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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Celebrity Status

Podcasts are like slightly more high-tech versions of blogs. I've had the pleasure of doing a handful of these over the last few years through Tröegs and a couple centered around some of my bands. However, I've never been asked to appear on one based on my own merit as a - for lack of a better term - local celebrity.

With that said, check out my recent appearance on the new craft beer-centric podcast, Operation Shutdown. For its ninth episode, we discuss (among other things) working at Tröegs, my love for Selin's Grove, my Rush tribute band Solar Federation, Ffej of July, goats, beer traveling, and this very blog itself, The Pour Travelers.

Thanks to Bill and Ed for being cool hosts. I look forward to doing another episode soon (maybe to talk about Imminent Liquidation)!

You can stream the audio or download it by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

Brewery in my backyard!

For the longest time, I had wished for a small brewery to open in Annville, PA. As most people know, both Brewslut and I hail from Shamokin, PA. However, we've called Annville (our adopted town) "home" since 2000. Over the years, every time I'd see an interesting building in town come up for sale on the market, I'd say, "That would make a great spot for a brewery!" Years passed and Annville remained a college town bereft of its own little brewery.

Until now, that is!

Flying very low under the radar is the recently established Rotunda Brewing Company. Owned by the same group of three brothers that run the Batdorf Restaurant in town, RBC started off as a small bottle and "mix a six" shop situated a few doors down from the restaurant on West Main Street. A while back, they began brewing in earnest on a tiny 1-barrel system, making its beers available at the Batdorf. I decided to go out on a limb and try a pint of the Annville IPA (the only house beer on tap at the time). It sure sounded great on paper: an unfiltered NE style IPA with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy. And you know what? It wasn't bad! To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much.

Rotunda Brewing Company tap handles.

Fast forward a few months, and Brewslut and I decided to head down to the Batdorf for Trivia Night. I was surprised to see these four RBC offerings on tap:

  • Annville IPA - I was told that this is out-selling ALL other beers on tap at the Batdorf... and they have a pretty decent selection of locals, regionals, and nationals. 
  • Squirm - Sweet potato ale aged on vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and ghost peppers
  • Steubenfest - a Märzen, or Oktoberfest style, lager
  • Left My Wallet in El Dorado - an IPA brewed with oats as well as Lemon Drop, Zeus and El Dorado hops
I must admit that I was intrigued by Squirm because of its unusual combination of ingredients, but I was cautious to try it due to its use of ghost peppers. I've had some chili pepper beers in the past that have... well, let's just say that they have caused some future discomfort in the posterior region. Lucky for us, an older couple was sitting next to us at the bar and became adopted allies for our trivia team. They ordered a sampler flight of the aforementioned four beers and only took about a sip of each, then graciously offered them to Brewslut and I. The Annville IPA I'd had before, so I let Brewslut polish that one off. The Fest and El Dorado IPA were decent attempts that were neither memorable nor horrendous. However, the Squirm was pretty damn amazing! 

I was surprised to see a brewery employing a 1-barrel system execute a beer with these ingredients (especially the ghost pepper) with such finesse. The end result was a well-balanced, high ABV ale that concealed the alcohol heat really well. The ghost pepper character was spot-on and played nicely with the other ingredients, especially the vanilla, which produced a sweet, cooling effect. To top it off, they floated a few mini-marshmallows on top for some added aesthetics. Overall, I was pretty bowled over with this beer. I told my Team D(r)INK buddy (who was competing against us at a nearby table) about it, and he decided to try a pour. He too was quite impressed. 

Full pour of Squirm (courtesy of Untappd gallery)
I bumped into the manager of the bottle shop when we were there, and he informed me that they may be dropping the bottle shop and bringing in a 7-barrel brewhouse to ramp up production. I was pretty stoked to hear that, as I think they have some potential to make some interesting stuff. I will say, however, that the draft prices have gone up considerably over the last two years, and the house beers are a bit pricey, in my opinion. Still, if their house IPA is their top selling draft beer, then more power to 'em! So it looks like Rotunda Brewing Company is poised for some exciting times. I'm anxious to stop back in soon to see what they're up to. I see they currently have a Double Black IPA on tap called Chewbacca (perhaps a nod to Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack) that I'd like to try. Next time you're cruising through Annville on Rt. 422, pop in for a quick beer and check out what's brewing!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fairweather Fall Frolicking & Fun Fermented Festivities

Having grown up in Shamokin, the Bloomsburg Fair was always a highly anticipated event for me. I was never much of a "ride guy" (especially the sketchy rides at carnivals and state fairs), but I loved the vendors, food, and games... in that particular order. I could find some sweet pins or patches for donning the names of my favorite heavy metal bands for my jean jacket, or maybe even a cool studded wristband, leather wallet with chain attachment, or some other piece of flair I used to think was cool. Who am I kidding? I still think these items are cool. Metal is a lifestyle. You either abandon it completely, or it engulfs you for life. I fall under the latter category. As for the food, I definitely had my favorites: Benton Cider Mill, St. Mary's potato cakes, and many others. Between scarfing down hundreds of calories of comfort foods, I would try my luck at winning glassware or - even better - goldfish! I once won so many goldfish that I traded them in for a super cool "fish house" so I had somewhere to keep all of my fish. Aaaah, the memories.

These days, I'm more concerned with checking out the livestock exhibits and connecting on some cosmic level with a Nubian goat or miniature donkey. I must admit that the animals are the main reason I enjoy going to the Fair in my older years, although the food is a close second. Since there's no beer (except of the root and birch varieties) available at the Fair, I won't bore you with a detailed account of our day at the Fair. Instead, here are some pics I snapped throughout the day (mostly of animals) for your enjoyment.

Little webbed-footed friends outside the Rabbit Exhibit.

How now?
Alpacas look like they're from the swingin' 60s!

We saved the best for last... GOATS!!!

Obligatory beer content: Hops are part of the agriculture competition!

We never go anywhere without first scoping the area for beer destinations. Fortunately for us, we were staying at the Chalet, so we know the area all too well. Backtracking to Friday evening, we landed at Selin's Grove around a quarter to nine, and I was bummed to find that Saison de Peche (my favorite beer) had a little frowny face sign covering its intricately drawn name on the chalkboard. For those of you who have never been to the Pub, the little frowny face means that the beer has kicked but will return soon. "Soon" means whenever Steve (the owner) is around the change out the keg. Unfortunately, he wasn't around, so no Peche for us that night. Oh well. It's not like they don't make a bunch of stellar beers. Sadly, the Whole Hop IPA was also off, and I must admit I was craving something green and hoppy. Plan C. I ordered a Shade Mountain Stout (back after a recent hiatus in favor of the newer Roasted Oat Stout) with cold brew coffee. I love blending darker beers at the Pub with this amazing cold brew, which is dispensed alongside all of the beers and ciders via a nitro tap. I followed up with a Market Street Fest, a variation on the Oktoberfest, or Märzen, theme. I was surprised to learn that I'd never checked this beer in on Untappd. New check-in for me, even though I've had it numerous times in the past. I finished the night with an 8oz. pour of my Kryptonite - Stealth Triple. Every time I end our visit with one of these high octane suckers, Brewslut has to drive home. She didn't have to this time, as I only imbibed a small amount. Still, this beer is aptly named "Stealth," as it can really sneak up on you like a ninja sneaks up on Hellen Keller.

Shade Mountain Stout with cold brew coffee!

