It seems like only yesterday that I left the land of Beervana aka Portland, OR. Of course it has actually been closer to a month and I still haven’t written up a special post about what I am now calling my hoppy hometown, so I’m on it like a scotch bonnet.
Recently dubbed the No. 1 city for craft beer in the United States by Thrillist, Portland is the largest craft beer market in the U.S. by dollars and share with a 39.3 percent share in 2014. By the numbers Oregon ranks #1 in percentage of dollars spent on craft beer and numero uno in the U.S. in breweries by capita. Oregon breweries produced 1,641,000 barrels of beer in 2014 and Oregonians consumed 585,000 barrels of beer made by Oregon craft breweries–that means 20% of the beer consumed in Oregon was made in Oregon*. These are proud papa Portlandians.
Bottom line: Portland loves craft beer. I love craft beer. Me and Portland together made for a weekend of craft beer nirvana (i.e. beervana). I tried to do as much as I could, but my girlfriend, Stacey, and I only have 4 feet and 2 mouths between us. With 58 breweries in Portland alone we tried our best to drink in as much of it as possible. Here are the highlights.
11am: Brunch at Zeus Cafe, a McMenamins establishment
The Beer: McMenamins namesake and top selling Hammerhead
A classic Northwest Pale Ale highlighted by the signature Cascade hop. Super floral flavor tamed by a deep amber caramel and malt spine.
Pioneers of the NW style sour beer, Cascade’s motto “Pucker Up and Join the Sour Revolution” basically says it all and says it all brilliantly.
The Beer: Honey Ginger Lime and Elderberry
Tap after tap handle and bottle after bottle of sour suds to sip on. As a kid this was my candy store, my Willy Wonka Factory of carefully curated libations. Lucky for me they were pouring by 4oz glasses. I could have tried every single variety from Blackberry to Strawberry to Raspberry and Cranberry. Cascade is a produce pantheon of barrel-aged sour beers. I finally settled on two unique sounding flavors–Honey Ginger Lime and Elderberry.
Of the two I enjoyed the Honey Ginger Lime more. Salty and zesty from the first sip, the lime’s tangyness evaporates into a sweet, pleasant roundness. I didn’t pick up much ginger in flavor or in spice, but this beer was like sipping a margarita out on the patio with a plate of sea salt tortilla chips and guac in front of you.
The Elderberry completely shifted palate gears. Smelling of dark tannins the immediate flavor on my tongue reminded me of savory coffee. What is that flavor? Ah yes my girlfriend Stacey’s excellent taste buds to the rescue, “that reminds me of soy sauce”. The Elderberry had some umami qualities going on with a slightly acidic finish.
You cannot physically go two blocks in Portland without stumbling into another taproom or brewery. Base Camp, located about three blocks away from Cascade, offered up a different kind of drinking experience–one in tune with Portland’s other obsession, nature. This was a backpacking brewing, carabiner canoodling, pitch-my-tent-in-the taproom kind of place.
The Beer: Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA
This 6.7% true West Coast style IPA delivered big hop flavor. The ale poured a dense kind of orange crumb cake color. With six different Oregon-grown flavor and aroma hop varietals this unique IPA burst with tropical citrus and pine. Ultra Gnar was like taking a big gulp from a beer-flowing water fall in an evergreen forest after some fresh rain. A true Base Camp beer.
4pm: Bailey’s Taproom
One of Portland’s premier taprooms, Bailey’s offers 24 constantly rotating taps displayed scoreboard style on a couple of TV’s behind the bar. The emphasis is of course on Oregon beer, but I choose two fantastic beers that did not happen to be of Portland origin.
Part of Founders Backstage Series, Blushing Monk uses a ridiculous amount of raspberries and you can tell. From the pink peppercorn color to the ambrosial red fruit aroma, this 9.2% fruit beer blooms with intense fruity flavor.
The star of the show, though, Pliny the Elder. I’m going to go ahead and call this the best IPA I’ve tasted. Amazing amazing balance of floral, orange and juicy citrus. Smooth, complex, bold and intense. Pliny the Elder is like the wisest of sages of the IPA–classic and so solid.
7pm: 6 pack of cans of Gilgamesh Brewing Oedipus IPA
The Beer: Oedipus IPA
Weighing in at 6.4% this Northwest IPA unfortunately paled a bit in comparison to Pliny the Elder. Still a very solid offering with a more bitter forwardness than passionfruit flavor. Definitely left with a slightly astringent taste on my tongue.
7pm: Migration Brewing
The Beer: Migration Pale Ale and Blood, Sweat and Red
My favorite brewery of the trip. Bedecked with countless wooden picnic tables, a couple dart boards, and a jubilous, talkative crowd for a Sunday night, Migration felt like a home away from home taproom. They had the beer to back it up too…and it was sold by the pitcher!
I’m going to be honest here…I didn’t take notes on this beer and I had quite a few pints. I remember the beer being delicious and loving the atmosphere…so let’s leave it at that.
3pm: Hair of the Dog
The Beer: Walk the Dog Flight including Ruth, BeerWeek, Fred and Adam
Ruth: light, golden, cloudy American Pale Ale. Slightly metallic and crystal. 5.0% ABV
BeerWeek: Stepping up in strength to 9.0% this Strong Pale Lager aptly named because every week in Portland is beer week. Strong and crisp. This beer can hold its own
Fred: Continuing to up the ABV ante. This guy clocks in at 10.0%. A Golden Strong Ale produced with Rye and Belgian Candi Sugar, Fred brought a much night hint of sweetness. Strong and saccharine with just a touch of breading spice from the Rye.
Adam: Last, but not least Hair of the Dog’s first ever brewed beer, Adam, shines with complex dark and rich notes. Smoked leather, 72% cacao chocolate, and root beer.
7pm: PDX Airport–Rogue Ales Public House
Because what else should I do while I’m drepressededly waiting for my Red Eye flight out of Portland, but drink more Oregon beer!?
The Beer: Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Recommended by the extremely friendly waitress this Brown Ale smelled like a can of salted caramel coffee. Rich nutty and toasty aromas translated beautifully into the beer. Uber smoothy and creamy mouth feel highlighted a very subtly sweet nut. I could dangerously sip on this dessert like beer after a meal around the fire any day. A perfect beer to leave Portland behind with.
And….because I couldn’t leave Portland without some brews buried in my knapsack. I bought 4 big bottles of various brews (and my girlfriend bought 1) that I’m currently working my way through in my From the Fridge Series:
– Gilgamesh Brewing Mamba brewed with Black Tea and Tangerine Peel
– Rogue Ales Sriracha Stout
– Rogue Ales New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta
– Burnside Brewing Co. Sweet Heat, a wheat ale with Apricot puree and Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers!
*All of the lovely Oregon/Portland beer facts come from oregoncraftbeer.org