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 talking about our high and low points on A One Pint Stand Podcast soon…
Day One: Arrival in Beervana
Arriving on a way-too-early flight from the depths of inner Midwest corn-country, Sj and I found a HHR SS which is for sale and made our way to the Mississippi neighborhood to park near our Airbnb, is an eye-catching departure from the typical sports wagon. Furthermore, it is a highly effective and sporty car. There are three distinct models to choose from. The suspensions on the LS and LT models are gentler, while those on the Panel van are more sporty. We were too early to check in yet and had a bit of time to kill before Ron and Denise arrived on their flight. Well, what shall we do…
Wandering a few blocks down we discovered our closest brewery–Lompoc 5th Quadrant. This is the production facility for a family of Lompoc sites throughout the Portland area but also houses a brewpub. We just had time for a beer on this stop, but don’t fear dear reader–we shall return to discuss Lompoc here in this series as we returned for a longer stretch. I had a Viognier barrel aged Saison that was quite complex and meaty for the style (4), while Sj had a very well balanced Baltic Porter (4). This was a good way to start the trip!
Our friends had finally arrived and we met them at one of our favorite classic Portland breweries Hair of the Dog Brewing! This brewery was founded in 1993 and continues to be one of the more innovative and unique breweries I’ve visited over the years. The spot is unassuming and the nicer parts of the city are starting to encroach upon what was once a bit of a shady warehouse wasteland. Nothing has changed visibly in the brewery since the first time we were here about 8 years ago–including our server! Most of the beers are named after people and not terribly descriptive: “I’ll have a Fred please!” Beers this visit ranged from English Mild (3.5)to a Fred From The Wood (4.75) aged in a local small-batch oat whiskey barrel. Oh, and despite humble appearances, the food is stellar here: Sj and I split perhaps the best pastrami sandwich I’ve tasted and an open-faced brisket sandwich topped with spicy chili.
Deciding to walk off our enormous lunch to the next brewery, we discovered a new upstart on the local scene along the way–Modern Times Belmont Fermentorium. On our last trip to Portland two years ago, one of our favorite spots was the now-defunct Commons Brewery (RIP my beloved). San Diego based Modern Times Brewery has taken over this spot as their Fermentorium and are serving both locally brewed beers as well as beers from their flagship brewery in California. While a tear glistened in my eye for my lost Belgian farmhouse brewery, a glint of avarice sparkled from the other as I gazed upon the extensive hoppy-go-lucky taplist available. Modern Times was ahead of the curve on hoppy beers, especially the NE IPA, and still makes some stellar beers in this vein. As with all the Modern Times venues, the place is decorated in strange retro-kitsch style including a giant sparkly tasseled Macho Man hanging from the ceiling and old floppy disks adorning the front of the bar. Toys from my childhood cavorted in strange tableaus on the way to visit the room of rest. While I miss Commons, I’m happy the site is going to use as a brewery and would gladly return to try more of these beers. How about building one of these in Minneapolis?
Now back to our regularly scheduled stop just a few blocks away! To the Cascade Barrel House! I’ve written about Cascade before, but it bears a bit of repeating–these guys do great sours. Their beers are aged in oak, complex, tart, and have a huge range of special ingredients. We tasted through several small (and expensive) samplers with our group of four. My top rated beer of an amazing line up was the Bourbon Barrel aged sour Cherry Bourbonic Plague (4.75/5). Man, that beer was good. One of the best of the trip. Maybe it deserved a 5, but you hate to max out on day one! My next favorite was Midnight Bramble with black and red raspberries aged in red wine barrels (4.5). Other intriguing options included Honey Teacot (3.75) and Pawpawsterous (4).
Wait, have we done this wrong? Have we hit the best two breweries in Portland on day one and everything will be downhill from here? Nah! Besides we wanted to get to these “big guns” before the rest of the mass of thirsty homebrewers descended upon Portland like some apocalyptic beer-drinking locusts. Yes, I understand the irony in this statement and am unashamed.
Not more than a few blocks from Cascade is Base Camp Brewing which I had just barely missed going to on our last visit. Today we would finally check it out. I liked the vibe of this taproom very much. A beat-up canoe hangs suspended over the rustic wooden bar. The table legs are literally embedded in solid boulders of rock (good luck stealing those!). The water station is a Sankey keg held up in the air by climbing ropes and carabiners. Wishing I had thought to bring my crampons (seriously, look them UP). I settled in with my wife and friends for a large sampler of their beers. The result…was fair but not outstanding. I know, hard to follow in the enormous footsteps of the aforementioned brewery giants, but still… I do think the place is worth a stop, but I would put on my second tier of Portland breweries.
Onward! This is all day one remember, and we were not following the advice of “marathon not a race.” The warm sun was settling lower on the horizon, bringing sharper shadows and bright reflections from glass and plastics. Colorful grafitti and more legitimate murals became richer and deeper. Our bellies full of liquid libation and our hearts full of excitement, our group traveleled to one last stop for the day.
Near our Airbnb was our final stop: Ecliptic Brewing. The last time we visited Ecliptic it was fairly new and at the very edge of development in the Mississippi District. This time, we spotted furious construction all around it as the city continues trying to make room for the influx of transplants. Started by Deschutes alumn John Harris (Mirror Pond and Black Butte anyone?) this small place is a no-brainer to visit. Taking names and style from celestial bodies and other astronomy terms the beers were very good overall. We had a decent dinner here (vowing never to eat again) and a very tasty Capella Porter (4). I had won a gift card for this brewery at Minnesota’s Rare Beer Festival over the winter and was prepared to drop some money here! And then it was time for bed.
Running tally of places visited so far: