It is no surprise that I love Portland. The progressive nature of the city and access to the outdoors attracts a lot of great people. It is America’s #1 cycling city (thanks Bicycling magazine) and is considered the mecca of craft brews. Plus, it has the feeling of a small town but with all of the happenin’s of a larger one. This last weekend had not one but two…TWO! events that created the ultimate Cowabunga Dude Whistling Adventure.
Zwickelmania. Nothing with that name can be bad.
1 : a festival in the wondrous state of Oregon based on the celebration of the spout on a fermenter used to test fermenting beer
2 : the madness brought on by excessive consumption from said apparatus
3 : one hell of a good time
The free event is a statewide opening of breweries to offer tastings, tours, or whatever the brewery feels like. Think drinking a beer during a pony ride would be fun? I can’t honestly say any brewery did this, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Remember when Willy Wonka opens the factory doors in that book/movie? Zwickelmania is the adult version of that magnified. I headed out with my brother and his friends and partook in a 4-brewery extravanganza which started us at Philadelphia’s in Sellwood. I had never heard of this place before but wish I had. Of coursem this could be because it is Oregon’s smallest brewery. Known mostly as a sandwich shop I could smell why. Fresh hoagie rolls and meat and cheese filled the place while I walked over to the bar for a slew of tastings. First off was Belgian Sour. I’m not the biggest fan of the sour fad, but this was nice. Almost tasted more like a sour raspberry (with a hint of banana) soda than a beer, but it didn’t just blast you with acid and tart for the fun of it. Second was the Habanero Ale, made with real habaneros. Dang! was that an awesome beer. A lighter ale with a kick that catches you in the throat. Although it was mostly about the flavor, the spice lingered and would pair excellently with a Philly cheese steak. Chased that sucker down with the IPA which wasn’t very exciting, but was an excellent finisher to the habanero. The owner was talking about wanting to make a session IPA. It would be a lovely afternoon going back and forth between a session IPA and that Habanero Ale. He is also in the process of expanding his brewery and so tore down a wall to give us a peek. He explained that he wanted to separate the brewery from the restaurant, and so wanted to give a new name to the expansion. He mentioned that Ben Franklin had 13 virtues and wanted to name it thus. However, Elsa, my brother’s fiancee, suggested that if beer wasn’t part of the virtues it should be the 14th, and the brewery dubbed 14 Virtues. Which would be serendipitous since this place was apparently the 14th brewery in Oregon.
Next we mosied to Alameda’s new southeast brewhouse. No bar or restaurant here…just brewin’. We tried a handful of beers. Their stout, El Torero IPA, and Yellow Wolf IPA. I’m not the biggest stout-head so won’t critique that one, but the El Torero was awful. A boring citrus hopped IPA that truly lacked supporting hops and malts. The Yellow Wolf was better, but nothing to write a blog about. Sorry Alameda…never been a fan.
We sprinted the 4 blocks over to Gigantic which was actually kinda small given their name. We were greeted by old whiskey barrels holding something delicious and were treated to three beers. An IPA which was superbly balanced. It had all of the hop flavors under the sun and a tame malt and light body to go with it. A golden belgian which would be perfect to watch a fall sunset. The wheat flavor is so seldom discovered in the Northwest that any time it’s found it is a delight. And then, in the middle of the kegging room, the brewer was pouring a porter straight out of the zwickel. Only on Zwickelmania.
A hop, skip, and a stumble away was HUB, those same guys that make the Abominable. What a good time! We were greeted by the owner pouring his lager out of his favorite bike while we sampled their sausages and pretzels (so gooooood). The HUB Lager is a great beer. Mellow, light, everything you would want in summer…minus the price tag, since everything at HUB is organic. We got to go inside the magic-making place and learned the whole process of making beer at HUB. By this point by brother and I were full into our respective we’ve-been-drinking-and-want-to-chat mode and pretty much tuned the poor tour guide out. We had a Grandpa and Charlie moment when we went to go inspect a bubbling hose and the guide had to come back and get us before we started belching our way down from the glass ceiling. We sampled a Tax Determination out of the zwickel. No review here for that. I was just happy to have beer in my hand. I don’t even know what kind it was. After viewing their canning and bottling facility the guy gave us a free can of that same HUB Lager. HUB does a lot of cool stuff. Everything they do is in an attempt to be as sustainable as possible (including waterless urinals!). All of their beer is totally organic. Go to their brewery and check it out. They can tell you better than I can.
There was plenty of time to check out more breweries but unfortunately I didn’t because Ben Hurt, the bicycle chariot war was battle crying my name. But I shall leave that for another blog. Until then…Chiblam! Chiblooey!