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North American Organic Brewers Fest June 29, 2010

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North American Organic Beer Festival


OK, I have totally been slacking on this blog. Apologies. Back in action!

I volunteered at the North American Organic Brewers Festival on Friday. What a great day to be outside trying organic beer! Summer in Portland is truly the best (and I really hope it actually is summer now)!

If you volunteer at the festival, you get a t-shirt and after your shift you get a mug and eight beer tokens. I could not pass that up. So I worked the 2:30-6 PM shift on Friday which left me Friday eve for tasting. Volunteering is super easy as all you do is pour beer and talk to people. They had the festival really well organized and staffed so everything ran smoothly. After three hours of pouring, however, I was ready to drink some beer.

I have to say I was not overly impressed with the beer at the festival. I tried probably 15 or so different ones and none really blew me away. I tried to stick to beers I had never had before, but when there were lines I had to give in. My favorite was the Eel River Organic IPA.

Despite the beer not blowing me away, I was a big fan of the festival. On Friday at least, the lines never got too long and there was plenty of space in Overlook Park. They could have spread out the beer tents a little more- hopefully they will next year. I also liked the focus on taking public transport or driving. Very Portland.


Perfect Sunday- Hiking, Wine, and Beer June 18, 2010

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Sorry, I got delayed on posting this. Last Sunday the weather was perfect! 75 degrees and sunny. It was one of those days that makes all the grey and rain worthwhile. I took full advantage of it.

We headed out of the city about 10 AM and drove out to the Gorge. We did the Eagle Creek to High Bridge hike. I had done this hike in January on a rainy day. It was a little more crowded now that the season has started, but still an amazing hike. You walk up and past three waterfalls along a river with terrific scenery the whole way. It is no wonder the hike is so popular. I want to come out and backpack in this area later in the year. the hike is an out and back with about 400 feet of elevation gain. It is 6.6 miles in total (but you can do longer or shorter routes).

After the hike we headed to Hood River. My friend Ben is a member at Naked Winery and it was the member pick up party. When I have money again, I am definitely going to join the club at Naked. It costs $48, four times a year for two bottles of wine each time. But with the membership, you and your friends get unlimited tastings at the winery and at events where Naked participates. There were five of us in total and we all were able to taste more than 10 wines for free because we were with Ben. Naked really caters to its members. There were snacks provided as well. And if you pick up your shipments at the winery, you can trade bottles you are not interested in for similarly priced ones you like better. Their Cabs are really nice and their Barbera, while pricy, is amazing.

After Naked we headed down the street to Double Mountain Brewery for food and beers. They have good pizza and excellent beer. I am a huge fan of the IRA so I got a growler to take home with me. Since the weather was nice, Double Mountain had the garage doors open on the patio to let in the fresh air and give us views of Hood River while we ate and drank.

Days don’t get much better than that!

Off to San Francisco for the weekend. Will report back soon!

Helvetia Half Marathon June 14, 2010

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Photo Danielito

Saturday my friend Paige and I ran the Helvetia Half Marathon. It was a great day for a run with clear skies and sun- almost too much sun. The race started in Hillsboro near the Intel campus and went through rurals roads in Helvetia. It was well organized with roads closed or partially closed for the entire course and regular water stops every mile to mile and a half. The start was a bit of a cluster with no signage for where runners should line up and no pace groups. But after that, the race went smoothly.

There was no shade after mile seven so runners were quite warm and sweaty by the finish. There was a medical team attending to a runner just after mile 12 so I think the heat may have hurt a few people. The course was hilly and had lovely scenery. The biggest crowds of spectators were not surprisingly at the Helvetia Tavern.

There was a beer garden for runners after the race (but no free beer with entry unfortunately). Entry did include a burger or garden burger from the Helvetia Tavern, but the line was so long when we went to get them, we decided to go ahead and pay for food elsewhere. I think I had a personal best time for a half marathon, but my results are not listed in the official race results so I am waiting to hear back and see if they can find my official time. I hope so.

After leaving the race grounds, we went to the Cornelius Pass Road House for beers and burgers. They have a spacious outdoor patio with picnic tables made from large logs where we sat under umbrellas and hung out. As my friend Jason likes to say about McMenamins, their tagline should be “It’s not about service”. It took awhile to get our drinks and food, but the atmosphere was great.

Yesterday was another beautiful day and I was outside to appreciate it. More about that in tomorrow’s post!

Hopworks and Vino Vixens June 11, 2010

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Hopworks Beer

Hopworks Beer

I had some friends in town to show around this week. Wednesday we hit Bridgeport, Bailey’s, and Tugboat. But I’ve already written about those places. Last night we headed over to the SE for some food and drinks.

