03 June 2006

Friday Evening Portland Brewpub Adventure

I noticed this blog is starting to seem a bit 2-dimensional (Beer/Sporty stuff). But it's my blog, and I'll write what I want. Still, it might be time for more dog pictures or something. Anyway...

Yesterday was one of those days at work where you get done with it all and say, "Damn, I need a beer. Or lots of them." Fortunately, we'd already planned to visit the Rogue Public House in downtown Portland with some friends of ours. What we didn't plan on was going brewpub-hopping. We hit the Lucky Lab and Roots after having dinner and sampling a lot of brews at the Rogue. On to the reviews:

We love the Rogue. Cool place, great food, excellent beer. I went straight there from work, and our friends Rick & Brandi joined me later with my lovely wife in tow. Rebecca and I had been to the Rogue a couple times before, but Rick & Brandi hadn't. I'd already had a pint of what is easily one of my top 3 favorite local beers - the Hazelnut Brown Nectar - by the time they showed up, as the traffic coming from work wasn't as bad as I expected. More about the beers we tried:

American Amber Ale: This one was a little more bitter than I like my ambers to be. It had a nice amber hue to it, and it finished pretty smooth. This one seemed almost as hoppy as some IPAs I've had. It's a decent beer, but I'd take Drop Top over it any day.

Chipotle Ale: This ale is, according to Rogue, based on their Oregon Golden Ale. It's spiced with smoked chipotle chili peppers, and you can really taste them. It's a weird brew, but a good weird if you want to experiment a little. I don't think I could have had an entire pint, though. Brandi said it was like drinking rust.

Half-E-Weizen: I think we all liked this one. Not heavy, like hefeweizen tends to be, and that makes it a pretty good summer beer, in my opinion.

Chocolate Stout: Rick and I both liked this one, but it isn't as chocolatey as the name makes it sound. You can taste the chocolate more in the finish, I think, and it was as full-bodied and smooth as any decent local stout. But it wasn't as awesome as...

Shakespeare Stout: Even our non-stout-drinking wives liked this one. It's super-smooth, and the roasty-ness and fullness of it is noticeable but not overwhelming. This is a stout that tastes every bit as good as it looks, and probably even better than that.

Smoke Ale: This one sounded intriguing to both Rick and I, so we gave it a whirl on our second taster set. It's a kind of nutty ale, but the smokiness is very evident. It's almost too smoky. We all felt as if we'd drank a campfire. Another interesting one that I don't think I could do a whole pint of.

Honey Cream Ale: This wasn't what we'd hoped for, from the description. It didn't seem all that smooth, and it had a rather bitter aftertaste. I didn't really detect the honey character at all. I don't think any of us liked this one much. Seemed to finish kind of dry.

Honey Orange Wheat: This one was something Rebecca's had before, and I think I'd tried it before as well. I think this was another unanimous "that's pretty good" type of beer. It's a medium-bodied wheat beer, very smooth, and there's very little bitterness to it. The honey and orange tones compliment each other nicely and it finishes pretty clean. This is another brew I'd characterize as a good one for summer.

Morimoto Soba Ale: Wow! Usually, I don't like beers (other than hefeweizens) that have a pale-yellow coloring to them, as they usually tend to be kind of bitter or weak. This was neither. It was a very smooth, medium-bodied ale, with a nice light finish. Unlike most lighter summer-y beers, this one was very flavorful. I really like this one a lot. Could crack my top 5 of local brews. Checking out the description at Rogue's web site revealed to me that Soba isn't just a name, it's what the ale is brewed with. It's basically buckwheat, which turns out not to be wheat at all, but a fruit of the rhubarb family. I had no idea how good the stuff is for you. From Rogue's page, it "is high in potassium, phosphorous, vitamin B (50 percent more than wheat) and protein, and its virtually fat-free." Nifty. Tasty, too.

I've already raved about the Hazelnut Brown Nectar, of which I had two pints. We wanted to try the Bullfrog Ale, but they were out. Maybe next time.

After the Rogue, we went to the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. We didn't stay there long, as we simply wanted to try a couple brews and get over to Roots. The Lab wasn't terribly packed, as I kind of expected. The beers at the lab were unremarkable. I'd had quite a bit to drink at that point, and we just weren't into staying and sampling a lot. At least I can say I finally went there. I had the Crazy Ludwig Alt, which was pretty good, but a little more bitter than I like. I think Rick had the Black Lab Stout, which I thought was very average. Hard to top the Shakespeare from Rogue. I forget what Brandi tried, and the missus had quit drinking for the evening so she could drive my drunk ass home.

Roots was just a couple blocks away, so we walked over there. Pretty small place, but all the brewing equipment was highly visible, which I thought was kinda cool. Rebecca ordered us a sampler tray, which had eight beers on it. I'd ordered the Burghead Heather Ale, which like Fraoch, is based on a 3000 year old recipe and brewed with heather instead of hops. In between sips of the Burghead, I tried the stuff on the tray. Here's what I can recall:

Island Red: They call this a "Red Stout". It was pretty good, very full-bodied, but it seemed overly complex. Kinda oat-y, too, with a creamy head. I'd like to try this one again when I'm a little less inebriated. :)

eXXXcalibur Imperial Stout: Rick and I had tasted this one at the Spring Festival, and we liked it. I think this is what Rick had a pint of while we were at Roots. It's a great stout, but I'd still rank it behind Rogue's Shakespeare.

They had a couple pale ales, an IPA, and the heather ale on the tray as well. The pale ale and the IPA were pretty good, I guess. I'm not big on the really hoppy stuff, but these were probably the better representations of their styles that I've had.

They also had some kind of hot, spicy, peppery beer that I can't remember the name of. It was like drinking beer that someone had put a few drops of Tabasco in or something. Weird. More spicy than the Rogue Chipotle.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. After finishing up my heather ale, we headed home. While at the Rogue, we picked up a free copy of Northwest Brewing News and the "Brew-Ha" brochure. Both of them had tons of info on upcoming events, such as the North American Organic Brewers Fest at the Forestry Center June 10th, the Portland Interational Beer Fest in mid-July, and of course the Oregon Brewers Festival from the 27th to 30th of July.
The NW Brewing News also had some suggested tours you could take on your own, like a Mount Hood loop where you start at Fearless Brewing in Estacada, head to Karlsson Brewing in Sandy, go to the Mt. Hood Brewing Company in Government Camp, over to the Elliot Glacier Public House in Parkdale, then hit Full Sail in Hood River and head back on I-84. We're thinking about doing that maybe this summer, but we'll have to con/bribe/beg someone to be our driver. There was also a link to the Portland Brew Bus, which we will probably also check out this summer.


Bridger said...

Wow, sounds like a pretty intense beer odessy.

I wonder if anyone in this town takes people on guided beer tours? It's probably one of the few places on the planet where that might be possible.

The problem, as you noted, is the hazy impression you get of the last few pints - that's when I should go home and have a pbr from the fridge, but I usually gorge on tatter tots or some other nefarious bar food.

Ghost Dog said...

Dang, that was quick. :) You must have read this before I updated it with the last paragraph.

brando said...

Now that's what I call a great post. I consider myself a stout man, but I don't think I have your discerning taste. I found myself salivating, trying to actually taste what you were discribing. Outstanding!

Heather Beer?! I have absolutely no idea what that would be like. I want to know! Keep up the great research. I know it will be hard.

Ghost Dog said...

Thanks, Brando-san. As the summer festival season develops, there'll be more beer posts. Hopefully, I'll get better at describing what I'm tasting.