Tag Archives: Indie Beer

Portland Oregon Breweries – Level and Ex Novo

Level Beer

Level Beer opened closer to the airport, which is great for people who get stuck at airport hotels and want to visit breweries, but also not so good for people who are trying to do a beer crawl around the city. The location gives them a large amount of space for a tasting room and there was plenty of seating in the brewery.

The Press Pause NW pale was a good classic pale. I had mis-read NW for NE or I might have ordered something else, like the standard IPA or saison. Nothing wrong with the beer but it isn’t my style. The best bitter was decent with notes of apricot but tasted more like an English pale than a best bitter. The beer lacked the malt base that makes the style enjoyable. The Hazy IPA titled Hazing is Socially Unacceptable was quite nice with a creamy body and tons of tropical fruit with notes of tangerine and passion fruit. This was the best beer of the bunch by a large margin.

Comparatively, the passion fruit hazy DIPA was completely unbalanced with passion fruit dominating the base beer completely with flavors so strong it was off-putting. The chocolate stout was a clean stout but not particularly chocolate forward. The barleywine was incredibly medicinal with overpowering dark fruit character and a strong bitterness.

Level Beer was quite the mixed bag of beers though their hazy IPA was done well. With some tweaking on the amount of passion fruit in the hazy double IPA I think they could end up with a solid beer there as well. I wasn’t able to taste the flavors of the base beer under all the passion fruit.

Top Beer:
Hazing is Socially Unacceptable Hazy IPA.

Ex Novo


Ex Novo also came highly recommended as far as new breweries in Portland. They were so crowded on Saturday when I stopped by that I had to go back the following day to actually get a seat. Thankfully Sunday was more chill. They had a solid lineup of beers but their hazy IPA really missed the mark.

I started with the session hazy, which had a light yellow haze and citrus and grapefruit hop notes. While it was the better of the two hazy beers, it was very subtle with hop aroma. It drinks easy though and is as flavorful as I have had for the style at the low alcohol percentage. After that, the NEIPA was barely hazy and lacked soft and creamy mouthfeel. It had some decent flavors of orange marmalade and some sticky dank finish more akin to a NW IPA.

The pomegranate grapefruit sour was well made with tons of grapefruit that comes on with a strong bitterness like biting into a fruit. I would have liked more pomegranate flavor but overall I found it a little too much grapefruit. The schwartz beer was great with roast and light smoke, a medium body, and light toasted marshmallow character. The barrel aged imperial stout was thick and fudgy with light salt on the finish.

While Ex Novo missed on the haze, the people near me seemed to enjoy their kolsch and other lighter lagers. The flavors of the schwartz suggest that they know how to brew a lager.

Top 2:
Hazy session IPA
Schwartz (black lager)

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Portland Oregon Breweries – Wayfinder and Upright

Wayfinder


One of the newest breweries I visited on my recent visit to Portland was Wayfinder. They opened close to most of the new school breweries in Portland with a full restaurant and expansive seating both outdoor and indoor. This was our first stop of the day and we had lunch along with our beers. As per usual, it takes longer to get your beer flight when you are sitting at a table and have to wait for a server to take your order. Prepare yourself mentally for that if you don’t end up sitting at the bar. I’m not docking them for this as it is the same at most restaurants and they were quite crowded.
I started with the pilsner, which was crisp and fruity and mildly bitter on the finish. This is a fairly standard pilsner. The hazy IPA blew me away with intense grapefruit flavor so powerful I had a hard time believing they didn’t add actual grapefruit. While the beer wasn’t creamy, the explosion of aroma hops was present and made this a very impressive beer. With low bitterness and a crisp dry finish, this was an excellent IPA even though not fully hazy.
The doomtown IPA had a great mix of flavors with resinous hops balanced with notes of grapefruit. The beer had a clean dry finish and mild to medium bitterness. An excellent IPA as well. The Dopplebock was soft and creamy with notes of caramel and plum, nailing the style and quite drinkable for my husband who normally only likes stouts and porters. This is one of the better examples of a dopplebock I have tried in the US.
I ended with the powerful triple IPA that blended nicely multiple varieties of hops giving it a complex hop bouquet sometimes leaning more sticky and piney, other times earthy or floral. The beer has a good caramel malt backbone that mutes the bite of the high bitterness.
Vegan mushroom sandwich.
Vegan hash.
Wayfinder had excellent food and a high quality of beers that stood out among other new breweries I visited this trip. I am excited to see how they develop over the next few years.
Top 2: 
Hazy IPA
Dopplebock

Upright

Upright was on my list for some time but I always ended up passing it over for another spot. The brewery is in a bit of a strange location, down in a basement of a building shared with many other businesses. I found the beers to be a fairly mixed bag and they are possibly one of the only cash only breweries in Portland. Still, if you like a good barrel aged saison they do a great job in that department and should not be skipped over.  They also get distributed down to California if you want to try something before making the trek.
The Ostinato Saison was intensely spice forward with mild citrus character and an effervescent carbonation. I didn’t care for the spice and found the flavors overall somewhat muted. Pathways was excellent with tons of barrel character and lots of funk. This is one of the more impressive yet reasonably priced saisons of this style I have had. I stopped by a bottle shop while I was in town to get a bottle to bring home.
The fourplay cherry sour was incredibly subtle in the fruit department and didn’t have a lot going on. I would have liked to try some of their other barrel aged sours with more intense fruit but they were to-go only. The Ives Batch 2 was lightly tart with notes of white grape and apricot and hints of fresh cut apples. I really enjoyed this one as well. The IPA was soft with a low bitterness and hints of chamomile tea. It didn’t have a ton of aroma but it was clean and easy drinking. The pilsner was crisp and grassy with a clean finish, just how it should be.
As far as the tasting room experience, Upright is cozy and doesn’t have room for a lot of people at a time. I recommend visiting to taste and if you like some of their core beers just buying them elsewhere if you are not used to paying with cash. Though not all of the barrel aged beers were great, the two that I was impressed by were quite good and show an indication of a mature barrel program.
Top 2: 
Pathway Oaked Saison
Ives Batch 2

