Sunday, 23 November 2014

Portland day one

Today’s flight is a little later, almost noon. But, the airport being miles away, I need to get up reasonably early. If only to catch breakfast in the hotel, which is free. No need to eat at the gate, which also saves time.

It takes me a while to find the United check in. Which is odd as Denver is one of their major hubs. Somehow I’ve missed a whole long row of bag drop offs. I blame the cold. In turns my brain to that thing that’s sort of ice and sort of water. What’s it called? . . . . . Slush, that’s it.

I’ve got something called TSA pre. It means a slightly less humiliating security experience. You don’t have to strip off quite as many pieces of clothing and disassemble your baggage. No idea why I got it, but I’m not complaining. Security checks irritate the arse off me.

With an hour or so to strangle, dismember and bury in a forest before boarding, I hunker down at the closest bar. It’s called Pour La France! and has a weird French theme. You’d never have guessed from the name.

“Double Jack Daniels, straight up.”

The bar is fringed with the like-minded. Loading spirits before boarding.

Airport bars are remarkably sociable. Knowing you’ll part soon and never meet again, why not take a punt on a chat? I don’t indulge myself this time, but watch others strike up conversations and smoke them to the fag end.

I mosey over to my gate at boarding time. Remarkably, my United flight is again on time. On my last book-flogging trip every single one was late. One very late.

This flight isn’t total sardine time, but still pretty full. I indulge in a couple of whiskies. There’s no in-flight entertainment: how else can I entertain myself in-flight?

My bag thunks onto the belt pretty promptly. Before I know it I’m cabbed and hotel-bound.

As the taxi crosses the Willamette River into downtown, I notice something odd. Portland looks like a city. A proper city, with shops and stuff. And those fleshy mammally, two-legged things I like chatting with. Human beings, that’s the word. I’m liking Portland already.

We pass a city square lined with ethnic food trucks. I’ve fallen asleep and this is all just a wonderful dream. Isn’t it?

Bags dropped, I head for a nearby shop to get water. And in this case, beer, too, as Oregon doesn’t have stupid laws. For a corner shop, the beer selection isn’t bad. The prices are a shock. In New Jersey, bombers started at $6 or $7, heading north into crazy territory, before reaching totally fucking crazy do you think I’m a complete fucking idiot land. Here I can pick one up for under $3. Robbing New Jersey bastards.

There’s a Deschutes brewpub just a few blocks away.  I don’t feel like going far because it’s dead windy. On the way there I bump into a massive book shop, Powell's City of Books. It covers a whole city block. Another sign this is a cool city.

I slip in and search for the beer section. Easier said than done. The place is meganormous. But not particularly well signposted. After a few minutes of wandering I find it. Not bad at all. A stack of beer books. I’d give you a number, but do you think I’m the sort of sick obsessive that counts everything? *

Deschutes is pretty full, but I’m able to get a seat at the bar. Oh, look – they’ve got Fresh Squeezed IPA on cask. No long deliberation this time. It’s rather nice, in a citrusy US sort of way. And a bit too drinkable. Before I know it my first pint is almost gone. Just as well it’s only 6.4% ABV.

They’re missing a trick, many US brewers and publicans. People drink well-kept cask more quickly than keg beer. And drink more of it. I’d be trying to push it to boost sales volumes.

Though I notice a reassuring number of casks when I take the obligatory snaps of the shiny things**. It’s a recurring theme in breweries I’m visiting. As with oak barrels, most have some. Maybe I was a bit hasty is saying they were missing the barge.

I order an Elk burger. Never had Elk before. It’s also rather nice.

Three pints of Fresh Squeezed disappear in 40 minutes. No greater compliment than that from me. I'd happily drink another three. Which is one of the reasons I leave. Plus I’d like to visit more than one brewery today. Gotta keep to my quota.

Fat Head's Brewery is just a few blocks away. It’s a bit of an industrial barn with a pretty decent-sized brewery behind glass.

Buuut . . . . . they’ve a cask Stout. A Julie Andrews (or is it John Coltrane?) of a beer for me. It’s quite nice. Did I ever tell you of my youthful dreams of cask-conditioned Guinness Extra Stout? Not whimsical musings, things that pinged around my brain whilst sleeping.

It’s getting late, as my ramblings reveal. Time to ramble homewards, remembering to grip the camera better.

Laphroaig is my lullaby once more.

* You’ve hacked my webcam, haven’t you?
** “This is boring, Ronald. Didn’t you take any pictures of people. It’s all brewing stuff and buildings.”

Please buy my wonderful book.

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

Pour La France!
B Gates
Center Core
(303) 317-9472

Powell's City of Books
1005 W Burnside St,
Portland, OR 97209.
Tel: +1 503-228-4651

Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House
210 NW 11th Ave,
Portland, OR 97209.
Tel: +1 503-296-4906

Fat Head's Brewery
131 NW 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
Tel: +1 503-820-7721


nitsuj said...

Highly recommend hopping over the river to check out Commons/Cascade/Hair of the Dog if ya get the chance.

Jeff Alworth said...

Very nice to have you grace our small town. (Technically a city, but it has never felt like one.) Also pleased that you seemed to have enjoyed yourself. Come back in July if you want to see the city in all its glory. Highs of 28, cool overnight, everything in bloom, no bugs or clouds. Really: no bugs. We don't even bother with screens on the windows.

Great to meet you at HotD. Hope it wasn't the last time. (One thing I didn't anticipate was your size. You can't tell a tall man by reading him.)

Ron Pattinson said...


apologies for being taller than expected.

Really loved Portland. Hope to get back soon.