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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!

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