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Friday, August 19, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Days 1 & 2 - Hood River & the Columbia River

Five years ago, Brewslut and I visited the Pacific Northwest, which included Seattle and Portland as well as coastal Oregon and a few other areas. With my mother in tow, we were only able to scratch the surface of the region's mature beer scene. If you care to go down that rabbit hole, you can read about our excursion HERE.

Now, anyone who reads our blog regularly is surely aware of our mutual affection for San Diego, CA. While we've visited frequently over the last decade, we have wanted to get back to Portland and really dig into its beer culture. Portland and the surrounding area boasts a diverse craft beer landscape and an insane amount breweries, so needless to say, we had our work cut out for us. Over the weeks leading up to the trip, I assembled a pretty ambitious itinerary of breweries I wanted to hit on the trip. These include Portland proper, Hood River and the Columbia River area, Eugene, Corvallis, and coastal Oregon as far north as Tillamook. All in all, we were hoping to visit about 50 breweries over the course of just seven days. I know, right?! I thought we were up for the challenge.

Our flight was scheduled to depart from Philly International Airport around 6:30 p.m., so we had some time to spend in the City of Brotherly Love. Since we were leaving on a Tuesday evening, we were limited in our options of where to do a bit of pre-gaming. Most of the breweries in the city are either closed on Monday and Tuesday or don't open until 4 p.m. Same with a good bit of area beer bars. However, one of our old reliable favorites - Devil's Den - was open at 11 a.m. We decided to have an early lunch there before shipping off to Portland (well, Houston... we had a layover at G.W. Bush International Airport; oh, what strategery those airlines display in planning flights)!

I started off with a peculiar choice for me: a Belgian IPA from Short's called Celestial Critter. I'm typically not a big fan of Belgian yeast mixed with American hops, but I like Short's quite a bit and thought I'd give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. The yeast character was pretty subdued and had more of a crisp apple character than banana, clove or bubblegum. It was probably one of the best examples of the styles I've had to date (Flying Dog's Raging Bitch also comes to mind), so I was glad to have taken a shot with it. Brewslut went with Unite, a Gose brewed for International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day by the women of Yards, Victory and Malteurop, the latter an innovator in the world of malt. We also shared Ommegang Shadow Brewer, a big, chewy imperial stout before heading down the street to Hawthorne's.

Pleeps posing with our pour of Shadow Brewer.
We hadn't been to Hawthorne's in quote some time (they'd suffered through a fire a few years ago, which forced them to close for quite some time), so we were excited to see what had changed. While they added a very small bar area and reduced their take-out beer selection, not much had changed since our last visit. After perusing the coolers, we took a seat at the tiny bar and ordered a pair of beers. I opted for the oddly named Smells Like a Safety Meeting by another favorite Michigan brewery, Dark Horse, while Brewslut went with Symzonia, an imperial stout from a Swedish brewery called Omnipollo. Conditioned on Ethiopian coffee, Madagascar vanilla beans, Brazilian cocoa nibs and "carefully weighed" cinnamon sticks, this was pretty tasty. Not mind-blowing, mind you, but tasty nonetheless. 

Chillin' with my main monkey!
We had time for one more stop before we had to deal with the inevitable hassle of airport security, so we decided on the good ol' POPE (Pub on Passyunk East). I was ecstatic to see James Bean, one of my very favorite (and rarely seen) beers from Allagash on tap. This is a barrel-aged, coffee-infused strong ale, and it never disappoints. Even the description has me salivating for more:

    "James Bean is a bourbon barrel aged, Belgian-style strong ale that is infused with cold press 
    coffee, post fermentation. Coffee, vanilla and bourbon dominate the aroma. Flavors of caramel, 
    coffee, bourbon, and oak present themselves throughout this full-bodied beer. The coffee used in 
    James Bean is Speckled Ax, roasted right here in Maine. The beans used are Ethiopia Amaro 
    Gayo and are known for their lush blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors." 

Brewslut chose Grobe Teufel, a Lichtenhainer style beer (a tart, German-style wheat beer similar to a Berliner Weisse but with a hint of smoked malt) from Hardywood out of Richmond. This is a brewery I need to get to in 2017 (or sooner!) because I really like what they're doing. The smoked character was pretty subtle, so she liked it quite a bit.

At the airport, we swung by Chickie's and Pete's for a quick one, and I was surprised to see Fat Head's Headhunter IPA on tap. Bartender, we'll have two! Man, what an awesome IPA. Seriously, this is as good (or dare I say better) than a lot of the trendy New England-style hazy hop bombs that have become all the rage over the last two years. And Hop Juju? Damn, son! That's one of the best DIPAs I've ever had. PERIOD! So take that, you lucky so-and-so.

