Saturday, May 30, 2015

June Preview

July may officially be Oregon Craft Beer Month but with the 10-day run of PDX Beer Week and other events in June it certainly rivals July for beer geeks' attention. There are too many things going on in June for me to list them all but there are some I'm really, really looking forward to. Expect more in depth preview posts throughout the month but for now, a quick snapshot of where you can expect to see me.

Friday, June 7 5:00 - 8:00 pm: Red Duck Ketchup Day at Coalition Brewing
I don't like to play favorites but Coalition is one of my favorite breweries in town and the idea behind this event, to celebrate National Ketchup Day, is a fun one. If you haven't heard about it, make sure to click the event link to read about the beer and more that will be there.

Friday, June 12 - Sunday, June 14: 5th Annual Fruit Beer Festival at Burnside Brewing
I've attended three of the last four years of this festival (had to miss one year due to a beercation to Colorado) and I always look forward to the creativity of the brewers that use not only traditional, sweet fruits but also less traditional fruits (that are sometimes miscategorized as vegetables) like tomatoes.

Friday, June 19 - Sunday, June 21: 11th Annual Oregon Garden Brewfest in Silverton
This will be my third year attending this festival and although the change in date from spring to summer puts it in greater competition with other beer events I'm excited to visit the gardens (traditionally our Friday morning post-breakfast, pre-festival plan) when they're in full bloom. Like the Spring Beer & Wine Fest, this is one where some of the smaller breweries that you won't see at larger festivals make an appearance.

Sunday, June 21 12:00 - 5:00 pm: 4th Annual Beer & Cheese Festival at The Commons Brewery
I waited too long last year and the event sold out before I could buy my ticket. Having greatly enjoyed this festival in the past this year I made sure to snag my ticket early. Some are still available if you haven't gotten yours but do expect it to sell out again this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day Trippin': Estacada & Sandy

We've never been the kind of folks that make big plans for Memorial Day weekend so the fact that we actually went out day trippin' was a big deal for us. Inspired in part by a recent Thrillist article on Portland road trips and in part by a conversation I had recently we combined the two into an easy day trip visiting Estacada and Sandy.

From our place Estacada is an easy 50 minute drive and like many of our beercation days we decided to start with the non-beer entertainment (also none of our beer stops were open yet). Thrillist had mentioned Milo McIver State Park for camping but what drew us there was a 27-hole disc golf course. The overall course is split into an 18-hole east course and a 9-hole west course. Maps are conveniently available at the beginning of the course that thoughtfully provides a scoring grid on the reverse. We were playing for fun and eschewed scoring, even skipping a hole or two along the way to leap frog over slower players, along the 18-hole course. This is one of the better maintained and laid out courses I've played and highly recommend it as a start to or break during a day of beering.

After getting our fill of "sports" it was time to fill our bellies with lunch and beer at Fearless Brewing in quaint downtown Estacada. We'd had some Fearless beers in the past and most we tried on this visit followed suit - nothing spectacular and nothing bad. The exception was their porter, an easy drinking 5% beer with a mouthfeel that is generally associated with something served on nitro. Kudos to Ken for whatever magic he employed to do it without a nitro tap.

Bellies sated and wits still intact we headed towards Sandy. I had been to Bunsenbrewer previously when doing a story for the Oregon Beer Growler but that was a year ago and Mag had never been. The interior was still basically the same with a small bar, plenty of table seating, a stage for live music and a couch area complete with an old school gaming system. The biggest difference was the chalkboard beer menu and the significant increase in the number of house brewed beers available.

I was thrilled with the Semmelweis sour stout I ordered, which lived up to its name precisely, although Mag was less impressed with his Tesla stout due to some sour characteristics he detected. The brewer wasn't on hand and the beertender was focused on talking to his buddy at the bar so there wasn't an opportunity to find out if Tesla was intended to be a bit sour or if perhaps there was some residue from the Semmelweis or another beer creating it. If we had decided to stay for another I definitely would have ordered the Dothraki CDA, a beer by the Oregon Brew Crew. Bunsenbrewer's beers don't make it far from their taproom, reason in itself to try them out at least once.

