Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pretty Damn eXcellent

So I took some magic mushrooms the other night while on a little retreat at Long Beach, WA.  As I was gazing at the brilliant night sky with my freshly squeegeed third eye, I began to reflect on my beer trip to Portland the day before, but I was swiftly hit with several epiphanies including thoughts on the indifference of the ocean and how the universe may have more questions for us than we have for it.  When I came in from the cold (was it cold?), I almost began doing this write up, but got distracted by a plant in the room.  It's probably for the best, but it might have made for a hilarious read.

Bill Hicks tribute tattoo by mach5

I've been looking forward to doing an urban beer hike in Portland for a long time.  I've visited several times before and been to some very fun places, but this would be my first beer-centric trip on foot and I was so excited to pound the pavement and explore a neighborhood I'd not been to yet.  Just looking at a "beer map" of Portland is dizzying.  I had to factor in a few things when choosing destinations for this hike:
  1. Lodging.  We chose the Motel 6 - Holladay Street (east side of the city) for price and pet friendliness, so that cut my choices pretty much in half.
  2. Weather.  This isn't usually that much of a consideration for me as I love to walk around in the rain, but I would have my wife and little pal Link with me so it was important that we seek out places that either allow dogs or have some sort of sheltered area outside to hitch him up.
  3. Daylight.  I'm told that they're getting longer, but the days are still relatively short.  And since you never know when you'll fall in love with a place and stay for a 4th or 5th beer, it was important to keep it down to 3-4 spots.

Not only did NE Portland survive the watering-down of my selection process, it knocked our fucking socks off and showed us one of the best times we've had in a while.

5th Quadrant/Amnesia Brewing/Upright Brewing

View Pretty Damn eXcellent in a larger map

Although the planned hike was to start Sunday afternoon, we arrived Saturday night and began to get acclimated by driving from our motel down to Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB).  A good article about green brewing in a recent issue of Beer Northwest inspired us to visit.  That and the IPA I had at Brouwer's the night before.  Absolutely delicious.  Link was content to stay in the car while we went in.  They do have pet-friendly outdoor seating, but it's not open too much this time of year.  The place was lively, but not obnoxious.  (We usually dread going out on Saturdays due to the greater concentration of douchiness.)  Our server was polite, prompt, knowledgeable and patiently explained all of the offerings on the sampler tray.  After that I had a mug of ESB, then the Seven-Grain Stout.  Mandy had a mug of Sprechen sie Stout, which she nursed.  Although we didn't get to look around the brewery, we were very impressed with the rest of the operation.  A lot of thought went into the design and decor.  Everywhere you look you get a glimpse of how they built this place almost exclusively with reclaimed materials.  (Damn!  I just realized that I didn't visit the men's room while I was there.  Interesting, no doubt.)  There is an upstairs loft area with pinball machines where they seemed to have corralled all of the families with kids.  We'd only just arrived and I was already having a great time.

The next morning we were surprised to find that it wasn't raining yet, but there was little doubt that it was on the way.  We donned our rain suits, fired up the GPS and began walking north on Grand Avenue.  It wasn't until we started weaving our way west little by little that we began to get a feel for the flavor of the neighborhood.  Most of the main drag (MLK Blvd.) is commercial stuff, but just a block or two off either side are some nice old homes and plenty of local character to enjoy.

Yeah, that's a little creepy...

It wasn't raining too hard when we arrived at our first stop, the 5th Quadrant, New Old Lompoc's newest place.  It had just opened so it was hard to get a feel for the vibe, but it was all for the better because the staff had more time to talk with us and answer my annoying questions about dog and kid policies, their beers, their history, etc.  Apparently I just missed Jeff ( who came in later with his posse and wrote some thoughts of his own.

After some really good chicken strips, a pint of Sockeye Cream Stout and a pint of the almighty C-Note Imperial IPA, we were off again.

We headed west toward Amnesia Brewing, which sits on the corner of Mississippi Ave N. and N. Beech Street.  This is a cool old building with a very "roadhouse-y" feel to it.  There are a couple of large roll-up doors and there is a large, covered outdoor area (where we hitched up Link and he proceeded to get the usual amount of attention from smokers and passers-by).  I imagine that in the summer it's very open and airy.  It's definitely on my radar the next time we're in town if the weather is nice.  Mandy ordered up a Copacetic IPA, which she says never lasts long at Brouwer's.  I went with the Sleighjerker Winter Ale before succumbing to a couple of pints of the Copacetic myself.  We had already eaten at 5Q, so we didn't try any of their sausage offerings.  It was so tempting though.  I haven't had a grilled kielbasa in ages.

