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.