Zwickelmania 2013 — The best beer tour in Oregon

Me and Yaicha pretending to sip from a zwickel

Me and Yaicha pretending to sip from a zwickel

Zwickelmania: a backstage pass to breweries around Oregon. It’s an event I’ve known about for quite a while, but have never gotten a chance to take part in the past due to work and school priorities. President’s Day in 2013 was a much different matter. That day was a marathon, not a sprint, and drinking beer was the road we were running on.

Yaicha, Ryan, and I started our morning at the Green Dragon where we filled ourselves with buffet-style bacon, ham, and eggs. This food was not for the foodie looking to get a good breakfast; this food was purely fuel for a long day of drinking. The Green Flash Brewing 7th anniversary Belgian red rye ale went very well with the breakfast fuel and got me in the mode for a day of tasting the many beers to come. After our friends Crystal and Erick arrived, we took a refreshing walk to the second brewery of the day — Cascade Brewing Barrel House.

Breakfast of champions at the Green Dragon

Breakfast of champions at the Green Dragon

Cascade Brewing Barrel House specializes in sour beers and has some of the best in Portland. Two of my favorite beers I tasted straight from the zwickel were the Rum Tangerine Spice Quad weighing in at 10% ABV, which boasted two distinct flavor profiles between a sweet tangerine flavor and a bold rum aftertaste, and the 12% ABV Bourbonic Plague that was much too easy to drink for its strength and had a flavor that I’d be willing to spend good money on in the future. This is a brewery every person should visit when they come to Portland due to its specialty in beers and its location near so many other places to eat and drink.

Being poured a sampler of Bourbon Plague straight from the zwickel

Being poured a sampler of Bourbon Plague straight from the zwickel

Next, our group took a short walk over to Base Camp Brewing where they were giving a small presentation of how Base Camp came to be and the types of beers that they specialize in. The beer I was particularly impressed with was their flagship bottled beer (in a can) called an In-Tents IPL or India Pale Lager, which I again had straight from the zwickel. After the tour, we settled out on the porch where we could bask in the winter sunlight and quaff our tasty beverages we got from their new tasting room. Since this day was a marathon, I chose the Base Camp Belgian session ale, which hits at 4.9% ABV and was light on the stomach. Of course, I had to try a little bit of Crystal’s S’more stout, which had a toasted marshmallow on the rim of the glass (the mini tasters have a mini marshmallow, which had to be the cutest thing I saw that day).

Brewmaster and owner, Justin Fay presenting the history of Base Camp

Brewmaster and owner, Justin Fay presenting the history of Base Camp

The next stop on our tour was Burnside Brewing, where we quickly found that the lines were growing ever longer as the day progressed and that our patience grew ever shorter for waiting in those lines. As a result, we didn’t take a tour of the brewery, but had a beer while waiting for the shuttle and chatted with some other nice Zwickelmaniacs outside. The Burnside IPA was especially nice to sip on during our half-hour wait for the free shuttle to arrive and take us to our final destination — Hopworks Urban Brewery.

As the shuttle arrived, we beer-loving revelers filled the cabin close to capacity and continued on to Hopworks Urban Brewery, thankful to be in a shuttle and not out in the freak rain storm that struck on the way over drenching every person unlucky enough to be out in it. As luck would have it, the rain subsided close to our arrival at Hopworks, where we were greeted to small snacks of breaded pretzels, sauerkraut, and dipping sauces. We migrated upstairs to the bar and found the most epic place to continue our drinking: an enclosed room where we had total privacy and could drink our $2.00 pints of Abominable winter ale and eat our monster-sized calzones in peace. It was a gluttonous experience to say the least.

After all of that, Zwickelmania was winding down, but we needed to take care of one last errand, which involved us going back to the Green Dragon to meet a friend from Eugene. Yes, we went full circle and I ended my day with an ACE apple hard cider. I’m pretty sure that was the final line to cross, because as soon as I got home, I fell into a deep slumber.

Zwickelmania is an experience that every beer lover should witness with their own eyes (and taste buds). If there’s one reason to plan a trip to Oregon in the early part of the year, there isn’t many better excuses than for Zwickelmania on President’s Day weekend. Cheers to Oregon beers!

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