This past weekend in Portland, aka Beervana, was primarily about the Oregon Brewers Festival but we also used the opportunity (while the kids were with the grandparents) to visit as many breweries and beer spots that we could manage. That turned out to be quite a bit! I’ll have longer individual posts on at least two of the breweries (ones I haven’t visited or reviewed before), but here’s how the weekend went (when we weren’t at the OBF).
Our first stop on Thursday after the Brewfest was a brewery that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while: Breakside Brewery, up in northeast Portland. We headed up there for dinner and I ordered the beer sampler (of course!).
The samples (in order) were the Wit, Dry Stout, Aztec, IPA, Smoked Porter, and Old Woody (a bourbon-barrel aged beer). I’ll have my notes on the beers in a subsequent post, but I have to say they were all really good and I’d easily order them all again.
Breakside is definitely one of the classic Portland neighborhood pubs with the added brewery feature and a focus on upscale, seasonal and locally-sourced organic foods, which translate into the newer trend in the Portland beer scene these past few years: small-scale brewpub focused on quality and unusual beers and food. I look forward to visiting again.
After Breakside we headed for another place we hadn’t yet been: Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern, also located up in the northeast.
I have to say, it’s a bit smaller inside than the movie The Love of Beer led me to expect (darn those camera angles) but what a fantastic place! We piled into a booth at the back which was perfect for winding down from the day (it was still only Thursday, so we’d already driven to Portland in the morning, hit the OBF for almost six hours, and visited Breakside). With ten beers on tap, I opted for a well-poured Heater Allen Pils, but you’d better believe I was eyeing the “Frosty Mug O’ Hamms” too.
Checking out the bottled beer available, we about fell over ourselves when we came across what (to Bendites so far) is the Holy Grail of Southern Tier beers: Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout! Paul and Sandi bought a couple of bottles on the spot, and I figured if I didn’t find any later (we planned to hit Belmont Station on this trip) then we’d come back to buy some as well.
After Saraveza we were ready to call it a night but Paul wanted to open a bottle of the Crème Brûlée so we convened in our hotel room and split a bottle.
Yes, it was amazing; it’s a milk chocolatey Imperial Stout that tastes amazingly like crème brûlée. Wow.
Friday of course saw more of the OBF, and afterwards we had two goals in mind: check out Gigantic Brewing and hit Burnside Brewing for dinner, where #pdxbeergeek Michael Umphress was going to swing by after he got off work.
Gigantic is a production brewery with a tap room (and champagne lounge!) in southeast Portland’s industrial district: not something that may strike the casual observer as very comfortable or convenient, but they’ve done a great job with the tap room and we seated ourselves in the corner with the retro couch and chairs and ordered beers (my wife ordered a split bottle of champagne). Good music, great ambiance, and great beer make for a place I could spend a lot of time in. I ordered a pint of the new Axes of Evil and also grabbed tasters of Dyn-O-Mite! Imperial IPA and Rauchweizen and the Bandit.
I’ll have more details and photos in an upcoming review post.
Burnside for dinner was fantastic, and even better than our visit last year; I had perhaps the best burger I’ve ever had in my entire life, seared in duck fat with bacon and cheese, with grilled onions and pickles and the house-made ketchup—if I remember nothing else from this trip I remember that burger! It was just awesome. The side of grilled broccoli in garlic chili oil was pretty great too.
I hit up Burnside’s seasonals while we there there: starting with the Lime Kolsch which was crisp, bright, and super refreshing, I moved on to Thundarr the Bavarian (which I had to get for the name alone!) which was a strong German weizen that was yeasty with a nice touch of banana. And of course you know I had to go for the International Incident, the imperial apricot wheat ale brewed with toasted cardamom, cumin and fenugreek spices and dry hopped with Scotch Bonnet and Dandicut peppers—sort of an imperial version of their Sweet Heat which I really like. (And this is the beer that started as “Kali Ma” which raised controversy among Hindus.)
The beer was fantastic, balanced and drinkable and the heat was there not as hot as Sweet Heat; it had the malty presence of a wheat wine and the fruitiness from the apricots and toasty spices that bled into the chili pepper heat. Great, great beer.
Michael joined us and we stayed late into the evening, chatting about the Beer Bloggers Conference, beer, breweries (both Portland and afar), and just generally shooting the breeze and drinking beer, as all great evenings go. All in all it was a very good day (and night).
Saturday we started out a bit later, first hitting up Belmont Station to shop for bottles (I picked up a couple bottles of the Crème Brûlée, as well as a bottle of Block 15‘s newly-bottled Wandelpad, two bottles of Axes of Evil, a canned Witbier from Belgium and a 1-liter can of Baltika Lager just for grins, and likely several other beers I’m forgetting at the moment.
We followed that up with an early lunch at the Horse Brass Pub which I hadn’t been to in too many years. Except for the omnipresent cigarette smoke haze of yesteryear, it’s still as I remember it which is awesome. A pint of Walking Man Brewery’s Black Cherry Stout (which I’ve only ever found at the Horse Brass) accompanied my plate of bangers and mash and we left satiated and happy.
We later found ourselves at Full Sail Brewing’s Riverplace brewery, where I had received a media invite to Full Sail’s annual private patio party (and my wife and Paul and Sandi were able to come along). This was a really fun, informal event where I got to meet Brewmaster Jamie Emmerson, Founder and CEO Irene Firmat, and Marketing Manager Sandra Evans. I also ran into former McMenamins Edgefield brewer Christino Canto (who’s now the brewer at Rogue’s Track Town Ales in Eugene), Brew Happy‘s Susanna and Josh, New School‘s Ezra Johnson-Greenough, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.
I’ll have a longer blog post about that party as well, but I will say I invented a new beer drink: half Berliner Weisse and half Coke. (In the theory that adding syrups to a Berliner Weisse is a time-honored tradition.) And actually, it was pretty good! I had Jamie Emmerson try it and he agreed, which amuses me to no end and I tried to (jokingly) convince him to make the next “Session” series beer this combo. Let’s hope!
After departing Full Sail we headed down to Hopworks Urban Brewery for dinner where I enjoyed a cask IPA and a chicken salad sandwich special. The brewery downstairs was open to the sun, with a couple enjoying a post-brewery-tour beer in the small taproom for that purpose, so I poked my head in and got a shot of the HUB beer bike in repose:
I know Bend has the Cycle Pub but I’d really love to see a bike like this in town!
After Hopworks our evening was capped with Lisa Morrison, who had invited us over to her place (okay, in reality I may have weaseled our way into that a bit) and then led a group of us (our friends and hers) on a march to The Victory Bar in southeast Portland, not far from Lompoc’s Hedge House. The Victory Bar was funky and dark, like a proper Portland neighborhood beer bar, and I had a pint of Burnside IPA before calling it a night.
Lisa, by the way, is one of the most fun beer people to hang out with, and is also one of the most hospitable. Buy her a beer next time you see her!
Sunday was our last day in Portland, the day we pulled up stakes and headed back to Bend. On the way back, we stopped in Government Camp at the Ice Axe Grill, home of Mt. Hood Brewing, for a light lunch—and a beer of course. In addition to the seasonal Kristall Weizen I enjoyed the “Four Little Piglets”, pulled pork sliders from the starter menu. They hit the spot just right for the ride home.
And Mt. Hood Brewing is bottling their Ice Axe IPA now; I picked up two bottles to bring back and review. All in all I brought back nearly a case of beer (a 12-pack bomber case, not the 24-pack case), and memories of a great beercation in Beervana. (Though make no mistake it wore me out!)