Review: Outdoor Research Echo L/S (Long Sleeve) Tee

Outdoor Research Echo L/S Tee in action, making one of 33 crossings on the Middle Fork of the Gila River, NM.

This review is a very long time in coming. In fact, it’s rolled over on my weekly to-do list every week since August 2020. I bought the Outdoor Research Echo L/S Tee in May 2020 and I’ve been wearing the shirt frequently for over a year, racking up somewhere north of 200 miles backpacking, hiking, and running, including a 50-mile trip in the Gila Wilderness and even a little cycling.

I’ve become increasingly cautious about the amount of sun exposure I get as I’ve gotten older. Especially while stationed in El Paso, I wear a hat and long sleeve shirt during daytime outdoor activities year-round. Two summers in Iraq taught me that I can survive wearing long sleeves during the summer just fine — even in Texas. And you’ll actually feel cooler with the right layers keeping the sun off than you will with exposed skin. Before picking up the Outdoor Research Echo, I’d been wearing a long-sleeved shirt that I got from the 2011 Cowtown Ultra Marathon. Great, lightweight shirt, but it’s gotten pretty funky after ten years, so I started looking for a replacement. Kuhl, REI, Mountain Hardwear, and a lot of other companies make similar shirts. I don’t remember exactly why I tried the OR first–it might have been the only one available in my size at the time.

Material & finish both look good. Fabric is a very light, meshy weave that dries quickly and doesn’t retain much moisture, but doesn’t provide much warmth on cool nights in camp. It doesn’t feel delicate, but I wouldn’t call it robust, either. Initially, I was afraid that it would snag or tear easily, but it’s held up to everything I’ve put it through. Flat-stitched seams look good and clean. Shoulder seams run along the edge of the shoulder and haven’t interfered with pack straps at all. I’ve worn it for hours in muggy rain in the Gila and over-100-degree desert sun and it’s stayed comfortable. Even after nine days in the Gila it didn’t stink… much.

Outdoor Research Echo L/S Tee. This was about day 3 in the Gila Wilderness.

I’m 5’9″, 160 lbs (ok, 165ish right now–thanks COVID) with a 40″ chest and 29″ waist. My sleeve length is around 33.” This shirt fits ok in the shoulders and chest, but the sleeves are about 4″ longer than I’d like. When I get a second, I’ll probably buy a size small, which I think will probably fit perfectly. Until then, I’ll just keep rolling up the sleeves. Initially, I thought the long sleeves were going to annoy me, but the forearms are snug enough that if I pull them up/back a little they stay off my hands just fine.

Fits perfectly in the shoulders, but the sleeves are a few inches too long. Mine does not have thumb holes.

Overall, great shirt. They make a hoodie also, which I’ve been thinking about getting recently for a little more neck and ear protection. I’ve read some reviews online recently that complained that the fit changed in 2021, making it baggier with larger, exposed thumbholes. Which is quite a bummer, because I’ve been meaning to buy another one in light grey (“pebble” they call it).

Out for the first test run, June 2020. Has the shirt shrunk, or have I expanded in the last year?

Disclaimer: I purchased this shirt and haven’t received any inducement or compensation from Outdoor Research–but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to it. If you have some gear or beer that you think I should check out, shoot me a note. The opinions in this post are my own and do not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Army or any other component of the U.S. government.

Road to Cicerone: German Beer Styles Course, part 1

As a longtime craft beer enthusiast, I’ve finally decided that it’s time to engage in a degree of formal education. I’ve consumed beer and brewing podcasts and books pretty consistently since about 2008, but I’ve always been very self-conscious of my ability to identify and describe beer characteristics and discuss styles with beer professionals and other aficionados. 

So, in that light, I decided that the time was ripe to look into some of the Cicerone training options and, with a couple trips to Germany on the horizon, the “Road to Cicerone: German Beer Styles Course” seems like a good place to start (see my previous post).

I don’t really drink a lot of German styles. In fact, I don’t particularly care for some of the most characteristic, including Pils and Weiss types (although I’ve become pretty fond of Gose over the last two years), but have been meaning to try more of them to attempt to expand my palate. In fact, I had planned to do a Pilsner comparison last summer and never got around to it. (Caveat: other than a tasting event, I have pretty much only had American examples of German styles… so not truly German beers, although during college I drank gallons of Shiner Bock).

