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Friday, July 29, 2011

Oregon Brewers Fest First Reax

The first day of the fest is down, and the second is about to commence. I have some bits and pieces, pics, and even a video to share with you. I'm not alone. John Foyston has coverage (story, pix), as do Angelo, Brady, Jon, and Sanjay.

Now, to the fest. When you take into account the number of sniffs and sips I had from my own beers and those of friends, I managed to sample a pretty broad selection of the beers yesterday. A few that really stood out were these:
  • Ninkasi Helles Belles. This beer is designed to mislead. You want to read the name as "hell's" bells, but it's actually a Munich helles (pr. hell iss, not hels). You assume it's going to be an ale, a hop bomb, a booming Ninkasi beer. Instead, it's a classic helles and the beer that stood head and shoulders above others for me at the fest. A beautifully elegant beer with delicate, soft malts and peppery hopping, crisp and refreshing. It may be the most accomplished beer Ninkasi has ever brewed, and that's saying something.
  • Rock Bottom Zombie Flanders. Van Havig has brewed a Flanders Red called Ned Flanders in the past, and I don't know--but I assume--that this is one of those. Thus the Zombie. But whatever its provenance, the beer is exceptional: slightly sweet, almost chocolatey malts and a sharp, true sour.
  • Boulder Hoopla Pale. Colorado beers take some heat for their lack of hop character in these parts. But David Zuckerman, who cut his teeth at BridgePort before moving east, has put plenty of hop richness into this beer. A great hoppy session.
  • Goose Island Pepe Nero. This is an unusual beer, a peppery dark saison. It's the kind of beer that seems a little one-dimensional at first sip, but which deepens to reveal further layers as you sip. A ruminative pour.
  • New Holland Golden Cap: Speaking of peppered sasions, here's a blond example. Maybe it's the pepper: again, at first I was slightly put off by the beer, which had an astringency that seemed a bit pushy to me. But after a couple sips, it developed into a tang that I started to appreciate and then crave.
There were other interesting experiments I'd say were slightly misguided. Widmer's Foggy Bog Cranberry Ale could have used less cranberry and more ale; Dogfish Head's Black and Red featured both mint and raspberry--and the mint was too much of a weird thing. Finally, Elysian's Idiot Sauvin, made with Nelson Sauvin hops. Some people taste human sweat (me, Jon Abernathy), others get wonderful tropical fruits. In Elysian's, I got both.

Of course, there were lots of other great beers, some which others were raving about. That's the beauty of beer: its diversity pleases all palates. So sample broadly. I will leave you with some sights and video of the Fest.

A McMenamin Hammerhead escorts the ceremonial cask.

I shot this from my still camera and I don't know how to turn it off--so the end is bad. Sorry!

Organizer Art Larrance and parade dignitary Fred Eckhardt.

A rare sighting of Brian McMenamin.

The ceremonial tapping of the keg. (Again, a problem at the end of the vid by the videographer.)

Ninkasi co-owner/brewer Jamie Floyd.

Goose Island master brewer Brett Porter (an alum of both Portland/MacTarnahan's and Deschutes)

Random Bits: Lompoc and Cascade

I'm in the midst of an OBF post, but here are a couple tidbits I thought I'd pass along. First, from an email from Lompoc, announcing their 15th (!) anniversary:
The anniversary party may be a swan song of sorts - demolition of the New Old Lompoc is rumored for 2012 to make way for apartments and upscale retail. To Lompoc fans, this will be a blow to the neighborhood; enjoy every bit of it while it lasts.
Well that's not good. I mean, it's a Red Sox pub!

Next, because I worry you won't have enough beer options, I would like to point this out:
Cascade Brewers & Blenders have opened the vaults! This Thursday through Saturday from 3 to 10 pm, there will be a second bar on the production side of the Cascade Barrel House where we'll be serving vintage and/or original Bourbonic Plague, Vlad the Imp Aler, Noyeaux and Beckberry. There is only one keg of each beer per day. When the vintage runs out, we'll fill in with the new versions of the Nouveau Noyeaux, Pre-Bourbonic and various other vintage drafts like 2009 Kriek and Apricot, and possibly a few others. This will be a cash only bar, and all beers will cost $7 per 8-oz glass.
I don't know if they're going to actually let you wander the cask room, but maybe they will. If so, I highly recommend it. If not, I highly recommend it.

Friday Flick: Fuller's Past Masters

This odd, cool, deeply wonkish video is worth your investment of ten minutes. Fuller's had the rather brilliant idea to reproduce beers from an archive of over 100 years of recipes. The idea almost certainly came from the work of a certain blogger (blogs, as you know, will save us) who has spent years poring through the tight scribblings in ancient brewing logs. But credit Fuller's for not only following Ron's lead and acting on the trove, but endeavoring to create a beer as close as is humanly possible to a 100+ year-old beer. (I especially like the reference to Oregon in the piece.)

If you'd like more background than the video provides, have a look at Ron's post on the subject.

For all the great beer America now brews, we have very little continuity to the old days. Yuengling, maybe, could do something like this, but not many more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gone Festing

Today begins the Oregon Brewers Festival, our annual Super Bowl of beer. It starts with a parade through downtown, a ceremonial tapping of the OBF cask, and four days of sun-soaked beer tasting on a green ribbon between the Willamette River and downtown Portland. Fred Eckhardt will lead the parade, which he probably should do every year--he is the patron saint not only of the Portland beer community, but good beer in general.

I will be tweeting pics and comments throughout the day, as no doubt will scores of other folks. Watch for the #OBF hashtag to check in on the happenings. (But I can give you a sneak preview: beer, smiles, sun, whooping.)

See you there--

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brewing Companies and Brewery Names

The British have a very cool practice of naming their breweries. Bateman's calls theirs the Salem Bridge Brewery. Greene King's is Westgate. The most famous is the Griffin Brewery, where Fuller's beers are brewed. I think partly this is a vestige of history, and partly also because the British do things differently.

Still, it's very cool and American craft breweries should follow suit. Then they could say things like "Come visit Widmer Brothers Brewing Company at the Underbridge Brewery." Or whatever. It would be cool.

Oregon Brewers Fest By the Numbers

If imitation is flattery, consider this my "aw shucks." Three weeks ago, Sanjay beat me to this year's statistical punch, and I see in my media packet that a similar item is included. But superfluous though it may be, I was there first, and by god, I'm doing the annual numbers post. Note that 2010's numbers are listed in parentheses (a Beervana value-added feature) and none of these numbers include the 51 beers in the "buzz tent." Here we go.

