Monday, June 22, 2015

Portland & Seattle 2015

We celebrated five years of marriage last week in grand fashion by spending a week in the Pacific Northwest. We had an amazing time, ate great food, hiked some incredibly beautiful trails, and of course drank a lot of really good beer. I won't bore you with a critique of every single offering we tasted because there were over 70, and frankly I don't recall each one. I mean I was drinking at the time so...

However, I will say that the Pacific Northwest is a bucket list stop for any true craft beer enthusiast. There are so many great breweries churning out fantastic beers, and the consumer is well equipped to enjoy them all. Never mind that the region produces a large majority of the hops used in American craft beer. Never mind that consumers have enjoyed 30+ years of excellent craft beer. Never mind that most restaurants have a beer menu and pairing suggestion as complete as one might expect a wine menu to be in Napa Valley.

The Columbia River Gorge
All of that aside, the place is just amazing. The weather never got out of the high 80's. We heard most locals claiming the "heat wave" was unbearable, and many shopkeeps apologized for the brutal heat. We didn't have the heart to tell them the highs in Texas. The mornings were usually a dry 60 degrees and made walking to public transportation stops almost enjoyable. Almost. Did you know they have hills most places? We grew up on the extremely flat South Texas coast. Literally, the highest point in town was the pitcher's mound at the park. Seattle challenged us with 100 feet of gain from our the bus stop to our B&B. Needless to say, the terrain helped us work off our rich food and beer diet that week.

But on to what we know and love: the beer. 

In Portland, we visited the Cascade, Lucky Labrador, and Hair of the Dog breweries. We also managed to sample all of the rare local brews at the Deschutes Public House and the Rogue Public House. Both were a fun time, but as far as atmosphere, the Rogue taproom was awesome. Full wall with about 30 taps of nothing but Rogue beers. Sours, local ingredients, massive IPAs, and my personal favorite, the Marionberry Braggot - an ale brewed and finished with a special kind of raspberry/blackberry hybrid created in Portland. Definitely one of my favorites of the whole trip.

The Stoic 2015, Deschutes Public House

Amazing line-up of all Rogue's beers at the Rogue Brewery, Distillery, and Public House
Cascade Brewing is well known for their excellent sour ales, and we sampled a large chunk of their menu via flights. We enjoyed a 2011-2013 vertical tasting of The Vine, a blend of blonde ales soured and aged in wine barrels with actual wine grapes. Also, Sang Royal a sour red ale aged in wine barrels was a huge yes. We sampled their Gose, Kriek, and various other sour/wild ales as well. We tried all of their non-sour offerings too, but the sours stole the show.

Keepin' it real at Cascade Brewing & Barrell House
Lucky Labrador was a homey, fun, and of course dog-friendly taproom and brewery on the East side. Each of their canine-themed brews looked great, but we hit LL after our already epic session at Cascade. We ordered their Imperial IPA, Superdog and two versions of their Black Lab Stout-cask conditioned and nitro. Both were excellent, but the cask offering gave me the impression of graham crackers and chocolate. Yum! Pretty damn good chips and salsa for northerners, too!

Black Lab Stout at Lucky Labrador. Nitro on the left, cask on the right
Last brewery stop for Portland was Hair of the Dog. This brewery is well known for its strong, heavy-hitting beers. All of its offerings were great, but the crowning jewel was a 12oz bottle of Adam from the Wood (a wood aged Old ale). Holy moly. This was an experience all in itself, and it took a trip to Voodoo Donuts to sober up afterwards.

Fibonacci Spiral seen while waiting for the train in Portland. They must have known we were coming.
We also payed a visit to a Portland staple, Belmont Station. This bottle shop is a small but very well stocked repository of the finest beer America has to offer. I was able to grab beer from Ninkasi, Heretic, Fearless, Trinity, and a few other breweries I had never seen before. It was a very cool place.

After the Portland shenanigans, we headed more north still to Seattle. Our first stop was lunch at Mammoth for some immense sandwiches and amazing draft beer. We grabbed a few sours we'd never heard of (10 Barrel's Raspberry Crush and German Sparkle Party) and one I had (Abraxxxas smoked berlinerweisse, amazing). Then we headed over to Fremont, a weird/awesome suburb with a great brewery of the same name. We went and took our photos with the troll and then moseyed on down the hill to the brewery. This place just oozed fun. We sampled as much as we could (noticing a trend here?) including their stout, wheat, a few of their IPAs and their gose as well. We would have loved to stay longer, but the folks next to us at the picnic table brought a full 5 course dinner complete with a roast and casseroles, so we kind of got edged out. Amanda insisted we try to stay and make friends with the food people. She has good ideas.

Amanda bonding with the Fremont Troll

Sampling Fremont's finest
After trips to the Pike Place Market, Original Starbucks, and the EMP museum, we trekked over to Pike Brewing. This place was a little touristy, but they have all kinds of historical beer memorabilia covering their walls throughout. Their local and one-offs were interesting, but we think their year-round mainstays were pretty darn good. Our favorite was the Kilt Lifter scotch ale, with the Monks Uncle Belgian tripel a close second.

Right around the corner from Pike's Place Market
Our last beer stop on the trip was Chuck's Hop Shop. We sampled several California and Washington IPA's and determined Good Life's Descender IPA was just about as good as any we could remember. We also sampled 21st Amendment's famous Hell or High Watermelon and finished the night with the very tart and refreshing Raspberry Millie American sour from Wander Brewing.

Raspberry Millie American Sour at Chuck's Hop Shop
We had tons of fun on this trip, and there's no way it will be the last time we're in the Pacific Northwest. If you're thinking about taking a fun summer trip, I definitely recommend Portland and Seattle. If you've already planned a trip, and you're looking for advice, hit us up on facebook! We'd be glad to share with y'all. Now that we're back in Texas, I'll be brewing up a storm for various summer get-togethers. Stay tuned!

Today's Main Break: Many varieties of American hops are named after various features in the Pacific Northwest: Mt. Hood, Cascade, Chinook, Willamette, Yakima Gold, Mt. Ranier. Generally, West coast IPA's use these hops for their piney, resinous, and sometimes bright citrus characters.