Last weekend Scott and I headed to Portland for a weekend where our main goal was to try as much beer as we could. We’d made the plans in January when it was dark and rainy and hopeless and beer sounded like a damn good idea. It turned out that the weather that weekend was one of those perfect pockets of Spring where it’s 70 and sunny and you just want to sit outside and talk about how great sunshine is. Which is basically what we did, every meal and sip of beer was done outdoors. Or at least near a really big open door. It was ah-mazing considering it was still March.
I was armed with a few places in mind and a recent copy of Beer West magazine that has an article on all the beer destinations along Division Street. Most of the restaurant recommendations friends had given me (Pok Pok being mentioned the most often) were on Division Street and I started to wish our hotel had been in that part of town because we kept returning to it.
When we arrived our first stop was at Hopworks Urban Brewery which is huge. They have outdoor seating in the front as well as an upper back deck. Right now they are doing a single hop series of IPAs, I tried a sample of the Simcoe and discovered that I don’t prefer Simcoe on it’s own. I wish I lived closer and could sample all of their single hops beers because I suspect it would be a cheap and enjoyable beer education. Hopworks has an eye towards being friendly to the environment and we’re hoping to take our bikes to Portland (maybe on the train!) and pedal our way up to their BikeBar location this summer.
That night we walked to Ground Kontrol and drank beer while playing console arcade games and it was so damn fun. The upstairs is filled with rows of old electric arcade games, the upstairs is devoted to pinball machines and yes the games take real quarters which you can get from change machines just like the old days. We had the most fun playing two person House of the Dead, with the rubber guns. We nearly made it through Chapter 3 before running out of quarters! We would have planted ourselves in front of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (which we’ve played on our PS3) if it hadn’t been occupied.
They have all the old games I could remember, including Joust, Paperboy, and Burger Time. They also have a tabletop four-person Pac-Man (a hem: Pac-Man Battle Royale) that was very popular all night long. The lights above are reminicscent of D&D dice, the tiles in the ladies room are Ms. Pacman themed, the entry tiles (shown above) are Space Invaders. Also, on weekend nights there is a cover ($2? $1?) and there might be a line, which is good because it means the place doesn’t get too crowded. When we were on our way out I noted there was a crowd around a few of the machines but there were plenty of seats at the tables near the bar, where the tables are illuminated. I heart that place.
The next day we got brunch food from the food carts near our hotel (the standout was Liege waffles with brie, arugula and bacon) and headed out to have a picnic. Our goal was to eat under cherry trees which were blossoming in the most spectacular manner that weekend. But it turns out that was everybody else’s goal that weekend too. The area around the trees near the river (and the Saturday Market) were filled to capacity and the Arboretum was packed. So we took the great advice of Sprizee and headed out to Cathedral Park. It was perfect. An expanse of grass leads down to the water just under the Cathedral Bridge, which makes everything feel very dramatic. We had a huge area in the sun all to ourselves and sat and watched dogs playing fetch. We weren’t right under blossoming trees but we did have a view of some, which was good enough. This morning has become the Happy Place I go to in my head.
Next we headed to Hedge House which is the new-old home of Lompoc Brewing. We grabbed seats on the front porch (there are also tables in the front courtyard area) where we watched families walk and bike past. I had the Calling All Monsters IPA which was very good and I remember as worth going back for if it wasn’t a three hour drive away.
Scott wanted to show me the space where the XOXO Festival had been last year and there just happens to be Cascade Brewing around the block. We had samples of their Noyaux (almond) sour, seasonal IPA and the Oblique Black and White Stout, which has the color of an pale ale but has mellow coffee flavors. (Not shown in order above because they all looked the same and it was freaking 70 degrees and aaaawhhhhh.) The Oblique Black and White Stout was delicious and surprising and on our way out of town we stopped to buy a growler of it, which we buckled into the back seat.
That night we met up with Jenna whom I’d met at Hops Academy last summer. We met at Beer Mongers where she gifted us a precious bottle of Pliny the Elder which we can no longer get in Washington. Beer Mongers is a bottle shop that has a big door they can open in warmer weather. I love drinking at bottle shops, it’s still a novelty for me. Jenna knows what she is talking about when it comes to beer and was sipping this IPA made with brettanomyces, which I dearly wished I’d requested a sip of. In any case it was a perfect end to a beer day.
The next day we managed to made it to Sasquatch Brewery before we left. I got to meet Charlie (aka RagnarBeer) at Hops Academy who the head brewer there. I sampled a beer that is is own recipe, Celilo Cascadian Dark Ale and it was delicious. I’m normally not a fan of dark beers but this made me very happy. Sasquatch has a full menu and outdoor seating in front as well as a nice peaceful deck along the side of the building. I didn’t get to see Charlie because he was busy doing something like the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. No biggie.
We stayed at the Crystal Hotel downtown which is part of the McMenamin’s empire. It was surprisingly quiet considering it’s in a noisy part of town, though I was roused by the daily 5 a.m. garbage collection. We took advantage of the soaking pool in the basement and had it all to ourselves. Our bed wasn’t very comfortable but the hotel as a whole was good for the price and location. Most rooms share a bathroom in hall, which I’ve never found to be awkward in a McMenamin’s hotel, but I booked an ensuite room because, well, bathroom.
The staff at the Crystal Hotel seem used to asking if people staying there are headed to the music venues later that evening so one day we were asked if we were going to see Anthrax and the next day they asked if we were there to see Bob Seger. I assure you we are not people who look like we’d be headed to either. At least not any more.
Alright Portland people, what else should I seek out next time I visit? Anything particularly spectacular in the sunshine? Or particularly comforting when it’s rainy and dark?