Years since inception: 24
Total beers: 86 (81)
Total breweries: 86 (81)
States represented: 14 (16)
Percent Oregon: 53% (43%)
Percent California: 19% (22%
Percent Washington: 10% (9%)
All Others: 17% (26%)

Ale to Lager ratio: 8 to 1 (9 to 1)
Total styles (by broad category): 34 (27)
IPAs: 17%, 15 total (20%, 16 total)
Belgian styles: 16% (12%)
German/Czech styles: 17% (14%)
Well-represented niche* styles:
__- Pilsner: 4 (5)
__- Cascadian Dark Ale: 4 (NA)
__- Porter: 6 (NA)
__- Munich Helles: 2 (0)
__- Kolsch: 3 (2)

Beers using wheat: 19-ish%** (23%)
Beers using spices/adjuncts: 19% (15%)
Fruit beers: 10% (15%)

ABV of smallest beer (Riverport Blond Movement): 4.3% (4.0%)
ABV of largest beer (Dogfish Head Black and Red Imperial Stout): 10.3% (9.5%)
Beers below 5.5%: 34 (NA)
Beers above 7%: 27 (NA)
Fewest IBUs in Fest (Gilgamesh Mint Kolsch): 0 (0)
Most IBUs at the Fest (Lucky Lab Summit IPA): 103 (111)
Beers between 0 and 40 IBUs: 51 (NA)
Minimum years in a row 21st Amendment has brought Watermelon Wheat: 10 (9)

*Niche for Oregon, anyway. Your mileage may vary.
**Not every grain bill was available.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dead: MGD 64 Lemonade

What a stunning bit of news. Who could possibly have foreseen this?
MillerCoors' experiment with lemonade-flavored beer has fallen flat, with the brewer planning to pull MGD 64 Lemonade from the shelves. The limited-time offering debuted in May and had been planned to run through Labor Day. But the beverage, billed as "64 calories of crisp, refreshing beer with a lemonade twist," looks more like a lemon, with the brewer not pleased with the results.
You have to give Miller credit, though: at least they weren't playing it safe with Sally's Rule. This ties in with an early report of the company's efforts to sell British women a drink called Animee because it was:
[t]argeted at 24- to 34-year-old females.... The brew is somewhat similar to MillerCoors-owned Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, a seasonal summertime brew that has gained popularity among females.
I am willing to give the Animee experiment some latitude--it does seem like a genuine effort to sell beer. This was obviously a doomed venture that catered not to women beer drinkers, but non-beer drinking women.

The Changing Oregon Brewers Fest

The first edition of the Oregon Brewers Fest came in 1988, when micros enjoyed little cross-state distribution. The breweries were local and, by today's standards, few. As the fest aged, it became a showcase for national breweries we couldn't regularly get in Oregon. As it aged more, local breweries, unable to get a slot in the year's showcase event, organized alternative fests. They wanted to put the Oregon back in the OBF. I'm not sure which approach is best, but one thing that didn't change was the number of taps: it stayed at a rigid 72.

Then a few years back, the OBF decided it would try to grow with the times. The number of regular taps grew slightly (it's now 86) and it has steadily tilted back toward Oregon. Where few small, local breweries could ever have had a chance for a slot in 2005, now a bunch do--including one nano. And for the first time since I've been doing "OBF by the Numbers" (look for that tomorrow), Oregon breweries occupy more than half the taps (51%).

I think the other big change is a move toward specialty beers. In past decades, breweries saw the OBF as a chance to introduce Oregonians to a beer they were pushing in the market. They may have been great beers, but it takes a bit of the luster off a fest when the beers are available at the local Fred Meyer. This year Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Ninkasi, Elysian, Burnside, Oakshire, and Amnesia, and Deschutes (Widmer, too, but they've been doing that forever, bless their hearts) are pitching off-speed stuff.

Little fests started competing with the OBF several years back, and they regularly put together line-ups of better and more interesting beer. The OBF had a choice to make: accept its place as the fest for the masses, the giant kegger by the river, or tune things up and become relevant as the premier big event on the calendar. Good to see they've selected door number two.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Many Breweries ... ?

Stan Hieronymus, newly moved to St. Louis, writes:
The other day I had a quick keep-it-to-less-than-140-characters exchange with a professional brewer not in St. Louis. He asked, in view of the number of relatively new breweries and additional ones about to open here, how many I think the region can support. I copped out and answered I’m too new to town to guess.
Always keen to promote Oregon, I'll offer a few benchmarks. (Keeping in mind that no macro-breweries Portland/Oregon is different from notable macro St Louis/Missouri.) Based on our fair city (population 583,776, forty breweries) and state (population 3,831,074, ninety-one brewing companies), Stan's new home could support 22 breweries in St. Louis or 142 in Missouri. The actual numbers are 11 and 39 respectively.

In fact, it is nearly always the case that mental ceilings placed on the number of breweries a state can support or amount of craft beer it will buy are lower than totals already enjoyed in Oregon. More than 15% of the beer sold in Oregon is craft-brewed. If the rest of the US matched this mark, the volume of craft beer would be 30.6 million barrels sold--in 2010, the actual figure was 10 million. Maybe the rest of the country won't ever reach this point (though there's not a shred of evidence to suggest why), but clearly, it's got a lot of room to grow.

Sources: Oregon Brewers Guild for Oregon stats, Wikipedia for population stats, and Beer Me! and for Missouri stats.

My Grisette (and Breakside's)

Back in June, Breakside held a "collaboration fest"--though the collaborators were citizens, not other brewers. Well, not exactly citizens. One was world-famous beer writer John Foyston and another was world-famous beer writer Lisa Morrison. One was not SE-Portland known blogger Jeff Alworth. I sought to rectify this, and to his great credit, Breakside's brewer, Ben Edmunds, agreed.

That beer debuts this week, and we shall discuss it in due course. As it is the finest beer ever to have been brewed in this world or any other, you will want to take note. But first, and a bit more seriously, I wanted to describe the process, which was a joy. It's less a collaboration than an invitation--Ben encourages his collaborators to brew the beer of their bliss. His role is to use his experience to help craft the recipe and process.

On brewing day, you go down to Breakside and walk through every step, from measuring the grain to pitching the yeast. Ben and his newish assistant Sam help guide the process along, but it's very hand's-on, and you do as much hauling and clamping and washing as you're able. It all concludes with a particular test of brewing mettle. I won't describe it so that the next collaborator may experience it fresh. Suffice it to say that you will be judged against those that have come before. Even if you've homebrewed, it's an education. I was almost instantly asking questions like what the Breakside mill was set to. Ben is a born teacher, which makes the whole experience relaxed and fun.

The beer is a grisette--sort of. Historically, saisons were brewed at farmhouses to serve to workers. Grisette's ("little gray") were served to miners. Although the style died out, they were described as small, refreshing blonde ales that probably lacked the lactic acid that characterized their close cousin, saisons. In fact, what we brewed was more in keeping with farmhouse ales, or bieres de table. We were aiming for a rusticity of malt but a characterful beer that would come from a finicky saison yeast. For good measure, we wanted to add a bit of sour snap to evoke historical saisons, which would have been infected--and would have therefore been very thirst-quenching on a hot day at the farm. So call it a rustic small saision (petit saision?).

