2017 Beer Travel Series: Portland, OR

So 2017 has been a pretty epic year for me with regard to not only the progress we have made with our beers and the Terra Costa brand, but also with some amazing places we were able to visit. While listening to many podcasts over the past year there were many instances where individuals would speak about their local beer scene as well as what the culture around beer over seas.

A quick plug here before we jump into our travels. If you want to check out what people are brewing/drinking in other areas of our country and beyond, check out The Brewing Network's podcast, "The Sunday Session". There are some talks around home brewing but, not as many as I initially thought - not a bad thing though! They have guest brewers from around the country come on the show each week to talk about how they got started, the state of the beer culture in their area and some stories around the beers they are producing. The crew on this podcast is also pretty entertaining...makes my train ride into work pretty enjoyable these days.

Ok, now onto reminiscing about these awesome trips. I plan on spreading these posts out into a series. When gathering my thoughts around these trips I didn't want to skimp on discussions around some amazing beer that I found. I also didn't think any of you would particularly want to sit down and read one lengthy article. Hope you enjoy the first installment of this little travel series. In this post we'll cover our July trip to Portland, Oregon. Cheers!

When we returned from England in February of this year, we spent the rest of the winter and spring learning more about malt bills and perfecting techniques around beer design. With a few more beers under our belts, an opportunity to travel to the West Coast surfaced in July. We were heading to the great state of Oregon and had the pleasure of exploring the great beer city of Portland. I've always heard awesome stories around the beer culture in Portland and Oregon plays an important role in our beers, as we order our hops from the Yakima Valley. Also, Yakima is where we purchased our rhizomes for our hops that grow in our yard.

So to start off I want to just bring up a specific topic that is pretty consistently brought up on the Sunday Session podcast and that's the craze around the haze, i.e. the New England IPA. The Brewing Network is based out of California, a state which prides itself on the love of hops and West Coast IPAs which is VERY different from the New England IPAs that we're used to around New Jersey. Their beers are very clean, clear and crisp while our IPA's on the East Coast are known to be very hazy, fruity and strong. I haven't been too exposed to Portland beers outside your big players in the game, i.e. Rogue and Deschutes so I was actually anticipating many West Coast style IPAs. I was correct in some cases, however. Believe it or not, the amount of East Coast/New England Style IPAs available in Portland was very surprising.

We arrived in Portland on Friday night and planned for a full day of brewery hopping on Saturday. I wanted to visit as many breweries as my body could handle. We visited a total of 8 breweries and tried 32 different beers but managed to fail to put a dent in the vast amount of beers available to a single individual while visiting this city. Portland, in my mind could in fact be the beer capital of the United States. I still have many places to visit before I can truly place the crown here, but I can't fathom a better beer scene anywhere else right now.

We kicked off our beer adventure at Fat Head's Brewery at 11am where we ordered a pair of flights to get a taste of what they offered. I do recall actually having some of their beers on the East Coast as this brewery is actually headquartered out of Pittsburgh, PA with locations in Ohio and this one in Portland. The taproom was very well constructed and resembled a brew pub more than an actual brewery which makes sense since this is one of four locations around the country. This is also something that I learned while on my visit. The fact that the New Jersey beer laws are so behind in the game that its laughable. Each brewery in Oregon must provide it's patron's with food along with their beers. Fat Head's had an extensive menu of food along with an extensive tap list. It was really refreshing to see. To put things into perspective for you, the state of New Jersey just granted tap rooms with the wonderful luxury of providing their patrons with cable tv and live music woohooo!!!

Fat Head's served traditional West Coast style beers which was interesting given their East Coast roots, but then again Fat Head's was founded in 1992, way before the hazy hop craze infected the beer scene. Their roots were already set before there was a need for them to hop on the hype train.

The beers that stood out to me at this brewery were:

Level Headed : American IPA

IBUsive: American IPA

Double Red: Red IPA

After sipping on our flights (yes, we sipped on them as we knew the day was going to be very long so we needed to pace ourselves) we headed out of Fat Head's and down the street to visit the Rogue Public House. Rogue is brewed in Bend, Oregon but they do have a number of Public Houses around which offer up some rare Rogue beers that we couldn't find on the East Coast. Rogue is one of my favorite breweries so we couldn't pass up this one. This particular location is one of four Rogue Public Houses in the city and was actually the site of Rogue distilling. It's small, quaint and bled local pride. Along with some fresh beers I also grabbed a great Dead Guy sticker for the beer fridge!

The beers that we were able to enjoy here were:

Cold Brew IPA

Coffee Blonde

Chipotle Chocolate Stout: (Yes, very interesting combo here...)

Hot Tub Scholarship Lager

Right on the opposite corner stood a tap room for 10 Barrel Brewing which in 2014 was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev. So in efforts of supporting local craft beer, we kept walking. We didn't have to go very far...and Im not exaggerating...we literally walked maybe ten feet until we were welcomed by an open garage door with corn hole sets lining the sidewalk. Back Pedal Brewing was a small locally owned brewery with a charming little tap room, their system could not be bigger than 3 bbl. This place is the model for what I dream about when thinking of taking Terra Costa to the professional level, a small industrial setting with fresh beer being served right out of bright tanks. The small nano brewery looked to be a meeting place for a local beer bike tour which seemed awesome! The crowd was young and clearly all shared a love of beer. The atmosphere was perfect. It was very welcoming and I just kept picturing it being the scene of the Terra Costa tap room one day. Oh and these dudes embraced the haze and had some East Coast Style IPAs that could compete with some of the hyped breweries in our area, i.e. Finnback, Other Half, Magnify

The beers that stood out to us here were:

Flockahops : East Coast Style Hazy IPA

Tropic Thunder: East Coast Style Hazy IPA

Prismatic Passion: Saison

Now that we had three brewery/public house stops it was time for lunch and where better than Deschutes Public House? We all had a little buzz going at this point so we had good grub on our mind, something that Portland is also famous for. On the menu was a burger called the Pub Burger which included spent grain fed beef. Now....I've had many burgers in my day...but, this had to be literally the best burger I've ever had. I washed my lunch down with a Black Butte Porter and we were off to our next stop.

