Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otoño (Autumn Fire)

By: Daniel Marcoux

Autumn Fire 1

Sour brews are the fasting growing craft beer style on the market right now, at least that’s what NPR told me on my way to work a month ago.  They are refreshing, tangy, unique, difficult to replicate, and have alcohol.  What more do you want out of a brew?  What I really love about sour ales is the painstaking care that goes into each brew.  But how can it be such a delicate process to craft one of these masterpieces if all you’re doing is just throwing in bacteria in the beer?  Well citizens, it’s much more than that.  Often, these beers are transferred to oak, are aged years upon end, and have several additions of fruits, yeasts, and anything else you might imagine along the way.  As homebrewers know, making sour/wild ales is also quite risky; the bacteria and specialty yeasts used in these beers are invasive!  The owner of my local homebrew shop once told me that a patron fiddled with making one of these guys, spilt some beer that was fermenting along the way, and his basement was inoculated with sour producing yeast.  Every beer he brewed afterwards tasted sour.  Proceed with caution.

That being said, one such brewing company that takes the challenge of sour brews head on is Jolly Pumpkin from Dexter, Michigan.  I haven’t had a brew from them that lacked a little tang and the majority of beers they release spend some quality time in oak barrels.  Their beers also tend to be a bit more complex than just bearing a sour punch, and this beer (Autumn Fire) is one such example.  Let’s get into it!

Autumn Fire 2First impression:  What’s with the sad lady on the front?  Cheer up hun, the beer will remedy any sorrows.

Pour: For being unfiltered, I am genuinely surprised how clear this beer is.  However, this is a 750 mL bottle of beer, and I have about two more pours to go – I suspect that the yeast in the bottom will make its way out on pours 2 and 3.  The color of the beer is light amber with a fluffy off white head.

Taste:  First sip, I got a lot of sour notes upfront with a lot of lactic acidity.  It sort of shocked my tastes buds, but on the second go around, it was a different story.  The malts in the beer do shine through past the initial sour kick with a bready and caramel sweetness to them.  I’m not sure if the label is subconsciously making me think about falling leaves, but the best way I can describe the taste is like going outside on a crisp fall afternoon and smelling the air – this is where I think the spices in the beer (mostly nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon) poke through.  The beer itself is not sour per sé, but it has a tart kick throughout it with continual funkiness from start to finish (barnyard, hay – the usual suspects in wild beers).  The finish on this brew is dry, dry, dry.  The aftertaste leaves you wanting to dive back in to satisfy the thirst this beer creates.  There is also a definite bitterness on the sides after you swallow, but the taste of the brew itself is not bitter at all; I think the bitterness comes from the tannins in the wood and perhaps from the chestnuts used during the brewing process.

Final Impression:  For a fall seasonal, I think Jolly Pumpkin nailed this.  It truly reminds me of the tastes and smells of the northern U.S. fall season.  The only gripe I have with the brew is its finish.  It could be a little more rounded – some of the sweet breadyness of the malt would have been a nice contrast to the dryness of the oak.  The amount of tartness is what you would expect out of any Jolly Pumpkin brew, and I really enjoy it.

Grade: B+

ABV: 6.1%

IBU: ?

Finch Beer Co.’s Threadless IPA

By: Benjamin Welton

Martin Luther probably felt like this in Wittenberg when he was nailing that cultural bomb to the cathedral doors. The father of Protestant Christianity knew deeply in his bones that his Ninety-Five Theses would make him an outcast – a despised icon. At the very least, Luther, a man who firmly believed that he was rightfully going against the grain of Catholic thought and practice in order to reclaim Christianity’s original soul, knew that he was destined to be unpopular.

Given this knowledge, why did he do what he did? Sure, sometimes fate has a way of calling on people, and without a doubt the chubby German priest believed that he was doing “the right thing.” Still, Luther’s answer to this question was decidedly more abstract: “Hier stehe, ich kann nicht anders” (“Here I stand; I can do no other”). Since a similar answer would later come from the lips of a Kafkaesque hunger artist obsessed with his cruel art, we can infer that to “do no other” means that the consciousness demands a particular action – a particular action that is bound to upset many and disgust a few.
So, accordingly, “Ich kann nicht anders.” Despite the fact that Finch’s Beer Co.’s Threadless IPA has garnered numerous accolades and awards means nothing to my selective palette, Similarly, the popularity of the Threadless IPA on the Internet is also of little importance. Here I stand; I am about to pan this glorified brew.
Threadless IPAFirst Impression: For a thirsty man, the first thing of note is the size of the can. As a strong standing pint, this Windy City beer gives you a little more bang for your buck. Likewise, the Threadless IPA can boast of a recognizable brand name (Threadless) and a well-balanced aesthetic. Insofar as first looks go, the Threadless IPA has a lot going for it.

