Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation To Beervana Pt.2
Portland, Oregon, known to many beer geeks as “Beervana,” has been on my beer bucket list for years. This summer’s beercation blog series, “Namaste For A Beer,” is all about learning about the craft beer culture that has been alive and well in Oregon for decades. My travels will lead me on a pilgrimage of sorts to Portland, the craft beer crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest. My beercation purpose is threefold: to meet great people, drink great beer, and understand what the Oregon craft beer culture is all about. For this purpose, my route will lead me through Tillamook, Newport, Corvallis, Eugene, Bend, Hood River, and finally, Portland.
My first Namaste For A Beer article highlights some picturesque places to eat and drink in Tillamook and Pacific City. This Part 2 article recaps my night in Newport and a wonderful day in Corvallis. So far, I am finding Oregon to be a beautiful place to drink beer and meet people.
You would think that a brewery around since 1988 would be a highlight of a beer tour. Unfortunately, my visit to Rogue Brewery left a little something to be desired. I have enjoyed the Rogue beers on occasion. Dead Guy Ale, Double Chocolate Stout, and Mocha Porter are all beers I would order on tap in MN. People cautioned me to avoid Rogue in favor of some of the newer places in town like Bier One Brewing and Wolf Tree Brewing. However, I am a sucker for the old-standby and I decide that since I am here, it can’t hurt to try it.
I will start with the good: the place has character. Rogue Brewery is like an old neighborhood gathering place. The wood on the bar is weathered and worn down thanks to countless Rogue Nation elbows that have rested upon it. The bartender seems to be friendly which is nice. I decide to order a flight of 7 beers and that is when things began to go downhill.
The beers come in a wooden paddle and each glass goes in a little reservoir. The tasters are overfilled, every time I take a glass out, beer drips all over me and my notes. This is a small thing, but an annoyance for sure. I go with a mix of things that I have not tried before along with the Dead Guy Ale and Mocha Porter. The new ones are the Hefeweizen, 4-Hop IPA, and the Straight Outta Newport, a West-Coast IPA, and finally an English Barleywine. The Hefe is a diacetyl-bomb (off-flavor that smells like butterscotch) devoid of any clove or spice notes. It also isn’t cloudy like a traditional Hefe should be. The 4-Hop is muddled and doesn’t really smell or taste like anything specific; not juicy, earthy, or piney-just kind of bland.
The Condor Kölsch is clean and drinkable with a hint of honey in the malt flavor. The Philosopher, an English Barleywine, has some heat to it and I advise letting it warm so you can get to the toffee and dark fruit notes. The Straight Outta Newport is a nice West Coast IPA with a lot of citrus notes with the right amount of bitterness.
All-in-all, if I had it to do over again, I would forgo a visit to Rogue. I can say that I have been there, but I didn’t come away feeling like had checked something major off the list.
After a whole day of travel down the coast and a lackluster visit to Rogue Brewery, I feel like I need some fresh seafood to cap off the day on a high note. Luckily, Kelsey, my Airbnb host suggests Local Ocean, a seafood restaurant down in the bay. I head there and grab a seat at the bar to avoid a wait. I order a crab cake and the Fish Wives Stew. The crab cake arrives and I am in heaven. It has a medium breading on it and as I put my fork into it, there is a nice crunch. The cake itself is probably 95% crab meat, a welcome change from the Midwest, where you are lucky if you get any crab in a crab cake. The meat is sweet, succulent, and flavorful. It comes with a dipping sauce which has a nice brininess to it thanks to capers and spices. This flavor experience makes me forget all about the Rogue visit from earlier.
When the Fish Wives Stew arrives, I black out momentarily. I am pretty sure that there is an illegal amount of seafood in this baby: scallops, shrimp, clams, whitefish, salmon, and the Arnold Schwartzenegger of Dungeness crab legs. The broth is thicker than I expected with a bouquet of onions, shallots, and garlic to give it a magnificent depth of flavor. There are also three massive pieces of crusty buttered bread squares for mopping up the sauce. The scallops are sweet and cooked to perfection. The shrimp have a wonderful bite to them. The whitefish and salmon are so smooth, flaky, and juicy. The clams are also perfect, not rubbery at all. The Dungeness crab meat is so luscious and decadent that it puts me in a state of reverie. I will forever be in the debt of Local Ocean for providing me with one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed.
