Sunday was quite the trip. It lingered through Monday, but no regrets. Upright Brewing rocked my world. Le Pigeon made me redefine the word “burger.”
Upright Brewing was celebrating their 2nd Anniversary, so we made it a point to get their early to taste the new release. But, we couldn’t help but to shuffle around the city to visit some other favorites.
Top of the Morning with Imperial Workhorse
I won’t jump right into Upright’s display of greatness, because we had some other amazing visits that I’d like to share. First off, we visited Laurelwood’s production brewery in NE neighborhood of Hollywood.
Laurelwood Brewing recently released its first ever batch of Imperial Workhorse, a larger than life version of its iconic Workhorse IPA. The big brother is 9.9% and almost 100 IBUs. At first sip, it immediately wakes you from whatever slumber you might be residing within. The beer is incredibly flavorful, sharp and non-boozy. Lots to like about that beer, and the brewery will be bottling a limited amount in swing-top bottles that will be available at the brewery. Hint: Do not miss the Bourbon Barrel Aged Moose & Squirrel Russian Imperial Stout – I actually preferred this beer to the Imperial Workhorse.
Upright’s Rise to the Top
We left Laurelwood to head over to Upright Brewing, where we spent an hour crying in the last drops of each beer. Its that good. Watching it reduce to nothing was so incredibly painful.
Upright Brewing decided to release a sour version of its Four, a 4.5% wheaty farmhouse ale. The beer, appropriately named “Four Play,” uses a combination of fresh Oregon cherries, brettanomyces and lactobacillus yeasts aged in Pinot Noir barrels. This beer is right now, my beer of 2011. Drinking this beer reminded me of standing in front of Jean Van Roy in Cantillon’s tasting room, drinking one of their more celebrated Lou Pepe lambics – its that good. Incredibly smooth, yet refreshingly tart, the cherry flavor is subtle enough to keep this from being a kriek, but pronounced enough to not be forgotten. Do not miss, if you can find it.
To prevent a one-sided affair, Upright also decided to pour its last remaining portion of its christmas ale, Noel. This spiced farmhouse ale is aged in Pinot barrels and spiked with cherry juice. The wood really works well on this beer, because the alcohol is barely noticeable and it goes down very smooth. The spice is unforgettable, hitting you with concentrated dosages of black pepper and herb. Had Four Play not knocked me out of my boots, Noel would have stole the show.
To end our visit, we had a great talk with owner/brewer Alex Ganum. If you want to meet a great brewer and better guy, chat with Alex. Ganum hails from the ballyhooed ranks of Ommegang and certainly knows how to make incredible beer. Despite his incredible success (they made the Rate Beer Top 50 Brewers in year 2), he remains a normal guy, more than happy to stand and chat with his customers over a beer.
Some Old Favorites
After leaving Upright, we had quite the whirlwind trip around the east side. We visited renowned bottle shop Belmont Station, who was holding its 14th Anniversary sale (Congrats). There we got our first tastes of Corvallis brewers Block 15 and Flat Tail Brewing. Block 15 poured several bourbon barrel aged brews, including the rare Pappy’s Dark Ale. Pappy is a Strong Ale aged in 10 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 2-4 months. While a few other Block 15 barrel aged beers were surprisingly unimpressive – this one blew our minds. The Pappy wood is noticeably more rich and flavorful than other bourbon barrels, and we agree its worth the extra dough.
After Belmont, a visit to Hair of the Dog was simply nostalgia and routine. Why the hell would you ever go to Portland and not get indulge in Alan Sprints’ craft? The house flight of Greg (a spiced pilsner?), Blue Dot, Fred and Adam, will warm the cockles. If you are lucky, Alan might be serving the duck wings, a stack of 3 full wings smothered in a rich gravy. Get it.
A Burger for the Ages
Last but not certainly not least – a visit to Le Pigeon. While we were waiting for this renowned eatery to open, we ran over to Burnside Brewing and tried the Oatmeal Pale. I was surprisingly impressed by that beer, as Pales typically do nothing for me. The oatmeal was absolutely noticeable and really changed the body of this otherwise simple beer. But, 5:00 PM rang and we ran back to Le Pigeon.
Why are we running? Rumors of Le Pigeon‘s incredible burger have haunted my dreams for weeks. I have seen glaring images of this burger in nightmares in the previous few nights. It was seemingly stalking me – and for good reason. Le Pigeon makes 5 of these bad boys each night. Thus, its incredibly important to get in there when they open at 5 PM. By 5:15 PM, all 5 orders had been placed.
Le Pigeon has an earthy, classic gastropub feel. Sitting at the bar, you feel part of the kitchen and the decor makes you feel right at home. It only took about 60 seconds to order our burgers with greens ($13) and our $4 Pilsner Urquells (they also have $2 High Life – got to love it).
The icon of glory arrived before me in less than 15 minutes. I had ogled at its creation, built from the implements of success, beauty and wonder. Its time. I sliced the perfectly charred ciabatta bun in half and dig in. What followed was a protein orgasm smothered in pickled specter. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best burger I have ever tasted – and my companion agrees. The meat is top notch, cooked to a perfect medium rare, maintaining its juiciness. The pickled slaw on top is such an added treat that you barely notice the perfectly melted cheese that covers 100% of the burger mound. Perhaps most important is the fresh powdered ciabatta roll that was charred to perfected, giving the burger an “off the grill” flavor.
Its not often when a Sunday in March results in my favorite beer of the year and my favorite burger of all time (and that is saying a lot). This past Sunday, Portland floored me. Well played, PDX.
