Monday, August 01, 2005

King Gambrinus and the Change of Plans

Sounds vaguely like the title to a knock-off Harry Potter series doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. King Gambrinus, in case you didn’t know, is the “patron saint” of beer—at least according to the orchestrators of the Oregon Brewers Festival he is. Why he isn’t king of beer, I don’t know but perhaps Budweiser (ugh) has some sort of watertight patent on anything containing the words king and beer.

Anyway, this weekend was the Oregon Brewers Festival, an event I look forward to all year, because I love beer! The festival is held on the banks of the Willamette River and this year featured beers from more than 70 microbreweries, most of which are located right here in the Pacific Northwest. There's an impressive variety of standard and unusual beers—brews ranging from Düsseldorf-style altbier to robust porter to unfiltered India pale ale (IPA) to watermelon wheat beer. On Friday evening, we headed down to the waterfront with a couple of friends to hang out and drink some great beer. Next to all the great varieties of beer available the most amazing thing about the festival is how well organized and mellow it is. This was year four for me and even though the fest always draws large crowds, the lines move quickly, and people are polite. Never once have I seen an obnoxious or rowdy drunk.

Not that certain people don't drink a bit more than they should. And one of those persons would be me. I just cannot drink very much without there being dire consequences. Six (4 oz) samples should be my limit. I learned this two years ago, when I drank something like ten samples on an empty stomach. (What was I thinking?) I later had to endure an agonizing trip home on the MAX (light-rail train), clinging ignominiously to a pole and groaning to B and our friend about how green about the gills I felt. Very embarrassing. The kind of amateur bacchanal you might expect of a freshman in college—not a woman well into her adult years.

Last year, I ate something before I stared drinking and stuck to the six-sample rule. No problems. This year, well...there were just too many fantastic-sounding beers. Being the hophead that I am, I simply had to have a full mug (12 oz) of Pliny the Elder Double IPA—with an IBU rating of 100!!!! That is one hoppy beer. Plus, the name—gotta love that the brewers named a beer after a guy who claimed that a race of dog-headed people existed and that unicorns were real. I simply had to have it. Too bad I’d already had three samples and a mug before I got to the tent in which Pliny resided. It was wonderful, though.

Here’s what all I imbibed (if you must know):

Kolsch 45 (Big Time Brewing, Seattle, Washington)
“El Jefe” Hefeweizen (Hales Brewery Seattle, Washington)
Oregon Trail Wit (Oregon Trail Brewery, Corvallis, Oregon)
Pliny the Elder Double IPA (Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, California)
Standing Stone IPA (Standing Stone Brewery, Ashland, Oregon)

Really, that’s not so much. Most people could handle it. And truly, I felt fine all evening. In fact, we took the MAX part of the way home (no ignominious pole-clinging necessary) and then walked the rest of the way home. But the next day? And our plan to go hiking in the Indian Heaven Wilderness? Did not happen. An impossible-to-ignore headache woke me up at 7:30 AM (on a Saturday!). I took some aspirin and lay around listlessly on the couch until about 9:30 when I finally felt well enough to drag myself from the couch to the kitchen. I did next to nothing all day except make this blueberry pie,* go grocery shopping with B, and complain about the heat. I guess in drinker's parlance, one would say I had a hangover. That evening B did manage to haul me to a free concert in Cathedral Park, where I sat sprawled in a lawn chair, listening to the throaty warblings of a Peruvian pan flute. It would have been a golden opportunity to get some knitting done, but that would have required effort and forethought.

In a way it was good to be forced into doing nothing for a change. I realized that I spend most Saturdays pecking away insanely at a never-ending list of energy-sapping chores. But this Sunday, I woke up feeling well-rested, energetic, and ready to hit the trail. After a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, and blueberry pie, we set off and hiked the Larch Mountain loop—a moderate hike that skirts the crater of an extinct volcano through some lovely old-growth forests. There's a stunning reward at the top—a view of five snowpeaks, stretching from central Washington to central Oregon. From north to south: Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson.

*This is the last pie I will be making until apple season. There have been entirely too many pies (three blueberry and one cherry) in the house over the last six weeks or so. And they’re making my tummy slightly pooky. Can’t have that.


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