Hair of the Dog, or Portland: The Standardsby brandon / Apr 15, 2012
Editor's Note: And so begins the third installment of Brandon's Portland travel journal. If you're just jumping on, check out the first two chapters here and here, and don't forget to check out his Old Time's Beer Picks page on The Facebook. Enjoy! - ETP
Sad, Nirvana-playing, flannel-wearing, drizzly cold weather begins today!
Nothing seems to be too inviting down by the food trucks. We wait 20 minutes to be seated at the Bijou. Great coffee, coupled with an artery-clogging yet delicate French omelet stuffed with cornmeal-dusted and fried oysters. All is well with the world as the Alka-Seltzer buzz transitions into caffeine and protein overload. Unisex bathrooms have their downsides though. Sorry, Lady…
After breakfast, the sounds of a flea market bustling on the shores of the Willamette River draw us in. Leather goods, “tobacco accessories,” t-shirts, local sand art, more food trucks and a Rogue Ales tent! Close by, 40 people huddle outside of Voodoo Doughnut watching 40 more people waiting inside for deep-fried dough. We pass and grab a cab.
Down Belmont, way down Belmont, lays a requisite for any trip to Portland. Don Younger founded this dark and cozy homage to the (Pub)lic houses of Great Britain primarily to have a place that he wanted to drink in. Even after his passing, loyal locals and throngs of beer travelers make their way to this original vestige of Beervana.
Rogue Ales still brews a bitter named after the late proprietor, Younger's Special Bitter (4.8% ABV, 88, 92), here served from the cask on a hand-pump. A 20-ounce Nonik glass arrives overflowing with a healthy, bubbly cap surging over the rim. Vibrant and super aromatic, beautifully bright as well! In many places "cask ale" alludes to a weird keg on the bar top full of over- or under-chilled beer, full of yeast and protein haze (both evidence of mishandling, by the way). The house Scotch Egg is followed by a half-pint (I must save some virtue for HOTD) of Mt. Hood Brewing Hogsback Stout (4.5% ABV, 91, 94) from the hand-pump. Both beers are under 5%, not technically classified as “session beer” (Ding) but exceptionally drinkable. I do regret not spending a little more time here, but the hour and half has already conditioned my eyes for tunnel life. As we leave, the sunglasses go on until they adjust to the outside's glowing gray sky.
After a good mile stroll down Belmont, in a vain attempt to burn some beer calories, another strange cab ride presents itself. Stale Right Guard, a favorite in cab-driving circles it seems, radiates from the front seat, mixed with the sweat of confusion. My associate has to use his phone-driven GPS to navigate us around the industrial side of Portland. Astonished at how close the brewery is to our hotel, we happily take up some real estate at the bar. While HOTD has begun to produce sessionable beers derived from second runnings, the parent beers are mostly above 10% ABV. Keep that in mind.
We arrive at 3 p.m. From brewery branded 3-ounce sample glasses, I begin with a “Little Dog” version of Adam around 3.8% ABV (XX, 92). Adam (the larger - 10% ABV, 94, 100) is a smoky beer style fashioned from a medieval tale describing a beer from Dortmund that is said to have incapacitated a heavy-drinking king for 24 hours. Alan Sprints started experimenting commercially in 1994 with Batch 1. For a price, you can try one at the brewery! How much was it? If you have to ask… The rich body had dried out, revealing layers of treacle and leathery malt complexity, and soft notions of Macallan-soaked cherries begin to unfold. Magnificient, even at 18 years of age. We are offered a free glass of the current batch for being so adventurous. Warming, brandy-like booze starts to warm the bottom of the ear lobes and work their way north as the echoes of the high ceilings drown away.
Food is ordered, and if you make a trip here, plan to eat as well. After tasters of Fred (10% ABV, 92, 100), Blue Dot (7% ABV, 91, 99), Cherry Adam from the Wood (10% ABV, 94, 100), the bottle menu is attacked. HOTD has apparently kept a little of every beer they have every made. Michae (6.2% ABV, 85, 97), sour red ale produced to remember the Beer Hunter from 2008. Matt 2010 (11.5% ABV, 97, 100) aged in apple brandy and bourbon barrels. Bourbon Fred from the Wood 2011 (12% ABV, 86, 99). Doggie Claws Barley Wine 2005 (11.5% ABV, 92, 100). By the time the Fred from the Wood 2007 (10% ABV, 93, 100) was poured I had relinquished to ability to take any real tasting notes. All expertly poured by a certified Cicerone - expertly means not rocking the bottle back thus disturbing the sediment, a rookie maneuver not witnessed here. Strange thoughts of what I was up to when some of these beers were brewed start to cloud the mind. Shadows grow long while our foot path across the river is stained with fluorescent lights. We finished up with a full glass of Cherry Adam from the Wood and proceeded with drunken t-shirt and glassware purchases. Back into a cab: 9 p.m.
Later, but not much later
We stumble into a restaurant previously recommended by a cab driver. Had the staff been more professional, they wouldn’t have led us to a table considering how we were dressed and with the cologne we were wearing from the last place. Our server inquires as to our water preference: sparkling, mineral? Financially a bad sign for sure. Turns out market price for Australian lobster tail is $98, a la carte friends! In fact, not a single entrée under $60, not an appetizer under $30. An escape attempt is made; the hostess desperately tries to send us to the bar, with a less ambitious menu one assumes, but back into the drizzle… A chain bar and grill presents itself with steak sandwiches, fries, and a local espresso stout on nitro pour. How nice it would be to have that here in Charleston?
Daily caloric consumption: 5,000 calories, give or take. Months taken of life expectancy: 18+. 3 hours off Eastern Standard Time. The evil cabal of farmer’s conspiracy of time-control goes into effect overnight. Sunday will be rough.
(Photo by stacyjclinton, licensed under Creative Commons.)