Category Archives: where I wanna go

Where I Want To Go: Hawthorne Hop House

It’s been a long weekend, ladies and gents. I’m gently sunburnt and far more bearded than I’m generally comfortable with, so I’m constantly rubbing my throat as I type at the Hawthorne Hop House to drink a Dopple Dinkle Bock from Deschutes.

The beer arrives. Banana. So MUCH banana. Who said this was a good idea? I supposed there’s some flaming banana quality there, meaning I can taste dark fruit flavors in here but the description suggests a malt profile from Germany with PNW hops and there isn’t a trace of that in there.

It’s so off, I ask the waiter to check the beer. It seems like a mispour; so many Belgian influences; fruit, a bit of fig, sweetness, etc and it just doesn’t seem right! But apparently it’s the right beer.

Now, it isn’t an undrinkable beer.  Not at all. But the gap between what I ordered and what I got isn’t an easy one to jump. This beer isn’t what it should be, so what is it? Well, it bears more resemblance to a Belgian dubbel, both in flavor and strength and I just don’t know what to do now. I can’t recommend this beer, because it doesn’t deliver on what it says it is. On the other hand, it’s not a bad beer, so…you should try it?

On the upside, the waiter was extremely kind and more than willing to replace the beer if I wanted but I decided to delve further into this one and figure it out, rather than send it away.

Interesting things are like that; let’s look into them further. Even if they are failures.

Where I Want To Go: Stammtisch

I want a Grevensteiner. It’s an unfiltered lager and I don’t know anything about that! How does that impact the beer? I need to know.

At the Stammtisch, because it’s hot as hell in Portland and a place that tilts towards serving German lagers seems like a Pretty Good Idea. It’s pleasantly cool in here and very busy, although on a hot day like this? How could it not be. Wouldn’t you rather go down to any bar instead of be at home, in heat like this? On top of all that, I brewed today, which means my home is humid from the wort boil I did, in addition to the heat so let’s get out of dodge!

It’s been a lame 24 hours. Mot awful but definitely not good. Under the circumstances though, what else is there to do but continue to do the work? Go out, get beer, write. If the work is available to me, doing it may be the only way to get out of the headspace I am in.

The nice thing about German is that words pretty much pronounce as they appear on the page. Even if I’m doing it wrong, I’m still kind of doing it right. Unless I’m in Germany, in which case things are very different.

The lager comes in a mug. I like that it has a handle to keep people from touching the cold glass. A hint of breadiness from the thick head, but nothing very intense. As I raise it to my lips, the scent gets a little funky, more yeasty instead of bread.

But it is sweet and tasty. The finish is very clean, with just an elbow nudge of hops, likely Saaz but I’m not enough of an expert to say.

What I do like is the body of this beer. My tongue can roll it around my mouth just a little, instead of swishing through it like I might with a lighter beer. Nothing heavy about it, not at all; better to say that this beer actually has density, where a straight up lager might not.

I’m not sure how comfortable this table is, though. Everything is flat and angular in this place, except for the curved metal designs in the light fixtures and chandeliers. I am not sure how human that is, although perhaps it’s traditional? Plus, I feel like I’m sitting an awkward distance from the table. Maybe it’s an accommodation for the larger bellied amongst us?

Feels strange, that’s for certain. Perhaps I should’ve chosen to sit at the bar, except the stools seem as if they are quite high. Like slouching might be a good way to relax at the bar. Maybe it is.

I should ride the rail again soon. You see things at the front lines of the bar differently than you do at a table. Nature of the beast, perspective is. Let’s get some.

Where I Want To Go: Stormbreaker

It is time to investigate a new(ish) place: Stormbreaker, where I have gotten the JCVDBD (Jean Claude Van Damme Belgian Dubbel). I bought it based on the name and I’m fine with admitting that.

The beer is merely OK. There is an orange pith flavor at that overwrites a lot of other possibilities so the sweetness of the beer, which is what I’m expecting, isn’t apparent.  However, I don’t want to judge on one beer (a seasonal at that) alone.

The next beer, Mon Petite Cherimoya, is much better. Slightly fruity, light, and very drinkable; the summery flavors, like papaya and strawberry, are there just enough to give an impression but not so much that this feels like a fruit beer. A hint of tartness about it? Overall, the Cherimoya is a lighter beer and feels like a good summer drink.