We started the evening at McMenamin’s Market Street for happy hour drinks ($3 pints and wells). The plan was to go to the free wine tasting at Thirst and check it out, but when we got there at 5:45, we were told there was a 45 minute wait to be seated if you did not have a reservation. I have heard that Thirst is a more pretentious establishment than the Portland norm, and this reinforced that. I’ll give it another chance someday though.

Then it was on to Hopworks for dinner. There was a 20 minute wait for tables so we had a beer in the bar while we waited. As normally happens when I am at Hopworks, a table in the car area opened up before our pager went off. Hopworks is quickly becoming my favorite Portland brewery. I have been fighting this because I feel like it is the “in” brewery in town, but their beer is just really really good. I stuck with the IPA all night. It goes down so smoothly and has just the right amount of hops. I’m thirsty just thinking about it.

For dinner we started with the pretzel sticks. The sticks themselves were a little harder than I would prefer, but the ESB beer mustard was terrific. I split the BBQ chicken pizza with one of my friends and the others had salads. The pizza is good. Nothing spectacular, but certainly a decent pizza.

After dinner we walked across Powell to Vino Vixens. It was my first visit to the wine bar. The guys behind the counter were super friendly and knowledgeable about wine. I liked that if there was something they did not know, they said so. You can do tasting flights at Vino Vixens or buy by the pour or the glass. They let you sample wines for free before you commit to having a glass. I’m a big fan of this policy. I ended up going with a Cabernet/Sangiovese blend from California. It was tasty. My friends went with a Riesling and a Pinot Noir. We stayed at the bar in the front room with the wine store. There is also a back room and last night there was a belly dancing show that was well attended. I expect I’ll be back at this wine bar again in the near future.

The World Cup started today. I’ll definitely be going out and checking out bars to watch the matches at. Today it’ll just be the Cheerful Tortoise, but I’ll branch out more next week. Tomorrow I am running the Helvetia Half Marathon so I’ll report about that as well. I’m excited for sun and warmer weather starting this weekend. Maybe it is finally summer in PDX??

Monday Happy Hour at the New Old Lompoc June 9, 2010

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Lompoc Logo

Lompoc logo

Monday the weather was terrific so we decided to have a little patio outing. Since pints are $2.50 all day Mondays at the New Old Lompoc on NW 23rd (and all Lompoc locations) and they have a terrific patio, it seemed the obvious choice.

We arrived right at 5 PM and there were others on the patio, but we had a good selection of tables to choose from. Christina ordered the happy hour calamari ($5) which was terrific. It is lightly battered and not deep fried and the dipping sauces are unique and tasty (she liked the wasabi mayo, while I was partial to the honey glaze).

I can’t decide whether my favorite Lompoc beer is the Condor Pale or the Centennial IPA so I always end up having both. Between the three of us we tried all of their permanent beers aside from the Cream Stout which is not really a summer beer. By the time we left, around 7:30, the patio was completely packed. So if you are going to hang at the New Old Lompoc on a Monday in the summer, you should probably try to get there early.

Summer Preview Day! June 6, 2010

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Rose Festival

Christina intrigued by Giant Sausage (photo Annie Smith)

Saturday in Portland was a little sneak peek of summer. And man did we all need it! Today is the usual grey with intermittent rain but it looks like more summer type weather is on the horizon (I say hopefully). After this nasty May, Saturday reminded us all why we put up with this crap. Sweet, sweet summer in Portland.

My friend Annie came in from Seattle on Saturday for a quick visit. She arrived at 11 AM and we headed over to Bridgeport Brewery to sit outside and have some lunch and beers. I had heard that Bridgeport has great burgers, but we were planning to go to the BBQ and Brews fest later in the day so I went with the tofu and veggie wrap. It was pretty good, but I did have a little burger envy when Annie went for the burger. Next time for sure!

Annie got the sampler tray so I got to try all of the Bridgeport beers. My faves are still the IPA, Blue Heron and the ESB. She was more a fan of the Porter, the Extra Pale and the seasonal fruity beer (which you can tell how much I liked since I can’t remember the name of it). We both got some color and eventually had to move to a table in the shade because we were too hot.

After Bridgeport we walked down to Powell’s for some book shopping. I am only allowed to spend short periods of time in Powell’s or else I end up buying 20 books so I met another friend for a beer at Ringler’s Annex. My friend had the bourbon flight which was a cool thing I didn’t realize that McMenamins did and the bartender also gave us a taste of McMenamin’s whiskey.

After a quick stop to drop off the books, we headed down to BBQ and Brews and the Rose Festival. To be honest, I was disappointed in the festival. Many of the BBQ places were out of meat (and it was only 5:30 PM). You could not have beer outside of the BBQ and Brews area even though there was another area that was roped off as part of the festival. And the crowd seemed to be very… not Portland, to put it nicely.

