Completists in Portland

Evan Rail in his Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic puts forth the idea of the beer traveling “completist” – someone who needs to go to EVERY brewery in a city to feel mission accomplished. With a brewery list to continually add to, this concept perfectly describes me and Merideth. Always visiting Portland during Oregon Brewers Festival, we were never left with enough free time to indulge this need. Our first Spring trip to Portland finally gave us the free time to fulfill our completist desires and add some outlying breweries to the List.

An early beer stop in Southeast Portland

Landing at Portland International Airport shortly before 8am, we needed an early opening brewery to get our day started on the right track. Located in the bottom portion of Southeast Portland, Philadelphia’s Steaks & Hoagies fit our needs perfectly. We were sitting at the bar ordering a nine beer taster set at the prime beer-drinking hour of 9am.

A beer traveler's breakfast

Merideth and I split the taster set as we each enjoyed a hoagie, the Italian Special for myself and Ham and Eggs for Merideth. I would be lying if I didn’t say that a few of the beers were kind of odd. There seemed to be a ‘house flavor’ permeating a number of the brews. With that said, we did enjoy several of the beers including Two Street Stout and the Belgian-style Golden Ale.

While we were finishing up our taster set and breakfast/lunch, we stumbled upon our theme for the Easter holiday episode of beergeek.TV. One of the morning TV shows was doing a segment on Peeps, those neon yellow sugar bombs in the form of a squishy chick-shaped confection. I wondered what beer pairs best with Peeps?

Enjoying the sun at Max's Fanno Creek

Armed with a meaning and purpose for our trip (plus a soon to be gotten box of Peeps) we were off to the Portland suburb of Tigard and our second destination of the morning. Located on Main St. in what I assume was ‘old town’ Tigard, Max’s Fanno Creek Brewpub was doing a bit of  a brisk business at 11am on a Friday. Despite there still being a chill in the air, I was surprised to hear Merideth wanting to sit outside.

Today is brought to you by the number 9

Nine was the number of the day as the taster set at Max’s was also nine brews. Not sure that Merideth truly got to taste and enjoy the beers because she was sampling them with the Peeps. She paired the sugary treat with the Golden Ale, Vanilla Porter, Raspberry Stout and Imperial IPA. The results will be revealed in the beergeek.TV episode.

I felt sick after one nibble of Peep, so I sampled all the beers unencumbered by the pairing question. Of the nine, the Dry Hopped Red, Reverend’s Daughter, a Belgian-style Golden Ale and the IPA stood out for me.

Chris with his first Scotch Egg

A highlight of our stop at Max’s was eating my first Scotch Egg. Our Irish friends always go on about them and despite not knowing what it was, I was curious to try one. [It’s a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then deep fried] Despite the “fancy-ass chi-chi” presentation, it was quite tasty as most deep fried food tends to be when served with beer. I will admit, I did remove the yoke.

If you do make make it to Max’s Fanno Creek Brewpub, be sure to check out the bar top made from crow’s foot hemlock. The wood is 600 years old and spent 200 years at the bottom of the Columbia River.

A roadhouse in Portland

Our final stop on Friday’s completist brewery tour was Old Market Pub & Brewery. At the junction of two roads, Old Market had a real roadhouse feel, both inside and out. The rambling building had an expansive wood-paneled interior with a large dining room and a pool room in the back. With the warmth of the day finally showing, we took a seat in the beer garden out front.

A beer / food pairing conundrum

And yes, the sampler was nine beers again! For me, the star of their brews was Hop On, a hopped-up Amber Ale. Big surprise that I would pick the hoppiest beer as my favorite. Merideth continued her Peep/beer pairing quest putting Mr. Slate’s Gravelberry Ale, a raspberry Wheat Beer and Hop On to the test.

Enjoying the sunny Portland weather in their beer garden, we managed to squeeze in a game of Scrabble. Given the massive beating I took, Merideth won 340-310, I’ll think twice next time before suggesting to get a quick game in.

I wish Breakside was in my neighborhood

On Easter Sunday, we visited another of the outlying breweries on our target list. Conveniently located ten minutes from the airport, Breakside Brewery was an easy stop before our flight home. Located down a residential street, we thought that my douchephone directions had led us astray until we came upon a grouping of businesses amidst the homes.