While that was the extent of our day trip, it could easily be beefed up by adding additional stops or extended with overnight camping. On our way to Milo McIver we passed Bigfoot Growlers (handy if refreshments are needed for golfing) and then just before arriving at the park was Viewpoint Restaurant and Grocery that apparently also has a beer garden and, in case you forgot yours, disc golf supplies. Not far from Bunsenbrewer in Sandy is The Beer Den, a beer bar that I've heard good things about from multiple people. And finally, if you should day trip this route on one of the few days a month Boring Brewing is open, they're just north from Sandy on Hwy 26, which you may be taking back into Portland.

5/30 Update: We visited The Beer Den yesterday and the rumors were true - great little place with a tap list that had lots of beers I've enjoyed before along with a few new to me beers including ones from Wingman and Thunder Island.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day Trippin': A Slightly Longer Excursion to Eugene

Continuing on our day trip/explore more of Oregon plans we decided to head south to Eugene at the end of April. While Eugene isn't so far that it couldn't be a day trip (for most people) we know us and we know that by the end of a day of exploring beer places the last thing we'd feel like doing would be getting in the car to drive back to Portland. Instead we made the decision that we'd get a room in town and take the trip at our own pace.

Our first stop, which I hooked Mag with by relaying the message on their menu that they served brunch until 3:00 pm on the weekends, was Plank Town Brewing (technically in Springfield). We arrived around 1:30 pm, easily finding them based on one of the exterior pictures from their website, and the place was hopping. We could have found a seat at a table by we went with our standard game plan and bellied up to seats at the bar. Addressing the most important question first we perused the beer list, about 15 offerings, starting off with their ESB and A Streetcar Named Stout, great beers to start the day with.

As I mentioned, the place was pretty busy and with nothing to buffer the sound, the noise level was pretty high. Generally that would be a mark against them but since it is a family-friendly establishment the din covered up any child noises. What turned out to be a big mark against them was the fact that it took 45 minutes for our order (a hot sandwich and an omelet) and the food was so-so at best. Yes, the place was pretty full but on a Saturday afternoon the kitchen should be better staffed to handle it. Moral of the story - go for the beer and find somewhere else to eat.

Shoving off we steered toward Claim 52 Brewing located in a light industrial area. The space is nice, with two roll up garage doors, but the day (cool and rainy) was less than conducive to having the doors wide open. Nonetheless we tried their beers (none of which happened to be their most highly rated ones). In general they all had a Belgian twist, which many of you know isn't exactly my favorite. After a beer a piece we shoved off, checked into the hotel we booked, left the car there and headed out on foot to Elk Horn Brewery.

Prior to Googling "Eugene breweries" I'd never heard of Elk Horn Brewery and as we walked down what appeared to be Sorority Row, I wasn't expecting much. Oh, how wrong I was! Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, check out a shot of their interior.

In addition to a creative, split level house feel they had an extensive tap list including plenty of their own beers. Both the IPA 3 and the Samoa Stout I had were great and all of the food I saw come out looked like something I'd definitely want to eat, a notion I seriously entertained as a way to erase the memory of the food we'd had at Plank Town. But I resisted and with thoughts about potentially returning later in the night we moved on to our fourth stop, Falling Sky Brewing House.

I'd been to Falling Sky before, which is located in an alley, really, its address is 1334 Oak Alley, but was looking forward to returning. Their beer offerings included 15 pushed selections as well as cask. Coming off the Samoa Stout at Elk Horn I ordered up the Hard Rain American Stout on cask and found it to be outstanding. At this point we were getting the time of the day where we could use a little beer break so we circled back to a place we'd seen on our way to Falling Sky, Level Up Arcade.

