Shapes to Describe Beer

In November of 2009, I had a wild hair while attending a design gathering here in Portland. Based on some trouble I’d had keeping legible notes at beer festivals, and some inspiration in the form of a custom publishing platform called Scout Books, I came up with 33 Bottles of Beer. You know, the beer-tasting notebook that’s taking over my life?

My main requirement (other than the device being pocket-sized and battery-free) was speed. I wanted to be able to take notes quickly, so I could spend more time drinking, er … sampling. Here’s what I came up with.

Beer Review Page from 33 Beers

So I incorporated some quick graphic devices that made taking notes as quick as I could. Think checkboxes. Doesn’t take but half a second to make a tick.

But flavor threw me for a loop. Flavor is inherently fuzzy. Not binary, as in “checked” or “un-checked.” There are shades of flavor. Gradients. Spectrums. So, my graphic design brain started firing. How could you quickly describe varying levels of flavor, and do so visually?

I ended up with what’s called a “radar chart,” which I call a “flavor wheel.” Some people also call it a spider graph. I think it’s what makes 33 books special (yep, there are wine, cheese, coffee, cigar and whiskey versions, too), and it’s usually the thing people remark on when they look at the books for the first time.

But I wondered the other day (I was drinking some 9.4% abv Black Boss Porter) – if I were creating a new beer review book – what might some other tasting notation options be?

One option might be “Harvey Balls,” which are used by Consumer Reports for comparative data. Equally quick, but “flavor balls” doesn’t exude … well, it sounds gross. Sorry, Mr. Harvey. And frankly, it doesn’t look as cool.

How about a simple bar chart? Elegant, and that might allow for even more gradation. The flavor wheel is kind of limiting, with just five points. This option, which I’ve dubbed “the Flavor Grid,” while a bit longer vertically, allows for quite a bit more nuance – score beers from 1 to 7! That’s … huh … 20% more. Or so.

No, way too much ink to fill that thing up. I got tired after just two of the 16 descriptors! And eco-friendly is important to me. Plus, space is at a premium since the books are designed to be pocket-sized. Maybe if I had a little more space to work with, I could come up with something better. Or not.

Start 2007 with a New Hobby

Bruce Scores a 180

The New Year is a time of year that many people make resolutions. Quit smoking. Eat healthy. Brew more often.

If you’re like me, you probably have also resolved to lose a few pounds, and many in your position would head straight for the Stairmaster. But, as a sociable beer drinker, you’re driven more toward team sports, preferably those that involve beer. Have we got an exercise regimen for you.

Darts is a great way to meet cool people, and give your arm a good workout. It may seem that throwing some lightweight metal sticks for a few hours isn’t exactly weightlifting, but it is.

Consider this: 3 very lightweight darts weigh 21 grams each, which works out to 63 grams per turn. Considering most players take 15 turns in a single game, you’re now looking at almost 1 kg per game. And most players play upwards of 15 games in a night! That’s 15 kg weight lifted per night! Just imagine how much that would be in pounds! And we haven’t even figured in the weight of the pints! To those who’d further question the athletic-ness-icity of darts, just witness the skyrocketing popularity of the World Series of Darts on ESPN next time you’re channel-surfing.

Convinced? The Portland Area Darts Association (PADA, for short, not to be confused with the Portland Art Dealers Association) is holding Spring League signups on Janaury 11th, 7pm at the Moon & Sixpence. See you there!

Piranha Razor Grip

Need some darts to play with? Piranha Razor-Grip Tungsten Darts are taking the Fart Duckers by storm. So far, Nate, Dan and Dave have all made the switch to these 90% tungsten darts, with their innovative razor-sharp grip (see photo). If none of this means anything to you, consider this: a good set of golf clubs can cost 2,000 bucks. These babies have all the innovative technology of a Taylor-made, at a fraction of the cost. $60.00. Available at Soft Tipper Darts, 6350 SE Foster Rd, Portland, OR 97206, (503) 771-0735.

Fresh Hop Festival No. 1

is tomorrow in Hood River, at the 2nd annual Hood River Hops Fest. Admission to the event is free, and it looks like an all-star cast of Oregon Breweries will be participating. Phil was kind enough to let me sample the Ninkasi Fresh Hop and Walking Man Hoptoberfest last night at the Horse Brass. The Walking Man was the better of the two, I think, but neither was quite hoppy (or floral) enough for my tastes. Still, looks like a lot of fun. There is about a 10% chance I’ll be there tomorrow.

This should not be confused with the Lucky Lab/Oregon Brewer’s Guild Hop Tasting taking place next weekend.

In other Horse Brass news, last night they were pouring two different vintages of Jubel Ale: the just-released 2006 and an archival keg of 2005. The extra year in the keg was beneficial for the Jubel, bringing out some complex flavors that complemented the maltiness this brew traditionally has. Alcohol was a little bit too present, but it was darts night, so I didn’t care too much. The 2006 was quite a bit crisper and sharper around the edges, but also a nice treat. Is it just me or do these beers come out a little earlier every year?

As a final bit of Horse Brassery, the HB-sponsored Fart Duckers remain undefeated in the PADA’s B-League. We went 3-0 despite this unfortunately-placed Robin Hood by Dan Painter. Bruce Kehe put up the first 180 of the season, too!

Dan Painter\'s Robin Hood Dart

Fart Duckers Team Shirts

Here’s the new, cleaned up Fart Duckers logo I have been working on for … mmm … the last 3 years. Better late than never, right? I still need to add “Portland, Oregon” and the “Taste the Wind” phrase to it, and then I’ll call it done.

Fart Duckers Logo

Here’s how the logo looks on the “Black and White Classic” bowling shirt from, a PADA sponsor. The shirts are $37.95 each and stitching can be added above the pocket for an additional 4.95. I think this could be an option on a person-by-person basis; if you want your name on there, it’s $5 extra.

Fart Duckers Logo on Black and White Classic Bowling Shirt from

Here’s another option from the same company, the “White and Black Retro” bowler. This is also $37.95 and can also be customized with your name embroidered if you so desire.

Fart Duckers Logo on Black and White Retro Bowling Shirt from

As a final option, we could also go with simple black t-shirts, which are much cheaper (about $14 each), but I want to hear what the rest of the team thinks. Also, please e-mail me with your size. They have Small all the way through XXXXXXL. I am not joking.