Sunday, February 7, 2010

A trip to Beervana...

Back in November I visited Portland, Oregon for the first time. I was only in town for a few days for a museum conference, but I was geared up to visit as many breweries as possible during my down time.

I arrived on Wednesday night and my first order of business was to visit the Safeway a few blocks away from my hotel. Not an optimal choice for buying beer, but it was late, they were open, and it was close by. I was actually pretty impressed with the reasonable selection. I picked up a bunch of beer, including a mixed Deschutes six pack, and a couple more from Bridgeport, Full Sail, and MacTarnahan's. I drank a few in the first couple of nights, but the rest of them made it back to Boston safely after a meticulous packing job. I actually brought back a total of 18 beers and not one was broken...thank you Alaska Airlines baggage handlers.

I had a big presentation on Friday and I was still fine tuning my slides, so I did not visit any brew pubs in the first couple of nights. I did have an excellent dinner at the bar side of Higgins, including the most amazing hazelnuts I have ever tasted and a ridiculous Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA. It was a great way to start this beer adventure.

My talk was on Friday morning and right after I finished I had about 2 hours for lunch...I made a bee-line for Bridgeport Brewpub and Bakery. I was not disappointed, pairing a fantastic pizza with a cask-conditioned Hop Harvest Ale.

The conference sponsored a pub crawl on Friday night and I started the evening at Deschutes. The rest of the breweries on the tour did not interest me, so I decided to carve my own path. I walked up toward Powell's Books and peeked into Henry's 12th Street Tavern and a couple of the McMenamin's Bars, but did not stop long enough for a beer at any of them. I then made my way to the Rogue Public House for a quick pint and I purchased a couple of bottles of Imperial Chocolate Stout (two of the 18 packed into my suitcase). It was getting late, but I felt like a walk and hoofed it almost a mile and half to the New Old Lampoc, a gem of a dive bar with some excellent selections on draft.

During one of the breaks of my Friday sessions, I gave a quick call to my favorite brewery in the United States, Hair of the Dog. Of course the owner and brewmaster Alan Sprints, answered the phone. I asked if they were open for tours at all and he told me that they were having their anniversary sale on Saturday. I knew that I had some free time on Saturday afternoon and I planned a visit to the brewery. When I got to the brewery there were a couple of hundred people queued up and a parking lot full of folks loading their cars with cases and cases of beer...some of them brought their own dollys.

The atmosphere was awesome, I felt like I stepped into some exclusive local club, but somehow I immediately fit in. I started chatting with a few of the people around me and realized that I was standing in line to purchase beer, not to enter the brewery. I immediately cut out of line and went right for the free samples. I proceeded to spend the next couple of hours enjoying the scene, but most importantly sipping the Doggie Claws, Adam, and Fred From The Wood (truly amazing beers). The brewery had a great feel to it, kind of like being in the lab of a scientist that goes about his work on a daily basis, honing his craft. Sprints is truly a brewing genius, it is a shame that his beers are no longer available in Boston. I once featured Adam in my beer appreciation course at Wellesley College and I still mention the brewery despite not serving samples of the beer.

I had taken the bus to the brewery, so all I could manage to haul out of there was a six pack and a few t-shirts, but I was so glad I made the effort to get there. This was just one of those truly great beer experiences. I decided to pop into the Horse Brass Pub (one of my new favorite beer bars in the US) and bumped into a guy who had taken the train from Seattle just to visit the anniversary that is dedication.

After a late lunch and a few pints I headed around the corner to the infamous Belmont Station to pick up a few more beers to take back to Boston, including a bottle of Deschutes Abyss that I am currently cellaring.

Unfortunately that pretty much ends my beer experience in Portland. I had a very early flight on Sunday morning and called it a night after grabbing a quick dinner and heading back to the hotel to pack.

It really is hard to go wrong with beer in Portland. There are so many breweries, and so many amazing choices. Just about everything I tried was very fresh, super delicious, and superbly crafted...most of it was a completely mind numbing beervana experience.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I am still here....

So, where have I been?

I owe the three of you that are reading this blog on a regular basis (hi Bob and Jeff and that other person) my apologies for my woeful absence over the last seven months. Things have been busy, that is for sure. I have not stopped drinking beer, although I have supplemented it with a nascent obsession with single malt whisky. I could never have imagined that I would become a whisky drinker, but the small collection of about 12 single malts in my beer cellar is the start of newly found passion for the spirit. I have taken to one whisky and one beer on a typical night. Anyway, I digress a wee bit.

So what has been up. Well, I curated my first exhibition this fall for my day job at the museum. It was certainly time consuming, but incredibly satisfying and well worth the effort. That was just one of the things that ate into my beer blogging time. I taught my Tufts Museums and New Media class again this fall. I also played more golf this summer and fall than I have ever played in my life. In fact, I played 45 holes in one day. No carts, no breaks, golf for about 10.5 hours...I think I walked about 10-11 miles or so. I really wasn't that tired until a good friend came along just before the 37th hole with a corked bottle of Duvel in hand. Embarrassingly I had to pour it into my water bottle, I just didn't have a glass chalice on hand. I had one glass and it certainly hit the spot. It definitely loosened me up because that last round was the best of the day, but I think it helped induce a bit of lethargy and the urge to go home for another beer.

The biggest thing that has hampered my beer blogging is the preparation for the most important day of my life. My wife is due in about 6 weeks with our first child and I have been spending most of my spare time preparing the nursery and reading about how to be a daddy. Now do you see why I played all that golf...I will never see that much free time until I retire! I am teaching my Beer Necessities course this month, but all thoughts are on the arrival of bambina Gus (long story on the nickname).

I did spend some time over the holidays redesigning my website, so head on over and check it out I am featuring a new weekly posting called What's On Tap, where I do a brief review of a newly sampled beer. I hope to keep going with this.

So what comes next? Probably a few more postings and then another respite when the baby comes. I visited Beervana (Portland, Oregon) for the first time in November, but I just couldn't find the time to post and I hope to come up with some reflections on that trip in the next couple of days.

So, I am back for a little while at least and then my time we will be all consumed with bottles, diapers, and savoring every precious moment with my newborn daughter. See you in a few days.