Keeping it weird in Portland: cycling the brew pubs

I’d heard that the motto for Portland was “Keep it weird,” but I was just about to get acquainted with how deep weird goes.

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Go South – to Sellwood along the popular Springwater on the Willamette cycle/running path, which bisects the Oaks Amusement Park (America’s oldest continuously operating amusement park) and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, overlooked by the Wilhelm Portland Memorial Mausoleum, (the largest hand-painted outdoor mural in the USA).

Go East – up to Mount Tabor Park, which sits astride an ancient volcanic cinder cone with great views over the city.

Go North – through the hills of upscale Beaumont, a well-to-do neighbourhood with views from Alameda Ridge. Hills, yes, but mostly along quiet residential streets and trails (unless you find your way to Freemont street and McPeet’s pub, which I did). This is also where you’ll find Velo Cult.

Where to Drink

Should you choose to bike the brews, you might run into a condition at about hour ten on the first day: Getting too hopped. Portland beers are very hoppy. In fact, local brewers pride themselves in hoppiness. As master brewer Ron Gansberg put it, “It’s a hops arms’ race out there! But hops beers can only get so hoppy and then where do you go?” By contrast, his brew pub, the Cascade Brewing Barrel House (in southeast Belmont at 10th Avenue), is known as the House of Sour. Not hoppy, sour.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House

Sour like milk? Sour like a month of rainy week-ends? Sour like what? I confessed I’d never knowingly tried a sour beer. But Ron reassured me, “Sour is its own intense sensory experience,” he said, “It attracts those burned out by hoppy beers”.

The night I visited, I tried several delicious sour beers starting with the traditional Kriek, to a lightly flavoured Apricot, and finishing with the elegant Cherry Chocolate Casanova. I find most ciders and flavoured alcoholic beverages too sweet to drink, so sour beers open up great possibilities for further exploration.

The Cascade Brewing Barrel House, while clearly a brew pub, also positions itself as a tasting room and like an Okanagan winery, everything’s a little elegant. He agreed with me that sour beers are good for “non-beer drinkers” (that would be about 90% of the non male population), but pushes back when I suggested that sour beer is about snob appeal.

“Our sour beers appeal to people in the same way fine wines and spirits do, but we keep the atmosphere casual and relaxed here”, says Ron. To prove it, he described their popular “Tap it Tuesday,” when they ceremonially open the next barrel of beer. Tap it Tuesday draws a crowd of locals and visitors alike, because it’s lively and sometimes quite messy. Tapping is open to an online lottery and the winner is designated to take a whack (regardless of past experience) at opening the next cask of sour beer.

Tap it Tuesdays

If you go to Portland, check out…

June through September, Cyclepedia: Iconic Bicycle Design, Portland Art Museum

In June, Pedalpalooza on-day annual bike festival

In August, Bridge Pedal three weeks of “bikey” fun

In September, Hopworks Bike to Beer Fest!

How Bikes Make Cities Cool - Portland from Kona Bikes on Vimeo.

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