewer event at the Green Dragon that I was talked into against my better judgment, and then another cask over to the friendly folks at Belmont Station.

I hope Portland is ready for this stuff. It's plain, ordinary, mundane session beer. Nothing ridiculous, over-hopped, mega-gravity or imbued with lynx droppings. Nothing aged in one of Leo Kottke's old Taylor 12-strings for eight months. No exotic herbs flown in from Ouagadougou. No cold-filtration through artisan-designed glassware embracing dust from the tombs of the Pharaohs. These ales were designed for quaffing. Six pints (UK) in a long evening session would be typical. Get ready for a nice easy session Porter that uses, get this, chocolate and crystal malts. And don your sensible, sturdy pub trousers for a malty special bitter. And buckle your seatbelts, because I also have a 3.6% mild that uses a dash of peated malt. This last tipple is a pilot batch for a Welsh Mild that didn't come out quite as malty as I'd like, underscoring the difficulty in producing flavorful sub-4% ales. I'll be revisiting it this summer with some tweeks. Try a pint on Thursday and tell me (really) what you'd do to make it better.

This blog entry is brought to you by snacks, snifters and samples (thanks Steve) at Block 15. Lessee: a Chipotle Chocolate Stout, Hoppy Session Red, Super Aboriginale freestyle and the Ferme de La Villa Saison. These guys are monsters. Additionally, I'm here to swap off some Brewers Union casks for some B-15 casks. In about two weeks "This Time For Sure" might be on the B-15 pumps, and we'll be dispensing some of the Corvallis gold.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Odd Firkin Out

That last cask in the lineup was just filled with an ale destined for the 2010 Great British Beer Festival in August. How is this happening? It's the Champion Draught Beer competition at the Bieres sans Frontieres International Beer Bar. I could care less about any competition, but am excited that some of our molecules will be traveling so far. Shame I can't go with them, although I've become somewhat less a fan of the large festivals these days. Unless one of you wants to buy my plane ticket.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cwrw Bach

Small beer. The first cask of the Welsh Mild hit the pumps on Saturday. I had some folks in here this weekend delighted by the fact that they could hang out with their kids for five hours, have some fantastic homecooked food, and drink more than two pints of ale - the typical limit with the high ABV frenzy that seems to permeate the Pac NW Beerosphere.

I wasn't sure how this batch would turn out. The recipe, like many others that appear here, was scratched out and rewritten a few times on a couple sheets of scrap paper. I wanted to use a peated malt, Simpsons from the UK, but not overpower the aroma. The result was 1 lb. of peated malt in a total grain bill of 151 lbs. This is a powerful malt - caveat emptor.

I'm liking it so far, but would like to make a few changes and run it again. I think the Carafa III could be upped a few pounds and the 1/2 Kilo of E.K. Goldings could be dropped back to half that. All in all, a decent tipple. As I mentioned before, I think it would've been nice along with the morel dish that we had on the last week, but alas they have been consumed. Alternatively, there is the Scottish Fish Pie or the New York Strip Steaks as an option. See you at the pub.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Free Publicity

As a wee little company, in a remote part of Oregon, in a recession, with less than two years since the doors opened, advertising is very expensive. I just simply can't afford it. The goal has always been to not have to, so we don't. Initially I used the local rag, and put a few ads in Beer NW magazine (server was down when I wrote this). Now I'm finding that I don't have to. Word of mouth seems to be starting to yield new visitors; can't beat that. More interestingly is the free publicity that has come about in the last few months.

First of all, we made the cut to be included in the National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide for the Central Cascades region that came out late Winter. Right there, on the downloadable pdf file, is the magical mention of the pub. Perhaps we won't get that much traffic from it, but the NG sure does churn out a snappy map.

Then the pub appeared in the May/June issue of Imbibe Magazine. For free!

Most recently, National Public Radio appeared in Oakridge to do a story on the town's efforts to reinvent itself. The radio show is called State of the Re:Union, and they have been traveling the country looking for stories. And found Oakridge, can you believe it. It was fun having the talented folks around for a week, and they captured the beautiful sound of real ale being liberated into a proper pint glass. The entire broadcast can be streamed or downloaded.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Keeping Up To Date

I suppose all you Big Guy Breweries (tm) have time to keep up with your websites, what with having actual staff and all, but I find that just maintaining a list of beers gets missed more often than not. I was just finishing up doing the weekly beer line cleaning routine when I thought I might check to see when the last time I updated the beer list was. April 8, or something like that. Anyway, I have just posted the New Lineup (tm) as all the other jobs and stacks of paper on my desk vying for my attention looked quite dull in comparison. As you can see, the ABV's are dropping into more sessionable Summer standards. By this weekend it should have changed again, what with bringing on the Welsh Mild and rotating another guest beer or two into the works.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Of Mushrooms and Mild

