I realize this is blurry – it was taken with a camera phone. It’s a billboard for Bud Light with Lime, which is arriving “May 2008.” Apparently the marketing geniuses working for Anheuser thought it was too blatant (or racist?) to just say “Arriving in time for Cinco de Mayo.” Maybe they realized it would be mostly gringos drinking it anyway.
This billboard is in a prominent spot just east of Interstate 405 in the Pearl District in Portland. It always displays some silly or suggestive Budweiser poster, like how aluminum bottles make the beer taste colder, or welcoming people to Beer town. It’s always annoyed me because the billboard is situated ~4 blocks from Bridgeport’s brewery, and less than a mile from at least 3 other breweries, and countless brewpubs.
I was recently in Newport with the wife and kid. Michelle had a conference for work, so Ella and I decided to tag along to see the coastal town. Entering the town, you’ll notice signs identifying Newport as “The Friendliest,” no small claim to make.
One of my first tasks was to check in to brewery tours at Rogue. The last time I was in Newport was before Rogue existed, so this was my first chance to see the source of the beer I’ve been drinking for nearly a decade. Rogue beers are usually more of a treat – they cost more in the bottle, and their pub costs more to visit. A quick check of the website revealed that they do tours daily at 3pm, and a quick call to brewery revealed that minors are allowed on the tour. Score!
Michelle, Tim, Ella and I all hit up the brewery for the tour. The brewery is below the Yaquina Bay Bridge, and sits on a pretty cool piece of property on the water. From the outside, the brewery is easily identifiable with large signs on the side, and even some official looking, brown, “attraction” type signs on the road pointing to it. We got there a few minutes early and wandered around the guest shop and event room looking at schwag, medals (they have tons!) and to-go bottles.
The tour started promptly at 3, though the tour leader had only done the tour once before. She appologized repeatedly, and read descriptions from a sheet of paper while pointing (occasionally inaccurately) at the various tanks, kettles, tuns, and so on. The brewery was surprisingly rough too. For the quality of beer, and the coin they must make on $5 bottles, I guess I expected more of those funds to come back in to the brewery. It also seemed to be a maintenance day, so there was painting and other work going on, which seemed overdue.
We did get to meet a few of the brewery and cellar staff who were able to answer some of the questions I had, and they were all good people. It was really awe inspiring to see the cold storage room with its stacks of kegs and bottles ready to ship. There was a lot of Dead Guy, which I’m not the biggest fan of (weird, I know) but clearly the customer has a preference. In one corner, I noticed a stack of non-Rogue items and asked about it. Turns out it was “John’s Locker,” or his private cache of beers. There were several beers I’ve never seen before, and I’m sure will never see again. Maybe I’ll just get my own locker.
There was no tasting after the tour – a bit of a surprise, I thought. I’ve only been on 3 other official tours, and each one ended with at least a pint of the brewery’s wares. Not so here. No matter, we decided. We whipped out our Rogue Nation cards and grabbed a couple pints and enjoyed looking at the bay. The pub was in a similar unfinished state, but the service was great, and the beer was fantastic. I had a pint of Love & Hopiness and a glass of I2PA. Wonderful. We left with 2 growlers and two cases of beer to take back to the office.
Later that day Ella and I walked from our hotel to the brewpub on the bay. It was a nice walk, and we beat the rush, grabbing a table for 2 by the toys. The beer was good, the food was identical to Rogue Portland and the brewery (nothing to write home about), and the service was passable. The next night Michelle wanted to see the pub for dinner to, so we went back. This time, the service slumped. The wait staff was nice, but I had an empty beer before my meal arrived and didn’t get asked if I wanted a second until I had almost given up waiting for the bill. Yes, I ate dinner then waited nearly 15 minutes until someone came by again. I could have been a little more assertive, but I was curious to see if I had indeed fallen in to some parallel universe where you don’t have to pay for your meal and drink.
Overall, the only redeeming part of the visits was the beer. Everything I had was great. Brutal Bitter, Black Brutal, I2PA, Love & Hoppiness, 100 meter, and Shakespeare Stout.