I love my dog.

As it often does, time got away from us a little bit and darkness was fast approaching.  We were both excited to get to Upright Brewing and have some farmhouse ales before they closed at 6pm, we elected to skip the White Eagle (we've stayed there a couple of times before anyway and there isn't a good place to put the dog when it's rainy).  The walk from Amnesia to Upright is very wonderfully urban.  The route wound us under I-5, along some train tracks,  and by some warehouses.  We got some very nice views of some of the city's bridges and overpasses.  We were very close to the Rose Garden, but there was no Blazers game so the whole area was very quiet and deserted.   Walking in the city on a dark, cold, rainy day.  I loved it.


Upright was a bit tricky for us to find.  We went a little too far east on Broadway, but realized the mistake soon enough.  We had walked right by it and how we missed the Left Bank Project building, I don't know.  There was no suitable place to hitch up the dog outside, so we brought him in.  Understandably, Upright cannot be dog friendly as they use open-top fermenters in their brewing.  Link was content to wait for us in the hallway outside, though, but officially, he was never there.  (I don't think dogs are allowed inside the building, but it was Sunday and the place was shut down and empty except for Upright.)  Next time we visit, we'll leave the dog at home.

We saw a lot of empty glassware in front of us this day.

The tasting room is wonderfully cave-like, but warm.  We ordered up a sampler tray from Ezra, the Samurai Artist, made a couple of new friends at the picnic table and unsuccessfully tried to decide which was our favorite beer.  I loved my two glasses of the Four, but had many tastes of Mandy's Seven.  There's really something special going on in that little place and we felt lucky to have found it.  Our new friends told us about some other places in the area to check out and I caught myself already daydreaming about my next visit.  (I'm thinking "5-H":  start at Hair of the Dog, up to Hopworks, then Hedge House, and end up at Horse Brass...  Of course Belmont Station must be included as well, but that messes up the "H" thing.)

Oh, I know it alright...  How many have I had, anyway?

It was a short walk from Upright back to the motel.  After some quick showers and a few glasses of water, we rolled down the way to Laurelwood Public House and Brewery on NE Sandy Blvd. for dinner and couple more beers.  A fitting ending to a full day.  We sampled some of the best Beervana has to offer and still felt like we'd only scratched the surface.

It won't be long before the next Portland UBH, I suspect.


  1. Nice hike!

    Next time you're near the White Eagle, the Widmer Gasthaus is a great place to go. Filling German food, and they always have 3 or 4 beers on tap that aren't available anywhere else.

  2. Thanks. Here's to many more in Portland.

    Good advice re: Widmer. Indeed the Gasthaus was on my radar for this hike, but alas, there is so little daylight this time of year. I've read that they have dog-friendly seating on their patio in the nicer months. I was there once about 2 years ago and we had a nice time.

  3. In the summer, you should try the Beermuda Triangle, which is IDEAL for dogs. It includes the Green Dragon (now officially a brewpub), Roots, and the Lucky Lab. You may not actually make it past the Lab--it's dog heaven. That loop could actually include the Pilsner Room, which is just on the other side of the Hawthorne Bridge, but you'd definitely have to score an outside table--no dogs allowed in McCormick and Schmick joints. (It's where John Harris has a little 10-barrel wizard's lab where he concocts lovely potions.)

  4. By the way, you took what was easily the most industrial loop in Beervana. Portland, famous for its greenery, has a fair amount of industrial space. I used to live on the edge of one and when my girlfriend (now wife) came out, it was months before she realized how beautiful the city was. She referred to it as a "hellhole."

    However, apparently like you, I love industrial areas, which is why I lived there.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations! I think we'll definitely be back in the summer or early fall, if not sooner.

  6. Looks like you had a good time. Glad you made it to Amnesia. It is one of our favorites, if I remember correctly.



  7. Yeah I could spend all day there. We'll definitely be back.