Tag Archives: Oregon

Portland Beer Bars

20 Sep

This is the final writeup from a weekend trip to Portland, focusing on our favorite beer places (Part 1: Portland Food, Part 2: Oregeon Brewers Festival). I half-wrote this right after the trip but hadn’t got around to posting it.

Bailey’s Taproom (SW Broadway and Pine, downtown)

A great place to taste beer– an informal space with plenty of seating and a rotating selection of about twenty beers on tap, including a lot of Oregon beer. For just $7.50 you can get a sampler of any five of your choice. I liked the Avatar Jasmine IPA (very faint hints of jasmine), but can’t remember what else we had (a scotch ale and one of the Upright beers, but I don’t seem to have notes).

Upright Brewing (on N Broadway, in a tricky-to-find location near freeway offramps and overpasses, in the basement of the Leftbank building)

We tried all nine beers they had on tap. My favorite by far (and one of my favorites of the trip– I brought some home) was the unusual Flora Rustica— it had some slightly vegetive flavors and an interesting faintly-bitter herbal taste (they said “spring yarrow” is one ingredient), as well as a bit of hot-pepper-like spiciness. It’s hard to describe but very worth trying [edit: the bottle I brought home didn’t have the same spiciness and wasn’t as strongly flavored]. Also exceptionally good was the Alphaphylactic Hop, not your typical hoppy beer. It had a slightly savory-vegetable-saute flavor, a light sweetness, a bit of hoppiness… and a taste that went on for a while and kept evolving (either as I got used to it, or as it warmed up).  The Four was a very well-done saison-style ale with a slight orange flavor and a floral/honey smell. I also wrote down that I liked the Five but can’t remember the details. The Six, Seven (more of a cream-style ale), Weisse, and Engel Pils were also all good. I didn’t like the hoppy Leafer Madness as much.

Horse Brass Pub (SE Belmont & 46th)

A great English-style pub, with cozy dark wood, plenty of tables, many cask beers (hand-pumped, light carbonation, served closer to room temperature) and a wide selection of non-local beers as well. We had a few beers, including a good cask-conditioned version of Racer 5 IPA, but the highlight was the truly amazing Hogs Back Stout (cask): hard to describe, but slightly “chewy”, slightly coffee/oatmeal flavored, rich, not especially sweet or dry… “balanced”? The best stout I’ve ever had and one of my favorite beers of the trip.

Ignore the excessive foam in the photo below– we got a second round of the Hogs Back, but the cask ran out while pouring them, so we got these heady half-beers for free.

Amnesia Brewing Company (N Beech and Mississippi)

A pleasant brewpub for a beer at on a sunny day, with a big outdoor patio and indoor warehouse seating near the brewing apparatus, with a slight smell of grain in the air. We all liked the Plum Founded, a mild pale ale aged with… plums. The ESB and Cream of the Crop (a beer made with flaked corn and a hint of creaminess) were also both good, and refreshing on a sunny summer day. None of these were our favorites of the trip, but all of them were better than most beers we had at the OBF.

Oregon Brewers Festival

14 Sep

Following on the Portland Food Recap, here are some notes about the 60+ beers we tasted at the Oregon Brewers Festival back in August.

A side note before I talk about all the beers I didn’t like– yeah, yeah, it’s far easier to be a critic than to actually make something, these are just my opinions (well, combined with some comments and notes from James).

The OBF as they call it was the initial impetus for visiting Portland that particular weekend, though plenty of other beer, food, book-buying, and friend-visiting activities fit themselves into the available time.

Unfortunately, it was somewhat disappointing (and we sold our spare beer tokens so we could leave early). Most of the beers we tried were relatively unremarkable. The exception was a few of the Buzz Tent beers, but all of the buzz tent beers sold out Friday and it was closed Saturday and Sunday. The festival was also crowded, with big groups of people regularly yelling “Wooo!”, and mediocre food compared to elsewhere in Portland. We heard a brewer later say “oh, breweries don’t sent their best beers to OBF”, and suggested it was more a generic outdoor drinking party.

