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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...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 5 - Up the Coast to Tillamook

I was excited for some coastal driving! The only other time we visited Oregon, we enjoyed an amazing drive from Astoria and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge down the coast to Cannon Beach (where the end of the film, Goonies, was shot). This drive rivaled our infamous jaunt down the coast of Northern California on our 10th anniversary trip, when we visited Anderson Valley, Bear Republic and Russian River in the same day. (Sorry you can't read about it; I hadn't started blogging yet.) It was also on this stretch of road that we witnessed the majesty of the enormous Redwoods. I mean, the drive was so perfect that when I mentioned I was hungry for some cherries, 30 seconds later I saw a sign on the road for "produce ahead." Sure enough, minutes later I was noshing on the best cherries I've ever eaten. The best, Jerry. The best!

Anyway, sorry to get sidetracked. Back to Oregon.

From a "number of brewery visits" perspective, this day might seem shorter than most on the trip. Although we were only able to hit six places (amateurs!), we covered a lot of ground and also hit some roadblocks along the way.

As we approached Lincoln City (home of two stops for the afternoon), we thought we'd be coming in from the other direction. Now, I can see myself getting confused given my poor sense of direction, but even Brewslut was perplexed by our whereabouts. Nevertheless, she noticed McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub just ahead on the right. It was just on the outskirts of some giant shopping plaza. We had planned to stop in anyway; we just thought we'd be starting our day at Rusty Truck Brewing Company.

Pleeps enjoying the spotlight at McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub.
Situated in Lincoln City, a busy beach town on coastal Oregon, McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub is one of many locations of this great chain of brewpubs. We didn't have a big breakfast this morning, so we were already hungry. Typically, we skip lunch and cash in on free breakfasts when traveling (more time and money for beer), but our last hotel was lacking in this department, so we opted for a snack. We split a small pizza that was quite tasty and hit the spot. As for our beer selections, this was a one-and-done stop, as we've already had a few of McMenamins regular offerings. Still, there was a pair of beers on tap that were unique to the Lighthouse location: Jam Session ISA (and India Session Ale) and Alienator IPA. At under 5% ABV, Jam Session still packed a pretty nice hop punch with its blend of Chinook, Mosaic, Centennial, and Falconer's Flight. Alienator, a straight up IPA brewed exclusively with Chinook, showcased this hop variety's lush floral and distinct citrusy flair. Again, kudos to McMenamins for two more fine beers to add to our list! Overall, our first stop was pleasant and we experienced very friendly, attentive service, good food and tasty beer.

OK, here's where the day starts to go downhill.

We had originally planned on hitting coastal Oregon on the tail end of the trip (Tuesday) but realized that almost all of the breweries in Eugene were closed on Monday. So, we made some adjustments and coastal Oregon fit in most conveniently on Saturday. I implore you... NEVER visit a beach town (especially a touristy one) along the coast of Oregon during the summer months! Our next stop, Rusty Truck Brewing Company, which turned out to be the red-headed stepchild of the trip. I insisted we go since it was a mere 6 miles away from McMenamins. What ensued was a cluster fuck of horrendous beach traffic and a string of obscenities that lasted basically the entire 40-minute drive to Rusty Truck. While I've gotten a bit more tolerant with traffic in my older, calmer age, it doesn't seem to translate well when we're on vacation. To quote Luke Skywalker: "We're wasting our time here!" Unfortunately for us, those words rang all too true, because Rusty Truck was not really worth the 6-mile drive. Beer friends from PA will appreciate when I say this place reminded us of Abbey Wright, just outside of Williamsport. It seemed like a bar that one day decided to brew their own beer. I had a sinking feeling when we pulled up, went inside and right off the bat got a lukewarm greeting. We bellied up to the bar and perused the beer menu. There was a lot to digest, so we settled on a flight of six house beers. Here's the breakdown:

  • Moonlight Ride Blackberry - aged on 126 lbs. of Oregon blackberries per 10-bbl batch
  • Road Wrecker IPA - a classic Pacific NW IPA
  • Pedal to the Metal - a DIPA brewed with almost 3 1/2 lbs. of hops per bbl
  • Taft Toffee Porter - an old dock worker's favorite (I was most excited to try this one.)
  • Stupiphany Imperial Red - the definition of stupiphany: "a sudden, inspired and profound realization that you did something stupid." The irony here isn't lost on me, folks. ;-)
  • Pacific Grind Espresso Stout - coffee stout, yada yada yada.