We got another mushroom delivery this weekend; a pub exclusive. The first harvest of morels has made its home in our cooler, and they're beautiful. All you denizens of the Valley (and that means you as well, Portland) within access of poncy restaurants will have to go without, as we snagged the entire yield. Chef has created Creamy Herb and Fresh Wild Morel in a Pastry Bowl, one of several delicious options on the Specials Board. Don't expect it to be there long. He who hesitates is lost, as my Mom used to say.

Also, as May is Mild Month in Britain, I've brewed the first of this season's session beers, a Welsh Mild. I've never tried this style before. I was trying to recall some of the attributes of the ales I had in Wales way back in 1991, and have faint recollections of a dark and slightly smoky/peaty beverage lounging on the inside of my pint glass. For this batch, I made up a recipe that uses some Carafa III and a dash of a peated malt from Simpsons Malting in the UK. This is dangerous stuff - a little bit goes a long way. Casking up day was Saturday, in which I got to have a taste. It wasn't bad at all, but it's hard to tell what the full maturation and conditioning will be like. ABV clocked out at 3.6%. First cask will be breached on Saturday. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be a perfect complement to some morels. See you at the pub.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Post Fest Post

A week has gone by. Turns out I didn't abscond with the beer as fantasized about in previous post, foregoing the inherent entertainment value therein, and went on my appointed rounds as, well, appointed. After spending four days in Portland, thoughts worthy of blog potential were rattling around the slowly decaying cortex. Now all the edges have worn off and I'm trying to at least put something together worthy of the kind of mediocrity that comes about at the end of a long day.

I have some observations. Yes, I do. And so had a number of other bloggers. I read you all. Now it's my turn. Observation Number One is, how have we become so fussy? Are we all that spoiled? I mean, it's one thing to point out the fly in the soup, or the pint of vinegar, but there were some really nice tipples at the Firkin Fest. Twenty years ago, were we to run across such a lineup, we'd be swooning and mooning and crooning the delights. Granted, for a festival devoted to cask ales, it is odd to have half of them be IPA's, but, ladies and gentlemen, wasn't the experience worth the cash and the time. One cask was cloudy with yeast, and another had a hint of sulphur in the nose, but all were drinkable and pleasant. Regarding the sulphur aroma, from an organic mild (YES!) from HUB, I had no problem with this, but I'm probably one of the few in the vicinity that has enjoyed some nice Burton-oriented ales in the UK. And I got dinged for not bringing up a session beer, unlike last year where I got dinged for bringing up a session beer. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Observation Number Two: I like the East side of the river over the West side. I thought it would be fun to just spend my last evening in town walking around the city from my motel near PSU. A bit too noisy and poncy for me. A better plan would've been to park on the small numbers of Belmont, or Fremont, and just walk through the little neighborhoods all night.

Observation Number Three: I managed to survive a Meet-The-Brewer event at Belmont Station. This is perhaps due to being able to lurk unobtrusively in a corner. I was satisfied to see the cask of This Time For Sure drain in a couple of hours. The Green Dragon has also talked me into a similar event at the end of May, mainly by plying me with ale and assuring me that I wouldn't have to give a speech.

Observation Number Four: I really like cheese. Managed to snag my share from the cheese guy.

Observation Number Five: Knowledge or real ale is dismal in this state. Don't ask me again if I'm using a nitro tap.

That's all. Just finishing a heat transfer of a Welsh Mild and enjoying a pint. See you at the pub.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I can't remember if it was Steven Wright or Gallagher who posed the question, "Why does cargo go by boat, and shipment go by plane?" Regardless, I have a car, specifically a 1993 JEEP Grand Cherokee with broken overdrive clocking in at 257,000 miles, with five firkins of fine West Coast cask ale and three beer engines, along with all the other bits and pieces necessary to make it work such as rubber mallets, ice quilts and jackets. This is true and valuable cargo. Two of the casks are mine; the other three belong to the Eugene City Brewery (Rogue), Oakshire, and Block 15. I have spent the last month or so cultivating the myth that I will be taking their scrummy product to the 3rd Annual Firkin Fest at the Green Dragon in Portland, and that I can be trusted to treat them with the utmost care that they are due. Little do they know that I have a campsite out in the woods, a guitar, a stack of good books, a crate of Cheetos and a cooler full of frozen pizzas.

