With Dan posting his glorious write-ups of his travels in the Summer of Dan (TM), I decided to throw my parallel journey out there into the ether of potential beery interest. Both of us were visiting the Pacific Northwest ostensibly for the National Homebrew Convention or Homebrew Con, but why not extend our trips to visit some local breweries and eateries? I headed out on Friday June 22 with my wife Sarajo (Sj) for our third trip to the Portland, Oregon area. For most of the trip we hung out with our friends Ron and Denise, with brief forays including Dan himself and some other Minnesota beer friends out for the conference. This is my travelogue which includes pictures, opinions, and way too much beer! Your results may vary, but take what you can from these musings and hopefully it will help spur you to try some of these places out. I’ve included ratings of beers I mention on a scale of 0-5. Please also feel free to comment and question! Dan and I will also be talking about our high and low points on A One Pint Stand Podcast soon… Check out previous posts: Day 1
Day 2: Of Beer…And More Beer
Day two of our Portland trip started out as all mornings should, with a quick walk to Blue Star donuts for coffee and…donuts! Forget Voodoo Donut, Blue Star is where it is at. Less flash, more flavor. Also less pink and more blue. Properly girded for our upcoming day, we headed downtown to meet up with Ron and Denise at the Portland State University Farmer’s Market.
University Farmer’s Market
The University Farmer’s Market is the big fish among the pond full of tiny farmer’s markets. I have never seen such an embarrasment of riches when it comes to produce and locally made foodstuffs. Keep in mind that at this point in the growing season in Minnesota we just finished up asparagus and rhubarb season and were just starting in with leafy greens. Here we had cherriesof all types, raspberries, marionberries, hazelnuts, and much much more! Olympia Provisions were there with their amazing meats and salami.
Forktown Food Tour
I could have spent hours here, but our group were there not just to gorge ourselves on produce and meats, we were taking part in a Forktown Food Tour! Last trip out, Sj and I did one of these tours on a whim and had such a fantastic time that we scheduled another in another area of town. If you haven’t done such a thing before, I highly recommend this type of food tourism. Not only does the tour clue you into some places you may want to try out on your trip, they also give a great little picture of a neighborhood. Our tour guide Ariel was fantastic at wrangling our mottley group of tourists around the busy streets of downtown. We started out with a little picnic sourced from the market itself, followed by a few minutes to frantically go track down some of those shortbread cookies and cheeses.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but you should really try Forktown Tours. We finished the tour up at around 3 in the afternoon after partaking of beer, cocktails, wine, pasta, salmon, cupcakes, and more. While all I really wanted to do was roll around on the ground grabbing my distended belly like a beached orca after eating 10 too many slow-moving seals, I soldiered on and marched our group to our first brewery of the day.
Von Ebert Brewing is a new brewery downtown, opening just a few months before our visit. I was excited to try them out since their head brewer is Sean Burke–formerly of the dearly departed Commons Brewing mentioned in the last issue of this travelogue. The place is spacious and somewhat loud, with some outside curbside seating available as well. I love the boar silhouette on their branding enough to drag home a giant tin tacker for my own basement bar. The beers were solid and ranged all over the board between lagers to hoppier fare to a few Belgians. A far cry from Commons, but everything was respectable and drinkable. My favorites were the Battlestations! IPA (4) and the Dry Irish Stout on Nitro (4). I would recommend the place and look forward to trying them again in 1-2 years.
From Von Ebert it was just a few short blocks walk to Back Pedal Brewing. Have I mentioned that you can pretty much throw a rock in Portland and hit a brewery? Back Pedal is in a small and somewhat dark space, but strangely comfortable as well. The beers were interesting and had a mix of styles to choose from. As with the previous brewery, we felt that the beers were all good without notable flaws but nothing was a “brewery killer” for us. Favorites were Abacaxi–a pineapple hefe that was tasting pretty nice in lack of AC (4), and Black Pedal–A RIS that only seemed to like due to excessive roast (4).
We walked by the Deschutes Public House but would have had to wait for a table so passed it by for this time. Since we couldn’t make it to Newport, Ron was excited to try Rogue’s Pearl Public House just a few blocks away. Sj and I were not as excited but Ron knows what he’s doing! Rogue is one of the venerable old mainstays of American craft beer that we used to seek out with relish but nowadays tend to forget about for the next new thing. I know I fall into this trap as well. However, I’ve had some hit and miss beers from them over the past few years, and their distribution in the Twin Cities has been dropping to microscopic levels. This pub had (I think) 36 Rogue beers on tap! My favorite was the Straight Outta Newport…Oregon DIPA (4). We shared a few fun samplers amongst our group and even tried the spirits sampler with some interesting gin and bourbon options from Rogue’s Distillery. Our server tried to steer us away from the gins but we found the cucumber scented gin and the pinot noir barrel aged gins to be very unique. A stop well worth it.
At this point the sun was lowering and being downtown in the Pearl District we found ourselves in intermittent shadows scattered with golden beams of light reflecting off a multitude of glass and steel. Beautiful and weird murals adorned the walls of many downtown buildings, adding a somewhat unreal feel to the end of the day. In a fitting venue, we ended up running into one of the many historic McMenamins properties–the Crystal Hotel. We found a spot in the tiny (and I mean tiny) Ringler’s Pub at the pointy end of the building. There we sipped on cocktails and beers, the strains of live music drifting up from the subterranean ballroom below, while the sun continued to set around us. Now, this was a fine way to spend the evening!
Rapidly fading to night, we returned to the Mississippi district to get dinner (and one more brewery under our belts) at Stormbreaker Brewing. Stormbreaker is located right in the thick of things along the historic district and seems to always be busy. They have a large outdoor patio filled with fire pits, dogs, and many thirsty patrons. We were all hesitant to order more food for our gullets but realized that our last food had been at the end our tour. It was now nearing 10:30 at night. So we all ordered too much food and promptly returned to doing our bloated walrus impressions. Like you do. The beers and food were very good overall, I think a little better than nearby Ecliptic. Stand-outs for beer were Total ReKolsch (4.25), Opacus oatmeal stout (4), and Triple Double IPA (4). Lucky for us this one was just a few blocks from our home away from home. Just a short roll home!