We used 65% pils and a dash of rye (about 2%), and the rest was split of wheat and spelt. We used a sprinkling of Spalt Ben just brewed Beach Saison using the Dupont strain, so we were able to harvest and repitch that yeast. Finally, we did a small post-fermentation sour mash to add just a touch of tartness. We were shooting for 1.035/9 P and a shade under 4%. That makes it Breakside's lightest ever--though only in alcohol. By luck, it also turned out to be Breakside's 100th beer.

When can you get this fine beer? Why right now, at the pub. (820 NE Dekum Street)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Open Thread Friday: Your Best Pales

I missed my open thread last week, which is probably fine--there are more weeks in the year than styles. Since most of the country is melting in the sun's vicious heat, let's try a nice, summery beer: pale ales. (For those new to the blog, these open threads are a way for met to hone in on some of the best examples of styles as selected by you--all in the service of a book I'm slowly writing.) The guidelines are the same: The beers need to be great examples to illustrate the style (and delicious), but also need to be relatively available to people who will read the book, and at least some of the beers have to be available in every region of the country. Finally, they should be regular, established beers that will still be in production when the book comes out.

In terms of pales, I'd like the classics for style--both in the US and abroad--but I'm not averse to a little improvisation. As I look at the state of pale ales, I see some evolution beyond the usual pale-with-a-dash-of-caramel-malt-and-Cascade-hopping versions. Exotic hops and the occasional fun ingredient, like passion fruit in Kona's Wailua Wheat. (I've got a few already in the pool of potentials, including Sierra Nevada and Mirror Pond).

Friday Flick: Kriek Kamp

Today's movie is, what else--Kriek Kamp. One of the campers put together this video and sent me the link. I'm not sure he wants me to use his real name, but you can check out his other videos at his YouTube channel. Cheers--

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beer Month Notes, With Pictures

And Oregon Craft Beer Month rolls forward, leaving tired livers in its wake. Notably, Puckerfest has delivered a tour de force of great beers, one that continues tonight when Block 15's Nick Arzner brings a four-pack of his wonderful barrel-aged beers. If you haven't been to Puckerfest yet, definitely go. I've been really impressed with the pricing structure; it encourages you to get many small pours. Many of these beers are exceedingly rare, so Belmont Station could be charging a mint. Anyway, I've been sipping and snapping (pics) of beers as I go along, and here are a few highlights.

Flat Tail Corvaller Weisse
I have now tried exactly one of Dave Marliave's Flat Tail beers, which looks impressive when you compare it to the previous total (100% increase!). At some point I'll make it to Corvallis and do a proper survey. In the meantime, I was quite pleased with the Corvaller Weisse he brought for Puckerfest. Just 3.6%, it was a great example of how flavorful small beers can be. Lots of lactic tart with a wheaty background, crisp and light, perfect for that summer we may one day get. A very nice example. Below are Dave and his beer.

BJ's Enfant Terrible
It's probably sends the wrong signal to call this a zombie beer, but I mean it only in the best sense: it's the last keg of a 2007 batch of brett-aged beer made by Vasilios Gletsos when he was at BJ's. (There's another zombie at Puckerfest, Roots' Epic.) Sometimes aged beers get mellower, sometimes they don't. Brettanomyces is not a gentle yeast, and it has roughed this beer up pretty good. Still, I enjoy tastes of the past. Plus, it was purty.

Upright Lambicus Six and Blend Love
Four Uprights were pouring last night, but two were aged in gin barrels. Let us speak no more about that. (Gin fans should consult Nicole, who likes a nice gin-soaked beer.) The two I liked were Blend Love, the kind of sour that brings folks together, and Lambicus Six, which divides them. Blend Love was a toothsome mixture of tart and sweet, shot-through with rich, summery fruit flavor (raspberries, cherries, and strawberries). Lambicus Six, made with the rye-based Upright Six and aged with a lambic blend, was deeper, funkier, and much more sour. Some of the sour-heads were giving it a big smile, others wrinkling their noses. I smiled.

Breakside Beach Saison
This is not a Puckerfest beer, nor is it sour. Rather, it's a pretty traditional Dupont-style saison made with Dupont's yeast. (A yeast Breakside's Ben Edmunds and I used in a Grisette collaboration I'll tout heavily next week.) This is a classic saison: rich with tropical fruit flavors, crisp, dry, and moreish. It's a fantastic beer, and I could drink gallons of the stuff.

Deschutes White IPA (But Not That One)
Before last night's Timbers game (another topic about which we shall not speak), I stopped in at Deschutes to see what was shaking. In addition to the usual goodies--a nice pils, Armory XPA, Black Butte XXXIII--they have a remarkable beer called Chainbreaker White IPA. This isn't the White IPA that came from the collaboration with Boulevard--still not released--but a milder, super tasty version. It's not remotely an IPA: nothing in it has even distant familial connections to that old style. Rather, it's a hoppy wit, or a spiced wheat pale, or something. It's a soft, delicate beer that has a spine of zesty hops that merge perfectly into the spices. I suspect they used sage in this recipe, as they did in the collaboration brew--in any case, my mind couldn't shake the connotation. It's one of the most interesting beers I've tried in a long time, a fusion brew that actually finds breaks new ground in tastiness, not just bizarreness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Attracting Women to Beer, Non-Beervana Edition

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that Molson Coors was releasing two new beers into the British market. It didn't strike enthusiasm into the hearts of Beervana's women--and no surprise. We've achieved near gender-blindness in our beer consumption here, and the idea of a light-bodied, low-carbonation rose-flavored beer seems a little condescending to women used to drinking toothsome saisons, stouts, and IPAs. But lest we get ahead of ourselves, it is worth considering the plight of the British scene. And Kristy, who commented on that post and works for the brewery, has:
The amount of beer drunk by women in the UK is just about the lowest of any beer drinking country in the world and 60% of women here don't drink beer ever. What's worse is as a beer industry we've effectively ignored women so the numbers should come as no surprise but we believe it's the right time to do something different.

Animee has been developed based on 2 years of research of over 30,000 women (beer & non beer drinkers) and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. What it does is offers real choice in the beer category for everyone - that to me has to be a good thing!!
If you think she doesn't have standing in the discussion, go read her profile and see what you think. Look, it's easy to dismiss macro lager as a lower form of beer--beer geeks do it every day. But it is in fact the beer most people drink by a very large margin. Even in Britain, industrial lagers have displaced the beloved pint of cask bitter as the beer of choice. More to the point, Molson Coors happens to brew industrial lagers, and it's a bit much to expect them to play outside their sandbox. They're trying to expand the market by reaching the half who ignore them. To play devil's advocate: where's the downside? This seems as much a cultural problem as a beer problem. If Molson Coors can make beer acceptable to women, isn't that a good thing? Then it's up to Fuller's to make bitter acceptable to them. Mock the product, but the intent? I'm less certain about mocking that.