I scoped this post on canned Fat Tire over at the Belmont Station Blog. I’m excited. I’ve really enjoyed Caldera’s IPA in cans, and remember Mac’s in cans fondly, but this might force me to break from my Oregon/Washington beer restrictions.
It’s hard to deny – there’s just something satisfying about drinking good beer from a can. My brain is confused every time I splurge on the Caldera IPA.
Jim Johnstone, a coworker, sent me a picture this morning of the Bridgeport billboard next to the Hawethorn Bridge. I had just spotted it last week myself, but failed to snap a picture. Jim, no stranger to danger, snapped a picture to send my way.
Kudos to the clever turn-of-phrase wizards at the advertising company that thought of this one. I applaud your creativity. For those of you not from Portland, you may not be aware of the Keep Portland Weird motto and matching bumper sticker that’s as common around here as rusted wheel wells are in the Midwest.
After what seems like years of waiting, Michelle and I finally visited Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) and the Green Dragon on Saturday night. I’ve been eagerly awaiting both, but neither is in the immediate neighborhood, so we’ve typically opted for the closer venues.
We had dinner at HUB, and although there was a line for a table, we only waited for about 10 minutes. Just enough time to grab a beer at the bar and start checking out the place. I’m probably going to sound like a toadie, but it’s clear that every detail at this place received some consideration. After watching photos on the blog, I was still surprised at how nice the place was. We only had brief interactions with the staff, but from observation, they were well trained, and moved with purpose. The interior is cleverly decorated, the art was interesting and appropriate, and pub just felt, well, like the culmination of someone’s dreams. According to the menu, that’s what it is.
Several of the beers have been available for some time now, and I’ve been pleased to sample them at the various festivals, then at various pubs while waiting for the HUB’s own brewpub to complete. Michelle had the IPA (which I’ve had many times before – its terrific) and I had a doppelbock and a pilsner. Both were excellent and true to style. I personally feel that the pilsner could use a bit more of a hoppy kick, but it was a delightful summer beer with a very clean flavor. I was also tickled to see that you can order a Radler – a beer and lemon/lime soda concoction designed in Germany to satisfy a cyclist without sapping their initiative. I look forward to having one when I ride to the destination.
Green Dragon is also a delight for beer lovers. The bar is lovely, and although we only passed through the cafe portion briefly, it looked nice and cozy. The beer selection was great, and I would have liked to hang around longer and try more. While it may not be fair to compare Green Dragon and Hub (they’re different creatures), it’s hard not to. Green Dragon seems to have many mixed themes. There’s Tiki, there’s brewerina, and there’s pinball. I may be alone, but I’ve never really though tiki while I’m reaching for a Belgian ale. Small issue though, because the service, the beer, and the atmosphere (live music too) was nice. Kind of out of the way, but nice. The bartender let us sample the gin they’re distilling which was good, but the packaging is very cool. I’ll have to find a bottle once gin an tonic season is upon us again.
Since I don’t have anything of substance to post, I thought I’d link to fellow brew-bloggers at Monday Night Brewery who just ended a several month long internet feud with another brewer with a head-to-head tasting. Its been fun to watch, and laughs have been had (not being among the insulted parties). Both parties, I think, came away looking good since neither beer was a flop, and I think a weird internet camaraderie was formed.
Last night I attended the Sling Shot release party at Pyramid with friends, including one of the brewers. It was a fun time, and 2 dollar imperial pints are hard to beat. Sling Shot is a souped up lawnmower beer – really simple malt body that has a clean flavor, though it packs a wallop at 6.2% abv. I was kind of surprised that the beer is being released under the MacTarnahan’s label, but it’s a good name. While there, I noticed several GABF medals for the Saxer dark lager. I’m hoping we’ll see something like this return – Portland could still use a few more lagers. Or maybe Mac’s in cans again.
Oh, and the kettles in the brew house are gorgeous. I love copper.