Not a particularly realistic scenario, as even I can't drink that much cask ale in four days.

So my second choice is to actually drive up to Portland and spend four days NOT AT THE PUB, if you can imagine such a thing, working with real and faux real ale, schmoozing, visiting pubs in YOUR neighborhood, and trying to catch up on what needs to be done. The latter hopefully involves tinkering with my blogging and working on a menu revision for our wee community public house. I have great expectations. I may even have an original thought.

As for blogging, you're reading it. I'm sitting at Block 15 right now having a pint of Alpha IPA on cask and a very nice cilantro and pepper oriented Southwest Salad. I'm also thinking about how I'm not really a businessman and about how I need to get out more often. This is all a good thing. I sometimes forget who I am, and am often reminded by friendly patrons that I'm looking a little harried, with bouts of pale and wan.

These next four days should be a lot of fun, if I can let it sink in that I'm not working but yet am working. I have one of the remaining casks of the KLCC collabrewation beer with me to display at the Firkin Fest, for all of you who are too lazy to drive down to Oakridge for a sample. This is that mutant Belgian Cascadian Dark Rye that I've blogged about previously. I had intended to bring a session ale, but this stuff is just so good that I had to bring it. The other casks mentioned above in my fanciful episode of improbability are under my care, and I am hoping that the Green Dragon will allow me to have enough free reign to see them handled with the delicacy that they deserve. Three of them are fined, and I will be setting them up with pumps and handling the tapping and venting tomorrow.

Another little venture this trip is a rare and probably unique Meet The Brewer event at the Belmont Station. I've been avoiding these things - philosophical issues and so forth, but Carl has been trying to talk me into it for over a year. I will be up there Friday night from 6:00 to 8:00, and have a cask of "This Time For Sure", a hoppy pale ale that wrangles with subtleties of not trying to overdo the hop bit at cellar temperature.

See ya at someone else's pub.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Small Customs

I was going to comment on the [drinkability?] [quaffableness?] [sessionability?] of the latest session beer offering on the pumps, "Bob's Yer Uncle", weighing out at 4.0% ABV and tasting like the brewer mixed a Belgian yeast harvested from a previous batch of weirdness with a bitter ale recipe. But this is not a blog about beer, it is a blog about how publicans from different parts of the world, say, Britain and Oregon, set stuff up in the pub.

This is a thin topic; there's not a lot of meat here, but I've discovered that I annoy my staff by putting beer mats, or coasters are they are also called, directly in front of the seats. Why? Because that's not only the way I tended to find them in British and Irish pubs, but the way I was instructed to while I was working there.

Beer Mats at the Old Dungeon Ghyll in Cumbria

They are sorta like seat markers in my mind. Now, the argument here is that the punters have to move them when they sit down. My response is, "So." I'm fine with that. My pub and all. Not like it really matters. But does it? When I'm fronting the house I put them at the seats, not in the middle of the table. And I have to wonder how it started this way. I have made an informal study of the public house since 1991, the first time I ventured to the UK, and I am fascinated by the differences in habits. If I were to sum it up, and that's just what I'm about to do, I've discovered that the British and Irish pub denizens head to the pub to have a few rounds and socialize. The pint gets directed to the top of the beer mat. Here in the U.S. of A., most are looking for a restaurant and want to eat and move on to the next thing. The beer mat is shoved to the center of the table. Silly Americans; can't they just enjoy a nice evening session.

The other annoying thing I like to do is put little tick marks next to the special offerings on the specials board behind the bar. Helps me keep track of how many of the goodies are left. I've been told this negatively influences the patrons' decisions about choice, but we seem to go through the specials anyway. Go figure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Remember the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials? Where the serendipitous collision of chocolate and peanut butter resulted in a scrummy treat? Similar things are happening in the brewery right now, except that neither chocolate nor peanut butter are involved. Come to think of it, the serendipity has been found wanting as well. I guess there's not much similarity after all, but it makes for a smashing opening paragraph.

My point, though, is that we nano (femto? atto?) breweries can do what we want, eschewing tradition and style and habit. Sacks of remnant grains, baggies of stray hops, and jars of harvested yeast can be combined in a waste-not-want-not manner. As we've been without a session beer on the pumps for a while, and I'm not proud of this, I really needed to make something quaffable in the low ABV range. Except for the fact that I had a six month old cask of Rye Mild that had been languishing in the cellar for six months and is now being served, a nice best bitter was in order. The recipe for a previous one-off batch of "Good With Bacon" was to be the starting point. First of all, out with the Sorachi Ace and in with a pound of U.K. Challenger that I'd picked up at the local homebrew shop. I like the spiciness of this hop, and hope to use it more in the future for some of my bitters. Then the total grain bill was reduced a bit to try to target the 3.5% to 4% range.

