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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Oregon Craft Beer Month: Whiskey Sour and Scholarship

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Tue, Jul 14, 2009 at 1:28 PM

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Those are my tasting notes, hand written on whatever scrap of paper I can get my hands on: envelopes, vintage notepads, ATM receipts, old maps. Nothing is safe when I’m drinking beer. I’m not sure why I’m generally so ill prepared for drinking. When I was a younger man and fancied myself a poet, author, and playwright, I had the ostentatious habit of sitting alone at a bar and filling notebooks with whatever clap-trap happened to float by on my boozy river of thought.

That habit is now long passed, and where I once had pen and notebook ready at any moment, I now annoy barkeeps with requests for writing utensils and cause further annoyance by sullying their menus with beer descriptions.

So after being broken of the habit of writing in bars, it’s now become my job. I’m not complaining. It’s just odd the way the world works sometimes. From cocktail fueled poet pretensions to (mostly) sober reflections on native beer in under a decade. Stranger things have surely happened, but I’m still a bit perplexed.

Even though I was at home scribbling notes of last night’s beer on a yellowed pad from the mid-seventies, I was reminded of those long cocktail-fueled nights writing blank verse on neon-lit spiral bound notebooks. There was something in this beer that revived a bit of the drunken artist in me; that spoke to a booze lover once annoyed by beer.

The brew in question was Golden Valley Brewery’s Geist Bock. I haven’t had many bocks in my lifetime, but I’m quite interested from the few I’ve had. This particular bock only heightened my interest in the style.

A Trip Back in Time and Playing Catch-Up after Ye Olde Jump

Into the glass, the beer poured a turbid amber with a nice head for a bottled beer. The nose was light tangerine with a sweet and sour presence.

Upon first sip there was a good bit of sourness, some citrus… cherry… Hmmm. Waitaminute. I know all the classy bartenders reading this (ALL of them) will heave a sigh of despair when I say this, but this bock smacks of a dive bar whiskey sour. Yes, yes, sour mix should not exist. It is the bane of all that is good and light in the bartending world. But, there is something to be said about the experience of a good dive bar whiskey sour. This bock pretty much nailed the best parts.

The Golden Valley bock has a nice citrus/sour roundness balanced well with the sweetness. The light cherry note appropriately suggests the bright maraschino monstrosities, and there is something in the flavor that suggests booziness akin to whiskey. I could be convinced that the over-all profile was more daiquiri than whiskey sour, but I’m sticking with what I prefer. Of course, I don’t want to forget the lovely hoppy finish that seats a bitterness at the very back of the palate, balancing all the sweetness and sour and heaviness with a bright note that lingers for a few moments.

After half a pint, I stopped thinking about the beer, lit my single cigarette for the day, and drifted off into a dive bar reverie. I really dig this beer because of its spiritual connection with the flavors of a certain class of cocktail. I’d happily recommend it to a certain class of cocktail drinker.

Playing catch-up:

This last Sunday I stopped into the Horse Brass pub to attend a birthday party and benefit for the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. Celebrating a combined 159 years of living, beer loving birthday celebrants Lisa Morrison, Scott Willis, and Don Younger (in absence) drew a healthy crowd to sip on select brews, with all proceeds going to the Falconer Foundation.

The foundation, named after legendary Oregon brewer Glen Hay Falconer who passed in 2002, was created with a mission to bolster the Northwest brewing community by enabling aspiring brewers to gain more knowledge in the field. To that end, the foundation has supported two scholarships to the World Brewing Academy at the Siebal Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The deadline to apply for those two scholarships have passed, but there was an exciting announcement last Sunday that the Falconer Foundation in association with the American Brewers Guild had added a third full-tuition scholarship, this one to the Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science & Engineering course. The 22-week distance-learning course designed for aspiring and professional craft brewers provides “formal training in brewing sconce,” and includes a full week of residential training in Sacramento, CA. Applications are being accepted until November 2nd, 2009.

Wanting to add some cash to the scholarship fund, I availed myself of a special pint. Before I get into my tasting notes, let me just make a request: I really need some drinking buddies at these events. You may be surprised to know that I’m not a very outgoing person, and when my wife Kitty isn’t beside me—being bored to tears while I sniff, sip, and mutter to my beer—I get very lonely. But it’s not so much the loneliness as the awkwardness of drinking beer alone. So, if you see a guy hanging out on his own at any of these OCBM events, maybe just go up and say, “Hi!” If it’s me, I’ll be happy to have the company and we can do some drinking. If it’s not me, well, I’m not responsible for any injuries or venereal diseases you might contract from any prolonged contact with men who are drinking beer alone.

Now, on to the beer that I drank (mostly) alone.

Hopworks’ Organic Secession Cascadian Dark Ale, was recommended to me by Morrison. In the glass it was dark as dark as a stout but yielded a yeasty sweetness to the nose along with a good hit of hops. On the palate the malt was right up front with a strong dark toast tone that acted as a flavor through-line through the entire pint. The hops, though very strong, hung on the sides of the malt with some nice citrus notes. With the slight sweetness also present, I was reminded of orange marmalade on toast. The finish was bright and clean and lingered forever.

And now I’m all caught-up. I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing what you’ve been drinking this month.

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