CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Airport Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - January 17, 2015

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Laurelwood Brewing Company, Concourse A, Portland International Airport, 7000 Airport Way, Portland, Oregon

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Chili's Two, Terminal 3 Concourse 8, O'Hare International Airport, 5600 Mannheim Road, Chicago, Illinois

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Daniel's Bistro & Bar, Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles International Airport, 1 World Way, Los Angeles, California

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The Crown Rivers, Airside, Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport, Greater London, England

Before I start writing about some more new Sheffield pubs I'm going to finally wrap up my Pacific Coast beer tour of last spring. Getting from Manchester to Los Angeles with a side trip to Oregon I managed to pass through no less than six airports. And as flying these days can be quite a stressful and exhausting experience, an airport pint always sounds like a good idea.

While in Southern California I flew from Long Beach to Portland, Oregon to visit my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick. After four days of exploring some of the great pubs and brewpubs of the city known as Beervana, we had a final pint at the airport before flying home. While we hurried down Concourse E in search of the Laurelwood Brewing Company I was nearly skipping, having just breezed through the Priority Security lane with no shoe, hat, or jacket removal and no bag full of liquids or electronic device display, while poor Rick had to strip down and surrender his bottle of sunscreen. (Supposedly this was because I flew JetBlue while Rick flew Alaska Airlines. Very strange...)

The pub opened onto to the concourse. We sat at the bar and shared a small pint of Piston Pale (5.6% ABV, Laurelwood). This is a fine crisp morning brew, perfect for cooling a slightly hungover final-night-of-beer-tasting head. It's a perfect airport pint as well, right up there with Goose Island and Cisco pints. We also shared a half order of black bean nachos which were quite tasty.

The original Laurelwood Brewing Company was founded in central Portland 2001 by Mike De Kalb and Cathy Woo-De Kalb, and by 2013 it ranked as the fifth largest brewpub in the US. The business has expanded to four pubs including this airport location. After finishing our pints and snack we headed off for our respective gates that were just a short walk from the pub. At my gate I was joined by quite a few tourists holding pink boxes of Voodoo Doughnuts. What a great final touch to my Portland visit.

When I've flown between Manchester and Los Angeles I usually change planes at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Every time I pass through I always wish I had the time to find the Goose Island Brewpub located at the far end of the C Concourse. Unfortunately it's miles away from the F and G concourses I usually fly out of. Fortunately there is a more conveniently located outlet for having a between-flight pint, and that is Chili's Too, located at the hub of several concourses. Chili's is a nationwide chain that seems to specialise in your typical hearty cheesy meaty Mexican-inspired dishes for the hungry American. This Chili's features a large horseshoe bar with a view of the concourses, and there are several craft beers on draft.

The first time I visited was two years ago enroute to Los Angeles. I found a seat at the end of the bar and decided to have a pint of one of the Goose Island offerings. Back in 1990 I visited the original Goose Island Brewpub on North Clybourn Avenue not far from the bottom of Chicago's Lincoln Park, and I remember having a pint of Hexnut Ale which was pleasant. But this was a few years before I started writing this column, so I can't remember any more details.

So I was curious to see what they're brewing these days. I decided on a pint of Goose Island IPA (5.9% ABV, Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL). It was quite orange for an IPA and it tasted a bit orange as well, with a bitter malt kick -- in other words, it didn't seem very IPA-ish. The other brews that were on offer on this visit were Green Line Pale Ale, Shock Top Belgian White, Sam Adams Lager, and (shudder!) Bud and Bud Light.

On my return visit the same year I stopped here again for a pint of Green Line Pale Ale (5.4% ABV, Goose Island Brewery), named after Chicago's Green Line rapid transit route. It was surprisingly similar to the previous pint I'd had on the way to LA except that, despite the name, it was hoppier than the Goose Island IPA. It was a gold-amber in colour, and it was definitely satisfying after a long travel day which started when I was told I was upgraded to First Class but was then tossed back into Cattle Car Class once I got to the airport. It was definitely a crossover taste at a crossover bar at the end of a journey crossing over from fun and family to tragedy and grief back home. As I sipped my pint I perused the food menu. There was one item on the menu that still confuses me to this day. I mean, just what the hell are boneless buffalo wings?

