Posts Tagged Oregon

Pick Your Poison

Toxic Brew Collage_exteriorHappy Leap Year! While touring the city of Dayton, Ohio, we stopped by the Oregon District, which consisted mainly of a single street with historic houses and a few businesses. While idly wandering the street in the bitter cold, we found a funky little brewery called Toxic Brew Company. There were some cool murals and other art built into the side of the building outside. Walking in, I was struck by the openness of the space. There was lots of funky art on the walls, including some graffiti canvas art and death-inspired paintings. The bar ran down the middle of the room, with a brick wall behind it that split the room into two halves, with the bar and a shuffleboard to the right and some low tables to the left. There were a few Ohio-themed art pieces, including their logo, which features a skull and crossed bottles inside the outline of the state.

Toxic Brew Collage_interiorOf course, I toured their menu by getting myself a flight. I started with the ‘Til Death Do Us Tart Berliner Weisse (4.8% abv). This first one poured cloudy pale yellow, with thin fizzy white head. The aromas were grassy, lemony and somewhat bready. The first taste was quite sour, with lots of funk and some bready barley flavor. The middle was fizzy with light body and light-medium carbonation. It finished sour and tart. Not my favorite style of beer, so not entirely their fault that I didn’t much care for this one.

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Next up was the Abbey Brunette Belgian Dubbel (6.8% abv). It poured bright clear amber, with thin white head. Aromas were very mild, with only a hint of malty sweetness. The taste was malty and sweet. A little dark fruit came through into the middle. Light-medium body and light carbonation lead to a somewhat malty finish. I must have been in the mood for malts because I enjoyed this beer.

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Toxic Brew Flight

The third beer I tried was the Hum Bug Seasonal Ale (7.6% abv). It poured an orangey color, with creamy white head that coated the glass. It smelled very mild, with only a hint of sweet maltiness. The taste was super mild and creamy, starting with some mild malty sweetness, moving to a bit of a spiced vegetal flavor in the middle. Medium in body and light in carbonation, it finished malty and sweet. Despite sounding pretty dynamic, it was just off for a holiday ale.

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I finished my flight with the Lockness Express Scotch Ale (7.6% abv). This last one poured a rich brown amber color, with thin light brown head. It smelled rich, roasty and malty. The first taste was very smooth and mild. Then the malts kicked in, followed by some fruitiness like cherries. The middle was light-medium-bodied and lightly carbonated and it finished somewhat thick with malts and the fruity sweetness trailing.

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Toxic Brew Hanger 18 PorterAs is my habit, my exuberance got the better of me and I did not stop after the flight, mainly because I simply didn’t have room in the flight for the Hanger 18 Porter (6.2% abv). It poured black, with thin tan head. It smelled rich and sweet. The taste was mild and smooth. There was some chocolate and mild sweetness at first, followed by a hoppy bitterness. The middle was smooth, with some bittersweet flavors. Light body and light carbonation lead to a smooth finish, with more bitterness and a touch of coffee flavor. This may have been an average porter, but it was exactly what I wanted on such a cold day.

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I really enjoyed this brewery. Everyone we met was very friendly, the place was entertaining to the eye and the beer was some of the best we had on our trip to Ohio. I definitely recommend it.

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The Industrial Goddess

Mt Hood

I recently took a trip through beautiful Oregon and paid a too-short visit to my favorite brewery, Ninkasi Brewing. This place of wonder was not quite what I expected: it was in a very industrial part of town, which in itself is not that unusual for a brewery, but I am used to strip malls and office parks with tasting rooms. This particular section of Eugene was full of graffiti, run-down homes and factories whose products at which I could only guess. It was also laid out like it was built around the neighborhood it inhabited, with the road leading up to it leading directly to the main administrative building. I generally don’t expect to get lost at a brewery until after sampling the beer (Of course, I kid…)

Ninkasi Brewery outsideEventually winding my way back to the building where they actually brew the stuff, I was presented with a complex that reminded me of a cross between a brewery and a junkyard (just cluttered, not dirty). There was chain link and black brick surrounding what I could see of it from the front, which was not much given the small city block on which it sat. They did have a small patio area just inside the fence/wall and a fire pit beneath the grain tower. It was cozy enough for the part of that city.

Hopping inside for the main attraction, the situation was much different: bright, shiny stainless everywhere there wasn’t clean, smooth concrete. As is fairly standard across all tasting rooms I have visited, the taps were the first thing to greet me through the door. It was the middle of the day (don’t judge me…) so there were only a few people at the counter. I was excited to try something I had not had from them before, so I got the Quantum Pale Ale and Lux Helles Lager.

Quantum Pale Ale Starting out easy, I tried the Quantum Pale Ale first. This poured a rich golden color and had a thick stand of frothy foam that did not stick around long. Tropical fruits and flowers hit my nose on the smell. The taste was surprisingly mild for a pale ale, with light to medium carbonation and light mouthfeel. There was a light taste of tart, sweet fruit, with a flowery taste trailing toward and lasting through a very mild finish.