Back at the Chalet on Friday night, we shared a can of The Alchemist's Focal Banger, graciously donated to us by Al (Kominski) by way of "Lawyer Steve," one of our many acquaintances from the Pub. He stopped in to see Al after a recent trip to Vermont, and he had plenty of beer in tow. Lucky for us, Brewslut was working and able to procure a can of this hoppy treat (as well as one you'll read about a little later).

Fast forward to Saturday after the Fair. We made it out of the fairgrounds just as it had started to rain (albeit a light mist rather than the downpour they were expecting) and were on our way to nearby Turkey Hill Brewing Company. I'd heard they were doing some good stuff in the form of sours and barrel-aged beers lately, so I was eager to swing by and check out what they've been up to since our last visit. I'd been a fan since our initial visit, not long after they first opened to the public.

Taps and chalkboard at Turkey Hill Brewing Co.

For my first selection, I went with my tried-and-true favorite - Revelation Pale Ale. However, this particular version was cask conditioned and dry-hopped with Citra. It went down way too quickly and I found myself still thirsty. I also had a few swigs of Brewslut's Berliner with Raspberry from Turkey Hill's new "Abandoned Sour Series." It appears that Turkey Hill is kicking things up a notch and dabbling in sours and other interesting styles. I noticed a variety of cork & cage 750mL bottles for sale in the reception area - everything from barrel-aged beers to blended sours - so it seems like they are doing a fair amount of experimentation, which I always appreciate.

Pleeps guarding our Berliner with Raspberry.

We decided to have another round and followed up our first selections with two tasty beers new to us: Mango-Habanero Pilsner and Urban Abbey Pumpkin Lager. Both of these were very well done. The Pilsner was sweet and fruity up front with a moderate amount of heat in the finish. The crispness of the malt helped bolster the sweetness a bit, which is a good thing because this flavor combination is all about balance. This combo is picking up steam and becoming quite popular among craft breweries. It almost seems like the next big trend after the Gose explosion of the last few years. I guess we'll have to wait and see. The Urban Abbey was also quite tasty. Pumpkin beers can be hit or miss for me. More often than not, it depends on the spice combination. I tend to prefer cinnamon-forward pumpkin beers versus ones heavy on clove or nutmeg. This one had a dominant cinnamon flavor but it wasn't over the top. Brown sugar sweetness mingled with the piquant cinnamon, ginger and other pie spices nicely, and I like the fact that they used a Märzen style as the base beer rather than an amber ale or lighter base. Hints of molasses and caramel came through in the malt, which thickened it up a bit, giving it the subtle chewiness I crave in pumpkin beers. Overall, it was nicely done.

We ate conservatively at the Fair, so we were starting to get a bit peckish. I spotted fish tacos on the menu so I didn't need to look any further. Brewslut ordered a Thai noodle bowl with chicken. This small meal held us over for a while and allowed us to keep the beer flowing, as we were on to our next stop.

I'd been following Old Forge Brewing Company in Danville since well before they were open for business. They were probably the first brewery to open in such close proximity to my hometown of Shamokin (although Selin's Grove is pretty close too). I remember seeing photos of their brewing equipment being delivered, and I was excited to have a place close to home when we visited our families. It was also easier to keep track of all the new PA brewery and brewpub openings back then. Nowadays, there are multiple openings every month instead of one every six months or so. At any rate, I love the philosophy of Old Forge (even though their beers have been hit or miss for me since the get-go). I love the fact that their approach to brewing beer echoes everything from the food they serve to the decor of the brewpub. All of the furniture at their location (including the bar itself) was handcrafted by a local wood and metal worker, while the tap handles, dinnerware, mugs, and sampler trays were hand-made by local potters and artisans. Now that's pretty damn cool!

Mug Club carousel at Old Forge.

We were meeting my cousin (who happens to live nearby) for a few beers. I decided to go outside of my comfort zone for a pair of beer styles I rarely order. Of course, I don't really see these styles on beer menus too often. Despite them having one of my favorites on nitro, Slack Tub Stout, I opted instead for 10oz. pours of the Ryetious Roggenbier as well as a Rauchbier. For those not familiar with the styles, a Roggenbier is a traditional German style made with a grain bill containing about half malted barley and equal portions of rye and wheat. The spiciness of the rye stands out in both the aroma and the flavor, giving a slight pumpernickel bread quality to the beer. Rauchbier, or "smoked beer," is exactly that - a beer brewed with smoked malt. This gives the beer a wood-smoked, beef jerky, or even a bacon flavor, which some people just don't care for in beer (Brewslut included). I, on the other hand, love them! This one was pretty solid, too. We were enjoying good conversation, so I opted for a third choice, this time Overbite IPA poured off the beer engine. I've had this one before a few times and it definitely benefits from cask conditioning to smooth out its rough edges.

By this time, it was getting pretty late and we decided we had to get to the Mifflinburg Oktoberfest for at least one beer. We'd attended a few times in the last couple of years and have always enjoyed the festivities. They serve a pretty solid roster of authentic German beers, the only recent deviation is the locally brewed Oktoberfest from the neighboring Rusty Rail just down the street. By this time of day, the rain had subsided and, although the field was pretty muddy in spots, our boots made it in and out of the tent unscathed. The food vendors were just shutting down for the evening, but we were able to score some free potato dumpling soup and tater tots. We made sure to reciprocate with a hefty tip. With our official Mifflinburg Oktoberfest mugs in tow, we filled them with Köstritzer Schwarzbier (me) and Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb (Brewslut). We've had both beer several times in the past, and I didn't remember liking the Schwarzbier as much as did on this particular occasion. I wasn't even going to get it, but by the time we arrived it was late and they were sold out of a few selections. It went well with a bag of roasted peanuts Carolyn's friend gave us when they left.

Speaking of Carolyn (Deuane's wife), she's the reason why we know about this event in the first place. Although Mifflinburg is just a few miles from the Chalet, she grew up in nearby New Berlin, a small town just down the road. Mifflinburg and Lewisburg are considered the closest "big cities" in that particular neck of the woods. This year, she was entertaining some friends from Vermont who were staying in town at - of all places - the Scarlet D, which was just down the street. I didn't even know they had rooms for rent! After Oktoberfest wound down, they decided to convene at the VFW for a drink, while Brewslut and I headed over to Rusty Rail.

Pleeps clilli' with some NOktoberfest!

When we arrived, I noticed the considerable lack of crowd typically inhabiting the place. Plus it was a Saturday night, so I was even more surprised. There was plenty of room at the bar, so we grabbed a pair of seats and perused the beer menu. I spotted some new Side Track beers on tap (Rusty Rail's limited, small batch series) as well as a new seasonal called NOktoberfest, which Brewslut ordered. I went with Side Track #7 - Mixed Berry Imperial Stout. We found both of these beers to be vast improvements on the beers we sampled during our last visit. The NOktoberfest was a Märzen hybrid brewed with rye malt and blood orange juice. Kind of an odd combination, I know, but it seemed to work. The Side Track #7, which I suspect is a variation of its year-round Wolf King Imperial Stout, was also quite good and featured a blend of blackberries, blueberries, and boysenberries. On the insistence of Pleeps, we also decided to try our luck with an odd-sounding beer. Sidetrack #9 - Imperial Peanut Butter Hefeweizen was brewed with "peanut butter flavoring" and Jarrylo hops, a variety with which I wasn't familiar. (Upon further investigation, I learned that this variety imparts notes of pear, orange, fruity spice, and banana.) Optimistically, I was thinking this could be like a peanut butter-dipped banana (since most Hefes have a distinct ripe banana note as a result of the type of yeast strain used to brew the style). Instead, what we got was more like roasted peanuts with a hint of spice. It was definitely more dry that I was anticipating, and the roasty, nutty quality really overpowered everything else. Still, it was an interesting experiment I was happy to try. It actually wasn't that bad, just rather odd.

