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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...

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