When I moved to Northeast Portland in the latter days of the last century, the quadrant had many virtues. Among them was not, however, a surfeit of good beer. Things have changed. Over the weekend, I visited the formerly-barren stretch along Williams Avenue now inhabited by Lompoc Brewing's Fifth Quadrant and Sidebar. I wanted to get a pour of that brown ale braggot while it was on tap.
Digression>> The Sidebar rocks. I'm almost reluctant to mention this, because on the two ocassions I've visited, it's been nearly empty. While that's a lousy business model, it's fantastic for cranky hermits like me. The space has been imbued with the aura of a medieval pub. Barrels of aging beer line the walls (through and open doorway, you can see a cask warehouse stretching off into the darkness), a fire crackles merrily on one wall (even in the summer!), and very little light manages to sneak in. It is going to be a real balm to the suffering soul round about November. Oh, and they have a taplist comprised entirely of specialty, barrel-aged beers, always rotating.
Digression >> The braggot rocked. It was a delightfully dry, spicy variant totally unlike the Widmer's, the only other braggot I've ever tasted. Where the Brothers' was bright and light-bodied (though stiff), Lompoc's was darker and more comforting (though also stiff). I picked up a couple of 9-dollar 22s, and learned there were plenty more. That's quite a value for such a rare beverage (despite my encouragement, it seems unlikely they're going to go through the effort to make another batch), and well worth your shekels.
The street along Williams has really exploded, so we took a stroll to see what was shaking. It's amazing how quickly a neighborhood can be remade, and the complex across the street housing the much-lauded Lincoln Restaurant looks like it's been there for decades. We passed Lincoln and headed on to Eat, an Oyster Bar, which was charming enough that we decided to dine there. What a find! The ambiance is fantastic, and it turned out the food was, too. Sally had a light, elegant jambalaya, and I had the fiery gumbo.
But here's the interesting part (talk about burying the lede): they had a fantastic tap list. Just four beers, but so well-selected: Trumer Pils (always solid with food), Double Mountain Vaporizer (intensely-hopped, but not overwhelmingly so), Upright Five (a maltier alternative to the hoppy Vaporizer, and BridgePort Hop Czar (okay, this isn't such a great choice to accompany food). After an agonizing decision, I went for the Vaporizer, which turned out to be the perfect accompaniment for the gumbo. The spicy challenger hops found some kind of kinship to the gumbo's pepper--like two lost cousins finding each other unexpectedly.
The final step in Oregon's evolution to full beer nirvana is finding exceptional, well-selected beer at good restaurants. We should expect to find beer selections designed to accompany the menu--not just three or four of the best-selling beers. This is a hopeful sign that the transition is underway. Kudo's to Eat.