Archives: Portland

Fine Dining, NW Style

Once you have a kid, selecting a place to eat requires factoring in considerations other than quality, cost, and distance. Locating kid-friendly restaurants becomes a constant, background, priority. For those of us who enjoy beer and brewpubs, this search demands even greater focus. One approaches a new prospect with both hope and trepidation.

May the Fifth

Let’s clear this up right away: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That falls on September 16. Instead, the fifth of May is a celebration of the Battle of Puebla and is not a national holiday. It commemorates the 1862 battle in which the Mexican army defeated a larger French army that was deployed in a convoluted affair involving a grab for Mexican silver and an attempt by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to place a supernumerary Hapsburg on a throne.

Me, I’m happy for any excuse to eat tacos and drink beer. But I like to be an informed glutton.

Tasting Notes

My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent have been away for a couple of weeks. Too long, really. Still the time intervening between departure and return must be filled. I’ve been reading, caught up on some films, gotten a solid push on the second draft of “Boss.” Productive, I think. Stimulative to the synapses, fueling the story muscles. But a man can’t work all the time.

And so, beer.

I managed to visit a few brewpubs that I’ve missed. It’s not hard to miss a new one. They spring up in Portland like mushrooms. I posted some pictures of last weekend’s beer exploration. Today I’ll provide some tasting notes and comments about this weekend. For those of you who read this web log solely for thoughts on books, speculative fiction, sci-fi conventions and whatnot, this is a good place to stop reading.

Fat Head’s Brewery in Northwest Portland is the Oregon branch of an Ohio-based operation. But it brew on the premises and appears to develop a good number of its recipes independently. It is a cavernous space with a lot of tables. Oregon was playing Cal on the tube above the bar. And I ordered a five beer taster for $11. A bit steep I think. Perhaps someone has a spreadsheet with the price of taster trays in the greater Portland area.

The thing is, I took notes. Perhaps less detailed notes than usual, but here they are.

Built for Speed IPA. 6.3% Typical West Coast IPA, but not in a good way. Revisit — Pretty good after food.

Semper FiPA. 6.5% Oo-rah! Sorry, had to. Grassy, undistinguished IPA. Revisit — unchanged.

One for the Road IIPA. 8.5% Raisin and leather balancing a near perfect amount of hops. Near to classic beer status. Revisit — Unbalanced.

Tortuga Tri-PA. 9.25% Pineapple wallop. Aftertaste a lingering cigarette bitterness. Might grow on me, but no an immediate favorite. Revisit — Unchanged.

Pimp My Sleigh. 10.5%. Belgian Style Christmas Ale. Tastes like a near textbook barleywine. Perhaps a trifle thin/vinegary. Could use a chewier, raisin finish. Revisit — Minor improvement.

I think I’d go back there, try some more options. I find it interesting that revisiting a beer after having run some different flavors over the tastebuds occasionally altered my initial impression.

I visited Great Notion Brewing because a local publication listed one of its beers as the best beer in Portland. So of course the pub was completely sold out of the beer in question. I’d say just my luck but I probably should have seen that coming.

Great Notion is a typical example of the Portland brewpub. A smallish, re-purposed space decorated in a vaguely woodsy, Northwestern fashion. I ordered a sandwich and a five beer-taster tray. The sandwich was reasonably priced, $9 for a sandwich and generously sized side salad. The taster tray — not so much. $14! That can’t be the going rate, can it?

At least the beer was good.

Strawberry Cream IPA. 7%. Slight bite of hops to offset the smoothness. Strawberries and cream…and hops? Who’d a thunk it? Works though.

Grassroots IPA. 7%. Solid IPA. ON par with Gigantic and — almost — Breakside.

Super Ripe IIPA. 9.5%. Grapefruit and sucrose. In a good way.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 7%. Sour. Apricot and lemon juice. Pucker up!

Midnight Fluff. 10%. Stout. Feeling diabetic after one sip. Dip a s’more in it or pour it over ice cream. This is dessert beer overkill. Good, though.

I’d go back. But I think I’d just order a pint of something and hope for the best.

Hey, if you’re enjoying my particular brand of nonsense, please exercise the like and share functions of your social media platform of choice. Think of the children.

Portland Spring Beer and Wine Festival

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Today I’m taking a break from my accustomed topics to write about a truly vital subject: beer. This weekend the Portland Convention Center hosted the annual Portland Spring Beer and Wine Festival, one of the big three fests here in a town that holds about one beer related event per day. So I went. The cavernous space of the exhibit hall provided ample space for more than a hundred and fifty exhibitors: breweries, wineries, distilleries, food vendors, assorted merchants, and service providers. That still left plenty of room for tables and a stage for musicians. Hard to get bored.


imageI returned yesterday from three days in Tucson. My lovely and talented wife attended a conference held at a resort just outside the city limits, the resort an oasis of swimming pools, golf courses, and room service. I went along to tend my lovely and talented newborn daughter, with the optimistic plan of completing a second draft of a novel while sitting in the sun. Turns out the former obligation curtailed the completion of the latter. I jotted notes and made corrections on less than half the manuscript.