I won't bore you with the details of our flight (including uneventful layover in Tejas), but I will say it was pleasant enough. Upon arriving in Portland and walking off the plane, we were excited to stumble upon Laurelwood Brewing's Public House. Since we had about an hour's wait until we picked up our rental car, it was a decidedly convenient and serendipitous finding. Even better was the fact that Portland exercises stringent pricing on beer, so you won't pay any more than you would at a brewery in the city. I went with the flagship Workhorse IPA, which hit the spot after being trapped in a speeding airborne tube for several hours. Brewslut opted for a limited Gose, which was also quite tasty. Both offerings were solid and proved a good start to to our official first day (as it was now past midnight as we drank our first beer in Portland). A good omen, indeed, as we were able to chalk up  double digit brewery visits on our inaugural day in Oregon.

After a good night's sleep at our hotel, it was off to Hood River. Our 75-minute trek included a beautiful scenic drive along the Columbia River. I wish the interstate roads in PA were as breathtaking as what we experienced along the way. Green landscapes and rocky crags decorated the scenery, which made for a quick, leisurely drive. All in all, it was probably my favorite drive of the entire trip.

We decided to hit the furthest place from our hotel and work backwards, but when we arrived at our first stop - Logsdon Farmhouse Ales - we found we drove to the production facility, which did not allow visitors. So, we did an about face and headed into the town of Hood River. First on the agenda was a stop at the granddaddy of the Hood River beer scene - Full Sail.

But first thing's first; we needed coffee! There's certainly no shortage of local coffee shops and roasters in Oregon. As a matter of fact, they seemed to be as abundant as the breweries we were visiting. My goal (aside from hitting 50 breweries) was to visit at least one local coffee roaster each day of the trip. Google to the rescue! We settled on Doppio for some iced coffee before heading to our Full Sail.

Founded in 1987, Full Sail has been a staple of the Oregon beer community for years. We planned our arrival to coincide with opening, so we could maximize our playing field for the day. Lucky for us, Hood River is a relatively small town packed with a wealth of small breweries.

Full Sail boasted a wide variety of beer on tap, as well as a full bottle shop and a few limited releases. I love the smell of hops in the morning, so I went with the one-two punch of Full Sail IPA and Hot Pursuit, an Imperial IPA. Both were very good and a great way to begin the day. We ended our visit with a small pour of a tasty bourbon barrel-aged wheat wine, which was a highlight of the trip. I rarely see wheat wines on beer menus when we travel, but when I do, I will typically order it. This one was aged in Wild Turkey barrels for 10 months. This rich honey-colored treat featured plenty of oak and vanilla character amid a chewy caramel base with hints of toffee, marmalade, and dates. Yum!

Pleeps gettin' his wheat wine on!
We were off to a great start for our first day. Full Sail was better than I had anticipated. I felt like I was in San Diego the whole time we were there. I'm not sure why, I just got that particular vibe from the location and the ambiance. Our day was just getting started, and it was time to move on to brewery #2 of the day.

If I had to pick a favorite brewery for Day 1, it is probably Double Mountain (although #4 was a very close second... or even a tie)! Double Mountain came with a very high recommendation from Deuane, so it was on my list of places we absolutely had to hit. My thirst for hops continued, so I started with Molten Lava DIPA, a 9+% citrusy hop bomb. Brewslut chose the Randall Knife, an IPA brewed with Mosaic and Citra hops with Kolsch yeast. God damn! I was soon wishing I would have ordered a full pour of this succulent ale. Mosaic hops have such a distinct flavor, and the addition of Citra really pushed it over the edge with an ass-load of orange and tangerine. This sucker was easily on my Top Ten list of the entire trip!

Wall of artistic beer signs at Double Mountain. Reminded me of Mac's Hoagies (RIP).
We were enjoying our visit so much that we decided on two more pours - more IPAs - Vaporizer and Subcontinental IPA, the latter a collaboration with Portland Brewing Co. (a brewery we weren't able to squeeze into the itinerary). Seems as though I was working backwards from DIPA to IPA to Pale Ale (albeit a hoppy one with Challenger hops). Subcontinental was actually the official beer of Portland Beer Week 2016. However, I found it to be my least favorite of the bunch. Still enjoyable, but lackluster compared to the other stellar offerings.

From Double Mountain, we took a short uphill stroll to our next destination, Big Horse. After walking two blocks uphill, we were required to walk an additional few flights of stairs to get to the brewpub. This was fine with us, as we wouldn't have many opportunities to exercise or exert any kind of effort, save for lifting beer to our pie holes. Upon our arrival, we perused the floor plan, located the bar, planted ourselves on two stools, and ordered a pair of beers. This place reminded me of a ski lodge with lots of wood and a warm feeling about the air. The selection at Big Horse was pretty scant compared to our first two stops, so we opted for Lazuras Pale Ale and Nightmare Stout. Both were good but not memorable in the grand scheme of things. Still, the space had some charm and the bartender was friendly and talkative, so we were glad to have stopped in for a beer.

