With Dan posting 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 the Man 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 personal 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 talked about our high and low points on A One Pint Stand Podcast
Day 3: Not so Gloomy Sunday
With dawn arriving a bit too soon for our pleasure (why did we stay out so late at Stormbreaker last night?,) Sj and I met up with Ron and Denise at the nearby Interurban Pub. We had discovered this little gem on our last trip out to Portland and it was just a few short blocks from our base of operations. The regular menu is great but brunch is to die for: I decided on Steak & Arepas & Eggs. Pairing this tasty dish with a glass of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder on tap made the morning oh so much better! Noting a couple of unusual bottles on their tap list we added a delightfully sour Drie Fontainen Oude Geuze to our shared repast.
Walking a few blocks down we visited the incredibly strange and intriguing Paxton Gate. This is a place that focuses on taxidermy, carniverous plants, insects, and more. Where can you find a jar full of monkey incisors? How about a series of mounted amazingly colored butterflies? A field mouse taxidermied and dressed as a gnome? Fossilized cave bear skull? This place is amazingly cool and I would have literally wet myself in excitement if I had discovered it in my youth! Oh, and if you suffer from arachnophobia, entomophobia, or necrophobia, then this may not be the place for you.
From here, full and happy, Sj drove us out to distant Tillamook along the Oregon coast. Our first stop (and really the main reason we were there) was de Garde Brewing. Due to more limited hours I had missed this particular brewery on our past two stops to the area, but I was not about to let it get away again! de Garde specializes in sour and Belgian style ales, and is one of the up-and-comers on the sour-head circuit. These are not the quick and dirty kettle sours that pretty much every other brewery seems to be doing now–rather, these are complex aged (3 months to 3 years) and blended sours more like Belgian lambics and mixed culture beers. They even use a coolship! Beer nerds know what this means…
The taproom is quite small, but neat and almost European looking. They have light colored woods and at least one table made from the top of a large wooden fermentation vessel. There were 6 taps of de Garde beer and an equal amount of mostly obscure Belgian imports. If I hadn’t been so enamored with their own beers I would have been extremely excited to find these guest taps anywhere else. A small patio provided further seating and was well populated by people and dogs.
We really liked all of the beers. The ones they had on tap at the time were:
The Unblended–An uncarbonated base lambic style beer used in other versions of their beers. Aromas of fresh cut rhubarb, flavors complex and quite tart. A cool and very rare style to see anywhere, even in Brussels. (4)
F.A.I.L–A soured lager. This was my least favorite, mainly due to lack of complexity. Still better than just about every un-fruited kettle sour I’ve had. (3.75)
The Lucy Reserve–Made with Muscat grape juice. Tastes like Muscat Love! Vinous, perfumy, tart. (4.5)
The Law of Motion–A collaboration with a farmhouse cidery and includes both cider and beer, all spontaneously fermented. (4)
The Lily–A dry hopped lambic style ale. So bright and tart, very little bitterness. (4.5)
de Garde also has a wide selection of their older vintages to buy for consumption at the taproom, and of the large list we chose the strangest: The Truffle. This was fermented with Oregon white truffles, and is the first mushroom beer I’ve had as far as I know. The truffle was subtle, but seemed to add earthy layers of funk and complexity to an already powerfully nuanced beer. (4.5)
This is the kind of place that would make me want to move to such a tiny city just to be one of the locals with my name engraved one of the bar stools. For true sour beer afficianados this is a holy pilgrimage kind of place.
Moving on from here, we took a little trip to nearby Netarts Bay, lured by Dan’s false promises of seals frolicking in the bay. Here we watched kids play in the chilly surf, people clamming (yes it is a verb), dead crabs, caves, precariously balanced pine trees and the stupid people who would swing from their roots, and nary a sign of those cute seals. Curse you Dan!