But the sun was nice after months of Portland winter.

OryCon 35

I attended my first science fiction convention as a guest this weekend. Not my first con, but my first on the other side of the panel table. OryCon is the annual Portland convention, now in its 35th year. It brings together fans of the myriad interests lumped under ‘science fiction.’ So, you’ve got your klingons, your gamers, your costume makers, anime buffs, etc. I’ve attended about a dozen of these over the years, not with any particular focus, but simply as a reader of speculative fiction in general. It allowed me a chance to meet some of the authors of books I’ve enjoyed and to hear the authors discuss various topics at panels.

Autumn Reading

So, that’s it for summer then.  The first storm of autumn is rolling in from the Pacific, hammering the trees with wind gusts and dumping the contents of a few medium-size rivers onto Portland.

Perfect reading weather.

OK, it is always perfect reading weather, but humor me.  Does reading get more pleasant than being curled on the couch before a fire, a warm mug of tea at your elbow and a book in hand?  Rain may lash at the windows and drum on the roof, but when you are absorbed in a book the inclement weather either adds to the atmospherics or passes without notice.

Oregon Brewers Festival

Assembled from the notes taken yesterday.

I’ve been attending the Oregon Brewers Festival since – oh, since before I was of legal drinking age.  I believe my first OBF was the second or third year of the event.  I have a cupboard full of plastic festival mugs to prove it, much to the dismay of the Mrs.  (This year the OBF switched to glass.  We’ll see how that goes.)

My wife does not care for the throng, finding the noise, the press, the dust, etc. oppressive.  Hard to blame her, really, but I find the beer sufficient compensation so long as I arrive early and leave before the crush reaches its peak.  So, this year I attended solo, biking down from home.  In the past this has been an occasion to congregate with friends and usually bump into people I’ve not seen for a few years.  But this year the usual gang of idiots had previous engagements, work-related or otherwise.  A sign of maturity, or aging anyways.  It becomes harder and harder to justify scheduling a day dedicated to sampling craft brews.  I understand that all too well.  Does youth fade or does it simply get buried beneath the ever mounting pile of responsibility?

This year, then, I brought just the one friend.

We’ll see how many chapters I can get through and if the OBF’s notorious and frequent spontaneous yelling that fills the tents will impair my reading more than the alcohol.

Now, time for another taster.

The people watching is, as usual, top-shelf.  Jack Sparrow just strolled by.  Bald, bearded Elvis strummed his guitar outside the fence for awhile before being upstaged by Darth Vader playing the bagpipes while riding a unicycle.

Report: I was terrified that a beer from Ohio – Ohio, of all places – would top my list.  Of course I handicapped the competition, skipping the local Portland beers.  I can get them anytime.  Thankfully my last taster was Bogart IPA from Fire Mountain Brewery of nearby Carlton, Oregon.  That dethroned Ohio Brewing Company’s O’Hoppy Ale IPA.

At about that point of the day the crowd of the OBF surpassed my comfort level.  And 6-plus miles uphill on the bicycle eliminated the (minimal) blood-alcohol level.  I deem this OBF a success.  I sampled some new beers and I’m pretty sure my caloric intake and expenditure was a net positive on the expenditure side of the balance sheet.

And how was your Saturday?

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

I drove off the ferry in Victoria and was struck by the odd feeling that I’d driven all this way only to find that Portland had been scooped up and relocated here on Vancouver Island.  I suppose a certain similarity of look and vibe should not be a surprise.  Cities of the Northwest region of North America are bound to possess certain qualities in common.  Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, all rose at roughly the same time.  All are port cities with resource extraction based economies.  The architecture, demographics, even the cuisine inevitably developed along similar lines.

Reading the preceding sentence it appears I’m grousing about it.  I’m not.  Yes, on the one hand travel can be about experiencing the alien, the unfamiliar.  And I enjoy that.  But travel can also be celebration of variations on a theme.  Sure, the high-ceiling, exposed brick brewpub here in Victoria could just as easily be in any other Northwest craft brewing center.  But it is here, and the flavors I sample from the tasting tray provide subtly different takes on the same beer styles I’ve tried elsewhere throughout the West.  It is OK if travel is occasionally familiar and comforting.

And of course no two places are identical.  From the balcony of my hotel room I can see the British Columbia parliament building.  I can nearly spit into the harbor from here.  The buildings downtown, though of familiar style, are still aesthetically pleasing and new to me.

We’re about to take a drive outside the city and I’m looking forward to seeing what the island countryside has to offer.  I hope your weekend was equally full of possibility.