But it was still worth going for a few hours, even if just to taste a lot of beers quickly. A quick summary:

Beers we actively disliked:

  • Dogfish Head Black & Red (disgusting mint beer)
  • Three Creek Porter
  • Cascade Razberry Wheat
  • Burnside Smoked Gratzer (ugh)
  • Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twins (not much flavor)
  • Boneyard Girl Beer (slightly sweet water)

Beers we all said “meh” about:

  • Double Mountain Pilsner (interesting straw smell)
  • Hopworks Evelyn Imperial Sunshine (generic hoppy beer)
  • Laughing Dog Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter (but note: midday in hot direct sun is a hard time to appreciate a porter)
  • Bridgeport Summer Squeeze (odd acidic almost hint-of-bile taste)
  • New Holland Golden Cap (unassuming)
  • Alaskan White Ale (it’s no Allagash White)
  • Elysian Sextacula (generic hoppy beer)
  • Riverport Blonde Moment
  • Seven Brides Brewing Lil Pils (some interesting things going on there, but buried by the hops)
  • Big Sky Dark Mexican Lager (more hoppy and carbonated than a typical Mexican beer, but in the end didn’t work for us)
  • Lucky Lab Crazy Foyston Alt (very hoppy, not much else)
  • Hollister Altered State
  • Pike Brewing Monk Trippel (trying to be a belgian-style, but bland, and odd smell)
  • Kona Brewing Ginger Duke w/ Lemongrass (interesting idea, the lemongrass came through well, but just a novelty),

Beers we thought were decent, or that one of us really liked:

  • 50-50 Donner Party Porter
  • Wasatch Summerbrau Lager (crisp, effervescent, session beer, drinkable)
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild
  • Full Sail Jimvar Bohemian Pils (bright hops, but some malt for balance, smooth, crisp)
  • Bridgeport Stumptown Tart Strawberry (a bit like a lambic, ‘funky’ flavor combined with strawberry, worth ordering but also not something I’d want to drink more than one of)
  • Squatters Pequino Imperial (crisp, slight sulfur nose, interesting)
  • Eel River Onyx (dark brown ale, light in taste, sharp carbonation)
  • Surly Hell (funky farm/saison smell and taste, effervescent, interesting
  • McMenimans Crimson & Clover (light, delicate, a bit hard to taste at a festival)
  • Riverport 5/5 Pepper Beer (reminded us of a Michelada, but not just a gimmick: an interesting mix of different pepper flavors: black, bell, pasilla)
  • Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA (some of us found it too generically hoppy, some liked the extra citrus hint)
  • McMenamins Dark Star (very hoppy but balanced by some strong caramel/malt flavor)
  • Fearless Scottish (mild, light touch on the hops, drinkable),

Our favorite few beers of the festival (though we had others outside the festival we liked more):

  • Surly Five (malty, musky, sour, dark, aged in pinot barrels)
  • Fort George Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale (light, bright, not overly bitter, interesting oatmeal + cascade hops balance)
  • Golden Valley Cote d’Or (creamy, malted belgian style, smooth, slight spice)

Portland Food recap

6 Aug

A few restaurant highlights from a recent trip to Portland (which also included beer tasting, biking around, and seeing a few friends, but I promised myself this wouldn’t be a blog that’s mostly long-winded stories about my day with only a passing mention of food):

The Waffle Window (at 36th and SE Hawthorne):

A waffle with sauteed mushrooms, spinach, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, and “marinated chevre”. The chevre had the consistency of a dense whipped cream and was a nice cool counterpart to everything else. Plus, look at that pleasing collection of colors with the blue-rimmed plate!