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Indeed Brewing Company – Minneapolis Minnesota

The last time I was in Minneapolis I didn’t try anything at Indeed because they were packed due to a special event down the street from them. I could see the crowd of people outside and suspected the inside crowd was just as crazy. Thankfully this time they were much more reasonably crowded and I got to try a few beers. One thing to note though is they don’t serve tasters of anything so I was not able to try more than 4 beers before moving on to the next stop.

Outdoor seating area that no doubt is full to the brim during the summer but was abandoned on a cold day.

I started with their Zwickel, an un-filtered Pilsner. It was crisp and dry with cracker notes and light grape character. I would have preferred more intense lager yeast character but it was well-made and easy drinking. I tried splashes of 3 of their hoppy beers before ordering a cask of their Let it Roll with extra hops. It was super creamy with notes of pine and a mix of floral and herbal bite on the finish with low bitterness. I enjoyed this the most of the hoppy beers they had though I still would have preferred more fruit character.

The Mango Helio was their mango sour. It had intense juicy mango character at times tasting like candied mango with a light tart finish. The Rum King imperial stout had intense tropical rum character with a creamy base that hid the alcohol quite well. I found the beer to be fairly thin and the flavors to lack complexity. I didn’t taste much more than rum.

Mango sour.
IPA on Cask.

Indeed had a great lineup of beers and I would have loved to have tried more than I did but what I had was quite good. If you are in MSP for a weekend Indeed is a great stop and they are properly recommended as one of the better breweries in the area.

Top 2:
Let it Roll IPA
Mango Hellio

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Engine House No. 9 – Tacoma Washington

Engine House Number 9 recently started brewing sours to add to their other lineup of house beers. I visited them during a trip out to Olympic National Park because we decided to start our trip in Tacoma. I had a flight of a few of their house beers and then simply ordered a full pour of the one sour they had on tap.

Their lager was fruity and delicious with a crisp biscuit malt finish. Their two IPAs were both lovely. The house IPA was juicy and soft with notes of mango and melon. It has a light bitterness and nice creamy mouthfeel. The Donna IPA was good but a bit more acidic with notes of grass and herb hops and light caramel on the finish. The Berry Manilow sour was jammy and had tons of berry notes with a light tart finish. It was super drinkable and not particularly acidic, making it approachable to even someone who isn’t into sours.

I left with a bottle of their rhubarb sour, Flanders style red and brett saison. The rhubarb was tart and funky and quite delicious. The Flanders style is bright and fruity with a tart finish that balances nicely with biscuit malts and notes of oak. If you see Engine House Number 9 sours around they are worth picking up in bottles if you would rather not make it down to Tacoma. They are a brewpub so expect it to get quite noisy inside.

You could order food to go with your beers here as well. I got a hummus appetizer the second time I visited when I was preparing to leave the area. If you like IPAs or sours, you will find quite a bit to enjoy at Engine House No. 9 though I did not see any house brewed stouts on tap when I visited.

Top 2:
House IPA
Berry Manilow Sour

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Wild Barrel Brewing – San Marcos San Diego

Wild Barrel Brewing surprised me as I hadn’t heard a ton about the brewery until a short time before opening. With a brewer who used to work at stone and a keen eye for what the market wants, they launched out the gate with some IPAs, massively fruity kettle sours, and a coffee stout with barrel aged stuff to come in time. You can tell when you walk in that they spent a lot of time on the layout of the space including their choice for the acoustics because it doesn’t get as loud as many breweries do when crowded.

Wild Barrel serves tasters in larger glass to give room for aromas to come through. In the crowded San Diego brewery scene this is fairly uncommon but always welcomed. I was not really that excited when I saw three fruited Berliner Weiss style beers on the board (called here San Diego Vice) but was soon glad i tried them. San Diego breweries regularly make fruited versions of this style but often with minimal amounts of fruit. Not so here. All 3 of them, cherry, blackcurrent, and guava were massively fruity with a light tart bite on the back.

These may be the most fruit flavor I’ve had in any beer of this style, surpassing my previous favorite at Georgia based Creature Comforts. If their crowlers were available I might have left with a couple of crowlers. It is hard to pick a favorite of the three because they were all so delicious.

The two IPAs available were both in the modern style though staying away from the thick hazy style so far. The single IPA was nice and citrus forward with a light bitterness and a dry finish. The double IPA was a bit more dank and resinous with a slightly thicker body and still not a ton of bitterness. The IPAs remind me of the style brewed at Protector in many ways.

The coffee stout had notes of popcorn and coffee on the nose with a fairly thin body and a nice mix of light roast, smoke, and coffee notes. I found the coffee to be a bit more subdued than I tend to enjoy but it is a nice balanced beer.

I am looking forward to see how Wild Barrel develops over the coming months and expect I will be back again regularly to see what flavors of San Diego Vice come up next. They have excited me about a style that has generally been enjoyable but not particularly exciting for me before now.

Top 2:
Blackcurrent San Diego Vice
Cherry San Diego Vice

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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