Friday, February 29, 2008

Portland Airport Pub Crawl

Beer options behind security at PDX have improved dramatically in the last few months. I was out there this weekend on my way to a Vegas wedding, and was happy to find that Rogue and Laurelwood have each recently opened new pubs at the airport. They both have a decent selection of their own beers, and a second, larger Laurelwood pub opening next week will bring the joy closer to more airline gates.

The Rogue pub in Terminal D replaces the frumpy old lounge that used to serve the same drab-yet-expensive burger/pizza/nachos as most other frumpy airport lounges. The previous occupant was branded as a Widmer place, but the food had nothing in common with the Gasthaus food, and they never served any unusual beers, just stuff from Widmer's supermarket lines. By contrast, the new Rogue place has some things you'd expect to see on a Rogue menu, like fish and chips, and various configurations of ground Kobe beef. (I always thought it was completely deranged to make hamburgers out of premium beef like that. Then I learned the true meaning of "deranged": Rogue also makes Kobe Hot Dogs, Kobe-Blue Cheese Meatballs, and Kobe Chili.) The permanent beer list is nothing to text message home about, but it's better than the old Big Gulps of Widmer Hefeweizen:
  • Dead Guy Ale
  • American Amber
  • Kell's Irish Lager
  • Shakespeare Stout (nitro)
  • Mocha Porter
  • Brutal Bitter
  • Juniper Pale Ale
  • Hazelnut Brown Ale
The good news is that they always have one of the "John's Locker Stock" bruisers on tap. They sold me a 12 ounce goblet of Charlie for $5, which is kind of nutty since I think the 16 ounce pints of everything else go for the more typical airport price of $6.25 (or $7.25 if you super-size it to 22 ounces). They have one more rotating tap, this weekend it was the Honey Orange Wheat from their Eugene brewery. Puzzlingly, they also serve Bud and Bud Light.

The Laurelwood pub in Terminal A has been open for a few months now, with nearly the same menu and beer selection as the main pub on Sandy. Even better, food and beer prices are the same at the airport as at the pub -- for a 16 ounce pint that's $3.95. There are a couple of drawbacks: the place is very cramped and uninviting, and -- unless you're flying Alaska -- it's far from the rest of the airport in the panhandle of Terminal A. Luckily, these two problems will be solved by a much bigger Laurelwood set to open March 4th in Terminal E. The beer list at Terminal A is:
  • Mother Lode Golden
  • Piston Pale Ale
  • Hooligan ESB
  • Free Range Red
  • Boss IPA
  • Tree Hugger Porter
  • Space Stout
  • Rotating (currently Vinter Varmer)
What about the part of the airport before the security check? Good things are happening there also. The Rose City Cafe is still there, and its little bar serves four or five different Deschutes ales, Bridgeport IPA, and Mac and Jack's African Amber from Redmond. There used to be a less fancy cafe next to it, which sold gunky airport pizza and had about 10 beer taps, mostly unmemorable, though they also served the Mac and Jack's. This has new been replaced with a Pizzicato Pizza outlet. My jaw hit the floor when I saw their beer taps:
Willamette is so new that I think I've only seen them at the Green Dragon. It's always good to see a new Hopworks tap spring up, and Double Mountain is a truly inspired choice, one of the best new breweries in the area. Nice to see Amnesia there, too.

So, no matter which side of the security cordon you're on at PDX, you won't have to compromise on quality to be able to fortify yourself for the outward journey or wind down after the return trip. The new pubs also give out-of-towners a little better taste of Portland beer culture than they got before. It's a very positive development for the airport.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Other Super Dog

It would be great to have lunch every day at Higgins... get the lunch special or the burger, and have a cask-conditioned pint. But in these troubled times, when the "fiscal conservatives" who added $5 trillion to the national debt are overdrawn on their own bank accounts, some cheaper options are needed. Luckily, right around the corner from Higgins is SuperDog, a hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand that will pour you an Oregon pint for $3.75.

There's a little bit of local-food action happening, with a couple of Zenner's sausages on the list, a different homemade soup each day, and a condiment table laden with an assortment of Beaver mustards. The number of sausage/topping options is truly bewildering, but most of them ring up to $5 or less. The people are friendly, they'll wait patiently while you figure it all out.