The taster set at Breakside Brewery

Between the beer and food, Breakside Brewery was one of the highlights of the weekend. We sampled eight beers with three hoppy beers, Hoppy Amber, IPA, and IPA Jr., being the stars. Merideth even enjoyed IPA Jr. which could be an excellent session IPA if the brewers knocked the ABV down a bit. However, the most intriguing brew was the Kölsch-style Ale made with Rye. Light and refreshing with that Rye bite and spiciness, it would be the perfect brew for a Portland summer day.

Lovely Pork Belly Sandwich

I had looked at the Breakside food menu online before our trip and knew exactly what I wanted for Easter lunch, the Pork Belly Sandwich. Merideth ordered one as well. It was to die for! The pork was cooked to perfection and fennel slaw was a delicious accompaniment.

Lunch and beers at Breakside with our nephew and his significant other was the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday and to end our trip on a high note. While we are not ready to declare ‘mission accomplished’ the completist in us were very satisfied with our progress over the Easter weekend in Portand.

View all the Portland images

New beergeek.TV Episode – PDX Roadtrip

A rare site on video… team together.

“PDX Roadtrip” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

We were excited to return to Portland for our ninth Oregon Brewers Festival. But with two previous beergeek.TV episodes already covering the West Coast’s best beer fest, we needed to do something different. Driving the 700 some odd miles to Portland was our brilliant solution.

So enjoy our latest beer adventures…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.


Rediscovering Portland

A lot has happened since our last visit to the Portland two years ago during the Year in Beer. Between our visits, Merideth and I have traveled to a diverse range of beer destinations and added approximately 160 breweries to our tally. Older and wiser, we had some catching up to do in the Rose City.

Joined by our friend Chris, we left the festival on Thursday evening to explore on the other side of the Willamette River. Crossing the Burnside Bridge, we headed east towards our first destination, 28 blocks away. After a afternoon at the festival, we welcomed the long walk to Coalition Brewing.

Coalition Brewing in the Buckman neighborhood

Coalition Brewing’s unassuming, grayish/green exterior disguised a real gem inside. Walking through the rolled up doors into the small but airy dining area, our threesome grabbed the only available table  which was close to the bar.

The buzz regarding Coalition Brewing was that they were working with local homebrewers to brew and pour their beers. However, I don’t think any collaboration beers were on tap for our visit, just the regular house lineup. There were six beers, ranging from an ESB to a Stout. The other Chris ordered Bump’s Bitter ESB and Merideth went with the Hans O’ Stout. Of course, I ordered the Two Dogs IPA. Passing the beers around as an impromptu taster set, all were quite delicious.

Enjoying an IPA at Coalition Brewing

The kitchen was the pleasant surprise at Coalition Brewing. The simple menu featured inexpensive, yet creative food. While I went the comfort route with Mac-n-Cheese, Merideth ordered the “Coalition of the Willing Ham”, a panini with Black Forest ham, coppa, havarti and pickled carrot. She allowed me one a small bite and I have to say, it was one of the best sandwiches I have tasted in a long time.

Twilight at Migration Brewing

The beer gods must have been telling us we needed another long walk. Our next stop was a mere six blocks away, but instead of using our brains and walking up 28th Street, we relied on the iPhone for directions. After a 45 minute tour of some nice Portland neighborhoods and the required ‘it should be right here’ moment, we decided just to find Migration by the address. Ten minutes later we were at the bar ordering a beer.

Another new entry on the Portland scene, Migration was another neighborhood industrial space, roll up the doors, ample beer garden with picnic tables kinda place.

Migration’s beer list

Migration only had three house beers, complimented by eight guest taps including the amazing Racer X from Bear Republic. The three of us enjoyed a pitcher of their flagship Pale Ale on their patio. Well, until Merideth got chilled and we moved inside. Despite enjoying ourselves at Migration, it was a one and done. We still had one more beer stop so after finishing our pitcher, we moved on to Apex, a multi-tap establishment.

After a few beers, I admit that I start wondering about the strangest things. Having never been to Portland in the winter, I always wonder what happens to the outdoor seating in the cold and wet months. Do people actually site outside? Wading through Apex’s rather large beer garden, that was all I could think of.

