The Portland half of my Oregon Trip started at the NW Slabtown location of Breakside Brewing that had Empire Strikes Back playing on the waiting area TV. So mood bettered, I chose to get the sampler tray featuring collaborations and it had a list of heavy hitters: Alesong, Fremont, The Rare Barrel, Sunriver and the new Gorges Beer Co. Of the beers only the Hazelnut Super Stout struck an off chord. The Fremont collab was just too sweet for me. The Winner by a nose was the Gorgeous George Pale Ale that was just right. Most of the beers were hoppy but also in the 5% range as well.
The next brewery stop was a late night visit to Wayfinder where I had their coffee version of Devil’s Hand, Hidden Hand. Man, that aroma should be bottled. That was good coffee there and the black lager mixed perfectly with it. If not my favorite overall beer then it was a close # 2.
The next day was wine related but a visit to Hair of the Dog was snuck in. I vacillated between their special wood-aged beer and their special concrete-aged beer. HotD has an egg shaped fermenter that they use that is not their traditional barrel. I went for Fred since I wasn’t in an Otis Oatmeal stout mood, but after a few sips of the heavy coconut and burn from the Fred, I wish I had. It was good but fits into that, 5 ounces would have been fine category.
Other beers were had but that will be detailed in a later post.
The final featured Portland brewery of November is Bent Shovel.
They had to make some location moves recently but have found a taproom home for now. Here is what I would order from their tap list:
Leafwalker Red Ale – “Enjoy our Leafwalker Red ales rich maltiness, deep amber colors and the aroma of orange peel and honeysuckle.”
TreCent IPA – “The latest in our “Tre” series of single hop IPAs, TreCent features Centennial hops from the Willamette Valley used 3 different ways in the crafting of this delicious IPA. TreCent shows off Centennial’s versatility, melding ample citrus flavors with this beer’s malt backbone.”
One Wagon Pilsner – “Our take on a classic German Pilsner. Named for the rope operated ferry across the Clackamas River. Ultra pale straw in color, this crisp and light lager is smooth with aromas of German hops and malt with just a touch of bitterness to balance the maltiness.”
Uncle Schwarz Dunkel – “A distinctly Dunkel inspired copper lager, Uncle Schwarz is made with lots of Munich malt to deliver it’s distinct, complex malt flavor reminiscent of toasted bread and very light hops. We broke from tradition to deliver this deliciously crisp, light-bodied, deep copper lager.”
I was sold when I saw that both brewing and blending was in the name of Threshold which is out near Mount Tabor. This is your typical Portland beer spot. Firmly in a neighborhood and not consigned ton industrial park. You have the picnic table seating and the children’s play area too.
I sampled five beers on their T emblazoned taster tray. Interestingly, they use a Grisette as the base for barrel aging. I tasted it, Jens as well as the whiskey version. Both were excellent and pretty much different beers. The other standout was the Brut Punch Tart IPA which really hit the drinkability and had a nice combo of tart and hop. The Pilsner and blood orange IPA were solid as well.
Located on 17th Street near the Max Line that leads to Milwaukie is new Portland darling, Ruse Brewing. The brewery is one tenant in this new development and despite my misgivings about their logo not really conveying much, I do like the space. If you sit in the center of the bar, instead of staring at taps and a cold box, you have a view into the brewery. I noticed that it is one of the few taprooms where the bartenders had more elbow room.
Beer wise, I had one of the prettiest beers in recent memory. Love & Lore was a lovely rose color and this tasted of cherry pie with a small touch of Pinot tannin. The base was a golden sour so it led with fruit and followed with a gentle sour. The Grizzly porter was quite nice, it cut the November chill and was my second favorite. I had two IPAs. One hazy and one that they describe as bright. The Bright or West-Coast Facts of Identity was my preference due to a pineapple taste that was really nice.
Portland has not blazed out of the NBA gates to start the season but a brewery that has gotten a lot of buzz is Ruse Brewing. Founded by Shaun Kallis and Devin Benware they are deep into the yeast having “custom Brett strains called Stargazer and Suburban Brett”
Here are the beers that I would put into a first taster tray…
Evertide Helles Lager, Phantom Shore Citra Extra Pale Ale, Dreamscape Blended Saison, Dream Language Vienna Lager and Stages of Sundown Imperial Stout.
Some may be tired of the 16oz can world we live in but when it is utilized by places like Hair of the Dog or another Portland Brewery, Little Beast, it opens up many possibilities. Granted both Wolf Camp Saison and Hot Break Sour are “hoppified” in line with expectations from the packaging in customers minds, I hope to see something even wilder in future seasonal releases.
I am a sucker for beer history. Maybe since I have been blogging about craft beer for just about ten years now, I have seen fads and trends pass, breweries come and go and morph into new forms. But I still want to know more. What happened on the brewdecks and the sales calls and the places in between.
The Widmer Way by Jeff Alworth has the added bonus of being set in Portland (AKA Beervana) at the dawn or very early morning of craft beer. The best service that this book provides is to transport the reader back to those bootstrap start-up days and show that Widmer Bros. becoming what it is today wasn’t a sure bet.
The tale begins at the first brewery that Rob and Kurt put together and details the major part that their father had to play in keeping the brewery going that only a real handyman could and then tracks the brewery from their initial Alt bier to the flagship Hefe that the brewery is now known for.
You also read up on the strategic partnership with Anheuser-Busch and how the brothers were admired by the patriarch of the clan. Certainly a much different time for the now foreign owned beer giant. What follows is the eventual formation of the CBA – Craft Brewers Alliance. Both of these financial moves set a precedent for breweries to either use or reject in the future.
I do wish that the book was longer. It is a common complaint of mine, I know. But I would like to have learned more about the Brewers who followed the brothers. Or more about the Widmer’s place in the shifting landscape of Portland beer. I guess more about the beer in general.
Overall though, the writing is sharp and precise and never veers into boring history. Alworth has a firm grasp on each sentence, paragraph and chapter.
And by the end, you will want to drink a Widmer Hefeweizen, maybe with a lemon.
Back to Oregon for the next holiday ale entrant. PermaFrost from Burnside Brewing. The Portland brewery describes the beer like this: “NW Winter ale brewed with 7 different malts and copious amounts of Meridian and Amarillo hops pillowed in the middle to give this warming brew a chewy complex malt body and a unique fruity juicy hoppiness throughout.”
Thanks to industrious workers at Wiegand Family Distribution, we will be getting some more Portland beer here in Los Angeles. This time from….
Little Beast has roots in Logsdon Ales and is earning a great reputation. I have yet to have one of their “wild, wood-aged and blended beer” but I am looking forward to when I see a bottle on shelves here.
Bes, in particular caught my eye…”Bes / Tart Wheat Ale. Brewed with Belgian malts, Lemon Drop Hops and chamomile flower then fermented with a blend of unique Saccharomyces yeast and conditioned with Lactobacillus. Juicy, bright and balanced. Notes of pineapple and citrus.”