Warning: don’t try this at home.

My goal is to go through the Cicerone material in conjunction with my trips to Germany, and to find and try as many German commercial examples as possible in their native habitat.

So What’s Included in the Course?

Note: Throughout this series of posts, I’ll be including some info about the material that I haven’t seen anywhere else online as a resource for other people considering purchasing it, but I won’t violate their intellectual property by posting any of the actual course material or specific activities; also, I’m not going to give a lot of brewing info—other, more qualified, people have already published enough of that elsewhere. Check out Basic Brewing Radio and the Brewing Network. The thoughts below synthesize material from the course, readings from the Oxford Companion to Beer, and other online sources.

That being said: here are the topics included in the course:

INTRODUCTION

GUIDELINES FOR PURCHASING BEER
Buying Quality Beer in the Store 
List of Recommended Commercial Examples 
List of Beers and Other Resources Required for Each Activity   

GERMAN BEER AND BREWING CULTURE
UNIT 1: Reinheitsgebot 
UNIT 2: Malts 
UNIT 3: Hops 
UNIT 4: Yeast and Fermentation 
UNIT 5: Water 
UNIT 6: Lagering 
UNIT 7: Decoction 
UNIT 8: Bottle Conditioning 
UNIT 9: Beer Service   

GERMAN LAGERS
UNIT 10: Dark Lagers
UNIT 11: Vienna Lager, Märzen, Festbier 
UNIT 12: Bock Beers 
UNIT 13: Pale Lagers   

GERMAN ALES
UNIT 14: Wheat Beers of Germany 
UNIT 15: The Rhine Ales: Kolsch and Altbier   

REFERENCES
REVIEW QUESTIONS
APPENDIXES

German Beer and Brewing Culture

As it probably should, the program starts with a section examining some features unique to German brewing that give it the distinctive characteristics that distinguish German beers from other European, UK, and US styles. As someone who has read and studied about brewing broadly but never paid much attention to the specifics of German brewing (i.e., specific malt, hop, and yeast traditions), these lessons were fairly eye-opening for me.  

Most beer enthusiasts have probably heard of one of the most “basic” principles of brewing (not really), the “Bavarian Purity Law of 1516,” commonly known as the Reinheitsgebot. While beer marketing frequently references it as hallmark of authentic, “pure” brewing (limiting beer ingredients to malt, hops, yeast, and water), it’s actually much more complex, with major distinctions between limitations placed on ales vs. lagers, as well as various evolutions over the centuries, which isn’t too surprising for a 500-year old law. For example, in 1516, the existence of yeast hadn’t been discovered and so isn’t included in the original regulation. Other significant historical events, such as German unification and creation of the EU have influenced the current law, instituted in 1993.

Malts

German brewing primarily uses three base malts, each of which impart specific characteristics depending on the relative amounts used and other ingredients in the recipe. I have (very) limited experience homebrewing (and that all extract), although I’ve listened to brewing podcasts for years and read several of the classic beer books, so the section on malt was particularly interesting to me. I procured samples of Wheat, Pilsner, and Munich malts from El Paso Homebrewing Supply (big thanks to them—he didn’t charge me since I was getting such small amounts of malt).

Pilsner, Munich, and Wheat Malt Samples

Common flavor characteristics:

  • Wheat: Creates a lighter body in beer than barley malt, even delicate” texture; also adds a bit of acidity.
  • Pilsner: 1.5 to 2.1 degrees L; give beer a delicate maltiness, with substantial body and mouthfeel and foamy head with good retention; flavor tends to be “soft, round, direct, and sweetly malty.”
  • Munich: wide range of color (approx.. 5 to 12 degrees L); has high Melanoidin content due to malting technique, which gives beer malty-sweet flavor and deep color.

Information from Oxford Companion to Beer, ed. Garrett Oliver, Oxford University Press, 2012. 

Ok, honestly… all three malts look pretty similar to me. The wheat malt kernel has a clearly different shape than the barley and no husk. But all three are about the same size and color and I really couldn’t detect any distinct aroma from any of them.

Next, I tasted a small amount of each.

I thought the Wheat malt tasted a lot like the whole wheat sandwich bread that we eat. Slightly toasty (like dry toast). Maybe a bit like bread crust.