Last year I stopped at Chili's again between flights. After the first half of a gruelling travel day from Manchester I was happy to have an hour to stop here for a pint. This time I sat at the corner of the bar, surrounded by tables full of families eating those big American meals. Again I had a pint of Goose Island IPA (5.9% ABV, Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL). The flatscreen TV was showing basketball: the Chicago Bulls v the Washington Wizards, which made me seriously wonder who would win in a battle between a bull and a wizard. I ended up chatting to some of the travelling Americans, including a retired Hungarian-Cuban American who used to make gunpowder for a living. Most of the customers were drinking pints but a few were drinking hard liquor, and it wasn't even 4:00 in the afternoon. I suppose the time of day is completely irrelevant when you're sleep-deprived and flying between jetlags.

At the end of the same trip, before my flight from LAX to Manchester, I decided to have a preboard pint with my Belgian-Californian friend Daisy who gave me a ride to the airport. Since 2010 most of the catering in the Tom Bradley International Terminal is past the Security gate and therefore inaccessible to the public, but Daisy and I did manage to find one bar on the Arrivals level. Daniel's, which offers seating in the lounge or at the bar, was purportedly "created as an oasis for travellers". The term oasis conjures up images of camels and palm trees, neither of which were in evidence here. But there were flat screen TVs and video arts monitors displaying all sorts of California scenes. .

We sat at the bar and had glasses of Shock Top American Pale Wheat Beer (5.8% ABV, Anheuser-Busch). The other choices on tap were Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light, so there wasn't much of a choice. Our pints were quite flat and served with an orange slice, a new beer garnish for me. We split a surprisingly nice fish taco and some French fries with mayo. The TVs were broadcasting another basketball game. This time it was the Los Angeles Clippers v the Oklahoma City Thunder, which made me momentarily wonder if clippers were more likely to clip the thunder, or if thunder would break the clippers. As I was saying goodbye to my friend Daisy for another year I decided to save contemplating this question for my flight to London.

When I arrived at Heathrow I had some time to kill before my final flight to Manchester. After gulping down a much needed double espresso to wake me up, I still had at least an hour before boarding time, so I thought I'd risk putting myself back to sleep by having a pint. The Crown Rivers, the only bar located in the vast airside concourse of Terminal 5, is a very small Wetherspoons pub. Opened in 2008, the Crown Rivers is named after Longford River and the Duke of Northumberland's River that were diverted in the 1940s when Heathrow Airport was built. The rivers were diverted yet again more recently for the construction of Terminal 5.

It was quite crowded in the pub. As the pub was open to the concourse and pretty much lacked walls I stood in the middle of the room, resting my pint on another customer's table. I spotted only two other customers drinking cask ale; but considering the wide range of nationalities and tastes of the flying customers, it wasn't surprising to see so many people drinking European lagers, wine, and Guinness. I had a pint of Exmoor Gold (4.5% ABV, Exmoor Ales Ltd, Wiveliscombe, Somerset), which was the only pale and possibly hoppy choice. It was a bit too smooth for my hoppy needs and tasted as if it were at the end of the cask; but on this exhausting two-day marathon of travel it was better than a poke in the eye. Also on the hand pumps were London Pride, Doom Bar, East Street Bitter. and the dangerous Abbott Ale. My pint cost £3.55, which is probably about par for airport prices. After all, if it weren't for modern air travel we'd never have the chance to get rid of all that pesky superfluous money we all seem to have lying about, right?

After a train from Manchester Airport to Sheffield I finally arrived home late at night, ready for a gin and tonic nightcap. I'm not going to apologise for this, as time becomes completely irrelevant when you're passing between time zones for hours on end, and I had just experienced a day and a half as more of a week. So much for recommended units.