At a pretty moderate 5.6% abv, not a bad beer I could definitely see myself with after work at some point in the future.

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Lux_Helles_Lager_tasterI wanted another beer, but being on the road so long I just got a taster of another light one: the Lux Helles Lager. This one poured light pale yellow with very fizzy head that dissipated very quickly. It smelled yeasty with some lemon and grassy aromas. It reminded me very much of spring, despite the cloudy weather and cool temperature that particular afternoon. It had a very light mouthfeel, with surprisingly light carbonation, given the bubbly pour. The lemon flavor came through first on the taste, followed by a whole lot of fresh-cut grass. There really was not much else to this beer, except some lemon on the finish.

This was not a particularly dynamic beer, though I am not sure that was the point. Still:

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Au Revoir Portland!

Mt. Hood as visible from almost anywhere in the city.

As promised, I went to Portland, Oregon last week and I loved it. I love the Pacific Northwest mainly for 3 things: the beautiful scenery, the weather (yes, I like rain), and now the beer.  Of course, I have long known about the vibrant beer culture up there, but to actually go to the place where it is all happening was really something. First stop upon arrival (around dinnertime) was Henry’s Tavern. This place was a kind of spontaneous decision, as we had yet to get our bearings and were very hungry. This is one of those tall brick buildings you’d expect in a historic district, but since many parts of Portland are historic, Henry’s place on 12th Street was hardly out-of-place. Walking in, the place seemed huge, with a large room that served as its bar area to the left and a long double row of seating to the right. Above and directly in front of the front door was a narrow loft with even more seating. It definitely had the feel of an old-timey feel, with unfinished wood floors and brick everywhere. They were very busy and short-staffed, but on to the beer.

Although they do not brew their own beer, they offer more than enough local and regional fare to choose from. Though they had a respectable list of stouts, my love of reds immediately drew my attention to that section of the menu. I was tired and wanted to get some bang for my buck, so I chose the Lompoc Proletariat Red. This was a pretty good one and at 6.2% ABV, very drinkable. It took so long to get to the table after I ordered it that I couldn’t tell you about the head, but it the beer had a dark, cloudy amber color to it. It smelled somewhat malty and sour, though that was not altogether unpleasant. It was not a cold beer, probably again owing to it taking so long to get to the table, but was surprisingly refreshing. At first, I was hit with the sourness and I thought I had gotten a beer different from the one I ordered. Then the heavy malts started coming through, making it almost creamy in texture and taste. Afterwards, I had mostly the heavy malt left to remember it by. Not a bad beer, but I was hoping for more.

IMG_1563Then we went back to the hotel and sat by the fire at the restaurant, Nel Centro. Their beer selection was not extensive, but the Amnesia Porter caught my eye. It came cold, which was quite welcome after the semi-warm beer at dinner. This dark beauty had little head, but swirling it a bit in the glass left some nice lacing. It smelled heavily of my second love, coffee, which excited me. At first the taste was like a shot of espresso, followed by that characteristic chocolate bitterness. The alcohol content was just enough to pleasantly warm my insides. That was pretty much it for the first day in Portland, as it was pretty late by then. I mean, we went to a pretty cool ice cream shop after dinner, but I want this to be less a travelogue and more about the beer.

The next day Portland collagewe got up early to see some of the sights and went to the Portland Japanese Garden. Again, I won’t bore you with details, but suffice to say it was pretty and tranquil.

IMG_1576Portland Japanese Garden

From there, we ventured forth in search of a brew pub called Kell’s Irish Brew Pub that I saw on the list of area attractions on our map. This is a fairly out-of-the-way place on the western side of the city. Inside, it is basically one big room, with a large fireplace on the left, the bar toward the back, the brewing room behind that, and the seating area just kind of haphazardly set around the whole floor. After being seated, I ordered my second coffee of the morning, this time an Irish coffee. As always, this was a tantalizing treat. I had IMG_1580somewhat underdone waffles to eat, topped with Jameson maple syrup that was too good to pass up. After I drained my coffee, I followed it up with one of only 3 brews they had. As usual, it was a red. It was a bright red color, came cold and without head. It smelled somewhat hoppy, with floral notes and something like a citrus, though I couldn’t readily identify it at the time. With my first sip, however, the fruitiness came through. It then kind of fell away to become somewhat flat in both flavor and carbonation. The finish was much the same and left only a slight malty taste. Not a great beer, but good enough for an experiment.

From there, we really didn’t have a destination, so we cruised around until we happened upon a very nondescript industrial building. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a listed attraction: Clear Creek Distillery. Now, I know this doesn’t really belong with a writing about all things beer, but I thought it was a good enough experience to share it.

