Thanks to a tip from Jeff Alworth (known on Twitter and elsewhere as Beervana) I had Von Ebert on my list of spots to visit while in Portland. Since I had a day in Portland, I decided to visit a few Portland breweries after Pfriem rather than exploring other Hood River spots. Von Ebert has a massive indoor spot with tons of seating. As one might expect from the size, it gets loud quickly and can be a bit chaotic.
I ordered a very interesting sounding beer first, a smoked rye beer aged on coffee. In the wrong hands this beer could be overly smoky, have prominent rye character, or too much coffee. The beer was perfectly balanced with subtle notes of smoke, a mild rye bite, and light nutty coffee on the finish. I would have ordered a crowler of this beer to go but they ran out shortly after I finished my pint.
I finished with their dark lager, a traditional German style beer that I love when it is done well. The beer was a bit thicker and more chocolate forward than the traditional style but quite delicious; It had prominent notes of dark chocolate and raisins. I hope to visit Von Ebert again on a future trip. The two beers I tried indicated that the brewers are quite talented.
I decided to leave Von Ebert after two pints and made my way to Little Beast, where they had a variety of delicious sour and wild ales on draft. Little Beast is much smaller than Von Ebert, and has a more intimate vibe with a small bar area and some surrounding seating.
I started with a full pour of Field Folk, a brett saison. The beer was dry and balanced, with prominent brett funk and mild citrus notes. I then got a few half pours so I could try more styles. The Ferme Rouge was lovely with notes of cherry, mildly tart, with low acidity. It was nicely balanced and easy drinking. The Dutchy was a lovely restrained aged sour with notes of cherry and dark chocolate. My husband surprisingly enjoyed this one. The Belgian dark strong was thick with notes of chocolate. I would have preferred this to be less dry, but it was solid.
I really enjoyed tasting the beers at Little Beast and was glad to see how restrained in acidity some of the sours were. They are worth checking out for fans of Belgian styles and sours.
On our way back from our Bend trip we met a friend in Portland for breweries and I had heard some great things about Commons Brewing, which is really close to Basecamp and Cascade. I really like Basecamp but you have to either buy a flight or a pint and can’t do single tasters, which is annoying. We also visited a small brewery in the area called Baerlic before we left but Commons was the only one I tried a ton of different beers. Commons focuses on farmhouse ales and wild ales and none of their beers we tried were very sour but they were all quite delicious.
I tried the Three Point Six, a hoppy session ale with Brett, Boysen, a strong dark farmhouse ale with boysenberries, the Pumpernickel Rye Saison with cardamon and caraway, the Barrel Saison, an open fermented saison, Myrtle, a tart farmhouse ale with merridian hops, a Biere de Garde, Khthonias, a barrel aged flanders dark with hazelnuts, and Cerise Noir, a dark farmhouse ale with sweet and tart cherries.
The three point six was delicious and super smooth with tons of fruity hops, very flavorful for the low alcohol. I would have ordered a larger one of this after we finished the flight but my husband arrived with food and they don’t allow outside food. The Boysen was very nicely balanced with the fruit coming in nicely and a mild tartness. It finished with hints of wine and bready malts. I’m not sure I paid attention when I ordered the Pumpernickel Rye Saison because I don’t usually like that flavor but it was tasty. It seemed like a lighter bodied version of a Belgian Winter Ale with the spices mostly subdued and not overpowering the rest of the beer.
The Barrel Saison was funky and smooth with some earthy notes and mild spices. This one was also really nice and one of my favorites. The Myrtle was tart and fruity with delicious balance and a mild tart kick at the end. I didn’t get much hops from this one though. The Biere De Garde was very tasty with smooth bready malts and a nutty finish. The Khthonias came on strong with wine and lots of dark fruit though the hazelnut wasn’t very noticeable. I really enjoyed the smoothness and the solid wine. The Cerise Noir tasted more like a brown ale with cherries. It had a super light body and the cherries were fairly subtle but as it warmed up it got more tasty.
For a smaller brewery I was very impressed by the farmhouse ales at Commons. It is a great brewery to have so close to Cascade. I would have stayed longer if they would have let us bring in outside food but then we didn’t check with them before deciding to bring it by because we ordered the food while we were at Basecamp.
Three point six
Biere de Garde
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.
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.