Wow! 17 years. Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. and owner/head brewer Alan Sprints have been up and running for quite some time. Through the boom of the micro-brewing industry, Hair of the Dog continues to impress and grow.
From November 19th through November 21st, HOTD will celebrate with all of its loyal patrons (and maybe some newcomers) at the new tasting room.
A direct message from Alan reads:
I am pleased to announce my 17th anniversary celebration. This year it will be November 19th thru the 21st. We will have special Beers on tap all weekend long and two Beer releases. I will be selling 2010 Doggie Claws and 2010 Matt starting on November 20th, at 10:00 am.
There will be a limit of six, 12oz bottles per person on the Matt, no limit on Claws. Hope to see you here – Alan
I almost have to laugh at the “we will have special beers on tap…” as I truly feel that ALL HOTD beers are unique and a cellar worthy addition.
So stop by and celebrate this momentous occasion in Portland as HOTD tacks on another year of success!
Big Wood is coming. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
There is no secret that we are utterly obsessed with Brouwer’s Cafe’s Big Wood beer festival. Last year, we launched this site in the midst of Big Wood 2009. This year, we are giving you a 3 week “head’s up.”
Big Wood will be held on December 2, 2010. If I remember correctly (but I might stand corrected), Big Wood begins in the afternoon, sometime around 4 PM. The event is officially one day, but the beers will pour for several days afterwards.
What is Big Wood? Guess. Big Wood showcases wood-aged beers on more than 40 taps. Typically, you will see a plethora of massive scale beers pouring, including some of the most complex beers you will ever taste.
Last year – Hair of the Dog dominated. From beer nerds to beer newbs, Hair of the Dog shocked and awed the crowd. Alan Sprints delivered Fred from the Wood, Michael (Flemish Red), Matt (Bottleworks 10th Anniversary) and BOB (a barrel-aged lambic). Read our review of the event by following this link.
Brouwers has yet to release a list of this year’s beers. They will slowly begin to trickle in but we have already seen them announce that Midnight Sun is sending a keg of Berserker and heard, through the grapvine, that New Belgium is bringing something special!
The Northwest Brewing News has rolled out its annual Reader’s Choice Poll – its time to vote. The Brewing News is a national brewing publication, severed into seven regional publications. Our good friend Geoff Kaiser writes for the Northwest edition, when he’s not manning the ship at Seattle Beer News.
Every year, the Brewing News holds a poll asking its readers to select the very best in the Northwest. Categories for best brewery, brewpub, bar, beer store, home brew shop and perhaps the most heated category – best bartender – are divided state by state. You may vote on the best Northwest beer for each style, as well.
When going through this poll, we noticed that we hit a few stumbling blocks. How do you pick between Hair of the Dog & Cascade Brewing? Is Uber Tavern a better place to grab a beer than The Dray? What the heck is down in Northern California? Don’t be ashamed to have to Rate Beer yourself a group of candidates, as long as you have actually experienced the pub, brewery or beer you intend to choose. But, if you are stuck – let us recommend a few:
Best Imperial IPA
Even with heavyweights like Russian River, Hopworks, Walking Man and Midnight Sun in the mix, and with Washington rising stars Boundary Bay and Port Townsend making their own cases – there can still be only one choice for us. Black Raven’s Wisdom Seeker licked the competition at Brouwers Hopfest. We have no reservations about this choice.
Best Strong Ale
The Northwest has always somewhat lacked in the big beer categories. But, there is no doubt that one strong ale has dominated the Northwest for many year – Hair of the Dog’s Fred. Alan Sprints has been making this beer for ages. If you have a vintage bottle laying around, you know what makes this complex ale so special. Vote with confidence.
Best Sour Beer
For years, I would probably have said that Russian River had this category killed with Consecration. But after recently tasting Cascade Brewing’s Noyeaux, I have reservations. Noyeaux was recently described in a post by our very own Timperial Stout. Check this one out before you mark down one of Russian River’s excellent choices.
Best NorCal Brewpub
We pushed Russian River out of the competition above, but here they take the cake. Backed by unprecedented selection and incredible beer food – there is no better place to grab a collection of beer and a delicious meal.
Best Washington Brewery
Some would say Boundary Bay has the history and fanfare to deserve this award. Some would say that Black Raven is the young gun that should take the title. We don’t disagree, but lets consider a 3rd choice – Snipes Mountain Brewing? You might think we are crazy but the Sunnyside, Washington brewer has been turning heads. Just about everything that brewer Chris Miller has put out of late, has shocked and awed. Food for thought.
Best Washington Bartender
Wow, we have some great bartenders up here in Seattle. We have a ton of love for Rachel up at Naked City, Natasha at The Dray and certainly Amy, down at Collins Pub. These three wonderful ladies have excellent beer IQs and care about their patrons. This gives them serious consideration.
But, to find someone who can advise, entertain, and take excellent care of you, all without being a giant asshole – priceless. Chris Cavanaugh is that guy. Chris can be found at three, count them, three amazing beer spots in Seattle. Once a fixture at Brouwers Cafe, Chris had to leave to tackle cancer. Once he returned to the bar, Chris grabbed spots at Elysian Brewing (Capitol Hill), The Stumbling Monk, and time behind the bar at Brouwers Cafe. There is one reason that he is at these three places – everyone loves him! Chris will give you great attention, wonderful advice, and excellent entertainment. Not once have we ever heard one person dislike him. Vote for this man.
So take a stab at the poll and let your voice be heard! You can access the poll by following this link. Got any other suggestions for choices, please post them in the comments below.