CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 SE Portland Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - June 29, 2014

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Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, 61 Southeast Yamhill Street, Portland, Oregon

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Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, 915 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, Oregon

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Cascade Brewing Barrel House, 939 Southeast Belmont Street, Portland, Oregon

On our recent trip to Portland my friend Mistah Rick and I explored a relative handful of the countless number of brewpubs "Beervana" has to offer. On the east side of the Willamette River south of Burnside we visited three pubs, two of them named after Man's Best Friend.

Our first dog stop was the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, where we were greeted at the door by the image of a most officious looking bulldog. Inside the decor is dogs and salmon -- lots of salmon, for some reason, and the side wall is covered with Hair of the Dog t-shirts and hats for sale. We sat at the end of the horseshoe bar with a gorgeous view of the underneath of the concrete Morrison Bridge, and we could see Downtown Portland across the river which was just out of our view.

The brewpub was opened in 1993 by Alan Sprints, a California-born transplant who started brewing his own beer in 1988 and became a professional brewer three years later. The brewery is one of the first in America to specialise in high-alcohol bottle conditioned beers. Most of Hair of the Dog's beers are named after people who have inspired Sprints and fellow brewer Denver Bon.

We decided we had no choice but to share the Walking The Dog Tasting Flight for $9.00 that consisted of 3-ounce tasters of four of the pub's brews. Ruth (5.0% ABV), described as an American pale ale with pilsner malt and northwest hops, was very drinkable, like a Czech cask lager with those Northwest oomph! hops. Apparently the beer was named after the brewer's grandmother who I trust possesses a bit of oomph! herself. Fred (10.0% ABV), described as a golden strong rye ale with 10% Belgian candi sugar, produced that rye rattle on the tongue with a very alcoholic sweetness which rolled in ripples. Created in honour of beer writer and historian Fred Eckhardt, Fred (10.% ABV) is a very turbulent beer. "It's like a bulldog rolling in the rye," commented Rick. It's definitely a rolypoly beer. Blue Dot (7.0% ABV), a double IPA, was very nice with lots of hops but not too bitter. Apparently it's named after the blue planet, i.e. Earth, and was created in honour of Earth Day. Our last taste was Adam (10% ABV), the brewery's first creation that was based on a beer the brewer had in Dortmund, Germany. It was described on the menu as dark with chocolate, leather, and smoke. It was very barleywine-ish, sweet and rich, and definitely a dessert beer.

As we enjoyed our flight tasters, followed by an additional glass of Ruth, we shared a delicious Nova lox, cream cheese, and red onion sandwich while we watched a man in the kitchen shaving a giant watermelon-shaped courgette. He shaved it carefully and methodically for a good ten minutes. Was he a member of staff or a hired-in courgette stylist? By the time we finished our meal the courgette was shaved clean and was being slowly grated by another man who kept pausing. What, we wondered, would become of this grated courgette?

Hair of the Dog's food is locally sourced, and the brewery uses organic malt from British Columbia and hops from Oregon and Washington. The spent grain from the brewery is given to a local farmer for animal feed.

On another day we visited the dog-friendly Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. A big pub housed in a former warehouse, the brewpub opened in 1994 and is the flagship pub for the small chain. There were 12 rotating taps to choose from featuring brewer Alex Stiles' creations.

We chose our pints and retreated to the covered back patio where three dogs and a little girl were relaxing with the human adults. I almost felt as if I were home in England. We shared a pint of Byron's Pale Ale (5.3% ABV, Lucky Labrador) on cask, which was a good fuzzy bitter but a bit too warm, which can always be a problem with cask ale during warm weather. We also shared a pint of Super Dog IPA (6.5% ABV, Lucky Labrador). This gorgeous little doggy made me say "Zip! Zip! Zip!" It was full of good choppy hops imparting a growing fruitiness. Good dog! Good dog!

Along with our pints we shared some tortilla chips and salsa and a Northwest pesto melt. It was a perfect reward for our earlier visit to the Portland Cement Studios to which we were making a pilgrimage for the Concrete Appreciation Society.

Both inside and outside, the decor of Lucky Labrador is dogs, dogs, and more dogs. The beer prices are relatively cheap due to the fact that solar collection panels are used to heat the water for brewing, greatly reducing the hot water bills. The website has a lot of fun to offer, with Lucky Labrador songs and instructions for playing the card game of Lucky Labrador.

On the same day we headed up to the Cascade Brewing Company. Nicknamed the House of Sour, this brewery was a pioneer of the Pacific Northwest sour beer style. They use over 750 French oak, Kentucky bourbon, and Northwest wine barrels for brewing, and they produce blondes, reds, browns, wheats, quads, and porters, most with aggressive tart notes, which can be found on the 18 rotating taps.

The pub was crowded on the early Saturday afternoon. A short bearded young man served us, informing us that they charged for tasters. So I went for a pint of Cascade IPA (5.7% ABV, Cascade Brewing Company). With only 60 ibus of bitterness it wasn't particularly IPAish, but it was okay. Rick's pint of Scarlet Fever (8.6% ABV, also 60 ibu), which the barman described as a double IPA, turned out to be dark and malty. What a disappointment. This particular pint was the low point of our Portland brewery tour. And the barman didn't seem to understand our shock at our super malty dark alleged IPA. It was miles away from a black IPA, so it just didn't make any sense. I began to feel the pub was a bit pretentious, especially when I noticed the dessert menu described its dark chocolate truffles as "local, artisan, vegan, gluten free, delicious!". Well, of course, all of those things! How could we resist? What were we thinking?

But suddenly something unusual happened. Was it because I was madly jotting down my notes? The barman suddenly brought me a free sample of what they specialise in: Kriek 2013 (8.2% ABV), a sour red beer. This has a beautiful colour like a tawny ruby port. It was very fun and I really liked it. My initial momentary impression was of a red wine that had gone bad -- but this is sour, not vinegary, with oak and cherry. It was a unique experience.

At that point we decided to purchase a taster of Sang Noir (9.8% ABV), another sour red. This is a class act: it's like an excellent wine but it's a sour beer. Apparently it's blended with barrel aged Bing and sour pie cherries, producing a brew like the finest port you could drink. We were savouring this: it was truly special.

Even though my first impression of Cascade wasn't the best, I would definitely return and stick to the sour beers.