The Roadhouse aka Rusty Truck (Courtesy of Google)
I wanted to like this place... I really did. But all of the beer were lackluster. The toffee porter fell short. There was a hint of diacetyl in a few beers. The coffee stout was thin. Even the service was lacking. The blackberry ale was probably our favorite of the bunch. However, we couldn't get out of here quick enough. After our initial sips of each, we basically chugged everything (I rarely leave partially-consumed beers when traveling as to not appear rude) and hightailed it out of there. Sarcasm alert: Besides, I couldn't wait to drive the 6 miles back through that atrocious beach traffic we'd just experienced 40 minutes prior.

Our next stop was pretty much the impetus of the trip. Deuane had long mentioned that Pelican Brewing Co. in Pacific City boasted the absolute most amazing ambiance of any brewpub he'd ever visited. If you think we're well-traveled, well then you need to meet Deuane. He wouldn't even have time to write a blog, because he's always traveling. So needless to say, Perlican was perhaps the place I was most excited to visit. I hate building up a place so much that it turns out to be a let-down. Well my friends, unfortunately it wasn't in the cards for me. Not to say that I didn't enjoy our visit, but several things were working against us: Saturday beach traffic and parking (apparently they share a parking lot with the local beach). You think parking at Tröegs is bad? Pfft. Pales in comparison. I dropped off Brewslut to secure seating and circled the parking lot dozens of times until I found a spot (which technically wasn't even an actual spot). But I kept my cool... somewhat. When I entered, Brewslut mentioned the wait was about 90 minutes. Again, I get it. Saturday. Busy. Tourists. No problem. We peruse the bar and notice a few patrons getting ready to leave. There was an older couple waiting longer than us, so we let them take the vacant seats instead of diving in like vultures. I said to them, "No worries, we're just getting some beers and going outside." But then two other people were wrapping up, so we waited for their seats. Meanwhile these two biker dicks came in and were waiting for bar seating. When I went to take the seats, the guy says to me, "I thought you were going outside." I said I was going to go outside until the seats opened. But I didn't feel like arguing with him. I just said, "Don't worry, we came here all the way from PA, but go ahead and just take them." He didn't pick up on my sarcasm because he simply said, "Thanks!"

Haystack Rock, a stone's throw from Pelican.
We headed out back to witness Haystack Rock (the scenery that makes this place a true beer destination), and for a few moments I calmed down. After about 10 minutes, I checked to see if there were any free bar stools, and lo and behold there were two. I quickly snagged them and texted Brewslut, who came in to find me. Overall, the beers were good (not great) but enjoyable. I started off with an Umbrella IPA, brewed with Australian-grown Ella hops. I wasn't familiar with this particular varietal, but overall I love me a good, juicy Australian hop. Most of them are tropical fruit-forward and extremely pungent and flavorful. Although the description indicated it was double dry-hopped, it didn't wow me with its nose. Brewslut opted for the Tsunami Stout, a foreign (or export) style stout. Not bad. Up next was Beak Breaker, a DIPA dry-hopped with Centennial, Citra and Mosaic. This was probably my favorite of the bunch. I had wanted to try the Silverspot IPA, Pelican's flagship beer, but it had temporarily kicked while we were there and wasn't available. For our last beer, we actually got a free imperial pint of Pelicano Extra from a nearby customer who ordered the wrong beer. Rather than waste it, she offered it to us. How nice! So Brewslut and I shared this offering that's available for the "light beer" drinkers and tourists. For an American lager, it wasn't too bad.

Slightly frazzled after a somewhat disappointing visit to Pelican, it was off to what turned out to be the silver lining of this somewhat doomed day. (Oh, there's more doomsday news later... remember, we're working in chronological order.) A leisurely 40-minute drive delivered us to De Garde Brewing, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I had only just recently caught wind of this amazing brewery a few months earlier, first from a colleague at work and also some friends who brought a few bottles to my recent Ffej of July shindig. The brewery was situated near an open air field complete with an adjacent small airport. I felt like we were in Nebraska or some other Midwest state with straight roads as far as the eye can see. Then I noticed some mountains and realized we were still in Oregon.