We were going to head back to the Chalet, but then Brewslut noticed Carolyn & Co. checked in at the Scarlet D just down the street. We'd stopped in the Scarlet D a few times over the years, mostly because it used to be a cool spot our families took us on occasion to have dinner or get roasted peanuts. (Aside from my family owning land in Millmont since I was a toddler, Brewslut's family also had a summer cottage in the area.) Almost every bar in PA has Yuengling Lager on tap. As a matter of fact, the flagship offering of America's Oldest Brewery has become synonymous with "lager" in Pennsyltucky. But what about the under-appreciated (and far superior)  Lord Chesterfield Ale? The Scarlet D has the distinction of having this (as well as Yuengling Porter) on tap! We enjoyed each of these at the Scarlet D to cap off a fun evening. We arrived just after last call, but the bartender was kind enough to allow us one beer each. Plus Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" was blaring out of the speakers, which was a huge plus for me! Apparently, the bartender likes to listen to "House of Hair," a syndicated radio show featuring hard rock and heavy metal from the 1980s. \m/

After our fun, impromptu visit to the Scarlet D, we headed back to the Chalet and enjoyed another treat from the Alchemist, Heady Topper. If you haven't heard of this beer, then I'm surprised you are reading a blog about craft beer. This is one of the most hyped-up beers in the pantheon of craft beer, and although its shelf life is shorter than that of an already ripened avocado, when this beer is in its sweet spot, it's tough to beat. This particular can was indeed right on the nuggets.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast and packed everything up to return home. More times than not when visiting the Chalet, we do what I call a "Selin's Grove sandwich," meaning we stop in on Friday evening and again on Sunday afternoon. I guess this time we also had some dessert, because we'd planned on hitting up a few additional destinations on the way home.

Back at Selin's Grove, I was excited to see two open seats at the bar among a group of regulars. I was also stoked to see that not only had Whole Hop IPA returned, but Wild Peach was now on tap! I had both during our visit. While the Wild Peach is indeed an amazing beer, I actually prefer the standard version. Still, it was great to see this rare treat back on tap for a limited time. I also noticed that Hop Nouveau was coming out soon, as the chalkboard advertised a firkin event the following Friday. I wish the firkin tappings occurred later than 3 p.m. so we could attend them. Oh well. I'll get my fix of this sweet elixir brewed with locally grown hops during our next visit. The arrival of this beer also means that Pumpkin Ale is right around the corner! September through November is definitely my favorite time of year to visit the Pub. At the time of writing this, we'd visited the last 5 weeks in a row. The proof is in the pudding.

Wild Peach... what a surprise!

After yet another enjoyable visit to the Pub, we were off to Al's of Hampden to try some new Pizza Boy beers. Brewslut has the luxury of trying new beers more often than me because she works there once a week. So I always put in a request to visit when we're in close proximity. Al recently installed some new TVs to be used in conjunction with his rotating beer menu. In addition to all of the draft, nitro and cask selections, the new screens include all bottle releases available for on-premise consumption.

Al's new wall of TVs. That's a lot of beer!

First up was a new Saison brewed by Al (with help from the new Assistant Brewer, Roger) called The Hell That is My Life. Brewslut had it recently and mentioned it was awesome, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. This was a solid straight-up Saison with lots of zesty citrus fruit, some earthy herbs, and a hint of barnyard funk. I also had the Wet Shore, a wet-hopped version of their flagship West Shore IPA (recently re-named Hampden IPA due to a small entanglement with a West Coast brewery that will remain anonymous). I'd had this about two years ago when it first came out, and this year's version was killer! If you like fresh hop IPAs, this one is juicy and insanely drinkable. Check it out before it's gone. Up next, I settled on Washed Up, a bacon-washed beer. Brewslut opted for On the Fritz, an India Pale Lager. While I don't eat pork anymore, my one caveat is that I will still drink beers brewed with bacon (or any meat, really). I asked Al what the base beer was for this, and he said it was an Oatmeal Porter, so I was sold. Man, this beer was awesome! It featured just the right amount of smoky meatiness backed by a luscious mouthfeel and robust chocolately, roasty malt character. I had some of Brewslut's On the Fritz as well (another one new to me) and it was crisp and hoppy, just as I'd anticipated. We used these last two beers to wash down our tasty subs.

After Pizza Boy, it was off to a brand new Central PA brewery. Evergrain Brewing Company in Camp Hill had opened the week prior to our visit. Owned by the same two guys (Norm and Larry) who own the Brewhouse Grille, a beer bar in Camp Hill and mainstay of the local craft beer scene, Evergrain features a roster of ten house brews and food available through the adjoining Our Kitchen Table (where you literally order at a window connecting the two establishments). Brewmaster Bruce Tanner used to work at Tröegs for a number of years, so I knew the beers would be solid.

I was dying to try Joose Juicy, a NE-style IPA with a "hop character of dank, resinous hops" I'd heard from several friends to be excellent. Brewslut went with the Dark Necessity, a 10% Russian Imperial Stout. She doesn't mess around! Both were solid and enjoyable. We also enjoyed sharing a pint of the Wet Hop Cascade IPA, which was brewed with local hops grown and harvested at Painted Horse Hop Farm based in Dillsburg, PA. It was quite busy for a Sunday evening when we rolled in, and there was a hefty constituency of Tröegs peeps in attendance, which was nice to see. This place boasts a huge, open floor plan with the brew deck and tanks in plain sight, plus spacious seating options and even a ping pong table. Overall, it has a boomy warehouse vibe similar to some of the larger "industrial park" breweries in California. It seems like Evergrain is off to a great start, so I'm anxious to see what lies ahead for them.

Inside Evergrain's Tasting Room.

Thanks for reading. Perhaps we'll cross paths one day while seeking out some fresh, local beer. Until next time...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 8 - More Portland than you can possibly handle!

We were flying back to PA today on a red-eye flight, which meant we technically had an entire day of drinking left before we plunged back into the real world. We decided to stay in close proximity of the airport. Good thing there were plenty of nearby breweries to keep us occupied while we waited for the inevitable expiration of our Summer 2016 beer-cation.

I needed more Serendipity stat!
Even though we just visited Great Notion on the previous day, we HAD to go back and drink a few of our favorites before bidding a fond adieu to this great beer city. This time, I kept it to my three absolute favorites: Juice, Jr., Serendipity, and Peach Punch (the 4th time I had this one on the trip). While we sat at the bar, a group of six fellow beer travelers descended upon the bar, and soon enough we struck up a conversation with them. They were visiting from a few different areas of California. I'll refer to them as Sammy & Co. from here on out, as you know by now I'm terrible at remembering names. Plus that just makes things easier to read, doesn't it? Yes it does. We traded beer stories including favorite destinations, East Coast vs. West Coast living, and a myriad of other (mostly beer-related) topics.

