Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Portland: Take Five

This past week, I made my fifth trip to KJ's hometown of Portland, Oregon, and it was our second involving Little Chuck. Considering the latter part of that sentence, these trips are no longer the brewery tours I originally envisioned them to be, but I still managed to visit three new (to me) brewpubs this time.

Prior to my first trip to Portland in the summer of 2009, I fantasized about a city where every other tavern brewed their own beer. In reality, the greater Portland area is a strange hybrid of charming urban neighborhoods and modern-city suburban sprawl. But, honestly, the more happening areas aren't that far from my romanticized ideal. I still vividly remember, on more than one occasion, driving past several brewpubs I'd never heard of on our way to our ultimate destination.

Of course, not being from the area, there were bound to be places I'd never heard of. But, you'll have to believe me when I tell you I'd done enough research to be familiar with the majority of the city's brewing operations.

On that first trip, I tasted close to 40 different local beers in a 10-day span. This time around, although the trip was a little shorter, the list paled (not a reference to the beer style) in comparison:

Eager Beaver IPA (4th Street Brewing Co.)
Black Hearted Ale (Migration Brewing)
Black Rabbit Porter (McMenamins)
Sunflower IPA (McMenamins)
Sahalie (The Ale Apothecary)
India Session Ale (10 Barrel Brewing Co.)
Shocks of Sheba IPA (Fire on the Mountain)
Red Headed Stranger (Fire on the Mountain)
Lunatic Fringe (The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits)

Yup, that's it. 1-2 beers per day is all I can handle at this point. Well, when I say handle, I'm really talking about what I'm able to consume and still feel comfortable with my parenting ability. But, like I said, three additional brewpubs (4th Street, Fire on the Mountain, The Rock) visited brings my Portland total to 17, if my count is correct. I'm not sure if I'll ever reach the "goal" of eventually making it to every one in the metro area—there are around 40 according to beermapping.com, but I know of at least two that aren't on that list, so I suspect the total is maybe 50 or more—but I sure as heck will enjoy trying.

The real highlight of the trip was a bottle of Sahalie a friend and I shared during a brunch get-together of KJ's crew. It's brewed at a small operation called The Ale Apothecary in Bend, Oregon.

When our friend purchased it at a local beer store called Belmont Station—which he raves about—he was told it smells like bubble gum, but tastes like a horse smells. This might sound a little peculiar to you, as it does to me, but he honestly meant that to be a good thing.

I'll admit my sense of smell isn't the keenest, but I didn't pick up any bubble gum in the aroma, so it's possible my friend misunderstood the description. In fact, I thought its creamy head imparted a faint, but funky, scent (of horse manure?) into my nose.

Despite this, it tasted fantastic. Described as an American Wild Ale, it's not a style I would necessarily consider my thing, but its combination of fruitiness and tartness, and slightly woody champagne-like essence went down easy, despite being around 10% ABV. I suppose it didn't hurt that I drank most of it on an empty stomach, giving me my first pre-noon buzz in I don't know how long.

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