Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Ramblings BT IV days 2-4

More Ramblings BT IV days 2-4

OK so day one of BT IV was a little weak on the beer exploration. Just 3 breweries/pubs checked off unless you want to count the veterans' stop at Rock Bottom in the Denver Airport and the virgins' stop at Gordon Biersch in the Las Vegas Airport. Yes, we spent almost the whole evening of day one at Amnesia but it was soooo good. This was not a normal beer trip because we had left the venerable EM-50 back in the Midwest. So a beer aficionado would think that we would take advantage of the public transit in Portland and start knocking out places on our list. Well, all beer trips other than a .5 have always included attending a Brewers game because the founder of the BT crew has a fondness for this team. Ok it is more of an obsession but as luck would have it the Brewers were just starting a 3 game series in San Francisco. Tradition is well tradition though, so we packed into a rental car and headed up Interstate 5 to the next best thing, a Mariners game at SafeCo Field.

Day 2

We kind of got a late start on the day due to some over indulging the night before but on the way to the game we stopped at a couple of places that were quite memorable. The first stop was in Olympia Washington at the Fish Tale Brewing Company. Fish Tale Brewing prides itself for fully supporting the local organic farmers and buy all of their ingredients from them. I believe their Mudshark Porter was my favorite and as I recall the rest of their beers were very solid as they are in the heart of Cascadian Hop country. It was lunch time already and the food was also very good. The next stop was alluded to in a Random Thoughts post. I'm not sure about the brewers at this establishment but at least the owners liked what they brewed. The building was very cool but the beers were not quite average. I think we all headed back to the minivan after our sampler trays. We found our way through downtown Seattle and dropped off the minivan at the hotel so that our faithful DD would not have to navigate his way through the game day traffic. After checking in, we piled into a couple of cabs and headed off to the game.

Since there were 6 of us on BT IV we had to split up into 2 cabs and I'm not sure what got into the cabbies heads as we made our way towards Safeco Field. They appeared to be racing except that just about everybody in town was converging on the Seattle Sports Complex. Although there were short bursts of speed on cross streets, the merges into the virtual parking lot of the collector streets was a big equalizer. Our cabbie tried another short cut down past Pikes Place Market but wound up having to circle back due to streets being closed for the game traffic. We eventually hooked up with the rest of our group at the Pyramid Alehouse (conveniently right across the street from Safeco). Well the alehouse itself was packed so tight we couldn't find enough room for all 6 of us so we just hung out in the beer garden for a sampling of their offerings. Ok it was more than just a sampling as it was still an hour before game time and we all needed to flush the taste of our last sampler trays. Unfortunately they were catering to the game crowd so the beer garden only had their most popular brews on tap. However it was a vast improvement and all of us were satisfied before we stumbled across the street to the game.

Well it had been a while since I have been to a MLB game as I kind of lost interest during the strike era but what a great stadium to rekindle some interest. OK the interest was not really in the MLB but in the excellent selections offered by the concession vendors. I've never seen a selection like that at a stadium without having to retreat to my tailgate. There were many micro brews represented such as Red Hook, Alaskan, New Belgium and of course Pyramid. The food selection was also outstanding. There were all of the standard ball park fare but just about anything you could have a craving for was represented from garlic fries and deep fried Twinkies to Asian stir fry or sushi just a short stroll along the concourse. However, beer and baseball were what we were there for and we were not disappointed. The variety of beers being hawked by the vendors walking the stands brought back vague memories from my childhood of an uncle from St Louis shooing away the guys hawking Iron City Beer or Rolling Rock when we took him to a Cardinals game at Pittsburgh. He kept complaining that Auggie Busch should have pulled some strings to get their swill distributed since the Cardinals were in town. I think he eventually settled for a Pabst Blue Ribbon which oddly enough I believe was available at SafeCo too. The only negative on this stadium is that you could get a 12pk of PBR or a micro brew 6pk for the price of 1 beer respectively at any liquor store. The Mariners trounced the Indians so the local crowd was quite happy and we still had to struggle to find a table at a bar on the way back to the hotel where we feebly tried to up our brewery/pub count. I can't recall what the name of the place was but all they had on tap or bottled was pretty much the same as what we had at SafeCo Field. Alas, day 2 of BT IV was a meager count of just 5 but I guess that was not too bad considering we traveled most of the day again and hit a MLB game.

