Saturday, December 15, 2012

Long, Dark Hike in Portland

(Portland, OR)

Planning a beer hike in Portland, Oregon can be difficult.  With so many good places to drink beer, it's always a challenge to decide where to go and where to skip -- especially in the southeast part of the city where you'll find yourself in "pub crawl" mode if you're not careful.  It's entirely possible to hit 5 or 6 great beer spots and not even walk 2 miles.

Chris had not visited Portland in almost a year and he was raring to go, but we only had about 36 hours to play, so we knew we had to be careful not to go overboard.  That's always easier said than done.

The roads were wet and traffic was heavy on the way south, so the ride fucking sucked.  Chris and I don't have a lot of common musical tastes and my iPod was being a little bitch about playing the podcasts (I thought) I downloaded, so we left the radio off.  It didn't matter though. We had a lot to talk about, planning for that night and the big hike the following day.

We arrived at Breakside Brewing (one of my two "must visits" for the trip) in time for happy hour.  After that long, terrible car ride, our first pints vanished in less than 20 minutes.  I don't even remember what I had.  We snacked on chicken wings and waffle fries smothered in beer-cheese sauce while the excitement of the unknown began to grow.  We were in Portland, God Damn It!  Beervana!  I fucking love this town!

After another pint, we had decided on a plan for the night (a mini-UBH in the north part of town, hitting Amnesia Brewing and Saraveza).  We still hadn't settled on a route for the big one the next day, but as the night progressed and the beer flowed, we agreed on a skeleton of a route.  We knew we'd likely run into some friendly locals along the way who would insist on taking us some of their favorite places.  Here's how the route ended up:

Long, Dark Day in Portland; about 7 mi.
Base Camp / Hair of the Dog / Commons / Lardo / Roadside Attraction / Circa 33 / Horse Brass / Beermongers / Apex

View Long, Dark Day in Portland in a larger map

1. Base Camp Brewing
Saturday morning was very wet -- to no one's surprise.  After getting some car and breakfast logistics settled we headed for our launch point, Base Camp Brewing.  This was the other place on my "must visit" list.  Base Camp is relatively new to the Portland beer scene and I had not yet visited.  We were the first to arrive right when they opened at 11 am, but were soon joined by several others -- one of whom had come from a bake sale and was passing out cookies!  (I took one and put it in my pocket.  And forgot all about it until over a week later.)

The tap room is large and still has a new feel to it.  There's a lot of interesting stuff to look at, especially the self-serve water station: an upside-down keg rigged to the ceiling with a climbing rope and carabiners.  One thing noticeably missing were coat hooks under the bar -- seems like there should be some carabiners or something clever installed there.  People would probably fuck with them too much, though, I guess.  Anyway, the beer I had -- S'more Stout, complete with a toasted marshmallow garnish -- was a great start to the day. It's pretty heavy duty at almost 8% and I loved the the whiff of corn syrupy goodness I got with every taste.

2. Hair of the Dog
If you've been to Portland and haven't been to Hair of the Dog, we can't be friends.  Really.  This is one of the most consistent and innovative breweries around and you haven't even bothered to stop in and check it out?  You're lame. (I still have never eaten the Chuck Norris wings there, so I guess that makes me as much of a shit head as you.)

While enjoying my Doggie Claws small beer (low-alcohol version made from the nearly spent grain used in the original batch), I was unlucky enough to be sitting next to a solipsistic young man who pelted the beer tender with questions such as, "What PSI is your system set at?" and "Do you sell half-sample tasters?"  The beer tender was pretty busy so she didn't really have time to entertain his idiocy.  When he left, I was dying to see what, if anything, he left for a tip, but I didn't peek.

3.  The Commons Brewery
This wasn't on my "must visit" list, but it should've been.  I'd definitely heard of  The Commons, but hadn't heard much about them.  That's going to change, I suspect.  Chris and I shared a full 8 beer sampler and then had even more beer after that.  The Commons reminded me of my first visit to Upright Brewing several years ago.  Their stuff is that good.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the future and hopefully it will make it up to Seattle sometime soon.