On the other hand, the beer list isn't bewildering at all. They only have four taps, but they're good ones, again with a local emphasis. On my first visit, when I saw the Lucky Lab tap handle and asked which beer it was, I was given a classic "Well, duh" look. "Super Dog, what else?" Good choice. Super Dog is one of my favorite Lab beers right now, a nice big IPA. Besides that, they always pour Laurelwood Free Range Red and -- representing the world outside of Oregon -- Anchor Steam.

The fourth tap is dedicated to Klamath Basin Brewing -- whoa, that's obscure. Extra community service points for that! For a long time SuperDog had Klamath's Cabin Fever Stout, which I kept meaning to try but somehow always ended up with a Super Dog. Last week the Klamath selection was Drop Dead Red, which is a smooth and easy red ale, more like a less-hoppy version of the Laurelwood than bigger reds like Roots or Lagunitas.

That's the story of the other Super Dog: it's a friendly place for a quick cheap bite if you're near the South Park Blocks, and you can't go wrong with any of the drafts. If you need to save an additional dollar, after 4 PM you get $1 off your beer when you also order a dog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

McMenamins' Battle of the Belt 2008

A bunch of the Pub Nighters turned out Saturday to the McMenamins' Hillsdale Pub (photo lifted from McMenamins' website) to cheer on our local boy, Corey Blodgett, in the Battle of the Belt. The Battle of the Belt is an internal competition to decide which brewer will represent McMenamins' at the Oregon Brewers' Festival. Corey is local in the sense that he lives in the neighborhood and runs with the Pub Night crowd, but the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse where he brews is so far from my stomping grounds that I rarely get any of his beers. One saving grace is that the CPR's tied house in town is the McMenamins' on Broadway, not that far away. But they don't always get his very coolest beers, like the oak-aged Double Red Ale that I got to try over the weekend, thanks to Brett, who snagged me a taste from the roadhouse. The Double Red was very nice, compares really well to Ninkasi's Believer. I like that style a lot.

Every year, there's been some conflict that kept me from going to the Battle of the Belt. So I was very happy this year that Carla and I got to hitch a ride with Dave and Jill and little baby Vaughn and cast a vote for Corey, not to mention actually taste some of his beer. Corey and fellow CPR brewer Chris Oslin's entry was "Rose City 'Til I DiePA" -- maybe work on those beer names, guys -- which was a delicious IIPA made with organic malt. Just one kind of malt, does that make it a single malt? Consulting my notes here... "awesome IPA". Well, that's my usual way with words for these things. I can expand a little by saying that it was very well-balanced, hoppy without getting too bitter. Smooth and strong.

You get to vote on three beers at the battle, and my other two votes went to High Street's Schneeflocken (notes: Belgian tripley, good), and Lighthouse ORator (notes: bourbony, good). Hmmm, looking back over the program, those are strange comments on those beers, since the ORator doppelbock didn't have anything to do with bourbon, and the Schneeflocken was a Dunkel Weisse, more Alpine than Low Country. Harry Sanger was the brewer of the ORator and Lane Fricke was the Schneeflocken brewer.

We were impressed at how many good beers were poured at the battle. There were some completely bad ones -- we debated which toilet cleanser one of them tasted most like -- and there were some that were too, well, McMenamins'-flavored. But some of them were really good:
  • Dad Watson's Pale Rider (American Pale, by Brian Lawrence): nicely bitter
  • Fulton Old 32 (NW Strong, by Chris Haslett): good & strong
  • Roseburg Station 'M' (Strong Ale, by Tom Johnson): maltily good
  • Hillsdale Madman Jack's (Insane Pale Ale, by Matt Carter): good IPA
  • Oak Hills My Favorite Things (NW Pale, by John Keane): good & very hoppy
The name "Pale Rider" brings back old Austin memories. Celis briefly made a Pale Rider Ale in collaboration with Clint Eastwood, with proceeds donated to charity. Hilarious advertising slogan: "You didn't expect Clint Eastwood to make a salad dressing, did you?". The Dad Watson's definitely has a 2008 Northwest flavor instead of a 1998 Texas one.

Another highlight was meeting Corey's dad Walt, who flew in from Milwaukee for the festivities. For whatever reason, the winner of the Battle of the Belt won't be announced for a few more days. A good time was had by all, and I hope to make it back next year.