The Pilsner malt was clearly different flavor than the wheat malt. It tasted a little “green” to me, actually, and a little more “grainy” than the wheat malt, which tasted more like food, by comparison. A little bready, but like a specialty bread, not a sandwich bread. Maybe a little crackery?

Munich malt looked indistinguishable from the Pilsner, but tasted much “darker.” The flavor was hard to describe. Possibly cracker flavor. I actually ate kind of “a lot” of the Munich malt trying to figure out what flavors were present.  

Finally, to examine the influence of the malt on the finished product, I tasted several commercial beers made with each of the three varieties of malt. The program book and the BJCP both offer lists of commercial examples for each style. El Paso is not exactly a German beer oasis, but I found a pretty good selection between Whole Foods and Total Wine. 

Wheat Malt: Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (Weissbier) – slightly hazy light yellow with big foamy white head. Very light. Banana and clove, no big surprise. Do I taste a little bread, or is it the malt still in my teeth from a few minutes ago?

Pilsner Malt: Hoffbrau Original (Munich Helles) – Very light yellow, with fizzy white head. Totally clear. I can definitely recognize the pilsner malt. Smells and tastes a bit crackery, but otherwise very neutral. Maybe a little grassy or vegetal? Has the very “subtle” (I’m being objective, so I didn’t say “bland”) flavors that I associate with German beers. Very crisp and clean, not a lot of strong, robust flavor. 

Munich Malt: Paulaner Salvator (Doppelbock) – pretty sure it’s past its best-by date (02.20), but the difference between this and the other two beers is pretty stark; darker, honey color with ample fizzy light tan head. Sweet aroma and flavor. Strongly malty, with caramelly sweetness. Possibly some oxidation. I’m going to have to try this again with a fresher sample.  

Hops

Of the approximately 80* varieties of hops, Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, Spalter, Tettnanger, and Saaz, known as the “Noble Hops” are the four traditionally used in German and Czech brewing. Some of the common aroma and flavor descriptions of these hops include herbal and floral. *this is the number most commonly given online. However, brewcabin.com lists 147 varieties (including multiple different strains of some varietals).

  • Hallertauer: “ landrace” hop from the Hallertau region of Germany. Spicy-herbal, complex aroma and produces a smooth bitterness; may acquire cedar, leather, and tobacco notes as it ages. Fits flavor profile of most lagers, especially pilsners.
  • Spalt/Spalter: from Spalt region southwest of Nuremberg in Bavaria. Delicate, spicy aroma.. Common in pilsner, bock, kolsch, and helles; classic hop for altbier. 
  • Tettnanger: ‘landrace” hop grown in the Tettnanger region of Southern Germany; Similar to Czech Saaz. Unique aroma and slightly citrus-like, almost grassy flavor. Classic hop for German pilsner.
  • Saaz: originally from Czech Republic / Central Europe. Uniquely pleasant aroma? Thanks, Oxford… that doesn’t really help. Low bittering. One of the ingredients responsible for the characteristic flavor of Bohemian Pilsner.
“Noble Hops,” Em Sauter, @pintsandpanels, pintsandpanels.com  

To compare hop characteristics, I tasted Pilsner Urquell (Czech Premium Pale Lager) and Konig Pilsner (German Pilsner). To my knowledge, I haven’t had either of these before.

Pilsner Urquell poured crystal clear light orange, exactly the color of apple juice. My first pour was too soft and didn’t produce much head. When I poured a second glass it produced a moderate amount of foamy white head. The aroma is… well… the aroma actually is pleasant… very light and soft. Grassy and floral with maybe a tiny citrus/fruit character. Very light body; fairly bitter, with an almost grassy flavor. Maybe a tiny bit of malt that comes and goes, hidden in the bitter hop flavor.

The Konig Pilsener was light, straw yellow, with off-white foamy head. Good head retention. Very light aroma and hard to describe. Crackery malt up front. Very faint grassy or floral aroma? A bit of spiciness. Much more balanced flavor than the Pilsner Urquell. Bready malt. Floral, with some spiciness—particularly in the aftertaste.

