Ned Lannamann once told me he'd been a beer guy. We were at a staff get-together. I was lamenting something stupid that I'd said about beer or brewing on the blog and whining about what jerks the beer nerds were for pointing it out. "I was a beer nerd," Ned replied in that matter of fact way he has. He told me that he had once been totally into it, but had lost interest. I nodded feigning my own interest, and continued to drink my tequila until I finally heard him stop yammering. "Yeah, but aren't those beer nerds jerks?" I asked rhetorically, wandering away. I completely forgot about the interaction (I'm sure the tequila helped) until last night when an excited Ned burst into my house.
Okay, so he didn't burst, per se. I had invited him over. Considering the amount of craft beer I'd already consumed this month, I saw myself slipping inexorably towards beer nerd-dom. I needed a guide. Ned was my answer.
He was at my fridge in no time. As I pulled beers from the diminishing reserve, he stood back and gazed upon the bottles thoughtfully before picking four and plotting the course for our evening's of tasting.
Our first beer of the evening was Golden Valley Brewery’s French Prairie Blanche. Ned explained this was a style of wheat beer and in the glass it had the bright golden color of a wheat, but lacked the turbidity—it’s likely there was a good amount of yeast still in the bottle. On the nose there was faint pineapple with a hint of red wine.
Upon first sip it was clear that this was an extremely subtle beer. It was light to the point of being flat with a barest hint of orange that passed as quickly as it came. What finish there was was a bit dark and brassy. It was exceedingly easy to drink considering there was so little going on, but I have to say this is the first Golden Valley brew I’ve been disappointed in. It was like getting slapped in the face by a weak, non-committed granny with very soft hands.
We rinsed out glasses and hit my record collection. After frightening Ned with some of the stranger tracks from my psych and Aspen Colorado rock legends collection, he took the reins and provided our next two beers with a lovely garage-psych compilation that I forgot I had, and have maybe listened to once all the way through. Here’s a new beer month lesson: Having others picking your music, like having others pick your beer, can set you on a road to adventure.
That adventure was taking us to Alameda Brewing’s Klickitat Pale Ale. Though Ned looked at me strange when I said it, this beer had the color of burnt sienna. I defy anyone who would disagree with me! I’ve watched enough Bob Ross in my day to know what fuckin’ burnt sienna looks like! Sorry… sorry… Moving on.
The aroma was a very pretty pine and lavender, and Ned poured it in such a way (this odd twisting motion with his hand) that it created a thick lingering head—I believe Ned gleefully called it “nasty,” or better yet, “nah-stay.”
This was a very balanced beer, with malt and strawberry tones humming along throughout, leading into a beautiful honeydew finish. Ahhhh. Now we’re cookin’.
When we opened up the Cascade Lakes IPA, I thought Ned had produced a bag of weed. No. It was just the aroma. It smelled dead-on like marijuana.
Funny story. When I was around 10 years old I remember hanging around the living room during a party my parents were throwing. Being the kind of late-nineteen-seventies hippies they were, they did not see fit to shoo me away as they passed the bong around the living room. At some point my stepfather became embroiled in an argument about the quality of his stash vs. the quality of the reefer a guest had brought. He decided to take the opportunity to teach me a bit about buying pot.
Pulling me aside, he produced a baggie of sweet leaf. “Take a whiff of this,” he said. I obliged. “This,” he intoned slowly, looking me in the eyes, “This is the stuff you never want to buy.” I nodded my head to mark the gravity of what he was telling me.
He then produced a second baggy filled with humongous buds. “Okay. Now take a whiff of this,” he said. I stuck my nose in the baggy and took a deep luxurious inhale. “Now son,” he told me, grinning, “This is the good shit. This is the stuff you want to buy.” Lesson learned.
The Cascade Lakes IPA smelled like the “good” baggie, and the hops on the label looked a lot like little marijuana buds. I suddenly understood the propensity for so much tie-dye at brew fests. AH HA!
The fact is this little IPA is dopey as hell. From the aroma to the flavor it is all kronic hops goodness all the time. There is a little grapefruit in there—a nice high citrus—which falls away into sweet grain tones on the finish. But I was very surprised at how mild I found the bitterness of this IPA. At 65 IBUs I was expecting some dryness and astringency. Nope. It was very smooth.
We took a bit of a break between our third and fourth beers and Ned changed the record: Brian Eno & David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
It was then into Full Sail’s Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale. At 9% ABV, this beer was a good one to end the tasting on, considering that all else would be gibberish once our glasses were drained.
It was a lovely dark beer in the glass with a nice thick head. On the nose we picked up notes of almond, strawberry, a nice hint of hops, and darker malt behind everything.
On the palate it was very boozy with nice strawberry notes accompanied by piney, woodsy hops. On the back end, there was a bit of pepper in the exceedingly long finish. If the Blanche was like getting smacked by your granny, then the Old Boardhead was like getting punched in the neck by your much stronger and angrier gand-pappy.
Once it was done, Ned announced there was a barbeque he must attend and was gone as quickly as he came. I watched him as he left, thinking to myself, “If I grew to be a beer nerd like that. Then I guess I’d be happy.”
I hope you’re drinking along with me and the random people I pick up on my Oregon Beer Month journey. Let me know what you’ve been getting into this month… Or else there’s no reason for me to obsessively check the comments section and I feel like a dipshit.