Took a short trip to Portland and Eugene. Just long enough to sample some great west coast brews.
Finding Beer in OregonIf you are young and you drink a great deal it will spoil your health, slow your mind, make you fat – in other words, turn you into an adult.
P. J. O’Rourke
With over 100 brewery companies operating in Oregon, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild, you can hardly stroll from the airport gate to baggage claim without running into a brewery. The state is the second largest craft beer producer, second largest hop producer, and third largest consumer of craft beer in the United States. All this makes it the perfect place for a beer geek to spend a few days.
With 43 within city limits, Portland has more breweries operating than any city in the world. Some of the bigger names include Widmer Brothers, Deschutes, Full Sail, and Hair of the Dog. Rogue also has a Distillery and “Public House” and, has in recent years taken over the charming and famous beer bar the Green Dragon. With only a few hours on the itinerary for the city, I made my first stop for lunch and a few beers at the Horse Brass Pub, my favorite place in Oregon to get a pint.
After lunch we went around the corner to Belmont Station, a beer store suggested by Brad of Cleveland Hops. A fine beer writer, Brad has a great piece on his longer trip to Portland. Belmont is a great store with hundreds of Oregonian and west coast bottles. I picked up a 22oz. of Firestone Walker’s 15th anniversary and some Russian River selections.
The remainder of our time in Portland was spent drinking coffee, eating at Clyde Common (serving barrel aged cocktails), and grabbing a maple bacon bar from VooDoo Doughnuts. Great times in a great city. On to Eugene.
Eugene, Oregon’s second largest city, is perhaps most famously home to the University of Oregon. Track Town USA has a lot of loyal Ducks wearing Nikes on the street, to dinner, at funerals, even at their own wedding. But it’s not all sports, with a number of breweries and quality bars, there are plenty of choices here to tempt a craft beer fan. Having less than twenty four hours in Eugene counting sleep and meals, time was precious. As such, I narrowed my focus to a newer brewery that has been making positive waves: Ninkasi.
Founded less than 6 years ago, Ninkasi is now proudly producing their flagship Total Domination IPA and other well hopped beers from a 50 barrel brewery in the Whiteaker neighborhood. Like Jeremy Lin coming out of nowhere, Ninkasi became the fastest growing craft brewer in 2011, surpassing even New Belgium’s blistering growth records. The tasting room is small, but cozy and attractive. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful. The free tour was given by an employee who knew the facility front to back, having started as a keg washer. To explore their beers I ordered a sampler. The 5oz (!) samples each come with a card displaying the beer’s label on one side, and effusive tasting notes on the other. ABV, original gravity, the varieties of hops and malts, even food pairings are all included as reading material while you imbibe.
Although I spent nearly all my time at Ninkasi, a short visit was paid to Hop Valley Brewing Company, a brewery/restaurant near the hotel. Hop Valley brews a number of beers on sight including Alphadelic IPA, a piney but simple brew and Golden Road, a “Belgian” pale ale on cask that missed a few style marks. Every state has cookie-cutter sports bars, Oregon is great because here they have fresh beer. Not a bad place for a meal and a real ale.
Not Enough Time
Surrounded by beautiful scenery, friendly people, great food and scores of breweries, exploring all the beer in Oregon would be a challenge in 440 hours. Having sampled greats on previous trips like Deschutes, Full Sail, Rogue, and amazing bars like McMenamins Kennedy School, the breweries and bars of our trip were as good as anything I have visited. Every time my eyes catch Mount Hood, and lips taste a real pint of a west coast ale, the truism that Oregon is a haven for craft beer comes flowing back. There may be no better beer-cation spot on the planet.