Like Ground Kontrol in Portland, Level Up has plenty of old school arcade games (Pac Man, Centipede, etc) and pinball machines. The bonus was that here the games were just $.25/play (at least the ones I played). After blowing a load of quarters each we headed out to Bier Stein.

I had been to Bier Stein in its previous location and been impressed by both their bottle selection and tap list. Coming up to the new location it was clearly much larger and being a Saturday night, looked pretty busy. Sure enough, when we got around to the door there was a substantial line for beer (bar ordering only) and that was not something we were down for. Turning around we decided some grub would be good and found a Killer Burger near our hotel for a quiet end to our night.

The next morning it wasn't beer we were thinking of but breakfast before making our way back to Portland. That proved to be a taller order than we were expecting and after a few failed attempts (one place too busy, other places closed) we found a sports bar that was just opening their doors. Sixth Street Grill is just across the street from the Hilton where we first tried to get a room.

Our server, who was also playing host until reinforcements showed up, was cheery in that genuine way that was endearing, not the annoying, just shut up and get me coffee kind of way. Coffees came quickly and although the server situation might have been a bit short handed, clearly the kitchen was firing on all cylinders. Our food arrived promptly and I dove into my Firehouse Scramble - eggs with bacon, pepper jack and loaded with pickled jalapenos - while Mag made equally short work of his omelet, a far superior product than the one he'd had the day before. Bellies satisfied we hit the road home, chalking up another successful weekend outing.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Return of Short Snout Brewing

Return might not be exactly the right word since Short Snout Brewing out of Milkwaukie never actually went away and rebirth is a bit too dramatic so maybe it's more appropriate to say reemergence. Long time homebrewer Brian VanOrnum started Short Snout Brewing in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign (which received coverage by Thrillist and the Oregonian) that raised over $16,000, exceeding the $15,000 goal he set. With the campaign funds Brian was able to upgrade his homebrewing system to a 1.5bbl system and install a fermentation room and cold room/keg storage area in the former garage. On April 28, 2012 Brian had his first batch and signature offering, Short Snout Stout, kegged and ready to go. That year also saw participation in Rye Beer Fest with Rye-teous Dude rye stout and fall brewing of Dank Nugs - Fresh/Wet Hop beer with estate-grown hops. Then things slowly trailed off...

Fast forward to February of this year and the lights started to come back on. Brian began posting Facebook updates of brewing again, an Instagram account was established and he received coverage by The New School. This past week Brian contacted me that were samples available and kegs of Short Snout Stout and Wiggle Butt Wit ready to go. Why would he contact me you may be asking? As it turns out I, along with #pdxbeergeeks founder Michael Umpress, are working to get Brian's beer on taps around town. Starting out we'll focus primarily on east side and north establishments, places we and other beer geeks tend to frequent.

Due diligence is my nature and while I'd tasted plenty of Short Snout's beers in the past it had been a while. Over the last couple of days I've tried both the wit and the stout they are both great. Wiggle Butt Wit is exceptionally balanced and mild on the coriander notes, something I appreciate. Fans of more assertively flavored wits might not be satisfied but it will likely be a crowd pleaser as the weather warms and we're looking for an easy drinking summer beer.

Short Snout Stout may seem like a bit of an odd choice to be rolling out this time of year until you try it. The brewery's signature offering gives off a roasty aroma with a jet black, opaque color. There's enough sweetness to provide a quick thought of chocolate milk up front before the roastiness and Columbus hops kick in. The combination and sequence of flavors made me ready to dive back in, sip after sip until I found my pint drained.

A keg of stout has been delivered to Bridgetown Beerhouse just off of N Mississippi and another will be showing up at The BeerMongers on SE Division shortly. The wit is currently on tap at Captured Beer Bus in SE, in the food cart pod behind the former location of Coalition Brewing's taproom, and Michael and I have been in contact with other locations so keep your eyes and ears open to find out where else you can get your hands around a pint.