…Brew­pubs are in ev­ery neigh­bour­hood…

Taste & Travel - - Quench -

The next day we faced a dilemma … with all those brew­pubs, how to nar­row down our choices? We de­cided to fo­cus on well es­tab­lished brew­eries that con­sis­tently re­ceive the most ac­co­lades, the beer com­pe­ti­tion medal win­ners, and some of the newer places get­ting lots of buzz. That got us started at Hop­works, partly be­cause it qual­i­fied in many of those cat­e­gories, but also be­cause it was re­puted to have the best food (agree!) and we thought a lit­tle lunch might be a good idea as we launched our beer tast­ing for the day.

Our sec­ond stop was adventure-ori­ented Base Camp Brew­ing Com­pany and we could see why their colour­ful light­weight alu­minum beer bot­tles would be per­fect for a hike or pic­nic — drop one on a gran­ite out­crop­ping and it might dent a lit­tle, but it would never ever break. Base Camp brews a full range of fine beers, but their rich, choco­laty S'more Stout that comes with a torched marsh­mal­low on the rim was par­tic­u­larly tasty (and amus­ing!).

On a trip like this it's im­por­tant to find out where brew­pub staffers go for a beer… and ev­ery time we asked the ques­tion, the name Com­mons Brew­ery came up. Just a few years old, it spe­cial­izes in Bel­gian beers, farm­house ales, and sours, uti­liz­ing yeasts orig­i­nat­ing from Europe. Owner/brewer Mike Wright ex­plained, “Ev­ery­one was al­ready do­ing plenty of fan­tas­tic IPAs, so why not try some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent?” His Ur­ban Farm­house Ale has al­ready won mul­ti­ple medals, in­clud­ing bronze at the World Beer Cup in 2012 and Beer of the Year in Port­land in 2013. Light, crisp and re­fresh­ing with the tini­est touch of hop bit­ter­ness, it uses a blend of North­west hops grown in the neigh­bour­hood.

And speak­ing of hops, fu­elling Port­land's beer ma­nia is the abun­dance and va­ri­ety of hops grown just a stone's throw away in the Yakima and Wil­lamette Val­leys, two of the most im­por­tant hop­grow­ing re­gions in the world. The cur­rent brew­mas­ter best known for his hops chops is Bolt Min­is­ter of Old Town Brew­ing — his Fresh Hop Ale won the gold in that cat­e­gory at the 2013 Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val. Bolt has been awarded other medals in the two short years he's been with the brew­ery/pizza pub, too — his Kolsch won a sil­ver and my favourite, his smooth, toasty Ir­ish Red Ale, won a bronze.

Beer's other key in­gre­di­ents are plen­ti­ful in the area as well: topqual­ity wa­ter, bar­ley for mak­ing malt, and a yeast lab­o­ra­tory that is one of the na­tion's two main pro­duc­ers. That, plus a cul­ture of beer mak­ing that goes back to be­fore Ore­gon was even a state and to­day's beer-crazy pop­u­lace have cre­ated an ex­plo­sion of beer­mak­ing ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Most craft brew­eries to­day sell their own re­fill­able bot­tles called ‘growlers' that you can bring to the pub and fill up with fresh beer to carry home. But Port­land takes it one step fur­ther — lo­cal su­per­mar­kets and even con­ve­nience stores have in­stalled taps where lo­cals can fill their growlers. There are even a few stand-alone growler fill­ing sta­tions around town, mak­ing it easy to load up on fresh lo­cal brews to sip on your porch or pa­tio.

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