Notes from the Underground

With the Criminal Crafts book launch just a few weeks away, I’ve been scheming plots to get a little publicity for the book, unfortunately plan A was so devious it would land me back in the clink, plan B involved public exposure and while that might have worked in my twenties, gravity and life on the lamb hasn’t been as kind to me as it could, plus it’s March and I’m not too keen about hanging from a window ledge, in a thong, in the freezing cold rain for seven hours, so, plan B- out.  Plan C involved me re-creating The Blues Brothers, shot for shot, but using monkeys.  This one had potential but teaching a chimp to drive a stick might be out of my skill set.  My bookie, Flavio said keep it simple, “stay with what you know, what do people like?”.  Having ruled out the naked thing, I moved onto the next obvious choice, people love beer, I love beer, and like my taste in rare gemstones and foraged paintings, I want only the best, this quest for perfection led me skulking over to Upright Brewing in Portland Oregon.

Tucked away in the basement of the historic Leftbank Building, Upright specializes in Belgian and French Farmhouse style beers with a special room set aside for open tank fermentation.

Beers there are being made using some of the old school techniques, and by old school, I’m talking 100 years ago or more like the Gose which adds salt to a wheat beer giving it a complex and crisp finish. The wine barrels spread around the brewery aren’t there for ambiance, but are instead storing up all sorts of goodness, specialty one-off beers some with peaches, others with berries and lots of great herbs like ginger, yarrow and calendula.

So, last Tuesday morning I “let myself into the place” and presented my plan to head brewer and owner “Alex” Ganum.  Here’s the weird thing I didn’t have to tie him up or hold a gun to his head or anything, he was totally into the idea of making Criminal Crafts inspired beer.  We talked a bit about styles, and he suggested it compliment the book, dark and noir-ish, a respectively high, alcohol

content, and slightly sweet, hmm, except for the last bit, I’d say he gets me.  The first game plan was to make a Dunkel Wizenbock which sounded pretty cool, I like the dark malty beers, brings back my old espionage days in Bavaria– but then “Alex” got inspired, a mad genius kind of thing and he went all grain on me, we’re talking many, many 50lb bags of barley, I’m thinking it might have been 700lbs, but I’ve been known to tell a tall tale. And it was four different kinds of barley including a Munich malt that had me singing Edelweiss all morning.   Then just to be a rebel, he didn’t add any wheat and only five lbs of hops in the last boil.  In the end “Alex” called it a Barley Bock which sounds pretty kick ass to me.

Now that the beer is happily percolating away in big yeasty bubbles in the fermentation room, destine for greatness, I’ve had a little time to reflect on my pal “Alex” and his seemingly altruistic behavior.  I’ve come to this conclusion, he isn’t what he seems.

My first guess was witness protection program, like my in-laws, but on further internet digging, I’ve decided it is much more complicated and sinister… In 1958 famed Argentinean F1 race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped at a Grand Prix race in Cuba by  a group of revolutionaries who were trying to gain publicity for their cause (I know how they feel).

Fangio was released pretty quickly, and remained life long friends with his captors.  What no one has been able to confirm is that Fangio sired identical triplet sons while being held captive.  These young men went on to driving careers of their own, though substantially less reputable,  one of the boys was a bag man for the mob, another ran speed boat mule runs off the coast of Miami and the third, Castro’s personal driver.

This was the family “Alex” was born into- rather than live a life of crime and fast cars he stowed away on a cargo boat to Europe that crashed on a stormy evening off the coast of Belgium.  A Trappist monk found his body washed up on the rocks and gave him shelter at a nearby abbey.  Over the silent years “Alex” learned the secrets of the order, grinding grains by hand using large rocks and harvesting late season hops by moonlight.   Eventually he found his way up to the Pacific Northwest surviving only on his quick wit and prodigal brewing skills.

I’m assuming, “Alex” knows I’m on to him and the whole Upright Brewing Criminal Crafts Barley Bock is just a ploy to keep me from flapping my gums.  Maybe I’ll keep the story to myself or, maybe not, if nothing else I know who to call when I need a get-away driver.  And I could be totally wrong about this whole back-story, though it would go a long way toward explaining the email fishing shakedown he tried to pull off a couple months back and the suspect plea for wired cash when he’d supposedly been mugged in Manila.

As for the beer, it gets kegged on Thursday and half of it is getting set aside with currants and aging barrels the rest will be at bars around Portland and at some of the Criminal Crafts book signing events including cocktail reception at the Someday Lounge on April 10th.



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  • […] Aside from having my head in a book this week, I plan on doing some long overdue crafting.  I’ll be spending a part of Thursday and Friday (10-2 ish) hanging out at Backspace Cafe as the “Crafter in Residence”.  I’ll be making some projects from the book and a few other things on my to-do list.  Drop in and say “hi” bring something of yours to work on or stump me with craft questions or master schemes.  This is an informal meet-up so tweet me if you’re heading over @criminalcrafts I’ll be in the back probably drinking one of the tantalizingly delicious Upright Brewing’s Criminal Crafts Barley Bocks. […]

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