We needed some more food as we’d only had a few tastes of BBQ at the festival so we wandered down to Chinatown. I had seen the House of Louie many times and found the name amusing and wanted to try it. I wish I had not. Even with a pretty good buzz, the food was disappointing. I had lo mein and the noodles were overcooked to the point of crispiness. Christina’s chow fun was a bit better and Annie’s beef with broccoli was not bad. I hear that 82nd is now the area to go for authentic Asian cuisine in town. I’m going to have to give that a shot in the future.

We caught a little of the Starlight parade but the streets were fairly packed so we just watched from a distance. Annie was tired so I dropped her off and headed across the river to the Jolly Roger to meet some friends. The Jolly Roger is a cool little dive bar with a pool table and a great name. We drank cheap PBR tall boys and watched a fairly decent Sublime cover band. The chick drummer has a seriously good voice (she deviated from the Sublime theme a bit but that was a nice change).

Going back in time, Friday night I went to Beulahland for drinks before catching a movie at Laurelhurst Theater. Beulahland is a nice dive bar with a decent selection of local beers (rotating). They have a very smoky smoker’s patio in the back. Not a good place to hang if you don’t like smelling of smoke later. We saw the movie The Runaways which I was very surprised to actually kind of like. Yeah they played up the drugs and sex to make it sell but you gotta love Joan Jett and Kristen Stewart did a good job in the role. Outside of the annoying Twilight movies, she actually is a decent actress. Dakota Fanning is annoying, but we all knew that.

After the movie I decided to go and have “one more drink” at the Sandy Hut. But Sandy Hut is one of my favorite bars in Portland and the conversation and company was good and the next thing I knew, it was many $2 Rainer tall boys later and they were having last call. So much for my chill movie night.

This week I am going to a presentation  about the brewery business put on by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network on Wednesday. I’ll definitely write about that. I think the World Cup is getting ready to start so I need to figure out which bars will be worthy of my patronage for that. Any suggestions?

Early start at Santa Fe Taqueria June 3, 2010

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Big ass margarita

Flaming Margarita (Christina Denkinger)

Today I am helping two friends move. So tomorrow I will likely be sore as hell. The first move was actually quite quick and easy and it happened early in the day so my moving friend decided to take us out for instant gratification at Santa Fe Taqueria in NW.

I almost went here for Cinco de Mayo as I know they have a big bash for it. I am kind of glad that I passed as the place is a little smaller than I anticipated and I am sure that getting a drink on the most famous Americanized Mexican holiday of the year would be quite difficult. But it has a nice, chill vibe and was quite empty at noon on a Thursday.

We sat in the bar because drinks were our priority. We did end up getting some nachos which were quite good. For the first round I got a Pacifico and my friends drank margaritas (rocks). Consensus was that the margaritas were quite nice.

For the second round, one of the guys remembered he’d once had a huge, flaming margarita for his birthday at Santa Fe and wanted to duplicate the experience. The bartender said they were not a regular menu item but agreed to make one for us. She had to find the giant margarita glasses on the top shelf of the bar and made the drink for us in a pitcher. She then doused a lime in 151 and set it on fire to complete the work of art in a glass.

Four of us shared the drink and I think it is safe to say we all felt it. This is not a drink for the light of liver or wallet (it cost over $26!) but for a special occasion or a novelty, the giant flaming margarita is certainly something worth a try.

I think there will be another post party today after move number two so I’ll have to fill you in tomorrow.

Camping on the Oregon Coast June 1, 2010

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Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast (photo Slone)

The plan was to mix backpacking and car camping on the Oregon Coast this weekend. We were going to start at Cape Lookout on Thursday and hike to Sand Lake to camp. Friday we were going to hike to Pacific City and meet some friends for two nights of car camping. It didn’t exactly work out that way.


We ended up getting a late start on Thursday because I had an interview, but we figured there is daylight until about 9 PM now. We arrived at Cape Lookout just after 5 PM and drove to the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking at the trailhead is day use only. So we went to the campground to see about paying to leave the car there until Friday evening. They will not let you leave a car there unless you pay for a campsite. And due to the holiday weekend, all camp sites were booked from Friday through Sunday. And the rangers told us there was “nowhere in Tillamook County” we could leave the car to do the hike.

I am going to take a moment to rant here. All of the campgrounds along the coast, including Cape Lookout, have hiker/biker sites available at a discounted rate for those who leave the vehicles and backpack or cycle from campground to campground. And the Oregon State Parks site has a map of the backpacking route down the coast. How are you supposed to backpack if you cannot leave the car anywhere?