Pour: Like a lot of its compatriots, the Threadless IPA pours smoothly and has a big ole’ head. The amber coloring verges on the darker side of things, while the aroma reeks so strongly of citrus that Arturo Bandini could live off of it alone. After pouring this beer out and letting it sit a while, you’ll notice that the once creamy head soon gives way to a marshy, bayou-like residue that lingers throughout each sip, chug, or gulp.
Taste: Up until this point, the Threadless IPA does well. In fact, until I took the first big bite, I thought that this was a surprisingly first-class beer. That opinion changed after the first wave of overly bitter and somewhat stale taste hit me. This beer’s higher alcohol content (6.0%) is to blame for some of this roughness, but pure booze cannot make things taste like a used gym sock. Drinking this beer became a chore more or less, and after each dip into this IPA, I came up for air with a puckered gin face. Beer shouldn’t be this painful, so why are so many people in love with this dirty bird?
Grade: C-
ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 90

Magic Hat’s Seance Saison

By: Benjamin Welton

Seasons are magical, and no season has more mystery than autumn. Up here in New England, fall comes like a long awaited saint. New Englanders not only worship the colorful leaves like the pagans their ancestors tried to eradicate, but they also deeply understand that fall is one of the few reasons why outsiders care at all about the six states on the tip of America’s Atlantic wall. “Leaf peepers” from across the U.S. and Canada flock to places like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in order to see foliage in action. For the rest of us (and yes I am speaking as a New England transplant who has plenty of bad things to say about his adoptive region), the fall mostly means more people in the way and more cars on the road.

Just south of Vermont is Massachusetts – a state that gets its fair share of October tourists. Some of those tourists come for the leaves, but some of them come for the witches. As with descending bits of orange and red palmate-veined botany, New England is also synonymous with haunted houses, witch hunts, ghosts and goblins. From the Pyncheon house that leaked blood to family-friendly hocus pocus, New England is decorated with spooky destinations. Most people know about Salem, but few know about Woodstock, Vermont – the sight of a “real” vampire case from the nineteenth century. The brewers at Magic Hat, a South Burlington-based company, know better than most Vermont’s spectral legacy, and their latests concoction reflects this. The Séance Saison from Magic Hat reeks of wraithlike charm, and its inky black presentation is perfect for the Halloween season or the witching hour.

seance saison

First Impression: There’s a lot going on with this label. From the artwork, which presents a collage of folkloric images (an owl, a corpse’s hand rising from out of the earth, candles, and a chalice) done in earth tones to the catchphrase of “A liquid dance through life’s trance,” the Séance Saison is like the Haunted Mansion of beers. The Séance Saison comes in your basic 12 fl. oz. bottle with amber glass. Overall, the Séance Saison delineates itself immediately as a seasonal craft brew, which means that its aesthetic presentation took more time to produce than the usual year-round batch.

Pour: This beer is one that comes to (un)life immediately. Its head, which is foamy and thick, sits splendidly atop a pitch black body. Like engine oil, sludge, molasses, and dark chocolate, this beer does not allow too much light to pass through when it is held beside a lamp or a flashlight. Given this beer’s packaging, the pour reminds one of Raymond Chandler’s quote about “dark with something more then night.”

Taste: Tart and smokey, the Séance Saison is a beer for those who like rich, arid wines. If you don’t like wine, then the Séance Saison can be best compared to a cigar, especially one with a madoro wrapper. As such, this beer should be enjoyed in slow sips by the fire, whether indoors or out of them. Going light on the food would also be suggested, for this beer is filling. Its combination of Golding and Hallertaur hops, cherry wood smoke, and victory, carafa, and flaked oats make this beer feel Central European, possibly even Scandinavian. Speaking of the Nordland, the owl centerpiece of this beer’s label makes me think that Kvelertak, that hard rocking band from Stavanger, Norway who have as their official mascot a menacing owl, would be the perfect background music for a night’s festivities spent with Magic Hat’s Séance Saison. Drink up, ya ghouls!

