Had a great time last week at one of my favorite places to find cool trash out in the Gorge. This particular site is over in Washington, and besides the pictured Lucky Lager, I found lots of old Blitz cans, and a new find..Rheinlander. Now, as far as I can piece together from random websites, Rheinlander, which I had never heard of before, was brewed up in Seattle at Sick's Rainier Brewing, brewer of Rainier, and eventually Heidelburg. Specifically, Rheinlander was brewed at their Century Brewery. All, from what I have heard, were pretty bad beers, but really, for me, paint the picture of a long gone Northwest. These old breweries were staples, and had been around forever. Lucky Lager had actually at one time had a brewery in Vancouver, WA. After all others had closed, Lucky was being made up at the Olympia Tumwater Brewery. Now, Olympia and Rainier are brewed under contract in California. Seems kind of wrong, but at least the names are still alive. Lucky is made by Labatt's now, and quite popular in southern BC. Rheinlander is long gone, though a brewery in Wisconsin makes a beer called Rhinelander, note the difference in spelling, and confusion.
Quick note here. I am sure a lot of you have had some awesome product made by the great folks at Oskar Blues. But, did you know, that the plastic rings that hold the six packs together are photo degradable??? How cool is that!?! In other words, left out in sunlight, they will actually totally disappear. Another reason to pick up some at Belmont or Beer Mongers (that allows you to buy single cans) today!!
The other day we made it to Salmon Creek Brew Pub up in Vancouver, right next door to By the bottle. I had never been there before, but really it was the only place in the Couve I could think of to take my parents out to eat. Plus, the opportunity to scratch another brew pub of my list sounded good too. In theory. Only two beers were ordered, by myself and my wife. I got the promising sounding Brother Larry's Belgian, while Erin went for the Scottish Ale. Short story, both were a disaster. The Belgian was a nice color, and even had a pleasant, though subtle, nose. The hint of any kind of Belgian flavor lasted seconds, and disappeared leaving the oh so pleasant taste of water. It was weak beyond belief. The Scottish was exactly the same, my cat is more Scottish than that beer was. My mom's ice tea even looked about 50-50 water and tea. It was bad beer folks. Maybe it always isn't, I don't know. I would always be happy to give it another go to see. Or at least, I would have been..... When we got the bill the real entertainment started. We were shocked that four lunches, two beers, and two double shots of Jim Beam ended up being over $90. Ok, that's fine, we were shocked, but I guess $11 for a double shot of Beam adds up, but something else didn't. Apparently, my beer was more expensive than Erin's, and not available on the happy hour menu. Would have been nice to know that. We asked, and the very nice waitress asked someone, who turned out to be the owner, Ana Pratt. She laughed, and said "Of course it's more expensive, everything comes from Belgium to make it. " Maybe a Belgium brewer should have come in the box. Ok, well, we mumbled and went to signing the check. Then she comes over, and explains, again, that it all comes from Belgian, and that it is not on the happy hour menu. The problem we had, was, there is no notation of any of that on the beer menu. She then, in front of the lovely waitress, says it was the waitress's fault for not letting us know. The fight was on. My wife, irritated that she would call out the waitress for her mistake, told her bluntly that the beer wasn't very good. She then told us it has won several awards . You know, this was the same problem I had with Ken at Fearless. If someone doesn't like your beer, don't start shouting who does like it, and bringing out your ribbons and shit. Say something like, "you know, I am sorry you didn't like it, would you like to try something else", or something along those lines. Both Ana and Ken got angry we didn't like it, and treated us like idiots because they have award winning beer. That somehow their scary great brewing skills were lost on the likes of us. Awards do not pay the bills, and that award was for a single batch. I know what we had that day would not win 2nd place at a 2 beer competition. So, my humble, simple advice is to avoid this place at all costs. Ana would rather argue that her beer is good, than actually listen to what her customers are saying. But hell, it's just my opinion. I know lots of places where I can get better beer, and friendlier service.