From here we moved to the town’s main claim to fame: The newly renovated Tillamook Creamery! As one who has become lactose intolerant in his old age, to visit such an enormous edifice built to worship the power and prevalence of cheese and ice cream is tantamount to torture. While ill advisedly stuffing my mouth with free cheese samples, we wandered said cyclopean monument and gazed in awe at the neverending stream of tourists flowing in and out of the massive doors. Starting to feel like a snack, we waited in line to get some treats at the restaurant counter, only to discover that they were out of deep fried cheese curds, the reserve cheese tasting platter, and several more dishes. How can this place be out of cheese???? I could literally walk down the hall and buy a pack of curds, not to mention watching hundreds of cheese blocks spin by on conveyors! Scowling, hungry, and probably lucky I stalked away. Also, probably to my eventual benefit, the separate ice cream line was an endless ouroborous snake of a dairy-based Disneyworld hellscape–defying attempts to join in the chaos.
Before we left the small and seemingly empty ghost town (it was afternoon on a Sunday) we stopped at Pelican Brewery‘s production facility. I’ve been to the tiny brewpub location in Pacific City a few times and love it, but we had to stop at the bigger spot while here! I hate to say it, but the warehouse with a tiny kitchen is not the most picturesque brewery I’ve been to, but the beers were good. Here we were able to get our cheese curds and some fresh and tasty clam chowder. We all shared around some pints, and my favorite was the Queen of Hearts saison aged in gin barrels. The fruity notes from Belgian yeast played well with the botanicals from the gin. (4)
Back in the car, most of us either slept or played road-kill bingo while Sj drove us all the way back to Portland.
Parking the car in our Mississippi District home, we took our small posse to the very close-by HUB Bikebar–a tasting room for local favorite Hopworks Urban Brewery. I’m not going to lie, Sj and I didn’t have a great experience at the original site on our last trip but figured it had been 2 years and our friends had not experienced the place, so we stopped in. The site is relatively new, good looking, and had plenty of cool bike and hipster vibe going on. We ended up outside on the back patio, fighting some rising winds (our choice). Our server was very friendly and really bore a striking resemblance to Wayne from Wayne’s World, complete with cap. Party time, excellent! We ordered the nearly complete sampler of 15 different 3 oz samples to share amongst the four of us. We did not finish any of them. Four people and tiny shotglass samples. Many of the beers had fermentation flaws like the plastic finish on Ferocious Citrus IPA (2.75), the “licking a pine tree doused with car battery fluid” flavor of Moment of Clarity DIPA (2.25), to the thin and artificial flavored Totally Radler (2). The ones that were not outright wrong, were just not very good, with many of our ratings right around 3. The high point of the bunch was the Strawbery Milkshake IPA that came out at (3.75). This was actually one of the worst breweries we visited in Portland (and environs) and I’m a bit shocked that they can get away with this while surrounded by so many good breweries.
Well we couldn’t finish the day like this! Why just around the corner (not figuratively) was Lompoc Brewery‘s 5th Quadrant site. I mentioned them in my Day 1 write-up, but this time we settled in for a late night snack and a last set of beer samplers. With the cooling evening air being so beautiful we opted to sit right outside the front door at a picnic table. The bartender came out shortly and told us the brewery was closing an hour early so it was last call–meanwhile handing us restaurant menus. So, can we order or food or not? We quickly ordered some food and two sampler trays to try to get to try all their beers between our group. After bringing out our beers and food, our server again gave us some mixed messages by saying “Don’t worry, I’m going to be here a while.” We discovered that the two sampler trays each had the same beers on them, I guess they are set and can’t be changed but we didn’t understand that when ordering. Our server did make it right eventually and gave us a couple of samples of those missed beers so it all came out OK. Just a little bit of a strange experience. My least favorite beer was the Lompocker Hoppy Kolsh–I just don’t think hops do anything for the style (2.75). The Pamplemousse Citrus IPA with grapefruit was pretty fresh and clean (3.75), and the Fool’s Golden Ale was easy to drink (3.75). Overall, solid beers and quite a bit better than our previous brewery–we finished everything but the kolsch. Oh and the nachos are freaking huge!!!
Perhaps a night cap? Not needed, but desired we again wandered a few doors down to the Box Social coctail bar. At this late hour on a Sunday we were some of the only patrons in this dark and moody little hip parlour. I tried a Young Man Blues: some sort of whiskey drink with blueberries and Breakside IPA–not bad! I’d go back here, but I bet the place is hopping and hard to get into on Friday and Saturday nights!
Creameries: 1 (Eric 0)