Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation to Beervana Pt. 9
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.
Portland Beercation Day 2
Last night’s taste of Portland really whet my appetite for more. I am up and caffeinated before the sun is fully in the sky. It is an ambitious day of beer tasting that has put an extra spring in my step today. I have a few days before the taprooms get really crowded with all the beer geeks in town for the Homebrew Con so I have to visit the highly rated breweries today. The initial plan is to start at Wolves and People, a brewery known for some small-batch mixed fermentation beers. However, their website says that the brewery itself is only open on weekends.
I pick up Ron and Denise at their hotel downtown and we decide to stay close to downtown and hit some of the fun neighborhood breweries. Ron and Denise are some of the nicest people you could hope to drink beer with. A lot of the places we go to, they already visited, but they are glad to get a second crack at them. We head to the Mississippi Neighborhood, a little bit north of downtown and begin our day of tasting.
After a jaunt through the neighborhood and a ton of wonderfully bright and beautiful flower pics, we arrive at Ecliptic Brewing Company. Ecliptic is on my radar because they have a reputation for brewing clean beer with a lot of great flavors. I have to say that after my first sip of their Espacio Mexican Lager, the reviews are dead-on.
The Mexican Lager has a wonderful lime zest flavor in it that makes it galaxies better than that light-struck Corona crap. It is perfectly refreshing after our walk in the sun. The next winner of the group is the Quasar Pale Ale. The pale ale is like a hop mullet, juicy in the front and resiny in the back. Flavorful and bright, the Quasar is another great pale ale. The Orbiter IPA has some fruty apricot and peach notes. The Orbiter has a nice malt balance to it and finishes with pine and resin.
The tripel has a considerable amount of honey sweetness. The body and mouthfeel give it almost a simple syrup texture. The body of the tripel reminds me almost of a mead and it would be better if it finished drier. The Capella Porter is absolutely fantastic. The Capella has sensationally distinct roasty flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, and toasted bread.
It is tough to name a favorite because so many of the Ecliptic beers are so incredible. I am happy that this is our first stop of the day. If you head to Portland, Ecliptic Brewing is a must-stop. The galaxy mural on the wall of the brewery really cements the theme of space and stars. As I look back at all the different places I visited on my trip, Ecliptic is near the top of that list.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump through some construction from Ecliptic is Stormbreaker Brewing. Stormbreaker is a nickname that refers to Mt. Hood. It is also the namesake of a brewery that I fully endorse everyone putting on their beercation list. With a large outdoor patio covered by an enormous pergola, there is a ton of room at this place. We are stopping for lunch and beers before we continue our Tuesday taproom tour. Stormbreaker comes highly recommended and Ron and Denise already have been once on their trip. Let’s be honest, any brewery that has a Game of Thrones reference as their beer name is alright with me.
I order a flight and a turkey and avocado wrap because I am making an attempt to try to be healthy and I even started using an steroid like supplement to boost my workout. Although, I have severe plate envy when Ron’s brat and Denise’s burger get delivered to the table. The beer flight is a set of five in a sturdy wooden tray. The sun is shining, but we are enjoying the shade and a slight breeze. I keep pinching myself to remind me that I am not dreaming. This day could not be any better when I factor in the company, weather, and the setting.
The beers being served at Stormbreaker are nothing short of stupendous. The Total Rekölsch is a great homage to a style that is known for being clean and crisp. Nice notes of honey in the malt, this baby finishes so refreshing that you will have to really exercise restraint to not order another one. The Cloud Ripper IPA is straight up West Coast goodnesss with a punch of hoppiness right in the mouth. What I love about Cloud Ripper is that it is not a palate wrecker and finishes with a clean finish. The Right As Rain Pale Ale is juicy, fresh, clean, and balanced. It makes me hope that someday my local beer scene will figure out how to brew a good pale ale.
The Van Damme, That’s Good is a big, bad, Belgian Quad. The dark fruit, hints of chocolate, toffee, and dark caramel make this beer a wonderful treat. Light on the gas and big on mouthfeel, the Van Damme is a great representation of this style. The House Martell is their take on a hazy IPA and it is pretty good. I think I have been spoiled by Lupulin and Barrel Theory in MN because there have been a lot of hazy ones that seem to fall a little flat. While the House Martell is good, I wish it finished just a little more bitter to round out the big juicy beginning. The Opacus Oatmeal Stout is a straight-forward, creamy, and malty stout. Flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, and a little bit of toffee make this enjoyable.
