April 2010 Archives

I've been tipping back pints of Southern Oregon Brewing Co.'s Le Freaqué Cascadian Dark Ale rather religiously for the past month or so, and I keep finding myself espousing its excellence to curious beer drinkers around me.  It's probably time I wrote about it here.

When I wrote about our brewery trip last month, I mentioned the KLCC collaboration brews that several Oregon breweries created.  Le Freaqué is a product of that collaboration, and it's not your average CDA.  It's brewed with a good measure of rye and partially with a Belgian yeast strain, giving it a remarkable depth and complexity.  Some might say that there's too much going on in this beer, but I think it all comes together in such a dance across the palate that I am always surprised it's only $4 a pint.

It pours an opaque black with a tan head and mediocre lacing.  On the nose are aromas of coffee, flowery hops, and Belgian yeast.  The beer is wonderfully malty, with burnt flavors, strong hops, and delicious fruity esters throughout.  I'm going to be very, very sad when this beer runs out, and can only hope that the excellent folks at SOB plan to make it a regular brew.


I missed Earth Day, which would have been the perfect time to write on this subject, but recently caught an article about the greenness of clasic style on Off The Cuff.  Chris Hogan argues that quality clothing is environmentally friendly because it can last for decades without going out of style, and usually can be repaired instead of simply discarded.  These are great arguments, and are entirely true.  I would also theorize that custom-made clothing and shoes have a smaller carbon footprint, though I have absolutely no data to back up that idea.

We should also consider again Lord Whimsy's tramp æsthetic, however, and that most people who dress themselves well do so for only a short time, and their clothing ends up in thrift stores.  It can be a hunt, and will rely more on serendipity than the careful planning espoused by Mr. Hogan, but the finds can be glorious treasures.  Tweed jackets in interesting patterns and colors, neckwear of all variety (including ascots and knit ties), and interesting footwear have all been mine for a song.  Classic braces (suspenders, you know) can cost $60 brand new, but are often found at a thrift store for $3 or less, needing just minor repairs.

Lord Whimsy's approach to style is not for everybody, however, and the tramp æsthete can frequently spend more time among the shabby aisles of Goodwill than a man willing and able to frequently spend a handful of large bills on brand-new high-quality clothing.  But for one with time, dedication, and just a bit of good luck, thrift stores and their gems and treasures should not be overlooked.
Thackeray-Vanity_Fair.jpgAs I mentioned in my recent interview, I'm currently reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.  Vera and I are also planning a long stay in Costa Rica, a country which seems to be woefully short on quality beer.  So when I came across this great passage in the book, it really struck a chord with me, and though I'm not sure if London's 19th century porters would have had the same effect today, the sentiment is still sound.

"If I had time and dared to enter into digressions, I would write a chapter about that first pint of porter drunk upon English ground.  Ah, how good it is!  It is worth while to leave home for a year, just to enjoy that one draught."

Every country and every land has some commonplace drink or dish which elicits such feelings, I'd gather.  In Canada it's probably poutine.  What is it in your neck of the woods?

HUB-Secession.jpgI was fortunate to receive a bottle of Hopworks Urban Brewery's relatively new Secession Black IPA.  Now, I don't want to talk too much about the hubbub surrounding the name of this style, but H.U.B. makes a clever nod to the Casdadian Dark Ale camp with a nice map of Cascadia on the bottle.

Secession pours a lovely black with hints of ruby when held up to the light.  The head is thick, tan, and displays excellent retention and very nice lacing.  Its floral, grassy, hoppy nose also contains a few fruity yeast notes, and promises a tasty draught.

Black IPA (or IDA or CDA or what-have-you) is swiftly becoming one of my favorite styles, and this beer is a great example of it.  Chocolate and coffee play seesaw with piney, citrusy hops, and it is an enjoyable balance.  Lurking in the back are some ester flavors from the yeast that add a wonderful finishing touch to this great beer.  I would strongly recommend the Secession Black IPA for those interested in this emerging style, and would certainly suggest having one with a cigar, a heavy, spicy meal, or just an afternoon in the sun.


The other day I went to the local tobacco shop and picked up a handful of cigars.  I was looking for something cheap but still not horrible, so kept most of my purchases under $4.  Today I'm reviewing the Vista de Cuba by Oliveros, which is a medium-sized belicoso with not the most attractive wrapper.  It's sort of a lumpy cigar, but it burns surprisingly well and keeps a nice, even ash.  For the price, it's really remarkably tasty, and I think might beat out my previous favorite cheap cigars.

I'm keeping this short, because I'm not sure a cigar this inexpensive deserves a deep analysis.  But I think I can safely say that at $3.00 a stick, the Vista de Cuba is really, certainly worth the price.
Boulevard-Saison_Brett.jpgLast week we had the pleasure of sampling the Smokestack Series from Boulevard Brewing Company.  This brewery, while well-known in some parts of the country, is just beginning to make its way to Southern Oregon, so I was quite excited to sample their beers.  Because my sour beer palate has finally begun to develop, I was particularly looking forward to their Saison-Brett, which is not the same as the Saison listed on their website.  We also had their Double-Wide IPA, Long Strange Tripel, and Sixth Glass Quadrupel to sample.  All four of these beers came in 750mL basket-corked bottles.

The one thing that struck me as curious about all four of these beers was the style of carbonation.  I was able to pull a nice head on each beer, but never anything thick and meringue-like, and neither did they have the champagne effervescence of, say, Meantime London Porter.

We tried the IPA first, and it poured a cloudy, unfiltered gold with a nice off-white head.  It struck me that it had sort of an old malt flavor, probably indicative of a little bit of age, and strongly astringent hops.  It was not as hoppy as a Pacific Northwest IPA, and had a nice complexity to it.  But I am not much of an IPA guy, and was eager to move on to the other three beers.
FSW-DBA.jpgDown at Elements I was happy to find Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale on tap.  This is a great English-style ale from a very interesting brewery that recently won the World Beer Cup for the third time.  They are, it seems, the overachievers of the beer world at the moment, and for that, I praise the beer gods.  Unlike so many other breweries, they have not been putting forth gigantic hop bombs and sugary extreme beers (their website, for instance, calls 38 IBUs "medium-high"), but instead produce a line of really excellent pale ales.  Those I have tried are all wonderfully drinkable, pair great with bar food, and make me long for a second pint.

The DBA pours an unassuming amber-brown with a pale, whitish head.  There was not a lot of retention, as you can see in the photo, but there was some very nice lacing.  It has a clean, faint aroma that just barely hints at its 32 IBUs worth of hops, and promises a mellow, malty happiness to the eager palate.

Indeed, this beer has a nice, sturdy body with notes of hazelnut and a malty smoothness that work well together and do not overwhelm the palate.  There is a slight fruity flavor accompanying very mellow hops and a tiny amount of dryness.  Overall, it is a well-balanced, highly drinkable beer that made me yearn both for fish and chips and a second pint.  This is a great beer to pair with brisk spring days, a bushy moustache, or spinning fantastic yarns to your pals.  Highly recommended!


Beer and Taxes

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Once in my early twenties, while taking a break from my taxes, I decided to write up a list of where my precious, measly pay had been spent.  Housing had accounted for $6,000; books and music an estimated $1,300; and I worked in the restaurant industry so food costs were nominal.  To my great surprise, when I had calculated out my beer budget, a whopping $2,100 had gone to---you guessed it---the glorious Pabst Brewing Company.  It was a staple that continually needed to be stocked: a welcoming offered to every visitor and consumed with relish, like Irish soda bread or tea.  Not once do I remember a nose being turned up at it, as I can only imagine my nose would be prone to do today.  I don't know if there were many beer snobs in Richmond, Virginia, at that time, but if there were they certainly weren't running in my circles.

Upon moving to Southern Oregon from Costa Rica, the only libation I craved was the cheap, clean, astringency of guaro (sugar cane rum) and coconut water.  There was none to be had.  I had noticed that the convenient store coolers here in Medford carried more than the average Coors, Miller, and Budweiser trio.  I spotted numerous Ninkasi and Lagunitas branded hoodies on the same scenesters that I once would have assumed were PBR diehards.  It wasn't until boredom brought me into the specialty bottle shop, Bear Creek Beers, that I did begin to comprehend how vast the world of beer truly is.   Confronted with hundreds of glistening bottles, I requested anything with a high alcohol content and the dapper young beer monger directed me to the Celebrator doppelbock from Ayinger.   A relatively high 6.7% was cloaked under a taste that I simply couldn't put a finger on, and to be quite honest, repulsed me.  It seemed to my untrained palate like a Heineken that had been reduced on a slow burner for hours.   At $3.70 a bottle I choked it down, the perplexed salesman trying to puzzle out what caused my face to pucker so.  Upon multiple returns we determined that a rich Black Boss Porter was more to my liking and the most likely offender was Munich malt, used in many German beers.  It was a revelation that such an subtle aftertaste could be pinned down and  attributed to a region and style.  Beer was beginning not to be just beer.

