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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 3 - Portland

We were eager to begin Day 3 of the trip in Portland proper with the one-two punch of two of our very favorites: Hair of the Dog and Cascade Barrel House. Both were in close proximity of each other (hell, there were FOUR breweries all within walking distance just in this part of town), so it made hopping around from place to place decidedly convenient for us. But first! Yup, you guessed it. Coffee. Our first of two coffee stops today took place at Upper Left, a local coffee roaster in Portland. We ordered two cold brews and sat at their modern bar overlooking the roasting equipment. I felt like I was at a small brewery as I watched the roaster do his thing. He was kind enough to strike up a short conversation with me, which dispelled any myths about coffee drinkers being snobs or pretentious. We chatted about breweries, and I was surprised that he hadn't heard of Hair of the Dog. Coincidentally, it was our firs stop of the day.

During our one-and-only previous trip to Portland (I gave you the link to that blog last time), you may recall they were closed for a bar mitzvah when we arrived. Luckily, we had time to visit the following day, and I'm glad we did. Hair of the Dog crafts some of the best strong ales I've come across in our travels. They also make an insanely underrated DIPA called Blue Dot. If you ever see a fresh bottle on the beer shelves, do yourself a favor and buy a few bottles. 

Gotta love them dogs! 
While they don't brew a ton of different styles, they've carved out a niche for themselves over the years as a pioneer of barrel-aging and brewing tasty strong ales in the vein of... well, themselves. Founded in 1993, I was surprised to learn that Hair of the Dog only produces about 600 barrels of beer each year. This absolutely floored me, if only for the sole reason that I'd heard of them and enjoyed their beers for so long. It's refreshing to see a veteran brewery that's not all about world domination these days. 

Now, onto the beer. We perused the beer menu and realized there was much to try. Quickly, we realized that most of our afternoon would comprise of Hair of the Dog and Cascade. First up, we chose two beers: Pig Dog (from the Stone... huh?) and Cherry Lila. Upon further investigation of the beer menu, I discovered they featured a rotating roster of beers "fermented or aged in a concrete egg." The bartender (who waited on us five years ago... good memory Brewslut) informed us that this process adds interesting earthy and mineral-like qualities to the beer. Sold. Give it to me. Cherry Lila is a cherry version of their Maibock, which is also dry-hopped with Saaz hops. Two down, several to go. For our next selections, we went with the aforementioned Blue Dot as well as Bourbon Matt from the Wood. I've had a few beers "from the wood" in the past, and they have been fantastic. Obviously "from the wood" indicates the beer has been barrel-aged. Here's the description of Matt taken from the HOTD web site:

Matt was inspired by Matt VendenBerghe and Matt Bonney (Bottleworks and Brouwers in Seattle), who personify the spirit and dedication that has helped craft beer become the vibrant industry it is today. This beer was originally brewed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Bottleworks, and will be released every few years from the brewery. Matt is made with two Munich malts, two smoked malts and two types of Belgian candy sugar. It is aged in Kentucky Bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels from Clear Creek distilling.Matt is deep and lush with notes of apple, chocolate and smoke. Alcohol: 12.5% by volume.

The deliciousness that is Matt.
Finishing my pour of Matt was laborious, but in a good way. I mean after all, this is a beer to be savored. I'm really glad I got to sample this straight from the source! After checking out the bottle list, we settled on Otto from the Wood. With its price tag of a measly $1500, we couldn't afford a bottle of Dave. Because their beers are so intense and high-octane, we could only handle so much (especially given our heady itinerary). Below is the description of the beer that sucked me in to the vortex that is Otto:

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
And here's the pour (a half pour, anyway; Brewslut had the other half). Apparently, Otto is a variation of HOTD's flagship beer, Fred, aged in oak barrels with peaches and cherries. I didn't get a whole lot of peach character but the cherry, vanilla and oak were all prominent. Despite being strong ales, most of their beers are quite stealthy. This one weighs in at 13% but you'd never know it was so potent. Don't get me wrong, you definitely experience some moderate alcohol heat (especially after the glass warms up a bit), but Otto and Matt are deceptively smooth for their ABV.

It drink pretty good, don't it?
Another favorite from our last trip, Cascade Barrel House is home to some serious sour beers. I must admit that sour beers have been hit or miss for me over the years. Brewslut, not so much. She loves 'em! But this place is legit and I will say that I was in a rare mood for sour beers this afternoon. What better place to be when your craving sours than Cascade? Exactly.

