Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation To Beervana Part 12
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.
The Final Countdown
I am at the realization that I am hitting the beercation wall. Thanks to the previous day’s visits, the breweries are really adding up. It only took two weeks, but after countless beers and venues, I need a break from beer. As a beer traveler and blogger, this is not a good place to be given the fact that I still have a few days left before I fly back home to Minnesota. So, I need a plan. I need a way to still visit a few places and ensure that a quality experience can be had. I don’t want this to feel like a slog or a limp to the finish, I want this trip to be memorable up until the very last sip of beer. So, I am dialing back the number of tasters I get and just picking my favorite styles. This should allow me to get a little more bang for my buck and get to my final number of 40 Oregon breweries visited.
Baerlic Brewing-Halsey St. Location
When life gives you lemons, leave them at home and go grab a beer flight. Baerlic Brewing Company got high marks from Eric and I knew that I had to see what all the buzz is about for myself. After looking to see where they are located, I see their newly opened second location is just a few blocks away from where I am staying. So, I plug it into the GPS and set a course for beer.
Baerlic Brewing’s Halsey St. location is in a residential area. The taproom space is modern and bright with plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating. I opt for indoors as the outdoor patio is pretty swamped. I am going to do a flight because there are just too many things that I want to try here. The beer list is varied and has something for everyone. The offerings range from a Dad Beer which is an easy drinking pre-prohibition lager to a superbly malty Altbier.
The Dad Beer has a ton of cracker malt and a bit of corn sweetness. It is crisp and refreshing and a nice way to start off my tastings at Baerlic. The Dad Beer shows that the brewers here know what they are doing. A pro tip for beer tasters: If you want to know how good a brewer is at their craft, order a simple lager. There are no hiding places for flaws in a simple lager.
After the Dad Beer I am onto a few hoppier offerings. The Rose City Pale has an earthy and bitter hop profile. Not quite as bright as other pale ales I have enjoyed on the trip, but it is well-balanced with a good amount of malt. The New Noise NW style IPA is my favorite of the Baerlic offerings. It has a melon and pineapple aroma with a little bit of back-end bitterness. This beer definitely showcases tropical fruit hop flavors.
The Nice and Easy Gose is effervescent with a bit of salinity and a bright acidity that awakens my salivary glands. Quite crisp, this beer fits in with all the refreshing other things that are in good supply at Baerlic. For a change of pace, the Altbierieor Motives is a delicious malty beer with a wonderful caramel flavor in the malt. It drinks crisp and smooth and something I would surely order again when I come back.
The only beer that misses the mark for me is the oatmeal pilsner. For me, the oats give it a nice body but take away some of the crispness I look for in a pilsner. The bigger body muddies the cracker and bready malt notes that I am hoping to find.
The atmosphere is laid back and I think that I would be a regular here if I lived in the area. I allow myself the time to really digest the sights and sounds of this bustling taproom. The energy is palpable here. This slice of life is a nice illustration of what the Portland beer scene is all about. On the patio, there are families and friends of all ages enjoying beers, sodas, and great camaraderie. I think that Baerlic’s taproom is indicative of Portland’s understanding and respect for beer. People of all ages here understand that beer is about social gathering and community.
Located close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland, Natian Brewing’s taproom is located a few blocks from its production facility. When you drop in during the off-hours, you will probably find Ian McGuinness pouring beers and talking about his passion for brewing quality beer just like I did. Ian is an affable man who is excited to talk about all things beer. He is a wonderful steward of the Portland beer experience and made sure I knew of all the places to hit. I love it when a beercation reveals a genuinely wonderful person in the beer world.
Since I am trying to fit in a few more places, I opt for 3 taster sizes of beer. I get the Full Pour Imperial IPL, the Undun Blonde, and the Lifted Lager. I am excited to try the IPL (India Pale Lager) because it is not a style that I see that often. This beer utilizes Citra in many steps of the brewing process. It clocks in at around 8% and is not for the faint of heart. I thought it had a great flavor and a body that doesn’t necessarily taste like 8%.