Grade: A-

ABV: 4.4 %

IBU: 27

Shed Brewing Co. Mountain Ale

By: Beer Baron PA

 It’s the start to an easy day just hanging out on some neighbors’ tractor and watching the trees put on their fall colors. The mountain fields cast their shade in the distance and nearby the dew spills over the ground, setting the stage to enjoy The Shed brew- ‘Mountain Ale.’ The Shed Brewery operated also as a restaurant in Stowe, VT which closed, but the brewery was bought by Otter Creek Brewing Co. back in 2011. In the meantime, Crop Bistro (a local bistro/brewery) started their business on the same property where it still operates today. Where the seed falls, another will beer. Uh- I mean grow.

Here comes the fun part. Grab a brew and lean in. In 2010 Long Trail Brewing Co. acquired Otter Creek Brewing Co. Then a year later, Otter Creek Brewing Co. acquired Shed Brewery. The acquisition allowed Long Trail to own 7.5% of all Vermont beer sales. Smart move. The great thing is, the brewing equipment was allowed to be relocated to Middlebury where the signature ‘Mountain Ale’ is still being brewed.

The Breweries complement each other. For example, Long Trail doesn’t have a lager, whereas Otter Creek does. Here’s a bonus. Otter Creek has another branch of beers under the Wolaver’s name. These are certified organic by the USDA and appeal to the organics movement consumer.

It’s all very interesting. Without the research do you really know if your beer is really produced by said brewery? Rumor has it, a local Vermont brewer is contracting out beer from Paper City Brewing Co. (based in Holyoke Massachusetts -mind you) yet labeling their beer as Vermont made. How does that make you feel?

Shed-Mountain-AleFirst Impression: The Label is very attractive. My eyes first go to the name of the beer with its bold black letters against the creamy-gold, white-yellow label. With the winter trees cutout against the background it brings nostalgia of the end of autumn. In between the trees sits a… I don’t know exactly. It looks like a bucket for collecting sap? Anyways, I’m fond of the artwork. It’s simple, eye-catchy, and not too much is going on. Short and sweet. The label does say that the brewery moved from Stowe, VT to Middlebury VT without telling us why. But that’s ok right? One thing I do agree with on the label are the words “a rugged brown ale.” I would say so. It’s enjoyable.

Pour: ‘Mountain Ale’ pours an auburn/copper color with a creamy beige head. After the pour it becomes a darker brown. At last the murky beer settles into a foreboding color of autumn. The head stays around for a while and takes its time to settle back down. A nice 12 oz. of brown ale.

Taste: Malty overtones dominate the aroma, and a sour ester is somehow caught along with it.  There are some light fruity notes, prune-like. A few moments later, a twig-ness becomes evident. Ever so slightly a burnt nutty will come out. Caramel mingles with the taste. Each flavor is distinct from the other. The taste is not bad, something to try and enjoy with some satisfaction.

Grade: C

ABV: 7.4%

IBU: 35

Brasserie Lefebvre’s Blanche De Bruxelles

By: Benjamin Welton

All the great detectives are drunks. No, I am not talking about real life police officials. I am here arguing that the best fictional sleuths—those men who exist only as black letters stuck inside of paper pages that are held together by glue and binding—are all wet. American icons like Philip Marlowe and The Continental Op mirror the hardcore drinking habits of their creators (Raymond Chandler for the former, Dashiell Hammett for the latter), whilst their international counterparts are as likely to ponder a case in a pub as they are in private.

During an evening out at an upscale French restaurant, I drank a beer and immediately felt like one such literary lush— Inspector Jules Maigret. With a tobacco pipe in one hand and a beer in the other, the laconic commissaire never fails to exude all things Gallic. Maigret’s creator, Georges Simenon, was Belgian, not French. A Walloon from Liège, Simenon was a morally complicated man who often found himself longing to be more like his upstanding creation. Despite their profound differences, both creator and creation shared a passion for beer, which is easy to understand given their Belgian heritage (one in actuality and the other in spirit). Brasserie Lefebvre’s Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer is emblematic of that rich heritage, and this bright, crisp beer is the perfect accompaniment to a night spent amongst the canals, whether they be in Paris or Brussels.

french beerFirst Impression: I was served the Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer from an aluminum can, which, to be frank, did not impress me. Other than that, the can’s aesthetic, which primarily revolves around the Manneken Pis or le Petit Julien, the landmark bronze fountain in Brussels which depicts a young lad urinating. The good folks at Brasserie Lefebvre make sure that you can’t mistake their Belgian White Beer for anything other than what it is—a uniquely European product.