Overall, I thought the characters were obviously different between the two beers, but not really distinct compared to other beers or styles. It did demonstrate the fact that hop variations produce different characteristics in beer… 

Yeast and Fermentation

German beers are predominantly lagers, one of the reasons that I don’t drink a lot of German beers, I guess…The process of lagering is something I’m interested in learning more about, but I generally tend to prefer the flavors of British and American-style ales over the lagers I’ve tried before.

Most German styles use lager yeasts adapted to the cool brewing temperatures; notable exceptions are yeasts used in Kolsch, Altbier, Weizens, and Berliner Weisse (actually the bacteria lactobacillus, in that style). Yeast selection imparts many of the characteristic flavors of German beer styles; in particular, banana and clove flavors in Wiezen beers and the lack of many fruit characteristics common in other styles (like IPAs).

To get a better idea of the influence of yeast selection on beer flavor, I did a comparison tasting of Franziskaner Weissbier (Weizen), Weihenstephaner Original (Lager), and Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (Ale).

Comparing the flavors in beers brewed with lager, ale, and Weizen yeast; the differences were very interesting: 

BeerFruity FlavorsFruit IntensitySpicy FlavorsSpice Intensity
Weihenstephaner Original (Munich Helles)red apple, mixed fruit Lownone in aroma; maybe clove/black pepper in flavorModerate
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (American Blonde Ale)Apple/pearModerate None
Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse (Weissbier)BananaHighNutmeg/cloveModerate

Overall, this activity was pretty frustrating, because I felt like the aromas and flavors should be more distinct, but I’m struggling to identify them. Although, maybe that’s the whole “thing” with many German styles? The subtlety and balance, rather than in-your-face characteristics common in contemporary American brewing?

The unit also called for a “blind” comparison between a lager and an ale to examine the differences in flavor and aroma between the two. Cicerone provides a number of recommended pairs to compare. The pair I was able to find was Paulaner Salvator (Doppelbock) and Chimay Premiere – Red label (Belgian Dubbel).


I thought it was remarkable how obvious the differences in aroma and flavor between the two beers were. The lager had very strong malt presence with dominant bready aroma and flavor. The ale had much lighter aroma and flavor and was more complex, combining fruits and spices. It was immediately apparent which was the Doppelbock (lager). I’d never tried this kind of comparison and it was really eye-opening (well, not literally because I had my eyes closed when I mixed up the two beers).

More Elementary Brewing and German Brewing Culture 

The course goes on to briefly touch on other factors that contribute to Germany’s unique beer culture: influence of water, lagering, decoction mashing, bottle conditioning, and beer service/glassware. A few notes of interest to me: 

Lagering leaves the beer with flavors primarily derived from the malt and hops, with little yeast flavor. During lagering, residual sugars and negative flavor compounds such as sulfur, ester, or aldehydes are metabolized by the yeas. This results in crisp or clean flavors associated with lagers (and therefore German beers, in general). 

Modern malting technology has reduced the need for decoction mashing, but German brewers originally used it (removing an amount of wort, bringing it to a boil, and adding it back to the rest of the mash) to improve the utilization of undermodified malts; the additional heating involved also darkens the color of beer and can give it bready and toasty flavors. 

Bottle conditioning is less frequently used in German beers than elsewhere, but is common for Weizen-style beers. I feel like bottle conditioning is pretty commonplace in American craft brewing. The main distinction being that we normally try to avoid pouring the yeast from the bottle, while it is typical to swirl and pour the yeast on top of the head when drinking bottle-conditioned Weizen beers. 

The section concludes with a discussion of German beer service as well as common types of glassware used for German beer, especially styles known for characteristic vessels like Weizen and Kolsch. Like in Britain, many German pubs are owned by or affiliated with by a particular brewery and serve only beers from that brewery—often only two or four at a time.

What’s next?

Section two is a deep-dive into German lager styles. I’m going to start working my way through the units over the next few weeks, but finding the necessary beers for the activities may be a challenge. El Paso isn’t exactly a German-beer hotspot, and we are currently in a stay-home order due to COVID-19. Of course, I’ll post updates to Instagram along the way as I work through the units and tasting activities, so keep checking back.