Sammy & Co. were open for suggestions, as they'd just recently rolled into town. We'd mentioned we were heading to nearby Old Town Brewing's Northeast location. Recently voted one of the country's best pizzeria brewpubs by Thrillist, Old Town had also just one the 2015 GABF gold medal for its Shanghai'd IPA. This place had a definite ski lodge vibe, with high ceilings, lots of dark, rustic wood, a huge stone fireplace, and cozy seating including a deep burgundy-colored velvet couch (where Brewslut and I sat). Not long after we arrived, Sammy & Co. wandered in and sat at the bar. We continued our discussion and I mentioned that we were going to check out Ex Novo after having a great beer of theirs just the night before.

Pleeps was on the menu at Old Town... literally!
Since it had just won gold at GABF, I decided to give Shanghai'd IPA a shot. Brewslut opted for the intriguing sounding Kentucky Refresh-Mint, a beer based off the recipe for a mint julep, a popular cocktail featuring bourbon and fresh mint. This light-colored ale was aged on bourbon-soaked oak chips and freshly plucked mint. I must admit that, while it sounded great on paper, I was skeptical of this one. I'd had a few beers brewed with mint in the past, and a lot of them was like accidentally swallowing a mouthful of Scope. However, this beer was awesome! It seems that Oregonian brewers have a knack for artfully blending light-bodied, amber-colored ales with odd ingredients and aging them in spirits barrels. In my opinion, the results have been overwhelmingly delicious. The Shanghai'd was a good enough IPA, although I'm not sure it was "gold medal" good. There's so much competition at GABF in the IPA categories that the judges palates are probably disintegrated after drinking so many in one sitting. I found myself nicking a few sips of Brewslut's stellar beer. We also grabbed a few plain slices of pizza, which were still on special as part of its lunchtime menu. It hit the spot. Next time, I'd like to sample an entire pie to see what all the hubbub is about.

Exterior of Ex Novo, a non-profit brewery!
Our next stop was a place we'd never heard of before - Ex Novo. As I said, I picked up a can of their Eliot IPA on a whim and liked it so much, I felt an obligation to check out the brewery. I'm glad we did! Opened in July 2014, this non-profit brewery donates 100% of its net profits to organizations whose missions include building a better world and bringing hope to places where it is scarce. Sounds like a cause both my liver and I can get behind!

Lots of cool sounding stuff on the board at Ex Novo!
With a plethora of interesting beers on the chalkboard, we each opted for a sampler flight of four beers. Check out some of these interesting sounding beers:
  • Cactus Wins the Lottery - Berliner Weisse brewed with prickly pear
  • All of the Things - dry-hopped sour with passionfruit and habanero
  • Piñata - Imperial Mexican Lager brewed with guava, key lime and habanero
  • Eliot IPA - I talked about this one in the Day 7 blog entry
I really liked the beers and wish we could have spent more time here. Next time we're in town, we will definitely visit again!  

Pleeps: Mr. Happy Go Lucky!
 Next on the agenda was Breakside Brewery. Opened in 2010, Breakside is a relative newcomer to the Portland beer scene. Their claim to fame is snagging the gold medal in the American Style IPA category at GABF 2014 for its flagship, eponymously named IPA. I probably should have tried it, but by this time I was pretty IPA'd out. I saw they had a Smoked Porter on tap (a style I don't think we'd yet encountered on our trip thus far), so I opted for that. By this time of day, everyone was off work and Happy Hour had set in and the place was bumpin'. We caught up with Sammy & Co., who were just finishing up at a table when we arrived. They'd mentioned they were heading over to Ecliptic next. Sounded like a good excuse for us to revisit another favorite, especially since it was close to the airport. PA was calling us home, but we still have a bit of drinking to do. After all, we were representing the East Coast as self-appointed "Craft Beer Ambassadors."

There was another beer on the list that sounded too good to pass up. It was called Homunculus, and rather than jot down some notes about the beer, I just decided to take a picture of the description on the beer menu. This should give you a glimpse into what this beer was all about:

It sounded better on paper. Not to say it was bad, it just wasn't as complex as I was anticipating. Still, I was happy to try it. We were fortunate enough on this trip to get to sample a variety of amazing sour and barrel-aged beers.

With the clock quickly approaching the time to return our rental car, we decided we had time to hit once more place. Actually, we had already decided to go back to Ecliptic after Sammy & Co. mentioned they were stopping there next based on our recommendation.

Back at Ecliptic, I decided to go for a beer I hadn't tried on our first visit. That beer was Xpec 3 Pale Ale. Pretty good overall, but it didn't have the same impact as some of the other beers I'd had in our sampler flight. For my second beer, I decided to return to one of my favorites - Starburst IPA. By this time, our entire group was feeling pretty good after hitting five breweries. There was an acoustic trio playing some music that added to the ambiance. It's always a pleasure to meet great people traveling for the same reason as you. It kind of validates our crazy vacations in the name of beer, doesn't it? I think it does. I remember Brewslut's mom's comment when we first decided to go to California. "Why are you going to California?" she asked. "To drink beer," said my crafty wife. "Can't you do that at home?" Traveling for beer might be my favorite thing to do besides play drums in bands (especially if the songs are by my favorite band, Rush)! As long as there is beer to be had and breweries across the country to visit, Brewslut and I will be there, eagerly waiting on a barstool and chasing our own vision of "beer-vana."

The Pour Travelers feat. Sammy & Co. Thanks to the band for taking this pic!
Back at the airport, our trip came full circle as we enjoyed the same beers at Laurelwood as we did when we landed a week prior. More Workhorse IPA for me and Gose for Brewslut. I finished my beer way before the wife, so I opted for a second selection. Hey, I needed all the help I could get to sleep on a plane. The last time we took a red-eye flight did not go well for me. So, it was an imperial pint of Treehugger Porter, which wasn't bad at all. Fortunately, our flights were on time (we had a layover in Texas... oh how convenient for an overnight flight... nothing like getting up from half-sleep to race to eat, take a piss, and get to another plane). We had planned on spending the afternoon in Philadelphia when we returned, but we were both exhausted. Brewslut even had to drive home, as I got about two hours of sleep on both flights combined. Lucky for me, I had the rest of the day to recover.

And so ends another chapter in our Pour Travelers compendium. We're currently planning our "Drinksgiving 9" (I think) trip to Boston, MA, to visit our beer friends Dan and Kristen. Stay tuned for more beer adventures in 2016 and beyond. Until next time...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 7 - Yet Even More Portland!

Even though our trip was quickly winding down, we still had much to do. While Day 7 might not appear to have been as eventful as previous days on the trip, we enjoyed a few longer visits at a few great places. Our first stop of the day was Ecliptic Brewing Company. From the moment we entered this place, I knew I was in for a treat. I must admit I'm a sucker for outer space and astronomy. The thought of a vast universe always intrigued me. In high school, Earth and Space Science interested me more than all of the others. Back in college, my favorite science class was Astronomy (not so much the lecture days, but the lab nights were pretty rad). We had keep a journal of sketches of the all different moon phases, and we got to visit the observatory where we had access to a high-powered telescope, enabling us to spy on all of the sky's celestial entities.

Outside Ecliptic Brewing... our first stop of the day.
Ecliptic embodied everything I loved about outer space. The atmosphere inside the tasting room was colorful and evocative of the kind of retro futuristic outer space one might witness while watching The Jestons. All of the names of the beers had a space vibe, and the decor followed the theme as well. My favorite was the large, colorful mural of the Milky Way solar system on a wall adjacent to the main bar.

Looks like another sampler flight!
With a sprawling beer menu that covered all of the bases (hoppy, sour, fruity, dark, etc.), it was tough to make a decision. I suggested that we should order a sampler flight, and afterwards each get a pour of our favorite beer. We settled on the following six beers to start:
  • Orbiter IPA - brewed with four "C" hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus
  • Carina Peach Sour - lacto soured ale with fresh peaches
  • Ultra Violet Sour Blackberry - sour ale brewed with Oregon blackberries and fermented with Belgian yeast
  • Zenith Grapefruit Gose - German-style sour ale brewed with coriander, salt and grapefruit
  • Hopservatory Tropical Imperial IPA - DIPA brewed with Azacca, Mosaic, Calypso, Simcoe, Meridian and Mandarina
  • Starburst IPA - brewed with Amarillo, Azacca, Centennial, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops for fresh flavors of citrus, fruit and pine 
Pleeps immersed in our sampler flight.

This was one of those places who just hit the nail on the head and tied everything together in a nifty little package. I liked everything about this place, from the overall theme to the ambiance to the beer to the staff. I like when a brewery is cohesive in its branding, which is an overall statement to its customers. I guess working in marketing at a brewery for the last 4 years has gotten me more in tune with this type of thing. With that said, I likened this place to Modern Times, my new favorite brewery in San Diego. Like Modern Times, Ecliptic just seems to "get it."

Cool mural occupying the wall adjacent to the bar at Ecliptic.

It was actually a tough decision to select from this list, as all of the beers were very good to stellar. I opted to go with a full pour of the new Hopservatory DIPA. I love the tropical fruit-forward IPAs, and this one was quite vibrant with lots of sweet, juicy mango, papaya, pineapple and citrus fruit. It might not have been the best decision to start off with an 8% DIPA after polishing off a sampler flight, but it didn't matter. I wanted more. So there.

Pleeps posing with a full pour of Hopservatory.
For our second stop, we decided to swing by Portland's oldest craft brewery. Established in 1984 a few years before the microbrew rush and "Class of '88," Bridgeport Brewing is the self-professed "oldest craft brewery in Oregon." Situated in downtown Portland, Bridgeport's vast brewpub seemed to be a popular lunch spot, and we were stoked to have arrived during "happy hour." We had limited time due to having to feed the meter, so we planned for a one-and-done visit. I decided to go with an interesting offering - CandyPeel IPA. Brewed with Styrian Goldings hops for a citrusy, candy orange character, this was part of its new limited "Stumptown" series. Not bad overall. This was a pretty well-balanced IPA with a sweet malt presence and fruity hop profile. Brewslut went with Pearl-iner Weisse, a Berliner Weisse (her favorite beer style, a German sour wheat ale) finished with orange and lemon peel for a hint of zesty citrus character. This particular beer was brewed for especially for the Pearl Beer Festival. Overall, this was a pretty quick visit but we felt we should stop in and check out the oldest brewery in town. Plus it was in close proximity to our next stop.

Monkeying around at Bridgeport.
Back Pedal Brewing Company was like two doors down from 10-Barrel Brewing. We were going to stop in since it was so close, but a couple from Iowa who we'd met at Back Pedal said not to bother. I'd read about 10-Barrel a while back in Beer Advocate magazine, and they sounded solid. However, they'd been purchased by Anheuser-Busch a few years ago, so we decided we'd skip it in lieu of supporting the little guys.

We opted for a flight, which included an array of styles. Here's what we sampled during our visit:
  • Blood Orange Blonde - brewed with Cascade hops and real blood oranges
  • Emanon - farmhouse ale
  • B.U.I. - DIPA aged for 4 months on French oak soaked in Aria Portland dry gin
  • Strawberry Sunset - fruit beer brewed with strawberries
  • Old School - straight-up American IPA
  • Summer Breeze - an English mild ale
  • Paddle Wheel Pale Ale - American Pale Ale brewed with Simcoe and Citra 
Again, it was another barrel-aged IPA incorporating gin for the win! This seemed to be a fairly prevalent cross-pollination out in Portland. I definitely hope this trend continues and rubs off on the East Coast, because I am really digging these IPAs infused with gin-like characteristics. Whodathunkit?! The Blood Orange Blonde may have been my runner-up, although I remember everything here being up to snuff. Our new friends from Iowa also seemed to dig this place quite a bit. The appeared to be mirroring our trip, except theirs was just getting started while our was coming to an end. 

Inside the tasting room, we noticed a large trolley that looked like a mobile bar. Not sure how we couldn't notice it, because it was huge. Brewslut recognize it from an episode of some drinking show we'd seen a while back (perhaps Three Sheets or Brew Dogs). Turns out, this was one of the BrewCycle tandem bikes that tour breweries around the city. Pretty cool, eh? We would have loved to have done this, but you had to book your 2-hour ride in advance. Great way to drink and burn calories at the same time, right? Next time!

 Portland BrewCycle: patrons pedal around the city drinking beer!

I'd been a fan of Fat Head's for several years after first visiting the pub on Carson Street in Pittsburgh. The brewery is responsible for two of my favorite East Coast IPAs - Headhunter and Hop Juju. A few years ago, Troegs brewed a collaboration beer with Fat Head's, a Scratch Beer release called Fat Scratch Fever. It was bangin'! We've also been to the Cleveland brewpub numerous times, most recently during our last Thanksgiving trip out to Chicago.

Love Fat Head's tap handles!
Again, we were strapped for time due to the parking meter situation in this part of town, so we chose our beers wisely. We opted for two brewery-only draft releases: Call Me Big Hoppa, a single hop IPA brewed with Mosaic, and Fuzzy Wuzzy, a hazy fruit beer brewed with fresh peaches. Both were awesome! Call Me Big Hoppa was one of the more memorable IPAs of the entire trip. As we sat at the bar, we struck up a conversation with a couple sitting next to us. Turns out the guy was a brewer at Fat Head's, and a talkative one at that. Brewers tend to lean to one side of the spectrum (extremely friendly and talkative) or the other (quiet, reserved, or even lacking adequate social skills). This guy fell under the former category. I expressed my love for Hop Juju and he concurred. I'd wished it was on tap during our visit, but Big Hoppa provided a more than adequate replacement for one of my favorite DIPAs. Plus I got to try a rare beer, so that's an added bonus!

After a quick visit to Fat Head's, it was off to Deschutes. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Deschutes' brewpub location during our initial trip to Portland (the one with my mom in tow). We had to limit our stops at breweries in lieu of "touristy stuff" to appease my mom. After all, she was paying for the trip. We decided to have dinner at Deschutes the night we were visiting, and it just so happened to be their 23rd anniversary party! What did that mean? Black Butte XXIII on tap, of course! Turns out our dinner that night was my mom's favorite meal of the trip. Bonus points for me!

Pleeps enjoyed a few nips of my Black Butte...
So we were back again on a busy Monday evening with plenty of folks waiting to be seated. Always on the lookout for bar seating, I noticed two women getting ready to leave, so we were able to snag two seats at the bar. Since the food was so good last time, we decided to eat here again. I was also ecstatic to see this year's anniversary Black Butte (now at XXVIII) on tap. What a treat! This Imperial Porter is always well-done, and the anniversary edition means its been barrel-aged for further complexity. This year's version featured the addition of cocoa, vanilla beans, and sweet orange peel to add an additional layer of flavor. Brewslut ordered a pour of The Stoic, an 11% Belgian Quad aged in select rye whiskey and wine casks. Wow! Talk about an amazing one-two punch. Pleeps was feeling the right hook after that pair of big beers.