From Local Ocean, I head to a spot on the beach where I will be able to snap a bunch of pictures of the sunset. The sky is a shade of pink that is pristine and picturesque. I realize that for the first time in many months, that I am at peace. There is no stress as I stand above the sands and surf. I simply have to breathe in the salt air as the occasional shiver reminds me how wonderful it is to be alive. The sun continues its path towards the horizon, and like the Dungeness crab cake I ate earlier, disappears from view all too soon.
With Newport in the rearview mirror, I am on the road to Corvallis. Newport gave leaves me with memories of seafood glory and an unforgettable sunset. I am trading the sounds of the surf for visages of green pine forests and lush fauna and flora of the forests that I wind my way through. I have my GPS set for Tried and True coffee in Corvallis to get a little writing done and caffeinate up for the day ahead.
Corvallis is a nice college town with a lot going on. Foot traffic from a local farmer’s market bustles around to create a fun energy. I park and walk across the street to Tried and True Coffee. The barista who helps me is affable and gets me my coffee and I grab a spot at one of the outdoor tables. The coffee is great, there is a slight breeze, and there is a random older guy yelling obscenities at the street corner. Like Meat Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad. My main motivation for sitting outside is to get some writing done. However, the angry one-man rendition of “The 7 Words You Can’t Say On The Radio” is impeding my progress. The woman next to me seems annoyed as well. I tell her, “I guess that is why it is important to start your day off with coffee or you turn into that guy.” We both chuckle and eventually, he moves on. After a few hours of peace and productivity, I see that Block 15 Brewing Company opens soon. I bus my cup and head on my way to make the transition from coffee to beer.
I am looking to have a good beer experience. Oregon is touted by many as a hotbed of beer amazement and I am hoping that Block 15 Brewing can show me the light. As I walk in, there is a huge mural above the bar. There are a handful of people sitting inside and more out on the patio. The brewhouse is located just on the other side of a half-wall and is open for all to see. I love it when I get to see the brewing process in action. A helpful bartender gets me a menu and pours me a few splashes of beer to help me decide on my flight options. My beers arrive and I put in for an order of roasted cauliflower and a salad.
The beers all look and smell enticing. The beers span the style wheel and give me a nice representation of what Block 15 does well. The Gloria Pilsner has a nice spicy note that is on top of a nice cracker malt character. It finishes crisp and clean with a little bit of citrus flavor in between. The Summer Knights Kölsch is a fantastic reason to appreciate the sun more than I normally do. A fantastic summer beer which gives a little burst of lemon and honey in the aroma and flavor. The Ridgeback Red is a roasty, malty, and has a nice bit of caramel in the flavor. The Fresh Flow IPA is a juicy and hazy marvel. Flavors and aromas of pineapple and guava burst out of the glass in this one.
When the food arrives, I am so happy because the roasted cauliflower smells heavenly. Such a great spice mixture that enhances the perfect roast of these little gems. The salad is bright and refreshing. The crunch of the veggies and the kiss of citrus make this a bright and refreshing delight. The finely-balanced and nuanced beers are akin to the excellent food coming out of the kitchen at Block 15.
As I am sipping my beers, a fellow at the end of the bar asks me where I am from. I tell him, MN and he replies, “Me, too!” What a small world. The dude’s name is Andy and he used to live in Wayzata. When I told him I teach in the western burbs, we got talking about familiar places. Going even deeper down the rabbit hole of MN being a really big small town, it turns out Andy’s grandparents owned the land that eventually became the Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul, MN. Andy lives out here now and refinishes beach houses. He loves the local craft beer scene is Oregon and gave me some suggestions of places to visit. He said I am doing it right by coming to Block 15 because he is a big fan of theirs. It is crazy to me that I always find someone with a Minnesota connection when I am out on the beer trail. Andy bought a grip of crowlers and cans and bid me farewell.
I wrap up my meal and beers and get ready for another trip down the road to Eugene, OR. So far, the Beercation to Beervana has not disappointed. Stay tuned for my next leg of the Namaste For A Beer Beercation article. Prost!