I recently traveled with four friends to Portland, Oregon on a beer trip. Three of us (Slander, Ken, & me) flew in late Wednesday night. I watched the movie American Beer on my Mac on the plane – a very entertaining film that I highly recommend all craft beer lovers watch. Check out the website for a clip. It was the perfect way to start a beer trip. Davo met us at the hotel (as he had been beering it up in California and Seattle for the previous 5 days) with two chilled bottles from Baron Brewing Company in Seattle. The Helles Bock and Uber-Weisse weizenbock were both very nice – and perfect after the 5 1/2 hour flight! I preferred the helles, which was very clean with a nice caramel-toffee maltiness, lightly sweet, bittering a bit at the end – quite refreshing. The weizenbock was quality, but a bit too smoky for my particular tastes (I really respect the smoked beers, but just don’t love them). Our friend Jon picked us up the next day for our pub crawl. We started at John’s Marketplace, a beer/wine/grocery store. I had brought my friend Warren’s beer suitcase (a brilliant piece of luggage for anyone travelling with beer or wine or liquor) and filled it up with West Coast beers that can’t be found in NYC. We also picked up a few bottles to enjoy at the hotel, of course.
Back in the car and on to our first brewpub, New Old Lompoc. Located in Portland’s Northwest district, the current New Old Lompoc has been open since 2000 and brewing beer since 1996. Upon entering, a beautiful hop mosaic (created by one of the bartenders) above the bar caught my eye. We sat in the room to the right of the bar area – bare wood floors, casual chairs, tables, and booths, old pictures and ads on the walls, and a high shelf lined with beer bottles give this brewpub a comfortable, laid back feel. Slander and I split the sampler (key to making it through an all-day brewpub crawl) NOL brews eight of their own beers and features six guest tap. The sampler was $6.50 and included the seven in-house beers available and one guest, Caldera Dry Hop Orange. Our friendly waitress gave also gave us a sample of the Caldera Pilsener Bier. We tried the Fool’s Golden Ale, Parliament Red, Sockeye Cream Stout, Condor Pale Ale, Centennial IPA, Lompoc Strong Draft(LSD), and the C-Note. All excellent, but my favorites were the Sockeye (creamy, roasty, sweet, very smooth), the Condor (citrusy, biscuity, subtle yet tasty), and the LSD (malty, toasty, some smoke in the back, complex yet easy to drink). Both Caldera’s were also good. Slander and I split the French Dip(eating a bit at every place, another key to my lasting all-day), which was quite tasty – the gorgonzola used adds a whole new dimension. The house-made lemon basil vinaigrette on the accompanying salad was delicious. I admired the spacious back deck after I finished and the wall of hop vines growing back there. New Old Lompoc is a must for a Portland brewpub crawl.
Lucky Labrador Brew Hall was a short walk. The brew hall is a large, garage-style space, with a very long back counter where you order and pick up your beer and food. A terrific hand-drawn chalkboard behind the counter displays the beers available. 1/4 pint samples are $1.25 each – Slander and I ordered five and took a seat at the family-style tables. We tried the Hellesaurus Rex, Crazy Ludwig’s Alt, Stumptown Porter, Wheat Stout, 5-ton Strong, Bike Route Rye, and Triple Threat on nitro (thanks to Jon for sharing). My favorites were the Hellesaurus (sweet maltiness, a bit grainy, clean), the 5-ton (intense citrus/pine/floral hoppiness and sweet clean maltiness in the aroma and flavor), and the Triple Threat (all piney/citrusy hoppiness with some sweet maltiness to back it up). A bowl of roasted peanuts was eaten. Lucky Lab also has a side room with more seating and a nice outside area (complete with hop vines and recycled keg planters). Darts are available as well as a few board games. A cool place.
Another short walk brought us to Laurelwood NW Public House. Set in a lovely house built in 1902 with wood floors, a fireplace, natural lighting, and a great color scheme (golds, oranges, brick reds) the public house is a cheerful, charming place. A hand-written chalkboard by the bar displays the available beers (brewed at their other two locations). Slander and I again split the sampler, 8 beers for $8.00. We enjoyed the Mother Lode Golden, Ettinger Amber Bier, Organic Free Range Red, Organic Tree Hugger Porter, Space Stout, Hooligan Brown, Piston Pale Ale, and Boss IPA. All were excellent, but my favorites were the Hooligan Brown (toasty melanoidins with coffee in the back), Tree Hugger (toasty with some roast, malty, bittering a bit at the end), and Space Stout (roasty coffee aroma and flavor, dry, licorice in the back). We also enjoyed an order of the garlic fries (delicious). The Public House also has an upstairs seating area with an outdoor balcony as well as a front deck. The service was excellent. Laurelwood is another must when in Portland.
A drive across the river brought us to Amnesia Brewing.
