There is a saying that, as members of the wine industry, we have learned to love; ‘Great beer makes great wine’. While we love our wine, being around it constantly can lessen our desire to pull out that cork (heck, we spend hours putting corks in bottles). Instead, we would rather hear the clinking of beer glasses. So came about our saying, and in honor of it, our event coordinator, Justina, took a different tour on her last visit to Oregon. Instead of the typical days spent in the Dundee Hills sipping away on Pinot Noir, she headed to downtown Portland and embarked upon a beer tour.
Portland is known as a brewery hub and has over 50 breweries. Just starting to appreciate the craft of specialty beer, I decided to hit four big breweries that I felt were sure to impress. However, breweries, just like wineries, have their hits and misses. Read below to see what I thought about Rouge, Deschutes, Bridgeport, and a special small town brewery that blew them all out of the water!
Deschutes was our first stop and as we stepped into their large outdoor themed restaurant I definitely got the impression of a developed brewery. I ordered a flight of six beers to taste, below is a list of four that I thought were noteworthy.
“The Dissident is an Oud Bruin, a distinctive Flanders-style sour brown ale, with a heavenly aroma and flavor. Our stiffest brewing challenge, it must be fermented in isolation from our other beers for a full 18 months, partly in pinot and cabernet barrels.” Yep, you read that right Pinot Noir and Cabernet barrels! I felt like I was back in the tasting room getting ready to try my favorite wines. This beer was what I like to call intriguing; it had an in your face flavor with a sour hint and a clear note of tannins. It took a couple of sips but once my palate got past the confusion of beer in wine barrels, I instantly fell in love. A must try whenever you see it on tap!
The Black Butte Porter is one of Deschutes most popular beers. It has a thick dark color with rich and heavy coffee and chocolate flavors. Reminding me mildly of a Genius, this beer was creamy and complex. While I am not the biggest fan of dark beers, its smooth flavor was perfect for a slow sipper.
The Chainbreak White IPA is what I would like to call the perfect beginner IPA. It is brewed with wheat and pilsner malt. The subtle hops followed by a nice citrus ending lead the finish to being more reminiscent of a light crisp beer. If you want an even easier drinking beer, The Deschutes River Ale is the perfect go-to beer.
As I walked into Bridgeport, I started to understand that breweries love to be connected with pubs, just like wineries love their cheeses. Bridgeport was located in the Pearl District and had a great industrial chic look. While the building blew me away, their beer seemed to be more “standard”. That being said, if you are looking for a specific beer to showcase typicity, this is your perfect brew spot. Here are a few of the beers that I enjoyed.
The Hop Czar was an IPA to the max. Filled with deep malt flavors and extremely high hops this beer was the extreme of what an IPA can be.
The Summer Squeeze was one of my favorite, a typical light citrus beer that is great for summer. While it was nothing out of the ordinary, this is a beer on which you can rely. It is infused with lemongrass and exotic citrus flavors. To me it is comparable to a Pinot Gris on a hot summer day.
I was extremely excited to visit Rouge, as I am a big fan of their beer, but walking into their downtown Portland brewery I was beyond disappointed. It wasn’t like the big fancy breweries I had seen with Bridgeport and Deschutes, there were no shiny tanks and rows of taps to look at. It was a dive on the corner of the street. That being said I was still excited to order my flight and try the beer, but there were no flights available. The food was lacking in all aspects and the beer they had on tap was the same stuff they sell in the stores. While I still enjoy Rouge’s beer, I would probably not visit them again in a tour.
After leaving Portland, I drove along the coast up to Astoria, Oregon. I figured I was done with my beer tour and was ready to open up a bottle of wine when I stumbled upon Fort George. This small town brewery had a great pub and the beer was outstanding. While I was only able to try a few of their beers, what I tried was phenomenal. Their beer all comes in cans, but the can seemed to make no difference when it came to the flavors of these outstanding brews.
Quick Wit is a Belgian Style ale. It is a cloudy beer because it is made from unfiltered wheat. “Wit beer is traditionally brewed with coriander and orange zest. Ours uses organic pale and wheat malts, ground coriander, organic lemongrass (to impart a citrus character) and wild-crafted elderflower.” This was a perfect mix between a light citrus summer beer and a slightly heavier wheat beer. It’s flavors were light and refreshing yet more full in body. Words cannot describe this beer! Sadly, I have not been able to find it anywhere in Boise, but if you ever see it without a doubt, grab a glass.
The Cavatica Stout was brewed in whiskey barrels and was packed with flavors and full body. This stout has strong notes of malt, coffee and chocolate, yet is so simply smooth that your glass is empty before you know it. Typically it takes me awhile to appreciate a stout, but I instantly fell in love with this beers smooth palate and strong flavors! Again, another must try if you see it anywhere.