February 18, 2011

Freelance update

I'm a bad beer blogger. I don't post nearly often enough. But while this doesn't help my Wikio ranking, it's a good sign because that means I'm focusing on freelance gigs. (Or other events such as the "Bangers and Beers for the Birds" fundraiser I was invited to participate in at the G2 Gallery last week. My favorite person I met was the 70-year-old woman who said she buys 2-3 new beers each trip to the market.) Nearly all of them are for print media since I'm old school like that. Some people keep their to-do lists on their smart phones, I keep a dry erase board on my wall by my desk. I swear I'd use hieroglyphics if I had endless wall or cave space.
More and more, these magazines post content on their websites, so, looking for my latest stories, here's what I've found:

All About Beer: Being all about exploring good beer and road trips, I was stoked when they asked me to take over the Beer Traveler column. Not so stoked that it doesn't come with an infinite travel budget to go off anywhere I choose. But it does put me in touch with people-in-the-know all over the country and even the world to hit up when I personally visit the destinations I write about. The most recent on posted, fittingly, is about northern locales for beer tripping in the winter. Fitting b/c it's so cold here I'm wearing my fingerless gloves and drinking a Bridgeport Kingpin Double Red for warmth. I'm currently working on a story about hops which is all I'll say for now. God bless 'em.

DRAFT Magazine: Two recent stories are up. The first is mostly about parallel brewing--when a brewery releases a series of beers that tweak one ingredient or technique and it becomes an education for both producer and consumer. Naturally, I focused on Mikkeller from Denmark because of how many cool series Mikkel does. Then the story was upgraded to being about the "World Series" of stouts, incorporating Dark Horse's intriguing, dark releases.

Closer to home, and perfect timing as it coincides with SF Beer Week, the last page is Draft's column called Beer Me wherein someone from the industry (usually) writes about his or her experiences or take on a current issue facing the industry. On occasion, that person tells someone else their story, which is how I got to write a first-person account of the man behind Cherry Voodoo Brewing who debuted--earlier than expected--at the gala and their own launch party.

Drink Me: Based in SF, each month they put out a themed issue so it's fun to write in some really left field areas. As someone who focuses on the artistic side of the brewing world rather than the scientific aspect (great beer takes both!), I was apprehensive when they announced they were doing a "Science" issue. It forced me to don a lab coat and even bust out some Latin. I still managed to interview one of my favorite brewers to discuss the science of spontaneity (aka wild beers). What was really a treat was the "Heal the World" issue which, naturally, conjures up images of Michael Jackson. Thankfully, we have one of our own. I say have instead of had b/c he's always with us.

Oxford Companion to Beer: Not sure if I'm more humbled or honored by this, and I'll ruin it by making a prurient joke about being hummered, but I just got a most inspiring email from the OCB's esteemed editor, Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, thanking all the contributors who helped compile the most comprehensive book on beer to date, thanks to Oxford University Press. Seeing my name on the 12-page list of contributors--many of whom are heroes and mentors--made me glow. If anyone knows how I attach a PDF, lemme know.

Willamette Week: So glad it didn't take much convincing on my part to get the local alt-weekly to kick up the beer coverage in Beervana. Tomorrow, look for me singing the Wheels on the Bus on the SE PDX shuttle for the 3rd annual Zwickelmania. It will help assuage my lugubriousness from missing SF Beer Week going on now. Speaking of which, I had 3 guest posts last week. One on Oregon brewers invading the Bay. One on the Beer Run (2nd Annual!) that I was present for at the beginning but not entirely present by the end if you know what I mean, thanks to Strong Beers enjoyed at Magnolia mid-run and at Social post-run. And of course a revisiting of our friends at Cherry Voodoo.

Gratefully, there's more to come.

February 6, 2011

The Session #48: Cask, keg, can, bottle?

On Beer Session Friday, I passed on blogging about February’s topic, Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle? hosted by Simon H. Johnson at the Reluctant Scooper, not because I don’t give a flying fuggle about beer dispense per se, but because I don’t take any sides. Nor did I pass because I’m a wannabe Luddite who eschews everything technological including blogging, obviously, but I’ll get back to that in a few. No, when I’m out I generally order draft beer such as the Heater Allen Smoky Bob (Rauchbier) I had earlier today at The Horse Brass Pub (R.I.P. Don Younger). But I don’t buy kegs of beer (or I haven’t yet) so if I’mdrinking commercial beer at home, naturally it’s bottled, such as the bombers of Full Sail Black Gold (Bourbon-aged Imperial Stout) I picked up earlier at Belmont Station. And if I’m going to play disc golf or something, I always bust out the coozies to fill with cans, such as Caldera Pale Ale or maybe Oskar Blues Gubna (Imperial IPA) if I need something potent or to dazzle any friends I play with—the kind who smoke them funny cigarettes—to show them they’re no match for the dankness of this Summit-hopped brew. The one “format” I’m generally not partial to, I admit heretically, is ale on cask.

