Labor Day Weekend In Review

Nothing like a long weekend with loved ones…oh, right…and some pleasing craft beer as well. We were fired up for our big weekend early. My mom was in town to visit her first grandchild. Most of her time was spent at my brother’s house tending to all things baby while we ventured to discover many things beer. In addition to the family festivities, our dear friends Rachelle and Scott from Chicago (we stayed with them on our spectacular 2009 Midwest Beer Adventure) were paying us a visit here in the Rose City.

Before the weekend started, we cut down hops from our trellis, set some aside for drying, and jaunted a trash bag full over to the Lucky Lab Beer Hall on Hawthorne Boulevard to share in a fun annual event that involves those appreciative of one of the most aromatically pleasing flowers used to produce modern day beer. At the Lucky Lab, many familiar faces from years past were in attendance. However, whether it was due to a cooler than normal summer or just scheduling, this year’s yield didn’t live up to the big one the Lab saw last year (a record breaking harvest of over 200 pounds of fresh hops). The brewers were in attendance and food was a-grillin’ on the outdoor barbecue. The spirit was good, and the pickin’ went well. We very much anticipate trying this year’s Mutt brew.

On Friday, our Chicagoan friends in arrived in Portland from their first stop in Seattle via train. Rachelle used to live in Portland for some time. The two of them hadn’t been back to Portland in three years, and Rachelle was eager to go to Lompoc’s Hedge House, not far from our home. Good call since it had been announced that Lompoc pubs would be tapping some vintages of their beers around town. The Hedge House on this night featured a special keg of 2009 Arctic Blast Winter Warmer. With just a subtle indication of age, the crimson bodied brew possessed a depth of dark fruit complexities and was emboldened with a fortuitous malt spine that really hit the spot. Our group also enjoyed tastes of the C-Note, Centennial IPA, and Condor Pale Ale.

After dinner at the Hedge House, we stopped by the Victory Bar, undoubtedly one of Portland’s best craft adult beverage destinations. From on tap, Oakshire’s Organic Mudpuddle Chocolate Porter was simply divine, as was Great Divide’s 16th Anniversary Wood-aged Imperial IPA.

Following our Victory lap, we retreated back home where we continued catching up on old times and learning of one another’s latest adventures. A few special bottles of beer and wine were opened back at our home before the evening ended with some movie watching.

Saturday was a perfect late summer day with temperatures in the mid 60s and spotted fluffy white clouds rolling lazily through  mostly blue skies. A stop at The Hop & Vine yielded an early day taste of Sierra Nevada’s Jack and Ken Black Barleywine on tap. A rich and powerful yet well built dark dessertif brew, this beer appeared to be worthy of a few months in the cellar. Fortunately, Hop & Vine proprietor Yetta Vorobik informed us that she was sitting on an additional two kegs of this wonderfully deep dark brew and had thought to do the same.

After our quick stop at The Hop & Vine, we took our friends down North Mississippi Street to witness gentrification in action. In the three short years since they’d last visited, so much had changed, and so many new businesses and housing developments have since popped up. Mississippi had become the happening neighborhood of Portland with lots of new stuff to offer…including beer. No visit to the Mississippi neighborhood is complete without a visit to Bridgetown Beerhouse a block west on North Shaver Street. Here owner Mike Waite can often be found running the shop with a great variety of craft beer for sale in a properly stored environment.

Just down the road, a staple of Mississippi Street, Amnesia Brewpub and their spacious outdoor patio serve as the perfect environment for sunny days in Beervana. With the grill emitting some tantalizing scents, the idea of a delectable brew is all the more luring. The place was hopping as many folks were gathered by the bar around a small television to witness the Oregon Ducks’ opening day trouncing of a New Mexico team. It seemed all was good for Oregonians on this lively afternoon.