Update [2008/02/25]: McMenamins' finally announced the winners: Hillsdale 1st place, CPR 2nd place, Fulton 3rd place. Sounds like a home-field advantage to me, but there's no denying that the three winners were excellent ales. Congratulations to the brewers!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Second-Oldest New Old Lompoc

Continuing our tour of close-in SE brewpubs, we come to the tiny but friendly Hedge House (warning: slooooow website) at 34th and Division. It's walking distance from my house, but just barely. More often I'm hitching up my bicycle to their industrial strength bike rack.

Back in the fall of 2003 we were really excited to read in the neighborhood newsletter that a New Old Lompoc pub was coming to the neighborhood. Being a newly-transplanted Portlander, I didn't have a long history with the original Lompoc on NW 23rd but the neighbors had only good things to say about it. I'd been in to try the hop-bomb C-Note IPA at least, and heard Dave's story about the keg of Lompoc beer with hop twigs still floating in it, so I was looking forward to having a New New Old Lompoc close by.

Somehow we never got the memo when it opened, and it seems like the first time I went in there was the next spring or summer. I asked, "When did you guys finally open?" and got a quizzical look. "Uh, January." Then again, they're not exactly screaming for attention, in an old house set way back from the street, with a small sign in the yard that gives little indication what line of business the house is in. I'm not even sure the sign was there for the first few months; I think you just had to know where it was.

Anyway, now we've found it, and the laid-back people and atmosphere make it a great place to pop in for a fresh beer, especially at lunchtime when it's less crowded. You might have to wait for a seat in the evenings, since the interior only seats about 25 people. There's more seating on the side patio, but only part of it is covered and heated. It's one of the more kid-friendly brewpubs in this part of town, since it's more like a restaurant than a bar, and has reasonable mac-and-cheese and sandwich choices for the young'uns.

The beer selection is much more limited than at the Lompoc flagship -- only 5 or 6 taps -- and they often seem to run out of the seasonals pretty quickly, though they had the Tavern Rat Barley Wine today, very nice. There's no cask engine, but usually either the Sockeye Cream Stout or the Lompoc Strong Draft is on nitro. A big variety would probably just be wasted on me anyway, since it's hard to talk myself into ordering anything but C-Note. Monday is cheap day, $2 pints. Well, Beervana says they're cheater pints, but at least they're cheap and good.

As for food, the sandwiches, soups, and salads are quite good. I especially like the Chop-Chop salad, it's a meal unto itself. Next door is the quaintly continental Pix Patisserie; if the beer selection at the Hedge House doesn't satisfy, Pix has a bunch of clever Belgians in bottles.

I called the Hedge House the "second-oldest" Lompoc, because they've added two more taverns to the family: the Fifth Quadrant Lompoc in North Portland, and the Oaks Bottom Public House down in Sellwood. They're all worth a visit -- particularly the Old New Old Lompoc in NW -- but the Hedge House will always be Home Sweet Home for us here in the southeast.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Incidental Contents Are Not Intended for Consumption

When I conceived my prank, it came with a good blog-post title: "Nobody Wants My Collectible Bottle". But then someone out-pranked me and actually bid on the empty bottle of Abyss that I listed on Ebay for $15 plus $10 shipping and handling.

Like many other beer mavens, I was not pleased to see people scalping bottles of the Abyss on Ebay or craigslist. The scalper hasn't done anything of value, he's just rushed out and bought up something that would be valuable to someone else, but isn't to him. Then, because Ebay doesn't want people selling alcohol, the scalper adds insult to injury with the following boilerplate required by Ebay:

The value of the item is in the collectible container, not its contents.

The container has not been opened and any incidental contents are not intended for consumption.

The item is not available at any retail outlet, and the container has a value that substantially exceeds the current retail price of the alcohol in the container.

There's no way you could believe that was true, especially since the Ebay sellers all proclaim the excellence of the top-ranked Imperial Stout in their descriptions of the bottles for sale. It's a measure of the malaise we've fallen into, that people will tell any lie for convenience, no matter how obviously false it is. As a beer fan, I'm annoyed by beer scalping; you can understand why brewer Tomme Arthur takes it more personally when someone says his beer is worth less than its bottle and is not intended for consumption.

Anyway, when I saw bottles of the Abyss going for $40-$45 under the premise that it was the bottle that was valuable, I decided I would auction the empty bottle pictured above, just to point out the ludicrousness of the "incidental contents" claims. Here's the text of the auction:

You are bidding on an EMPTY bottle!!!

