Someday, maybe I’ll have visited Portland enough times where there just isn’t anything of interest (from a beer perspective) left that I have not already visited. But, for now (after maybe ten trips in five years?) there are still plenty of new-to-me places to keep me busy. Our first day in PDX was a great one, but Day 2 had the potential top it. We started off slow and headed to breakfast at what has become my go-to place in downtown, Bijou Cafe (Thanks, Phil). Always solid, and worth the wait. After breakfast, we took the MAX up north and headed to Hop & Vine for our first beer of the day. Similar to Belmont Station on the eastside, Hop & Vine features a solid bottle shop on one side of the wall and a cafe next door with draft beers, wine, and food. We grabbed a pint of the outstanding Heater Allen Pils to kick off the day and sat in the sun in their sizable backyard patio. Heater Allen is to Oregon what Chuckanut is to Washington: outstanding lagers that you can count on to be fresh and flavorful. The big difference is that Heater Allen beers are available in 22oz bottles in PDX.
After the relaxing atmosphere at Hop & Vine, it was a short walk over to Saraveza for their 2nd Annual Imperial IPA Festival. Saraveza has become one of Portland’s great beer spots, and is worth a visit any time (even if it is essentially a Packer’s bar. Go Bears). For a full report, check out Angelo’s review over at Brewpublic. They had plenty of room, with an extra space opened up in back, and a tent outside on the sidewalk. There were a lot of interesting Imperial IPAs that I had never tried, and it was a pretty damn good time. I most enjoyed the Bear Republic Cafe Racer 15 (Different than the well-known Racer 5) and Migration’s Double Dry-Hopped Lucious Lupulin (which was under 7% ABV, so not really very much of an IIPA, which is probably why I liked it). It was also a treat to try the special beers they brought in from Pizza Port Brewing in San Diego. Due to limited space for taps they had to rotate beers throughout the weekend, and there were several I would have loved to have tried but did not have the chance.
There were also a few beers I could have done without, including one that some said they really enjoyed: Ninkasi’s Double Amarillo Dry-Hopped Tricerahops. To each their own…that’s the beauty of beer. I don’t know what it is with me and Ninkasi’s beers, but I haven’t been a fan of much I have tried from them in the past couple years (I loved last year’s Maiden the Shade, but this year’s release didn’t do it for me. Am I crazy? Maybe.). Overall, this was a great event and I wish I could have come back later in the weekend to sample more.
Onward we went as we trekked over to Breakside Brewing, which gave us a nice break after all those heavy IPAs. Breakside is another on the list of newer PDX breweris I’d yet to sample. Sitting in a quiet neighborhood, the garage doors were up, the tables were full outside as people soaked in the sun, and we bellied up to the bar. Brewer Ben Edmunds poured us a sample flight, which was full of solid beers. My favorite may have been the straightforward Hoppy Amber, which at 4.7% ABV was sessionable and had a great fruity citrus hop flavor profile with moderate bitterness. I could easily drink a few pints without complaint. Looking forward to trying more from this brewery, and it’s great to see their current tap list features four beers at 4% ABV or less.
Next up was a pleasant walk south to Grain & Gristle, which we’d heard was sure to tempt us with a bounty of great food. Situated in what seemed like a very relaxed neighborhood with just a few retail spots, Grain & Gristle was opened by Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing and Ben Meyer of Ned Ludd (Read more about it at The New School). We snagged the last open table on the small patio and ordered beers while we checked out the menu. Honestly, I don’t even recall what I drank because I was so excited about the food. Whatever I had, it was good. For food, we started with pork rinds that just kicked ass. Crispy and full of porky-goodness, these salty treats are great bar snacks. We then tried the croquettes filled with mac & cheese plus ham, which were even more impressive. We then finished things off with what I believe was a pork shoulder with English peas and potatoes that was quite enjoyable. The food was a fair price for the quality, and everything we tried was impressive. Overall, I’d compare the food and beer combo of Grain & Gristle to Quinn’s in Seattle, but in a much more relaxed atmosphere. There were many other things on the menu I would have loved to try, but they will have to wait for future visits.
After a quick break back at our hotel, McMenamin’s White Eagle, and a solid X-369 IPA (special tap room only brew) across the street at Widmer, we were back on the road (this time in a taxi) down to Apex so we could enjoy the weather with beers on the patio. I won’t repeat how much I love Apex, but you can feel free to use the search box above to find past thoughts on this awesome place. We then skipped across the street to Beer Mongers to split a bottle before grabbing more eats at some of PDX’s famous food carts (Pyro Pizza and Potato Champion). Then it was back to our hotel, where we somehow convinced ourselves it was a good idea to grab another pint at the bar downstairs before turning in for the night. On another note, if you’re looking for cheap lodging in PDX, it doesn’t get much cheaper than White Eagle and it was perfectly acceptable. $50 for a small room with a bunk bed and shared bath down the hall. Don’t expect peace and quiet, though. Rooms are directly above the bar and they have bands nightly.
As usual, no complaints about this PDX trip. Every new place we visited impressed us, and I’ll most definitely be taking my wife to a few of them on future trips. Thinking about all the beer spots I love but didn’t even sniff at visiting on this trip says a lot about how widespread their beer scene is. The more I visit Portland, the more I agree that it has earned its lofty title of Beervana.