Little Bird (downtown):

I’d heard good things about Little Bird from a friend recently, and still remember the mind-blowing (and rich-food-giddy-coma-inducing)  meal I had at its more formal big brother Le Pigeon years ago. By lucky chance, we’d just finished a beer tasting two blocks away and Little Bird had a late-night menu, and we split:

  • White bean with parslied ham salad (rich, a “salad” in the same way macaroni and cheese is a pasta salad).
  • A salad of butter lettuce, radishes, and a Pernod (and I think, tarragon) vinaigrette. This was the standout dish of the meal, if you’ll believe it– excellent lettuce that wasn’t just a vehicle-for-dressing, paired with a translucent but complex dressing.
  • Steak Tartare topped with an egg yolk. You can barely see it in this photo because it’s been mostly demolished, but this was also very, very good (and I say this as someone who rarely eats tartare).
  • A burger with fries. The fries didn’t do anything special for me, but the ketchup was far better than usual (homemade, I assume, with much less sugar?), and the dressing on the burger was good. A good burger to eat a third of along with some other dishes, but I would have been missing out if I’d just had that for dinner.
  • Wildflower honey pot de creme with blueberries (and put-a-bird-on-it crackers).

This whole delicious meal of four good dishes + a shared dessert + wine for three people was only $90 including tip.

Simpatica (just East of the river):

I love the Simpatica concept– they’re usually a catering company, but three times a week they serve a meal in their space. It’s informal (long communal wooden tables, simple plates, next to a catering-size kitchen where they’re finishing the dishes), with nicely muted lighting that keeps it from feeling like a cafeteria.

For dinner, you sit down at 7pm and get fed a three-course meal with dessert (no choices, and you may not know what the menu will be when you make reservations). I’ve just been there twice, and both times it was delicious, hearty food, usually with a substantial component of it cooked over the course of the day on their outdoor grill and some sort of good local greens.

This visit, the theme was “crawfish boil”, and we had:

  • Deviled eggs with smoked salmon and some pickled celery (I love it!)
  • Chicken salad (from chicken roasted on their grill with a beercan in it)
  • A crawfish (and shrimp, clams, corn, potatoes) boil, which they poured out from a huge pot onto a table to show it off (then portioned it out into dishes to share between each group of eight people or so). This took some effort to eat and was a social bonding experience for our table…
  • Cherry cobbler

Evoe (at SE Hawthorne and 38th)

This was probably my favorite food experience of the trip (though Little Bird was also very good). It’s just a few tables and seats along a counter inside the Pastaworks market, serving a collection of small dishes. It’s a light, bright, high-ceiling, airy (cliche?) space that doesn’t feel like a restaurant (and I mean that in a good way). We got to watch the food being prepared while ogling their jars of colorful pickled vegetables and chatting with the chefs about ingredients and restaurants in SF.

Everything we had here was basically perfect, including:

  • A charcuterie plate, including some jamon, cured meat from Fra’mani (Oakland!), several other good cured meats from local places (I don’t remember everything), Salumi Finnochiona (dry fennel salami from Seattle– I had to buy some to go), and a house-cured (in salt and sugar) foie.
  • A Spanish-style tortilla (omelette with potatoes and whipped garlic) served with romanesco.
  • A salad of glacier lettuce, peaches, and crisp speck. Yet again, a salad was one of my favorite dishes– both because the elements worked so well together, and because of the exciting new-to-me green “glacier lettuce”. Based on someone else’s blog, it’s apparently a green that originates in South America and is now grown at a local farm. It’s slightly thick and tart / citrusy like a sorrel, has a satisfying texture, and… well, it’s hard to describe. Try it out if you see it anywhere.

We also had some wine (I’m not really a wine connoisseur, so don’t have anything intelligent to say about it), and I had a hard cider that was slightly funky/earthy and interesting.

Ruby Jewel Scoops (on N Mississippi):

I’ve always liked salty sweets (for example, Poco Dolce tiles, or the Bi-Rite salted caramel ice cream), so I had to try Ruby Jewel’s “caramel and salted chocolate”. The base caramel ice cream was fairly good, but I loved the salty chocolate chunks and their localized nature. This may sound odd, but I like foods with interesting flavors presented side by side, so I can vary the taste ratios bite to bite.

Overall, really good food.

p.s. Credit for some of these photos goes to A.L., I can’t remember which ones were hers since she let me use her camera.