Since Ebay does not permit the sale of alcoholic beverages, I drank the contents of this collectible 2007 Abyss bottle before listing it for auction. If you win the auction, I will ship you the empty collectible bottle, plus the collectible wax-covered bottlecap, plus a couple bits of collectible wax that broke off when I removed the bottlecap.

Other collectible Abyss bottles have sold this year for as much as $45 apiece!!! Of course, those were unopened collectible bottles that contained an alcoholic beverage. When you buy this EMPTY collectible Abyss bottle, you can buy with the confidence that you're buying from someone who plays by the rules, and you get the satisfaction of knowing how much I enjoyed drinking this delicious Imperial Stout.

Good Luck!

I thought it would be good for a laugh, and that I would get a blog article out of it with the title I mentioned. Late Thursday evening, I noticed that the auction had caught someone's eye, because the number of people who had viewed the auction suddenly jumped into the hundreds. Turns out someone had pointed it out in a ratebeer forum, and someone else on Beer Advocate. I started to get questions about the item:

Q: How many bits of wax will you be including? I'm trying to decide if it's really worth it. :) - Bob

A: Hi Bob! There are a two little chunks that broke off when I opened the bottle. One is about the size of a toenail clipping, the other is smaller, maybe fingernail clipping size. Don't forget that there is still a scab-sized chunk of wax adhering to the bottle cap. Enjoy :-)

Q: Hi- I'm excited about this item!!! This is less than half price from those other items. My question: It's nice to see someone that plays by the rules, but isn't the S&H a bit over priced as the weight won't include the contents?:-( cheers, john

A: Good point. I just put what Ebay said UPS ground would cost. I'll negotiate something reasonable with the winner.

Q: Can you guarantee there's no beer - no bits of yeast sticking to the bottom, no sludgy stuff up the sides? I'd hate for there to be any yukky beer stuff ruining a good looking bottle ;-)

A: Oh, I drank every single drop. Even when the bottle looked empty, I laid down with it on the couch for a couple of hours to make sure every bit went into my mouth.

Q: Hi there, I was wondering if you could post a picture of the wax shards. Are all shards still intact or are a few missing? What is the condition of the bottle cap? Did you use a quarter on top while prying it off it ensure it stays in M10+ condition?

A: I understand your concern, since the wax on this bottle was rated the best bottle wax in the world by the Men's Journal. I tried to preserve it all, but there could be some missing molecules. Sadly, I didn't do the quarter trick when opening the bottle. I was in a big hurry to pour myself a glass. So I can't guarantee the excellence of the bottlecap.

Then, horror of horrors, someone actually bid on it. Now I really have to rinse the bottle out, and find a box, and, and -- please, no! -- go to the post office and mail it!
My interest was piqued a little to see that the bidder's Ebay ID was "ftommearthur". Wow! It looks like Tomme Arthur liked my little joke and decided to throw some fuel on the fire. Hey, maybe instead of cash, he'll pay me with some "incidental liquids" from his brewery. But what's the "F" for? Is his legal name F. Tomme Arthur? Or is this someone else, the Female Tomme Arthur perhaps? Ah, probably someone just pranking me back -- with no intention of paying -- and yanking Tomme's chain at the same time.

That would be great, I wouldn't have to journey into the scary UPS office. But, no such luck. Paypal "You've got cash!"-ed me the morning after the auction closed. Aha! Some guy in Vermont, definitely not the California brewer. Oh well, the "ftommearthur" moniker at least indicated he was in on the joke, and wasn't some poor sap who thought he was -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- bidding on a full bottle. Here's how he explained himself in an email:

Thanks Bill. Just trying to further the entertainment / discussion from the BA "*&^% eBay" thread. Didn't work. In any case I thought your auction deserved a bid for its satirical / comedy value. You made a good point. For the record I too detest the eBay beer profiteering. Looking forward to my wax shards...


Luckily, I had been careful to safely stash away the promised bottlecap and bits of wax, otherwise I'd have to drink another bottle of incidental non-collectible stout.

