Tag Archives: IPA


My Dad sent me an article a few months ago about how people who live near pubs tend to be happier. I’m not sure how having a neighborhood community is exclusive to pubs but after a long, rather busy weekend, I am glad that the Old Gilbert Road is nearby so I can come in to have a beer.

The signs in the window advertise their 1st anniversary party this Saturday and that’s a pretty cool landmark for any business. I won’t be able to attend but still: congrats to them.

28297938132_a32716ce9a_kThey’ve got the Supersuckers on the PA and as I wait for my Breakside IPA, the lady ahead of me stumbles through her small talk with the bartender, thinking he’s the brother of an acquaintance when he corrects her, “I’m her ex-husband.”

But like the genteel punk bartender he is, he rolls with it, “How do you know her?”

Friend of a friend, it turns out, and though the threads between them are thin, he continues his genteelness, saying “Yes, she’s a cool lady,” about his ex.

For all of Portland’s explosive growth, I am regularly reminded that it is a small city. Burning a bridge you do not need to is unwise. It helps if you like the bridge, of course but even with that in mind, it’s good to be graceful in such situations.

This IPA is not quite awesome. There’s pineapple and grapefruit notes and there’s just enough body in the middle to keep the beer on track, but after it all ends there is a slightly off flavor. I’m not sure what it is but I don’t want another one.

In a way, this place reminds me of another bar which I also like and don’t get to enough: Angelo’s on Hawthorne. It’s better lit here but the low key vibe isn’t something you can fake. It’s projected by the environment and staff.

Maybe that’s one of the other things that helps people live longer; that sense of calm in a public arena where every so often you can get away from even your most private stressors.


On the Rail: Wilshire Tavern

This is one of those dive bars where everyone knows each other and they’ve seen my type before. They’re not even bothering to actively ignore me, because I’m going to leave and never come back, while they have friendships to maintain and lives to attend to. Average age here is probably 53, and it’s worth asking what kind of makeover the bar might undergo within the next 20 years. I can tell that it’s already been cleaned up, because the years of smoking that used to go on here (I mean, c’mon, you just know) is practically eliminated.

Go Steelers on the wall, a sign “we want beer-repeal prohibition” on the paneling, Aerosmith’s Uncle Salty on the juke. Lots of space around the pool tables, which is pretty cool and a surprising number of craft beers on tap.

Yet the bar mirror is covered with March of Dimes donation drive slips, with a range of tasteless and/or inside jokes claiming to donate-Russian Nannies, Wire Hangers, Cliven Bundy, My dad thought pulling out would work-surrounding a Cash Only sign, a sticker that says ‘I killed a six-pack just to watch it die’ and the only source of warm food must come from a microwave born in the early 90’s.

The rail itself is really weird; fake marble that has a real wood border attached, so the countertop is a good inch below where you rest your arms. The wooden border has a groove in it, like a gutter for you to rest your elbows in. Practically ergonomic, you know?

I look around; there’s an older woman knitting something out of yarn-internet points if you guessed that the yarn is purple-, a similarly aged black man in a suit and sunglasses (on a Saturday at 9PM), and a family of three who’ve taken over the foosball game. Everyone has that casual nod of acknowledgement to each other.

I get a Ft George Big Guns IPA which opens with the familiar citrus hop but rapidly decides to go for that soap finish instead of a proper bitter one. Too bad. Because this beer is not good and I’m uncertain if it’s the beer or the bar. Whatever it’s supposed to be, it ain’t even close.

As I leave, Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies comes up. The 70’s exists so hard here, I almost think I’m in Spokane.

Common Ales: Hop Valley Alphadellic

25073760884_aa17af0cb7_cThis was another beer that I just went for: the cans seem to be in every store I go to so I figured that even if this isn’t Hop Valley’s most popular beer, it’s got to be close.

The nose is grassy, which I really like. I may hate mowing lawns, but the scent of fresh cut grass is still a good one and this beer makes the most of it. Unfortunately, the nose evaporates really quickly. This just leaves the beer and the beer is.

It’s not bad. It’s got the sharp bitterness that IPAs ought to finish with and I can’t detect anything wrong with the style but the nose goes so flat so quickly that the beer itself tastes very one dimensional.

Still, first impressions count. The Alphadelic gives a good one and that can carry it a long way. I’m not sure that it carries it all the way for your average beer drinker but for a hop lover, it should work just fine.

Common Ales: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

24932946922_7b5307e95e_kI just went for this one, because if there’s a beer I can consistently find from Ninkasi, it’s the Total Domination. If I’m wrong, Ninkasi, let me know! It’s not as though I won’t buy more beer.

