Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sprig Beer & Wine: Day Two

I'm in my hotel lobby, feeling sorry for my bracket and generally feeling content after another good weekend in Portland. Yesterday's festivities proved to be a bit much for me and today I'm moving a little slow, feeling a little tired.

The beer judging started at 9:30 a.m. and I sat on the odd panel of ambers, browns and reds - as well as two jalapeƱo beers! The brews were all pretty good, our winner being a well crafted Northwest 'styled' American Red. I actually found the use of "Northwest" in the category (officially listed as a NW Red) to be both comical and frustrating, as it doesn't really seem to mean anything to anyone. Sure, there's an assumption the beer will be 'hoppy', but really - that's what the American style is for.

What's more, you'd think, listening to the locals here go on and on about their hopped up beers, that you'd have no troubles finding a good IPA. That's not the case. I've had several great options made in the city, but for every one of the great IPAs you'll find five that seem to be lacking the hop profiles commonly found throughout California. I've said it before, but California just knows how to make and appreciate great IPAs and Double IPAs.

BREAK - Sorry, got busy, came home, worked, relaxed... ready to finish this.

From the judging I was compelled to travel a bit and hit up one of my favorite bars of all time, Horse Brass. God, I love this place. For the weekend they were pouring cask ales, eight at a time with 30 cask beers planned to be served by the time it was all said and done. I had a few of them before all was said and done, but ultimately had to try the C Note from Lompoc, which was on tap - a big, hopped up IPA that did some work in proving my above statements incomplete. While I was at it, I ordered up a plate of Steak and Kidney Pie - my favorite item of their old world menu. After a couple hours here, with my good friend Carl, who was celebrating a birthday, it was time to leave - an exit I never like to make.

The Spring Beer and Wine event was lively when I returned, complete with a line 20 folks deep at the door. Inside it was clear what the popular booth was, the large wooden keg on wheels, Deschutes newest festival attraction. I should mention I was able to sample their Witbier, which we should see in bottles this year if all goes well, and it was amazing - really, great texture, body and flavors from start to finish. We should all look forward to sampling this, again, if all goes as planned. Having indulged at Horse Brass and in earlier judging, my afternoon around the fest was casual, finding time to enjoy the chocolates and other non-drink booths found along the way.

By the time it was wrapping up, the festival had cleared out pretty well and it seemed most brewers had blown their kegs, were packing up and getting ready for the hall to completely clear out so they can go home. I was again impressed with the well-behaved crowd of beer drinkers, and again I'd wished there were news outlets on site to put out a story that contrasts most of the beer drinkers we see on the news - those who cause trouble 'because' of their beer consumption.

Leaving the Convention Center I had one more stop on my list, Green Dragon. I'd heard a whole lot of good stuff from this place, DRAFT had thrown a party there earlier in the week and I'd had a great time with their cook/brewer, Tyler. Green Dragon is about six-months young, but have all the ingredients to be a great brewery for years to come: 19 taps, 3Bbl brewery, swank look with high ceilings and a long, rounded stone-topped bar. The crowd was your standard 20-30 somethings, from the well-dressed to the ultra-casual, each having a great time while enjoying the beer and food - the mussels looked damn good.

Here I met up with the crew from Beer NW, the regional beer magazine, along with reps from Sierra Nevada and Deschutes - and friends. While I was ready to call it a night, I was also happy to join their party as we bar hopped a bit more, met even more people and ultimately had us a good time. It was around 4 a.m. when I arrived back at my hotel, way too late for my tastes, but man... that was a great day.

I'm back in Sacramento now, the weather is dreamy and calm. Recalling the weekend that was, I can't wait to get back to Portland, at least for the Oregon Brewers Festival in July. If you've not been drinking in Portland, you really ought to fix that, but make sure you get a hotel, take cabs and stay for a whole weekend, long enough to see several of the great beer stops the city is known for.