One of the larger, more established breweries in Portland is Bridgeport. Their Hop Czar has a reputation for being one of the best double IPAs. While visiting I got to try the Anniversary Series 01, Long Ball Extra Pale, IPA, Kingpin, Hop Czar, Bear Hug Cherry Chocolate Stout, Ginger Hibiscus Saison, Anniversary 2 Aussie IPA, and Old Knucklehead Barleywine.
The Anniversary Series 01 was a nice experimental hop pale ale with some smooth pine flavors though a bit too light for my tastes. The Long Ball Extra Pale had the hop profile closest to what I like with plenty of crisp lemon flavors. This is still pretty light despite the extra pale name and very sessionable. The IPA to me was a little too weak for the name at only 5.5% but it had some solid floral flavors going on.
The Kingpin was one of the better beers here. As a double red it has plenty of caramel malt flavor and some nice rye flavors to smooth it out nicely. I couldn’t taste the stronger 7.5% when drinking it. The liberty hops used to give it a little kick had a nice spice flavor to them, rounding out this one nicely. The Hop Czar was a newer batch that used some Australian hops. If I had come by for the previous batch I would have been able to try the batch made with Citra. The Australian hops were not my thing at all and the beer was overwhelmingly tart and intensely piney. I did not finish the taster.
Bear Hug Cherry Chocolate Stout was another beer that does a good job of hiding the higher alcohol content. It had a nice smooth balance of the tart cherry and smooth chocolate flavors. I’m not typically a fan of cherry but my husband quite enjoyed this one and finished the taster for me. The Ginger Hibiscus Saison was an interesting seasonal offering though the taster I had was too heavy on the ginger for my tastes. It overwhelmed the rest of the flavors completely. A great beer to try if you really like ginger.
The Anniversary 2 Aussie IPA was also not really my thing. While the Australian hops used here aren’t the same as those in the Hop Czar, both hops must have similar characteristics. This beer was also quite off-putting with a very mouth-puckering bitterness. Finally, the Old Nucklehead Barleywine was the other beer I really enjoyed here. It was the strongest beer I tried here at 9.5% and you can really taste the strength. The caramel malt flavors blended nicely with the sweetness from the bourbon barrel it was aged in. This was a smooth beer and not very bitter.
Though I was slightly disappointed by the hoppy offerings at Bridgeport I did really like the Kingpin and the Barleywine. If you like lighter hoppy beers, this is a good place to visit. I did not eat any food at this brewery while visiting.
Alesmith released a special Pale Ale in collaboration with San Diego Padres baseball legend Tony Gwynn called San Diego Pale 394 in honor of his best batting average. The beer was officially released on Saturday June 14, 2014, just a few days before Gwynn’s untimely passing. When news spread widely on Monday June 16 of his passing I immediately wondered how Alesmith would respond. Through a post on their Facebook page, Alesmith announced that all proceeds from the beer would be donated to The Tony & Alicia Gwynn Foundation.
I previously wasn’t going to rush out to try the San Diego Pale but once Tony Gwynn passed, I had to support his memory and get as many friends as I could to join. When I stopped by yesterday Alesmith also had two other special beers I wanted to try, the Baltic Porter and the Ethiopian Coffee Speedway Stout. The San Diego Pale 394 is a 6% pale ale so it is almost an IPA.
I started with tasters of the San Diego Pale, Baltic Porter, Old Ale, and Ethiopian Speedway. The San Diego Pale immediately impressed me with its smooth low bitterness and delicious bright hop profile. The beer is very crisp sporting primarily pine and floral flavors. It is a nice light-colored pale that should satisfy fans of Alesmith’s X extra pale and IPA.
The Baltic Porter was a bit disappointing to me compared to the previous small batch porter Alesmith had earlier in the year. The flavors of plum and ripe fruit dominate and leave any chocolate flavors hiding in the background. I didn’t review the Old Ale because I’ve already realized that I don’t particularly care for Alesmith’s heavy malt beers (besides the stout). The Ethiopian Speedway was a fantastic combination of nutty and chocolate flavors that came from the coffee itself. This is one of the more interesting varieties of Speedway that I have gotten to try up there with the Vietnamese Coffee version.
To go along with the beer, Alesmith had a number of images of Tony Gwynn around the tasting room. I especially liked the full size shot of Gwynn in his earlier days on the wall. Though I am not a big baseball fan, I do have many fond memories of Tony Gwynn from the few games I attended with my dad as a child. He was the one player that I always noticed and admired.
After finishing the tasters I ordered a pint of the SD Pale. I was surprised to notice that the Summer Yulesmith was already sold out on tap so only bottles remained. This made the SD Pale my favorite brew currently available at the tasting room. The extra freshness really makes the flavors pop. Come by the tasting room soon to taste this delicious pale and help support The Tony & Alicia Gwynn Foundation by having a few pints. If you can’t make it by the tasting room, the pale should eventually be released in 12 ounce bottles for you to enjoy at home.
Basecamp is one of the newest breweries I visited and also one of the most impressive. I don’t blame the breweries that have been around for quite some time for having beers of a style that now feels common and boring. It seems I can always count on young breweries to offer something bold and different, and that is surely the case with Basecamp Brewing. Besides their interesting selection of beers, they offer 22oz aluminum bottles that are perfect for the adventurous beer drinker to take along on a hike or camping trip. They also were easy to bring home with me to San Diego without worrying that the bottles would break in my luggage.
