Category Archives: portland

The Six #3: Cascade Ale House

Honecot ale at Cascade barrel houseThere is one reason and one reason only to come here: you love sour ales. Sour ales caught fire in popularity a few years ago but this is a genuine moment where I can say that Cascade was doing sour ales before they were cool.

However, I don’t like sour ales. So why am I here?

Because Cascade has been a flagship in Portland for sour ales for close to two decades. Because one of the few beers in my life I distinctly remember came from Cascade: A cherry lemon quad ale, aged in Makers Mark barrels, the flavors of which peeled off like a gobstopper: first cherry, then lemon, then whiskey.

Now, all that said, let’s talk about the Honeycot, a blonde white barrel aged with apricots and wildflower honey, that has been poured on nitro. It is remarkably pleasant! Not very tart, but the presence of the apricot is definitely there. The nose has no sugar to it; a slight sting from the tart fruit qualities as I breathe it in.

The flavors remind me of a tart apricot with honey drizzle.

Which is not faint praise; Cascade does a lot of different sour ales and they run the gamut of tart and flavor: my friends are having cherry or marionberry aged beers some intensely astringent or very sour, and others mellowed and pushing tart, not sour flavors.

So you should come here to experience some of the sheer variety of what Cascade offers the beer scene in Portland. They probably have something for you, even if you’re not a sour ale person!

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Common Ales: Laurelwood Free Range Red

Laurelwood Free Range Red aleThe nose has some caramel/roast qualities but it shows up a little late; there’s actual hops on the first few whiffs. Once those go away, though, we’re dealing with a red ale and by golly that is what it is.

It’s got a pleasant richness to it; the Free Range has a creamy quality that only fades after the effervescence which is persistent but not constant, comes to do a little cleanup. The head on this beer fades pretty quickly, but there’s a steady film of bubbles on the top.

What I like is that drinking this beer is similar to chewing on good caramel. It’s sugary but not overly so and the finish doesn’t linger. That clean palate experience means that I can line up another drink or nosh on some food pretty easy.

Round Two #17\Second Pint PC

There Be Monsters is having a Japanese Beer Month so I thought I’d check it out.

But none of the beers from Japan are on tap right now. Instead I got Ruse’s Forever and a Day hazy IPA. What’re gonna do?

Ruse Forever & a Day hazy IPAGrapefruit in the nose…grapefruit in the middle…grapefruit on the finish. I think we’ve firmly established that this IPA wants me to taste some grapefruit flavors.

To its credit, the Forever isn’t pushing a pithy bitterness hard, and it certainly isn’t too sweet. Nevertheless, I feel that this beer is a spotlight on the issues I have with this style: when it’s too sweet, it’s just soda pop. When it’s too bitter, it tastes like part of the fruit you shouldn’t eat. When it’s in the middle, it lacks complexity. Honestly, I’m getting more out of this beer because of the truly delightful scent of french fries in the air, than I am from the beer itself.

Now, I’m mostly of the opinion that great or even good beer should be something you can drink by itself. No additions, no excuses, just: can I have a glass of this?

However, occasionally I do come across beers that, while OK, would definitely be improved by a slice of pizza. Or a chocolate dipped strawberry. Or even blending in another beer.

I’m starting to wonder if this could be true of a style, at least as far as I’m concerned. That the baseline for hazy IPAs is that I should have some food, and it’s only the exceptional ones that can be drank by themselves. Perhaps I would be kinder to the style with this in mind.

Because this style isn’t going anywhere and this beer isn’t getting any better.

Glass two brings more of the same, except now the hop oils are coating my mouth. I can feel the oil scrape off my tongue as I roll it against the roof of my mouth.

So the pithy bitterness IS there…it just takes a little while to get going. The bubbly now becomes highly relevant, as it’s one of the ways this beer has to help clear my palate. But I still can’t escape it’s homogeneity.

Today’s second pint goes to Pawsitive Change.

The Six #2: Grixsen’s Brown Ale

I’ve come for Grixsen’s Brown Ale.

Is there a little touch of vanilla amongst the chocolate? SomethingGrixsen brown ale is giving this a scent that is the reason people should drink brown ales. My friend suggests caramel and I have to agree; caramel is a better choice but it doesn’t quite nail it. Finally it hits me; hazelnut. We agree; that’s the flavor.

So why would I send someone here? Because brown ales are a great style that often go unsung, and people should give them a chance. And if I’m going to recommend a brown ale, then why not the best damn brown ale I think Portland has to offer?

