So another year ends marked by yet another trip to my favourite beer city Portland, Oregon. I visit so often that I worry one day I will become bored with the beer scene but this is just not the case and let me try to tell you why.
The adage goes “you can never step into the same river twice” and I like to think this outlook applies to craft beer drinking as well. Just like a river is always changing you will never drink the same beer twice for any number of reasons. On the most superficial of levels brew pubs are forever mixing up their menus bringing in the new, running dry of the old, changing equipment etc., and new breweries and tap houses are always emerging onto the scene. Looking at this truism from another perspective brewers, well craft brewers anyways, pride themselves on their inability to recreate the same ale over and over. Any number of external variants can affect the final taste of beer and this is a good thing. Like wine some beers have good years and they have less-than-stellar years. Tried and true beers often form the basis of a new flavoured ale, a casked ale or even a collaboration between breweries. If you want to get really philosophical you can also approach this as you will never be the same person at two different points in your life; your tastes will change, your circumstances will change, your worldview will change and so forth – I know I am not the same person I was when I started drinking craft beer so why would I prefer the same brews. What does all this rhetoric mean in real life? Well when I go to Beervana I visit the new and revisit the old to make the most of my beer-cation. Here are some of my Portland highlights:
The Belmont Station Bier Café had both Don the Younger and Pliny the Elder from Russian River on tap. Don the Younger was especially exciting since it was brewed exclusively for the 35th Anniversary of the Horse Brass Pub. Don the Younger is a hoppy, lemony American Bitter with pine on the nose, large white head, lots of carbonation, sweet lemon mouthfeel and bitter aftertaste. Finding Pliny the Elders to take home in the adjacent Belmont Station Beer Store was equally exciting.
Visiting the Horse Brass Pub for the first time. Not the greatest menu unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Brit (bangers and mash anyone?) but definitely a pub that knows their beer. Our server seemed shocked that we could even contemplate drinking in taster glasses (beer comes in something other than pint glasses?). Our server used to be a brewer himself so despite the many changes in beer availability he could offer a myriad of alternatives based on your taste preferences. Did I mention more Russian River on tap?
Beer Shopping. There are so many beer stores here but I swear there seems to be variation between them all. Loading up the trunk with a selection of hard to find (or impossible to find) ales to reinforce my beer stockpile is incredibly fulfilling. Stone and Russian River always top the shopping list but I also found a number of Oregon-unique ales like Hopworks Kolsch, Full Sail Imperial Porter and Rogue Double Chocolate Stout that made their way back across the border. Stone Levitation Ale and Stone/Dogfish/Victory Saison du Buff didn’t make it past the hotel room bar fridge.
Drinking through a sampler tray at the BridgePort Brew Pub. Not my favourite beers of the trip but an amazing lively atmosphere at the brew pub, beautiful location in a brick heritage building in the Pearl District, and tons of inventive pub grub options at super reasonable prices especially during happy hour -tofu fries with spicy cashew dipping sauce? Vegan perfection.
(Re)visiting Deschutes Brew Pub for consistently good beer and good food. The folks at Deschutes are constantly mixing it up in the beer front and this time around I got to sample their new Red Chair Ale (casked and regular), Orange Cream Ale, Menagerie Sour, Chainbreaker and Hop-u-py. The casked version of the Red Chair was the clear favourite of the night. Another great environment to drink in, always bustling, great location and incredible service. Here I first came across the concept of “nitro” beers; beers that change up the usual gas used for dispensing draft. Not sure I could tell the difference but the server swore it gave the beer a smoother taste. Bonus for the cool holiday decorations (see first picture in this post).