Following our time on Mississippi we ventured east to the Beaumont district to check out a new bottle shop and taphouse known as Bottles. Located near NE 50th and Fremont Street, Bottles represented a lot of hard work and featured a spacious outdoor shaded patio area with lots of indoor seating as well. Proprietor Brant Kunze gave us a great tour of the space over a tall glass of Walking Man Flip Flop Pilsner. Pinball and darts in the back, a side conference room and a warm beer-centric atmosphere means we’ll certainly return soon. Kunze informed us that his cool new digs is an after work hangout for some of the brewers at Laurelwood, so look for some of their specialty brews on tap as well.

After returning home and resting a bit, we headed out for  more merriment. Finally we paid a visit to our friends at By The Bottle’s new taproom across the river in Vancouver, Washington. Tentatively known as Behind the Bottle, the pub features eight stellar taps of brews mostly unavailable in the Oregon beer world. Here we were mesmerized by the one of a kind Southern Tier Pumking, perhaps the most pumpkin’ed-out brew of all time. At 9% ABV, this beer was indicative of many of the Lakewood, New York brewery’s line-up–smooth, dessert-like, and to die for. We also enjoyed pours of the Black Raven Trickster IPA, Allagash Dubbel, and Elysian Men’s Room Red Ale. We were happy to find our friend Wade “Wade-o-Potato” Fauth running things behind the elegant restored old growth Douglas-fir-laden bar. Of course, you can’t leave By The Bottle without stocking up on outta state brews. It’s kinda like the fireworks over there, only tastier.

Saturday night commenced with our enjoyment of Breakside Brewery’s first ever beer releases. Two house beers brewed by Sir Ben Edmunds–a witbier and a honey rye ale. Both beers were exceptionally well executed, especially the wit that simply nailed it on all fronts. We greatly anticipate enjoying future offerings from Edmunds and the Breakside staff. Kudos!

Sunday on Labor Day weekend is great because it’s like an additional Saturday. It was also the 1st anniversary celebration for The BeerMongers, one of our favorite neighborhood watering holes and bottle shops. A festive crowd including a number of the Beer Advocate faithful were in attendance to raise a glass to owners Sean Campbell and Craig Gulla and their accomplishment of surviving a modern day recession thanks to great beer, and a thirsty neighborhood. On tap, Ninkasi Maiden the Shade, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, and DuPont Moinette were highlights, as were the countless rare bottles of beer the Advocates rolled in with. Highlights included Russian River Sanctification, Cisco Wood-aged Kriek, New Glarus Belgian Red, a 12 year old Storm Brewing Black Currant Lambic, a 2004 Rodenbach Vin de Cereale, and a growler of Barley Brown’s latest IIPA, known as HeadShaker. For the celebration, we brought a bottle of Dominus Vobiscum Brut (brewed with Champagne yeast) from Brewpublican friend Marc Demeule of Quebec. To say the least, the day was beer madness.

Monday, Labor Day, was a day we’d been looking forward to for a while. It was the last game (ever) for the Portland Beavers baseball team. It was a day that signified the end of professional baseball in Portland, Oregon. Hopefully, the sport will return at some juncture, but for now, it appears most Portlanders are more interested in European football than America’s past time. Gameday at PGE Park was very festive and a little sad. Long lines exemplified the park’s inability to cope with the more than 15,600 in attendance, and the selection of beer was mostly reserved for exorbitantly priced Miller Lite. Some Widmer products were available, but it was few and far between, and after missing nearly two innings waiting in line for what seemed to be the slowest service ever, we retreated to our seats beerless. Fortunately, we were in attendance with three rows of people representing The BeerMongers. It was a very spirited game that saw the Beavers finish on top before speeches were given, home plate was excavated, and children of all ages were allowed onto the field to run the base paths.

After the final Beaver game, our group visited Deschutes’ Portland Brewpub for dinner and beers that included some delightful flavors. A new Mount Saint Helens Pepperkeller lager , unfiltered Pilsner made with German Pilsner and Vienna malts was a sessionable brew mildly spiced with De Arbol and Guajilo peppers. We also enjoyed the Armory XPA and Miss Spelt Hefeweizen before nightcapping with a deep rich pour of Black Butte XXII Imperial Porter.

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