Friday, September 21, 2012

USA Summer 2012 -- West (Portland)

I spent several days in Portland, OR on the last stage of my US trip. First night in town, I went to Powell's Bookstore (heaven, indeed), and then to Deschutes Brewery & Public House. As usual, it was crowded.with a 20- to 30-minute wait for a table, but I was able to grab a space in the bar area fairly easily.

I had a sampler of six brews, and then ordered a big snifter of the Deschutes Black Butte XXIV for dessert. Wow! Big nose of anise, dark chocolate, berries, and alcohol fumes. Pitch black, with great lacing. Wonderful dark chocolate cake flavors,with cherries and hints of strong roasted coffee beans. Also, a bit of a phenolic burnt rubber taste. Smooth complex aftertaste. Heavy body, a bit of tickling carbonation. Creamy, brilliant complex flavors. The aftertaste went on and on.

Second night I made stops at Hair of the Dog Brewing Company and Cascade Brewing Barrel House.

HOTD had their regular samplers, all of which were good, including an astounding new one, Hair of the Dog Otto (peaches and cherries infused into a barrel-aged Fred). Fruity aroma of cherries, also cocoanut, and sour wine. Deep red wine-like color, completely flat. Amazing initial hits of dark fruit, berries, cherries; mid palate is wonderfully balanced. Medium-heavy body. Resembles a friendly, warm wine/fruit liqueur. Another winner from the wood wizardry of Alan Sprints.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House is just a ten-minute walk from HOTD.Their tap list always features more new barrel-aged sour beers than I can handle.

I had five samplers, including the following:

Cascade Kriek Ale
Sour candy and alcohol fumes rising through a deep ocean of dark fruit juice. Reddish-brown, some large bubbles in the small head. Huge sourpuss puckering initial; mid palate has cherry, orange, kiwi; finish is long, tart, and dry. Very subtle changes through palate stages.

Cascade Barrel-Aged Bruin
Beautiful aromas of mild coffee, oak-aged fruit, and vanilla. Clear ruby-tinted brown, flat. Deep mellow fruitiness in initial; some heat emerges in mid palate and mild dark fruit flavor begin rising; finish is fine, rich, and smooth, like a dessert wine. Medium body. The aging has mellowed the sourness and created a rich, pleasing fullness.

Cascade Barrel-Aged Quad
Extremely unusual aromas: brake fluid, insect spray, ancient bar toilet. Golden straw color. Moderate sour initial; deeper flavors in mid palate, pickled pears and peaches; finishes with tweaks of sourness. Very smooth, mellow palate, no big acid attack. So mild and matured; hides the high alcohol completely, and has blended flavors so well.

Last night in town, I walked to Burnside Brewing Co. a busy brewpub just across the Burnside Bridge from downtown Portland.

 Lots of seating: 15 at the bar, 40 or so at tables, 20-30 in booths, and maybe 30-40 at tables on the patio out front. High ceilings, concrete walls, and exposed wooden beams. Long lines of hop vines growing down from the beams. Open kitchen along the bar, with poor ventilation, and this tended to interfere with the beer aromas. Good menu, with some unusual meat and poultry items. The server knew all about the beers. Beer flights were very reasonable: ten types in 4-oz. glasses for $10. Unfortunately, the beers are hit or miss. But it is a place that I’ll go back to next time in Portland.Here are three standouts:

Burnside Sweet Heat
Fragrant, fruity, and slightly peppery aroma. Very pale yellow; apple juice color. Extremely mild initial flavors; then the peppers hit hard in mid palate. Very thin body. Just the right amount of peppers; maybe more hops would help. Interesting stuff. (Note: they were also selling bottles of Burnside International Incident, an amped-up version of Sweet Heat, for the obscene price of $40.)
*Update 10/16/2012: Sweet Heat was just awarded a gold medal in the Herb and Spice Beer category at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival

Burnside Alter Ego 2PA
Big citrusy, grapefruit nose, with some toffee lurking behind. Coppery-gold, with lots of light carbonation rising. Very well-balanced overall. Thick, sticky body. Doesn’t really taste like it has such a high (100) IBU level; the hops come out as more of a texture.

Burnside Big Chewy Red
Big malty aroma, with some good dirty hops and dark fruit. Pretty copper-red color, big head, and exceptional lacing. Mild malty initial flavors; strong smokey, toffee-ish malty mid palate. Medium body, very smooth palate. Well-balanced, tasty, full. The best of the ten brews I sampled there.

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