I don't think I'm cut out for this Ebay thing. UPS charged me $13.59 for shipping (including $2.70 "Rural Surcharge", for the Vermont end), and Ebay invoiced me $1.39. My laziness caused me to pay another $5.65 to UPS to pack it all up for me. Suddenly $15 + $10 shipping looks like quite a bargain! There go my hopes for getting rich by drinking beer... unless... maybe someone wants to buy a set of 3 collectible bottles. Empty, of course.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Set Sail for the Pilsner Room

Since the Hawthorne Bridge is the center of the Pub Night universe, it's about time I got around to writing about the Pilsner Room, the taproom for Full Sail's Portland brewery. After all, you can see the bridge from there, and it's a nice destination if you're on a bicycle, with easy access from Waterfront Park (which also means it's within stumbling distance of the Oregon Brewers Festival). I practically lived there last October because of brewer John Harris' magnificent Lupulin Fresh Hop Ale. So I'll take advantage of writing up Thursday night's tasting of barrel-aged porters and stouts to extol the virtues of the Pilsner Room.

The McCormick and Schmick's restaurant attached to the Pilsner Room provides a menu that's better than the usual pub fare, with good prices at lunch and super-cheap ones at happy hour. There are lots of 2- and 4-seat dining tables -- even more outside in good weather -- and plenty of room at the bar if you're on a solo mission or you just need to be close to the beer. The selection is fabulous: about 10 house brews, 3 cask engines, and another 10 guest taps. Besides the mainstream Full Sail repertoire -- and excellent seasonals like the Slipknot IPA -- there are always three or four rarities from the adjoining brewery, like the doppelbock, or the delicious Belgian dubbel. The guest taps are nicely done, with an interesting variety of quality beers. It always makes me happy to see an out-of-the-ordinary Hale's on tap -- it's the Wee Heavy right now. It's also sporting of them to always keep one of the engines stocked with a guest cask: a Double Mountain Red Ale was on cask Thursday, and I've seen Hopworks and (I think) Ninkasi casks.

Now, about those dark beers. Each year, the brewery takes a portion of their Top Sail Imperial Porter or Black Gold Imperial Stout, whichever they brewed that year, and ages it in bourbon barrels for nine or ten months. Thursday evening they trotted out three different examples: this year's aged Top Sail, a Black Gold from 2006, and a pre-Top Sail Imperial Porter from 2004. The year refers to when they were taken out of the oak, they were brewed the year before.

I don't know who started this scheme of aging stouts in bourbon casks, but it seems to be growing in popularity. My first encounter with it was a bourbon-aged KGB Stout that I had at Widmer's Gasthaus sometime in 2004. This year they're breaking out all over. John Foyston, the beer writer at the Oregonian, pointed out four different barrel-aged releases -- some stouts, some barleywines, some in whiskey barrels, some in wine -- in the space of a couple of weeks. And of course there's Epic and the infamous Abyss. Many of these are blends of aged and fresh beer. As far as I can tell from the Full Sail propaganda, the ones we had Thursday are just the straight-up aged item.

The usual Pub Nighters couldn't make the Full Sail matinee, so I was left on my own for this tasting. Fortunately, there was a friendly and sophisticated crowd sitting at the bar to ooh and ahh over the beers with. These were luscious, tasty brews. The 2004 porter tasted strongly of bourbon -- which could have turned out badly, but didn't. It also had a very strong chocolate taste, again, in a good way. The literature says it's 7.4% ABV; it tasted stronger than that to me, comparable to the 10% of the other two beers. I was pretty sure this was my favorite of the three, but the 2006 stout kept growing on me until I thought maybe that was my favorite. The 2006 was smooth and delicious, with that hint of minty flavor that so many good stouts have. Though the bourbon flavor wasn't as pronounced as with the 2004, it did add a nice touch to a very well-rounded beer. You can't really fault the 2008 porter for coming in third place to its accomplished older siblings. The flavor seemed milder than that of the 2004, and its lighter body made me think "cola". Still a mighty fine porter; I'm going to leave my bottle of it in the fridge for a while to see how it develops.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Barleywine Notes from Last Year

Going through a bunch of paperwork and mail that had piled up on my desk for a year or so, I found the program from 2007's Barleywine and Big Beer Fest at the Lucky Lab. Actually the program calls it a "Tastival". Let's hope people stop using that word this year. I wasn't blogging at the time, but I scribbled my usual short and incoherent notes on the program. It's alarming how many of these huge beers I claim to have tasted -- we must have been sharing sips around the table, which I think consisted of Lindsey, Corey, Brett, and me.