A rising tide...

Martyn Cornell, speaking for the prosecution, dissents--by way of satire.

Indiginous American Brewing: the Double Mountain Example

Everyone needs to write a report about what they did over the summer, right? I went to Kriek Kamp. (No sing-a-longs or s'mores, but we did have the rough equivalent of the sixer of beer stashed in the creek.) The event was aimed at regular folk, not media (necessarily), and it revolved around making the annual Double Mountain Kriek. After a brewers dinner where we tried a vertical tasting of three commercial Belgian examples and the Double Mountain vintages--including the last three gallons of the '08--we went cherry picking and helped with the crush. In fact, mother nature was fickle this year, and brewer Matt Swihart's cherries weren't ready. So he brewed up a batch of porter, and the cherries we picked--at a nearby field--went toward sweetening it. The process was identical to the one they'll repeat in a week with the Kriek, though.

I wish every brewery did something like this. You get a very good sense of how a brewery runs, how the owners think about business, and how the brewer brews. From the outside, Double Mountain looks incredibly methodical. When they opened their doors, the menu was in place, they had a stellar line of beers ready, and Charlie Devereux almost instantly secured handles in Portland. They had really done their work, and they debuted like a five-year-old brewery. It was therefore really interesting to see that brewer Matt Swihart is more of an instinctive brewer. Some are improvisational, some methodical, some technical--Matt's instinctive. Charlie, meanwhile, was flexible and relaxed, despite having to orchestrate a new event with lots of changing, moving parts. It was like they invited us into their house, and it was a total blast.

Beyond the fun, though, Double Mountain is doing something rare and possibly unique in America, and Kriek Kamp brought it home. In the age of industrialization and globalization, every region is a good region to brew. That's actually a good thing--it means breweries have ready access to perfectly fresh, clean ingredients, and don't have to wait for the season to change before they can brew. But it also means most breweries are divorced from their own weather, their terroir.

Double Mountain is sited between Mounts Hood and Adams (hence the brewery's name), and in between them is one of America's premier fruit-producing regions. About ten minutes outside of Hood River, Matt owns forty acres cultivated largely in orchards. When he bought the land, it was planted with red delicious apples, but he replaced those with cherries, pears, and peaches--the former and latter with an eye to beer. (The orchard business surprised me on two counts: you can have a tree up and producing in 4-5 years, and fruit farmers regularly pull out trees and replace them with different ones.)

The idea of harvesting the cherries to go in the beer is both a throwback to a distant past in brewing, but maybe also forward-looking. One of the great contributions of craft brewing to the beer world--at least in the US--is the element of localness. The Northwest has a big advantage in this, since we have the hop fields so close. But breweries across the country have incorporated local ingredients into their beers (blueberries in Maine, maple syrup in Vermont, Door County cherries in Wisconsin). Even our practice of aging beers in bourbon barrels is purely American. I have long been fascinated by what it means to produce "indigenous" beer, and a central element is harnessing what's around you. Eventually, Matt hopes to use his peaches in a sour beer, and he is toying--not very seriously--with the idea of a perry.

I look forward to the day when there's a Peche Party to accompany Kriek Kamp. August, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Five Best

I am again finding blogging time short, so I'll direct you to Ezra's post on the five best summer beers (draft and packaged subcategories). Since his list is Oregon-specific, and since I see no sign of summer, I'd suggest Oakshire Overcast stout.

You might wish to weigh in with a more general list, or a list with international selections. There's no saisons, for example. A summer without saison is like a summer without sun.

Oh, wait...

(Also, while we're talking lists, I missed Zymurgy's best beers of 2011 compilation. It seems to suggest more about where Zymurgy's subscribers live than anything else.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Puckerfest, Women, and a PIB Follow-up

Quickly now, for I am short on time:

1. Molson Coors is rolling out a new beer for women: Animee. As the name suggests, it means "animated" or, perhaps, "enlivened." The virtues are three: 1) a "low-bloating" formula that apparently involves less CO2, 2) low bitterness, and 3) versions in plain, rose, and citrus. The company is also releasing a lighter, more lightly-carbonated beer called Carling Chrome, also aimed at women. Americanos, you're out of luck: the beers are only available in Britain, where apparently few women drink beer. I'm all for breweries catering to women for a change, but my question is this: do women clamor for these kinds of beers, and will it tend to ghettoize a strata of brew as "chick beers?"

2. It's Puckerfest at Belmont Station. Release the hounds. Tonight we have Flat Tail brewer Dave Marliave and three of his beers. Dave is apparently the new Nick Arzner, the guy who has managed to command the attention of beer geeks from his obscure brewery in Corvallis. This is one of the signature events of Craft Beer Month, and unlike some of the others, dog-eared in their predictability, Puckerfest remains on the cutting edge. Expect more exceptional beer than you can reasonably drink. (Unreasonable drunks are still in luck.)

3. PIB Wrap-up.
Speaking of predictable, the Portland International Beerfest was no less fun this year, but I was a little disheartened by the insane prices for bottled beer. The average for a four-ounce pour was about 3.5 tickets (SPE of $63). I have always been sanguine about this scheme, because I trust the bottles are pretty steeply priced. But I happened to notice that they were asking FOUR TOKENS for Orval, a beer that can be purchased at any grocery store for about six bucks. It made me distrust every other beer at the fest, and I stuck to beers I could get for no more than three tokens. Weirdly, the very rare Cantillon Iris was pouring for just three tickets.

(Another complaint that I and almost everyone there made: no water. That's just idiotic.)

Perversely, the exorbitant pricing schemes drove people to the domestic draft taps, where beers were cheap and extremely tasty. There was an 2008 imperial stout from Stone aged in Elijah Craig barrels that they were giving away for $2 a glass. Lompoc's 2010 vintage of Old Tavern Rat was a mere token (pint price: $4).

Nevertheless, I did walk away smitten. The Page 24 Hildegarde Blonde, a two-token biere de garde that was done by three on Saturday, was sensational. The actual name of the brewery is St. Germain, and the "page 24" thing comes from an apparently apocryphal reference in a book by the mystic Hildegarde of Bingen about beer. Hildegarde looked like clover honey in the glass. It had an herbal, wildflower aroma that carried over to the palate. It was a bit viscous but, amazingly, strangely light on he palate (I can't square that impossible paradox, either)--and it finished smoothly and crisply. It's a 6.9% beer, but packs a quality of moreishness unique to farmhouse ales. Apparently Belmont Station stocks their Ambree Reserve, so you might sidle over to the bottle side when you're at Puckerfest and score one.

