I spent just over 48 hours in Portland, Oregon this past weekend.My beer count was 45 different beers (maybe 49, it got fuzzy at times) while I was there. Normally, Portland is a city to be savored, just as their beers should be enjoyed both in moderation and at leisure, but this was a rather different trip. More on that next week. Suffice it to say that I made it my mission to try as much beer as I could when I didn’t have other commitments.
Where to begin? As soon as I was baggage free on Friday night, I hopped onto the Tri-Met to Fat Head Brewing where I enjoyed two samplers of their beers. That’s 10 different beers in all. I was impressed by their extensive lineup (sixteen beers on tap) and, of the beers I tried, I liked the Bone Head Red the best. It’s a very smooth drinking red ale that has a solid hop bite that manages to hide the 9% alcohol by volume. Among the other standouts were the Thunder Gnome Belgo-American IPA (7% ABV) which for all its Belgian-style spiciness actually had a nearly Hefewiezen clove / sweet combination that made it very appealing. I was also impressed by the Head Shrinker, which was a toss up between Imperial IPA and blonde Barleywine at 9.2% ABV, which was well masked by the hearty malt backbone and ample hops.
Portland is a very walkable city and I managed to meander my way back across the river for a good night’s sleep so that I could pick up the next day (after a mid-day service I attended) at Cascade Barrel House. If you like sours, this should be your first stop and you may never leave. Again, I was drinking the samples which they dispense two at a time.
Among the fruit flavors I tried were apricot, blackberry, elderberry and cherry. They also had their wine and bourbon barrel aged beers, of which their Chocolate Bourbonic was nothing short of amazing. Balanced between the sourness, the chocolate / roast notes of the porter it’s based on, and the bourbon barrel aging, it was a rich and satisfying finish to my time there.
I then strolled to Base Camp Brewing where I was immediately intrigued by their S’Mores Stout … complete with roasted marshmallow! But before I could indulge in that, I needed to try a few more samples.The delightful Lost Meridian Wit was a fragrant and hoppy wonder. Still light in body, the perfumy nose was floral, tart and sweet all wrapped up together. When I finally did get to the S’Mores Stout, it was perfectly complimented by the roasted marshmallow clinging to the rim of the glass. Deep chocolate and just a hint of roast were the perfect offset to the sweet caramelized skin of the marshmallow.
After Base Camp, I headed over to Burnside Brewing and was staggered by the 13 beer sampler I was faced with there. It was only 52 ounces in all… Piece of cake, right? Thankfully I had chatty (and thirsty) neighbors at the bar whose curiosity about the beer soon had them asking to try a sip for themselves. Among the standouts there were an Ella hopped Cream Ale that was both sweet and hoppy at the same time and a habanero pepper tinged Hot Chocolate Stout that had notes of chocolate and a subtle back of throat heat from the peppers.
For breakfast the next day (which was closer to noon, to be fair) I hit Widmer’s Gasthaus for my last sampler of the trip. I was sorely tempted by the Old Embalmer barleywine, but managed to hold my ABV to under 10%, given the early hour. I revisited some old friends here, specifically the Altbier, which was rich and tasty and then indulged in some unique offerings like the Dampfbier (think a Hefewiezen with no wheat) and their collaboration with Deschutes, the AltBitter, a rye whisky barrel aged blend of an imperial Altbier and Bachelor Bitter brewed at double strength, which kept me under 10% at only 9.5%.After that, I had more events to attend but, needless to say, there was some Hair of the Dog Fred involved. More on that next week!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years. An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.