Friday morning came relatively quickly after a night spent above the old garage at the Weed Rockafeller estate. Swans were photographed, Mount Shasta was seen in the morning light, and we hit the road nice and early toward the Oregon Border. It had been forever since I had been to Oregon and I had forgotten just how mountainous the southern part of the state is. This was my kind of drive. After a long morning on the road we arrived at our first stop in the south-western suburbs of Portland.
Raccoon Lodge is one of the more interesting brewpubs that I’ve been to. It’s a large place, with a sizeable brewery on the ground floor, a big restaurant upstairs, and a large back yard complete with beer tent and outside bar. The ground floor also has a raccoon themed arcade or sorts for the kids, which allows them to peer through the glass windows to the brewery and watch as brewers fill towering stacks of oak barrels with the beers that will become Cascade Brewing’s award winning sour ales. I’m still not why the brewery is called Cascade, and the pub Raccoon lodge, but it is slightly confusing. The upstairs wasn’t anything exceptional, atmosphere-wise, but I can imagine spending plenty of warm summer afternoons out on the back lawn or under the tent. After Trying a sample flight upstairs, (all were pretty good, with the Summer Gose and Frite Galois being exceptionally good) we were able to get a tour of the brewery with one of the brewers, Jonathan, who kindly poured us samples and chatted in between cleaning out oak barrels. Cascade has an interesting take on sour ales, using only lactic acid producing bacteria of their own proprietary mix, and no wild yeasts in their production process. Jonathan let us sample a batch of their Blackberry ale that had become infected with brettanomyces, and it definitely had a dry earthiness and funk that their beers normally lack. It might have been even better than the regular version though, and is being kegged as a special release. Overall, Raccoon Lodge is a must see for those visiting Portland. Soon though, they are also opening the Cascade Brewing Barrel House closer to downtown. I can imagine this being the new hot spot in town for those interested in barrel-aged beers. Next time, it’ll be first on our list of places to go.
After checking in to our hotel near the convention center, it was a short walk over to Upright Brewing. Upright has to be one of the more unique breweries that I’ve been to for several reasons. For one, it’s located in a basement and you would never know you were going to a brewery as you descend in the elevator from the hallway outside a small cafe in a seemingly random building next to the Rose Garden. Upright is also unique for the type of beers that they produce: Belgian-influenced farmhouse ales. They brew a core lineup of beers with Wyeast’s French Saison yeast strain. Four is a table saison, Five is a hoppy mid-strength saison, Six is a dark rye saison, and Seven is a strong blond saison. All share the house yeast character and are fermented in open fermenters that you are free to check out through glass as you sample beers in the tasting room which doubles as a corner of the brewery next to the cold box. I like what these guys are doing, and they really stand out as unique among the more typical breweries of the area pumping out IPAs, pale ales, porters and the like. They even had a gruit on tap, as well as a barrel-aged version of Four with rose petals and yarrow, and a special version of Six spiced with long peppercorns. I would definitely check back in on these guys the next time I’m in Portland. There’s no telling what they’ll have come up with by then.
After dinner at an awesome little vegan Italian restaurant called Portabello, we decided to check out Hopworks Urban Brewery. Hopworks is located in the southeast quadrant of the city and is not only completely organic brewpub, but they also make vegan pizzas with Daiya cheese! After getting all excited about that, I never actually had the pizza, but I think it’s awesome that they have the option for those who don’t eat dairy. The pub was going off when we got there around eleven. Hopworks has an industrial, mountain bike theme going on with lots of welded bike parts and metal mixed with unfinished wood decor. I decided to go for the sampler, and have to say that I was overall very impressed with their beers. Their HUB Lager, a helles, was very impressive, as was their Pils. I love a brewpub that can make a good pale lager; it shows the true skill of the brewer. The Hopworks IPA is also a standout, as is their 7 Grain Survival Stout, made with seven grains including quinoa, kamut, and rye. It’s a normal strength stout, but has all the flavor if most imperial stouts, maybe even more. Hopworks also had a couple beers on cask, which I like to see at a brewpub. Overall, I was quite charmed by the place. The beers were mostly excellent (the imperial black esb was questionable) and I really dig their eco ethos and commitment to cycling. Hopworks proves that you can be an organic brewery and still brew quality beers in the standard styles. I would never have guessed that they were organic by tasting the beers, and with my past history with organic beers, that’s quite a compliment. Count this as another one that I would love to drink a mug of their delicious lager at on my next trip.