I want to come back here. I feel like there’s potential and I didn’t get to really investigate all that Stormbreaker has to offer. It’s got a huge outdoor tented space for Portlanders to use but I am not a Portlander: being in an outdoor environment does not interest me. Being inside is preferable and that would be problematic most of the time, as the indoor section is only about one-third of the space.

Yet the indoors is nearly vacant. Which is awesome for me because I really like the indoor decor: lots of wood and generally darker spaces. Fewer people, fewer distractions: I can enjoy it as it is. Oh, you Portlanders, go, get out into the sun. Away from me, let me drink my ales in quiet.

Where I Want To Go: Barlow

I have come to the Barlow at the request of a couple buddies who are celebrating their last day of work. Their jobs have been outsourced and their futures, while bright, are unknown. It is…a good but potent reminder: no one is safe. As a consideration to the evening’s potential length, I have ordered a Sasquatch Session ale because when one attends the ending of something-a wake, for example-it is best to be prepared for the long haul.

And here I am, very late in the evening, composing my thoughts and glad I have chosen wisely.

Endings are often odd things for people, as we rarely choose them willingly. They often occur when there are no other choices, we must do or accept the inevitable, in order to be happy or moral or kind or just. Or just because the Universe has decreed: Fuck You.

In this particular instance, my buddies have had to accept that their jobs are being shipped overseas. They are smart, competent people and their biggest crime, I suppose, is that they want to be paid what they are worth, given their knowledge. Knowledge not only of the services they can provide, but of the pros and cons of American society: that there are those who are hoarding where they should share.

At the same time, an ending greeted with joy, with the preparation says that one is amazing, why that can be a launchpad into the new. And the weird thing about people is that as much as we seem to abhor the new, when we can confront it with all the tools we need? We love it. So much.

However, I’m not in a place to provide smart commentary. What I can tell you? The evening has devolved. What I can tell you is that the Sasquatch has a subtle run of lemon through it, making it a light, thirst quenching beer that I should totally have more of. It’s not extremely distinctive, but it’s a good session ale. I’m expecting almost nothing and I’m getting some actual beer! The Barlow is a cool pub and the Sasquatch is a solid beer. Have at ’em, folks.

Where I Want To Go: Academy Theater

The theater pubs are unsung heroes of Portland, I think.

When I first moved to Portland, nearly 20 years ago, the fact that there were theaters that served beer was the first sign that I was in a new an exciting place. A place where interesting ideas could take shape and find a home. Sure, eventually I discovered that there were other cities that had such locations but it seemed as though took a few years for the idea to catch on.

We don’t talk much about the theater pubs but I believe they are huge in getting a craft beer into the hands of someone who might not try one. Not everyone will go into a new and interesting bar. Almost everybody goes to the movies at some point. Why wouldn’t you get a beer while you’re at it?

There’s probably something to be said about the strip clubs of Portland and their contribution to getting craft beer in the hands of people too but that’s a very, very different Monday post.

I’ve snagged a Barley Brown‘s Tumble Off pale while I wait for a friend to meet me to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It has a sweetness on the nose, like freshly opened hops.  Finish has bite: effervescent and hop oriented. It’s bright for a pale and light: this is a beer for a warm day. The bitterness lingers but I didn’t pick up on it intensifying until I got well into the beer, which for me puts that bitterness at about right.

The Winter Soldier was awesome, so I may have to come back to see it again. And get another Tumble Off.

Where I Want To Go: Undisclosed

It’s late and I’m hiding out; out of state, out of mind. The slings and arrows of the world are elsewhere. Sometimes, when you need to hide out, even a dive bar isn’t shadowy enough. You have to go further.

Upon reflection, I’ve been seeking shelter for the past few weeks. Looking back on what I’ve written it seems rather clear; I am trying to wrap myself in safe spaces where I can just be. Places where I am not known seem better for this purpose, at least when I need to seethe but at this point I feel like I’ve gone as far as I can go; somewhere where nobody can find me at all.

It’s quiet and secluded from the populace of a bar. I don’t have to be social, I don’t have to even make nice with a bartender, since I bought the beer myself. Plus, there are cookies. Even when things are bad, you can have a cookie and feel better.

This 425 pale ale from Bellevue isn’t well balanced. I get the taste of soap in my mouth and the finish is slick, overstaying its welcome, not really allowing for much else in the way of flavor. Unfortunate because I like the packaging; it’s distinctive, witty, has suggested pairings with food, avoiding a great many mistakes that lots of breweries make with bland packages.