Inside and out, the place was brimming with beer enthusiasts, for today De Garde was releasing its Nectarine Premiere, a wild farmhouse ale aged in oak barrels with nectarines. This beer sounded delicious! Upon checking into Untappd, I realized that I, in fact, had already tried this beer, oddly enough at last year's Ffej of July event! If you were there, you'd know that I wasn't in any shape to remember... well, pretty much anything past 5 p.m. So in essence, it was like having it for the first time. And damn was it mighty tasty! This one was certainly in contention for Top 5 beers of the trip (if I had the inclination to create such a list).

De Garde's chalkboard. Yeaaaaah buddy!
The chalkboard was filled with a few other beers we had to try, namely the following:
  • Petit Citra, a tart farmhouse ale aged in oak barrels and dry-hopped with Citra
  • Petit Desay, just a tart wild farmhouse ale (no wood)
  • Sans, a Gose brewed with coriander and Jacobsen sea salt
The inside tasting area was largely standing room only, so we strolled outside and sat at one of the converted barrels that was now a table. Some folks were traveling from New York, so we started talking and one of them. He happened to be a brewery rep for Ballast Point, and he actually knew one of our Tröegs Union reps (Union is one of our distributors in NY). We traded stories about working at breweries and beer travels in general. We also conversed with some locals who were there buying a variety of bottles and we chatted about the local beer scene. Overall, it was a nice visit spent enjoying some world-class beers and talking to a few bona fide craft beer fans. A true gem of a place!

Inside De Garde's facility. Wood is good!
Since we'd already made the drive to Tillamook, we decided to visit Pelican's companion location, Pelican Brewery & Tap Room. This was a very small, narrow tasting room with a decent amount of outside seating. It also employed one of the most poorly planned beer and food ordering procedures we'd ever encountered. The line started right inside the main entrance, which left little room for customer to stand and wait if there are more than a few patrons waiting to order. To compound matters, there was a group of older women in front of us who clearly knew nothing about beer and were as inquisitive as small, annoying toddlers. To put it into perspective, there were no less than 12 people snaking around the tiny waiting area while these nuisances inquired about growlers, merchandise, and beer styles, ordering multiple samples because they didn't know which beers to select. I was soon wishing their impending osteoporosis would kick in and one of them would tumble to the floor in agony. I mean, come on. You clearly see a long line of people waiting to order, yet you obliviously stand there and sample every beer available because you don't know what to select? How about you just pick a beer and sit the fuck down? God forbid you pay $4 for a beer that might not be your cup of tea.

Outside Pelican's Tap Room in Tillamook.
After standing in line for 20 minutes, we finally were able to order. We got our beers and headed outside to sit down. I think there were more children than adults here. Something about Pelican just seemed to attract tourists like Whitney Houston to a huge vial of crack. Perhaps it was the close proximity to Tillamook Cheese Factory (see next paragraph), another popular tourist attraction. Nevertheless, this was going to be another one-and-done stop for us. I went with the Kiwanda Cream Ale, while Brewslut opted for More Fun C-hop Blonde. Both beers were pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things. I was hoping this location would have the Silverspot IPA on tap, but alas it was also absent from the chalkboard.

On the way out of town, we decided to make a pit stop and swing by the Tillamook Cheese Factory since it was only about two miles out of our way and highly recommended by some locals. Probably known more for its ice cream rather than cheese, this place was pretty huge and impressive. And you never have to twist my arm to get ice cream! Upon entering, we saw the line for ice cream cones (again... Saturday. Tourists. Etc.) we decided to seek refreshment elsewhere. We darted to the back of the store and purchased a pint of chocolate mint ice cream and a big bag of habañero cheese curds and hit the rocky road. (Did you catch that slick ice cream analogy?)