It was here that our hike picked up a third:  none other than the samurai artist himself.  Ezra knows his way around Portland beer haunts as well as anybody and told us about a couple places we could stop on our way out east to Horse Brass.  But before that, we needed to eat.

4.  Lardo
This was one of Chris' must visits of the trip.  He was familiar with their food cart, but hadn't been to their new restaurant.  Chris knows his shit when it comes to good food carts so I was confident that we were in for a good meal, but I had no idea how good.  I got the Smoked Coppa Cubano sandwich and a pint of cucumber fresh hop from Gilgamesh Brewing.  We were also treated to some chicharones (crispy pork skins) and I grabbed a Cap'n Crunch milkshake for the road.  At this point, we could have used a really long walk to Horse Brass, but Ezra wanted to show us a couple places that were on the way.

5.  Roadside Attraction
This is a small, odd place with a decent tap selection and a lot of crazy crap to look at.  It reminded me of a cozy neighborhood pub combined with a roadside junk shop where you never know what treasures you might find.  I had a pint of 10 Barrel IPA (I really have to get to Bend, OR one of these days) and we moved on.

By now it had gotten dark and it felt a lot later than it actually was. Usually, by time we're through the fifth stop on a hike, we've hiked at least six miles.  This weather fucks with you though.  It gets dark and cold and wet so early that your body tricks you into thinking that it's later than it is.  We'd actually only just passed the 3 mile mark and I was losing steam.  It's not easy to get your mind right at this point -- especially after a bunch of beers -- but it is possible.  Luckily, the walk to the next stop was over a mile and the fresh air and sustained pace really put some wind in my sails.

6.  Circa 33
The inside of Circa 33 is upscale bistro and was very crowded, but the reason Ezra wanted to take us here was the covered and heated outdoor Alleyway along the side of the building.  It was much more relaxed and comfortable out there and I think we each enjoyed a pint of Sierra Nevada Celebration.  This place is worth another visit on the next trip down, especially considering its proximity to Horse Brass Pub.

7.  Horse Brass
For me, it's a must-visit on every Portland visit:

8. The Beermongers 
After three unsuccessful attempts to visit this place in years past (I always arrived after closing time), I finally made it in time.  The walk here from Horse Brass was long (almost 3 miles) and wet (I later found a hole in my shoe that explained my water-logged foot).  We arrived well before last call and were able to relax and enjoy our beer and the pizza we brought from a food truck we passed. Beermongers has a tremendous selection and is a very comfortable place to sit and drink.  We might have stayed for a second round had it not been closing time.  Plus, we had one more stop to round out our tour of SE Portland.

9.  Apex
After a long, long day of beer hiking, the tap list at Apex was dizzying.  The list always includes one of Chris' favorites that continues to be unavailable in Washington for some reason, Russian River Blind Pig IPA.  Needless to say, one pint was not going to be enough.  For a Saturday night, the place was dead.  While Chris played pinball in the next room, I caught up with my old pal Simone, who had recently left Brouwer's and moved to Portland and now works at Apex.  Before any of us realized it, closing time had come and we embarked on our walk back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel room, I noticed that we only logged about 8 miles of walking over about 14 hours, but it sure felt like a lot more since most of the walking was done at night.  My right foot was completely soaking wet from the hole in my shoe (I initially thought that I just stepped in a giant puddle without even knowing it.)

This was definitely an atypical winter beer hike.  This time of year, I try to keep the hikes shorter, with longer sessions at fewer stops. This is more of a summer-time hike that was transplanted into the dark, wet weather of November.  It will be fun to bring Link down to Portland some summer day and redo it when the days are a lot longer and warmer.

Chris and I felt pretty beat-up the next morning, but after getting a couple of Bunk sandwiches down, we managed to enjoy a few tastes at Cascade Barrel House -- another Portland must-visit.  That was pretty much it, though. Our visit to Portland was short, but strong. And it made for a good primer for the upcoming annual beer hiking trip to San Francisco (more on that later).


  1. Nice s'more stout.

    Russell should be pleased with those graffiti shots.

  2. Very nice. I need to hit Commons next week it sounds like.