Beervana's Best Pub Crawls: Division Street

Best pub crawls: Downtown | Southeast | Division St.| North

A lot of people come to Portland on vacation. A lot of them want good beer. Unfortunately, very few of them have the kind of time and money it would take to do a thorough tour. They--perhaps you--must therefore be choosy. But how? Look no further than your friendly neighborhood blogger. Below is the third in a series of neighborhood-based pub crawls that will take you through the best the city has to offer. Portland is most famous for its brewpubs, but Oregon has over a hundred breweries and counting. Today's crawl is ideal for the visitor more interested in an overview of Oregon beers than a survey of brewpubs. You will find a diverse list of beers from the three non-brewing pubs on this list, and you'll also get a rich sense of Beervana's beer culture--which includes a lot more than brewpubs.

Travel. From Victory Bar to Beermongers is 1.4 miles in a straight shot. It's not well-spaced out, though, and the distance between stops two and three is 1.2 miles. You have a handful of Portland-esque choices to navigate this distance: walking, biking, or busing. Busing is probably the best choice, because, as you'll see with stop four, you're going to be toting a lot of baggage with you by the end of things. It's easy-peasy, though: just catch the #4 Division bus downtown, and it will take you to stop #1 in just fifteen short minutes. After you exit stop two, you can choose to hop the bus between stops or walk. In any case, I recommend getting a $4.75 all-day pass for this crawl, that way you don't have to think about the bus; just hop on it when you're ready. (Click map to enlarge)

1. Victory Bar (3652 SE Division)
The Victory is not, truth be told, a beer bar per se. It's just one of Portland's best bars period, which, not surprisingly, has a small but well-selected taplist. The food's great--make sure you get something in your stomach--and the ambiance is a perfect mixture of relaxing, urban, and secretive. (You are on a beer crawl, so don't get distracted, but the cocktails are stellar, too.) I'm not alone in this assessment--it's killing on Yelp. It's also a nice way to get a sense of the scene in Portland. We're all about beer, but you know, we're not only about the beer.

2. Lompoc Hedge House (3412 SE Division)
There once was a bar in NW Portland called the Old Lompoc. Jerry Fechter bought it and turned it into a brewpub. Later, he did a full renovation and called it the New Old Lompoc, which you are welcome to take as a metaphor for Portland. Over the years, the Lompoc has expanded into a small collective of outposts ("chain" is not the right word). Hedge House is a 99-year-old bungalow on Division that has a great patio and the usual, tasty Lompoc beers. The brewery is known for muscular Northwest ales, which is also what the city's known for, so have a pint and see what you think.
Detour: Pix Patisserie. Before you get on any buses, consider walking next door to Pix Patisserie for one of the city's best desserts. The absolutely stunning concoctions coming out of the bakery include things like the Amélie, winner of a prestigious French pastry competion (brûlée atop mousse), the Jubilee (champagne mousse and strawberries), and a pear-rosemary tart. They also have wonderful bottled Belgian beers because, you know, it's Portland.

3. Apex Bar (1216 SE Division)
Apex is a fascinating manifestion of late-stage beer geekery of the kind found in very few cities. There are something like fifty beers available here, and they span the cream of the beer world's crop, including the extra-special beers from Beervana. There's a flat-screen TV above the bar that has minute-by-minute updates about what's on tap, sort of in the manner of off-track-betting screens with updated odds. The vibe is PBR cool--the bar, for example, is a repurposed shuffleboard bar. Yet they regularly stock some of the world's finest beers--Dupont, Rodenbach, Mort Subite, Weihenstephaner, etc. (This is the classic Portland high-low.) Apex also offers rare and/or most highly coveted beers from the West Coast. (Behold.) It is the best list in town, and I'd put it up against any list in the world. If you have the munchies, you must go next door to Los Gorditos for a burrito, but Apex smiles on this practice--they even encourage you to bring it back with you for a second pint.

4. Beermongers (1131 SE Division)
Your final stop is a bottle shop, located kitty-corner from Apex across Division. If you were enjoying a pint out on Apex's vast patio, you might have noticed it. In addition to bottles, Beermongers also has eight, always well-selected taps. You can grab a pint of draft while you peruse the large bottle selection. As the name implies, the folks running the store aren't just cashiers; they're beer sellers, and they can tell you about every bottle in the store. If you're looking to take a piece of Beervana back with you, here's the place to stock up.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Things that Make You Go "hmmm": Bing Cherries

I was pondering my three-day adventure at Double Mountain's Kriek Kamp this morning and began to consider the cherry at the heart of the enterprise. They are Bings, the most common cherry in America. Because of their ubiquity, I assumed they were an eastern fruit that, like so many other, found success thriving in the rich soil and long, sunny summer days of Oregon and Washington. That's mostly wrong, though.

The story starts out familiarly: an Iowan headed West with a wagon of fruit seedlings. He founded a nursery in Milwaukie (that's the suburb south of Portland, for non-Oregonians). But it was there that his foreman, Chinese born Ah Bing, crossed Iowan cherries with wild Oregon trees to produce the tree that now bears his name. I love everything about that story. I also love that the cherries used in the two varieties of Double Mountain's krieks are Rainier and Bings, both Pacific Northwest cultivars.

More cherry trivia. The fruit was not widely popular until recent decades. In the early part of the 20th century, people wanted maraschino cherries--mainly as ornaments for cocktails and desserts. As that article I linked to describes, maraschinos (which are truly gross) were "a cherry that has been bleached white then dyed red, impregnated with sugar, and packed in an almond-flavored syrup." Apparently "demand has softened" for them. Can't imagine why.

Here are a couple Bing-related photographs I took over the weekend.

Friday, July 15, 2011

In Hood River

In lieu of words, here are a few photos from our tour through the beer world in and around Hood River. (These are from the iPhone; it does a composite rendering of three photos, which gives them a strange look sometimes. Better photos, from my camera, are on the way.)

Charlie Devereux, regarding cherries that will go in a Double Mountain robust porter. (This isn't brewer Matt Swihart's orchard.)

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, outside of Hood River. Note actual farmhouse (that's the mash tun, lower left.)

If you're standing next to the mash tun looking out, this is your view. That's Mount Hood, for those outside Oregon.

Dave Logsdon, the man behind both Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and Wyeast Yeast Labs, went to enormous energy to import a cherry tree from Belgium back to the US. This is that tree. In five years, its descendants will be producing cherries for his ales.

This is Double Mountain brewer Matt Swihart's land. Cherries from his orchards go in his annual kriek. (The latest vintage, brewed with last year's cherries, was just released in Hood River.) His crop is about ten days from maturity.

A view from the highest point of Swihart's orchard, looking north(ish). Mt Adams, one of the Double Mountains (Hood is the other) is hiding behind the clouds.

Friday Flick: For the Love of Beer

This trailer speaks for itself, but I'll add that the world premiere will be here in Portland during the inaugural Portland Beer Week--August 20, 7:30, at the Bagdad.

Very cool.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Slow Blogging Ahead

I'm at the Double Mountain Kriek Kamp for the next couple days, and blogging will be light.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

International Extreme: Supplanting Local Styles?