Braking not Breaking – Magura MT Trail Sport Disc Brakes

Magura MT Trail Sport Brakes

So… despite the questionable intelligence of upgrading a 10 year old mountain bike, I bit the bullet and swapped out the brakes on my 2009 Specialized Epic Comp. Long story short, the stock Avid Elixir SL brakes just never did it for me. After a few sketchy rides (not quite “close calls,” but very squishy brakes), I started doing some research and ultimately decided to invest in a set of Magura MT Trail Sport brakes.

So what’s so great about the MT Trail Sport brakes?

There are several great reviews available online (pinkbike, BikeMag), so I’ll keep it short. The MT Trail Sport comes as a fully-bled, ready-to-install set consisting of a four-piston MT5 caliper for the front, a two-piston MT4 caliper for the rear, and short HC1 levers. The one-finger levers were one of the reasons that I went with Magura over something like Shimano XT. I went with 180mm front and 160mm rotors, which was an increase of about 20mm on each from my stock brakes. The MT5/MT4 combination is supposed to provide huge stopping power to the front wheel, but allow for a lot of control over the rear brake force (i.e., “modulation”).

How’s the install?

The install wasn’t bad. I’m a pretty handy guy, but I haven’t done one of these before and haven’t really worked on bikes in about 20 years. All told, it took about three hours, but I fiddled with the caliper alignment more than necessary trying to get them perfect. I have a slight rubbing at a couple points on the rotors, but it is so little that i’ll probably just ignore it—at least for the time being. Between the calipers, mounting adapters, rotors, and levers, all the components seem to integrate cleanly and everything went on without any hassle. 

Magura MT Trail Sport Disc Brake Install

How do they perform on the trail?

To test them out, I headed out to some one of the trails in northeast El Paso to see how they hold up. I did parts of the Old Tin Mine Road, Blue Moon, Mad Cow, and Lazy Cow trails. This system is less aggressive than the Lost Dog Trail system right by my house on the west side, with fewer steep technical climbs and drops. It’s still basically a 2-mile climb up loose gravel followed by a 4-mile descent. Like all the trails in El Paso, the trail varies between sections of small, medium, and large rocks and gravel.

Test ride in the Franklin Mountains, El Paso, TX

First impressions:

I like them a lot and I’m glad I upgraded. They have good engagement and stopping power front and rear. Not sure if I am qualified to say that they have good “modulation,” but I could apply the braking power I needed to stop without them locking up or feeling spongy. Although I did lock up the rear wheel skidding into the parking lot after the last downhill.

The one issue I had was that the front brake seemed to get a little soft mid-ride and I was afraid that I had messed it up when i was shortening the brake lines. It seems to have gone away after I fiddled a little more with the reach adjust. Now both front and read seem to have similar travel and engagement. I may bring the levers in just a hair more so that I can get a tiny bit more of my index finger on the lever when fully extended. Or I may not. I’m pretty satisfied with them for the time being.

Trails ridden in this review:

Jumping into Cicerone

Jumping into Cicerone Graphic

I’ve been and connoisseur and critic of beer even since before I ever started drinking… no, wait — it’s true and I’ll explain. 

I grew up in a religiously conservative home and I never even tried beer until shortly after my 21st birthday. When I did decide that I was going to start drinking, it was craft beer. You could probably count the number of mass-produced adjunct “crap” beers that I’ve consumed on your fingers and toes and still have at least one left over to shoot AB-InBev the bird.

For the last 20 years, though, craft beer has been the one constant hobby that I’ve maintained whether living in Kansas, Georgia, New York, Hawaii, or Texas. Even during my combat deployments I’ve continued to read and listen to beer and brewing books and podcasts. (FYI, if you’re stuck with non-alcoholic beer, look for Birell)

What is Cicerone?

The Cicerone (sis-uh-rohn) Certification Program is a series of four beer certifications levels geared at service industry professionals. Similar to a “Beer Sommelier,” graduates of the three upper levels receive the title of Cicerone, while graduates of the introductory level are simply “Certified Beer Servers.” Over the last year, or so, Cicerone has also introduced some additional material on specific topics, helping to bridge the gap between Certified Beer Server and Cicerone, called “Road to Cicerone.”

So why spend money on a Cicerone Program?

Being a “full-time” active duty Army officer, I don’t really have a professional need for any formal beer education to enjoy drinking great beer (or know when I’m drinking bad beer). But, over the last two years I’ve gotten more serious about craft beer as an avocation, I’ve become much more aware of the limits of my ability to discuss beer and brewing intelligently and effectively. So for me, equipping myself with some additional tools to discuss the finer points of beer with other aficionados and professionals is a tempting proposition.

