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.