The high tech beer list at Apex

Luckily, such philosophical questions are short-lived once confronted with a lengthy beer list. After adjusting my eyes to the high tech airport arrival/departure type display, the first thing that caught my eye at Apex was the number of California beers on tap. The owner, being a Toronado alumni, might have something to do with this. Passing on some of my favorite home state brews such as Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin or Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, I went with Double Mountain’s Molten Lava.

We finished our first day in Portland at Apex. What a first day it was; four breweries, a beer bar and Oregon Brewers Festival.

Saturday morning at the Mash tun

Saturday was our last day in Portland and we passed on attending another day at Oregon Brewers Festival to visit a few more breweries. We were at the Mash Tun, in Northeast Portland, late morning just after opening time. Located in the ultra hip Alberta Arts District, the Mash Tun has been on the Portland beer scene since 2005. Passing through the bar area, our group, including Chris (again) and a friend of his, found a table in the oddly stifling courtyard.

The brunch of champions….

In a town that prides itself on their Pacific Northwest brews, the Mash Tun was an anomaly, brewing English-style beers. On the beer menu during our visit was five brews, including  English Mild and Penfolds Porter. They also had a small number of guest taps.

Tater tots seemed to be a big thing in Portland. We saw them on a number of menus. The highlight of our visit to the Mash Tun was the big steaming plate of deep fried potato goodness. After a taster set, I paired the tater tots with the roasty Penfolds Porter. Merideth went with the Sam Jackson Pale Ale.

In the basement of the Left Bank Building

The most interesting newcomer brewery in Portland, was Upright. Located in the Rose District just across the Willamette from downtown Portland, Upright was our 567th brewery. And the very first located in a basement. We were greeted by our friend Annalou as we walked into the cool, dark lower level of the Left Bank Building. There was already a fair sized crowd occupying the small space.

The happy foursome enjoying the beers at Upright Brewing

Maybe the best taster deal on the planet, Upright’s sample tray was $6 for nine beers. The year-round beers go by the descriptive names of 4, 5, 6 & 7, the names derived from starting gravity in degrees. All four use a Saison yeast and are open fermented. 4 was a great session beer at 4.5% ABV. 6 was the most unique of the four, the only one using rye.

Of the seasonal beers, the stars were Engelberg Pils and Vin Aigruer, a beer reminiscent of Flanders Red. That was until Annalou pulled out a bottle of the Gose. Having only discovered the style the previous month in Germany, Upright’s  version stood up to the brew at Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig.

Renee enjoying the Fringe Fest at Belmont Station

With gas still left in the tank, our next stop was Belmont Station for their Oregon Craft Brewers Fringe Fest. The idea behind the Fringe Fest was to give Oregon breweries not at OBF a chance to showcase their brews. At different times during the day, these breweries poured samples of their beers. What had me excited was the cask beers. My first beer was Barley Brown’s WFO IPA, an excellent beer from the Baker City brewpub. Equally tasty was their 60 Love Pale Ale, a hoppy brew also on cask. Two other stars were the German-style beers from Heater Allen in McMinnville. Their Isarweizen and Pils were both tasty brews.

The best of Portland: Copacetic IPA and a brat at Amnesia Brewing

We ended our ninth Portland beer adventure at our favorite beer spot in Portland, Amnesia Brewing. Amidst a lively Saturday night crowd, Merideth and I wound down for the evening knowing we had a long drive ahead the following day. We quietly enjoyed our brats and beers as the sun set on another Portland trip.


Our Ninth Oregon Brewers Festival

The 23rd edition of the Oregon Brewers Festival was our ninth. Attending six straight years at the end of the 1990s and three out of the last four years, we have seen it grow and change over the 16 year span. Changes aside, one thing remains the same: the Oregon Brewers Festival is, in my humble opinion, the West Coast’s premier beer event and our favorite large US festival.

Correction: Due to some poor math on my part, we previously reported that the 2008 Oregon Brewers Festival was our ninth visit. We have lived a lie for the last two years. regrets any confusion this may have caused. Having said that, I will now report on our actual ninth visit to OBF.

