Monday, 18 March 2013

Chris and Emma's 2012 US Beer Adventure - Part 1 - Oregon

This post is a lightly edited version of our post we wrote for our friends on Live Journal after we came back from our fantastic US trip last year. Since we decided to start writing a proper beer blog, we felt it was worthwhile re-posting it for our readers to find easily plus do some editing and add some photos from the trip.

So on to Part 1 - Oregon. Enjoy!

Emma and I decided to take our well-earned holiday to the US last year. We thought long and hard about where we wanted to go. Maine was already on the list after our experience of the state in 2011 and then Oregon crossed our mind. Portland seemed to be the place to visit to sample craft beers and interesting food, plus the surrounding countryside is meant to be awe-inspiring. Plus we could visit our friends Julie and Jo Dee down in Eugene. On our return to Maine we wanted to go back to York Harbour again as well as seeing more of the 'Vacation State'. We were also keen to see our New Hampshire-based friends, Andy and Charlene, again after we'd had a great time with them in York Harbour last year. As a final finish we decided that a stop in New York to see our Brooklyn-based beer masters, Martha and Doug, was also an absolute requirement. While we thought we'd have a chance to try a few craft beers while having a relaxing holiday, we had no idea that it would turn into something that was worth writing down and committing to the eternal internet record.

So without this becoming some dull travel log of our journey across the US, let's get to the beer. I've mostly left the descriptions of each as we noted them at the time so to capture our initial thoughts as we tried them. The descriptions are as we thought between the two of us and do not necessarily reflect exactly how the beer tastes, we're no taste experts and we won't pretend to be.

Our first proper day in Portland, OR, saw us visit two brewpubs in downtown Portland, the Bridgeport and Deschutes. Here's the beers we tried in each.

Bridgeport Witch-hunt 5.8% - spiced, malty beer. Very nice and light. Plenty of flavour and a great finish :)

Bridgeport Dark Rain 5.6% - dark pale ale that's very hoppy, malty and dark but very well balanced with a smooth finish. 
Bridgeport Summer Squeeze 4.9% - light, summery and crisp. Perfect summer ale. 
Deschutes Black Butte XXIV 10.8% - dark, complex, hoppy, malty, chocolately and very, very rich. Perfect for a winter's night in front of a roaring fire. 
Deschutes Hop Trip 5.7% - seasonal ale that is hoppy and exciting with a crisp-ish finish. 
Deschutes Archers Ale 5.6% - session ale perfect for all day drinking. Tastes a bit floral. 
Deschutes Jubelale (unknown) - spiced winter ale, malty and easy to drink. Not as crisp as Witch-hunt.
Boxes of fantastic Deschutes beers

From Portland, we headed off to Eugene (via the incredible Columbia river gorge and the fantastic Cascade Mountains!). We stayed with our friends Julie and Jo Dee, who own the Starlight Light Lounge and Luckey's respectively in the city. This give us a good opportunity to try lots of local craft beers from Eugene plus a few others from the region. Here is where I have to make an admission, in the excitement of trying lots of beers in the Starlight Lounge, I completely failed to take note of somewhere between 4-6 beers that we tried, so we actually tried somewhere in the region of 108-110 beers. It wasn't intentional, just a sign of how much beer was being put in front of us!
Oakshire Harvest Ale 6.5% - seasonal ale with a fine floral taste. Excellent!
Hopvalley Double D Blonde 4.9% - hoppy but very light. Session ale perhaps? Very nice. 
Oakshire Amber 5.3% approx - really drinkable amber ale, not too hoppy with an excellent finish. From Eugene, OR. 
Ninkasi Oatis (unknown) - rich, smooth porter with a subtle chocolate finish. Very drinkable and really nice. 
Oakshire Espresso Stout (unknown) - fascinating stout with a delicious coffee flavour. Very special and worth looking out for. 
Deschutes Mirror Pond (unknown) - light and refreshing American Pale Ale. Like the Dark Star APA and would definitely have it again. 
Falling Sky Trouble Everyday ISA (unknown) - very hoppy light ale with a crisp finish. Bitter yet very refreshing. 
Mt. Shasta Weed Golden Ale (unknown) - light, crisp refreshing golden ale. 

