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.|
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
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!|
|Pleeps surrounded by a wall of world-class beer.|
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.|
|Beer list at Upright.|
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.|
|Pleeps enjoying the flight!|
|Blond wood abounds at Baerlic... and good beer too!|
|The colorful beer boards at Baerlic.|
- 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.|
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.|
- 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.|
|Burnside's clever version of a chalkboard menu.|
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|
|Main hallway in the opposite direction|
|My favorite room at Kennedy School overlooked a bar on the lower level.|
|Another angle of the loft overlooking the lower level bar.|