Merideth enjoying OBF with our friend Renee

There are a myriad of reasons that we have been to OBF nine times. First, the setting along the Willamette River and the almost always perfect weather is idyllic for a beer festival. Second, the festival is just so well run. There have a few glitches and blips over the years, but the problems are always corrected. Most important, it is one of the festivals where we get to see many of our West Coast beer friends.

Similar to past years, our plan included attending the Thursday and Friday sessions.

Merideth and I arrived on the first day of the festival a few hours after opening. Minutes after showing our IDs to the gate security, we had mugs and tokens in hand. Obviously, this is not the case for every session. Just like any large festival, Friday and Saturday nights are popular sessions and we’ve learned from experience to avoid those more congested times.

Thursday afternoon at Oregon Brewers Festival

Wading through the unexpectedly large Thursday afternoon crowd to find our friend Chris Devlin, we were surprised to hear that the “woo-ing” had already started. Such behavior usually didn’t begin until later. We found Chris and went in search of our first beers. I started with Flying Fish’s GABF gold medal winning Exit 4, a Belgian-style Trippel. Merideth began her 2010 OBF with Boundary Bay’s German Tradition Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale, a beer specially made for Oregon Brewers Festival.

The happy beer travelers

Being an unabashed hophead, over half the beers I tried over the two sessions were an IPA or Double IPA. However, my two favorites didn’t come from the hopbomb world. On the top of my list was the aforementioned Flying Fish Exit 4, the first beer I tried. That wonderful brew was closely followed by Boundary Bay German Tradition Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Merideth’s first beer. Of the hoppy brews, there were a number of good examples but kudos has to go out to Alpha Centauri Binary IPA from Hop Valley Brewing.

Merideth, following  a warm weather drinking pattern, focused on Kölschs, Wits and Saisons. Of particular note for her were two Portland beers, the Summer Gose from Cascade Brewing and Reggae Junkie Gruit from Upright Brewing.

Willamette River cruise at the 1995 Oregon Brewers Festival

Over the years, if we have seen one disappointing trend, it would be the beer selection. I think part of it is nostalgia for our younger days. (“When I was a kid, I had to walk ten miles in the snow to get to OBF.”) In the ’90s, breweries poured new and unique beers to ‘wow’ the crowd. I’m sure if I dug out some of our old programs, this may be a bit of revisionist history, but a number of friends did comment to us that the beer selection this year was pretty average.

Catch the buzz…

To the credit of festival organizers, they appear to be trying to combat this criticism. This year was our first experience with the “Buzz Tent.” Started last year, the “Buzz Tent” serves special and rare beers. Costing two tokens instead of the normal one, the beers served in this tent rotated regularly. As one keg blew, a new beer was put on.

Last keg ever of a 13 year-old Imperial Stout from Full Sail

I was more than willing to use two tokens each on San Diego beers such as Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and Green Flash Super Freak. But the most interesting beer was a 13 year-old keg of Russian Imperial Stout from Hood River’s Full Sail Brewing. When the gathering crowd heard that it was finally available, the area really started to buzz. I joined the 20 person line, something I usually avoid at OBF, and waited patiently for a 4oz taste of the very rare brew. As expected, the beer was  jet black with strong booze and raisin flavors.

After four hours at the Thursday session, we called it a day at the Oregon Brewers Festival. We planned a return visit to the Friday afternoon session, but we hadn’t been to Portland in two years and there were plenty of new additions to the Portland beer scene to explore.

On the Road Again

We were excited to return to Portland for our ninth Oregon Brewers Festival. But with two previous beergeek.TV episodes covering the West Coast’s best beer fest, we needed to do something different. After much thought, we decided a road trip to Portland would be new and exciting.

At noon, I picked Merideth up at work for the long drive north. Crossing over from the coast to the Central Valley, we hopped on I-5 at Santa Nella. The plan was to drive almost half the interstate’s 1,381 mile length before stopping in Corvallis, OR for the night. Along the route, we had a few beer stops.

Mt. Shasta looms over the brewery

The drive through the Central Valley was certainly not the most exciting, but mile after mile of expansive farmland finally gave way to some hills after Redding. Soon after that, Mt. Shasta loomed in the distance, the namesake for our first brewery stop of the day. We pulled into the parking lot of Mt. Shasta Brewing Company in Weed, CA a little over six hours after we left Salinas. Besides being home of a brewery, Merideth has a personal connection to Weed. Her Mom was born in this tiny Northern California town.

