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

Previous Pint Pleasures - May 31, 2014

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The Thirsty Lion, 71 Southwest 2nd Avenue, Portland, Oregon

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Tugboat Brewing Company, 711 Southwest Ankeny Street, Portland, Oregon

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Bailey's Taproom, 213 Southwest Broadway, Portland, Oregon

Last month I paid another visit to the west coast of America. As the San Francisco Bay Area was experiencing a brown-causing drought, my friend Mistah Rick suggested we meet somewhere green for a few days, so we decided on Portland. This impressively friendly and quirky city has many nicknames, the most relevant to this column being Beervana because the city allegedly has more breweries than any other city in the world. Although my mother grew up in the coastal town of Seaside, only 79 miles away, I had never properly explored Portland, and neither had Rick.

As we both flew in at different times we agreed to meet in the afternoon at the Thirsty Lion, a gastropub boasting 32 craft, import, and domestic beers. It was sweltering outside when I entered the pub and joined Rick at the bar. We had tastes of Vortex IPA (7.7% ABV, Fort George Brewery, Astoria, Oregon) which was too sweet for our tastes. We next sampled Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA (8.2% ABV, Alameda Brewing Co, Portland, Oregon), which was complicated like a crazy quilt but too strong for such a hot afternoon. A taste of Fresh Squeezed IPA (6.4% ABV, Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon) was also a bit too sweet. But the RPM IPA (6.6% ABV, Boneyard Beer Company, Bend, Oregon) was just right, said Dark Brownielocks herself as she happily supped her pint before any thirsty felines showed up to challenge her.

The Thirsty Lion is a roomy pub with a squared-off horseshoe bar in the centre and tables out on the pavement. Live music is featured on the weekends, sporting events are shown on TV and, for anybody who's actually interested, the pub is home to the Michigan Wolverines Portland Alumni Group.

After a refreshing pint at the Thirsty Lion we moved west down Burnside toward our accommodation. On the way we stopped at the Tugboat Brewing Company which specialises in British-style strong ales that are unfiltered. Located on a little side street, this is another of those books-and-saws pubs, with bookshelves and saws all over the walls. Rick commented that it also seems to be a plaids-and-stripes pub, as many patrons were wearing plaids or stripes or both. As we perused the beer list we watched a video of coral and cotyledons on the monitor above the bar.

We decided on pints of what we originally thought was Three Greeks IPA, but I later discovered it was Creeks, not Greeks: Hoodoo Voodoo IPA (6.0% ABV, Three Creeks Brewery, Sisters, Oregon), to be exact. This is a good solid IPA, not over the top but pleasantly drinkable and very amber for an IPA. We also had a taste of Spring Pale (5.5% ABV, Tugboat Brewing) which was a nice little perky pale. At this point fish were swimming across the video. We sat near a window and commented on how the barmaid was the spitting image of an old friend of mine, only much younger. (I know for a fact that my friend never had a daughter, so it was just a coincidence.)

On the last day of our three-day Portland odyssey we stopped back at the Tugboat for our final pint, Black Cat Porter (7.0% ABV, Seven Brides Brewing, Silverton, Oregon). This is a really nice porter, very coffeebitterroasty. We detected no sign of cat pee or anything of a particularly feline nature, except for perhaps the warm friendly feeling of a cat purring in one's lap. This was what one would expect in a porter: a proper dark beer.

The Tugboat opens in the late afternoon and features live jazz in the evenings. We found it to be a very inviting, natural and comfortable pub well worth visiting.

On our second night in Portland we decided to try Bailey's Taproom. Located directly across the street from the mellower Tugboat is this trendy modern pub which was packed with young tech-savvy beer drinkers. We sat at the end of the bar next to a man who had programmed and was constantly updating the video display above our heads. The monitor lists all of the 24 beers currently on tap, including a symbol next to each indicating how full the keg is at the moment, with a running "Tapping Soon" headline at the bottom and tweets and posts at the top. It felt a bit like being in a bar on Wall Street.

I had a pint of Down Under IPA (7.2% ABV, pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, Oregon). Brewed with Australian and New Zealand hops, this elicited a "Mmwhoohoo! Those hops!" from me. Although it tasted a bit alcoholic I had to have it. Rick had a pint of Paien Belgian IPA (6.6% ABV, Heathen Brewing, Vancouver, Washington), full of that peachy Belgian character with a hoppy zest. It was a very classy brew, indeedeedoo.

Bailey's specialises in beers from Oregon breweries. There is one handpump and one gravity firkin but they're each only available one night a week. The prices are very reasonable: no 20-ounce pint costs more than $5.00. The pub hosts regular beer-related events including tap takeovers and beer festivals. It feels like the kind of place that never stops beeping and flashing, making it a perfectly contrasting neighbour to the Tugboat.