Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Portland Oregon, Day 1
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to pack the family up and take a nice trip down to arguably one of the craft brew mecca’s of the new world, Portland Oregon. Not only is Portland home to more than 40 breweries & brewpubs (as of 2011 per link) but it also boasts some wonderful attractions, and one of the most impressive transit systems I have ever seen.
Image via Wikipedia
As you could imagine I was very excited before going on this trip. My wife and I both started making lists of places we were anticipating to go and see, both beer and family themed. To my initial surprise, it was remarkably easy to intertwine both of those. One of my first revelations about Portland came to me before even leaving British Columbia. A conversation with a fellow BC beer blogger, @BGCanary on twitter informed me that many of the brewpubs and breweries were minor friendly. In fact, some of the pubs even have special kid friendly menus & games to help the two areas coincide. Of course sometimes the people drinking the beer get a hold of the kids games and engage their inner child while enjoying the beers as well, (Lynn).
Our first stop when coming into Portland was a promised trip to the Oregon Zoo. My wife, now two and a half months pregnant, and I had been promising our delightful five year old from minute one of planning this trip that she would be going to the zoo. As you can imagine, questions about when the zoo trip would happen started roughly two minutes after promising her and they repeated almost continually until about a minute after getting out of the car in the Zoo parking lot. Think of “Are we going to the zoo yet?” on repeat. Needless to say, we were at the zoo and ready to enjoy our time there.
After a long trip down to the zoo, I took my family back to our hotel, got checked in and fed, changed into my ‘beer hunter’ garb and set out for some beers. I went to the Trimet website for planning my trip. They have a great ‘trip planner’ right on the main page, and not only was it super easy to get from where we were staying to my intended destination, but it was on only one bus. I set out for Cascade Barrel House for my first true Portland beer tasting. Of the breweries I really wanted to get to or try, they were highly recommended by many aficionados (like @jonnybeers) but they were also my #2 must see Brew houses in Portland.
Image via site
Cascade Brewing Barrel House specializes in sour beers. They brew their beers and then age many of them in barrels infected with a yeast strain called Brettanomyces or Brett for short. I’m not planning to go into a huge amount of detail about the yeast strain yet, but there will be some more another day. This barrel house has a special event every Tuesday night they call ‘Tap-It Tuesday’ where they break into a new Keg and start pouring. This evening they had tapped the 2009 Old Bing, a Bing cherry infused sour aged for nearly three years. They limit you to two tasters a round, so, after ordering my dinner, I decided to start with the two freshly tapped beers, The Noyaux and 2009 Old Bing.
The Noyaux smelled like a fruit bowl. It is the golden coloured beer on the left. I found it to be a very tart and fruity sour that didn’t show its alcohol until it was down your throat. The 8.94% ABV warms you from within.
The 2009 Old Bing (on the right) was, as you may have guessed, very prominent cherry character both in the scent and the taste. It has even that rose/brown hue you’d expect from aged cherries. Something you’d see in a jar or preserved fruit in someones basement. Not only was this beer aged in the cherries, but later they moved it to Bourbon and vanilla as well. Despite those sweet notes, there’s a real latent hit with the sour on this beer, as the big time cherry flavour really hangs with you. It carried a lower (in comparison with the other sours) 6.5% ABV with it.
Next up was the 2011 Apricot Sour. A surprisingly light sour and smooth sour despite the 8.4% ABV. The fruit flavour really can hold its own in the presence of the sour. While the flavour of this beer didn’t really linger with me it was still very very good.
My Portland trip missed out on the ‘Fresh Hop Beer Festival’ by a couple of days. The Fresh Hop Porter was Cascade’s offering for this event. This is a very coffee forward noted porter. Despite the strength in the initial tasting of this beer it did have a light back. I didn’t get a the usual pine or sappy ‘fresh hop’ elements of this beer. It was a 5.7% ABV beer.
After the porter I went back to the sours. The 2011 The Vine is a very fruity, very wine like sour. As you may imagine this is a sour based on grapes. It was the strongest for alcohol burn, which I expected since it was a hefty 9.73% ABV beer.
As you may have already noticed I didn’t focus entirely on the sours, and I was glad that I attacked the beer list the way I did. This next beer (above) is the Oblique Coffee Blonde. Oblique is a Portland area coffee roaster, and they supplied the beans for this beer. Imagine for yourself that this beer smelled and tasted like a recently brewed yet chilled cup of coffee. That is the closesxt way I could explain this. I would never have guessed that a blonde coloured beer like this could pack as much coffee elements into that it did. A nice and easy drinking 5.9% ABV beer with a decent 60 IBUs
At this point in the evening I had to reflect that the Cascade Barrel House was just hopping. It was probably close to 7:45pm and the bartenders were steady pouring.
Next beer was their Saison Minuit, a lovely 6% black Saison. It had a nice peppery note, with a scent of cherries or other berries. I didn’t mind this beer. It really seemed like a mix between a Saison and a sour.
Keeping with Belgians I also ordered the Autumn Amber’s ‘Spiced Belgian’. I honestly expected a bit more from this beer, but I should have guessed that without using Saison in the name it wouldn’t be as peppery as I would want. A fairly mild flavoured beer, with 5% ABV and 22 IBUs.
At my neighbours suggestion I went with the Honey Ginger Lime next. I can’t say I was expecting much from this beer, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good this was. It didn’t at all show any kind of harsh alcohol burn, despite the 7.5% ABV contained within it. It carried a lovely smell of ginger. I found it refreshing with a quick and easy finish.
At the bartenders suggestion next I moved to their Deisel Imperial Stout. This beast packs some serious potency as it is 10% ABV with 50 IBUs. Big time licorice smell to this beer along with chocolate notes. With a name like Deisel, it is no suprise when this beer coats your mouth like an oils slick. I loved it, 100% yum.
Lastly a hop head like myself could not miss an opportunity to sample yet another double IPA, so I went with their Bi-Polar Double India Pale Ale. It wasn’t anything super amazing, just a nice solid DIPA.
All in all I had a great experience. I tried 11 tasters and they were all very good, some even better. I left the building with a full belly, some beer swag (a new 8oz snifter glass) and a strong desire to return. I was quite tempted to buy a growler to go from their when I left, but I was really glad that I did not. During my bus ride back to my hotel there was an obviously inebriated man on the bus practicing some form of drunken(I’m guessing) kung fu from his seat. Half way through his ‘demonstration’ he leaned over to me and told me how much he needed a drink. Good thing I didn’t have 64 ounces of high test sour for him to pilfer.
I don’t want to inundate my leapbeer master list with different beers from my portland trip, so I’m going to pick out 2 standouts from this day to add to the master list. I chose the 2009 Old Bing (Leapbeer #265) due to the incredible patience and length of time it took to produce. I also chose the Oblique Coffee Blonde (Leapbeer #266). I spoke about this beer with another Portland resident while shopping at Belmont Station, and it was one of their favorites too.
I encourage anyone planning a beer tour through Portland to check this place out. And, as mentioned before, the Trimet website is a great thing to use in planning your moves while in the area.
Expect more on my LeapbeerPDX trip to come. Day 2, Downtown, Deschutes and Burnside Brewing Company.
Thanks for reading.