IMG_1581We parked it what was essentially an alley and upon trying to enter the place, we discovered the door was locked. Turns out there is a sign on the door that instructs entrants to knock…read for comprehension, kids (Hooked on Phonics worked for me!) We entered into a tasting room with various bottles set on tables and counters around 3/4 of the room. We were given a card that served as our “passport”. In it, we could browse the menu of “Eau de Vie” (brandy), grappa, whiskey and liqueurs, taste up to 5 and check them off so we remember what we had. I started with the single whiskey selection they had: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey. I knew nothing about this one before tasting it, which was why I was surprised and a little dismayed at the thick peat and smokiness in both the smell and flavor. I was a little afraid this would set my chest afire with heartburn, as this kind of whiskey usually does, but I pressed on. Next I tried two of the brandies- the apple and the pear. Both smelled heavily of their respective fruits. Both were relatively thin and clear. Both started with a quick hit of alcohol, then the fruit flavor, finishing back with the alcohol burn afterward. The next one I tried was grappa. I had never had this type of alcohol before, so I had to look it up. According to Clear Creek’s website, it is made from the crushed seed and skin leftovers from wine makers. The result is a rather harsh, vodka-like burn, with (for me) very little fruitiness. I tried it– then I moved on. The final one I tried was easily the most intriguing of the bunch. It was the one the reps in the store recommended I try last. It was a Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir. That’s right: pine flavored booze. It looked much the same as the pear and apple brandy, with the slightest green tint. One smell told my confused brain that I was about to drink a liquid pine tree. The taste was not any different from the smell and gave me a bit of indigestion. Even though I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, I am glad for the interesting experience of it.

IMG_1586Next, we went in search of dinner. What better place, I thought, than the brewery we had an inexplicable amount of trouble finding upon our arrival the day before: Deschutes Brewery. This was the one place I was looking forward to making my whole trip. Despite not being able to find it in the dark the previous night, we had no trouble getting there this time. A popular place, we had to wait a bit to get in and seated. Once inside, it has a very warm noisy (but not over the top) feel. The beer menu, as you would imagine, is extensive. For me, the best way to deal with this…”problem” is to order multiple brews at the same time. Of course, IPA crowded the menu, but they were easy enough to avoid and I filled my sampler IMG_1590thusly: the seasonal Jubelale, Double D Imperial Spelt Ale, Black Butte Porter XXV, Fresh Hop Saison, River Ale, and Nitro Obsidian Stout. It was quite a tray. I tried them in order, so let’s dive in.

First was the Jubelale. It was a pretty dark red color without much head, but what head was visible was a light off white color. It smelled of mulled spices and made me think of hot cider. The taste, on the other hand, was not cidery, but reminded me of dark fruit like plum and raisins. Very warming, it was a pleasant experience with a medium malty fruit aftertaste. Next up was the Double D Imperial Spelt Ale. In my journey of beer learnings I had never come across the term spelt before. Turns out this is a type of malt. I like malt. I liked this beer. It had almost no head left when I got it and it was a bright red-orange color. It smelled spicy and fruity, like banana and citrus. The taste was not far off these flavors. It was light to medium bodied with a little alcohol warmth on the finish. Then I tried the Black Butte Porter. I had had this one before, but couldn’t remember. I have a soft spot for porters and it was a good one anyway. This one, too, had no head left, but I imagine it was tan and thick. It had a bitter smell and I couldn’t quite make out any chocolate or coffee. Tasting it, they definitely came through. It also had a slight richness to it that tasted like roasted brown sugar. The finish was pretty light and tasted mostly of chocolate. For a porter, this is a pretty mild beer, but I liked it. Fourth up, the Fresh Hop Saison. This was the riskiest part of the sampler for me since hoppy beers usually bother me so much. What head was left was very white and frothy. The brew was very bright yellow and opaque, as you might expect from a saison. I got lots of citrus from both the smell and the taste alike. The aftertaste was slightly sour and tart. Moving on, I went to the River Ale, which looked like a lighter version of the Double D. Its head was well dissipated by then. It smelled like spiced fruit and a slight floral aroma. The taste was not so heavy on the flowers, but the fruit did come through, with a peppery accent. The finish was mild, with the fruity spiciness lingering a bit. Last was the one I was most excited to try: Nitro Obsidian Stout. This one was super dark, I daresay darker than the porter, with very creamy tan head that stuck around for a good long while, which I appreciated. The taste–oh man, the taste. First I was hit with the rich roasted barley, then it got bitter, finishing with the prominent coffee and chocolate that I love in these beers so much.

Thus concludes my trip to the northwest (at least where beer was concerned). A very good trip, for sure and I will be back.

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Portland or Bust!

This coming weekend (which, not coincidentally, contains my birthday), I will be going to Portland, Oregon. I am really excited about this trip for a few reasons, not the least of them being the fact that I have only ever driven through or flown over the city on my way somewhere else and have always wanted to visit; though most of the reason I am excited about it: the beer. Duh. As you may know, Portland is a mecca of beer lovers due to the preponderance of craft breweries. According to Wikipedia (the information source I use for all of my most diligent fact gathering), there are more breweries in Portland than in any other city in the world. This, coupled with the über picturesque sights around the city, the rain that is so sorely lacking where I’m from, and the generally polite and friendly people the area is known for, adds up to a pretty great trip, methinks. We shall see.

I’ll post some of my own pictures when I get back. In the meantime, let me know about some of your experiences in Portland.

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