Pour: This beer pours fast and with a bright, light body that caps off with a surprisingly strong white head. As with other wheat beers, the Blanche De Bruxelles does not contain a lot of movement once it has been successfully poured, and yet to call this beer stagnant would be a mistake. The Blanche De Bruxelles should sit in your glass with calm, reassuring reserve.

Taste: The typically Belgian tastes of coriander and orange peel are immediate, and so too is a rich and creamy aftertaste. Rather than being bitter like its Germanic counterparts from Germany or the United Kingdom, the Blanche De Bruxelles is a cloudy beer that tastes refreshing, crisp, and clean. If enjoyed in a long pokal, this beer will slide down your throat, reaching the back of your spinal column even before you are ready for your second sip. The one drawback here is that this beer doesn’t sit well if left unattended. For instance, if you are engaged in a dinner conversation, then your best bet is to drink with some giddy-up.  Also, this beer is somewhat seasonal, with its best time being late summer/early autumn.

Grade: B+

ABV: 4.5%

IBU: Unknown, but somewhere between 10 and 20

Beer partakers Unite! At Fremont Brewing Co.

By: Chasse Gunter
A lot of folks drink beer for a variety of different reasons. Some drink to make the world in and/or outside seem a little more pretty,or to loosen them up (socially). Some folks just like a refreshing miscellaneous 80 to 91 cent can of yellowish beer to chase a ten hour shift (working for people who have probably never even drank out of a can). Some of us drink for no identifiable reason—and frankly, no reason need be given, if our freedom bought us one thing—am I right (or being melodramatic)? While I used to be a drinker of several of the aforementioned varieties, drinking too many (“too” “many”) quality beers and watching too many beer documentaries has changed me into a new variety of beer partaker (the sort that says partaker, for one). Beer is marker of human technological progress. It’s a tick mark painted on a hypothetical cave wall time line which dates back before there were even cave paintings (don’t quote me on that, though). So, I drink beer for political, cultural, and anthropological reasons (and this is where my B.S degree really shines). Every sip I take is an act of both historical preservation and keeping civilization progressing forward—take that Einstein and Indiana Jones! Finally, you can now save the world without having to leave your bar stool.

Close to the time of fire’s invention (the recorded dates are a tad bit disputed), some sober caveman (or recant mud-hut-man) left barley in a clay pot, it got rained on, it fermented itself, someone drank it, felt funny—then the accident was repeated ever since. Many claim beer sparked the agricultural revolution, among many other things; for more on that, watch the documentary called “How Beer Saved the World“. Like I said before, I’m interested in beer as a historical and cultural marker of human progress (which is a better line than: “it’s five o’clock somewhere.” No one would tell superman to not save the world because it’s ONLY six in the freakin’ morning!). The process of brewing has always been married to technology. Agriculture, whether sparked by beer, or not, meant instead of foraging for barely, fields of specific varieties could be grown and harvested to produce higher quantity and qualities of beer. The bronze age meant more than—what? bronze weapons—it also meant larger batches of beer. Speaking of bronze and awkward transitions—the beer I chose for the specific review, is a light bronze color (that was a close one).

fremont breweryFirst Impression: Actually I chose Fremont Brewing’s Interurban IPA for more meaningful reasons than a convenient color (and besides the fact that IPAs are growing on me). Reason one: India Pale Ales, specifically, have a rich geological history. Something to do with preservation and India—I faintly remember it being the only cool thing I learned in my geology class (and look, it’s still gone). I promise to elaborate on that story in my next IPA related escapade. Reason two: I ran into one of Fremont Brewery’s employees on a too-drunk-to-write pilgrimage at an awesome pinball bar on Capital Hill (Seattle). Upon swapping disjointed life stories we intersected on the point where he makes local craft beer and I review it; He bought me this very IPA, in a can, with a logo fit for currency, and invited me out to the brewery for even more fuel for review. I actually was going to go out for a taste and tour, but got in a fender bender on the way to the brewery—so, I will definably make that happen on a luckier day some time down the road.

