I remember the first time I went to Portland Oregon, it was back in 1989 when I was with San Andreas Brewing Co. and I went to the Oregon Brewers Festival. I immediately fell in love with the city, and its beer culture, which at the time was head and shoulders above anything I had ever experienced (and that’s saying a lot, coming from a pretty vibrant Bay Area beer scene back then). I vividly remember walking by an outdoor cafe and people enjoying this crazy-looking cloudy beer with a lemon wedge in it-Widmer’s Hefeweizen was seemingly everywhere.
So for 3 or 4 years in a row, a buddy and I piled 10 kegs of San Andreas beer in the back of my 4-Runner, stowed our backpacks on top, and drove from the Bay Area to Oregon, usually with an overnight stop in Roseburg or Eugene. We’d deliver the old Golden Gate kegs to Rob or Kurt at Widmer prior to the Oregon Brewers Festival, and then enjoy the festival. Post festival was usually spent backpacking in the Cascade Mountains to enjoy the scenery and work off some of the beer.
Since that first trip, I’ve been back to Portland probably a dozen times, and I discover something new every time. I honestly do think it is the best beer city in the country. Don’t get me wrong, San Diego is an amazing place full of delicious and unique beers that are at the top of anyone’s list, but craft beer is more pervasive in Portland than anywhere else I’ve ever been. And I simply like Portland as a city. The downtown is incredibly walkable, and the Southeast and Northeast areas are full of great neighborhoods.
So I usually jump at any chance to visit Portland. This January, we did some impressive multitasking during our 5 day visit. We went there primarily to attend meetings of the Hop Research Council (a group that funds hop farming and breeding research, which we joined last year), and the American Hop Convention, which is a meeting of hop farmers, hop researchers and brewers to discuss latest trends and developments. More on that topic later….
But any time I travel for conferences, I always let our Regional Stone Brewing Co. Representative know we’re coming. In this case, Erin set up a great lineup of events. Here’s a synopsis of what we did:
On Monday night we had an IPA tap event at Imperial Bottleshop and Taproom. This event was sponsored by Stone and the New School. What a cool place, they asked me for a list for my favorite IPAs, and then made sure several of them were on tap, including Firestone Walker Union Jack, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Russian River’s Blind Pig and Pliny The Elder, and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. I signed a lot of books, and the place was packed, we met a lot of great people.
We also made a stop at Baileys Taproom, downtown. I love their draft list, shows real time beer level in each keg, based on how much beer has been poured from it:
The next night was an event called “Masters of IPA” at the White Owl Social Club. This event featured 6 brewers pouring their best IPAs, and for a Tuesday night it was jam packed. In fact, the line to get in was so long that we had to pull rank and tell the doorman who we were to get in. I hate when that happens. The beer lines were long, and the beer and food were quite tasty. As a bonus, they played Black Sabbath throughout the entire event. My good friend Matt Cole from Fat Heads was there, as was Tyler Brown from Barley Browns, who I had never actually met before, but we hung out quite a bit on this trip. I loved their beers. Also, Shawn Kelso from 10 Barrel in Boise, whom I had met last summer, and Tony Lawrence from Boneyards Brewing in Bend were pouring beers.
Matt Cole is in the process of opening a new Fat Heads brewery restaurant in the Pearl District, just around the corner from the Deschutes pub. We got to tour the building with Matt and Mike on Thursday afternoon. It used to be a piano store, has a dock and plenty of space. We got to see the plans for the restaurant-pretty amazing.
After visiting Matt’s Place, we went to visit our good friend Lisa Morrison at Belmont Station, who has having California night as part of her “Bigger, Badder, Blacker” week. The event featured Chuck Silva, but we were pouring our Imperial Russian Stout too, and we ran into Jamie Floyd and and enjoyed several beers with him and Chuck.
And Friday was collaboration brew day with John Harris at his new brewery, Ecliptic. That will be covered in the next post.