While Colin was enjoying himself at the Phinney Winter Beer Taste this past weekend, Jeanne and I were doing more exploring down in that fine city called Portland about three hours south of Seattle. I was recently in Portland for the Fresh Hop Tastival, but we’ve also had this trip planned for quite some time. We had no set agenda, other than just relax and drink some great beer. While it was tempting to hit the Hair of the Dog dock sale (as many of you did), I really just didn’t feel like doing something like that this weekend. I’d be all over that uber-geek-out many other weekends, but not this one.
Friday: Lesson for the future: stick to Amtrak. It took us a little over 3 1/2 hours to drive down there in Friday evening traffic. Public transportation is good enough in Portland that you just don’t really need to drive. Instead of heading to our hotel to check in, we decided we needed beer stat and headed right to the Laurelwood Public House & Brewery. I love Laurelwood’s beers, but I had only visited their smaller NW Public House in the past. This main location is up in the NE part of town, and it really hit the spot. $3 pints for the late happy hour starting at 9pm, good food, and a $10 growler fill of the outstanding Workhorse IPA (gotta be one of my top five IPAs these days) put smiles on our faces. They also had a fresh hop beer made with Zeus hops that was very worthy. To the drunk girl at the bar next to us that put down a pint of beer and two whisky drinks in the time it took us to finish one pint: nicely done and hope you survived the night in one piece.
After checking into the Hotel Monaco downtown, it was a short walk over to Bailey’s Taproom. Since I usually stay in a downtown hotel, Bailey’s is an easy call for a must-hit place on any trip to Portland these days. We enjoyed small glasses of the Cascade Fall Gose, Terminal Gravity 2002 Bucolic Plague, Fort George Quick Wit, and Ninkasi Festive Ale. We also ran into a few guys from the Seattle Ratebeer crew that were in town for the dock sale; it was nice to hang out with them for a while.
Saturday: Like I said, while the temptation was there to join the other beer geeks in line at 7am over at Hair of the Dog, I never seriously considered it. Instead, we slept in a bit then headed over to the Portland Saturday Market, after stopping by Stumptown for a coffee, of course. After exploring the local crafts and characters there, we took the street car south to the aerial tram, which was cool, but a bit confusing once we got to the top and realized there really isn’t anything to explore up there except a hospital (or, so it seemed?).
It was a releaxed morning seeing a few of the Portland sights I had not previously checked out, but I was ready for a beer. So, we headed over to the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus for lunch and beers. Most of you reading this blog have tried the majority of Widmer’s main lineup, but their pub has several special releases and small-batch beers that I was happy to check out. The 10.2% ABV Imperial IPA was very well-made and quite enjoyable (it was Jeanne’s favorite of the trip I’d have to say). They also had the new Collaborator CXI on tap, which is a collaboration between the Oregon Brew Crew, a homebrew club, and Widmer Brothers. The CXI was brewed with sixty pounds of actual pumpernickel rye bread; you can find more details about the CXI over at Beervana.
From Widmer, it was a short trip over to the still fairly new Upright Brewing. For a detailed intro to Upright and their beers, I’ll once again send you over to this post at Beervana. To sum it up, Upright is making beers in the French & Belgian farmhouse style, but with their own unique twists. While I love the idea of what Upright is doing and I think it
holds a lot of promise for the future, I can’t say that I was blown away by the beers we tried. I think I most enjoyed the Fatali Four, which is a version of their Four with Fatali peppers in it. The place was pretty packed, so we kind of downed our sampler platter quickly and jetted. I’ll look forward to trying more in the future.
Next up was a stop at Roots Organic Brewing for a sampler. I’d been to Roots before and I’m definitely a fan of their beers. On this trip they had two seasonals: one which I liked very much, and one that didn’t quite do it for me. The Chocolate Habanero Stout was a pleasure. It may have been a bit thin, but the chocolatey stout flavors mixed well with the slightly spicy peppers. The one that was a big miss for me was the 9.2% ABV Younger’s Nightmare. I’m not sure what type of beer it was, but it reminded me of a big stout with a little bit of sourness and some butter.
Before heading back to the hotel to ditch the car, we stopped in at a bar called Produce Row to check it out. This is one of those places that I don’t think I’ve ever heard mentioned in a conversation about Portland beer places, but it seems like a great bar with more than a solid selection. It had a relaxed vibe and about twenty taps, which on this night included the Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout that I love so much. Very nice place that I could see myself having a few pints at in the future.
After getting rid of the car at the hotel, we took the street car line over to the New Old Lompoc on 23rd for a quick schooner of the seasonal Lompoc Bitter that was very solid, before hopping on a bus back downtown to finish off the night at Higgins with a nice meal and good beers. We enjoyed a Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Imperial IPA and then a classic Westmalle Dubbel with a nice dinner that included a seriously kick-ass charcuterie plate of all house-made meats. Holy Christ that was good. Higgins was a perfect end to another great weekend of exploring Portland.
A big thanks to the Oregon Brewers Guild for setting us up with a room at the Hotel Monaco to check out their “Portland on Tap” package. The Monaco was seriously one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at anywhere in the world (I’d say that even if the room wasn’t free), and I’d happily return any time. Rates are reasonable for a nice hotel in downtown Portland, and you can find some great deals at times (a friend stayed there for $100/night once). The “Portland on Tap” package includes a 22oz bottle of Oregon Craft Beer (ours were Widmer Drifter and Widmer Hefe), two pint glasses with the Oregon Brewers Guild logo on them, two flights of beer at the attached Red Star Tavern & Roast House, and a pub-crawl punch card.