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.


Kris said...

I'm not familiar enough with the San Fran scene to know, but I do know that in comparison to Minneapolis/St. Paul, there is relatively little cask beer in Portland, although I'm not sure why there's a lack of it here. What I do know is Horse Brass is by far the best place to go for cask beer. I wish you many, many more pints of cask beer.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post. The Session round-up is now live:

Anonymous said...


We all remember the standout beer brand of the mid 1900s, a beer called Rheingold which was first produced in the early years of 1883 and permeated society to become a top-selling beverage due to its fair pricing and solid taste. Rheingold’s appeal was so influential that during the 1950s, it accounted for a third of the New York’s beer market, revealing its widespread appreciation. Its pigeon mascot fits its New York origins and seemingly represents the soaring nature, specifically the taking off and popularity of this beer.

Furthermore, the brand bolstered its recognition by holding annual Miss Rheingold Competitions, in order to find beautiful women to represent the brand and its image. Apart from this endeavor, Rheingold sought to promote their brand by top advertising, hiring celebrities such as John Wayne and the Marx Brothers to represent the beer in popular television commercials. However, the most notable aspect about this beer is that it is making a comeback today, when it was acquired by the liquor company DrinksAmericas in 2005.

I first came across this retro beer at a party a couple of weeks ago, and let me tell you that I loved its mellow flavor as well as the incredible amount of history which is associated with the brand. The fact that my dad used to drink this beer boggles my mind and shows just how pertinent the Rheingold brand is to various age groups, whether young or old. Everyone around me at the party enjoyed the beer too, as they kept on asking questions about this drink that they had never heard of before. If you haven’t heard of it or want to inquire about more information regarding this amazing beverage, hit up the beer’s website at RheingoldBrewingCompany.com, to be pleasantly introduced to New York’s Prime Beer! Take a look, then a taste, and you will agree with me that Rheingold is here to stay.

-Anna Guller