What to choose? How 'bout all of 'em!
With such a diverse (an enormous) list of beers, we obviously had to limit ourselves to taster-sized pours of each. I opted for both of the "live from the barrel" selections: Cherry Bourbonic (a spiced bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Porter aged on sour pie cherries) and Black Light (a wheat ale aged with red and blackcap raspberries). Live from the barrel means just that: the beer is tapped directly from the barrel rather than a foreign vessel such as a keg. Cherry Bourbonic was easily a highlight of the entire trip. So damn tasty and complex! We then proceeded to dig into many other sample-sized sour treats, including: 2015 Kriek; 2013 Sang Royal (aged in Cabernet and Port wine barrels with Cab Sauv grapes); Floregon Follies #1 (barrel-aged Quad and collaboration with Dunedin); Nectarine Dream (nectarine sour ale); The Vine (white wine barrel-aged wheat ale with Gewürztraminer grapes); and Cranberry (wheat ale aged in wine barrels with cranberries, orange peel and cinnamon). I also sampled the amazing Oblique Black & White Coffee Stout, a blonde stout brewed with Oblique Coffee Roasters' Landauer blend. I foresee these blonde stouts and blonde coffee beers gaining in popularity in 2017 and beyond. Both this and the one I had at Pfreim Family were fantastic!

Pleeps digs his sours, but he's waiting for a banana sour.
After bludgeoning our palates with a barrage of sour beers, we headed to our next spot. Green Dragon, which also cohabitates the tiny Buckman Botanical Brewery, was situated in the same neighborhood as Cascade. We opted to sit outside in the courtyard area, which had a small greenhouse that customer could walk through. Green Dragon features quite a lot of guest taps and unfortunately only a handful of house beers (which also include Buckman Botanical beers). Both are cooperative breweries owned by Oregon's own juggernaut, Rogue Ales & Spirits. I settled on the Summer Wood, a bangin' wood-aged Pale Ale that exceeded my expectations. Slightly bitter with subtle oak and substantial boozy warmth, this was still quite refreshing due to hints of vanilla and citrus. It was almost creamsicle-esque in its underlying flavor. Further investigation led me to find it was aged in a Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey barrel for three days, which sounds like it was just the right amount of time. Well done! 

My kind of decor. I found this cow udderly intriguing.
The other beer, Sour Kumquat IPA, was from Buckman Botanical. As you might imagine, this was was pretty tart but still boasted a moderate hop character. Kumquats are tiny, seasonal citrus fruits that elicit spicy, woody, and - obviously - tart flavors. Sounds like the perfect fruit for a sour IPA, doesn't it? Four out of five beer bloggers agree. 

After a pleasant one-and-done visit to Green Dragon, it was off to The Commons, a relatively new brewery just down the street. This place had a great rustic vibe to it, with a lot of weathered wood, exposed brick, and high beam ceilings. Indeed, an ideal atmosphere to match its well-crafted beers. Sadly, this was the only photo I snapped while we were there:

Our only pic of The Commons. Fail!
Born out of the ashes of Beetje Brewery (a 1-barrel nano system in the garage of owner Mike Wright), The Commons emerged in 2011 with a brand new 7-barrel brew house and a new location. This eventually led to its current location in Portland's Central Eastside area complete with a commercial 15-bbl brew house. With a knack for brewing rustic farmhouse ales and sours, The Commons has established itself as a favorite among Portland's ever-growing craft beer scene. Both of the beers we samples - the Hibiscus Barrel Saison and Lemongrass Berliner Weiss - were outstanding. We wanted to try more, but we were a bit fatigued from our lengthy visits to both Hair of the Dog and Cascade Barrel House (and rightly so). But a longer stay at The Commons during our next visit to Portland is definitely in order.  

The wall at Base Camp.
Next, it was off to Base Camp. I just liked the name of this place, so it made the cut. I'm glad we stopped in, because I really liked the space and the brewery's branding. Their logo has a distinct retro outer space appeal (at least to me), which intrigued me. Brewslut was psyched they had logo patches! We decided on small pours of the following beers: 
  • Ultra Gnar Gnar, a popular IPA I found to be a bit underwhelming despite its bitchin' moniker. 
  • S'more Stout - If you like S'mores (who doesn't?!) this beer is for you.
  • R.C.T.I.D. (an acronym for Rose City 'til I Die... I don't get the reference), an Imperial Milk Stout aged on Oregon white oak with Burnside bourbon featuring coffee beans from Trailhead Roasters and Ranger Chocolate cacao husk. Damn. Sounds like the credits of a rap album!
  • Bretta Livin', an American Wild Ale brewed with apricot, provided some sour relief amid two rich, potent stouts.
Pleeps chillin' at Base Camp among his throng of fans.
Pleeps got recognized at the bar by a trio of younger guys, who we struck up a conversation with soon thereafter. Pleeps has proven to be a great natural lubricant (OK, that just sounds dirty) when it comes to talking to strangers at breweries. So he not only serves as Brewslut's photo stand-in; he also helps us meet regulars and other fellow pour travelers wherever we go. 