And then the totally cunning plan was devised. Why not pitch in the half-gallon mason jar of Ardennes/Nottingham yeast blend that I'd harvested from the KLCC Collabrewation Brew batch? No reason I could think of. This is a second generation harvest, G0 coming from Oakshire and G1 off our "Because We Can". I was aware that this yeast likes a warmer fermentation temperature, so I did a heat transfer to target 24˚C. Fermentation started off within 24 hours, and it sprinted along at 23 to 24˚C for three days.

The problem now is that I have a bitter ale recipe with a blended Belgian/English yeast. What to call it? As I generally eschew style nerdiness and meticulous adherence to the BJCP, I am going to call it a Belgian Bitter. It will be named "Bob's Yer Uncle", not only because it came to me the other day out of the blue, but because the alliteration of "Bob's Yer Uncle Belgian Bitter" rolls off the tongue nicely and creates the anticipation of many days working behind the bar talking about it. Casking up day is tomorrow, and I hope to have it on the pumps a little over a week later. See you at the pub.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Odds and Suds

Late Wednesday morning. Just finished cleaning the cask beer lines. The weekend lineup is looking good. Same with the cold fizzy stuff. On cask is a rye mild, a rye special bitter, a hoppy pale liquidy sustenance beverage, the Ridgeback Red from Block 15, cask 6 (of 8) of the Belgian Cascadian Dark Rye gustatory delight, and the tail end of the last cask of the big Winter stout. As I write this, I just noticed the preponderance of rye brews. Go figure. I also pinched a cask of Aboriginale from Block 15 which will replace the Red as part of our ongoing cask swap program.

I managed to snag a keg of "Duck Billed Platypus" from Oakshire yesterday while I was in Eugene doing the purchasing. Had a very nice chat with Jeff Althouse, who is always a real treat to spend time with in his brewery office where some of the more mundane activities in the business are realized. As I continually wrestle with the onerous task of keeping this quirky little brewery and pub afloat, it is nice to hear stories from a friendly brewery, with a completely different business model than our own, that has to deal with similar issues such as IRS levies, negative cash flow, staffing, consumer opinion, and a funky economy, amongst other trifles. For those of you who don't know, D.B.P. is Oakshire's translation of the 2010 KLCC Collabrewation Beer. Starting today we will have their kegged version and our casked version on simultaneously.

The rest of the guests are top notch, as can be attested by the expression on Happy Moose and Sloth Bear housed on the coffin box. There's snow in them thar hills, and all you locals who appreciate good music and those of you passing through, whether from the slopes or otherwise, will be duly entertained by the genius of Peter Wilde, who will be playing here this Saturday night along with Danny Shafer. This is indeed a rare treat. See you at the pub.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

So Ya Wanna Run a Pub, Revisited

I've been uncharacteristically absent out here in the blog-o-thingy. Not due to lack of material, I can assure you. I have a head full of commentary and no time to scratch it down - a Locomotive Breath sequence of days that all end in 'ay', but without the distinctions that used to separate them into such lofty categories as "Weekends", "Weekdays" or "Time Off". But fear not, oh weary soldier. Divine Wisdom's providence has furnished me with a day of escape, as the amount of time that has elapsed between now, The Present, and when I had a single 24 hour period alone, all alone, by myself has exceeded six months. So I'm coming to Portland for a night of Fridays, and look out, I'm gonna sit in a bunch of your establishments and lurk. Just lurk. And study - oh, yes, study. Scrutinize, dare I say, to see what all the hype is about. And take notes that might end up in blog entries that originate in exciting yet overlooked rural Oregon communities. I better find myself a decent pint of session beer; where can I get some mild this time of year? And I want some haggis - the best your house can provide. With whisky and rashers for breakfast, no less, like I enjoyed one morning on the Isle of Arran. And none of this cold and fizzy swill that numbs the buds and assaults the gums and teeth. And some atmosphere. And maybe a wee dram of erudite conversation.

Actually, I'll more likely just sit in a corner of the Highland Stillhouse and work on my script or read a book. It will still be fun and well earned. And when I get back, I get to brew something interesting on Sunday using the yeast I harvested from the KLCC Collabrewation Beer. I'm not sure what that will be yet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Could Go Wrong?

