We have come to Portland with many questions. (Not the least of which is which college is right for my daughter.) Is contentment better than the struggle for happiness? Who should I contact as my Portland beer guide? What is the meaning of aggressively hopped? Is there any way I can ship this stuff back home?
I have one day to clear up all these mysteries and one day to try to convince my daughter to take my offer to buy her a used car instead of a college education. The only way to answer this all with with a beer tour downtown. My niece and daughter in tow, I head out.
My friend Eric recommended this place as one of his favorites. It’s downtown, close to places like Powell’s, the Saturday Market, and (on this Easter Sunday) more available than a bunch of closed tap rooms. It’s a large, convention-style room, reminiscent of a dim-sum house in Chinatown. The waitress is pleasant enough, although she has that odd Portland ability to simply disappear for long, mysterious stretches of time. Fortunately, she does bring us our two flights and a homemade ginger ale for Zuzu.
Hop Henge Imperial IPA / Gluten Free IPA / Armory XPA / Inversion IPA / Inverted Pale / Nitro Red Chair NWPA
This is the IPA / Pale flight. Or not. Perhaps the sip of ginger ale has set the testbuds off, but…well, the experience is best described in the raw tasting notes from niece Beth and myself, rendered here in the order tasted as outlined above…
“sweet to bitter, reverse to poison alcohol backward, burn, baby, burn”
“dry with sand, desert” (horse with no name played in the background during the sampling)
“straight, but unfinished business”
“sound now, but…what???”
“sweet to again, nasty water…”
“sweet, water, and and and …wait for it…and are you sure this isn’t one of the other ones. all taste the same.”
Something wrong was happening here. Despite carefully clearing the palate, despite returning for clarity, despite blind comparisons, everything was tasting the same…a quick watery start, with uncharacteristic sweetness, and then … here’s the only differences between the brews … either nothingness or a poison-like sauerkraut.
Perhaps the other flight, a more open sampling, will answer differently.
Greenlakes Organic Ale / Obsidian Stout / Black Butte Porter / Bachelor Bitter / 31-25 Hef / Deschutes Hefeweizen
Again, the tasting notes speak directly.
“coffee, and then, they didn’t screw this one up”
[ see the previous, more accurate, more sympathetic review ]
“is there a difference here? anything?”
“nice aroma, although it’s not their recipe”
Perhaps, after this review, I owe an apology to my friend Eric or he to me? Perhaps some weird beer demon painted your tongues with vinegar? This trip to Portland…I am filled with doubts and confusions.
Is there an answer (aside from driving over to Belmont Station) ?
Rating: 45% (on average…but I am not convinced that giving any rating is far)
Juniper Pale Ale / YSB Cask / Dark + Scary / Menage a Frog
It is the return to Rogue that clarifies at least the question of whether my tastebuds have whacked out. Four beers in this flight, no reason for the pairings aside from that two are new to me. Here are the annotated tasting notes:
“surprising, carries an astingent quality as pleasurable” [ see the full, previous review here ] Rating: 79%
“buttery, yummy, builds at its own pace” [ better here on cask than the previous review ] Rating: 79%
“spreads like a twilight horizon, a cherry sunset over a coffee town…weird? amazing” Rating: 92%
“lemondrop and bubblegum, still pleasant and probably better when the sun is shining” Rating: 67%
I understand the variability of life from the changes in the tastings of the first two brews. And I understand the variety of surprise from the second two.
Beer in Portland, it seems, does have its life lessons. Perhaps college will too.