After consulting with a few Portland locals, there was one particular brewery that appeared on more than a few recommendation lists and that was Great Notion Brewing in Northeast Portland. The tap room was very homey and welcoming. Their brewing system was on display behind glass near the bar and the back of the room opened up to a patio with a garden. Ive been told to try their Double Stack Stout along with their Blueberry Sour. We started with a flight which did include these two beers and I instantly fell in love. I am not a sour/gose beer drinking by any means. In fact, I've built up a reputation to really not enjoying this style of beer......that's until I tried Great Notion's Blueberry Sour. The Double Stack tasted of sweet pancakes drenched in syrup....After we downed the flight I ordered a pint of the sour and the Double Stack and alternated sips enjoying what seemed to be a liquid blueberry pancake.

Their lineup also consisted of a nice lineup of New England Style IPAs which we also enjoyed immensely. After talking to some of the employees and doing some research, Great Notion is going about their New England Style IPA design with guile as they actually cultivated yeast from the almighty Heady Topper. Great Notion is on the rise and definitely a brewery I will be keeping a close eye on and I hold in very high regard.

The beers that stood out to us here were:

Double Stack : American Imperial Breakfast Stout

Blueberry Muffin: Sour

Strawberry Shortcake: Sour

Juice, Jr.: New England Style IPA

The first podcast that I started listening to on the regular, Experimental Brewing, has two contributors, Denny Conn and Drew Beechum. Denny seemed to pop up in many publications that I have read through as well and actually resides in Portland. Before leaving for this trip I took a shot in the dark and reached out to him for some brewery/beer recommendations. One on top of his list was Breakside Brewing. We weren't too far so we hopped in a quick Uber ride and paid a visit to their original tap room location in the quiet suburb of Dekum. Much like Great Notion, this tap room was placed in a really nice suburban setting with both indoor and outdoor seating. Both breweries were packed to the gills with small town hospitality. I really do wish there were areas in Jersey like this...Then again I would drink way more beer than I should...Breakside was awarded the Gold Medal for American-Style IPA for their flagship,

Breakside IPA, at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 which is an insanely tough category to medal in given the sheer fact of how popular IPAs are to drink and to brew. Their taplist was plentiful and you could tell that they were a really well rounded brewery that will be a staple in Portland for a very long time.

The beers that stood out to us here were:

Breakside IPA: American IPA

Rainbows & Unicorns Session IPA

After bidding farewell to Breakside, we stayed in the same area of town and visited Culmination Brewing. This brewery was familiar to the appearance of breweries in our area as it was situated in an industrial park YET, still was embedded inside suburbia. The crowd was a little smaller than those that have been at the previous breweries we spent time at earlier in the day however, the beer was still on par. Their tap list consisted of many styles which I love. Don't get me wrong...I really do enjoy a hoppy IPA but, I really like to see some variety.

The beers that stood out to us here were:

Phaedrus IPA: American IPA

Cinnamon Cap Dunkel: Dunkelweizen

Neko's Nectar: Sour

As we sipped the last of our Culmination brews we peaked outside the window and noticed the sun setting on our day of beer discovery. There was one more brewery on our list within a quick driving distance, Base Camp Brewing Company. When we pulled up it seemed like a beer drinker's playground. Food trucks lined the property creating a barrier between the street and their large outdoor patio. Large grain silos greeted you as you entered their tap room which was adorned with decor inspired by hiking and mountain climbing. I went up to the bar to order our last flight but, somewhere in my enthusiasm for great beer and intoxication I walked back to our picnic table with two very large slabs of timber loaded with Base Camp tasting glasses.

Our group shot me the death stare and asked why I ordered two of them....(They couldn't have been THAT MAD at me...it was beer for God's sake.) We all agreed that this wasn't the worst decision I've ever made however, there was a good decision to pair with this....TACOs. I was impressed by the variety of styles at this brewery as well. The beers ranged from IPAs to Laggers to ESB's to Stouts. OH STOUTS....They had a Smore stout to go along with their outdoor theme and it was damn good. I really do have the champion Base Camp with their branding and marketing. It was very creative and you could tell that everyone who worked there really enjoyed working in the environment that they created themselves.

The beers that stood out to us here were:

License to Keller: Kellerbier

S'more Stout: American Stout

Barrel Aged Imperial Saison: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

As we ascended from Base Camp (see what I did there...) to meet our Uber driver, it was time to call it a day. We returned to our hotel with bellies full of beer, memories of a good, day drinking session with old friends and pockets full of stickers for the beer fridge.

Stay tuned for stories from Greece and Germany! Also some really cool news about the progress of Terra Costa. Talk soon!