So yeah, Shilpi, I know I said I wasn’t going to do beer reviews. But Trent wanted me to have the beer, like he wanted me to give it a fair shake.
The Brewed Abides, I get it, but anybody who gets that reference would likely get other, less syntactically wackadoo puns from El Duderino. But that’s not the issue here; it never has been with Pelican. Who cares what they call their beer?
From the quiet beach community called Tillamook (Editor’s note: Tillamook is not on the beach) comes this White Russian Inspired Milk Stout with coffee beans, cacao nibs, lactose (flakes?), and vanilla (beans again? Tincture? I’m looking for consistency in the modifier department). It rolls a 7% abv, 25 IBU league-approved score. It comes in a 22oz bottle, and may, at this point, be a rarified item on the racks at your local distributor. No telling if you can recruit some nihilists to kidnap a bottle for you.
Turn on the Mussorgsky and pour yourself a drink. It’s darker’n a black steer’s tuchus on a moonless prairie night. And thank your lucky stars it don’t smell like whatever someone did in the back of your Ford Torino. No’sir, much like Duder’s signature beverage, it’s got an “adult milkshake” aroma.
The White Russian is a cocktail with milk. It has nutritional value beyond calories and social cachet. There’s something about the texture of a White Russian, made with real milk and not powdered non-dairy creamer, that is wholesome and reviving. The alcohol and implied caffeine of the Kahlua, on the other hand, spike the milk with the sort of guilt that can only be derived from growing up in a specific type of church. It stings a little or a lot, depending on who sloshes it into the glass. And, as a further indignity to milk… it’s got ice cubes. But, like a cold latte made with sour milk, it works. (Editor’s note: that sounds terrible.) I’ve always wondered why an Irish Carbomb–sorry, I don’t know what else to call it–curdles but a White Russian doesn’t. Somebody please tell me.
The Brewed Abides is a stretch for Pelican. From the brewery that bottled, like, only four beers for many years, and that mandated cold storage from its retail partners when that wasn’t, like, the norm, a beer with “adjuncts” like coffee and cocoa and vanilla is a shock to cultural memory. And now that MacPelican’s and Tsunami, which may/should/could have held firm positions in the Beer Judge Certification Program’s “Commercial Examples” sections of its Guidelines for Scottish Export and American Stout, respectively, have been relegated to occasional and barrel-aged releases, it’s obvious that the brew crew there (and maybe a smidge of popular preference) has swayed the stolid, disciplined regimen of brewmaster Darron Welch. Despite the cold words, I’ve admired Pelican’s beer for years; its consistency and quality is unrivaled among Oregon breweries.
That fact threatened to put Pelican in the same category as other “this brewery is solid, I don’t need to worry about, or drink beer from, this brewery” breweries several years ago; at least, that was my perception as a beer steward at the Stein during the biggest explosion in breweries in the country ever; newness became a thing. That’s when Pelican brought out Umbrella IPA and Pelicano Extra!, and expanded its barrel-aging program from Mother of All Storms (nee Perfect Storm) to include such clever titles as Father of All Tsunamis, among other uncompromisingly tasty beers. They achieved.
When you consider the body of The Brewed Abides, which you really have to because it will allow you to qualify the validity of this reference, it does kinda feel “velvety,” as the bottle description implies. But its velvetiness plays more like a well-worn wool sweater; you know, the one that you said you’d never wear because it’s so damn scratchy but eventually wore holes in the elbows; it is subjectively velvety.
What’s clear about the texture of this beer is that it is, in fact, a beer. In this way, it is a ringer in the pastry stout oeuvre. COFFEE CACAO LACTOSE VANILLA. Literally, capital letters. Those letters spell sweet, gutbustingly syrupy, “we bought our local Safeway out of Entenmann’s” brewing technique. But Pelican is not Great Notion: there are rules.
I’m staying here. I’m finishing my beer. The drinkability factor, of which I am an enormous fan, belies everything “those goddamn millennials who are ruining beer” think a stout is. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes. My empty glass does not have a thick, sticky layer adhered to the side. I didn’t have to keep rotating it to sip from a different section of the lip to avoid smelling old, dried beer as I savored the bottle. I finished a 22oz bottle in roughly 105 minutes, which I think is the ideal rate of stout consumption.
I even offered a sip to my special lady friend.