The beer just isn’t holding up. Maybe something else would help? It’s only 4.8%, so perhaps a stronger malt presence-even boosting this to 5.5 or 5.2% ABV-might help nudge this beer into something more quaffable.

But it’s OK. There are occasions where the beer is less relevant than the place and tonight is one of them. And now that I’ve gone as far as I can go, it’s probably time to start getting out in the world again. Seems like a good idea, anyway.

Where I Want To Go: Eugenio’s

I was expecting to be at another dive bar but a friend suggested meeting here for a drink and I figured; let’s just kill two birds with one stone while I wait.

This place reminds me of Proof, actually, but it feels more open and warm, where Proof wanted to press me in. Both spaces have their pluses: Proof’s darkness is good for pretending you’re in a spy thriller, clandestinely meeting your contact to get you out of Hipsterville….

Eugenio’s feels more like a place to stretch my legs out. The presence of country music is probably contributing to my feeling that there should be a nerf gun shootout.

The Hop Valley Pontifex IPA is a biter. Pine nose and then a peach/pine wrestling match at the finish. It isn’t bad but I’m not sure that it always works. The kind of beer that I’d want to pair with something munchie; cheese, especially, comes to mind.

Part of me wishes I was at the dive bar. The one I want to go to is downtown though and it’s a week of parades and sailors and I want no part of either. Too many people, too much ‘celebration’, not enough quiet darkness to resent the sun from.

Division street is changing, though; has been for a little while now. Lots of apartment complexes, lots of liveliness and as always, the weirder things are being swept away. The Egyptian Club, probably the biggest lesbian bar in Portland, gone. New apartment complex in its place; boring, with its soon-to-house boring shops on the street level. There’s a porn theater just a few blocks away, and in grand Portland fashion, there’s a sign on the door telling patrons that they have bike parking inside.

I can’t imagine that theater remaining for much longer. Too bad. Surely to be replaced by tiny apartments and hipper than hip joints where fools like me can stretch their legs out.

I resent that. I resent interesting parts of interesting neighborhoods being wrecked for the shiny, the new. Not that everything old is worth saving, or that everything new is terrible just that nobody wants to see them get along, forgetting that the old weird stuff is what made the place interesting, the new stuff makes it habitable.

Then again, do we really need porn theaters these days? Am I wishing for the return of the telegraph machine?

Could be. Could be. But Portland needs places for the wierdos, the square pegs that don’t fit in, even here, to help make us interesting and it’s less about the porno theater and more about what the porno theater represents when it’s gone.

Where I Want To Go: Basement Pub

I’m in the darkest part of the Basement pub, which is saying something since the whole place feels underground, despite being on the first floor. In the winter, this place becomes a haven for ghosts and unsightly spirits, hoping to bend your ear for a short haunting.

In the late spring though, with the sun still waiting to go behind the West hills, there seem to be no ghosts in supply…so I have taken up residence in the dark part, a cove that has not seen natural light since this place opened.

I was in Texas last weekend and I have a host of beers to tell you about (though not as much as I might, due to an extremely gracious host who shared his scotch). Attempting to be a polite houseguest, I avoided becoming overly intoxicated but I assure the reader that I tried enough flavors to get a sense that some quaffable ales are being produced in and around Dallas.

It was also a respite from my Oregon life.

Nobody wants a respite from home; the entire point of home is that home is where you find shelter from everywhere else.

In the end, though, home is just a name for where you keep your stuff. It is the people who matter and last weekend, there were people in Dallas for me to meet and enjoy. It was a form of home, despite limiting my access to the “comforts” of home.

Morphine’s Cure For Pain is on and I must smile at the coincidence. I have been searching for cures and finding them in the people I get to meet along the way and doing the work that comes with writing and the 9-5 that most of us bloggers have and perhaps questionable choices that happen when I don’t know what else to do.

Ninkasi’s ale gets sharp in its bitterness but not as sharp as maybe it should be. The Basement pub has much to recommend it including this cove that enterprising couples should make out in, just a little (I did, once upon a time) but it serves the beer in chilled glasses.

Normally I’d make a bigger deal out of this, but it’s warm in here. The door is open, there is a fan on the floor flowing away, some wire metal object working overtime to keep this place from becoming stifling. It’s working, barely. And while I may object to getting a beer in a chilled glass, I can only imagine what it would feel like to get a beer in a warm one. Icky.

Sometimes, you have to accept the limitations of your space.

