The Sixth Glass
It tastes like dessert. It tastes like a pastry. The Sixth Glass is a subtle beer, simple — booze, malt, and sugar — in that order. It’s a shade paler than most of it kind. A shade drier on the palate. The alcohol stings the nostrils if you get too close. But it can’t cover the scent of brown sugar. On the tongue, The Sixth Glass is lively, it’s not harsh or astringent. But nor is it full. It’s sweet but not fruity. I would guess this beer was bottled a year ago. Maybe longer. It’s good but not complex.
I don’t own a lawnmower. I don’t own a weedwacker. I don’t own a lawn. But I can enjoy a good lawn mowing beer.
Lawnmower Lager is a crisp little beer from southern Oregon. Lawnmower is made with pilsner and flaked — gasp! — rice. Don’t worry. As I. and many others before me, have noted before, rice is a traditional ingredient in American lager. Rice keeps the mash from getting too sticky, especially when you use certain grains.
Caldera Brewing knows what they are doing. Lawnmower doesn’t taste like a watered down beer. It tastes fairly sweet, but the finish is clean. It’s fresh and quenching, and exactly what you want after sweating in the yard all day. Take it from me, a man without a yard.
Give it a Miss
I just didn’t like Hop Flood. It didn’t click for me. Between the sweet smell and the super bitter taste I found little to enjoy. It just didn’t make sense. For a beer called Hop Flood it tasted more like burnt toast than beer. But that’s the problem with trying new beers every day, sometimes you get a stinker. Hop Flood is a prickly beer. The bitterness attacks the tongue in an unpleasant way. It left me bruised and thirsty.
The Tin Bucket is an overwhelming place. They have dozens of taps, each unique and expertly chosen. One-offs and draft only specialties are poured through a counter-pressure filler, which keeps your beer fresher, longer. But I only brought one growler. I had a hard decision to make. Do I try something new? Do I grab something foreign and exotic? Something from Seattle perhaps?
I went with a known quantity and new beer. Upright Brewing’s Steamroller. It’s a light saison made with pale Pilsner malt and even handed hopping. Steamroller is only four and a quarter percent alcohol, but it is fresh tasting. The first glass I poured had a funky, greenish tinge and almost no foam. I’m not sure if that is the beer’s fault or an issue with a soapy growler. After that it looked and tasted fine.
Down on Mississippi Ave. there is a bar devoted to German beer. All they serve is German beer. There’s no American beer here. No IPAs, no fruit infused wits, no hopped up pilsners. Prost serves German beer in German mugs.
And nothing tastes better in the sunlight than a helles. Hofbräu Original comes in the proper half liter mug with a delightfully rich head. The beer is balanced between semisweet malts and snappy hops. It’s refreshing, but filling. It feels like you drank a beer when you finish. A little too bitter for my liking, especially after trying the Kellerbier.
Kellerbier describes a process more than a flavor. Kellerbier is left unfiltered and can come in a variety of shades and flavors. Aktien Zwick’l from Bayruether has all the hallmarks of a helles, but the ceramic mug makes it a bit hard to see. It’s a sweeter maltier beer with a light hop flavor pushing toward the grassy end. It’s still light and super refreshing.
Golden lagers, windows open, the Kinks on the stereo — Prost knows how to celebrate springtime.
From Alpha to Omega
It starts in a tropical fruit tree. falls through layers off pine needles and lands in a pile of dank dark earth. Ωtex, aka Omegatex, takes the bold Vortex IPA and pushes it to it’s inevitable conclusion. Ten percent alcohol makes this double IPA more of a barley wine, but I’m not complaining. Omegatex has all the hop flavors but none of the harshness. It sips smoothly with just enough sweetness to balance the long bitter finish.
It’s been so nice lately. It’s crazy to think it was stout weather on Saturday. April showers and all that. Stout belongs in cold weather. It’s not because all stout is sweet. Some how, Hopworks created an Imperial stout so balanced it wouldn’t be impossible to drink it in the sunlight. I just prefer stout when the sun goes down early.
Motherland is almost ten percent alcohol, but I didn’t notice that until I went in for a second glass. It’s a delicately flavored beer. Chocolate and coffee make appearances, but never claim to be the real thing. Motherland is a beer. A smooth, creamy beer. Like I said, Motherland isn’t sweet, but it’s not dry and bitter either. It’s so balanced it’s hard to rave over. Nothing is out of place, but nothing jumps out either.
Just drink it next time you feel a chill breeze.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
Every season Fort George collaborates with a different Northwest Business. Last fall it was a sporting goods store, before that a three-way collaboration with Portland area breweries, and now they’ve released a new collaboration with indie record label, Suicide Squeeze. It’s not the first time Fort George has melded music and beer, and I hope it’s not the last. Suicide Squeeze is a very tasty summer ale. Hoppy, but light — four and a half percent — light bitterness, soft, fruity and floral — Peaches. I can see drinking this all summer.
Is Gruit Beer?
Beer is made of three things: malted barley, hops, and yeast. And water, but that’s just: duh. Gruit, like this very tasty New Belgium product, is made sans hops. No hops, just a couple herbs and spices, maybe some weeds and flowers. That can’t be beer?
Well, yes and no. In the middle ages, the English isles flowed with ale. Ale was a good hearty drink. Beer was suspect. Beer was bitter and contained all sorts of weedy hops. Ale was made without hops but the occasional handful of herbs from the garden. Herbs are healthy; ale was healthy.
But it was never called gruit.
Gruit was a continental thing. Gruit is a mixture of herbs that law demanded be used in all beers. Gruit was distibuted and taxed by the church. It was a neat little racket that kept the beer pure and coffers full. The use of hops in place of gruit was in part a reaction against the Catholic Church. As protestant ideas spread through the low countries and Germany, using hops was an act of rebellion.
So what does it taste like when you take the hops out of beer?
If you’re New Belgium, you replace hops with flowers and herbs that taste sort of like hops. Bog myrtle — a traditional ingredient in gruit — adds astringency and resinous flavor, keeping the beer light on the tongue. Yarrow is a tiny white flower that adds bitterness and herbal flavor. These two plants give New Belgium’s Gruit a beer like flavor. In a blind taste test you might mistake Gruit for a light summer ale. The elderflowers add to the illusion with a lemony floral scent. Wormwood isn’t only used in absinthe; it adds it’s spicy flavor to Gruit, too. And horehound rounds out the cast with it’s own set of medicinal properties and flavors. You almost feel like a naturopath drinking all these herbs.
Gruit may not taste exactly like beer, but the fact we use hops in our beer is little more than a fluke of history. All the herbs once used in gruit and impart flavor but also serve a similar antiseptic role, keeping beer free of bacteria. Hops may dominate today, but who is to say what plants we’ll find in our beer in a thousand years.
Ninkasi’s barley wine hits you like a warhammer. Critical Hit is over ten percent alcohol. It’s so big it’s hard to separate all flavors from the alcohol. Even after a year in the bottle the bitterness can still cut through like a battle axe. Earthy, oniony hops are edged in roasted, almost burnt malts. It definitely gets better with some warmth.
Critical Hit is the perfect beer to pair with tomorrow’s International Tabletop Day. Share a bottle with some friends while you start a new D&D campaign. Find someone to play Settlers of Catan. Play Monopoly with your kid brother. Critical Hit could make a game of Candyland almost bearable.