Sunday, January 2, 2011

Heady travels in the land of beer

During my two weeks in Oregon, I had but one (maybe more like one-half) can of Weasel Piss, the nickname my brother Phil and I use for mainline beer. In this case, it was a Pabst Blue Ribbon, partially consumed and then slapped from by hands by a smoking bartender as I (drunkenly and illegally) tried to carry it from a Pendleton bar to the sidewalk (oops).

(Disclaimer: I've been living in Japan for 3.5 years, and open container rules don't operate ... guess I was a bit rusty? Also you can drink in a car as long as you aren't driving that day, in which case it's zero tolerance.) 

Our choice to go to that bar in the first place was indeed a mistake, as we had already consumed plenty of booze from the Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub a few blocks east (this was a amid a series of mistakes that make up a larger story to be told at a later time).

But the bad decisions made on that night are overshadowed, perhaps, by the overall walk away from mainstream beer into an exclusive craft beer diet (I also did not drink an ounce of soda/pop on the trip ... a first for me).

Where better than Portland, Oregon, and a couple other Oregon towns, to stay on a The Path of good beer. On my first day in Portland, Phil and his fiancee and I went to the Hopworks Urban Brewery for a delicious pizza a couple of pints. My first choice was my first craft crush: IPA. Among the three of us, we sampled about five different offerings from HUB, and all were very nice.

HUB's claim to fame, besides the good beer they produce, is that it is an organic and sustainable operation, concepts that fit in perfectly in Portland. The place was busy on an early-vacation-period weeknight, with a 30 minute wait for tables in the dining room. Over in the bar, though, you can seat yourself if you find a table. Phil's fiancee, Julia, managed to score a table after a successful bout of hovering near a guy who looked to be almost done (he had two growler's full of delicious-looking beer).

We tapped in to the growler scene ourselves down Interstate 84 in Pendleton. My mother recently moved from 10 minutes out of town to a loft overlooking downtown. Imagine a loft, then think bigger. The cascading space features high ceilings with vents snaking across them, gaping windows looking out on a snow-covered main street, and a loft-within-the-loft to break up the vast real estate spanning from the kitchen to the eastern wall.

And to top off the beautiful surroundings, the apartment sits a few minutes away from the freshly opened (well, fresh as in it opened in 2010) Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub, at present Pendleton's only craft brewery (bar chat revealed rumors of a possible brewery in the works, though noting is official). The large seating area, though rarely full when we visited, has a very homey ambiance, and we felt very comfortable sitting down on chairs and couches around what we might call a coffee table if it wasn't in a brewpub.

In all we made three visits here, plus one growler fill for the road (the road back to the apartment, not the one back to Portland -- I haven't totally forgotten Oregon liquor laws).

I had a short fling with their IPA, boldly declaring it my favorite IPA of the trip so far, though this was later retracted when I met a Stone Ruination IPA at a bottle shop in Portland.

Prodigal Son is picking up steam as their beers are making the trip to Portland-area tap houses and getting noticed in the amid the crowded craft scene in Oregon.

My eventual favorite of the bunch, the Bruce/Lee Porter, was recently honored with the "Satori Award" for 2010 on an Oregon beer blog. 

The next stop on my beer journey was Corvallis, where I attended Oregon State University and where my dad and stepmother live. Corvallis now boasts two local brewpubs (in addition to a pair of northwest chain McMenamins locations). For a late lunch one day, I headed to the only one I hadn't been to: Flat Tail Brewing.

Here, I went directly for the tasting tray, which featured eight beers (seven by Flat Tail and one guest beer from Ninkasi of Eugune). I found the line-up very enjoyable, and ended up picking the Amber as my favorite owing to its wonderful balance.

One brewpub per town was not the end of my craft beer experience in Oregon. Even trips to the supermarket feature a wide selection of craft beer (convenience stores, too, stock a few varieties beyond Bud Light).

For an even larger selection, I made two trips to Belmont Station, a bottle shop with a tap room attached. Being a Japan beer blogger, I inquired about what Japanese beer they had available or have had in the past. No sign or memory of Ise Kadoya, though I believe it's available in another shop in town. Also nothing from Baird, though they guy at the register said they used to have it. He said it didn't sell very well. This was a little surprising, so I asked if he had any idea why. He did not. My guess could be that if people are looking for a beer from Japan, they want something that screams "JAPAN" - and perhaps the Western name isn't Japanesey enough. Or something. I could be way off. For whatever reason, only a small selection of Hitachino Nest shares space with Asashi Super Dry in the Japan section of the "other" category in the world beer area.

Now, it's back to a rotation of Yona Yona, Ise Kadoya, and whatever else I can get my hands on without dropping too much cash.

Today, it shall be exactly that at a sukiyaki dinner. We got six Yona Yonas and a host of Ise Kadoya options, ranging from the standard pale and brown ales to a seasonal maple cinnamon offering. 

I'll return later with a post looking ahead to the new year, which may reveal a bold New Year's resolution that will probably be impossible to keep. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Good drinking beers with you and good recap. I was waiting for this.