Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Labrewatory - Not Your Father's Science Experiment

Blinded me with science...
Soon after I penned an article chock-full of contempt and disdain for taprooms with an austere, industrial decor (CLICK HERE), you HAD to KNOW I would find myself in just such an environment--and loving it. There you go, I'm eating my words again, or in this case, DRINKING my words. Hey, it just goes to show you that it's always wise to be open to new experiences and to not let preconceptions prevent you from trying something great.

I wandered into The Labrewatory yesterday after visiting Ex Novo Brewing just up the road. The Labrewatory is located at 670 N. Russell Street, Portland, OR. Yes, the first thing I noticed was the bright, open, industrial, spartan decor--and the drafting stool that would be home for my wide behind while I made myself comfortable at the bar.

However, the second thing I noticed was the large, unique, eclectic and definitely intriguing tap list. Exciting! New-to-me beers! It doesn't get much better than that--well, as long as the beer is GOOD, it doesn't get much better, and this beer was go-back-for-more good!

There's a well-appointed brewing operation located in the back half of the building. I love the sight of those big, shiny tanks and there's obviously a load of creativity going into them at this brewery. The beers I sampled were surprisingly different than anything else I've had lately. 
What's brewing?

I started with a Trash Panda, a golden raspberry leaf saison. An interesting name for an interesting beer. Good stuff! My tastebuds approved. Brew number two was CaBlonde, a white oak mezcal aged blonde ale. Wowsers! Hey, you either love mezcal or you don't. I personally love the stuff and CaBlonde has just enough mezcal flavor to light it up without going crazy. FYI, there's no worm to be found in this beer, so don't be scared, homie.

The Labrewatory doesn't have a kitchen but I saw $3 warm pretzels on the chalkboard and it appears they get tamales trucked over from Tamale Boy over on NE Dekum. Tamales and beer? That's a winning combo in my book and Tamale Boy cooks up some mighty tasty tamales.

As previously mentioned, the decor is industrial chic. Stainless steel-y light fixtures hang down from the open beam ceiling like they mean some serious illumination business. The stools are old-school drafting models--round wooden seats, not metal. The bar looks like you'll either get some delicious beer out of those taps or some nuclear energy. Truthfully, the place looks very sharp.

A flight of any six beers from their tap list can be had with no hassle. They also have a crowler machine that can provide a fresh-for-home can of any of The Labrewatory's own creations. (No fills for the guest taps.)

I will definitely be paying The Labrewatory another visit soon! This place rates a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ex Novo Brewing's 2nd Anniversary Block Party July 9th

Tomorrow, July 9th, Portland's only non-profit brewery will be celebrating its second anniversary with a block party! Wow, has it really been two years already?

The festivities will go from noon to 9PM and include live music, food and special anniversary beer releases.

See the music line-up and taplist HERE.

Special VIP tickets are available HERE.

See you THERE at 2326 North Flint Avenue, Portland.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

River Pig Saloon - A Gem in the Pearl

Cue porcine colloquialisms in 1, 2, 3...
Some folks might find this a little hard to believe, but I'm a bit picky about where I drink my beer. I know! It's true! Sure, I have been known to fish that last brewski out of the lukewarm water from the bottom of an Igloo cooler at a 4th of July picnic, but I do have my particulars when it comes to bars.

First, the place actually has to have some decent beer on tap. I don't need a tap list as long as my arm, but there should something pouring that makes my taste buds take notice. Mix it up a little: something new, something standard, something I won't find on tap at every other bar down the street. An expertly curated tap list always impresses me, and yes, bar managers, I notice.

Second, there has to be an appropriate, comfortable, beer-drinking atmosphere. I don't want to park my ample behind on a cold, metal drafting stool and drink my beer under the crackle of an industrial lamp as bright as the sun! No way! Give me a wooden stool at a long, old-fashioned bar in a place that requires my eyes to adjust to the dim lights after I walk through the door.

Third, there should be plenty of tasty pub grub. Surprise me with a plate full of awesomeness! If your food can draw my attention away from the beer, your kitchen is a success!

Finally, a friendly service staff helps. Trust me, I worked in a pizza joint to put myself through college so I understand how hard it is for a server to put on a smile and put up with a parade of inconsiderate customers during an endless shift. I don't expect to be greeted like Norm on Cheers but I do appreciate some professional, courteous service.

Hey! This sure was a long introduction to a bar review! But, I'm happy to report that River Pig Saloon in Portland's ever more upscale Pearl District fills every single requirement listed above. 

Decent beer. Check. A short but expertly rotated tap list awaits at River Pig Saloon. At my recent visit, I found several brews to my liking, including the much sought after Spring Saison from Astoria's Buoy Beer Co. There's also a very nice whiskey selection. I had a Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whisky, which was new to me and quite excellent!

Atmosphere. Check. No butt-bruising metal stools. No vampire-preventing, supernova lights. Lots of old-timey, traditional bar decor: taxidermy, warm wood, exposed brick, vintage cash register and light fixtures. There are also several big screens for watching sports and such. I would call the decor "upscale, faux-dive". All they need is an old geezer sippin' suds at the bar...hey, wait a minute...

