Eric's Beer Blog

My online journal for beer (and other drinks) tasting, brewing, tourism, and general musings.

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Portland, Day Five

I planned to do three quick stops on Day Five. Unfortunately, I arrived at my first stop, Roots Organic Brewing Company, only to find it closed until 3:00. I was there at 11:30, needing an early start and planning to eat some lunch and drink some beer! 3:00... geesh...

Fortunately, stop 2 was right around the corner (this happens frequently in Portland-- brew pubs practically on top of other brew pubs!)-- the Lucky Labrador. I ordered some lunch, which was excellent, and had a sampler of beer.

Another good-looking pub, a beer-hall atmosphere-- high ceilings, a piano, dartboards-- with a large patio (as the name suggests, it's apparently very dog friendly). Besides the great food (I had a delicious lentil soup and a half sandwich), this place has good beer. Of the samples I tasted, my notes say, "all good, none revelatory." That about sums it up. I tasted their Magnolia PA (IPA), Rose City Organic Red, Black Lab Stout and Stumptown Porter (liked these two the best), Super Dog (hoppy pale ale), Crazy Ludwig's Alt on cask, and Goat Rocks Maibock.

I hopped a bus to head to stop #2, my first foray into the McMenamins chain of brewpubs. Starting from a single brewpub in 1983, the McMenamin brothers have now opened more than 50 pubs and "gathering places" in Oregon and Washington. Perhaps the most unique among them is the Kennedy School. They bought this abandoned elementary school and turned it into a hotel, pub, and movie theater, while retaining much of its school building character (for example, many of the hotel rooms have chalkboards!). They even kept the elementary-sized water fountains:

It's a gorgeous building with beautiful grounds. I headed to one of the bars (called the Detention Bar and the Honors Bar) for a beer and some freedom fries.

I had an IPA (when in Portland...). It was good but not outstanding. But the atmosphere of the place was pretty neat... Would be a fun place to stay, I imagine, though it's not an especially convenient location.

That evening Daniela and I headed to yet another brewpub for dinner. Laurelwood NW Public House is a converted house and specializes in organic beer and locally sourced food. I didn't take notes, but I recall that the beer was (again) good but not mind-blowing, and the food was good as well. We had some excellent gelato for dessert at a litte place nearby...

And that was the end of my beer tour. I managed to visit 8 brewpubs and 1 beer bar in 5 days... not too bad, I suppose. My one major regret is that I didn't make it to Hair of the Dog's brewery. Next trip!

Portland, Day Four

I decided to keep my plans modest for Thursday, following the difficulties arising from trying to do too much on Tuesday. So I had only 2 destinations: Widmer Brothers and Amnesia.

I took the light rail train to Widmer Brothers. This brewery is famous for its Hefeweizen, which one can find even here in Minnesota (saw it at the Xcel Center while we were there to see The Police!), but I wasn't about to waste my time on wheat beer. Nothing against the style-- it's just not my thing.

But I figured Widmer has been around a long time (est. 1984, I believe), so they must have some good beer. There was a promising beginning: as soon as I stepped out of the train, I could smell beer. Brewing beer. It's a delightful smell, and immediately confirmed that Widmer actually makes their beer at this location. The brewpub is plush and pleasant. I drank a nice pint of Broken Halo IPA, a solid if not thrilling example of the style. Given that I was not overwhelmed by my first beer, and that none of the other beers on offer seemed like one I couldn't live without, I decided to move on.

My next stop was a slightly less than 1 mile walk (made slightly longer by the fact that it was almost entirely uphill!) to Amnesia Brewing. You can read my review of the place on Beer Advocate here, but I'll repeat here as well: this is the best place I visited in Portland, and that's saying something.

It wasn't just the beer, though it was very good-- I especially liked The ESB, with lots of nice biscuity malt flavor, and the Copacetic IPA, exceedingly bitter with stunning grapefruit flavors. I also tried the Dusty Trail Pale Ale, Desolation IPA (darker and more alcoholic than Copacetic-- and gotta love a place with 2 IPAs on tap!), and Slowtrain Porter (yes, I had a sampler).

But it was also what an old drinking buddy of mine calls "the beer experience." Another place where the smell of brewing beer was quite strong-- as you can see in the above photo, the bar is mere steps from the brewery, with big bags of malt stacked next to the restrooms. The pub appears to have been a warehouse or garage of some sort.

There is a resident dog (above, named Leslie), and there were numerous other dogs outside, where a big tent covers a large seating area. There's also a big barbecue grill (in picture below, on the right), which is the only kitchen in the place-- they serve locally made sausages and burgers which smelled great, though I didn't try any.

All in all, a great neighborhood bar in what seems like a great neighborhood. This would be the place I'd want to live near if I lived in Portland....