A much needed beer

Mt. Shasta’s brewery and pub is located in an old creamery. A warm day, we walked in through the pub’s big rolling door and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. After six plus hours on the road, we were ready to try some legal weed. The sight of the bartender placing a taster set in front of us had never been so welcome. Our seven beer set included four regular beers and three seasonals.

The Golden Ale was perfect for the day, a very refreshing brew. Their IPA, a brew I have had before, was really solid. The most intriguing beer was the Strawberry Ginger seasonal. I love anything with ginger but unfortunately, this wasn’t the ginger-bomb I was hoping it would be.

Mt. Shasta Brewing would have been the perfect spot for a relaxing game of Scrabble but we still had the other half of our drive ahead. So, after finishing our taster set, we pressed on.

Crossing the border into Oregon, our next stop was in the Bard’s town, Ashland. Shakespeare aside, Ashland is also home to a pair of breweries. On our road trip plan included hitting one on the way up and one on the way home.

Caldera was the brewery we were going to hit on the way up. Unfortunately, Caldera wouldn’t count on the brewery list as the actual brewery is located across town from their downtown tap house. This violated rule #1, the beer must be brewed on premise.

Our taster set at Caldera

Grabbing a table on  the main level of their multi-deck patio, we quickly ordered a taster set and some dinner. On the five beer paddle, I picked three that I would like and two that I thought Merideth would like. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Turns out one that I picked for Merideth, the Dry Hopped Orange, was not an orange flavored beer that had been dry hopped. It was actually an IPA that highlighted citrus hops. I loved it, Merideth not so much. However, the best beer on the now hopbomb heavy sampler was the Rauch ür Bock, a wonderful smoked beer.

Caldera Tap House was another short stop as we still had three plus hours to drive to our final destination of the day, Corvallis. Quickly eating our meals and drinking our samples, we were back on 1-5 heading north in under an hour.

The highlight of downtown Corvallis

After over twelve hours on the road, we rolled into Corvallis at 12:30am. Corvallis was a ghost town at that early hour but we hoped that Block 15 Restaurant & Brewery might still be open. In all our road weariness, we managed to find the brewery. A couple of staff remained inside, but the stacked chairs indicated that they were closed. That was probably for the best as “Miss Cranky Pants” was tired. The brewery could wait for the following morning.

The taster set at Block 15

Late Thursday morning, we were at the doors of Block 15 waiting patiently for them to open. While we only had another hour on I-5 before reaching Portland, we didn’t have all the time in the world. We were meeting a friend at Oregon Brewers Festival in a few hours. Another quick sample set it would be.

We got to chose five beers from their selection of over a dozen. What jumped out at Merideth and I were the number of session beers available. Three of our five beers, the Kölsch-style Summer Knights, Glo Golden Ale and Hop-a-long Amber were 5% ABV and under. The star was the Hop-a-long, a hopped up brew that came in at 4% ABV. On the hoppier end, the One Hop Tomahawk was an excellent one hop IPA. As the name implies, it is hopped with just the Tomahawk variety of hops.

Merideth at Calapooia Brewing Co.

We had one more stop before arriving in Portland. Located a short distance from Corvallis in the nearby town of Albany, Calapooia (Cala-poo-ya) Brewing Co. was our next stop. Situated on a quiet side street along the railroad tracks, the pub looks more like a quaint cafe from the exterior. The interior has a similar feel but the extensive beer list revealed the pub’s true identity.

And in our speed dating version of brewery tours, we only had time for yet another sample paddle. Of the eight samples, we got to choose two, the other six being their regular brews. My standout was the Big Aft Pale Ale while Merideth liked River Dog ESB. However, we both agreed that the star was Devil’s Hole Stout, a wonderful roasty, chocolate brew.

In what was the running theme for the drive up to Portland, Calapooia Brewing Co. was another cozy brewpub where we could have relaxed the day away playing Scrabble. But that wasn’t the plan. We were out the door in twenty five minutes and on our way to Portland.