It's Wednesday morning, and the piece of paper taped to the wall above my desk says "Note to Publican - Clean Lines". So that's what I'm doing. A good day for it, though, as we are putting on some new beers and trying to squeeze in cask 7 of Tanninbomb, which is reaching five months of age. The scheduling at the pumps can be non-trivial at times. I had hoped to have three new and interesting casks on for today, Wednesday, but had a busy weekend and had to shuffle in another cask of Union Dew that got drained rapidly and unexpectedly.

"Because We Can", the 2010 KLCC Microbrew Festival Collabrewation Beer, had some issues. I wrote about it in the early stages, but there had been some worry lines on the brewer's forehead and a slight quickening of blood pressure for a few days in the process. In short, it got "stuck" in the fermenter. The yeast was from a quart jar of the Belgian WY3522 Ardennes that was harvested from Oakshire, and hindsight now strongly suggests that I underpitched. It took a week to go from 1.068 to 1.053, and then it just sat there, despondent and uncaring. My solution was to mix up a quick starter of Nottingham and give it a pitch. Two days later it was happily humming along. At 1.015 I shut it down and then casked it up a few days later. A very difficult yeast to handle, and hard to interpret as for when to stop the fermentation. The skin remained a solid brown crust, unlike the dry English strains that break up into foamy islands. Someday, as I begin to use more strains of yeast, I should post here a study of krausen. How geeky is that?

Last night I completed the venting and tapping. It remained a bit on the lively side for a day, and I had to keep checking it every couple of hours. The first draw from the tap was declared delicious. So was the second. And so forth... And so on... I do believe that the Nottingham dried it out a bit, as I had heard that the Ardennes can (if one is not careful) produce overly malty beers. The estery Belgian quality is still there, though, in the nose as well as the palette. I had hoped that more of the Sterling and Ahtanum hops would come out from the dry hopping, but we'll see what happens as it continues to mature.

The lines are just about clean now. All six pumps will be pouring, in anticipation of a festival weekend and hopefully a steady influx of skiers and other outdoor types, eager to tuck into a unique lineup of cask and keg beers. We'll be pouring:

  • Something Light - Session Bitter - ABV 4.1%

  • Baba O'Rye'ly - D'Rye Hopped Rye Special Bitter - ABV 5.2%

  • Union Dew - I.P.A. - ABV 6.1%

  • Because We Can - Belgian Cascadian Dark - ABV 6.8%

  • Reporter (Block 15) - Brown Porter - ABV 5.5%

  • Frost on the Bumpkin - 7-Grain Winter Stout - ABV 6.6%

Tanninbomb is ready to go on when the Reporter goes off (it's close), but can be gravity dispensed if you are desperate.

Tomorrow I load up the aging, decrepit JEEP for the festival, where the weirdo Belgian Cascadian tipple can be compared with 10 other local breweries. See you at the pub. And the festival.

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Historical Moment

Or is that "A" Historical Moment? There appears to be a hole in my grammar knowledge.

I had reported earlier that Block 15 in Corvallis has installed a beer engine and the related bits and pieces down in the cellar and has started producing real cask ale. I had delivered four of our casks up there a few weeks ago, and yesterday was my chance to retrieve some of those casks filled with Block 15 ale. Three of the four came back with me, one of which was ready for stillage.

The cask of Reporter went on stillage in the afternoon. And in the evening my frontside was bathed in the eruption produced by the introduction of the spile into the shive. This little problem was mitigated by an overnight venting, and all was well by noon today.

I'm excited, for the first time that I know of in the history of modern brewing in Oregon, that a successful cask swap has been completed, and the Brewers Union beer engine array now has a guest cask, drawn as shown by the capable hands of Ben the Extraordinary Barkeep. I'm not much of a brown ale fan, but this batch is tasty, with suggestions that someone has thrown some smoked malt into the bargain. I hope Block 15 doesn't mind me designing a pump clip for their beer. See you at the pub.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the Map

The National Geographic Central Cascades Geotourism MapGuide was released yesterday. We are honored to be included on the map and the website. What more can I say? See you at the pub.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The 2010 KLCC collaboration brew was brewed on Saturday. An interesting project for myself, as the recipe required three grains, three strains of hops, and a yeast that I've never used before. The ratios of the grains were predetermined, but the hop drops were up to each brewery. This is billed as a Belgian Cascadian Dark Rye Ale, and I was so glad the the brewers avoided the tragedy of calling it a Dark IPA.

The sparge progressed rather slowly, I suspect due to the presence of the rye and the dark munich. They seemed to shatter to a higher degree in the mill than the other grains. I don't have the luxury of being able to adjust the fineness of the grind for the different grains; the mill is set right where I want it for the bulk of what I brew and I'm afraid to tweek it.

The yeast is another matter. It is the WY3522 Ardennes yeast, a Belgian strain, that I harvested off the bottom of one of the conicals at Oakshire. While I collected a full quart jar, by the time it chilled and settled here at the brewery it had packed down into less than a pint. This gave me no small concern as to the risk of underpitching. Too late to fetch more, though. Its behavior was unlike the usual dry British strains that I use, so I'm having to use observation and the nose to determine as best I can as to how things are going. I thought it had a slow start. Right now, Monday morning, it has a nice brown crust and the aroma is starting to develop. The krausen is not real thick and foamy, but maybe this is just the way it behaves. There is not a whole lot I can do about it, though. I'm expecting to hold the temperature a little warmer towards the end so as to mitigate the likelihood of diacetyls due to the potential of having underpitched. Geeky stuff, eh? More to come.

If this turns out alright, it is possibly the first ever cask-conditioned Belgian Cascadian Dark Rye ale ever produced in a commercial brewery. Who knows.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cask Swap

The Block15 brewpub in Corvallis is now serving real ale. Rapidly, it seems, as I received an email from them last week that they were about to run out, and as I brew the stuff, I was asked if I could spare a firkin or five.

Yesterday I loaded up the battered old Jeep and brought them four casks. It was nice the see the setup in the cellar, and have a draw of a lovely brown ale. Probably today or tomorrow there will be a Brewers Union cask pulling through the Angram. Soon I expect to receive some Block15 real ale for the first ever guest casks at the pub.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Day. It's been a while since I've been on here, not due to the lack of material, but rather a side effect of the quantity of life to live this time of year. This belated entry is brought to you by a bottle of Hardknott Brewery ale that has traveled 8 time zones in a customer's luggage. Cheers! I'm almost tempted to do a video review, in which I might mention its liveliness.

It's a quiet day here in the pub. This effect is achieved by being shut. After getting out of the pub after 3:00 AM last night (this morning) I managed to sleep until 11:00 AM. That was a long day, including a great evening party of music and happy peeps. Another 45 minutes of lounging was required to convince myself that it was to be a brew day, being that my usual weekend brewing days were to be otherwise occupied this weekend. I didn't want to move. I knew everyone else would likely be avoiding work, perhaps engaging in some form of recreation or watching some silly Rose Bowl thingy. Motivation to leave the comfort of home and drive to the brewery came reluctantly. It's taken half a day for me to realize the privilege I have of spending a day in my own brewery, doing what I like to do. A line from Billy Bragg's "The Short Answer" comes to mind, and if you correctly mention it to me at the pub then there's a pint in one of the pumps with your name on it.

(The "Final Frontier" in the bottle has a bit of a spicy quality to it. I'm sure Woolpack Dave, who is out there somewhere, will divulge the hop that is causing that).

So far I avoided the widespread practice of doing a Poll or Best Of or some sort of Resolution on this blog. Not going to happen; my regard for patterns of numerical significance on the calendar is minimal. Nearly every day there is some sort of personal or business widget that needs tweaking. There is some good stuff coming up on the short term horizon, though. In the very, very, very short term, there is a batch of Union Dew undergoing heat exchange in the brewery right now, giving me time to write this entry. The next batch after this is going to be interesting; this year I get to be involved in the local Collaboration Beer. Around a dozen local breweries are brewing the same beer. Mostly. The relative percentages in the grain bill is determined. The yeast is a WY3522 Ardennes, which I will be harvesting from Oakshire in the next couple of weeks. The three hops have been named, but the timing and quantity of the drops are up to the brewery. For me, never having had formal training or time spent in a large brewery, I'm given the challenge of working with three hops, a strain of yeast, and three types of grain that I've never used before. Needless to say, the nourishing liquid that we release will be the only cask-conditioned offering to be sampled at the KLCC Microbrew Festival in February.

In the longer term, we will be continuing to refine the menu, adding a larger and more diverse list of daily specials. Some new experimental ales are also on the horizon, and I'm hoping to acquire some more firkins this summer when hopefully the cash flow issues might ease, as I would like to do more aging with wood.

See you at the pub. All six engines are deployed, but I think the Tanninbomb cask's days are numbered.