11 November 2016

Goodbye Portland

There comes a time on every holiday, regardless of where I am, that I decide it's time for a curry. Not every place is accommodating, but Portland, Oregon was. I don't know if it's a coincidence that the restaurant we found in IPAville was called East India Company, but I found it amusing nonetheless.

The beer list was thoroughly uninspiring but it had one thing I didn't recognise and was intrigued enough by to order. Have you ever had Haywards 5000? "World's favourite strong beer" boasts the label, so if you like strong beer you must have heard of it. It's 8% ABV and brewed in Mumbai. And is absolutely terrible. There's tonnes of residual sugar in this, giving it that sticky tramps' brew taste. To make things worse it adds in a plasticky sweetness as well. It's not remotely refreshing or cleansing and as such is not a suitable accompaniment for curry or anything else.

The other Portland restaurant we went to was Little Bird in downtown. It's quite an upmarket place but there's still a decent selection of draught beers. I had Ecliptic's Quasar pale ale with my dinner. It has a huge and gorgeous tropical fruit flavour, bursting with mango, pineapple and guava, while the aroma adds passionfruit to the mix. There's properly bitter edge on the finish which helps balance it. Impressive stuff.

So that's the restaurants. Portland does have a number of independent pubs as well, so you don't have to limit your beering to the breweries. One of the best reputed ones is Bailey's Taproom, also in downtown. We visited briefly one evening on the way back to our hotel. I had Oktoberfresh by Portland's German style specialist Zoiglhaus. It's 5.5% ABV and a pale amber colour. The texture is nicely chewy and although it's a little overly sweet and fruity, it's nicely done. There's a green herbal effect which tastes properly German without reminding me of any particular German beer.

Beside it there is Sin Tax, an imperial milk stout with peanut butter, from Mother Earth Brew Co. in Vista, California. It smells of honeycomb ice cream and only gets sweeter from there. Among the mountains of sticky sugar there's a hint of lavender perfume but any other complexities are drowned out. I found it hard to believe it's only 8.2% ABV: it could pass for double that. Anyway, it's terrible. Like that execrable Omnipollo Yellow Belly peanut butter stout, it's not for people who like the taste of beer.

Across town there's a roomy lounge bar specialising in local beers, called Loyal Legion. Here I found Berliner, a straight Berliner weisse by pFreim in the town of Hood River, east of Portland. It's a harmless little fella, just 3.5% ABV and a clear watery yellow with a very mild sourness and not much else.

Herself went for something rather more ambitious: Fork Lift, a double IPA by Barley Brown's. It's a medium amber colour, 9% ABV and has a massively dank aroma, the weedy hop oils infused with oranges as well. The flavour has a spiky bitterness and while there's a definite warmth, it's not as hot as it could have been. Still too hot for me though: one of those double IPAs I find just too heavy to enjoy.

Further out east, one comes to The Horse Brass. Established in 1976, this English theme pub was instrumental in the formation of Portland as a beer destination, supporting the local microbreweries as they were beginning to find their feet, and acting as a focal point for fans of imported and craft beer back when these were very specialised interests. It looks quite unassuming from the outside and inside is all dark wooden beams, cluttered with memorabilia.

The beer list is pretty decent and I went for RPM, the flagship IPA from Bend icons Boneyard. They've deliberately dialled the bitterness way back in this 6.6%-er, and you just get a hint of mandarin rind in with lots of juicy flesh. It's very