Day 3

I woke the next morning with great anxiety because the plan was for another long travel day. I was feeling mislead by the maps promising 43 breweries or pubs in Portland and 16 in Seattle. It wasn't that we had not had plenty of beer so far and most of it very good beer. It just was that I was expecting to visit more of these breweries, seriously evaluating their beers and the trip was nearly half way through. However, the pot-o-gold at the end of this day was to be Rogue Brewery in Newport Oregon. Andy and I ventured out early on foot to find something to calm our nerves as we waited for the rest of the crew to drag themselves out of bed. Since we do have a fondness for supporting the micro vs. macro establishments, we skipped the big local franchise for our coffee and happened upon a great little place called the Top Pot on 5th Ave for our morning brew fix. I know it is a little off topic but this place was awesome. They served a unique variety of donuts from the routine to the extraordinary, good coffee and had a semi-retro atmosphere most of which was due to the antique neon. After satiating our cravings for sugar and caffeine we loaded up the minivan and headed South Southwest.

On the way out to the coast we stopped in Corvallis, Oregon at a place called Block 15 Brewing Company. This was a very surprisingly good find. Everybody enjoyed all of their beers we sampled and the food was outstanding. They didn't really have any procedures setup for giving tours but when we told the waitress what we were doing she informed the brew master and he came out to BS with us for a while. Andy also convinced the waitress to get the chef to come out as she had created an excellent BBQ black bean chili and we wanted to thank her for this wonderful concoction. Unbeknown to Andy, the part time chef was virtually petrified when he asked to get a photo with her. We had to take several before the terror diminished from her eyes. The Belgium Ale and Cask Brown were superb and the IPA and Red deserve honorable mention. I never would have thought we would encounter the end of the rainbow so early on Day 3 as Block 15 certainly was a pot-o-gold find on the way to Newport.

We got to Newport just barely in time for the 3 PM tour at Rogue we were hoping to make. This was the first actual tour of any brewing facilities on BT IV and it was a pretty standard tour according to the veterans. However a good portion of the spiel focused on the owners’ reinvestment in the business. The facility was huge which I guess when you make such a good variety of product with the right supply and demand it is quite lucrative. The most surprising fact was how many other microbreweries from the area were acquired. I don't recall whether any samplers were available at the end but we did slip over to the hotel to check in before returning for dinner, which was followed by a whole lot of sampling. After all, the next closest brewery was 1.5 hours away and our DD was ready to catch up after only a few sips at lunch. Fortunately the hotel was a reasonable distance from the brewery and in keeping with a BT IV tradition we walked back over to Rogue. From what I can remember dinner was good but the number of taps at the bar was incredible. We started slow on the samplers with the good intention of trying to find the best they had on tap. The owners seem to be pretty adamant that each of the acquired breweries retain their individuality. Therefore they had about 50 taps so each of the creations and experimentations that the brew masters concocted at the acquired locations could showcase their talent here. After sampling so many it is difficult to recall without having taken notes but I think there was definitely some distinction between each corresponding style from the Rogue, Eugene (Track Town) and Issaquah brewery variations. Unfortunately I don’t think anybody could determine the best as everything we tried was great. Also we were on vacation in a small coastal town with not much else to do so we kept the beer flowing. The bartenders were lively and provided plenty of banter to keep all of the customers happy until last call. And so our day came to an end and the count was only increased by 2 more breweries/pubs. But what a day we had, a couple of rainbows, each of them offering their pots of gold.

