Hair of the Dog

With Little Bird and Ox returned to the wild, it was just me and Walden, for the first time in almost two weeks. Well, that’s not quite true. OK, it’s not true at all. I was on my way back to M’s house and was about to spend the next couple of days with him and his family.

Before I even got out of the parking lot, I noticed that Ox’s water bottle was in Walden. I couldn’t figure out how to get it back to him. I texted Little Bird later, and she said that it was a gift. I don’t know whether that was the intent. It still contained a little rock from our trip to the glacier.

When I got back to the house and started to deal with photos again I found that my small laptop’s screen was broken. I’d been considering buying another laptop anyway. I had two, but neither was entirely satisfactory. I had this little netbook that has a hard drive, a small screen, and a slow CPU, and a Google Chromebook. It has a bigger screen and a faster CPU, but a very small solid state drive. Neither is very good for dealing with the damn pictures. With the only one suitable for backing up my photos out of commission, the decision was made.

I did what I tell people who ask me what computer to buy to do. I went to Costco and bought one that cost what I wanted to pay and looked OK. I live in a van and have little need to buy 48 rolls of toilet paper, and hence have no membership at places like Costco. Thankfully, Portland has Costco, and M is a member. I looked at all of the laptops, found was $350, and decided that was how much I wanted to pay. After I bought it, I check the reviews for that laptop and they were sort of bad; the reviewer said it was better spend more money on something with a better tachyon field array. Or something. I don’t really know. These things are commodities now, and unless you’re planning on playing video games or modeling weather patterns, it pretty much doesn’t matter what computer you get.

While I fussed with the new computer, M and I made a plan to go visit Hair of the Dog Brewery. Hair of the Dog is a really cool brewery that makes high alcohol beers almost exclusively. I’d been to the brewery with M and a group of friends from our San Francisco homebrew club some years previously. It was in a hard-to-find industrial district, and there was little way to know whether anyone would be there when you showed up. If there was, however, it was a pretty fantastic brewery tour. The brewery looked like something out of Road Warrior. Since M knew the brewer, we got to taste all kinds of special beers that were hidden in the back of the cooler.

Hair of the Dog’s barrel-aged beers are several years in the making and a 50-gallon barrel makes only about 500 12-ounce beers that go for upwards of $6 a bottle. When the beers are released, a line starts forming the night before and the beers sell out immediately. On our tour, we even got to buy some barrel-aged beer that hadn’t yet been labeled without having to wait in line with the unwashed masses. (Calculating the likelihood that people who are paying $40 for a six pack bath regularly is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Another story I like about Hair of the Dog is that since their beers are almost all on the order of 10% alcohol, they really are not meant to be drunk the same way that your typical swill is (in many states beers that have more than 5% alcohol fall under different laws and have to be sold as wine rather than beer, for example). These beers are called barley wines for a reason. The best way to enjoy a 12-ounce bottle of one of these beers is to share it with a friend, or even three friends. It takes some people a while to learn that, so to make a more accessible beer, the brewer released a double IPA at a mere 8% or so.

The new Hair of the Dog Brewery is quite a different experience. It’s in a nice neighborhood. It’s beautiful. They have plainly-posted, if strange, hours. There is food. The beer, however, is still just as good. In fact, he even reduced the number of places that the beer is distributed. The new brewery has beautiful glassware. The down side is that the special tastings that got pulled out of the deep recesses of the cooler are now gone. And you have to pay for the beer.

When making a typical beer, after the starches have been converted to sugars (a process called “mashing,” which is really just adding hot water to the crushed grain), these sugars are rinsed out (in a process called “sparging”) to claim as many of these sugars as possible. When making a barley wine, though, you need the sugars to be very concentrated, so adding more water to get those additional sugars out is no good, since it’ll weaken the beer. This is part of why these beers are so expensive–they have lots more grain in them. A common solution is to make a “small beer,” a low alcohol beer using only those rinsed-out sugars. Now that Hair of the Dog has this facility, they can produce and sell these small beers, and since the stakes are low (these ingredients are almost free), they can afford to experiment with the small beers that they create. I won’t bother to tell you about the two delicious small beers I had because I didn’t make notes and, besides, M’s palate is much more discerning than mine will ever be and he might read my review and know just how little I know. They won’t have those beers when you go, anyway. If you’re in Portland, though, you should go, even if, or maybe especially if, you don’t like beer. We also got a meat and cheese plate that had some nice cheeses and fantastic cured meats and a brisket sandwich that was pretty fine too. The kids drank root beer and ginger ale.

On the way home, M showed me some sights in Portland, and we stopped at a good grocery store, mostly as a museum visit, though I did replenish some of my spices and bought a few treats to share with my hosts.

Back at home I continued getting the new laptop installed and configured, copying data to it, and so on. For dinner I was taken out to the Stone Cliff Inn. It has a lovely view, as the name implies. One of its claims to fame is that Twilight was filmed there. I’m not quite sure what Twilight is or was, but if you are, you’ll be duly impressed.

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