I'd like to direct your attention to an interesting article in the Washington Post. Daniel Fromson writes about the newest crop of Belgian breweries--which have garnered raves from the US:
Along with the less prominent but perhaps equally innovative Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Struise has become famous among American beer fanatics for unusual brews that fuse Belgian conventions with influences from abroad. “We stick to tradition, but we give a crazy twist to it,” Grootaert, 46, told me. As Alvinne’s Glenn Castelein, 38, put it, “We could do just regular beers and try to sell it in the neighborhood, but that’s kind of dull. So we thought, ‘Okay, let’s take a risk.’”
The article presents a snapshot of a new kind of brewery, one Fromson notes is pan-European: companies helmed by young people who make extreme beers whose sales depend on American beer geeks, the internet, and more than a little self-promotion. (He mentions BrewDog and Mikkeller, though Struise is the article's poster brewery--and one that doesn't come off looking too great.)

I've noticed the trend, too. The internet has been a huge boon to tiny breweries who can now reach out to drinkers a continent away for almost no cost. Exotica, strength, and hops are their calling card, and as Fromson notes, sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer generate massive excitement (blogs and Twitter help, too). Call me a stodgy old man, but there's something unsettling about this trend.

For one, the beers these breweries produce are fairly similar and are inspired by the gigantism that we see in the US. Hop bombs, huge stouts, and strong ales are central. A related trend, in which American have been an accelerant, are wild ales, especially strong ones. (You can't say Americans started the trend; yet there is something American in the ways wild yeasts and bacteria have been bent to the service of extreme beers.) If you glance at the beer lists of several of these breweries--take BrewDog, Struise, Mikkeller, Nøgne Ø --you see a predominance of these styles. They are, not coincidentally, exactly the styles that score the highest on beer ratings sites.

What we're seeing is the emergence of an international style of brewing abetted by instant communications and relatively cheap exports. These breweries aren't of a place, they're of every place. Brewers can learn instantly whether a style, ingredient, or technique is popular and instantly replicate it. All of this is fine in one way, but it is a very different model from the slow, evolutionary model of style development that has resulted in offbeat curiosities like saison or mild ale or Bavarian weizens. Those styles evolved because of local conditions and circumstances, almost because they didn't have the information of other places or the resources to replicate beer styles from them.

We're quite a long way away from a world in which every brewery only makes hop bombs, imperial stouts, and barrel-aged imperial Flemish reds, but the direction alarms me. I wonder if there will be an emergent trend that will counter the internationalization of big, extreme beers.

Update: I see Stan has a post on this, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Portland International Beerfest

Although international beers are now far more readily available than in past years, and although PIB has lately been showing some signs of neglect, I nevertheless still look forward to this fest with great interest. Nothing beats a great, rare beer on a sunny day under the trees of the North Park Blocks. All the event details are here.

I would love to spend some serious time on a preview, but it's not in the cards this week. I've been invited to brew a beer with Ben Edmunds at Breakside* (I'm with him now as this post goes live), and later in the week I'll be in Hood River with Matt and Charlie at Kriek Kamp. However, I did spend four minutes scanning the beer selection, and these jump out (recognizing that I don't know whether they'll be one or six tokens):
  • Cantillon Cuvee Saint-Gilloise (aka "Cuvée Des Champions") - two-year-old dry-hopped, unblended lambic. Draft.
  • De Proef Brotherly Love (aka "Broederlijke Liefde") - a brett-aged collaboration with Philadelphia's Sly Fox Brewery. Draft.
  • Trois Mousquetaires Kellerbier - unfiltered pale lager from Canada. Perfect sunshine beer. Bottle.
  • Amager RugPorter. Danish strong rye porter. Bottle.
  • Bateman's Mr. George's Ruby Porter. Got porter on my mind, and an example from an oldish English brewery seems just the thing. Bottle.
  • Emelisse Double IPA. This is listed as Belgian, but it's actually a Dutch brewpub, and one that's new to me. Bottle.
  • Page-23 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde. A French blonde I've never had the pleasure of meeting. Never pass up a French Blonde. Bottle.
  • Aecht Schlenkerla Helles. A helles by a famous rauchbier producer. Supposedly it's residually smoky. Bottle.
  • Weihenstephaner Vitus. A weizenbock by the world's oldest brewery. Many have tried it; I have not. Bottle.
  • Molen Heaven and Hel (aka Hemel and Hel). Another one I've missed--a Dutch imperial stout. Bottle.
There are a few very nice American ales, including Firestone Walker Parabola and Abacus, Full Sail Black Gold, some nice barrel-aged beers from Stone, among others. Also of interest, that Xbeeriment beer is an imperial stout made by a Gypsy brewer from Denmark.

Perhaps I'll see you there.

A grisette or petit saison, your choice, brewed with pilsner malt, wheat, spelt, a dash of rye, and the Dupont yeast. Plus one other special process I'll save for later. Target OG is, I think, 1.036.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beervana's Best Pub Crawls: Southeast

Best pub crawls: Downtown | Southeast | Division St. | North

A lot of people come to Portland on vacation. A lot of them want good beer. Unfortunately, very few of them have the kind of time and money it would take to do a thorough tour. They--perhaps you--must therefore be choosy. But how? Look no further than your friendly neighborhood blogger. Below is the second in a series of neighborhood-based pub crawls that will take you through the best the city has to offer (here's the first). Today we go to the heart of Beervana. If you can only do one pub crawl in Portland, this is the one to do. It will give you the broadest sense of what is available in the city, beerwise.

Getting There and Back
Today's crawl happens just across downtown in Portland's Southeast. Starting downtown, take a short walk across the Morrison Bridge to stop #1. If you aren't up for walking, hop the Number 15 Bus (Belmont) and ride to 11th and Belmont. This puts you one block from stop #3 on the pub crawl, and you can navigate from there. Once you've landed, everything else can be reached by foot. If you do end up at Burnside Brewing, it is on a direct bus line. Hop the 2o or 12 and it will take you back across the bridge to downtown. (Click map to enlarge.)

Stop 1: Hair of the Dog Brewing (61 SE Yamhill)
There are a few stops along Portland's beer trail that locals consider hallowed ground. One is Hair of the Dog, a ground-breaking brewery that was doing 2011 beer in 1994. The founding brewer, Alan Sprints, is famous for producing tiny batches of huge beer, each lovingly tended (if sometimes faultily bottled). In addition to the succulent regular beers (Adam, Fred, Doggie Claws, Blue Dot), you'll find barrel-aged versions, specialty beers, and even small beers (Little Adam and Little Fred). The pub overlooks downtown and there's a great (if small) menu, to boot. (Fuller review here.)

