Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation To Beervana
Portland, Oregon, known to many beer geeks simply as “Beervana” A journey to this beer-centric city 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.
Bend Day 3
Yesterday’s beercation touring and tippling included 5 brewery visits and so many amazing tastes and conversations. Bend continues to reveal beer gems and people who embody what a great beer town should be. Yesterday’s pedal to the metal pace allows for today to be a bit more relaxed. I am up early to embrace the day and head on down to Drake Park to take some pictures. After that, I will retreat to a local coffee shop for a caffeinated respite. There I will formulate my plan for the day.
Drake Park & Mirror Pond
Located just down the hill from the main drag of shops and restaurant is Drake Park. The beauty that is available for all to bask in here is remarkable and relaxing. I have my camera and no agenda, I am just able to walk around and go with the flow. Between the flowers, the frenzied, almost hyperactive, pollinators, and the various forms of waterfowl, this park is a juxtaposition between peaceful and frenetic. There is nature everywhere here if you are patient enough to notice.
As I walk along the waterfront path, I am reminded of something that my Mother embodied. She recognized the importance of appreciating a simple walk down a path in a park. I am trying to channel her spirit this morning and nature is kindly cooperating. The playful ducks are frolicking in the Mirror Pond, paddling in a way that makes me think they used Mapquest for directions.
As I make my way further down the path, there seems to be quite a bit of activity. I realize that today is Bend Pride Day and there are lots of tents and displays being set up. What a great day for a Pride Festival in the park. The sun is shining and there is an aura of positivity in the air. It has been an hour and time to get some coffee.
It is a good thing that Bellatazza Coffee is right up the street. I grab some coffee and watch as the Pride March goes right down the street. As I am sipping my fuel for the day, I am planning my route for the day. I want to leave no stone unturned and no tap untried, so I am diligent about checking off any and all good breweries that I still need to visit. It looks like lunchtime will coincide with my first brewery visit that is right across the park.
One of the many things I appreciate about Oregon breweries is that some of them have satellite locations. I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy the Sunriver Brewing Company beers at their Galveston Pub location in Bend. I find parking on the neighborhood streets and walk up to the pub. There are a ton of people eating lunch outside underneath black fabric sails to keep the sun out of their eyes. I step into the place and ask the host how long for a table. It turns out that there is no wait as long as I am willing to sit at the bar. This works for me; I will sit at the bar versus a table 10/10 times when I am on a beercation.
The list is stacked with good beers. Sunriver Brewing is a craft beer darling and they have been awarded many GABF medals including 2017 Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year & 2017 Small Brewing Company of the Year. I am happy that I am visiting them for my first stop of the day. I know that I have to try their GABF Gold Medal Fuzztail Hefeweizen. After that, I am looking for beers that will show me why there are so many people here.
As the tasters arrive, I put in an order for the Cauliflower soup. I am doing my best to make some healthy choices and the server told me that this is a can’t-miss item. When the soup arrives, I am taken to my happy place with just a whiff of the bowl. What an abundance of spicy and savory aromas! I take a sip of the broth and it dazzles my taste buds the way a laser pointer titillates a cat. The chef came out to chat and I peppered him with questions about the soup. He is impressed that I picked out the fish sauce in the broth. It turns out that one of his prep cooks is from Thailand and they use a lot of Thai flavors in their food. In addition to the fish sauce, there are also limes and Thai chilis in there. The soup is one of the better things I have tried on the beercation because of how all the flavors compliment each other.
The beers are amazing. The Fuzztail Hefeweizen’s GABF gold is well-deserved. It looks the part with the hazy appearance. It has a lot of lemon flavor. The Fuzztail Hefe is the perfect foil for the soup. The Deseo Latin Lager is also a winner due to its crispness. It also goes well with the soup because it takes a little of the bite out of the Thai chili. The Rippin Northwest Pale Ale is a wonderfully balanced beer. The cracker malt gives the hoppy flavors of pine and grapefruit a place to dance. The Vicious Mosquito is straight up West Coast magic thanks to the wonderful confluence of Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Colombus, and Simcoe.
After all that refreshing and hoppy beer, it is time for some malty varieties. The Cameron’s Crest Scottish Ale has a great depth. when it comes to the malt aromas and flavors. The fantastic roast in the malt is balanced by a pleasing caramel sweetness. I like the hint of smoke to give the beer an added edge. The Paddy’s Irish Stout is medium bodied and roasty. Lots of dark chocolate and coffee flavors in this one.
After tasting my way through the beers and enjoying myself immensely, it is clear that Sunriver Brewing is a great place. It might even be one of the best stops of my beercation, so far. Between the friendly staff, the wonderful food, and the top-notch beers, I would happily stop here again. In fact, later I might be back for dinner.
