Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quickie Research Project

I had to drive to Portland yesterday (Friday) to take my family to the airport to visit the folks in Illinois. That gave me the afternoon and evening to do a little business-related research. My focus this time was IPA's on cask. There are a small collection of cask outlets in Portland, usually with a single handle serving one of the few breweries that bother drawing off a beer into a cask. The reason I was after IPA's was that I'm finding that the West Coast style doesn't translate well to cask. I think that the over-the-top and out-of-balance qualities are well-masked by gas and lower temperature.

First stop was the Alberta Street Pub. I wasn't able to get in last time I was up in May, as it was shoulder-to-shoulder and dimly lit, so I'm not even sure that they have a beer engine. Alas, it was noon, and the pub was to open at 3:00. Or was it 5:00. It didn't say on the door, and my quick little iPhone search revealed two different opening times. Same results for the Moon & Sixpence, which was to be my next stop. Change of plans.

The Horse Brass was guaranteed to be open for lunch, so I navigated my way a bit further South and East to the mid-regions of Belmont Street. It was remarkably quiet for a Friday at 12:30, so I had a nice cozy corner to work on a pint and a book. First pint was Hale's Mongoose IPA. I like this one - it is similar to my Dearth and Surfeit, but with a hoppier nose. It is dispensed sans-sparkler, as were destined to be all my pints for the day, but not with the sort of care one would expect in a southern English pub. The glass is unceremoniously placed on the drip tray, into which the liquid is pumped a vast distance from the stubby nozzle creating a thick-foamed head. Next pint, served in similar fashion, was Hop Stoopid from Lagunitas. This pint really needs to be enjoyed via keg, as the temperature and conditioning brought out some of the problems that are masked by a set of numb tastebuds.

Next, a quick walk up to Belmont Station to see if they had their beer engine installed as I had heard was to be the case. It was installed, but, guess what? Not available until 3:00. Change of plans.

One of the three Lucky Labrador establishments is in the same Portland quadrant as the Horse Brass, and I knew they had a single beer engine. It also was somewhat quiet for the middle of a Friday afternoon. The offering on cask was a guest beer. I can't remember who's it was (no jokes here please), but it was hazy and decent. I think I confused the barkeep by ordering it. He gave the pump handle and the blackboard listing the beers a puzzled look before tucking into the task at hand. Plenty of time here to knock off a couple chapters of my book and engage in some quality people-watching.

By now I had great hopes that the Moon & Sixpence would be open. Good enough, it was. 5:00 on a Friday afternoon yielded three gentlemen at the bar. I was starting to feel a bit better about slow days at the pub, although not that much better as I was also thinking about all the bills I still have to pay when I get back. The Red Seal was on, which I had the last time I was there, but also Ninkasi's Tricerahops (!!). This is an 8.8%, ridiculously hopped imperial IPA, which doesn't belong on cask. So, that means I had to have one, along with a nice Cornish Pasty. The beer was so hazy and full of particulates that you could almost spread it on a piece of toast. I was hoping the little chunks floating around were remnants of the dry hopping process. Only one pint could be enjoyed here, as Tricerahops fails miserably as a contestant for the "session beer" moniker.

One more stop before going home. My new favorite place in Portland is actually in Oregon City, viz., the Highland Stillhouse. You all should visit. Outrageously comfy atmosphere, more than 140 single malt scotches, great food, and a fine selection of beers and ales, including a couple of cask offerings. It was jumping busy, and the patio was open. It took 30 minutes for the rain to hit and force most of the patrons inside, but I managed to grab a corner of one of the canopies and took to people watching. No IPA's on the pumps, but the Red Seal was nice.

Back home, one night further along the path of life, I'm blogging and enjoying a pint of Baba O'Rye'ly, which you won't be able to find in Portland, or any great city for that matter. I get to travel back up to Portland next Saturday for an airport run, and undoubtedly will continue a bit more research in the area.


Unknown said...

I do not think you took me to the Highland Stillhouse....did you?

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Nope. Of all the places mentioned, the only one you visited was the Horse Brass. You did go to a Lucky Labrador, but it was the large beer hall in the Northwest.

Unknown said...

Now that is such a damn inconvinience, that means I'll have to return sometime..Not this year though.

IPA better under gas and chilled? mmm, possibly, but the Zippy Red IPA we have here works so well in cask. But then the base recipe must also have been good. Balance is so important.

Anonymous said...

A very worthy research project. You might try Hopworks on Southeast 29th and Powell. They have two cask taps, and very frequently one is the Hopworks IPA.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I've been to Hopworks twice, and didn't realize that they served real ale. I tend to avoid the place because it shouts "restaurant" at me, but on your information I might stop in this Saturday when I have to return to the airport.

And Dave, you well know that it's my turn. It's been two years since I've gazed upon Harter Fell and Stanley Force.

Bill Night said...

As a southeasterner, I'm gratified that you spent so much time in our neck of the woods. But here are some westside establishments that almost always have a cask IPA on:

- Full Sail Pilsner room (3 cask handles)
- Rock Bottom (2)
- Deschutes (2)
- Bailey's Taproom (1)

I know those all scream "restaurant", but they all serve some tasty ales.

In my opinion, cask Tricerahops is fantastically delicious. You decried its strength, but tell us, did you enjoy it?

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I have not been to the Full Sail Pilsner room - on my list now.

Been to Rock Bottom only once. Had a nice bitter and a stout that was flirting with being sour. Noticed the cask breathers on the firkins and scowled like the ridiculous real ale snob that I am, but of course in a friendly way. (Did that last sentence make sense?)

Deschuttes - I like their cask offerings, consistently.

Been to Bailey's only once, having noticed it coming out of Tugboat. The cask was sitting on the floor, but it had some high gravity offering on it that was lovely, as I was in the mood for sipping and talking nonsense with the person on the stool next to me.

Re: Tricerahops. The pint I was served was really cloudy and chewy as described. I think the setting, viz. the Moon and Sixpence in this instance, has a lot to do with how one perceives a beer.

Dave A said...

Dave..."Zippy Red IPA" ! Love it, glad it worked out well for your version! One the distant future I hope to try one there.

Ted, great report, thanks for putting it to pen..well uh...yeah...electrons. See you with our group Saturday!