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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tripping the West Coast-tastic - Part I: Seattle and Portland

In late June of this year, Brewslut and I ventured out west with my mom to visit Seattle and Portland, two cities I've been wanting to visit for quite some time.  Both are renowned for beer culture and an inordinate amount of breweries and brewpubs.  If I'm not mistaken, Portland has the most breweries/brewpubs per capita than any other city in the United States.  Impressive to say the least!  While we barely scratched the surface of what was available to the beer geek community, we did get to hit some of the basics.  Below is a sort of journal entry approach to our trip to Seattle and Portland.  Enjoy!
Pike Brewing Co.
While the three of us meandered around trying to find the Pike Place Market (the famous tourist spot in Seattle where they throw fish around), we stumbled upon Pike Brewing Company, which, unbeknownst to us, was in close proximity to the market.  We also happened to get there during happy hour, which was an added bonus.  The brewpub had a very open feel to it, with high ceilings and a view to the brewery above.  A very cool space, indeed! 

I enjoyed a cask IPA, which was pretty tasty (sorry folks, no review).  The had a solid lineup of several classic beer styles, as well as a few guest taps.  The walls were decorated with tons of breweriana, including lots of vintage serving trays that I'm sure were worth a lot of money to collectors.  This was a quick stop, unfortunately, but nevertheless it was ok because we hadn't even planned on visiting.  But since we just stumbled upon it, we HAD to stop in for at least one beer, right?  

 Diamond Knot

Now that's my kind of dog!
We stumbled upon Diamond Knot’s brewpub while visiting a lighthouse park and Puget Sound, which was about 20 miles or so north of Seattle.  They didn’t open until 11am, so we killed some time walking up the shore of Puget Sound and checking out the lighthouse grounds.  We also had some coffee next door at a small grocery store / deli / breakfast stand.  Not sure what it was, but they were open and they sold coffee.  Score!  Diamond Knot immediately struck me upon our entrance due to the nautical theme of the d├ęcor and its cool use of those old time metal divers’ suits on their merchandise.   

Diamond Knot tap handles.
Perusing their beer menu, I also noticed a beer that was a collaboration with Michael Wilton of Queensryche, as well as another beer that made references to the Iron Maiden song, “The Number of the Beast,” with its images of the devil, 666, etc.  Being a lifelong metalhead, I thought this was pretty cool.  In talking to the bartender (who was awesome), she informed me that the brewers were all into metal, and that the head brewer’s favorite band was… wait for it… Rush!  She said he even flew to Toronto a few weeks back to see them on the Time Machine tour (I’d seen them four times on this particular tour).  She also said that the brewery was just a few miles up the road if we wanted to visit.  As tempting as it sounded… I know right?  Talking about beer AND Rush to a brewer?  If my mom wasn’t in tow, I would have definitely stopped for a visit.  But we had a busy day planned of tourist stuff that unfortunately got in the way of our “beerlanthropy.”  Oh well, we are already talking about doing a full-fledged Portland and Seattle “beer-cation” in a year or two, so I’m sure we’ll hit up Diamond Knot as well as a slew of other places we missed this time around.  At any rate, I enjoyed the Industrial IPA and also purchased a T-shirt with the aforementioned deep sea diver emblazoned across the chest. 

 Also, the urinal in the men’s bathroom was rather unorthodox, to say the least.  I asked the bartender where the bathroom was located, and she pointed the way, but also added the statement, “You’ll want to take your camera.”  I must admit that I have never heard anyone utter these words when I asked for directions to the bathroom.  But I’m glad I took her advice, because the urinal was an actual keg die-cut into which urine could be deposited.  But the real charm of the urinal came when I discovered that it was, in fact, a used Anheuser-Busch keg!  Classic!

Coolest. Urinal. Ever!

Deschutes was definitely at the top of my list for this trip, so how fortunate was it for us that the night we decided to visit happened to coincide with their 23rd Anniversary party?  Talk about a stroke of luck!  What did that mean?  A full tap list including all of their flagship beers, IPA on cask, a special sour ale, and… oh yeah… Black Butte XXIII on TAP!   

The place was obviously a mob scene due to the anniversary celebration, so our wait for a table was about an hour or so.  But hey, when beer is available, it’s not like you’re even waiting for a table!  So we perused the merchandise displays and enjoyed our beers (cask IPA for me and a sour for Brewslut).  I’m really glad we picked Deschutes for dinner, because the food and service was fantastic.  My mom even said it was probably her favorite meal of the trip.  Brewslut and I enjoyed these awesome vegetarian burgers made from red beets and walnuts that were creative and certainly tasty.  My mom got the artisan mac and cheese made with several kinds of cheeses, including a smoked cheese.

I had a sample, and it was indeed awesome.  Aside from my cask IPA and a sampler flight of their hoppy offerings, I was lucky enough to get a Black Butte XXIII on tap.  For whatever reason, I didn’t take notes on this beer, but I assure you… this Imperial Porter was fantastic!

 Hair of the Dog

We had planned to visit HotD on Saturday after breakfast, which I was really excited about.  This was one of the places that was high on my list of “absolute cannot miss” brewpubs for this trip.  When we pulled the car up to the entrance, I could tell something was awry.  As I got out of the car, I noticed a sign placed in the window of the door, which read: “Closed all day Saturday for Private Party.”  My heart sank for a moment.  Was I not going to be able to have a fresh Blue Dot?  Would I be denied one of their infamous “From the Wood” beers?  I was seriously hoping that they would be open on Sunday, but there was no hours listed on the door.  Lucky for me, I found out later that they did, in fact, have Sunday hours.  So I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that I could make it to HotD!  And I’m glad we made it! 

Inside Hair of the Dog's taproom.
Blue Dot was on, as well as a brewery-only release called Greg, which was brewed with summer squash and no hops.  Also, I noticed a little beer called Adam From the Wood on tap!  When I ordered a glass, the bartender kindly informed me that it had just kicked.  Strike two!  M’wah.  However, my mood quickly changed when she told me that a vintage 2008 Fred from the Wood would be taking its place momentarily.  BOOYEAH!  And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!  Easily one of the best, smoothest barleywines I’ve had to date.  Not only was the bar staff awesome, but we had a great conversation with a local patron about beer to boot.  I could have sat there all day and got into some of their vintage bottles for sale, but we had other things on the agenda.

Cascade Barrel Room

Not too far from HotD is the Cascade Barrel Room.  Cascade is known for making some fantastic sour beers, including their popular Kriek, which is available in PA (I’ve seen bottles at Al’s and Brass Rail).  Brewslut was definitely more interested in stopping here for a visit, due to her interest in all things sour (except my mood, which can turn sour on occasion… see my earlier HotD comments).  We didn’t have a lot of time to spend here, so we got sampler flights.  To be honest, I can’t even remember what I had, although I did have one of their IPAs.  Brewslut opted for pretty much all sours and wild ales.

Stay tuned for Part II of our West Coast jaunt... San Diego!  I'm telling you, it's the best city in the United States... the best, Jerry... the best!  

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!