Recently my wife (Sarajo) and I took a week's vacation to the Beer Mecca that is Portland, Oregon. While we did try out a nearly overwhelming number of breweries, we also took some side trips and ate at a wonderful plethora of places. On our third day in, two of our friends (Kathleen and Shea) met up with us from DC and joined in the fun. I'm going to blog about the trip in some detail, mostly to immortalize it in the written word, but consider it a starting point for your own Portland area trip! Feel free to shoot me any questions or clarifications if you like.
Day 1: BOA (Beer On Arrival)
We arrived at PDX Airport on a Tuesday afternoon, tired from the three hour trip and ready to explore a bit. After picking up our rental car we headed straight for our first brewery...I know you are all shocked!
HUB has been a staple in the Portland craft beer scene since about 2007. They have several organic ales and take great pride in Green business practices. They've embraced the bike culture of Portland and in fact the light fixture/chandelier over the bar in the taproom is made of bike frames! They have expanded to include a second location and now distribute cans around the state as well. Several friends had steered (pun intended) me to visit this spot.
We arrived before rush hour hit the city, so the place wasn't crazy yet. We snagged a seat at the bar and ordered the BIG sampler. This is a sampler of 15 (2 oz) beers served up in a metal pan and was quite the eye-catching sight for a weary traveler! I tasted through them all (sharing a tiny amount with Sarajo of course). With such a huge number I took sparing notes in Untappd. Looking at my overall scores it looks like out of 15 beers the highest I gave (out of 0-5) was a 3.75. Average for all of them was 3.5--putting this brewery in the decent but not great category for me. None of the beers were terrible, but overall they just didn't wow either of us. Probably the best was a toss-up between the Gear Up IPA and the IPX Organic El Dorado (single hop). It was a fun stop, but didn't live up to my expectations.
Our destination for the day was to drive out of town and about 1.5-2 hours to Pacific City--a tiny quaint vacation town on the Oregon coast. We wanted to get out Portland before traffic got rough, so went on a little detour in Hillsboro (a suburb just outside of the city proper). Our friend Matt Messier, who hails from that area, suggested we stop at a little under-the-radar place in an office park called ABV Public House. This was a great suggestion! This is a bar, serving food and 34 draft lines of craft beer--mostly local. They also have extensive coolers full of bottles all along two walls of the place that you can drink in-house or take home with you. Thank you Oregon's progressive beer laws! We tried a sampler of beers and ciders that we'd never heard of along with some snacks there before we headed back out toward the coast. It was tempting to buy a bunch of beers right there, but I had to limit my bottle selection for the trip (flying) and decided to hold off for now. Based on some of the sample beers we tried and the reviews from our helpful server we added a few breweries to our budding itinerary.
Inn at Cape Kiwanda, a very nice little hotel right up the hill and across the street from both the beach and Pelican Brewery. The Inn had a Bed, Breakfast & Brew package which includes a $25 dining credit (not just for breakfast) and a free sampler of beer from the brewery. Of course we took advantage of that! We arrived at dusk and after checking into the hotel and taking in the most marvelous view I've ever had at an overnight stay, we darted down to the darkening beach. A brisk (timing and temperature) walk along the beach and onto the barnacle encrusted rocks revealed by the retreating tide was our treat for the evening. Just as a light rain started, we arrived back at the brewery for our tasty dinner and free beer sampler.
I've been a fan of Pelican since we stopped there on a trip about 5 years ago. The place has won national recognition for their beers, including the barrel aged beast that is Mother Of All Storms (which I review HERE.) They've recently expanded to include a production facility in nearby Tillamook as well, but that was out of our way for this trip. The big, old-fashioned brewpub is comfortable, weathered, and relaxed, sitting literally right on the beach. The food was good and hearty, the beers excellent. The Kiwanda Cream Ale is their flagship--one of the best cream ales I've ever had, though it isn't my favorite style. The Mosiac Pilsner small batch was a strange and interesting mix of lager style and ale hopping--but worked well. Most of the beers ranged from 3.75-4 for me this visit--above average for sure. Oh how I wish they had MOAS!
Exhausted from our day of travel (and perhaps beer) we skipped across the street to the Inn for bed. There we "rented" for free a DVD and watched a movie (this would be the last TV-type media for a full week) and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves through our open balcony door. This was a stellar start to an epic vacation. Though tomorrow threatened heavy rains, we were prepared for another great day of fun ahead. Oh, and more beer of course!