Well the day almost ended, some of us were pretty wound up and decided to head down to the hotel pool and hot tub to soak our aching bones from the long ride and crowded benches of the tasting room. It was a nice relaxing end to the day albeit with a similar distraction to that of BT IV day one. It turned out that there was a bachelorette party in one of the suites and the bride and 4 of her friends came down and joined us in the hot tub. We did our best to play it cool and ignore them. Eventually they initiated a little innocent flirting. They were impressed by the fact that the sole purpose of our trip to the area was Beer Trip IV and that we all could find the vacation time to dedicate to this endeavor. The red head seemed to be interested in something more than conversation but alas most of us were happily married. So we congratulated the bride for her upcoming nuptials and bid the group farewell as they decided to head to the local maid of honor's house to find some more liquor. The bride graciously invited us to attend the wedding the next day but we declined because we were planning on having breakfast up the coast in Pacific City.

Day 4

Dawn arrived quite a bit earlier than we desired but we were all loaded up in a reasonably good time for the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. What a beautiful, rugged section of coast. I'm much more acquainted with coasts having barrier islands like the Outer Banks or South Padre. The northwest coast is not near as pleasant for water sports or people watching but the scenery is still breath taking. We made good time on this leg and arrived in Pacific City a little early for the 8 AM breakfast start at the Pelican Pub and Brewery. No worries though as this awesome brewpub is right on the beach and we were entertained by some of the locals trying to finish last minute preparations on their parade vehicles for a local festival. We wandered around for a little bit before heading in for a breakfast that can't be beat. I ordered up a great hangover cure of biscuits and gravy with a couple eggs as well as a pint of Tsunami Stout to chase it down. We all sampled most of their beers and I don't think anyone was disappointed because we headed out front to the gift shop and bought a couple of cases of bombers between all of us. Then we walked out on the beach and waded out to a sand bar at low tide since some of the crew had never been to the Pacific Ocean before. As I said the scenery is great and the brewery gets its name from a very large rock out cropping in the bay that looks like a pelican sitting on the water, reaching its bill in for a bite of fish. After a few pics to commemorate the occasion we loaded up to get back to the task of our 40 remaining breweries/pubs in the Portland metro area.

Well as nice as the Pacific Coast is when you are driving along it, the problem always arises when you are headed back east to the valleys where the large metro areas lie. There is no decent road that runs between Pacific City and Portland. This leg of the trip was excruciatingly painful with countless hairpin switchbacks, loose gravel, road construction and a couple of guys that get car sick very easily. Due to that problem as well as an issue with extremely small bladders our fearless (I hoped) driver was constantly on the lookout for wider spots in the road and quickly maneuvered on to them whenever the need to stop arose. Eventually we did make it back to more civilized roads and since this was the final day with the rental minivan we stopped at John's Market to stock up on whatever packaged microbrews we thought we could get into our luggage. We each grabbed a cart and dashed towards the back, giddy with excitement as we thought we had reached nirvana. Seriously the selection was incredible and as we browsed the aisles snatching a bottle here a bomber there trying to maximize the variety of quality beers we would be packing into our precious space, the curiosity of the staff was aroused. These guys were very knowledgeable about the distribution zones for the local products and really helped steer us to some excellent beers that were not available in the Midwest. They even pulled a case of bombers of a limited release stout they were reserving for preferred customers out of a storeroom for us. We strolled out with quite a haul and had to redistribute almost all of our other luggage to our laps for the remainder of the trip to the hotel. Now I know what you are saying. Here it is most of the way through day 4 and we had only been to about 11 or so breweries/pubs and barely touched that lofty goal of 43 locations in Portland. Keep an eye out for the conclusion of BT IV.



  1. Rob,
    I loved the line, " I'm not sure about the brewers at this establishment but at least the owners liked what they brewed." That made me LOL.


  2. Bachorlette party, hot tub, bunch of drunk guys.... No RV, seems like something is missing?