The first day I heard of Hollandaise was the very same day I was attempting to make a half gallon vat of it to the sounds of a moaning and very frustrated souse chef at a job I had chanced my way into.   For two years he patiently introduced me to the basics of the culinary world.  Mirepoix and truffles and duxelles, oh my!   After my stint at The Jefferson  food was never the same.  I wonder at the homogeny of my former diet.  How I could have lived in a world void of the occasional daikon salad or 12-year aged balsamic dressing?   Now, after a season of winter warmers, drinkable session lagers,  rich barley wines, effervescent Belgians, smoky rauchbier, and nectar-like lambics, I am left pondering much the same.  The ever-hoppy IPAs help to define the Northwest in my mind, as ESBs leave me looking forward to trips to London.   Guiness is left by the wayside behind heady coconut porters and Young's Double Chocolate Stout.  Beautiful experimental  beers such as Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout or New Belgium's Lips of Faith series continue to challenge the palate.   Luckily my area also has two fantastic microbreweries, Caldera and S.O.B., to satiate my desire to support local businesses.
If you are interested in expanding your beer horizons don't be shy.  Like Guinness?  Try a Murphy's Irish Stout.  Is New Castle your style?  Try a Samuel Smith Nut Brown.  I've found many ladies who gravitate to the more fruity beers also love the over the top IPAs like Russian River's Pliny the Elder or Oscar Blues' Gubna.  But most of all, keep trying, because tastes, like all good things, mature.  To which I owe the illustrious Munich malt an apology, for now I find you absolutely delectable.

Mackerel Stout?

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I was reading over on "I might have a glass of beer" that BrewDog has made a mackerel stout.  If that sounds too strange for you, then perhaps you should become familiar with oyster stout.

I have never had a very impressive palate for wine.  Most of the time I can tell what I like and what I don't like, and from time to time I can be lucky enough to pick up on one of those elusive aromas wine geeks are always talking about.  "Blackberry," usually.  Sometimes "pepper."  I have never really had the best of luck with tobacco, leather, pit fruits, flowers, duck fat, or any of those other weird things that people pick up in wine flavors.  But I am sure they are there.  I have seen people identify wine regions, grapes, alcohol content, and other impressive things by taste alone, and there is one isolated case where I usually can do a good job, too.

It was a bottle of 2007 RoxyAnn Claret that first made me stop and think about this interesting flavor I was tasting.  I think I would describe it as "peppery," but what I knew for sure was that it was delicious.  It was a flavor I ran into frequently in Claret-style wines, and I just couldn't figure out what it was.  Clarets were delicious, but usually rather expensive.  Why did they taste so good?  Was I just paying for quality?  These questions plagued me, and obviously deserved some investigation.  So I put on my favorite battered fedora, pulled out my magnifying glass, and grabbed some Riedel stemware, and began to work on this puzzle.
Oskar_Blues-Gubna.jpgI got a call the other night at around 11PM from Bert, the owner of Bear Creek Beers.  "Erik," he said to me, excited, "Have you tried the Gubna yet?"  I tried to explain that I was trying to go to sleep, but he kept going.  "I think it's going to be the next Pliny the Elder!  I swear, it tastes just like Pliny!"  He has a reason to be excited, of course.  Pliny the Elder is very hard to get in Southern Oregon, and every time Bear Creek Beers gets it in stock, it sells out in hours.  It is hard to see all of those sad hop-heads lusting after their Pliny, lurking outside the doors to the shop day after day.

So anyhow, at that point I had only had a couple sips of the Gubna Imperial IPA from Oskar Blues, and hadn't really given it a lot of thought.  I realized I should go back and take another look at it, so I did.  I have to say, it's a pretty good imperial IPA, but it's still not quite Pliny the Elder.  Where Pliny hits the nose with a fresh, grapefruit-laden blast of hops, Gubna tends more toward a grassy, floral smell.  And even though Gubna is 100 IBUs, I didn't find that the hops really stood out as strongly on the palate as they do in Pliny.

But do not be fooled, for Gubna is a hop bomb.  It has a nice medium body, and a good maltiness that helps hide its 10% ABV, and it's far easier to drink than I'd assumed it would be.  It pours a golden-copper color with an off-white head, but the head tends to be thin and difficult to coax from the can.  The hops, though big, are balanced nicely against the malt, and overall I found this to be a nice imperial IPA.  Not too sweet, far too hoppy (which is how they're supposed to be, of course), and easy---but not effortless---to drink.

33Beers-BeerJournal.jpgOn Friday I was very eager to get to my post office box, because I was certain that I would find waiting for me a packet of beer journals from 33 Beers.  "O frabjous day!" I chortled, upon finding the package.  "Callooh!  Callay!" I laughed as I tore it open, to find a packet of three lovely little journals.  Each is a 32-page journal with space for recording information on 33 different beers (the inside back cover also has a beer record on it).  The journals are printed in Portland, Oregon, on 100% recycled paper, using soy-based ink.

