Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oh, The Humanities!

I'm going to take a quick break from my ramblings on pubs to announce the availability of the strongest ale ever brewed at the Brewers Union. Not that I am set on this modern West Coast notion that stronger and hoppier beers are cool, as they are (hush, hush, top secret) easy to make and even easier to hide defects in. It's just that one of our local regulars requested a big malty ale and I decided to oblige. And, it has that feel of a momentous occassion like the record-setting going on at the Olympic Track & Field Trials down in Eugene. 7.1% ABV. Plenty of malt. A generous dose of Simcoe at flameout. We're working here with something like a Scottish Ale but without any smoke or peat, and it goes down way too easy.

I had originally decided to bluntly label it "David's Big Malty Ale", being that David is the name of the aforementioned local regular, but as he teaches Humanities down at the University of Oregon it ended up being called, "Oh, the Humanities!". We felt jolly clever about it, and I chuckled all the way to the Adobe Illustrator file that contains the pump clip artwork.

Tapping took place on Thursday. In our case we really do tap them, bona fide, with a rubber mallet and a cask tap. I am frequently amused by the flood of notices on the various beer sites about beer tappings, when all they do is twist down a Sankey tap and open the valve on a tank of CO2. Out comes dead beer. This, on the contrary, is living stuff, where we get to fiddle with it each morning and make knowing comments about how it is changing from day to day and from cask to cask. It is. It really is. Come down today and try a pint, and then return enthusiastically in a couple of weeks and see what I'm talking about.

Tomorrow I'll be brewing small beer again, just like old times. I'm shooting for 3.8% or thereabouts. Then I'll be back to rambling about pubs. There is a juicy comment in the last post that I want to tackle.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RE: Pubs, Part the Second

The first comment from my previous post came from a noted Portland beer blogger who had visited England for the first time back in November, and got to experience his first pubs. Or, was that first visit to the Raleigh Hills McMenamins the first? That's the question; do we have pubs here in America? What is a pub? Is it OK to use it as a familiar synonym for a bar or tavern or a restaurant that brews beer (brewpub)?

I grew up near, in and around Ithaca, NY. When I graduated from college (1985) I moved back, bought a house, and got a job working as a software engineer for Cornell University. On the edge of campus is "Collegetown", a few blocks of streets on a steep hill leading down to the city. It contains all the necessities of off-campus life: markets, apartments, a great bagel shop, coffee shops, restaurants and bars. I quickly took a liking to a pizza joint called The Nines. The best deep-dish pizza I've ever had, cooked in a square pan in an upstairs kitchen and dropped to the bar below in a dumbwaiter. There was a great beer selection for the time, live music periodically, and rough tables scattered around for slouching in for a pint and a good book. I felt comfortable there.

Shortly afterward a couple of lawyers from New York City renovated the old Chapter House and installed a small brewery. It was fantastic, just as I pictured a British pub to be. I could order a slice of pizza from a tiny back kitchen and a pint from the bar and meet my friends, or just sit in a corner over a book with a bowl of the free popcorn from the constantly humming machine. My old jazz band, the Spam Fisted Butchers of Jazz, managed to convince the owners to let us play there a few times. Sadly, the brewery is no longer there, but the last time I was back it still had a pub-like character and I enjoyed my brief stay.

I thought of those places as pubs, but what was it about that first pub outside Victoria Station in London in 1991 that changed my perspective? I'm still trying to figure that out. Having been back and forth to the U.K. numerous times, I still feel like I'm chasing the greased pig as I attempt to define, let alone articulate, the differences. Fragments of "Pubs, Part the Third" are starting to form in my Slowly Decaying Cortex (tm).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RE: Pubs, Part the First

It was May of 1991 when I stepped into my first pub. I was in the process of moving from Upstate New York (NOT the CITY, for those not in the know) to Oregon, in which we had picked a little town in the Cascades off the Rand McNally called Oakridge. My wife and I took a month off to wander around a small island off the coast of France by train, thumb, bus, coach and foot. To this day I distinctly remember stepping into my first pub after disembarking the train at Victoria Station in a sizable village called London. My first pint of "Bitter". My first mushy peas. My first taste of British hospitality in its continuum of indifference to sheer joy.

Now I own a pub. But can I say this: What is a pub? As I spend anywhere from 0 to 20 hours a week behind my own bar, also known as running the front of the house, I have encountered the occasional customer that didn't realize that pub was short for public house. As a barkeep, an important part of the job is the disbursement of knowledge and entertainment, so the punter can leave a little better off than they came. And also serve them a proper pint and make them feel at home. Shouldn't a public house be a home? I hope so.

I'm now off my non-blogging binge, and am as unsure as to the grammar of that as the next guy who finds language a right kick in the pants. Thus begins a discourse on pubs. I hope both of you readers will take the time to comment and heckle as deemed appropriate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Queue up the Music

I used to stare at these things for a living. Sometimes I would push rectangular buttons with letters and numbers on them, creating non-conversational verbiage that computers found highly suggestive and were compelled to obey. Then I quit that life and built a real ale pub. Around the middle of April, when business here at the pub was wallowing around in its nadir, I just couldn't bring myself to stare at a screen and write down what was zipping around in my Slowly Decaying Cortex (tm). The notion of curling up on a rock down on the river with a good book and a jar of ale took precedence. Consequently, the blog has suffered. I've decided I'm back now, and am going to make a nuisance of myself on t'Interweb.

I'll begin tomorrow.