Grixen’s brown ale is light and possibly one of the most drinkable ales in the city. Yet it’s got plenty of malt flavor for body, and a hit of astringency on the finish to balance it all out.

This isn’t to dismiss the other beers that Grixsen has; their tap list reflects a lot of english-style ales, malty but quite drinkable. The brown ale is why you come, the other ales are as you like!

The Six #1: Hopworks Pilsner

“You should do this, but for Portland,” my friend Fuz tells me. My initial feelings on the notion are lukewarm, because does anyone need that? There are so many articles out there, what is one more?

Later that night, I run into two Irish tourists at Bailey’s Taproom and they ask me what places they should visit. I spend nearly an hour talking to them. Clearly, I have opinions, so I’m doing this!

These breweries and beers shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as ‘the best’; rather, I would think of them more as ‘the representative-ist’. Places that, should you be in Portland, I’d recommend visiting because of the quality represented, but also the history (as I understand it) of craft beer here, and the variety as well. I’ll try and explain each as I go, just to be clear about my own thinking. There is, thankfully, no wrong answer. Just; where do you want to go? What do you want to have?

I’ll also have a friend with me, in part to facilitate some thoughts on why we’re here, in part to get some real-time feedback before I put pen to paper, to give an answer to the question: why are we here? So if I mention another human, that’s why.

Hopworks' Pilsner

We start with Hopworks Pilsner.

I’m here because this was one of the first lighter beers that I can remember being brewed in Portland-which medaled at the Great American Beer Festival. This was a pretty big deal, because at the time Portland was known for hopping the hell out of every style it could get its hands on. Hopworks’ Pilsner brought hope to people tired of hops and helped set the stage for more styles to be available here.

This beer has a great yeasty bread elements to the nose, and you can absolutely taste the grain involved. I am almost certain it’s two row, but it has a flavor that mass market pilsners just don’t. Plus, it’s got enough of a bite on the finish from the hops that I get a contrast between the sweeter grain and bread flavors.

It’s a damn fine beer and you can get it lots of places in the PWN, but let’s face it; you should visit their pub. There’s a broad selection of ales, including a cider and while some of them come and go, the Pils is always on tap.

 

Assemble!(ly Brewing)

C’mon, I had to make the push, this week of all weeks.

I went with a friend to Assembly Brewing to try out their beers and, while a couple styles were out at the time, here’s what we had and a distillation of our thoughts on the beer. The mini reviews talk about the beers in the picture from top to bottom.

The Pale: Cloudy which is unusual…finish is a little rough-‘tastes more IPAish to me’ my friend said. The nose is lemony, citrusy, and we agreed that’s nice. This beer is a bit scraggly and feels like it could use some more refinement. It feels like an IPA.
Assembly Brewing sampler
LIVEPA (that’s the name of the beer): More orange tilted nose for me, also significantly sweeter. We’re wondering if the barkeep gave them to us in reverse order. “It’s more drinkable than the Pale, and it’s not crazy hoppy, so this is one I can drink,” my friend says.

A little darker than the pale, signaling some more toasted malts and maybe a little more sweetness. This beer is pretty drinkable and we dig.

Stout: “Roasty, little smoky, roasted over chocolate or coffee-coffee at the end, but nothing’s super bitter” Agreed, and it’s a very dry stout, and while the smoke element is different it’s not bad. A bit more chocolate appears comes up as it warms, but bakers cocoa, not sweet. The beer isn’t very heavy either, making it more drinkable.

Porter: “black licorice, but on the sweeter side instead of star anise”. This finished a little sour for me. A hint of coffee grounds…but it just didn’t quite call out to us.

We do agree that it’s a good space to be in, it has a pleasant atmosphere, unique style, with music that isn’t too loud. Definitely going back and with the place being so young, I think that the beer only has room to go up; the good ones to be great, the middlin’ ones to be good. Assembly is a recommended joint.

Potato Potato

I wrote not too long ago about about how I think breweries might be well served to focus on a few styles and have those always there, then branch out into other stuff.

Zoiglhaus is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about and this article on the Beervana blog talks about the potato ale they’re making, along with other obscure styles from history.

I like this for multiple reasons; First, the rotating schedule allows for those seasonal ales to be on long enough that the process can be refined and honed. As a consumer, that means I get better beer. Second, seeing revival styles is always a thrill for me and as an aficionado, valuing the history of beer and brewing is important to me.

But, you know….getting better beer is where it’s at and having those standard ale be the centerpiece of it is exactly what I like.