Have you ever started a hobby that became a beastly obsession? Of course you have. You’re a beer geek. I’m not one to talk, though, because Chris and I certainly can’t deny that our brewery list has become anything less than an obsession of beastly proportion. We had no idea back in 1992 when we started visiting breweries that today we’d be boasting about having visited more than 670. And you don’t get to brewery #674 (#675 for Chris) without first reaching the devilish number of the beast: 666.
Well, let me tell you about how Chris and I each hit brewery #666 on the first day of last weekend’s trip to Portland.
As we are wont to do, we left on Thursday at an ungodly (or beastly, if you will) hour in order to take an early flight out of San Jose. After arriving in Portland, we drove 50 minutes south to Silverton, OR, where we hit Seven Brides, our first brewery of the trip.
Seven Brides is a large family-friendly establishment offering the usual range of beer styles. The name stems from the reason the brewery was started in the first place: 3 dads and 2 uncles needed a way to pay for the future weddings of their 7 daughters who currently range in age from 4-17 years old.
One of the fun things about the brewery is that each beer is named after one of the daughters in the family. After a taster set, Chris ordered the Lauren’s Pale Ale, a solid flavorful beer. Much to our delight, the pint was $1 off in honor of it being Lauren’s birthday week. Becky’s Black Cat Porter and Frankenlou’s IPA also went well with our lunch of carnitas quesadilla and chicken tacos. And no, Frankenlou is not the name of one of the daughters. It’s a combination of the girl’s nickname (Lou) and a desire to make a monstrous IPA.
The hospitality at Seven Brides was everything you’d expect in a small rural brewery. One of the owners, Jeff DeSantis, stopped to chat with us at the bar. And in a very motherly way, our server expressed concern when we told her about our plan to drive over the mountains to Bend the next day. The forecast was for rain at lower elevations, so you know what that means higher up. She even went so far as to offer a less treacherous route than the one we planned. “You drive safely now,” she told us when we left.
An hour and a half later, we arrived at our second stop: Oakshire Brewing in Eugene. It was Chris’s 666th brewery. Getting to Oakshire (pronounced oak-shyer, not oak-sure), feels a lot like getting lost, as it’s located in between a criss-crossing of railroad tracks on the outskirts of town. It’s a beautiful sight when you do finally arrive and does not disappoint.
Oakshire only has tasting hours on Saturdays from noon-4pm, but Monday through Friday 3-6pm, they’re open for “dock sales,” where you can taste a few samples before making your purchase. During our visit, most people made quick stops to fill up their growlers, pick up kegs and purchase bottles to go.
Our hostess was friendly and knowledgeable and best of all, she didn’t even ask about the devil horns Chris sprouted while drinking the Watershed IPA, a crisp tasting brew with 75 IBUs. From their single batch beers, we liked The Nutcracker, a spiced imperial porter, as well as the year-round offering, Overcast Espresso Stout. Both were dangerous, however, as The Nutcracker was an easy drinking 8% and the stout provided the equivalent of one jolting espresso shot per pint. There was no resisting the beer altogether, though, and we bought a few bottles to bring home.
Chris’s horns quickly disappeared as we drove the short distance to Ninkasi Brewing and mysteriously grew out of my head as we arrived.
Ninkasi was the perfect brewery to be my 666th. We walked through a very goth looking wrought iron gate into the courtyard and approached the building with bright green walls. The ambiance inside the decently-sized tasting room felt dark and slightly sinister. It was already full, but not over crowded, when we arrived around 4pm, so we set ourselves up in the corner with our taster set. I now donned the devilish horns, but no one even seemed to notice. I tried to act cool, like I didn’t notice them either. Eventually we were able to make our way up to the bar to continue drinking our sampler set.
Many of the beers were familiar to us–Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout. But there were also a few we had never seen, which is yet another reason to visit breweries. They often have brews only available there. For me, the overwhelming standout was their brand new release, Sterling Pils, a snappy German-style pils. Who knew they even had one! They also had these tasty mixed nuts that we ate while finishing up our taster set.
And that was that. We’d each reached the number of the beast and had a devilishly good time doing it!