Brewslut and I outside Big Horse.
Logsdon was just down the street, but they weren't opening for another hour, so we headed on over to another of Deuane's recommendations (although I believe he'd never visited) - Pfreim Family. Pfreim is relatively new to the scene. Opening in 2012, Pfreim handcrafts artisanal ales inspired by classic Belgian brewers while recognizing their homegrown Oregon roots. Match made in heaven, right? Upon arrival, I commented to Brewslut that the place reminded me of Greenbush Brewing out in Sawyer, MI. This place was right up my alley. Cozy bar, lots of locals, and good conversation. Oh yeah, the beer was pretty good, too. Not just pretty good, but pretty freaking phenomenal, in all honesty! There were too many good-sounding beers on paper, so we had to get sampler trays. All in all, we tried a wide variety of beers running the gamut of a kettle-soured mango Berliner Weisse to a golden coffee ale. Everything was enjoyable! The Gose was spot-on, the Frambozen (a raspberry Lambic style) was mouth-puckering, and the aforementioned Golden Coffee Ale was a highlight of the day. I enjoyed this much more than the similar Calm Before the Storm by Ballast Point. The guy next to us (who we talked to for a while but whose name escapes me) was also digging this one quite a bit. It reminded me of straight cold brew coffee with a hint of vanilla cream. Man, this was an awesome beer! I enjoyed it so much that I ordered us a full pour to share. I rounded out my sampler with a blonde IPA that was solid as well. We mentioned to the guy sitting next to us that we were off to check out Logsdon next, and he said he'd meet us there. Sometimes a third wheel is a welcome addition to a duo.

Pleeps agrees: Golden Coffee was da bomb!
After an enjoyable visit at Pfreim Family, we backtracked to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. A Belgian-inspired brewery, Logsdon was founded in 2009 on the family 10-acre estate, complete with the huge red barn where the actual brewing takes place. They also host a variety of farm animals and even grow their own cherries on-site to use in their sour beers. Kriek, anyone? With a penchant brewing for sour ales, we allowed for a sampling of a few choice offerings. I decided on the trio of Wilde Appel, Oak Aged Bretta, and The Conversion - Series 2 (a sour Witbier). The Wilde Appel, a cider, was made using a blend of local Oregon-grown apples with wild crabapples. Then, the cider was aged in oak with a wild yeast strain. The Oak Aged Bretta is made with Seizoen Bretta aged to develop a unique woody character. Our tagger-along mentioned he'd join us at our next destination, which was actually in the state of Washington. Score! Two states in one trip!

We took a slight detour across the Columbia River to the small town of White Salmon, WA for our next stop: Everybody's Brewing. Upon scanning the beer menu, a low ABV sour red ale brewed with hibiscus caught my eye. Plus its name was kind of cute and memorable: Sprinkles. Brewslut chose Cash Stout, a pretty tasty oatmeal stout and one of its core beers. We sat at the bar and soon our third wheel rolled in. However, after a few minutes, he got a phone call, excused himself and we never saw him again. Perplexing, indeed. Nevertheless, we were on a mission! I must admit that I had to seek out some Google images to jog my memory about this place. Once I did, however, the visions came flooding back. OK, maybe not flooding... trickling, perhaps. After this one-and-done stop, we headed to stop number... um, by this time we lost count.  

We arrived at Walking Man after a 20-odd mile drive along the Columbia River on the WA side for another non-Oregon brewery visit. It was a pleasant day, so we decided to sit outside on the patio. I'm typically an indoor guy, but something provoked me to enjoy a bit of sunlight at that particular moment. I went with another lighter option, this time a beer called Littlefoot ISA (ISA meaning "India Session Ale"). Brewslut took to the Chocolate Cherry Stout. I think we ordered a snack here too, but since there isn't an app called something like "Unsnackd," I can't recall what we ordered. Sometimes my mind is a sieve.

Chug monkey: Pleeps after taking a huge gulp of my Littlefoot ISA.

In an effort to squeeze in one more brewery along the river, we consulted our trusty map and list of breweries and came across Thunder Island. By now, we were back in Oregon but still along the beautiful Columbia River in the town of Cascade Locks. We got there a few minutes before last call and just chillaxed outside at a picnic table enjoying the weather at dusk. We chose a pair of IPAs for our "last beers" of the day: Galaxy Pale Ale and Dry Creek IPA. I opted for the Galaxy but actually preferred the Dry Creek a bit more, if only for the bolder aroma. Both were fine offerings, though. There were even some ducks wading about in the water a few feet from us, which made me smile.

Thunder Island at dusk. We made it just in time before they closed!
It was soon time to head back to Portland after an eventful day in Hood River and along the Columbia River. We ended the night at McMenamins Edgefield, which was near our hotel for the evening. McMenamins is a popular brewpub chain throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. In addition to beer, they also craft their own cider, spirits, wine, and coffee. Wow! They have about a dozen locations just within the Portland city limits. Their schtick is renovating old building and turning them into brewpubs. Except "schtick" in this context is a good thing. Some of the McMenamins locations were among the coolest places at which I've ever enjoyed a beer. It was a long day, but we were good for one more each. Brewslut went light with a Gose cleverly named Boom Gose the Dynamite. Me? I decided it was a good idea to end our first day of ten breweries with the tasty Mango Unchained Double IPA. End with a 9% DIPA after a full day of drinking? Sure, why not? I'm a professional, right? Don't answer that.

Stay tuned for more Adventures in Portlandia! Up next: Day 3 - Portland, Phase 1. 

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed the trip to Hood River write up. Well done.


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