Tag Archives: Belmont Station

You can never drink the same beer twice

Beer Craft?

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).

 

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Back to Beervana

Just got back from another road trip to Portland or Beervana as it has been dubbed by the mayor (you know your town is pretty cool when the establishment okays a city nickname with beer in it) where I got to sample a variety of new draught and bottled beers. Rather than attempt to recount the details of all my imbibing I have decided to highlight some of my favourites.

First stop was Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) where my partner and I sampled a bicycle hub filled with their ten most current brews –this included six of their regular line-up and four special ales; two new reds the Galactic Imperial and the Rise up Red, a robust Belgian the Muscles from Brussels and the Pick-a-thon IPA. Our favourite was the Galactic Imperial Red, a hoppy 100+ IBU ale with a nice almost sour malt quality to it.

Next day was the Green Dragon Pub, which boasts and impressive Front 20 and Back 30 beers on tap. We tried six samples, which included Rogue Creamery Ale, Green Dragon Quadrupled, Ninkasi Radiant Summer Ale, Full Sail Saison a Pleine Voile, Russian River Consecration and Caldera Dry Hop Orange. The hands-down winner of these six was the Rogue Creamery Ale a strong brown ale with a subtle burnt cafe au lait aftertaste. Across the road at Cascade Brewing Barrel House we sampled Nightfall, Pre-Buorbonic, Apple Pie and Honey Rye Ginger. Tough call on this one so I will award a tie to the Pre-Bourbonic and the Honey Rye Ginger, which were both amazing sour ales but for very different reasons; Pre-Bourbonic was strong and sweet with a porter like quality to it while the Honey Rye Ginger was an awesome balance of sweet and spice on the palate. Both of these sours tempered their tartness with robust but complementary elements.

On to Deschutes Brewery & Public House where we got a little carried away with another dozen samples. Cascade Ale, Gluten Free NW Pale Ale #29, Twilight Ale, Bourbon Murder, Black Butte Porter (Casked), Imperial Hop in the Dark (Casked), Armory XPA, Deschutes Brewery Hefeweizen, Conflux 2, La Cycliste, Hop-in-the-Dark and Obsidian Stout. Bit of a two-way tie here as well. The Conflux 2, a collaboration with Boulevard Brewing Company, is white IPA, which marries the spice of a nice hefeweizen (coriander, orange, lemongrass) with the robust hop of a northwest IPA. The Bourbon Murder (okay so I think is actually the better of the two) is a bourbon casked stout with the most amazing vanilla nose followed by a send-you-to-heaven chocolate and coffee mouthfeel. It actually lacks the heft of some stouts but keeps the prominent liquor taste making it creamy and easy to drink …yum!

Last but not least we complimented any lulls in our pub crawl by stocking up at the amazing Belmont Station Beer Store, which boasts a mere 1201 BEERS. You know the expression kid in a candy store well I think grown-up in a beer store is equally apt. We found way too many beers several of which actually made it back to BC with us but some of which only made it as far as our hotel room. Armed with a box of voodoo donuts we sampled (bottle sized samples) Russian River Redemption Blond Ale, Baird/Ishii/Stone Brewing Japanese Green Tea IPA, Russian River Salvation Dark Ale and Maredsous Triple. This might not be shocking to those who have read any of my previous posts but the winner here was the Russian River Blonde. A sweet, nutty ale with a lot of carbonation. It had a pungent yeasty nose and but tasted surprisingly light. The mouthfeel was almost creamy. Amazing gold colour, hazy with a ton of head, I can never say enough about the quality of beers this brewery is producing.

Trending in Portland Radlers, beers mixed with lemonade or lemon/lime soda, and bourbon casked ales …Stay tuned for reviews on the rest of the beers I liberated from Beervana.

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