Ron, Denise, and myself sit here enjoying our beers, food, and great conversation. This moment is what a beercation is all about. Bringing people together so that they can share their stories and laughter with each other. As we chat, our topics go from homebrewing to restaurants and it is as effortless as conversation can be. I am lucky to be with them today and we are really enjoying our time together. We realize that Blue Star Donuts is a few blocks away and we vamoose towards some dessert.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Cascade Brewing Company is an institution of innovation when it comes to mixed fermentation beers. They use fruit in beer as well as anyone. This is a destination for beer geeks and I can already tell that the folks visiting for Homebrew Con are making their presence felt here. With a nice mix of outdoor picnic tables and indoor seating, there are plenty of seats. We grab a spot outside and continue to enjoy this perfect Portland day.
Our server is one of the most knowledgeable people I have come across on my beercation. He speaks intelligently about all the beers we have questions about and it is evident that he knows the menu backward and forwards. For me, mixed fermentation beers are like Celine Dion, a little goes a long way. I know that having devoted long periods of time to drinking mixed fermentation beers only, the after-effects can involve a carton of tums and a lot of heartburn. So, I approach the menu as a hiker would a grizzly, cautious, slowly, and with bells on my shoes.
If you would have told me before my beercation to the Cascade Barrel House that my favorite beer I had would be a pale ale, I would have laughed until I snorted. However, after the 4 beers on tap that I tried, that is indeed the case. That is not a slight to the other beers I drink, it is a high praise for their quality of brewing.
The Portland Ale is a refreshing and clean beer that combines some wonderful pilsner and Vienna malts with Perle and Columbus hops. The result is a fantastically simple, yet eloquent and easy-drinking beer. I stay away from some of the beers I have already enjoyed which is why some of the other beers I am going to mention seem like not ones that you have heard of. I am a huge fan or their apricot and blueberry sours, but I am going for undiscovered offerings today.
The Honey Ginger Lime is an absolute revelation. Bright and zesty lime flavors burst refreshingly amidst a backdrop of honey. These flavors are punctuated by the spicy bite of fresh ginger. The flavors are magnificent and if I didn’t have more breweries in my crosshairs for the day, I would be ordering a full pour of this one. The Honey Teacot and the Brews of a Feather are good, but not exactly as memorable as the aforementioned Portland Ale and Honey Ginger Lime.
Modern Times Belmont Fermentorium
Not more than a 5-minute walk from Cascade is the Modern Times Belmont Fermentorium. I have tried several offerings from Modern Times in the bottle and they are delicious. If you like beer, old floppy discs, or Macho Man Randy Savage-inspired artwork, then this is the place for you!
I notice shirts from a Maine homebrew club and I know I am in the right place. However, the beers are wearing on me and I know that we still have another stop ahead of us. I do what the cautious beer traveler does and I order a pilsner. The Ice Pilsner is excellent and the looks the part of a perfectly brewed pilsner. A nice light straw with a cloudy and pristine foamy head, the Ice tastes even better than it looks. Cracker malt and a clean finish make this beer a definite winner in my books.
I also try the Abaddon, a delicious Helles beer. This also has a cleanliness to it that would make a German blush. I am impressed with how clean and perfect these beers are. You cannot visit Modern Times without getting one of their many hoppy beers. The Glow Boots, an American Pale Ale is a wonderful mix of guava, peach, and mango. It is bright and hazy in the glass and finishes with a little bit of dryness. All the beers here are a treat and I urge you to stop here on your next beercation.
Hair Of The Dog
Our last stop of the day is a welcome sight. Hair Of The Dog Brewing has been bandied about amongst our group as a highlight. I am happy to see it for myself and the place is a wonderful mixture of well-made beers and great food. Being the driver, I feel like the Little Dog, an English Mild Ale is definitely the move here. This 3.2% beer packs a ton of flavor into a very small ale. English Milds are not common, although I think that they should be. Great caramel and cracker malt flavor give his beer a wonderful flavor and aroma.
This beercation day has been an odyssey of beer, laughter, and great companionship. I feel like we did well in checking off some wonderful breweries before they become overrun with the Homebrew Con attendees. The sun is on its way west and I am definitely ready to go meet some friends for some Indian food at the Bollywood Theater and some ice cream at Salt & Straw. Ron and Denise grab an Uber back to the hotel and I head back to my place. Tomorrow is going to be another big day and I want to make sure I am ready for it.
If the words don’t do these places enough justice, you can listen to Dan talk all about his travels on his most recent episode of A One Pint Stand, the beer podcast he and Eric Wentling produce. Just click on the tab below!