Roundabout this time, we were in need of some refueling. Caffeine, that is. We found another cool local coffee roaster - the aptly named Good Coffee - situated in the same neighborhood as the breweries we were visiting. In addition to drinking a lot of water while imbibing, it's also a good idea to stay awake. Coffee helps. 

We're almost done for the day... I promise! Up next, we hit a cool place called Hopworks Urban Brewery. With its bike theme and yellow logo, it reminded us of Crank Arm, one of our favorite breweries from a recent trip to Raleigh/Durham, NC. (Sorry, but you can't read about that particular trip due to the fact that I was on beer blogger's hiatus at the time.)

We perused the chalkboard and noticed a veritable cornucopia of different IPAs. Surely we had to try a few. On our agenda was four beers: Massive Peach, Survival Stout, IPX Azacca, and POG IPA. Three of the four were listed as IPAs. Massive Peach was described as "a big IPA with loads of peach." Sold. To quote Polonius, "Brevity is the soul of wit." Sadly, I've been seldom described as "wise" according to Bill's old, long-winded character. But I digress. POG was pretty damn tasty too. This one was brewed with a truck-load of tropical fruit including orange, pineapple, and guava. IPX was a single-hopped IPA featuring the relatively new American hop variety called Azacca. We've used this one quite a bit recently at Tröegs (most famously in our brand new DIPA, Nimble Giant), and it's becoming a favorite of mine. On the palate, it is a bit spicy with plenty of musky tropical fruit and hint of citrus. Despite being an American variety, it has been likened in nature to some New Zealand-bred varieties. 

Feelin' good at Hopworks Urban Brewery!

The odd man out - Survival Stout - is a year-round offering from Hopworks. Described as a "multi-grain stout," it's brewed with barley, wheat, oats, amaranth (an ancient grain rarely cultivated in modern times), quinoa, spelt, and kamut (another ancient grain twice as big as wheat and known for its rich, nutty flavor) as well as 1 lb. of cold-pressed organic Stumptown coffee per barrel. Whoa! 

Bike frames as far as the eye can see at Hopworks!

We had it in us to make one more stop before we took to the road, so it was off to Gigantic, and I'm glad to say that this was a great last stop of the night! The locals here were extremely friendly and chatty (as was the bartender), and we felt right at home chatting about everything from beer to extreme metal to travel. I always enjoy sitting at the bar and getting lost in conversation with fellow patrons. It's one of the best things about visiting local breweries while traveling. I find you can learn a lot about a specific region just chatting with the locals on the bar stool next to you. 

Beer-wise, we enjoyed poured of Scrilla (hoppy pale ale), Amerikölsch (Kölsch with Citra hops), and Pipewrench (DIPA aged in Random Old Tom gin barrels for 3 months). I'm not a gin guy at all, but I was intrigued by the Pipewrench and ordered it. So glad I did, because this beer was delicious! The botanicals from the gin barrels played nicely with the citrusy hops and subtle woody and vanilla tones from the barrel. Super complex!

Pleeps visits Scrilla Villa. J-ROC, baby!
Before we retired for the evening, one of them (the metal guy) bought us a bomber of Gigantic's bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout... but more on that beer later! Sadly, our day had come to an end all too quickly, and we were forced to vacate Gigantic despite having an awesome time. We still had about an hour's drive to our hotel in Salem. We decided to get a head-start on our 100-odd-mile drive to Eugene the following day. Brewslut picked up a shirt from the bargain bin before we shipped off to our hotel for the evening. 

We arrived at the Quality Suites in Salem pretty late that night, but we felt we still had one more beer in us. So, we cracked open the bottle of Devil's Cuvee Kriek we picked up the day before in Hood River at Double Mountain. Nothing like a complex sour beer poured into a plastic hotel cup. We probably should have saved this for another night, but we knew we had to finish it before we headed back to PA, so what better time than the present, right? So down the hatch it went! 

Kriek out of a plastic cup?! The Devil made me do it!
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more of our adventures in Oregon! Up next: Eugene and Corvalis. Until next time...

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your day 3 adventures. I had a somewhat-similar adventure in 2015 while walking between Hair of the Dog, Cascade and The Commons. HoD Blue Dot is a particular favorite of mine. Thanks for the travelogue (and good memories).


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