Taste: Their website describes it best: [an] “IPA does not have to kill you with bitterness to be good.” This one certainly has hops (and hints of honey!), but they are pretty dang sweet if I say so myself. Thank God technology has brought us to this point—and I suppose some thanks should be reserved for Orin (hopefully spelled right), pinball, fate and Fremont Brewing. This bronze colored, optionally contained in aluminum, IPA goes down much easier than rising car insurance rates.
Final Impression: Full and hoppy, it turns out, no longer has to mean bitter and over-filling. I will do a follow up on both the history of IPA and my eventual full-on taste tour of Fremont Brewery (putting faith in the idea that city buses cannot crash). This small family owned micro-brewery has at least one awesome employee and word on the street is the others are at least as friendly. So, stop by their beer garden or pick up a six pack, if not for yourself, than for the sake of human progress.
Grade: A
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: ?

Dixie Brewing Company and Voodoo Lager

By: Yelena Keselman

After my first trip to New Orleans this past July, there is no doubt in my mind that this area of the South is one of deep cultural roots and unique flare. Walking the streets, one cant help but become immersed in the profound sense of pride that each and every person in Louisiana emits, whether its in the dialogue on the streets, music booming from the bar windows, or finger licking food. There is an unbreakable spirit that is apparent in all residents from the briefcase businessmen to the charismatic street performers.  As many other first timers, I was inspired by its lively beauty but also saddened by the permanent aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Although the strong community of New Orleans has made it apparent that that this tragedy did not make the city and therefore will not break it, it is still a haunting aspect of life here. One chilling reality of the impact is the story of Dixie Brewing Company.

dixie_brewing_company

Dixie Brewing Company is one of the oldest breweries in the U.S. and was founded in Nawlins (New Orleans) Louisiana in 1907. It ties into a pivotal point in American history, during the time of prohibition, when New Orleans maintained its position as the leader in beer production for the Southern States. Progressing through times of economic prosperity and hardship as 20th century rolled on, Dixie was able to hold strong until 1989 when lack of funds forced owners to file for bankruptcy. In 1992 under new ownership, the brewery underwent a transformation with the release of a series of new brews; including the spellbinding Voodoo Blackened Lager. A great time for this shift as the craft beer industry was slowly picking up steam.

As you may have guessed this story doesn’t end well, like many other establishments Dixie fell victim to the forces of Katrina in 2005. Sitting in an area of New Orleans called “Mid City” it’s traditional brick style architecture was no match as the levies broke and the floodwater poured through windows and foundation.  As time went on and water cleared, the original building was slowly looted of most equipment to the point of no return. It currently sits in its original location on Tulane Avenue, abandoned, as an eerie reminder of the catastrophic events that took place.

In 2007 the owners of Dixie pushed forward with an ambitious revival. Unfortunately, unable to re-create the mass production of the past in New Orleans the brand is now brewed and bottled by Huber Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin (of all places?). According to some articles I read this beer is only distributed in the Midwest and Southern areas but I was lucky to get my hands on the Voodoo Black Lager at good old Cost Plus World Market (who doesn’t love it)

VooDooBeerBeadsFirst Impression: I love the intricacy of the metallic label; it offers a glimpse into the Louisiana swamp culture. Cypress trees adorn the sides with ghostly Mardi Gras masks dangling in the shadows.  Voodoo itself is a spiritual practice, brought to New Orleans from Africa during the time of slavery. The label and dark essence of the brew definitely bring upon an otherworldly sensation.

Pour: This beer pours a mix of ruby red and brown. The color resembles that of Amaretto with a light headed nature. The powder-like foam slips right off of the glass. The strong aroma exposes me to a scent of cherry and caramel.

Taste: This buttery beer seems light then gives a malty kick as it makes it way down.  Malt type liquor isn’t something I am too fond of but this one plunges with ease. A chilled voodoo would be a great accessory on a hot summer day in the South, especially with some charbroiled oysters (mmmmouth watering good)

Although I wouldn’t call this a gourmet beer, I give it a good grade because it advertises itself the way it truly tastes. A refreshing yet oily elixir meant to bring out a little New Orleans flavor inside any drinker.