And to top it off, now that I’m getting close to retirement eligibility, I’m thinking more and more about my next career, whenever it comes next and whether or not avocation may evolve into some sort of vocation. Who knows… 

No really, why spend money on a Cicerone Program?

My goals for the immediate future? Pretty simple, I guess: to improve my overall knowledge of beer, styles, ingredients, flavor characteristics, and ability to identify and discuss them. I’m still working out what to do with that knowledge…

Doing this in addition to my “real” life presents many of the same challenges inherent in any major educational or work endeavor: it is very difficult to ensure that I can devote time to consistent study over a period of several months. So, as much as I’d like to jump right into the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam, I’m going to wet my feet with some of the Road to Cicerone material first. Without having seen detailed a breakdown of any of them (there are five as I write this), they seem well-suited to my specific beer education goals and address areas I am specifically interested in as discrete subjects (i.e., American beer styles, English and Irish styles, German styles, brewing ingredients, etc.). I feel like attacking one of these when I know that life is going to be slow for several weeks or months will be a good way to educate myself in manageable chunks. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

What do you think?

Have you done any of the Cicerone certifications? Let me know your thoughts and experience!!

How I Pack Beer for Trading

Here’s a little video that I made a few weeks ago about how I pack beer for trading. It’s a bit of an involved process, but I haven’t had a bottle or can seriously damaged in transit yet.

One thing I forgot to show is that I also put a wrap of electrical tape around the bottle cap on bottled beer with regular press-on caps. I feel like it helps prevent leaks due to pressure changes.

Do you trade beer? If so, how do you package?

Trip Report – Fort Lewis – Part 3

The boss had dinner plans, so I was able to make a quick grocery run to Tacoma and swing by Peaks and Pints. We missed the shop on the first pass, but luckily saw the big sign on the back, which coincidentally had a nice parking lot that we could actually get the huge rental truck in and out of.

Great selection, but I know so little about the local Washington/Oregon breweries that I had a hard time figuring out what to grab. Large, open restaurant/taproom space that I couldn’t get a good shot of with all the various people milling around.

I was so overwhelmed by the coolers that I didn’t notice until I was looking at my pictures that the beer is organized by WA, OR, CA, etc.

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to make it back this trip, but I’d definitely like to go when it is less crowded and hang out for a while in the taproom.

Trip Report – Fort Lewis – Part 2

Team dinner at Topside in Steilacoom gave me the opportunity to try a few “local” brews (well, pretty local, anyway). Nice spot and not super expensive considering the great view of Puget Sound. They have a cool sound system in the private dining room, with speakers mounted in kegs, but we couldn’t get it to work. Nice beer list, too. I would have liked to try a few more if it was a social hangout. They warned us that the Rude Parrot was their hoppiest IPA, but I thought it was pretty balanced and drinkable. Grit City Porter was pretty good. No heavy coffee flavor (win!), but a bit thin.

Pacific Brewing and Malting Grit City Porter

Boundary Bay IPA

7 Seas Rude Parrot IPA

Narrows Brewing Proctor DDH Pale Hazy Ale

Hellbent Funky Red Patina

 

Trip Report – Fort Lewis – Part 1

Odd Otter Flight

Wow, I’m way overdue for a post. I’m currently on a work trip to Fort Lewis, Washington. Even with all the amazing breweries in the area, it’s been remarkably hard to visit any because of work. The on-post convenience store has some great options (maybe too many, to be honest). But with the daily schedule, we’ve only managed to check out a couple of the local taprooms so far.

Forward Operating Base Brewing (F.O.B. Brewing), Dupont.

Interesting spot. Went to grab a beer and some food, but unfortunately no food truck that night. So, we grabbed a beer and then headed out to eat. I would have liked to try a few more of their beers. The Little Bird IPA was a tasty, drinkable West Coast IPA. Clean, piney hoppiness with a little citrus/fruit in the aroma. I picked up a bomber of the Specter Imperial Stout, but I’m taking that back home. I’ll try to post a note after I try it.

 

Odd Otter Brewing, Tacoma.

