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.
I probably never would have stopped by Velo Cult if I hadn’t gotten a groupon. Velo Cult is a bike shop where they decided to set up a craft beer bar that can offer a good variety of beers. The taps offered plenty of variety when I stopped by and because I had the groupon I ended up trying a few that I wouldn’t normally order. Sadly, the people I went with didn’t end up sharing the beers all that much so I ended up drinking the majority of the 8 tasters and 2 pints.
In total I got to try a dry-hopped cider, the Caldera Porter, a dry-hopped Saison from Commons Brewing, Terminal Gravity IPA, Little Saison, La Guillotine Belgian Blonde, Boneyard Triple IPA, and Evil Twin Lil B Porter. I really liked the dry-hopped cider. The hop flavors helped balance out the tart flavors of the apple. The Caldera Porter was a solid chocolate and coffee porter in the middle range.
The dry-hopped saison from Commons Brewing was really good. The Belgian yeast blended perfectly with the citrus hops to create a drinkable middle of the road beer. I ended up coming back to this for one of my two pints. Terminal Gravity IPA lived up to its name with flavors mostly leaning towards heavy malts. I wasn’t very fond of this one.
The little saison was a lighter version of a saison with lighter flavors similar to a session. The flavor was a bit too light for me but it would be very sessionable for sure. The La Guillotine Belgian Blonde was one of my favorites out of the set. It was strong enough that it was almost a triple. I loved the sticky sweet flavors that reminded me of burnt sugar like in a creme brulee. This was a nice change of pace from most stronger Belgian style beers that tend to lean towards heavy spice flavors.
Boneyard Triple IPA was so delicious that I wish I had gotten a chance to drive out to Bend Oregon to visit the brewery. At 12% it is one of the strongest IPAs I have ever tasted. The higher alcohol made it a bit more on the sweet side but it still had plenty of citrus, tropical fruit, and grapefruit to balance everything out. This was the best beer I tried while visiting Portland and I really savored the 12oz pour that I ordered after I was done with all the tasters.
The Evil Twin Lil B Porter was a really thick chocolate and plum porter though I thought the plum flavors were a bit too heavy. I don’t think plum mixes very well with the chocolate though I tasted a number of beers blending those two styles in Portland. This beer was also quite sticky sweet, good and solid.
I really liked the atmosphere at Velo Cult and the mini skateboards that they used for holding the tasters. The bartenders were both knowledgeable about beers and enthusiastic about certain ones. I also appreciated the ability to do flights at a bar that isn’t a brewery because that is the best way to try a bunch of different beers.
Little did I know before visiting Portland but there is a growing sours scene. The best place to experience sours is to stop by Cascade. The tasters were a little bit more expensive than I was used to but I could see why once I realized that many of the sours were barrel aged for a time. Sours are like IPAs in that most people hate them when they first try them. I’m still growing to like sours but I appreciated the chance to explore the style further here. I ended up tasting their IPA, Red IPA, Apricot, Blueberry, White Stout, and Cantaloupe sour.
I wasn’t all too impressed with the IPA but mostly because I don’t really like cascade hops that much on their own. The IPA was fairly light and primarily focused on the pine from the cascade. The Red IPA was primarily thick and resiny from the heavy malts, with a lot of the plum flavors. The beer seemed to be a little too heavy on the malts for my tastes though there was some nice light hop flavor at the back end.
The apricot sour was quite tart and had a nice blend of flavors. I preferred the blueberry sour because it wasn’t as tart. The blueberry blended very nicely with the sour flavors from the wine barrels for a good overall beer. The white stout was closer to a coffee-infused session IPA. Flavors were very similar to an iced coffee.
I ended my sour tasting with the Cantaloupe. This one was poured fresh while aging. The cantaloupe gave it a good sweetness that I really enjoyed. I expect that with aging the sweetness would fade and be replaced with more sour flavors. The flavors of the cantaloupe really came through quite nicely. Overall, I am glad that I stopped by Cascade so that I can start to explore the varieties of flavors of sours. This is a place to come visit if you are also intrigued by the idea of sours because that was where they shined.
One of the more interesting breweries I visited in Portland was a smaller brewery called Hair of the Dog. I only tried three different beers there but I had some very impressive brews. While there I tried tasters of the Blue Dot Double IPA, Beer Week Strong Pale Lager, Adam Stout, and Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Week. I only got a small taste of the Adam but it was enough for me to review it.
Blue Dot Double IPA was a delicious slightly sweet beer that focused on the citrus and tropical fruit with a little bit of a soapy flavor in there. At 7% it doesn’t really fit what I consider a double IPA but it had a lot of good flavors. Second on the list was the Beer Week Strong Pale Lager. The higher alcohol content was certainly noticeable but I really liked the way it mixed the pilsner flavor with the citrus hops. It also wasn’t as bitter as the Blue Dot while still presenting plenty of hop flavors.
The Adam is very close to a stout so I will refer to it as such though the brewers don’t want to label it a stout. The flavors tended towards the plum malts with a little bit of chocolate. Though I could taste some chocolate flavors, I found that they were overpowered by the malts a little too much for me.
Finally, the bourbon barrel aged beer week was a great introduction to how a hoppy beer responds to bourbon barrel aging. Because it wasn’t particularly malt-forward to begin with it had plenty of room to highlight the flavor of the bourbon. This is one of those beers best saved for those who appreciate a good bourbon. Some might say that the brewers went a bit too overboard with the barrel aging, but I think it was just right.
With plenty of bold flavors from intense amounts of hops, I was quite impressed overall by the beers offered by Hair of the Dog. I also really liked the Brussels Sprouts they had as an appetizer. It was reasonably priced and yet perfectly cooked and delicious. It was just the right size for a good snack to go with the beers.
With twelve tasters to try at Deschutes, I decided to split this visit into two posts. For round 2 I got to try the Black Butte Porter, Nitro Obsidian Stout, Hot Bocket, Bachelor Bitter, Pine Mountain Pilsner, and Inversion IPA.
The Black Butte Porter was a nice solid porter, good and mellow. I would assume that it was used as the basis for the Black IPA because it shared many of the same flavors. It had some pleasant flavors of chocolate and oatmeal. The Nitro Stout had some nice smooth oatmeal flavors but overall was a bit too similar to the porter. If it wasn’t on nitro, I don’t know if I would have been able to tell the two apart significantly.
Probably my favorite beer at Deschutes was the Hot Bocket, a spicy bock beer infused with spicy peppers. It was a great balance of sweet flavors common among the bock style and the spice of the peppers. This isn’t an overly spicy beer but the flavors work out quite well together. The Bachelor Bitter was a solid English style bitter with plenty of mellow malt flavors and a good balance.
The Pine Mountain Pilsner was a nice change from the typical pilsner thanks to some pine hop flavors mixed in. They help distinguish it from what would otherwise be a pretty basic representation of a pilsner. To end it, I had the Inversion IPA. I had tried this beer a few times in San Diego and still find it to be a bit too heavy on the malts for my tastes. There are some solid pine hop flavors to it but mostly the malts overpower the rest of the beer.
In the end, I wasn’t overly impressed with Deschutes but I can see why they are popular. Rather than focusing on creating beers that jump out, they just focus on making beers that are very drinkable. In that they succeed like most breweries in Portland.