Stop 2: Lucky Labrador (915 SE Hawthorne)
The Lucky Lab might be considered hallowed ground in Portland, too--for a different reason. Founded just a couple months after Alan Sprints sold his first beer, the Lab is the quintessential Portland brewpub. Its vibe has been echoed many times in the years since it was founded--though the porch outside, where dogs are as welcome as their owners, remains a unique feature in the Rose City's beerscape. The Northwest was destined to be a hophead's paradise, but the Lab did its part in making that a reality. Their beers are old-school hoppy, as green and bitter as the July days are long. As a tuning fork for understanding the city and its culture, you must spend an hour at the Lab. (Full review here.)

Stop 3: Cascade Barrel House (939 SE Belmont)
Ready for a change of pace? Ron Gansberg was the diligent brewer in the Beaverton-based Raccoon Lodge for years and years. He made the kinds of easy-drinking ales suburban drinkers like. Eventually, he began to tinker with sour ales. He bought a few barrels and started aging and blending. He added fruit to the mix. His collection of barrels expanded to include bourbon barrels and wine barrels. The beers he made were huge, very complex, and very much not the easy-drinking ales suburban drinkers crave. Owner Art Larrance recognized that Gansberg's side project had become the brewery's signature line, and so he opened up a new outlet at ground zero for beer geekiness. All of Gansberg's regular sours are here, plus two special cask blends, plus a few regular ales. It's a great space, and the menu goes nicely with the sour ales. (Fuller review here.)

Stop 4: Burnside Brewing (701 E Burnside)
The last stop on the crawl takes you to one of the newest breweries in Portland. If Hair of the Dog and the Lucky Lab show you where Beervana came from, Burnside points the way to the future. That future includes changes in beer and brewpubs, both evident at Burnside. For a generation, the brewpub experience was predicated on beer; as an afterthought, the pub offered a menu of burgers, sandwiches, and maybe a plate of fish and chips. Burnside has placed its focus as much on food as beer, and the menu reads like many newer restaurants. The beer is not brewed in isolation from the menu, either. Brewer Jason McAdam has abandoned the hops arms race and crafted a line of beers that pair nicely with the menu. He's a fan of smaller beers and of herbs and spices--definitely not the usual fare. (Fuller, but not very full review, here.)

Other Possibilities
This neighborhood is just thick with pubs. Even if you walk into a dive, you'll find a decent selection of good beer--probably better than in 75% of American pubs. If something doesn't thrill you on this list, here are a few alternatives:
  • Green Dragon (928 SE 9th). The Green Dragon was an aspirational pub that aimed to be a brewpub one day. It ran into financial difficulties and Rogue snapped it up, adding a tiny brewery recently. Rogue more or less kept it as it was--an alehouse with an extensive list of taps. They even added more, and the total is now 50--almost none devoted to Rogue's beers. This would be on the list if it were in any other part of the city.
  • Produce Row (204 SE Oak). This was one of the McMenamins' first pubs way, way back in the day. They sold it before there was a McMenamins, but it's always had a funky vibe and a great beer list. Ownership recently turned over, and it was spruced up a bit.
  • Basement Pub (1028 SE 12th) and Roadside Attraction (1000 SE 12th). These two little pubs are right next to each other on 12th, and both have nice beer lists. Roadside Attraction is the more intriguing of the two, all for its ambiance: a warren-like space filled with strange tchotchkes and decorations.

A Little Further Out (Other other possibilities)
The pub crawl listed here is located between SE 12th and the River. A bit further out, along the spine of 28th Ave, there is a whole different trove of breweries and pubs.
  • Coalition Brewing (2724 SE Ankeny). Another of the newer breweries, with a nice menu, nice patio, and very nice maple porter.
  • Spints Alehouse (401 NE 28th). One of Portland's newer gastropubs, with a menu focused hearty German-inflected cuisine.
  • Migration Brewing (2828 NE Glisan). Migration opened with beer quality issues but has since become a solid destination. The spaces is great and they have a nice list of guest taps.
  • Also, Beulahland (118 NE 28th) and the Laurelthirst (2958 NE Glisan) are cool neighborhood bars with impressive beer lists.

What to Avoid
It is a testament to this part of the city that there's really nothing to avoid--even dive bars, bowling alleys, and corner cafes will offer you decent-to-spectacular beers. But be advised: for every minute you're off the beaten track, that's a minute you're not experiencing the best of Beervana.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Clown Shoes: Provocation Was the Goal

There's a brewery in Massachusetts called Clown Shoes. A couple weeks ago, I spied them at a beer shop in Portland, ME and raised an eyebrow at the risque, look-at-me-labels. Those labels created a firestorm last week in a discussion on BeerAdvocate--followed by discussions across the beer-o-sphere. The question: are the labels sexist/offensive? The responses ranged across the board, with the usual analysis. Even the female artist weighed in with support for the non-sexist view. (Sample argument: "A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.")

This controversy was, of course, the goal of the labels. They're designed to provoke. Pity the poor brewery that slaps self-consciously outrageous labels on its bottles and receives no attention. This isn't even a close call. If anyone could claim there was some gray area in the question, a glance at the text on the labels dispels it:
  • On Tramp Stamp: "Like a stamp on a tramp, this is about not so subtle seduction."
  • On Lubrication: "Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter!"
It's possible to take this discussion in a postmodern, third-wave-feminism direction and pose various questions about the nature of sexuality and agency. I absolutely guarantee that wasn't the intention of Clown Shoes. They knew there was a line dividing sexist and sexy and they danced across it with smirking delight, and in case anyone missed this act of transgression, they made the point clear in their text. I have no idea whether CEO Gregg Berman ("the labels were meant to be modern, adventurous, and fun. Maybe even provocative.") is sexist, but I do know he used these labels to draw attention--and sales--to his beer. Mission accomplished.

The question isn't whether Clown Shoes' labels are sexist; the question is, as a consumer, how do you feel about the fact that they are?

Friday, July 08, 2011

Open Thread Friday: Your Best (Non Imperial) Stouts

Thanks to that amazing response I got on soliciting your picks for best porters to include in my book, I think I'll continue the experiment. Today, let's try stouts--all except imperials (your dries, sweets, oatmeals, and exports are all good). We'll do imperials as their own thread. The guidelines are the same: The beers need to be great examples to illustrate the style (and delicious), but also need to be relatively available to people who will read the book, and at least some of the beers have to be available in every region of the country. Finally, they should be regular, established beers that will still be in production when the book comes out.

There are so many good ones out there that it's hard to narrow them down. Clearly one of the classic Irish dry stouts should be in there, and Guinness Foreign Extra. Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions. I'll do my best to sample every beer that gets suggested, so tell me the beers I shouldn't miss.

Friday Flick: Geary's Brewing

I had the great pleasure to speak with David Geary of Geary's Brewing in Portland, Maine for about a half hour yesterday. Geary's brews two beers that I would call American classics--their Pale and London Porter. Both are brewed on a traditional Yorkshire system: open-fermented in "Yorkshire rounds" with a yeast originally from the Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, England. (Geary's brews a beer called Hampshire Special Ale that has nothing to do with a neighboring state.) The yeast has been through so many generations that it is probably now more Mainer than English. It certainly behaves differently than the yeast at Gritty McDuff's and Shipyard, which started with the same strain.