Where I Want To Go: The Vern

I’ve come to the Vern because I need to be at a dive bar. It is a day for hating everyone and dive bars are excellent cover for just such activities. Plus, there is nobody here. Seething against the species is a good solo activity.

Of course, the bartender is a super friendly, almost jolly dude in a Social Distortion tee. He’s making the execution of my general irritability towards humanity more difficult than it should be. And, there’s Iron Maiden’s Ace’s High on the jukebox and no self-respecting metalhead can despise Iron Maiden.

On top of all that, there’s a pretty swell selection of beers too. How the hell is a writer supposed to compose screeds about how everything is fucked and it should be if there is good beer, agreeable atmosphere and Iron Maiden?

Despite the selection, I go for a Mirror Pond. I don’t want to challenge myself today with a beer I need to describe: Mirror Pond is my default beer because it’s good and I don’t have to try and make it interesting.

This is about the time AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells comes up and I have to reconsider my feelings towards wishing the Earth would burn.

Despite all that, I feel like dive bars might be good hideouts for a few weeks. I doubt I’ll sustain this malaise for a long time but divey bars are just good joints to hide in and I think I’m in need. They are what they are, stripped down and uninterested in pretending. The last thing that a good writer and a beer advocate should be interested in is pretense.

Beer is nearly done. Let’s try and find another dark space to meet in for next week.

Where I Want To Go: Roscoe’s

I’ve come to Roscoe’s because I feel like I should be getting to Roscoe’s more often. It’s reasonably close and the beer list is good so I wonder why I don’t make this a watering hole. The Commons Primavera Gold ale is on tap and it’s been a looooong time since I’ve had anything from them, so let’s have at it!

Damn. This is the beer I should be trying to make for summer! Forget lagers. They are a pain in the ass, especially for a homebrewer. This is sweet, with a clean finish and an effervescence that keeps it crisp. Thank you, Commons, for telling me I don’t have to chase that dragon. Plus, now I know what style to make next.

Roscoe’s is very quiet tonight. I’m a little surprised. I’m not complaining, since the lower-key atmosphere gives me a chance to enjoy the pub without feeling overcome by people. If it was like this all the time, I might take up residence.

A third residence, that is.

I ponder the beer list at Roscoe’s, trying to decide what my second beer should be. I don’t know who’s picking out the selections but they do a good job. Broad range of styles, from sours to kolsh to a stout on nitro, and with breweries still, amazingly, concentrated on Oregon (with WA & CA smatterings). Plus one beer from Denmark, which seems to be the case rather often, here. Some beer from across the seas makes it in, just to remind us that Americans are not the only ones making interesting beer.

I approve. The sooner we remember that we aren’t isolated, the better. Plus; who doesn’t want to see what those crazy Danes are doing?

I feel like I want something more aggressive, next. This golden is quite tasty but it is not hitting the spot, most likely because it’s no longer 90 degrees out. Three days ago, or a month from now: totally different story.

I could just ask for a sampler but how easy is that? Too easy. No. Let’s just go big.

I’m move to the Aussie IPA (the second in Bridgeport’s three anniversary beers)
and I have to say, this isn’t working for me at all. The grapefruit is overwhelming! I don’t understand why this beer has been selected for a highlight. Because-and I know they know how to brew this- provide a strong caramel backbone to this beer? It becomes amazing. A pale instead of an IPA, perhaps, but who gives a toss? Pales are good! As it stands, this beer feels like they are trying to get away with one: undermalting the beverage to overemphasize the hops.

Let’s ask the bartender next time. Prodigal Son’s Fatted Calf stout or Crux’s On The Fence pale. Both nitro. Bartender likes them but at the moment prefers the Crux. I go for it.

I am staring at the nitro settling, creamy density becoming clarity and I try not to think of it as a metaphor for life that cost me $3.50. Sometimes it’s like that though; if it wasn’t the poets would all starve.

Generally I disapprove of a pale ale on nitro; part of the glory of the style is that it has such a nice nose. I even cringed a little as I watched the bartender pour the beer, scooping out a head so thick that she cannot fill a proper glass. I am concerned.

But it all works out. The dense foam of the nitro cannot stop the hops and the creamy qualities that the nitro brings to the ale actually mesh nicely with the hop bitterness. I don’t know that this is the first pale that I’ve had on nitro but it’s certainly one of the best.

Although this really just confirms how much I like Crux. They do such good beers.

2 of 3 for the night. I’ll take that.