For anyone still reading and isn’t off checking how to revoke my Beer Geek membership, let me just say I chalk this up to being too American and that I want my beer a touch colder, a tad more carbonated, and an iota less samey. Sorry, but unless I’m in a London pub where I can chat with my mates over pints of bitter and some crisps trying to snog birds (something Half Pint, the wife, would surely frown on), I prefer carbonated or nitrogenated kegged beer. But that all changed today!

Was it because of the amazing cask of Bear Republic Racer 5 they have at the Horse Brass that my friend from Vancouver (“the real one” he says of his home in B.C., not the one just across the state line in Washington that Portlandians refer to as “The ‘Couve”)? Nope!
It was because our dog Dunkel escaped today. Twice. He’s never done that before, but I guess moving twice in the last 2.5 months is freaking him out and when Daddy (that’s me) left, he took it upon himself to dig a hole under the fence and go find me. (Luckily he was detained on the next block each time by nice people.) Now, after his first Houdini impersonation or in-dog-ation, Half Pint and I vowed to get him a dog tag even though he’s microchipped. After his second disappearing act, I immediately ran to the Fred Meyer supermarket across the street (hence why Dunkel looked for me there, because I often tie him up by the entrance) to see if they make tags. They do…sorta. Store employees pointed me toward this, this, machine, this mechanism, that lets you choose the tag (of the six-ish choices, I went with the classic bone shape) and then the touch screen lets you enter what copy you want engraved. And then it just goes right to it, visible to the purchaser, all in robot-fast and robot-efficient swiftness. It almost looks like a crane-grab game, only you get dogtags instead of stuffed animals and the exact item you want drops through the hole every time.

I was mesmerized by this machine. With absolutely no human interaction, I had a perfectly precise tag in my hands in the time it would’ve taken me to Google where to get dogtags made. Then, partly for fun but mostly because we actually needed them, I had extra keys made. From the vending machine next to the engraving machine!! I’m not shitting you. Enter credit card. Enter key. Receive duplicate keys in the tray below. If you want a receipt, enter email address on touch screen and it gets shot to your inbox.

The clerks behind me said they loved it. It was way quieter than hand-cutting keys and doesn’t take their time. But do they love that these machines put one of their coworkers out of a job and that once more self-checkout lines are installed (you’ve seen them, where you swipe your own purchases over the scanner and bag ‘em yourself and nary a checker do you greet in any form of human exchange).

So there you have it. I’ve long hated technology but it doesn’t stop me from keeping up with the 21st century. I have a Droid smartphone (love Apple’s iPhone but hate AT&T’s network), but I kinda hate it and wish my contract was anywhere near expired so I could get an iPhone. I drive a hybrid car that still feels space-age to me but my visiting friend was aghast that I parallel parked without the assistance of a back-up cam, since who uses their own eyes and intuition anymore? I have a laptop but asked a clerk in the tech section of Fred Meyer earlier today what adaptor I need to be able to use the HDMI cable I got to connect said laptop to the TV, which is when the clerk said I should buy a new laptop since mine is so archaic (it’s about 2 years old) that it doesn’t have even a Mini HDMI outlet. So yes, I keep accumulating this crap, but it always crashes, or gives me bad directions or gives me various error signs. I absolutely crave the good old days when stuff was done by hand…people with hands.

And that’s what made me appreciate the hand pump at the Horse Brass even when I’d somewhat taken it for granted mere hours earlier. Among the 3 of us and our 3 pints, the 2 kegged ones appeared a minute later. (And lest you think that’s too long, you’re in luck, since I predict every sporting and concert venue and even some high-volume sports bars with soon be dispensing pints out of this mind-blowing Bottoms-Up contraption that can fill something like 44 pints per minute. WOW/WTF.) But the hand pump one took a good 4 minutes! Furthermore, the beertender was a helluva nice guy. We’d ask about certain beers on tap and he brought us samples. He even put before us a half-filled pint of Mad River Double Brown (possibly on cask) saying something about a bad pour so he figured we wouldn’t let the elixir go to waste (and it happened to be phenomenal). No machine could ever perform that function. Whereas he was considerate and chummy and imperfect yet cognizant of it, technology is always, always, always efficient and lightning fast and cold.

A hand pump and the hands that pump it have no use for 1s and 0s, for Ghz or Mbps. And they don’t dispense industrial lagers. They dispense honest to goodness real ale brewed by artistic, thoughtful, lovable brewmasters. People have been brewing, drinking, and loving beer for millennia and if this is the only way to enjoy it the way it was over a century ago, before the Industrial and Technological Revolutions, then hell yeah, count me in.