Lost in the Portland Aegean

Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale : Fort George Brewery and Public House : Pale Ale
Sierra Celebration 2010 : Sierra Nevada : IPA
Oatmeal Pale Ale : Burnside Brewing Co. : Pale Ale

Reed College has tricked us.  Perhaps they learned cunning and trickery from all those years teaching the Odyssey to incoming students.  No excuse.  No excuse.  You can’t hold a wine and cheese reception for parents at a place that serves beer and not make the beer free.  No excuse, since the wine and the cheese and the tiny crisp crackers are?

And this is still Portland, right?

But the joke is on them, since, coming from New York, the beer out here is virtually free anyhow. It’s the combination of low prices, large volume, and high quality, a “this must be free” effect only enhanced by not paying sales tax.  If you don’t pay sales tax, everything must be free, right?

We met the parents of Devon, who is apparently majoring in uncertainty.  That would be my chosen major, if I could only go back to school.  We drink the Fort George Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, a fascinating brew with softer qualities of redemption.  Straw-colored hue relaxation.  It is my Lewis&Clark encounter with this new oatmeal in pale territory and I believe this big country will require further exploration:  it is something different than a Pale Ale something different than Oatmeal.  Lead on, Sacajawea, lead on.



Devon’s folks and my folk are engrossed in a conversation about college, journeys, Ulysses.  Heck, I’m here for the celebration, my daughter finally settling in for her first college evening.  Since a little celebration is in order, so I move onto Sierra Celebration 2010.  After all, this is a celebration and since I’m paying for it, I’m gonna drink. The spirits rise even further in quality celebrating on tap.  The ruby red color promises a well-round, red rubber ball of happiness and the taste delivers with a slight wine complexity over a full-bodied IPA.  I can forgive the college for making me drink this.

“Did you finish the text?” Devon’s dad asks.  He hasn’t been celebrating as much as me.

“Finish it?”  With the word text, I knew I was in for trouble. “aHhhhhHh…”

Little did I know that at that very moment, my friends Richard and Helen, along with my son Ben, were traveling the Odyssian experience.  Perhaps because it is a craft brew mecca, Portland deliciously detaches the city from any obvious connection to the major interstates.  Even the larger arteries slip through neighborhoods like they don’t want to unnecessarily disturb anyone.  Don’t get up; I’ll just swing around you.

For over two hours now, the fearless threesome have fruitlessly circled our central location in the Woodstock Deli.  They’ve navigated the Columbia River Gorge and were to return to met us for dinner, but my navigation instructions prove impossible.  “I see the sign,” cried Helen, “but you can’t exit the highway there.  No exit.”  Lead on, Sacajawea, lead on.

I call a halt to their wanderings and meet them on the Calypso’s island: they are lodged in the hotel airport lounge, sipping Oregonian wine in large glasses.  Obvious, I think, that are headed for crisis.  Anytime after nine and we run the risk of not finding a restaurant still serving.  The hungry crew sails down Sandy Beach Boulevard in search of late night something, while Laurelwood rises from the ashes of shuttered stores like the collasol of Rhode willing to straddle our hunger.  But they’ve slipped into alcohol only:  the cripple sage comes to the door and with a crooked finger point downtown.  “Onward, onward and you will be rewarded.”

The lights dim before us until we finally navigated to the great Burnside, right there, conveniently, at Burnside Brewery.  I know this is a destination worth investigating, not only because they are still serving food, but because my Portland prophetess of porter and plenty…that would be Ashley Rose, who runs the beer guide service Brewvana that you should check out here…promised me so.

Synchronicity.  Are the Portland gods of brew now smiling on our fates, willing to reward our tribulations and wanderings?  Burnside serves an Oatmeal Pale Ale. Not only that, it’s three bucks an imperial pint. The food (even something as simple as the hazelnuts grilled with ancho peppers) is imaginative and convincing. (Richard was disappointed in the fish.)  The beer is almost free.  The outdoor seating is pleasant and lively.

I sense a trap here.  Thick and still lively, like the bastard mating mutation of a stout and an IPA. Could this magic brew — grain and grass and cream and cocoa-herb — turn us all into swine?

Rating Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale : 78%
Rating Sierra Celebration 2010 : 94%
Rating Burnside Oatmeal Pale Ale : 90%

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