Grade: A-

ABV: 5.4%

IBU:45

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Black Ale

By: Benjamin Welton

Arguably, the great appeal of Mad Men (and the early 1960s in general) is all the drinking that goes on. Specifically, I think that we, those poor souls who have long suffered underneath the dictatorship of empowered busybodies, are attracted to the culture of drinking on the job. The very notion that a worker, whether white-collared or blue, could imbibe while on the clock seems astounding today. Well, I hate to gloat, but the 1960s don’t seem so far away to me. You see, in my office (which typically oscillates between micromanaging and rudderless boredom) we have the privilege of drinking every payday. Dubbed “Thirsty Thursday,” our payday booze cruise is primarily spent cruising between different dishes of cheese and crackers. The beer selection is usually stellar, and a discerning man or woman can pick out some real gems. Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Black Ale is such a catch, and this delightful Scottish beer is deserving of the following analysis.

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Black AleFirst Impression: One cannot help but to immediately recognize that this is a dark beer. Even before the first pour, your eyes will scan the amber 11.2 fl. oz. bottle and quickly understand that this beer is not for the timorous. Old Engine Oil Black Ale’s regal taste and manner is underplayed by the label, and yet the Old Engine Oil Black Ale’s working-class aestheticism belies its more subtle hints of sophistication. The lettering and format of the label has an Art Deco flavor, while the car centerpiece looks like it could easily be the Daimler double-six V12 50hp that the great gentleman detective Lord Peter Wimsey drove which such haughty pride.
Pour: This beer pours thick, and its head can vary between a thick, creamy spread and a thin, blonde dab. This beer pours slow, almost as if one is decanting sludge. This beer leaves behind many pleasant foam rings as the drinker works their way to the bottom, and when they near the end of their first pint, the drinker could look down and easily imagine their Old Engine Oil Black Ale swimming in a demitasse as a cup of espresso.
Taste: Although it bills itself as “vicious,” the Old Engine Oil Black Ale only has a small, yet noticeable bite. British to the core, the Old Engine Oil Black Ale’s Galena, East Kent Golding, and fuggle hops let you know that you are indeed drinking a potent brew. The roast barely and oats give this beer a smokey, rugged appeal, and the fulfilling taste will make you stand up and praise the character and palette of the Scottish people. This is a beer best paired with earthy, almost bitter cheeses such as Camembert (which is what I enjoyed my pint with) or Muenster. If cheese isn’t your “bag,” then a nice steak or some dark chocolate would work nicely with this fine Gaelic product.
Grade: A
ABV: 6% for bottles or kegs/ 4.5% for casks
IBU: 40

Tommyknocker Pick Axe IPA

By: Katie Schroepfer

Tommyknocker is a Colorado mountain town brewery located in Idaho Springs, right off I-70, making it a destination stop for those coming back into Denver after a long weekend of playing in the mountains. Their brewery has fantastic food but what really puts them on the map is their prominent brews. Pick Axe IPA is a local favorite and a classic American IPA.

pick axe ipaFirst Impression: The label is similar to all other Tommyknocker labels, with greens and browns blending together, and their iconic mountain man logo included. With a green and brown mixture for a label it gives you the perfect sense of what you are going to get out of this beer.

Pour: A very typical IPA color, the pour has an orange hue to it and the head is very present at the beginning of the pour. The pour honestly isn’t that exciting, but just wait until you taste the beer!

Taste: Although the description says it has prominent hops, it isn’t overly hoppy like a lot of IPA’s tend to be. There is a good mixture of malts in it as well, which makes it very flavorful and enjoyable. It is an aromatic beer and the taste is crisp while it lingers, making you anxious to drink more. It’s definitely a delightful IPA.

Grade: A

ABV: 6.2%

IBU: 55

Port Townsend Golden Ale, Complex Animal Affection, BYOF bars and the closest definition to “Wooooooooooooo!” You’ll ever get with you eardrums intact. (or: “No amount of writing conferences will ever teach me the art or titling a beer blog”)