Mmmm... cheesy convestibles! Finest in the district, sir! (Courtesy of Google)
For our last three nights of the trip, we decided to stay at the same hotel in Portland city and really get to know the breweries. We found a good Express Deal through Priceline at an Extended Stay America about 12 miles or so west of Portland, so we booked it for all three nights. When we travel, we typically book a hotel for our first night in advance, then use Priceline in real time, as our itinerary changes often, especially if we're feeling spontaneous or get a brewery recommendation from locals. We arrived at the hotel to check in at about 10 p.m. and when we gave the girl at the front desk our name, she replied, "Didn't Priceline call you?" This wasn't good. Apparently, there was an air show happening in Portland the same weekend we were visiting  and Priceline overbooked. In a nutshell, we had no hotel, and here it is 10 p.m. and we're pretty tired after a day of drinking and driving (OK, that didn't sound good). But you get my point. I thought I needed to get Brewslut a paper bag, because she was either going to vomit or she needed to take deep breaths and relax. Surprisingly, I turned in a great performance and remained calm throughout the entire ordeal. Priceline unfortunately wasn't getting back to the girl at the front desk at our hotel, and I felt bad for her because there was nothing she could do. We understood the dilemma, but Brewslut was panicking because we didn't have a place to sleep. She decided to call Priceline directly, but ended up being placed on hold for over 40 minutes. In the meantime, we'd decided to kill some time and drive to Great Notion Brewing Company and figure everything out. I'd checked their hours of operation and they were still open. By the time we'd arrived almost 30 minutes later, Brewslut was still on hold with Priceline. We needed beer. After spotting the sign for Great Notion, I parked the car around the block and we approached the door. It was locked. I looked in the window and saw a guy stacking chairs on top of tables, which as we all know means "closing time." Now I was pissed off because they were supposed to be open for another hour. Unbeknownst to us, the brewery was actually around the back of this restaurant, a popular spot that makes handmade biscuits. (We witnessed the popularity of this place the following day when there was a line around the block. Guy Fieri must have ruined this place too). With Brewslut dealing with Priceline and now me getting agitated, we stormed off back to the car to figure out Plan B.

We realized we were in the same neighborhood as McMenamins Kennedy School, so we set the GPS to the appropriate coordinates and off we went. A few minutes later, we arrived, parked, and entered the large building. This place really is situated in an old school. I immediately proceeded to find us two imperial pints of beer. (NOTE: We visit the Kennedy School location later in the trip, so I'll save my commentary on this place for that particular blog. I will saw this place was absolutely amazing!)

Finally, after about an hour or so of travel-related stress due to not knowing if we'd have somewhere to rest our weary heads for the night, we finally were able to resolve our hotel issue. Priceline had found us a new hotel for the same three nights we had originally booked at the Extended Stay America. They graciously upgraded us to a Holiday Inn Express about 15 miles south of Portland. And not only did they charge us the same rate as our original cheaper hotel, they also comped an entire night for us! Overall, Priceline handled the situation extremely well, and honestly this was the first issue booking hotels we ever had with them (and we'd been using them for years). To make things even better, Holiday Inn Express is known for having a great free hot breakfast buffet. Score! Needless to say, Brewslut was in dire need of liquid refreshment. Beer to the rescue!

While at Kennedy School, we enjoyed a Geiger Counter IPA and Copper Moon, a Pale Ale brewed with 100% organic malted barley. The Geiger Counter IPA might have been my favorite McMenamins beer of the trip, with its aromatic hop bill consisting of three favorite varieties: Chinook, Mosaic, and Simcoe. This one really hit the spot after a long, somewhat stressful day. As if the day wasn't long enough, Brewslut was savoring her beer so I opted for a second pint. This time, it was one of McMenamins standard offerings: Hammerhead, a classic NW Pale Ale brewed exclusively with Cascade hops. A tried and true craft beer style, this one did not disappoint.

Yup... that's Most Most Premium in a plastic hotel cup.

Back at our awesome hotel (it was actually a suite with one of those sitting areas with a couch and TV, plus a closed-off bedroom with a king size bed and additional TV). Cozy! We decided to crack open our bottle of Gigantic Most Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout and catch some Olympics on TV. You might recall from Day 3, a customer with whom we'd struck up a conversation purchased us this beer as a gift. What a right neighborly thing to do! It was pretty damn awesome too. Free beer always tastes a little better, doesn't it?

Stay tuned for three more days of beer mayhem as we penetrate the city limits and invade Portland with two livers that never rest. Until next time...