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Previous Pint Pleasures - November 15, 2014

guinness eileen

Horse Brass Pub, 4534 Southeast Belmont Street, Portland, Oregon

guinness eileen

Burnside Brewing Company, 701 East Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon

guinness eileen

Belmont Station, 4500 Southeast Stark Street, Portland, Oregon

I realise this is very confusing, but having just reviewed a pub in Sheffield I'm bouncing back to Oregon to review three more pubs. This will be my final Portland review until my next visit to the city, whenever that may be.

One afternoon last spring when Rick and I were visiting this brewery-rich city, we stopped for a mid-afternoon pint at the Horse Brass. This is a very English-style pub -- or at least it's what Americans think an English pub should be like. First opened in 1976, the Horse Brass serves proper 20-ounce Imperial pints and English pub food, and the decor, including the two dart boards, seems to be stereotypical British style with a Pacific Northwest twist. The three-sided bar features dozens of beer taps including 4 hand pumps, so this would be a good pub for a long tasting session. The choices include classic ales and IPAs, lagers, stouts, sour beers, and lambic beers. The food menu includes a Ploughman's Lunch that comes with Branston pickle, which is definitely a nice British touch, making me wonder if they might have a jar of Marmite hidden somewhere in the kitchen.

We sat at the far side of the bar. There were 4 cask ales on, but sadly none of them was hoppy, so we decided to go for one of the regular taps. We had tastes of Ice Axe (5.9% ABV, Mt Hood Brewing Company, Government Camp, Oregon) which tasted like slightly sweet alcohol. We decided to go for pints of Life O'Rye-ly IPA (5.4% ABV, Migration Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon) which was just right. I find you can't go wrong with a rye IPA.

As we sipped our pints we browsed through the impressive selection of single malts. I was reminded of some of the more exciting UK pubs I've visited, where good beer and whisky are both featured. This is yet another reason to spend a long tasting session here. Perhaps a few days long...

On another afternoon we arranged to meet our Bay Area friend Lou Anna, who was in Portland visiting her parents, at the Burnside Brewing Company. Located on Burnside Street in the middle of Portland's central eastside, Burnside opened in 2010 and specialises in food-inspired beers as well as beer-infused food. All of their beers are unfiltered, with the lagering process used to remove particulates.

The pub is essentially a food pub, with an open kitchen surrounded by black walnut tables. The three of us sat at the bar where I had a taste of Alter Ego Imperial IPA (7.9% ABV, Burnside) which tasted surprisingly alcoholic. Rick and I decided to go for pints of Burnside IPA (6.6% ABV) which was a good steady IPA but nothing to write home about, but drinkable. Lou Anna's pint of Burnside Oatmeal Pale Ale (5.6% ABV) was surprisingly good and refreshingly and comfortingly clear, and very hoppily nice: a friendly brew. As we sipped our pints we caught up on life in Oakland and Seattle, and we ended up talking about Mexican limes being held hostage. It started becoming obvious that it was time to go have some food and move on.

Later in the evening the three of us stopped in at the Belmont Station. I was amused by the name of this pub, as there used to be a Belmont Station in my hometown of Long Beach, but it was only a bar with Mexican restaurant. This Belmont Station, on the other hand, is quite an impressive pub, featuring a beer bottle shop that stocks over 1,200 beers. The main pub room is called the Biercafé. It's a small and simple space with windows and an unbelievable number of beer tap handles covering a long wall. The bar features over 20 craft beers and one cask ale.

Rick and I shared tasters of Kermit the Hop (8.5% ABV, Bison Brewing, Berkeley, California) and Hop Double IPA 9.0% ABV, Hollister Brewing Company, Goleta, California), brewed with pine forest hops. We ended up going for pints of H.U.B Organic IPA (6.6% ABV, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland, Oregon) which was a decent little brew. Lou Anna had a pint of Grand Am Pale Ale (6.5% ABV, Bear Republic Brewing, Cloverdale, California) which seemed like a déjà vu beer to me. Did I say that already? It was smooth, fruity, hoppy, and quite good.

After all of these reviews, I can't believe we barely made a dent in Portland's brewpub and pub scene. No wonder the place is called Beervana.