...and some of Brewslut's Stoic. See what happens later.
Our final stop of the evening took place at a little rag-tag brewery called Tugboat Brewing. For some reason, I thought the name was cute so it made my initial list. Turns out it was near all of the breweries on the list for today, so it made the cut. This place had a certain hole-in-the-wall charm that I tend to enjoy. Right off the bat, we felt welcome here. As we walked in the front door, the bartender led the patrons in a roaring cheer. to my knowledge, we had never been applauded when entering a brewery (much less one we'd never visited before). After I made some funny comments, we ordered a pair of beers at the bar and found a cozy table in a dimly lit corner. The tap list was scant (only three beers), so it appeared this would be a one-and-done visit. Of course, the beers were all insanely high in alcohol. As other customer came through the doors, we contributed to the cacophony of yelps, whistles, and other assorted noises used to greet them.

Vinyl junkies and beer... my kind of peeps at Tugboat!
The two potent beers we ordered shared the same name: Chernobyl. However, I opted for the DIPA while Brewslut went with the Russian Imperial Stout. Chernobyl seemed a fitting name for these hefty beers, as imbibing too many of either could indeed be disastrous. At 11.5% and 13.5%, respectively, we figured this would be a good last stop before heading back to the hotel and enjoying some more Olympic events from the comfort of our king-size bed. We also had a bottle of Invincible IPA from Baerlic, donated to the cause by our new friend Jim.

We're proud to have grown up during the 80s.
I always like when breweries have games and other activities available to customers. For example, Selin's Grove has "Shut the Box," an antiquated game by today's standards, but fun nevertheless, especially when there is a group of us at a table. I spied some old board games on a nearby bookshelf, so I investigated further. Trivial Pursuit, the 80's edition. Sweet! We enjoyed asking each other questions (many of them pretty obscure) about the decade in which we grew up, all while sipping our high-octane beers and chiming in when new customer strolled through the front doors. This was definitely a fun place and served as a fine, lighthearted end to another enjoyable day in Portland.

A rare snapshot of the elusive Brewslut.
Next door to Tugboat, we stumbled upon a cool little bottle shop and decided to pick up a few beers for the hotel. I can't recall the name of the place, but it was small but well-curated with a great mix of cans, bottles, and brewery merchandise. The clerk was pleasant too. I picked up a trio of pounder cans to add to the Baerlic bomber we were given, figuring that would last us for the rest of the evening. I must say, we made some great choices! All of these beers were extremely good, and one of them even nudged us to visit the brewery the next day. If I'm not mistaken, beach volleyball and swimming were happening around this time, so I'm pretty sure these beers paired well with those events. Here's what we enjoyed in our hotel on the last full night in Portland:

  • 3-Way IPA by Ft. George Brewery - Galaxy hopped collaboration IPA with Barley Brown's Beer and Melvin Brewing
  • Peach Punch by Block 15 and Great Notion - One of my favorites of the trip. Nuff said!
  • Invincible by Baerlic - flagship IPA offering
  • Eliot IPA by Ex Novo - IPA hopped with Centennial, Citra, Galaxy and Simcoe. Yum!

Eliot IPA was so good that we decided to work in Ex Novo on our final day's itinerary. More on that later. Join us next time as we wrap things up in Portland and stick a fork in another Pour Travelers epic adventure. Until next time...

Pleeps is down for the count!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 6 - More Portland!

After a few glitches and a foiled visit to Great Notion the previous day, we were anxious to make the best of a full day in Portland! Turns out we had another double-digit day with ten more breweries under our belt. But all that is ahead of us. First up... let's try this again, shall we?

Great Notion! The night before, we tried stopping here but were foiled by a sign for the brewery placed in a weird spot. Nevertheless, this place was the highest rated brewery in Portland, which is arguably THE mecca for craft beer. The fact that the brewery is only about two years old makes it an even more impressive feat. We arrived around opening time and were greeted by a line of people winding around the block. "They can't be waiting for beer... can they?!" we asked each other. As we walked by, I asked the crowd, "Are you all waiting in line for beer?" Someone answered, "No, the best biscuits ever." Even if they were, I wasn't about to stand in that line! Someone else chimed in: "There's a brewery around the corner." Aaaaah! The light bulb went off in my head. So that's why they looked closed last night. We were at Pine State Biscuits, not Great Notion. D'oh!

The lovely patio at Great Notion where we enjoyed our first visit.
It was a pleasant day in Portland, so we decided to sit outside on the picturesque patio. Decorated with a variety of flowering shrubs, trees, wrought iron tables, oversized umbrellas, and string lights, it provided the perfect backdrop to our early afternoon visit. The waitress was quick to greet us as we perused the beer list. And let me tell you... this was an incredible beer list! I literally wanted to try every single beer on the menu. And that we did!


Aside from No Seeds (a Berliner Weisse with watermelon... sad panda), which had recently kicked and was not available, here's the run-down of the stellar beers we had during our visit:
  • Zest - straight-up Berliner Weisse
  • Key Lime Pie - kettle sour aged on key limes, Madagascar vanilla beans and brown sugar
  • Serendipity - barrel-aged sour ale aged for 10 months on apricots
  • Blueberry Muffin - liquid blueberry muffins... seriously!
  • Little Bear - a Kölsch style ale dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria and Citra
  • Juice, Jr. - IPA packed with Mosaic hops
  • Plump - IPA brewed with El Dorado and Mosaic
  • Whole Melon - single hop IPA brewed with Huell Melon hops
  • Peach Punch (You in the Eye) - collaboration with Block 15. Hell yeah! More for me!!!
  • Stash - a dank, resinous IPA. Smells like your dad's stash box!
  • Double Stack - Imperial breakfast stout aged on a ridiculous amount of Vermont maple syrup and locally roasted coffee
Everything was killer. Everything! My favorites included Serendipity, Peach Punch (duh!), and Juice, Jr. What a way to start the day, especially after the varieties of set-backs we'd experienced the previous day. Plus the food was amazing to boot! We both ordered the Dirty Quinoa Salad. A bowl filled with Cajun white quinoa, warm black kale, grilled corn, avocado, roasted garlic, and lemon juice, this was not only delicious and nutritious, but quite filling as well.

So, to recap. Beer. Amazing. Service. Exceptional. Food. Bangin'! Atmosphere. Perfect. Could it get any better, you ask? Then I heard something that made my ears perk up. I heard it again... and again. It was one of my favorite sounds on earth. At first, I thought it was somebody's ringtone. Nope, it sounded authentic! I followed the sound to some nearby shrubs, pulled back the leafy branches, and found this staring back at me...

Well hello there, little fella!
Yeah, it was gonna be tough (wait... impossible!) to top this place! Turns out the neighbors have two goats, and they were as curious as me. This little guy came right over to me and was as friendly as could be. I fed him some leaves from the nearby bush and he graciously lapped them up from my hand. I was in my happy place. If Rush would have come on the radio just then, I probably could have just ended it all. How could it get any better?

Pleeps surrounded by a wall of world-class beer.
Seriously though, enough silliness. As sad as I was to leave, I was pretty sure we'd come back one more time before we headed back to PA. We still had two full days in Portland. So it was off to stop number two on our ambitious itinerary for the day.