So, I have making my way through some beers that I normally wouldn't buy, in an attempt to tune in on what my father would go for. Last night, I decided to do a blind taste test, made possible my the fine folks at Beer Mongers, that allow you to buy single cans. The beers: Coors, Tecate, Alaskan Amber, PBR, Dales Pale Ale, and Big Sky Brewing's Trout Slayer. I tried to get mild tasting, lighter beers, with a few twists thrown in. Another way to go, I guess, would have been to get Busch, Bud, and some Natural Light thrown in, but my poor fridge can only hold so much shitty beer. A side note, I plan on doing a blind taste of PBR, Hamm's, Olympia, and Rainier at some point. So, the color I thought would be a dead give away for the Alaskan and Dales. They were darker, and the Alaskan would be more red. I was feeling confident. But, I was only able to pick out the PBR and Dales. We also found out that dad's favorite beer wasn't his beloved Coors, but PBR, even when tasted side by side. Then, with six half glasses, the fun started. We got the idea to start mixing. The Coors and PBR got mixed, and mellowed out the PBR's fizzy-ness, while making the Coors a little more interesting. Not bad. Next, we mixed the Alaskan Amber and the Dales. Wow, now, if you want to tste something different, that is the way to go. It was pretty good. The Tecate and Trout Slayer got mixed last, and in this case, last was definitely least. Horrible. Though, to be fair, the only thing one could do to improve the taste of Tecate would be to drop a bomb on the brewery. My personal taste was the Dales was easily the best, and the Tecate was the worst. Though, maybe it wasn't even fair to compare all of these together, but, we did, and it was fun.
Hood River has three breweries, Full Sail, Double Mountain, and Big Horse. Big Horse you say??? Yep, atop a hill, with an army of stairs to ward off the weak, it does exist. Why hasn't this brewery received the accolades that Double Mountain and Full Sail have?? Hmmm, I think I may know why. My parents are still here. We did the whole fruit loop thing, and arrived in Hood River too early to enjoy the genius of the brewers at Double Mountain. Full Sail was out of the question because, well, I do not like the taproom anymore. So we went to Big Horse for a pint and some grub. The adventure into the unknown started only after my parent's, in their 70's, trekked up the stairs. First impression, the service sucked. Althought the two waitresses seemed friednly enough, this observation was only determoned by how I saw them treat the other customers. It would be awhle before we were aknowledged at the please wait to be seated room. It not only would have been nice to be talked to, but even offered a pint as we were waiting for a seat. After being sat, the service improved. Second impression, the pricing of beer was a little too complex. Archimedes himself would scratch his head deciphering it. First off, I hate places that charge for a sample of beer. I think a microbrew, especially one with a zillion stairs, should reward patrons with a 40z sample of their choosing. Charging a dollar for a 40z sample seems trivial. Then, they have sliding scale taster tray pricing. 4 4oz samples will run you 5$ (though a pint only costs you $4), and 5 samples go up to 6, 6 for 7, etc. Then, you have to add .50 for a pint of beer that is 7% ABV- 8% ABV, and $1 to a beer that is 8% +. Christ, after going through all of this, anyone would need a drink. First up, I had the Lonely Mt. Blacksmith Beer. At 6.5%, I slid just under the 7% penalty charge. It was described was a Swarzbier, a black lager. It came with a nice, creamy head, and very dense, dark black color. On the nose I picked up hints of anise, and malt. The taste combined malt, anise, and a smokey flavor. Not too shabby. My dad had the Easy Blonde. At 5%, I hoped the light beer would be the closest thing to his beloved Coors I could find. It poured without a head, and was a very clear, straw colored brew. The taste was a spicy, almost citrus flavor, and evidently was good enough to warrant a second pint. The Strange was my last pint. It's made with raw hulled hemp seeds, which, as far as I can tell, looks better on the menu than it ended up tasting in the beer. Adding hemp to a beer seems gimmicky to me. It was made using Palisade hops, and came in at 6% ABV. It tasted like a really bitter, poorly made IPA. If you are dying to cross off every brewery in Oregon on your list, it may be worth a visit. If not, skip it, and try to get to Hood River late enough to enjoy Double Mountain. Or, you know, go to Full Sail if you haven't been. I only detest it because I saw what it used to be, and loathe the changes they have made. I swear my final words will be "free...oyster..crackers."
My posting may be sporadic over the next few weeks, as my parents are visiting for the month. My father's visit signals the arrival of a Coors stocked fridge. Over the past 8 years or so, I would always strive to offer some of the NW's finest micros, trying to impress him of my knowledge of breweries, fine beers, and bold tastes. I realized during one visit to a micro brew that my efforts were maybe a bit optimistic, as he asked the bartender what they made that tasted like Coors. Ok, time to throw in the towel. Coors isn't a bad beer by any means. I find it to be a little tasteless, but of course, I am used to Belgian Sours, bitter IPAs, and black hole dark stouts. But the important thing to me is that my dad likes it, and it is a beer that we can drink together. I would feel like the biggest snobby asshole if I was sniffing a bottle conditioned, 6 dollar a bottle Belgian, as he was happily putting away a can of Coors. So, for awhile, it's Coors. I even tried a bit to introduce some milder beers, Full Sail's Session, HUB Lager, but to no avail. Interestingly enough, we did find one beer he drank, and even liked. After a trip to Double Mountain a few days ago, we may have found a beer that rivals Coors, their bourbon barrel aged Terrible Two. a great place to pick up some Coors.