The nose is definitely pushing the pine/marijuana funk. There is a middle to this beer comprised of toasty but not sweet flavors, however they has zero chance to stand up to the bitterness on the finish.

Because wow, that bitterness swings through your mouth like a juggernaut. Just blows everything else out. On the one hand, I have to say that the beer lives up to its name. On the other hand, the intensity of this bitterness makes the beer difficult to recommend. It’s not easy to pair with most food but I can see it clearing out buffalo wings pretty well.

I suppose if there’s a complaint to be directed here, it’s that the beer isn’t very complex. That could also a strength, though. This is a pretty straightforward IPA and either you’re going to be down for what it’s offering or you are not.

Personally, I can get down with this beer. If you’re buying it for me, I’m good with that. But if I’m buying something for you? I might just check to see if that’s what you’re into.

Common Ales: Elysian Immortal IPA

I decided to try a new thing: use Twitter to ask breweries what their best selling beer was. I’ve been using contact forms on websites and not getting much reply-some, certainly, and I’m grateful for that response. But more often than not I was talking to the void. So I figure, what’s more immediate than pinging someone’s Twitter account, right?

My first conversation went…a little weird. While I appreciate that brewers are proud of their work but c’mon. Just give24942445245_66a6e9952a_k me a straight answer. Still, though it took me four stores to find it, the Immortal IPA was purchased!

The nose is nice-ish. Little lemony and a little funky, like rind. The front side of the beer is a touch sweet, also in a citrusy way. There’s little malt sweetness and I can’t say it’s strong as the bitterness that the hops steps up very quickly. It hits the top of my mouth, mostly and that’s a little strange. Eventually I feel the bitterness in my cheeks but what’s interesting so far is that it isn’t accompanied by a dryness, like I’d get with white wine or some really bitter IPAs.

I’m about halfway through the beer when I notice that it’s got a sweet note that sneaks up in between the bitterness, just before I finish my sip. That helps keep things in check somehow.

And yet, there’s something I can’t put my finger on. A little bit vegetal flavoring is lingering at the end. The beer is nearly done and it doesn’t seem to be quite as good as when I started. It’s not bad but it’s not tempting me to have another. I can’t quite recommend this.

On the Rail: Club 21

24478461302_840c8d5a40_zHoly cow is this beer bitter. It’s arrived headless too, and I am unable to get a whiff of hops off it. That’s really not good news for an IPA. The beer seems cloudy as well: now that isn’t automatically a problem but the bitterness of this beer is passing into a dirty flavor so I just can’t trust it. I don’t know why, but I frequently have issues with Migration’s beers.

The ceiling looks like a child got to toss glitter onto it, red and green lights spackled all over. The vibe is definitely Portland new-dive, with more pinball machines than video poker games. That’s kinda cool.  The chalkboard nearby proclaims BANDS TONIGHT, but I’m here too early for music and you can still buy packs of cigarettes from behind the bar. The white tent outside is where you go for smoking.

Couple guys talking next to me are talking about the place; I think I’ll let them have the last word:

“Yeah, I’m just here until it gets crowded-I just got off work. I tell you ’bout my new job, dude? I’m tossin’ kegs around for McMins. Only problem is the hour and a half commute on the bus each way.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“No, man.”

“Dude, I got a buddy at a dealership, I think we can hook you up with a beater that runs.”

“That’s be awesome. All I need is somethin’ like that: I’m good with my hands so I can work on it, too. But yeah, I just gonna have couple-three beers and then get out of here before it gets too crowded.”

“Yeah. Doesn’t happen until around 8 but before that it’s a pretty mellow place to hang out in.”

Common Ales: 21st Amendment, Brew Free or Die

While nobody got back to me from 21st Amendment (I’m starting to wonder if I should hassle these breweries on Twitter, instead of polite emails!) the Brew Free or Die IPA is the beer I see most often in the stores. It’s a little bit of a bummer for me to see so little variety, because I generally like 21st’s beers, even if the styles aren’t my thing-see the watermelon ale.

The nose of the Brew Free or Die has some grassy undercurrents. It’s sweet like fruit otherwise: I want so say something mango-oriented present but it’s not overwhelming.

This sweetness isn’t in the finish though; it’s just a strong bite, the kind that would turn a lot of people away from IPAs. The hoppiness vs bitterness debate kicks in here and I can’t say this beer is balanced at all. The nose is a good one but the midrange for malt flavors is practically invisible.

It’s a solid beer but probably for people who are more well versed in the style and interested in IPAs than for newbies to the craft brew scene. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means that the sharper flavor may be a shock to someone who isn’t ready or interested in it.