While visiting Basecamp I was able to try a good number of their beers but decided to stick to the main ones I was interested in because the selection was quite varied. I tried the Rye Pilsner, CTRL ALT DEL Altbier, Celestial Meridian CDL, IPL, Gold Rush IOC, S’more Stout, and Incredible Baltor.
The Rye Pilsner was quite tasty, with the rye giving a little extra kick to the typical boring pilsner taste. Would make a great beer to bring on a camping trip. The CTRL ALT DEL Altbier was quite tasty as well offering a pleasing sweet malt flavor with a nice caramel twist. The Celestial Meridian Cascade Dark Lager provided a nice mix of flavors with smoky roasted malts and light cascade hops at the front and some sweeter caramel flavors on the back.
The India Pale Lager (IPL) is an interesting take on the style because it is aged in oak barrels for a time. I could taste some nice toasty copper malts and a solid amount of pine hops on the back end. The combination of these was nicely smoothed out by the oak aging. I found as I got further into my taster, I could taste the hops a bit more prominently. The Gold Rush IOC was the most hoppy beer here and also my favorite. The beer is light on the malts, giving a lighter colored hop-forward brew. The hops primarily lean towards the citrus and floral hops I love so much in San Diego. I would have left with a bottle of the Gold Rush if it was available but instead I brought home two bottles of the IPL.
The S’more Stout was quite delicious and served with a marshmallow on the lip of the glass for a nice touch. This is a creamy beer with delicious chocolate and marshmallow flavors. There is just a hint of sweetness to the beer. My husband preferred the Baltor though. The Baltor is given one of the most verbose descriptions I’ve ever seen for a beer but to me is a great example of a solid coffee stout. The coffee flavor is nice and prominent at the beginning with chocolate and plum malt flavors at the back. This beer was very nice though I preferred the S’more.
Basecamp likes to present twists on established styles of beer and I would say they succeeded quite nicely in doing so. Not only that, but they have some fairly permanent food trucks right outside that offer good food options. I tried some of the Korean BBQ from one of the trucks and it was a solid Bulgogi Burrito. Basecamp is one brewery you should make sure to visit if you make it out to Portland.
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is another one of those big breweries that I tried outside of Portland and had to stop by. They wanted me to try a large number of tasters in order to get a flight so I elected to do a few small tastes since I was on my way to the waterfall. I ended up trying most of their beers I was interested in. In all I tried the Hopworks IPA, Survival Stout, Cascadian Dark Ale, UK Style IPA, White IPA, Kentucky Christmas, and Army of Darkness.
The Hopworks IPA had a nice bright pine flavor but it was also joined by some unpleasant soapy flavor possibly from using too much mosaic. The soapy taste kept me from enjoying this one very much. The Survival Stout was quite drinkable with a nice mix of coffee and roasted malts. It was not as full bodied as I prefer in my stouts and didn’t really stand out in any way.
The Cascadian Dark Ale was an interesting style I hadn’t heard of before but it seems in the Pacific Northwest area breweries like to hop up dark ales and since they use Cascade hops frequently it makes sense to give it a whole new name. It was good and balanced but to me felt like the hops could have been made a bit more prominent. The UK style IPA was far too mellow for my tastes and didn’t have much unique flavor to it.
The White IPA was quite dry and bitter but didn’t seem to have much of a particular hop flavor to recommend it. I didn’t much care for this one. The Kentucky Christmas was a delightful treat, a bourbon barrel aged Winter beer. The underlying beer let the bourbon flavors shine. I didn’t have much of this because it was on the stronger side and I was on the way to a hike. Finally, the Army of Darkness was a unique chocolate raspberry Russian Imperial Stout. If you have ever had raspberry filled chocolates before, this does a fantastic job of presenting that in a beer. The two flavors went really well together but like the previous one I wasn’t ready to order a full pour of something so strong at the time.
In all, I was mostly pretty let down by the mainstay beers offered by HUB but they did have some fantastic specialty beers. If you enjoy the more mellow Northwest IPAs then you might like the IPA. I did not eat any food while I was visiting HUB.
Laurelwood came up a lot in my search for must-try Portland beers. Because I had quite a few beers at Velo Cult before hand, I stuck with four tasters and some happy hour food. I tried the IPA, Tree Hugger Porter, Oatmeal Stout, and Double IPA.
The IPA was a solid entry with plenty of pine, citrus, and grapefruit flavors. The Tree Hugger Porter was good and mellow with primary oatmeal and chocolate flavors. I liked the oatmeal stout slightly better than the porter, with some stronger chocolate flavors smoothed out by the oatmeal. Probably my favorite was the double IPA, with a good bitterness and plenty of citrus and pine. I might have ordered a pint of this one if I hadn’t just come from Velo Cult. Also, compared to the Boneyard Triple IPA I had just before it is hard to impress.
I really enjoyed the happy hour food we ordered at Laurelwood. The fish and chips were nice and crispy and yet the fish was good and flaky. With a little malt vinegar the fish went great with the beers.