The Lifted Lager is malty and clean. There are rich notes of caramel and nuttiness from the malt. The body of the beer is decent and this is one I would happily drink again when I am in town. The Undun Blonde is a brighter ale with a spice flavor of mint that elevates the brightness. I get a little bit of citrus pith for bitterness and the whole thing is incredibly refreshing.
As I am sitting there drinking my way through the beers, another couple comes in and sits to my left. I notice the distinct sophistication of a British accent and my anglophile senses begin tingling. I make some small talk and we start chatting. Their names are Harry and Rosie. Harry and Rosie have lived in the U.S. for a few years and are headed home to the U.K. They lived out on the East Coast and are visiting Portland to get a taste of the West Coast beer scene.
Harry and Rosie are both beer fanatics and we get talking about places that they enjoyed on the East Coast. We talk about NEIPAs, ESBs, and the political climate in the U.S. versus the U.K. They are sweet and are happy to tell me a lot about the beer scene in the U.K. Meeting Henry and Rosie and having a wonderful chat epitomizes the reason I love taking a beercation. Beer is a social lubricant that can bring people of all sorts of backgrounds together. We exchanged information and Henry told me that his dad is getting into craft beer and would be interested to read the blog. I have to head out to the next stop, but I sure enjoyed my time at Natian Brewing Company. I think that Ian does a great job of creating a space that is conducive to laid-back beer conversations.
Burnside Brewing Company
The last stop of the night for me is Burnside Brewing Company. It is about 7:30 on a Sunday night and it is definitely not busy. There are plenty of servers to handle what seems to me to be a lighter crowd. So, I figure I can get in and get a meal and some beers in not too much time and maybe hit another place for a nightcap on my way back home. Well, even the best-laid beercation plans sometimes have a way of falling apart.
I came in and made eye contact with the bartender and I grabbed a seat at a table. Maybe that was my mistake. I typically sit at the bar, but I wanted to do a little bit of writing so a table is easier to sprawl out and be organized. I made eye contact with several of the 4 servers who seemed to be doing a few of the tasks that happen at a bar when it is not tremendously busy like rolling up silverware in napkins and refilling ketchup bottles. Well, 10 minutes pass and still no human contact, verbal or otherwise. I don’t think I am sitting in a closed section, but I decide to give it about another five minutes. Finally, as I am packing up to leave, a server stops over and asks if I would like to see a drink menu.
Without tasting a single drop of beer, I have found my first so-so brewery experience in Portland. If a place is swamped, I understand not being seen right away. However, this is as relaxed as it gets. Sunday night and it is not busy. There is no excuse for someone to not check in with me.
I am hoping for redemption in the beers. I order a taster flight and just an order of fries because lord knows how long anything else would take given their pace thus far. The Couch Lager has notes of lemon peel and honey. The malt flavors come off bready and cracker-like. This is a good Helles Lager because it is clean and bright. The Sweet Heat is a next. Sweet Heat is a wheat beer with apricot and scotch bonnet pepper puree. The apricot shines in the aroma. The heat from the pepper is a slow-building burn that never gets to the point where it is too much for me. The body is low and there isn’t much crispness to it, which I am a little disappointed about.
The Isomer IPA is a hoppy treat with a great amount of back-end bitterness. There is resin, melon, and a dankness in the aroma. This is along the lines of many other solid West Coast IPAs I have enjoyed on my trip. The Burnside IPA is much brighter than the Isomer. The Burnside IPA bursts with grapefruit and is fantastic. The Too Sticky To Roll Red Ale is nice and malty with flavors of caramel and honey. The red ale is also balanced well with hops. I like the body of this beer because it has a nice heft to it.
The Smooth Premium Pale Ale has a grassy and somewhat navel orange hint in the aroma. The hops get a little muddled in the flavor, but overall, this is a good beer. The Stout has a great flavor but lacks the body to support the roasty and coffee flavors in the beer.
The beers, for the most part, help me salvage a good experience. I am still annoyed at the service in the beginning, but glad I stuck around for the beers because they were decent. Still, I think that this is the first time in Portland when I feel like I dipped into the average or slightly below average experience. So, it is a good thing that I only have two more full beercation days here. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully will bring to some places where I can be wowed again.
If you want to listen to the podcast where Eric and I unpack our Oregon beercation, check out our link below.