Breakside Brewery Third Anniversary Bash

Breakside Brewery

Summer is right around the corner and the beer festival season is already approaching the fine denizens of Portland and surrounding areas. Of course, the beer festivals never really end in the city with more breweries than anywhere else in the world. Case in point was a recent visit to Breakside Brewery for their third anniversary on NE Dekum street where we had some … interesting beers.

Begin With Intensity

It was just after noon as we entered the tent. Armed with our Breakside mason jars, Ryan, Grady and I stepped up to the pouring station where we filled our glasses with the first beverage of the day. Mere minutes after telling the guys that I probably should’ve had one more glass of water, I get the most intense beer that they had on the list — Breakside’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Aztec.

Breakside Bourbon-Barrel Aged Aztec

I’ve heard many good things about this beer and, man, was it intense. But it was so good. Breakside owner Scott Lawrence chatted with us for a few minutes and told us the that the barrel aging mellows the spiciness of the peppers that usually create a heated beer. Although the bourbon taste was very apparent, the chile and vanilla notes still filled my senses; however, I didn’t taste any chocolate notes like the description stated but it might’ve been because the beer is 12.7% ABV.

Duck Beer? Sure, I’ll Try That

Next up was the Duck Duck Drunk Porter. Yes, it was a beer brewed with 100 lbs. of Muscovy ducks that brewer Ben Edmunds hunted, field dressed and roasted with the help of their friends and my client, Nostrana. Despite the previous description of how Breakside made it, it didn’t taste like meat; rather, the beer tasted like a not-too-sweet, but very flavorful porter.

Band at Breakside
End It On A Sour Note

After heading inside for a meal with a much larger group of people that joined us, we exited with enough time to watch some music from two great bluegrass bands and I dashed over to the pouring station to drink a couple sour beers before heading back home to watch the Timbers win another match.

Breakside’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Sour Imperial Stout was great, regardless of what a Yelp user stated, but it was Upright Brewing’s Blend Edmunds that made me go back for seconds. It was a complex blend of sour beers that hit my tastebuds in all the right places.

Breakside continues to make some very innovative and fantastic beers — if you ever see the Cedarbaumbier, get it — and I’d definitely recommend going to their anniversary next year. Did you go to this? If so, tell me what you thought about the event.

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!

Breakers Yard and Oakshire Brewery — A Great Match

Yaicha and Jesse at Oakshire

Yaicha enjoying a pint while I indulge in the barleywine

I’ve come to the conclusion that craft beer and Delta blues music goes well together like peanut butter and jelly. Yaicha and I traveled to Eugene for Thanksgiving and we were treated to a fine performance at Oakshire Brewing from one of my best friend’s in his band, Breakers Yard. Jordan “Slim Bones” Trio plays suitcase percussion and kazoo in this band and it’s been interesting to see him mature musically throughout the years of knowing him. We’ve been friends for over half our lives and I’ve seen him go from listening to rap and metal to electronic dance music, blues and jazz. It was our first time at Oakshire Brewing, but I’ll definitely go back.

The atmosphere was buzzing when we entered the tasting room. I’m not sure if everyone there was for the live music, but it looked like Oakshire was having a Black Friday sale on their beers, because the place was packed. We enjoyed some exclusive ales served mainly at the brewery and took two special bottles with us back home: the Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter and the Perfect Storm Imperial IPA. Both of those were fantastic beers and worth the price of $7 per 22 oz. bottle.

Breakers Yard plays at Oakshire fairly frequently, so I recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the Eugene area. Buy a CD and help support local music!

Breakers Yard at Oakshire Brewing

Breakers Yard playing some Delta blues in the Oakshire Brewing tasting room

2012 Holiday Ale Festival Was Three Days of Tasty Awesomeness

2012 Holiday Ale Festival: Celebrate Beer

Cheers to holiday beers!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how lucky Oregonians are to have access to so many great craft beers year-round. The 2012 Holiday Ale Festival just recently finished serving heavy, spiced winter ales to thousands of people in the Portland area, with me being one of them. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a festival that people love and hate, but one I recommend if you’re a craft beer lover.

Access to a variety of beers that you wouldn’t be able to find at your local supermarket is one of the best reasons to go, but use caution, because some of those beers are not always what you’d expect. The festival began on Wednesday, November 28 and ran through Sunday, December 2. The hefty price of $30 included a tasting mug and 12 tickets, if you paid in advance, but grants you access to the festival for the full five days. If you want to have easy access to a majority of the brews next year, I recommend going on Wednesday and Thursday, because the lines on those days were slim to none. Wait until Friday to get full glasses of the brews you liked the best, because the beer lines will be huge over the weekend and the space in Pioneer Courthouse Square can make some people feel claustrophobic. Plus, if you go early, you can get sweet pictures like this!

2012 Holiday Ale Festival attendees

Matt (on left) and I enjoying the first night of the 2012 Holiday Ale Festival with random props. And beer.

I enjoyed many of the spiced ales, even though I’m more of a hop head. My favorite, by far, was Rusty Truck Brewing’s Cherry Chocoholic Baltic Porter (quite a mouthful). It’s one of the first beers I’ve ever tasted that had a nutty, chocolatey taste that closely resembled a peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen. Gigantic Brewing‘s Old Man Gower’s Holiday Tipple had a nice subtle spice compared to some of the more intensely flavorful beers that circulated the huge beer tent. Trying Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss vertical offering is one of those things you just can’t pass up in life. I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in taste between the 2008 and 2009 versions of The Abyss, with a much more straightforward drinkable beer from 2008 than the thick and heavy weight of the beer from 2009.

Had I not been able to go to the event Wednesday through Friday, it’s probable that I wouldn’t have paid $30 to enter. But if you have the time and the money, I definitely recommend coming to the heart of downtown Portland and quaffing some fine beverages from so many of the local breweries in Oregon and on the west coast.

2012 Holiday Ale Festival mug

2012 Holiday Ale Festival: That’s a wrap!