From Eugene, it was back to Portland via the West Coast Highway. Following a toe dip in the Pacific, we got ourselves to the Rogue brewpub in downtown Portland. If we realised that a paddle of samplers was the best way to try as much as possible, we could have had a lot more in Rogue but we still got through a number of decent beers.

Rogue Brutal IPA (unknown) - hoppy and slightly bitter but eminently drinkable as a session ale. Great for the summer (or anytime really). 
Rogue Chatoe New Crustacean Barleywine 11.4% - more like a beer than a Barleywine.  Strong and slightly sweet but not as good as the No. 9 Coniston Barleywine as drank at the GBBF. 
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA (unknown) - a bitter yet solid IPA with a well-rounded flavour. 
Track Town Honey Orange Wheat (unknown) - tastes like orange squash. Emma claimed she could drink it all day. Orange at start and finish and not too fizzy. 
Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal (Nitro) Stout (unknown) - smooth, even flavour with a very subtle aftertaste. I suspect this would go really well with smoked pork. Guinness is a skid mark in your underwear compared to this. 

A selection of the Rogue beers - Yellow Snow, Track Town and the Oatmeal (Nitro) Stout

After Rogue, we headed off to Henry's in Portland to get a bite to eat and to try a few of the many beers they have on draft. We probably could have done a lot better while we were there but it had been a long day and it was quite busy.

Blue Moon seasonal Pumpkin Ale (unknown) - not like regular Blue Moon as it lacks smooth creamy feel but tastes of a light sugary spice with a malty, caramel underbelly in addition to the pumpkin. But not as good as Shipyard Pumpkinhead or the Heartland Pumpkin ales we tried in NYC.
Burnside Oatmeal Pale (unknown) - light, soft and refreshing but ultimately standard pale ale. Would have again but there's better out there. 
Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale (unknown) - dark, smooth, caramelly nose with a stout-type finish. Very rich and complex that makes it a special beer not for consumption in large 
Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale (unknown) - hard to describe but has to be drunk like a fine wine. The bacon flavour isn't strong but the maple really comes through. Has a very strong nose which Emma didn't like as it reminded her of the 'facon' smells from bacon snackfoods. This was bought as bottles in the Rogue brewpub and sampled with pizza following a long day.

Rogue's Voodoo Doughbut - Definitely an acquired taste!

Last proper day in Portland and we returned to the Bridgeport and Deschutes brewpubs to try and get through a few more of their beers. Both pubs were full of people wearing running gear and sporting medals following the Portland Marathon. Nothing better to soothe those aching limbs and feet than some fine craft beer!

Bridgeport Blue Heron 4.9% - malty pale ale, amber coloured and light with a very smooth finish. 
Bridgeport Kingpin 7.5% - triple hopped, double red ale that has a slight bitterness but a smooth finish and a tangy aftertaste.
Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA 5.9% - an IPA that Emma will drink. Well balanced, citrus flavoured IPA. Citrus and hops are subtle and it is very easy to drink with its refreshing finish. 
Deschutes Green Lakes Organic Amber Ale 5.2% - well balanced ale that has a subtle hoppy flavour with a quenching finish. Good but not as good as the Oakshire Amber ale. 
Deschutes Fresh Hop River Ale 4.0% - crisp, fresh, light and thirst quenching which makes for a good session ale (Emma). Not sure about this one, drinkable but not one of my favourites (Chris). 
Deschutes Inversion IPA 6.8% - very hoppy classic IPA with a delicious malty yet bitter finish. Complex and fragrant, it is definitely an acquired taste. 

The final beer total for Oregon: 30

Next up - Part 2 - Maine!

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