Upright Brewing Company was one I'd heard of for quite some time and had a few of its offerings over the years. Specializing in farmhouse style beers inspired by French and Belgian brewers but with a Pacific Northwest twist, Upright carved out a unique niche in Portland's primarily American craft beer scene. The tasting room was situated right in the middle of its production brewery, which was surprisingly quite small. Dimly lit with old vinyl spinning in the background and mismatched tables and chairs, it felt like we were drinking in a friend's basement. The three tables out near the tiny standing bar were all occupied, so we found a small table back by the fermentation tanks and barrels, which provided a cool setting, especially given the nature of Upright's beers.

We sat in the heart of Upright's production area.
Upon perusing the chalkboard, I was surprised to see a Witbier (named Pure Wit) and - of all things - an American Lager. The was the name of the beer too. How dead common! Since these two were so out of character for Upright, we had to try them. We also ordered sample size pours of Seven (a "modern Saison" and one of its standard offerings) and Four Play, a limited draft sour exclusive to the brewery only. Four Play was described as "based on Four but transformed after spending one year in barrels with tart cherries, Brettanomyces, and lactobacillus." The resulting beer is a blended version of ten different casks offering a complex depth of character rife with oak and a mineral-like finish. It was nice to be able to try such a limited beer. It was definitely my favorite of the bunch.

Beer list at Upright.
We only had about 45 minutes in the parking meter, so it was a pretty quick visit. Luckily, there were only a handful of beers on tap. So, it was off to the next brewery.

Coalition Brewing was another one of those places that boasted an eclectic list of intriguing and odd-sounding beers. (Sorry for the Twitter link, but they don't have an official web site or even a Facebook page.) I must admit that I get sucked into the vortex easily when beer sounds good on paper (or slate). I always get mopey when we arrive to a new place only to find a brown ale, a red ale, a pale ale, a dry stout, blah blah blah. I wanted to dive right into these beers. Here's the lowdown:
  • Serendipity - a 4.5% ABV Session IPA
  • Hawaii 5-0-3 - IPA with pineapple, passionfruit and coconut
  • Dropping Science - DIPA
  • Space Fruit - West Coast IPA featuring five different citrus fruits and Chinook, Cascade and Ellas hops
  • Roselandia - sour ale with lactobacillus, rose petal cordial and rose water
  • Oud School - barrel-aged sour brown ale
  • Dill Dose - Berliner Weisse "dry-hopped" with dill pickles. Love the name!
  • Sangria Bretta - barrel-aged sour with Brettanomyces blended with sangria
Coalition reminded me of an old office furniture store.
Coalition had just released Hawaii 5-0-3 the day we visited. Lucky for us, because it was easily one of my favorites of the lot. The combination of coconut and tropical fruit worked well within the context of an IPA, and the coconut definitely didn't overpower the flavor, allowing the fruit and hops to shine through. Another standout was the Sangria Bretta, which was vinous yet extremely refreshing and fruity with some tartness around the edges. Surprisingly, the Dill Dose was light and refreshing, and lent more of a cucumber character than straight-up dill pickle. Space Fruit was pretty bitchin' as well. One thing's for sure... this little hole-in-the-wall place is crafting some eclectic, forward-thinking beers. I checked out some pics on-line of their bottle labels, and they're pretty dope!

Pleeps enjoying the flight!
It was time for a quick caffeine pit stop, so we headed across the street to Crema based on the recommendation of the guy working at Coalition (who was our buddy Jon Kaufman's doppelganger... I should have taken a picture). Epic fail! With more iced coffee fuel, we moved on.

Blond wood abounds at Baerlic... and good beer too!
Up next was Baerlic Brewing, another recommendation from Jon's doppelganger. This place had a modern look with lots of light colored wood, sky blue accents, clean lines, and ample lighting. Baerlic, which translates to "of barley," in Old English (think Beowulf), lives by the mantra: "the beer here is near and dear." It's written right on the wall above the beer signs. With that said, the owners/brewers strive to incorporate as many locally sourced ingredients (a lot of oats, I was told), materials, supplies, vendors... everything! Again, it was another place with lots of variety beer-wise, so naturally we wanted to try as many as we could. Another sampler flight, please!

The colorful beer boards at Baerlic.
Our flight included the following beers:

  • Invincible - straight-up American IPA
  • Helles for Heroes - a non-traditional Helles lager with oats and lime zest
  • East Side Oatmeal Pilsner - Pilsner brewed with oats
  • Two's Company - Experimental IPA with Idaho 7 hops and Brett-like yeast
  • Old Blood & Guts - barleywine with rich British malts and NW hops. "A big ol' cuddly bear hug of a beer!" Great name for a barleywine! 
  • Shop Class - American IPA
  • Nice & Easy - a salted oat Gose

Pleeps posing with my flight at Baerlic.
In talking to our "beerslinger" Jim, we'd mentioned that we were traveling from Pennsylvania. I mentioned that one of my favorite breweries was Selin's Grove, and he said, "Oh yeah... Steve and Heather! I've known them since they were at New Belgium." Turns out he also knew the Trogner brothers as a result of attending GABF, Craft Brewers Conference, etc. over the years. This guy had ensconced himself in craft beer for decades. He was extremely personable and talkative, and we enjoyed our visit very much. The beers were solid, too.

Up next on the list was Sasquatch Brewing Company. The name itself elicited a few humorous references in my mind, and I chuckled. First, Bubbles' mispronunciation of Sasquatch as "Samsquanch." that always cracks me up! Then, the lyrics to an obscure Tenacious D song, way back from their HBO show days:

"'In Search Of Sasquatch,' that was a kick-ass 'In Search Of'
With Leonard Nimoy kickin' out the jams..."

This place had a rugged outdoors vibe going on. Everything from the sign outside to the dark wood decor to the towering Grizzly Adams-like bartender (who even reminded us of a slightly less hairy Sasquatch) echoed the brewery's moniker. We sat at the end of the small 10-person bar and perused the beer and food menus. By now, we were hungry and the food looked and smelled awesome, so it was time to get our grub on.

Outside Sasquatch Brewing Company.
They also had some pretty amusing names for their beers. Several were silly references to famous people, characters or movies. Case in point, four of the five beers in my sampler flight made specific references to pop culture:

  • My Own Private Idaho (B-52s' song and River Phoenix film) - IPA (most likely brewed with experimental Idaho 7 hops... I couldn't find any description or information on the Internet)
  • Woodboy - (no reference I could think of) - Centennial IPA dry-hopped with Cascade
  • Wheatney Houston (Whitney Houston) - a bright wheat IPA with a hint of crack ;-)
  • Nancy Cherrygan (Nancy Kerrigan, skater who got clubbed in the knee back in the 1990s) - kettle sour with tart Oregon cherries and lactobacillus from Nancy's Greek yogurt
  • Ned (Ned Flanders from the Simpsons) - a Flanders Red aged on American oak for 18 months
The beers here were solid and the food was bangin'! We both had the Veggie Burger, a house-made black bean and beet patty with sauteed red peppers, goat cheese, arugula and garlic herb aioli. This came with a side of house-cut fries that were tasty as well. Glad we decided to eat here. I usually can't pass up a house-made veggie patty, especially one that incorporates beets.  

Sasquatch was bumping by this time of day. The neighborhood reminded me of a section of New Hope, PA with streets lined with shops, boutiques, and restaurants. It was around dinner time, and we still had a few places left to hit today. Actually five. We were halfway done!