We started talking about where we should car camp that night to figure out the plan for the following day when it came to light that my friend had left her backpack in her garage in Beaverton. And that had our only tent as well as the stove and all of her gear. So I “camped out” in her guest bedroom in Beaverton.

Friday morning we drove to Pacific City and did a day hike. We were going to try and hike up to Cape Lookout and have our friends pick us up on their way out. But we hit Sand Lake at high tide and were unable to ford it without getting completely soaked so we just did an out and back. We met our friends in the evening at the Pelican Pub. We had the sampler of all the beers. The beers were not bad, but nothing to write home about (despite the impressive collection of medals that line the walls of the pub). The location is terrific though. We sat next to the window overlooking the beach and Haystack Rock (the other Haystack Rock- not the world’s third largest free standing monolith which is off Canon Beach).  The food was a bit pricy so we waited to cook dinner until we returned to our campsite.

We camped on Friday night at Webb Park Campground. The park is super convenient if you want to explore Pacific City. It is located right across the street from the Pelican Pub and a few blocks from the main downtown area. However, the sites are tiny and the park itself has a trailer park feel to it. I was not a fan and probably will not camp there again.

Saturday we did a day hike to the south down to Cape Kiwanda. We went back to the Pelican to meet another friend and I tried the clam chowder which was quite good. Then we made our way about 10 miles north to Whalen Island to camp for the night. The campground at Whalen Island was much nicer than Webb. The sites are not all on top of each other and you feel like you actually have a little space. The campground is spread out as well. There is a nice walking trail that goes around the island and is adjacent to the campground- we hiked it on Sunday morning. Note that camping on the coast gets rather pricy if you have more than one tent or vehicle. They all charge $20 a night per site (with an additional $5 reservation fee if you reserve in advance) and then charge $5 per extra tent and $3 per extra vehicle.

All in all it was a great way to spend the holiday weekend. Good people, outdoors, some exercise, s’mores, beer, and a nice fireside BBQ on Saturday night. The rain was sporadic and light which helped as well. I am definitely excited for summer when I plan to be outside every weekend. Hooray summer in Oregon!

OMSI After Dark May 27, 2010

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I’ve been talking about going to OMSI After Dark for months now. This month I finally made it. And I will certainly be going another time.

We arrived at just after 7 PM. In the future I will try to get there earlier as there was a pretty substantial line to get tickets. It is $10 to get into the museum and that covers all of the exhibits, some special shows (like the dry ice bubbles- fun!) and free samples from local vendors. Beer and wine (Bridegeport, Coors, and Cooper Mountain) is available for purchase as are laser light shows and OMNIMax films.

My favorite free sample was the chocolate from Cocoa Velvet. They had samples of Hawaiian and Columbian dark chocolate, each with the same percentage of cacao. But the difference in taste was startling. It is due to the soil, we were told. I need to buy me some Columbian chocolate! My next favorite sample was wine from Cooper Mountain Vineyards. I actually liked their Pinot Gris better than the Pinot Noir, which is strange since I tend to prefer red wine. I do want to go and do one of their tours through the vineyard where they put you to work to earn your wine and talk about what it means to be an organic and biodynamic vineyard.

The regular exhibits in OMSI are geared for kids and are hands on and fun. You can make your hair stand up through static electricity, play connect four against a friend using a robot, and launch a rocket made from a soda bottle and filled with air and water. The Space exhibit I found a bit disappointing, but that may be because I am a science dork (yes, I went to sapce camp as a kid). The dinosaur exhibit was impressive with the full size T-Rex skeleton being the centerpiece.

We also went to see the Grand Canyon OMNIMax movie. It was entertaining. Like many of these films, it presented the theme of water conservation, then spent the entire middle of the movie showing a white water rafting trip and focusing on special effects without any mention of conservation, then ended with “Oh by the way, water conservation is totally vital”. I find that a bit annoying, but it was still not a bad way to spend $4.

This weekend I am headed to the coast for a backpacking/car camping combo trip. I’ll report when I return. Maybe I’ll even finally remember to take a picture or two to post.

Vote for Portland beer, down with Asheville! May 20, 2010

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In honor of Craft Beer Week this week, Examiner.com’s Craft Beer Examiner has set up a poll to see what city in the US is “Beer City USA”.  When I look at the current poll results, I feel a bit like I am in an alternate universe. Somehow Asheville, NC is ahead of Portland by a wide margin. Asheville? Don’t get me wrong, it is a great town and they certainly have some nice beer, but better than Portland? In my humble opinion, we have far better brews and we certainly have more breweries.

So this is my plea for all the Portland beer lovers to cast their votes and show Asheville who the real beer mecca is. You can vote here. Once you’ve voted, go have a well earned beer at one of the many fantastic breweries in town to celebrate Craft Beer Week. You’ve earned it!