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My Weekend in Portland: Hop City

Blake Murphy, June 19, 2013 -   

Here in Canada, we don’t believe in a holiday for “Memorial Day.” Instead of taking the day off to remember those who lost their lives in service, we trump you Americans a week earlier by celebrating the Queen’s birthday. Damn right, America.

(Well, to be fair, in Newfoundland they have a Memorial Day on Canada Day. We Newfies are a swell bunch.) (To be even more fair, we also have Remembrance Day in November, though it’s only actually a holiday in some provinces.)

Anyway, a week before you all enjoyed your long weekend, I enjoyed mine and made the five-hour drive from Vancouver to Portland. It was a trip with the lady friend chosen for proximity, shopping (her), the food culture, and the beer (me). Over the course of the weekend I tried 20 different beers. If that’s not reason enough to write a Barely Beer post, then I don’t understand this site and I’ll show myself out. (Do we have a Beergraphs bouncer? Might be worth investing in one.)

Day 1
I started off with a Hop Ottin IPA with appetizers on our first night (keeping it light to start, since our food truck excursion had left us quite full). This was technically a whiskey bar, and I also tried a Tamarind Whiskey Sour, which was incredible, but I grabbed one beer to get things started. This particular pale had a great initial flavor but a skunky aftertaste. It was also out of a can, which was new to me for an IPA.

At dinner, we ate at a Thai restaurant. It was a heavy meal so I just paired it with a light Tiger Beer to keep things simple.

From there, we went to Victory Bar, a bar I had been told had some strong selection, specifically Belgians. I started with a Piraat Ale, which was really good. The hops were more muted than I expected for a 10.5%, and the caramel tones and citrusy aftertaste really dominated. Meanwhile, the girlfriend had a Grafenwalder Grapefruit Hefeweizen-Mix, which isn’t my thing. But I tried it, and it tasted like Fanta. I followed up with a Murphy’s Irish Stout for the name, and it was thin for a stout with a pleasurable nutty aftertaste. I was disappointed my name didn’t entitle me to a free one.

Day 2
We hit the Deschutes Brewery in the downtown area in the afternoon to do a sampler paddle of six of the brewery’s finest offerings. One thing I learned here, having never done a proper “sampling” before while keeping ratings in mind, is that “park effects” are very real, and “lineup protection” kind of exists for beers, but in the opposite way. If you’re up after an excellent teammate, you’re dealing with a raised bar.

Some quick notes on the six we tried: The River Ale was okay but light, likely hurt by comparison to the others. The Pond Pale Ale was in a similar boat, a slightly more unique “standard tap” offering. The Chainbreaker White IPA was one of my favorites from the weekend, another strong Belgian from PDX. The Inversion IPA was bold and citrusy and was very good. The Twilight Summer Ale was a disappointment before I tried it, because I was hoping the Obsidian Stout would be on the sampler. Finally, the Black Butte Porter made for great jokes and great drinking, a creamy mouthfeel with chocolate flavor.

Next we went to Green Dragon, another bar with ample selection on tap. While the girlfriend went with a Hell or High Watermelon beer I didn’t care for, I went with a Tan Line Summer IPA, which was a bit light on the hop flavor but decent. I also tried a He’Brew Hop Manna IPA, which was as good a beer as the name is a name. The lady tried an Apple Beer which was a bit better than the other fruity ones because it, you know, actually tasted like beer.

From there, we walked to Cascade Brewing Barrel House to catch the second overtime of Pittsburgh-Ottawa. I had an Oblique Blonde Coffee which struck me as an odd type but was a beautiful surprise. I also tried a taster of the Chocolate Bourbonic Plague, which was worth a taste but was too strong and sour to be good in a larger serving. I also tried their Cascade IPA which they claimed was blended from a bunch of different hops, but the “delightful aftertaste” they advertise just wasn’t there.

Off to Apex, another bar with rows of taps. I had a Hop Stoopid, which was a pretty standard IPA.

And finally, to Double Dragon for a late snack and an RPM IPA, which was good but my notes didn’t say much because I was pretty jolly by this point.

Conclusion
Highly recommend checking out the beer scene in Portland if you’re ever in town. A lot of breweries we didn’t get to hit, but the bars and restaurants alone have a city-wide commitment to having a lot of taps. Only a couple “oh my” beers but really strong depth, making it easy to enjoy without knowing the beers beforehand.

My favorite beer from the weekend was probably Deschutes' Black Butte Porter, which was surprising considering I generally prefer IPA above all else.

Black Butte Porter

appearance = 3.5/5
Poured with a nice tan head, mostly dark brown in the body with a bit of red.

smell = 3/5
A bit muted and I couldn't pick up any chocolate notes, mostly nutty.

taste = 4/5

The roast finish and chocolate tones were great, a nice sweet drink.


mouthfeel = 4.5/5
Very creamy and pleasant, I believe it's the BBP calling card.


overall = 4
Perhaps it's that I'm still developing as a "taster," but the mouthfeel and taste were good enough that the average appearance and muted smell didn't make much of a difference for me. Definitely going to seek similar porters in my area.

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