Culmination Brewing, our next visit, had a ski lodge kind of atmosphere: high ceilings, planks of light-colored lumber making up the wall behind the taps and the bar itself, and an open floor plan. Built around the concept that sustainable manufacturing and building practices lead to superior products and happy customers, it seems like this mantra is becoming a trend of sorts not only in Portland, but throughout the U.S. as tiny breweries are popping up in every small town across the map. Like Sasquatch, we snagged two seats on the far left side of the front bar (it was L-shaped) and consulted the chalkboard for today's libations.

Pleeps was digging the Choco Mountain Milk Stout!

Seems like the theme for today was sampler flights. So, here's the run-down:

  • Sun Rey - a Radler brewed with Jasmine Pearl tea, lime and raspberries, then kettle soured with lactobacillus
  • Man O Mandarin - gin barrel-aged session IPA brewed with Mandarin oranges
  • Deutschland Down Under - Berliner Weisse brewed with fresh kiwi fruit and hopped with Topaz
  • Coffee Mild Ale - an English style Mild Ale brewed with coffee
  • Choco Mountain - a chocolate milk stout served via nitro tap
Lots of interesting stuff to digest here. The place was extremely busy and the bartender seemed pretty flustered, as she was taking on the entire bar solo. Overall, this was another quality place. So far, we've had a great track record today. 

Moving on, next on our agenda was Migration Brewing. Seems like it was shaping up to be a "-tion" brewery kind of day (Great Notion, Coalition, Culmination, and now Migration). We got to watch some of the Olympics here, and I was stoked that our visit coincided with some of the Women's Gymnastics events. You'd think I was kidding, but Women's Gymnastics is my favorite sport of all time. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I became infatuated with the sport after Mary Lou Retton scored two "perfect tens" on the vault at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. My interest escalated considerably as I got older, culminating with the amazing Atlanta games in 1996, when Kerri Strug stuck a vault landing with a crippled leg. It has since become my favorite sports moment of all time (well, either that or Peggy the three-legged goat winning her first championship at the Sly Fox Bock Fest & Goat Races). But I digress. We still have much to talk about in the realm of beer today. So, on with the show.

No sampler flights here, so we settled on a few half pints to share. First up was Luscious Lupulin, a dry-hopped citrusy IPA brewed with Centennial, Cluster and Simcoe. Brewslut ordered Clem's Cream, a Cream Ale brewed with flaked oats. This was pretty run-of-the-mill, especially after drinking a hop-forward beer. Since Migration was cool enough to be broadcasting Women's Gymnastics in its tasting room, we decided to hang out a bit longer. I ordered a pour of the 503 IPA (503 being Portland's area code as I discovered earlier in the day during our visit to Coalition). I wish I could remember more about the beers here, but I was pretty glued to the tele (that's TV if you're not British).

By now it was starting to get dark outside, so it was time to shove off to the next place on our itinerary. Founded in 2010, Burnside Brewing is comprised of self-professed "risk-takers and lovers of food to be enjoyed with easy-to-drink beers." Sounds good to me! By now, we were foregoing sampler flights in lieu of small half pours of beer we wanted to try most. It'd been a long day, and our livers were feeling it. Still, we had some gas left in the tank.

Exterior of Burnside as it began to get dark outside.
I started off with Golden Girl, a golden ale brewed with Galaxy hops and a hint of Blanche Devereaux. I love me some fruity Galaxy hops, and soon my mind turned to one of Rose Nylund's preposterous "back in Saint Olaf" stories. (For those suffering through my obscure references, these are names of characters from one of my favorite sit-coms of the 1980s, the Golden Girls.) Brewslut ordered the Guanabana Gose, a kettle-soured Gose brewed with Jacobsen sea salt, fresh lime zest, and soursop purée. What is "soursop," you ask? Soursop is the fruit of a broadleaf, flowering evergreen tree native to Mexico and a few other places south of the equator. Its flavor is described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple with a hint of sour citrus and the underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana. Pleeps was in heaven!

Burnside's clever version of a chalkboard menu.
I decided to try a pour of Batch 500, a Cedar IPA. I'm a sucker for wood (not a sucker of wood, mind you!) and this one jumped out at me. Described as a NE IPA aged on Western red-cedar, Batch 500 was brewed with generous amounts of Amarillo and Meridian hops, then fermented with a NW ale yeast to provide a gentle, fruity aroma. Sounded good to me. I've had a few cedar-aged beers in the past, and cedar is a very strong, dominant flavor. However, this beer had a pretty subdued cedar character. All in all, it was a decent stop though not as memorable as our earlier visits to places such as Great Notion, Baerlic, or Coalition.

5th Quadrant, the next stop on our beer trail, is actually the home of Lompoc Brewing, a family of pubs and tasting rooms around Portland. Established in 1996, they've been around the block, falling squarely between the mainstays such as Deschutes and the newbies like Great Notion. Sadly, it was my least favorite stop of the day. With no samplers, we opted for smaller pours of two of the more interesting sounding beers. I went with Pamplemousse (French for "grapefruit"), a citrus-forward IPA brewed with four hop varieties and grapefruit juice. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't too terribly exciting. Brewslut opted for the Kriektucky (sweet name!), a golden ale aged for 10 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels on 45 lbs. of cherries. This one didn't wow me either, unfortunately. The place was dimly lit and deserted, save for one or two people occupying the bar and a table of some people at the other end of the room. The bartender wasn't too talkative either. Overall, it was pretty much the only dud of the day. We hated to end on a low note (especially after the day started off so well with Great Notion), so we decided to revisit to McMenamins Kennedy School, which I loved but Brewslut didn't really get to enjoy it due to our hotel issues.

One of the main halls inside McMenamins Kennedy School
I talked a bit about McMenamins' philosophy in the Day 5 blog entry. This place takes the cake! I'd even go as far as saying it was the coolest brewpub I'd ever drank a beer (a position held for many years by Pittsburgh, PA's Church Brew Works). I was simply infatuated with this place. Perhaps it was because I always liked school and never got into drinking during my teens, so the thought of me drinking in an old school made me feel more youthful. Whatever it was, it simply adored this place!

Main hallway in the opposite direction
We grabbed beers and began to stroll around the vast building. Built in 1915, it was like stepping back in time. If you feel so inclined, you can read about the history of the Kennedy School, which is pretty intriguing. The layout of the building was exactly like that of an old school. For example, the bathrooms still had lockers and shower stalls. Also, they had bars in multiple rooms. They even provide overnight accommodations in a variety of the rooms throughout the school.

My favorite room at Kennedy School overlooked a bar on the lower level.
For our beers, we enjoyed pints of Depave IPA (brewed with Chinook, Citra, Horizon, and Simcoe) and Terminator Stout (a dense, roasty stout brewed with black barley and chocolate malt, among others). Both beers were solid, which we'd discovered was par for the course for McMenamins. The Olympics were on again, and we enjoyed some volleyball while a group of nearby patrons suffered through a game of billiards.

Another angle of the loft overlooking the lower level bar.
That brings today's grand total to ten breweries... another double-digit day! After a day of beer beer beer, it was time for bed bed bed. After an enjoyable visit to Kennedy School, we headed back to our cozy Holiday Inn Express. Stay tuned for Day 7 and we continue to dig into Portland's eclectic beer scene. Until next time...