Food. Check. I only ate the jalapeno poppers due to some recent dental work, but the food I saw delivered to the folks around me looked fantastic! They certainly looked happy as they wolfed that grub down. I can't wait to go back and have a real meal at River Pig Saloon.

Friendly, efficient staff. Check. I sure didn't have to wait long for a second beer. As soon as my glass was empty, the bartender tended ASAP. My food came quickly and was piping hot when delivered. I was very impressed that River Pig Saloon clearly considers responsible hydration to be important. Bottles of water were at every table and in front of every barstool customer. A big tank of ice water was placed by the front door. Hey, on a hot day, folks don't drink enough water, especially when imbibing. Good job, River Pig!

All in all, I've found a great new bar to frequent when I'm on that side of the river. I was informed that they will be having a special Buoy Beer takeover event during OBF. I will certainly make if over there for that! I'm giving River Pig Saloon a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4.

River Pig Saloon is located at 529 NW 13th Avenue, Portland, Oregon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Coalition Brewing Company - Dropping Science Double IPA

Drop it like it's hops...
Following the Brexit debacle, everybody is talking about who's going to "exit" what next. Texas is bringing up their old independence movement (yawn) and some folks around this general vicinity wouldn't mind seeing the Pacific Northwest form the independent nation of Cascadia (Cascramia?). I don't know about all that. I'm not really a throw the baby out with the bathwater kind of guy. I do know one thing for sure: I'm not living in any country that doesn't do beer right!

We certainly have everything we need to brew the best beer in the world right here: a bounty of amazing hops; clean, delicious water; a world class brewing operation just about everywhere you look. I imagine beer would be our number one export--right after big ol' truckloads of logs. I think the independent nation of Beervana would be awesome!

What I love about living in Portland, Oregon the most, besides the fact that most people are progressive in their politics and passive-aggressive in their demeanor, is that there's almost always a surprise waiting for me in the cold case at the supermarket or bottle shop. I seriously drink a lot of beer. A LOT OF BEER! If I lived in some podunky, clunky, beer-poor stunky part of the country that has 99% of their cold cases filled with nothing but BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors), I would be one miserable beer guy. Gratefully, I live here and the surprises abound!

Today, I found a bomber of Coalition Brewing Company's Dropping Science Double IPA waiting for me in the fridge at QFC. This beer, made right here in Portland, is brewed with Northwest Chinook Hops. It boasts an 8.0% ABV and 85 IBU's. Sounds right up my alley! Let's give it a run!

The beer poured into my pint glass a slightly hazy, golden copper color with a white, foamy head. The head rose up to a half inch tall and dissipated at a moderate rate. A ring and a few spots of thin lacing were left behind.

Aroma was citrus and resinous pine. Sweet caramel malt. Some spicy herbal notes in the olfactory uptake.

Taste followed the nose. Citrus hops: orange and grapefruit. Piney. A hint of bitter pith. Herbal. Spicy. Excellent malt/hops balance. The clean malt flavor lingered after the initial hops punch retreated from my palate. Yum!

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Juicy, mildly palpable finish. I love those Chinook Hops!

Overall, this is a slamdunk of a delicious Pacific Northwest IPA. I would drink this beer anywhere, anyplace, anytime. I'm giving Dropping Science a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4. Chalk up another win for Beervana!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Solemn Oath Brewery & Ex Novo Brewing Co. - Thick as Thieves

Dead men drink no ales...
A local publican recently informed me that my glassware is filthy. Well, he didn't put it exactly that way, but he did say that the bubbles in my photos indicate that my glasses aren't beer clean. I had to let him know that my glassware is more often than not cleaned with whatever t-shirt I happen to be wearing.

Hey! Stop judging me! It's not like I make anyone else drink from my ass-stanky glassware! Most of the time! WHAT DOES NOT KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONG!

I'm pretty sure pirates didn't care about the cleanliness of their drinking paraphernalia. (slick segue coming up...) Speaking 'bout PIRATES! (warned you...) The beer I'm reviewing today is Thick as Thieves, a collaboration sour ale from Chicago's Solemn Oath Brewery and Portland's own Ex Novo Bewing Company. The label features the vissage of a tearful, split-faced pirate. There's even a parrot and a cutlass drawn on there.

The beer is described on said label as so...


Intriquing? I'll say! (Is is pronounced Bel-GO or Bel-JO?) We are also advised of an ABV at 6.0%. How does this Belgo-American Sour Ale rate, you ask? Let's find out!

The beer poured into my filthy goblet a hazy golden orange color with a bubbly white head. The head dissipated quickly and left behind a thin ring of bubbles.

Aroma was light pineapple, kumquat and quince. Very different. A little bit of yeast funkiness. Herbal and floral notes.

Taste delivered some citrus and mildly grassy hops flavors. Nice, clean, sour flavor with some citrus pith. All followed up with a clean malt finish.

Medium mouthful with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish. To me, the malt flavor left on the palate at the end was the star. Nothing muddled. No off-putting flavors. Everything seemed to come together in a very pleasing structure.

Overall, this a very flavorful, easy to drink sour beer that I very much enjoyed. I could drink galleons of the stuff! (See what I did there?) I'm giving Thick as Thieves a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.