I gave away two of the three journals, and the receptions were almost as happy as mine.  Nobody else had the indecency to butcher Lewis Carroll, at any rate.  So the three of us immediately started pouring beer into us and recording our impressions.  One of the great things about these journals is that they really give you the ability to discuss a beer on common ground by comparing notes on the flavor wheel.  We found that we all taste things a little bit differently, which should not be too surprising.
We mentioned the Cigar Cinema offerings from Cigar Aficionado last week, so this week I'd like to return to one of their videos from a while back in which Jack Bettridge and Dave Savona pair cigars and beer.  This is something I have written about before, so of course I found the video rather interesting.

Their inclusion of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and the excellent, though mysterious, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA have led me to mostly forgive their use of a Michelob product.  Their reaction to the monster from Delaware is great, and I completely agree that cigars and beer can be paired with great success.  Mr. Bettridge wisely repeats his theory that the bodies of the cigar and beer should match, which I think is probably the case.  However, I also think that at times, a strong, heavy-bodied cigar can be paired with a lighter, hoppier beer because of the latter's palate-cleansing effect. 

As the warmer weather returns, I hope to be doing a great deal more experimentation with these pairings myself.
After seeing the brutal treatment I gave to Mr. Maujean in last week's article on chicken farming, our fellow Leisure Nouveau writers demanded of our board of directors that I be submitted to the same grueling torture.  Consequently, last Saturday, I was picked up by an unmarked white van containing two mysterious, hooded figures.  I was not quite able to make out their identities, but after minutes of harsh questioning beneath a bright light, I was left on a corner near a fine taqueria with the following transcript pinned to my rumpled suit.

LN: Can you describe a moment in your life which you feel has had a lasting impact on who you are?

EA: I think in recent history, the moment that had the largest impact on who I am (especially in relation to Leisure Nouveau and its mission) was when I took the step of leaving a large corporation I had been working for.  I think in some sense, I had finally understood what Timothy Ferriss meant when he wrote about one's time being one's true riches, and I knew that working too much and devoting my life to the acquisition, storage, and gregarious display of meaningless possessions was unnatural, uncomfortable, and not really for me.

After that, I spent about two years ridding myself of most of my belongings and planning the creation of this website, and I am certain that that moment was the root spark of a number of decisions that will continue to affect my life for many, many years.

LN: What do you really (as in while you're asleep) dream about?

EA: I have recently had dreams about tigers, bicycles, and old friends that were very poignant.  I also had a dream where some childhood friends of mine wanted me to open a bottle of champagne for them (it was a non-vintage Perrier Jouët), but by the end of the dream I had unwittingly broken several glasses and was stuck barefooted in the middle of the kitchen with an open bottle of champagne and broken glass all around me.  While embarrassing, I am grateful that my subconscious saw fit to leave the bottle in my hand.

McMenamins-Schwarz.jpgI haven't been able to find any information on the web about the muddy brown lager I had at the McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery the other day.  On the special draft board, I think it was called the "Get Up Your Schwarz Lager", but I could be wrong.  I always want to like McMenamins so much more than I do.  They have a great aesthetic and do great things with historical buildings, and that makes me really love them.  But their beer so often fails to impress that it's hard for me to get excited about visiting their locations except to enjoy the weird art and creative vibe.

The photograph does a pretty good job of showing off the murky brownness of what was described to me as a dark lager.  It really looked like watery mud, but it tasted all right.  It had a slightly astringent note, however, and was perhaps a bit too heavy on the roasted flavors, but overall it was a passable dark lager.  In reality, this was a Braunbier instead of a Schwartzbier.

On another note, while searching the McMenamins website for information about this beer, I was tickled to see that one of their navigational aids, though badly designed, was a clever homage to Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel.  Check it out below.


I read on Dr. Vino's Wine Blog about a meeting of Italian sommeliers, wine journalists, and wine bloggers who were given blind tastings of a variety of fine Barberas.  It doesn't seem like too much of a surprise that the heavily oaked versions were not as well-received as those without much oak, but the former were supposed to be the premium products.  Tom's Wine Line has more (he was there), including a great quote from Fabrizio Iuli of Monferrato Barbera: "It is a very trivial idea to think that oak makes a wine important."

There has been a lot of oak going into beer these days.  Sometimes it turns out pretty good, but other times it can be harsh and strange.  Frequently one will hear the flavors of oak being described as "vanilla," but that always seems like a stretch to me.  It seems, also, that an oaked beer in a keg will mellow out considerably after a month or two, so if you have a favorite (such as the Deschutes Jubel 2010), try to revisit it a few months after its release, if you can still find it, and notice the differences.

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