At the suggestion of one of my favorite lieutenants, we grabbed dinner and a beer at Odd Otter Brewing in Tacoma. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a small taproom and it got a bit loud for conversation at times, but good beer and a cool space. Ordered food from the restaurant next door and it showed up super fast. Highly recommend.

 

A Stout Reminiscence

As I was driving in to work yesterday, I was listening to podcasts with Jeff Stuffings of Jester King and Phil Markowski of Two Roads. Both touched on the current vogue of “sour” beers among craft consumers and it made me think back to a time before the IPA boom when stouts seemed to enjoy a particular cache among [a much smaller number of] producers and consumers. I remember hunting for stouts in 2006-2007 in Kansas and Georgia. Rather than focusing on IBUs, the terms of reference were original and final gravity and you could often find one or both on the label as we hunted for higher ABVs and ever thicker, bigger beers. Avery Brewing’s Mephistopheles (now sadly out of production) was one of the biggest at slightly over 15% ABV.
I’m developing a more attuned palette for sours, and I love a good IPA, but I’ll tell–I’ll never turn down a malty, silky Russian Imperial Stout–no matter how hot it gets this summer.
scan0022

My apologies for the quality of the picture. This is a scan I made in 2008 of a first-batch Mephistopheles label. The combination of an early-2000s scanner plus a black metallic label is a recipe for a mediocre image. [Sad face]

First Friday Firkin – Deadbeach Brewery 7/6/2018

I made it out to First Friday Firkin at Brewery again – I think this was three in a row! Unfortunately, I will probably have to work next time. But, depending on what they tap, it might be worth a quick stop on the way home. I like hanging out at Deadbeach on the Fridays when I’m off work, but everyone else is at work or school. If we are all just sitting around the house, it isn’t really convenient for me to slip downtown to have a drink by myself.
Today, though, Ranger needed to get out of the house for a little while and I had another errand to run, anyway. We were all set to chill in the beer garden, but they let us come into the bar and even gave Ranger a bowl of water. I took him running this morning, so he was perfectly content to sprawl on the floor anyway.
These First Friday Firkin beers tend to be pretty unique offerings. In May it was Peanut Butter Wookie and June’s was Morning Delight (their Abuela Stout brewed with donuts and coffee). This month it was a cask aged Herr Budde (light lager, get it?) with watermelon, kiwi and Rainier Cherries.
It was a reasonably cool day in El Paso today and overcast most of the morning, so the pavement wasn’t as hot as it could be. Even so, on the way back to my truck, I think the road was on the verge of being too hot for Ranger’s paws. We may have to invest in some dog booties if I’m going to take him out during the day on a regular basis.

Brewery: Deadbeach Brewery, El Paso, TX

Beer: Cask-aged Herr Budde light lager with watermelon, kiwi and Rainier Cherries
Style: uh… Helles Lager-ish?
ABV: 4.1%

2018-07-06 14.44.41

Very light and thin, almost watery. I could really taste the kiwi, but the other flavors weren’t as distinct. It is fresh and clean, but it tasted a little “green” to me. Another summer party beer, but not something that I’d sip around the house. I knew from the Facebook post earlier that this week that it would probably not be one that I would want an entire glass of, but I did want to give it a taste, just the same. There are some people that will really like this light, fruity beverage, but I’m not one of them. C


Beer: I Could Teach, But I’d Have to Charge
Style: Double Dry-Hopped Tangerine Milkshake Hazy IPA
ABV: 7.5%

I Could Teach You, But I'd Have to Charge

Thick and juicy with distinct citrus/tangerine flavor. To me, tangerine has a sharper citrusiness than grapefruit—a little tart. Still good, but with a slight tang. (It also had a ton of sediment for a short pour). I’m ambivalent about the “juicy” hazy IPA style. B


Beer: Dragon Dragon Dragon Dragon
Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 9.5%

Dragon Dragon Dragon Dragon

Solid double IPA. Well balanced and not too malty. It definitely has a strong alcohol character, but it’s still very drinkable and not harsh. I only got a taster because Ranger and I needed to hit the road, but if it’s still on tap the next time I swing by, I’ll be trying Dragon Dragon Dragon Dragon again (or maybe not, if I have to actually say all those “Dragons” when I order it. A-