Endless Hopportunities: Portland to Ashland

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Portland boasts more breweries within its city limits than anywhere else in the world, making this a must visit for Mike. Most of the breweries were located in the Pearl District a couple miles from our hotel, so we hopped on the streetcar. The free ride allowed us a little tour through downtown Portland, a beautiful city with brick streets and buildings surrounded by ample greenery.  " I wonder if the weather here is as bad as they say?" I asked Mike. We loved the Columbia Gorge and so far Portland looked like a place I could happily call home.  “Do you think they lie about the weather to keep people away?”

The sun was shining so we settled on the patio at BridgePort Brewery. We munched on hummus and olives and Mike sipped his way through a sampler tray.  Despite the over the top hops, he thought the Hop Czar was the best of their beers.  Consulting reviews on his iPhone as well as the Northwest Brewery guide, Mike finalized his list of breweries for our evening pub crawl. Although I don't really drink beer, I was excited about seeing one of my best friends from high school who was meeting us after she got off work.  After finishing the tasters, Mike concluded that all the beers were good, yet none were exceptional.

Before Natalie joined us, I wanted to check out Powell’s City of Books, an independent book store filling an entire city block. While Mike hit up Henry’s Tavern, I wandered from room to room and floor to floor through the book lover’s dream. I make it a rule to always buy something at independent book stores, but felt like my head might explode from the choices.  Just as I was becoming completely overwhelmed, Natalie called and agreed to meet me outside in ten minutes.  I bought the last book I had considered and headed outside.

Tripping over each other’s words, Natalie and I picked up where we left off 10 years ago. We met Mike at Deschutes Brewery and grabbed a table in the bar area. Natalie and I immediately began making fun of the shape of the table. Designed to allow for extra counter space, it was a small round bar height table with an even smaller table-top stacked at eye level.  We reverted back to the silliness we possessed at age sixteen resting our chins on the table discussing how this could make for a very awkward first date. We were still giggling when the waitress came to take our orders. Mike had already sampled the beer and he ordered a Fresh Squeezed IPA while Natalie and I each got a glass of wine. Munching on fresh soft pretzels, beer nuts and paprika fries, Natalie and I caught up and she and Mike got to know each other a bit. We asked her the truth about the weather and she disappointed us by explaining that it does in fact rain at least nine months a year. I sighed, “I guess we won’t be living in the same town anytime soon.”

Night was falling as we walked over to Tugboat Brewing Company, yet my eyes had to adjust to an even darker atmosphere as we entered the bar.  The décor reminded me of my grandparent’s basement back in the eighties.  A man circled several of the tables, hovering over the patrons like an elementary school teacher. We realized that he was monitoring what must be an important game of trivia. We ordered drinks at the bar where the bartender’s manner came across as simultaneously helpful yet utterly annoyed with us.  As we observed the strange scene, Natalie grasped the fact that we had entered into a total Hipster scene. Mike found the Cask Stout to be too bitter, kind of like the atmosphere. We realized we were not cool enough for this scene (this is confirmed by my use of the word “cool”).  We ended the evening at Rogue Ale where Mike confirmed their Chocolate Porter was still his favorite of the trip.

We woke Tuesday morning to the sound of rain. We had originally planned on spending some time in Eugene then camping somewhere in Southern Oregon. With a couple of exceptions, most of what we wanted to do involved outside activities. Yet rain was predicted from Portland into Northern California. We got in the car choosing to figure it out along the way.  After some pizza and a short walk around the University of Oregon, we went to Ninkasi Brewing Company’s Tasting Room. They definitely had the coolest set up we had seen yet.  Again we wished for a sunny day as we viewed their awesome patio.  While Mike enjoyed a pint of Oatis Oatmeal Stout, we decided that we may as well drive back in to California tonight as the weather looked nasty for the next 24 hours.

After a while, the drizzle and the monotony of the interstate had us begging for a break, so we pulled off in Roseburg for a visit to Spangler Vineyards. Mike limited himself to a couple tastes, while the tasting room host poured me every red wine they had open. I was impressed with their selection that included all the Bordeaux varietals plus Petite Sirah and Syrah. The wines were lush and complex, and we purchased a Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.

Before hitting the California state line, we stopped at Caldera Brewing Company in Ashland. Located on appropriately named Water Street, the building lay between the street and a creek that the day’s rain had turned into a torrent. While Mike examined the beer list, I watched water rage past the windows, flowing higher than the floor of the simple tap house. Mike was delighted that they made several Porters and Stouts, selecting a few to try along with their Dry Hop Orange and Ashland Amber.  Mike thought all the beers were amazing and insisted I have a sip of the Mogli. We agreed that the chocolate, bourbon, oak-aged Imperial Porter might be the best beer we both have ever had. Luckily they sold it by the bottle, so we bought several to take home.  With a new favorite brewery on the list, we waved good-bye to Oregon.
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