This video doesn't capture quite the depth of our conversation, but it gives you a flavor. If you're ever on the East Coast, try to track down a bottle.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Beervana's Best Pub Crawls: Downtown

Best pub crawls: Downtown| Southeast | Division St. | North

A lot of people come to Portland on vacation. A lot of them want good beer. Unfortunately, very few of them have the kind of time and money it would take to do a thorough tour. They--perhaps you--must therefore be choosy. But how? Look no further than your friendly neighborhood blogger. Below is the first in a series of neighborhood-based pub crawls that will take you through the best the city has to offer.

Small Print
My choices are based largely on beer quality, but not exclusively. A pub crawl shouldn't be antiseptic and calculating--you're out to have a good time. These crawls will deliver the best in beer, but also a few oddball places that are fun and worth seeing. I've tried to limit stops to four--any more would be irresponsible. Finally, do yourself a favor familiarize yourself with Portland's legendary public transportation, which GPS tracking and free apps like this make a breeze. Leave the rental at the hotel; with your feet and public transportation you can enjoy the beer more.

Stop One: Full Sail at the Pilsner Room (309 SW Montgomery)
Unfortunately, the Full Sail test brewery is located at the south end of downtown, somewhat distant from the other cluster of places on our tour. You don't have to be particularly intrepid to pull it off, though, and the results are well worth your effort. Let us count the ways: 1) John Harris, a legend in Oregon brewing, mans the brew kettle there. He started at McMenamins and then went on to be the founding brewery at Deschutes--where he created the recipes for Mirror Pond, Black Butte, Jubelale, and others--before going to Full Sail in the 90s. 2) The location, on the marina overlooking the beautiful Willamette River. 3) The beer--all of Full Sail's regulars plus some home cookin' from Harris and at least a couple well-tended cask engines. 4) The happy hour (between 3-6), where you can get ridiculously cheap food, including a $3 half-pound burger.
Travel. (Click map to enlarge) You have a few options. Easiest but slowest: walk. Almost as easy and almost as slow--but air conditioned!: walk south to the streetcar stop at River Dr and River Parkway, and ride it (it's free) to the Powell's stop at tenth and Burnside. From there you're two blocks away. Fastest but trickiest: Walk west along Montgomery, and wend your way across Naito Parkway (there's only one way to go) and proceed to Harrison Street (a jog to your left--or the south--a half block). From there you walk to Sixth Ave and wait for the free Max Light rail at stop 7774. Ride it three stops to Pine and Sixth (stop 7787) and then walk to blocks to the next stop.
Stop Two: Bailey's Taproom (213 SW Broadway)
Not counting duplicates, there are forty breweries in Portland. That's just a third of all the breweries in Oregon. Since you can't travel to each of them, and since you may not be able to travel beyond Portland, you need to find an alehouse where the publican has selected some choice pours. One of the best places in the city is Bailey's, where owner--and probably the guy handing you your beer--Geoff Phillips regularly assembles an amazing group of beers. At least half will be from Oregon, and many will be from smaller breweries you may not have heard of. It's a great place to find some gems from around the state. Geoff is happy to make recommendations so you get the perfect beer.

Stop Three: McMenamin's Ringler's Annex (1223 SW Stark)
The McMenamin brothers got into the pub business in the 70s and in the 80s helped change the law so they could get into the brewing business. But what they really excel at is the ambiance business. Over thirty years they've snapped up some of the most impressive properties in the Northwest and bent them into psychedelic little time capsules. They brew very mainstream beer, and not always with the greatest care, but never mind that. You go for the vibe. Ringler's is in a slice of building at the fork of Burnside and Stark. If you descend into the basement, you enter a space that recalls equal parts speakeasy and Portland's shanghai-ing history. It's worth a stop.

Stop Four: Deschutes Brewery (210 NW 11th)
If you only make it to two or three breweries on your visit, Deschutes should be on your list. The Bend-based brewery opened this pub in the chic Pearl District, but brought plenty of Central Oregon with them. Inside the obligatory warehouse space, Deschutes has created a mountain lodge with chainsaw art, lots of wood, and a huge fireplace. The real attraction is the beer. In addition to all the regulars, you'll find pub-only specials created by Ryan Schmiege on the pub's 10-barrel system. He has a real talent for subtle beers and lagers. Deschutes also offers their specialty beers on tap at the pub (The Abyss, The Dissident, Mirror Mirror, etc.) when they're available. Finally, Deschutes maintains two cask engines, and they are reliably among the best in the city.

Other Options
These four stops aren't the only places to see downtown. If one or more of them don't float your boat, here are a few alternatives:
  • Higgins (1239 SW Broadway). Higgins is one of Portland's best restaurants, but relevant to our purposes, it is one of the nation's oldest gastropubs. Since the mid-1990s, chef Greg Higgins has been pairing his regional, sustainable cuisine with some of Oregon's and world's best beers. He has a selection of a dozen taps and over 100 varieties of bottled beer. If you're looking for a place to eat downtown and you're willing to spend a bit, this is the place to go. And not to worry--the waitstaff is as knowledgeable about beer as they are wine. You can also pop into the bar for a pint.
  • Rogue (1339 NW Flanders). This outpost of the Rogue empire is a non-brewing pub, and is the location of the first Portland Brewing brewery (now called MacTarnahan's). You'll find a large selection of Rogue beers and a decent menu. The downside is the cost--pints and plates are quite a bit more money than comparable fare elsewhere. Since Rogue is available in most states, it's a tweener. Go if you love Rogue, but skip it otherwise.
  • Henry's Tavern (10 NW 12th). Henry's takes its name from the brewery that once stood at this location for 150 years--Henry Weinhard's. The building is still there, and it still feels like sacred ground to me. Unfortunately, Henry's is a pretty bland yuppie restaurant. The virtue are the 100 taps, including a large selection of regionals. Like Rogue, though, you pay a lot for the privilege of drinking a pint there.

Places to Avoid
Even in Beervana, not every place is a winner. Your time is valuable, and you shouldn't spend it at these places:
  • Rock Bottom Brewery (206 SW Morrison). Until very recently, Rock Bottom was home to Van Havig, a very talented brewery who was given free reign to follow his bliss so long as he brewed a few of the chain's standards. Until very recently, Rock Bottom wasn't owned by a private-equity firm. But now they are, Van's out, and the beer is mall-ready. Don't bother.
  • Tugboat Brewing (711 SW Ankeny). Tugboat is the polar opposite of Rock Bottom--a funky little hole-in-the-wall that feels like a cross between a beatnik coffeehouse and your best friend's basement rumpus room. It is not without its charms, but beer, sadly, is not among them. It's not much larger than a home-brewery, and the beer is totally unpredictable.