Monkless Belgian Ales
I always find it refreshing when a place can articulate who they are. Monkless Belgian Ales specializes in Belgian-style beers. Belgians-the beers, not the people, can be polarizing. The distinct yeast character intimidates many because of all the fruity and sometimes funky esters. I think that Belgian beers, when done well, are about as good as it gets. However, when a Belgian beer is flawed, it will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
With the garage doors agape, the taproom is the only sign of excitement in this suburban area. Driving past warehouses and storage, I arrive and the sun is in its late afternoon peak. There are not a ton of people in the brewery, but it is not necessarily close to many other breweries that people said I need to check out.
The beers are a mixed bag of delightful and sulfuric. The Farmhouse Saison is delicious with a slightly tart funk to go along with the lemon peel and coriander notes. The Imperial Peppercorn Wit has a smooth body with a nice hint of clove and orange. The Trinity, a Belgian Tripel, is a total sulfur explosion. There is something definitely wrong with this batch. Being a concerned beercation blogger, I tell the bartender that there is something off with this one. He says that sometimes the sulfur aroma is a byproduct of dry-hopping the beer. #Fakenews. A sulfur smell is not a byproduct of dry-hopping a beer. More than likely, it is evidence of an issue with fermentation.
I get why it is hard to hear that a beer you have on tap has an issue. However, the response to that should never be claiming something that isn’t a thing to explain away the flaw. Maybe he thinks I know nothing about brewing or off-flavors. He did have a few guys in the back taste the beer and then admit that they picked up a flaw as well. This left a bad taste in my mouth. When I first noticed it, I brought it to his attention and asked if he got the sulfur smell in the beer as well. I didn’t just go up and say that beer sucks. I want every beer to taste great. I also think it is a good thing for a brewery to know when they have something that isn’t tasting right.
I need something to get that bad beer out of my system. Luckily, the Meet Your Maker Belgian Dark Strong Ale is my last taster. This beer helps bring me back into the fold of being a fan of this place. It has a great mouthfeel that has just the right amount of slick to coat your tongue, without being syrupy. I love the dark fruit-plum and raisin-flavors in this beer along with a caramel sweetness. This is definitely a winner.
All in all, Monkless Belgian Ales is worth a stop. The Belgian Tripel notwithstanding, I think that they do Belgian-style beers admirably. If they had more on tap, I think I would have stayed longer, but I want to get back to the main drag.
When you ask people about where to stop and half of them tell you that a place is good, you just have to see for yourself. Immersion Brewing will round out my Bend experience. I definitely feel like I am into the “if you have time” tier of breweries in Bend. However, when you are on a beercation, it can be the under-the-radar places that yield the best experiences.
It is definitely dinner time and the place is packed. I am lucky to find a spot at the bar. I am sitting there and I order a half-pint of the Lakeside Lager. It is a nice and crisp lager and just what I am looking for. After two full days of constant beer, it is good to have something light to enjoy. I forego the taster tray because I just want a lager.
The OSU college baseball game is on and the gentleman to my left definitely has a vested interest in the game. It is a close game and he is definitely on the edge of his bar stool. We get to talking and it turns out that one of his kids went to OSU and he is tagging along in Bend while his wife is doing some work stuff. His name is Louis and he is such a funny guy. Sometimes, you meet someone and it seems like you have been friends for years. We get talking about beer, baseball, politics, and it is all good. He is a parole officer and since I am a teacher, we definitely have a few things in common based on our everyday stressors. OSU winds up squeaking out a win and he is happy as a clam. I like the lager so much that I order a half pour of the Patio Pounder. The Patio Pounder is a blonde ale and nothing too special. I liked the lager better.
We get talking about specific places in Bend and he starts telling me about the food at Sunriver Brewing. I tell him he is preaching to the choir because I thought about moving in there after lunch. He asks if I tried the fish and chips. I told him that I got the soup and he said I need to go back for dinner. As if I ever need to be arm-twisted into getting fish and chips. So, we say our goodbyes and I head back to Sunriver Brewing for the second time in 7 hours.
Luckily there has been a shift change or I might have gotten a few weird looks. The crowd is much different at 9:00 at night and I feel like it must be sorority night at the bar. No matter, I order a Deseo Latin Lager and some fish and chips. It is always nice to be able to catalog a day of fun beer tasting on a beercation. I definitely think that I have seen the best in beer that Bend has to offer.
As I am sitting there at the bar taking stock of my day, I notice some obstreperously drunk gals ordering another round of drinks. One, in particular, is way into her cups and the bartender recommends a smaller pour and a glass of water. Well, you would have thought he told her that her family pet was just sold on the black market and she got all dramatic. Before I know it, the tears are flowing like the Deschutes River after a rainstorm. I kid you not, I hear the phrase, “I love you, too.” about 60 times as her gaggle of friends are consoling her. I am thankful that the bartender noticed that she was way overserved and attempted to mitigate the damage.
While I am all for having a good time, I also think it is a sign of a quality establishment when the staff is keeping the safety of its patrons in mind. Oddly enough, the gal left the beer sitting on the counter after taking about 2 sips. The fish and chips are as Louis made it out to be. Crispy and flaky pieces of fish that are substantial. My beercation has me on the road tomorrow to get to Hood River and so a nice meal to cap things off is perfect.