Set in a converted warehouse, Amnesia’s high ceilings, wood bar, chalkboards, and varnished picnic tables under a large outside tent give it an eclectic and laid-back vibe. We again split the sampler and took a seat outside. We drank the ESB, Summer Ale, Dusty Trail Pale, Desolation IPA, Copacetic IPA, plus the Laurelwood Porter, as they were out of theirs. All were drinkable, but we found them to be quite similar in taste. My favorites were the ESB (more hoppy than a traditional one) and the Copacetic (Amarillo goodness). We also shared a hearty sausage appetizer, which included 2 sausages cooked on the outdoor grill, bread, cheese, and pickles. I was digging the board welcoming Oregon Brew Fest attendees (especially since we were going the next day). Amnesia has free wi-fi and an altogether chill feel.
Our last brewpub of the day was the all-organic Roots Brewing Company. Decorated in the spirit of the islands, Roots has green walls hung with interesting artwork and island memorabilia, a wood bar with mini-surfboards for taps, and picnic tables – yet another cool place! Surprise – we split the sampler, 7 for $7.00. We supped the Gruit Kolsch, Burghead Heather Ale, Island Red, Exxxcalibur Stout, Roots Rye, Woody IPA, and Snake Bite. All were quite good, favorites were the Gruit (all herb/spice in the nose and on the tongue, ta-sty) and the Roots Rye (nicely spicy). Slander and I split the jerk rubbed smoked pork wrap, yum. Roots brews on-premises in side and back rooms. A marvelous place – free wi-fi, unusual beer styles executed well, all organic beers and good food. Another must-hit Portland brewpub.
Horse Brass Pub was our next destination. Wow – walking in, I felt like I was back in London (it reminded me a bit of Market Porter, actually). This is a fascinating place – the walls and ceiling practically drip with English paraphanalia, the L-shaped wood bar is massive, it’s a big place with a completely cozy feeling. Very English and way cool. Horse Brass features 55 taps and 5 cask ales. I ordered a glass of the Caldera Exotic Erotic Passion Fruit Ale (I needed something light at that point) – quite nice, very refreshing with a natural passion fruit flavor. I also tasted Slander’s Walking Man Cherry Stout, Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA, and Ninkasi Brewing’s Total Damnation IPA (we’re a sharing group). I didn’t order food here, but shared Ken’s Fish & Chips and Davo’s Scotch Egg. Everything was good. Yeah, you guessed it, another must-see.
A few blocks over to Belmont Station, which previously resided next door to Horse Brass. Belmont is both a beer bar and store. We entered via the bar room, and I promptly ordered the New Belgium Eric’s Lips of Faith Sour Peach (oh, yeah, a beautiful sour ale). Belmont Station has four drafts in the cafe and over 800 bottled beers and ciders, as well as wine and sake, in the store – an impressive place. We wandered around for a bit, picking up a few more bottles and some English chocolates. Nifty place.
Concordia Ale House was our last stop of the evening. We walked into a room that felt a little like a giant shoebox, then back into the sophisticated yet intimate bar area. The high ceiling and shelves of extra tap handles on the right wall are nice touches. We chose our beer (22 taps and a lot of bottles in a glass-front cooler behind the bar) and retired to the the long and narrow side game room (pool tables and several arcade games). I chose the Deschutes 19th Anniversary Golden Ale, their first Belgian-style ale. I found it imperfect but drinkable, a nice fresh fruitiness but a lot of alcohol heat and a bit rough around the edges, which will probably change with age (everyone else either liked it or hated it, interestingly). I ordered the enticing mussels appetizer (the rest of the food menu looked equally tempting) and ate while the guys played games. Sated, stuffed, and completely satisfied with the Portland pub scene, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
1616 NW 23rd Ave
Open M-Sat 11 am-1 am, Sun 11 am-midnight
2 other Portland locations: The Hedge House and 5Q
Lucky Labrador Brew Hall
1945 NW Quimby
Open M 11am-10 pm, Tu-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-10 pm
2 other Portland locations: Lucky Lab Brew Pub and Lucky Lab Public House
Laurelwood NW Public House
2327 NW Kearney St
M-Sun 11 am-11 pm
2 other Portland locations: Laurelwood Public House & Brewery and Laurelwood Pizza Co
832 N Beech St
M-Thu 2 pm-11 pm, F-Sun noon-midnight
Roots Brewing Company
1520 SE 7th
M-Th 3 pm-11 pm, F 3 pm-midnight, Sat noon-1 am, Sun noon-10 pm
Horse Brass Pub
4534 SE Belmont
M-F 11 am-2:30 am, Sat & Sun 10 am-2:30 am
4500 SE Stark St
store hours: M-W 10 am-10 pm, Th-Sat 10 am-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm
cafe hours: M-W noon-10 pm, Th-Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm
Concordia Ale House
3276 NE Killingsworth St
M-F 11:30 am-2:30 am, Sat 9 am-2:30 am, Sun 9 am-midnight
(All in Portland, Oregon)