By: Chasse “First Person Limited” Gunter

As my great ole’ time at Port Townsend Writing Conference drew towards a close, all us merry authors in-progreso (Latin for “in progress”) made our way into town for closure and celebration. (With all the time we sat aside to write, at least one block of time had to be set aside to drink.) Over a mangled appetizer of smuggled watermelon (more on that later) and various alcohol beverages, we cheered to a great week, the great writers we’d met, our great faculty, and our general greatness. It’s important that I take a moment to apologize in advance for my great overuse of the adjective “great” and other abusively over-used descriptor words to come. Memory can only be expressed through the medium of the present vessel of Chasse. And today-Chasse is out of words… so with what of my creative lexicon remains, I can summon one overarching blanket word to sum up the experience: “woooooooooooooo!” Like love, taxis and beer, this word is internationally intelligible and requires no fancy online degree or any formal education. For those of you new to the “word,” it’s roughly defined as: the intense (often visceral) vocalization emitted during or immediately following a large accomplishment or insightful, fun and/or rewarding event or circumstance (some example events: being awarded a scholarship to a writing conference, hitting a home run, or miscellaneous good news); the amount of O’s following the W vary by gender, situation, and—well—generation of birth. The exact estomology of the word is unclear, but Woooooo is estimated to have been uttered near the same time fermentation was discoverer.
photo
To avoid any further muddling of widely assessable words like “woooooooooooooo” and “great,” I will get down to the beer and the bar. Our journey’s climax brings us to an awesome bar titled “The Pourhouse”. There was a beer garden, a live band and (seemingly) more local craft beers on tap than trust fund kids living in Port Townsend city limits (for an interesting bit of trivia, type those words in a search engine). And on top of the suspiciously welcoming atmosphere, the sun was shining and the Pourhouse encourages customers to bring outside food! (this sentence tied up the watermelon loose end I brought up earlier). 

As I wait for my brewski to arrive, I half-joke with another writer that perhaps, for my blog, I should fictionalize our professor for the sake of good creative nonfiction. I mean, the last writer who was a character unto himself died on Fenuary 20th, 2005—right? But how, I wondered aloud, could I fictionalize a man who sponsors his writing career with his earnings as a professional pit bull fighter in Cuba each summer (it’s a seasonal occupation). Don’t worry, he gets rich by always throwing the fights. Since the odds always favor the likelihood of man winning over animals in the illegal Cuban dog vs. man racket, he’s simultaneously a humanitarian and a clever gambler. But…in half seriousness, Skip Horack was a great mentor and a wooooooooo author; since this is a beer blog, his link will join the others if you’re curious about his books. My beer arrived. I picked The Port Townsend Brewery’s Golden Style Ale—and let me tell you, it looked great (alright I won’t do that any more). It seemed appropriate to choose a beer from a local brewery (as is tradition) and this town seemed to get everything else right so far. Here goes something.
First Impression: I’ve never written the words adorable and sailor in the same sentence (well, not in anything published): the beer ‘s logo has an adorable sailor with a red striped shirt on it! I’m not the cutesy imagery type, but if I took one lesson from the conference, it’s that literary crimes occur when moments like this go unrecognized. Crime averted! You rock that telescope sailor (too far?).
Pour:.I didn’t see the pour happen. But I trust that it happened. I mean, it made it into my glass which made it to my table. The study of writing makes one paranoid. The golden ale is—for lack of a better word, golden colored. Then the sun hit it just right—just right being from all directions. Damn it’s hot out.
Taste: I am so tired of saying things are crisp…either everything is crisp, my taste buds are broken, or I need to look up more synonyms for crisp. Wait—I can do that last one. This beer is wrinkle, ruckle, crease, crinkle, scrunch and scrunched up…but, by no means was it “crisp.” There is a light wheat flavor. Refreshing—but under this sun and my lack of water up to this point…everything would be refreshing.
Final impression: By the time it was finished, I was happy with it…but it wasn’t extremely memorable. No one flavor made this Pilsner stand out compared to ones that have melted my heart in the past. Perhaps the beer was being up-staged by competing memory-makers? Or the sailor on the label left me no heart left to melt (yeah, I went there). I did really enjoy the Port Townsend Brewery’s I.P.A better. Maybe my taste buds are evolving. Maybe that’s what’s really happening. Either way, if your ever in Port Townsend, drink local. And if you ever see a sailor on a beer label at the grocery story—buy it!
Grade: B
ABV: 4.7 %
IBU: 20
The Writing Conference (the turning point): http://centrum.org/the-port-townsend-writers-conference/
Skip Horack: he mentor and author (the opposite of a stock character): http://skiphorack.com/
Some backstory from my mother from another grandmother: http://deadhorsedeb.wordpress.com/
An Amazing Portland Writer (she drinks so it’s related): http://amandasledz.com/