Anyway, since this year's Ta... Festival is about a month away, and since I was just gushing about Old Yeller, it was interesting to look at the old notes. Indeed, Old Yeller seems to have been a favorite, given these remarks:
  • Lucky Lab: 2002 Old Yeller: Textbook. Nice.
  • Lucky Lab: 2004 Old Yeller: Better. Coffee/Chocolate.
  • ...
  • Terminal Gravity: 2005 Barleywine: Best so far. Oops, Lucky Lab better.
But it looks like I changed my mind at least one more time. The only entry I put a star beside was:
  • Rogue: 2004 Old Crustacean: Good stuff. Hops & brown sugar.
I'm guessing the star means it was my favorite, but there's no guarantee. In fact, my memory was that the Pelican Grand Cru was the beer that impressed me the most that day. Other beers that made a favorable impression were:
  • Anderson Valley: 2006 Beer of the Horn: Yes. But very sweet.
  • Raccoon Lodge: 2005 Barrel-Aged Old Yarleywine: Good. [Crossed out: "Textbook."]
  • Sierra Nevada: 2004 Bigfoot: Nice hoppy.
  • Sierra Nevada: 2005 Bigfoot: Ditto.
  • Tuck's: 2005 Glutius Maximus Barleywine: Good.
  • Caldera: 2003 Russian Imperial Stout: Good times.
  • Caldera: 2005 Russian Imperial Stout: Better times. Spiced.
  • Lagunitas: 2005 Brown Shugga: Better than fresh.
  • Pelican: 2006 Grand Cru: Very nice. Dark color. Tasty.
Mmmm... Caldera. As we were sipping Abyss last week, Dave and I were reminiscing about Caldera Imperial Stout. Sometime in 2004 we discovered that delicious thing on tap at William's on 12th, a bistro in the neighborhood that has since closed down. It was the first I'd heard of Caldera, but what a great way to get introduced. The imperial stout was so delicious, pitch black, with a big, dark head. Anyway, the other day we were trying to remember how well it would compare with Abyss -- pretty well, I suspect. A couple years of it are on the list for this year's Festival, I can't wait to refresh my memory.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Old Yeller

Since I had some free time this evening, I decided to participate in The Session, which is a kind of synchronized blogging where a bunch of beer bloggers write on the same subject. This month's topic is barleywines, so naturally I strolled down to the Lucky Labrador for a sample of Old Yeller.

When Carla and I were first married, she sometimes made fun of my habit of sleeping with a pillow between my legs. (It's good for your back.) Her enjoyment only increased when she discovered that it wasn't just any pillow that I needed, but the same old dilapidated pillow every night. At some point that pillow had a yellow pillowcase on it that didn't match any of the rest of our linen, and she began to taunt me: "Where's Old Yeller? I haven't seen Old Yeller tonight."

So I would have a soft spot for the Lucky Lab's barleywine just because of the name, even if it wasn't so delicious. This really is a masterful beer, one of their best. Like most barleywines, you get plenty of the strong alcohol bite. Also true to form, it is very sweet, in this case with a serious brown sugar flavor. But it's so chewy, extremely well-balanced, and so long, that it's really something special. You usually want to drink big beers like this pretty close to room temperature to get the most flavor, but even cold out of the tap Old Yeller doesn't disappoint.

To make this session more scientific, I headed over to the Green Dragon to see if they had a barleywine on tap. Turns out they had two of them, Mad River's John Barleycorn, and the classic American barleywine, Anchor's Old Foghorn. These were both strong, tasty, sweet brews, but tonight they lost out to Old Yeller. Neither of them had the complexity of malt flavor that Old Yeller had. I'd say the John Barleycorn was the more flavorful of the two, but the Old Foghorn was a smooth, very well done beer.

That was also a trip down memory lane for me. There was a time when you could go into Austin's Dog and Duck pub on pint night, and they would pour you an imperial pint of Old Foghorn for $2. I'm not sure if it was only some of the bartenders that would do that for you, or if they decided whether a patron could handle it on a case-by-case basis, but I do know I wasn't the only poor slacker to take advantage of that largesse. It's nice to see that the pioneering done by Anchor long ago has inspired a new generation of brewers to come up with their own take on barleywines.

On a final note, it's ironic that I'm writing for the barleywine session on the first Friday in February. The first Friday in March, there will be a Barleywine Festival at the Lucky Lab's Quimby Street location.

Good Times at the Green Dragon

Wow! The Green Dragon has really come into its own. Pub night was there Tuesday night for the "Meet the Brewer" session with Ninkasi's Jamie Floyd (more about Ninkasi lower down). It had been a few weeks since I'd been to the Dragon, and I'm really impressed at how it's shaping up. They even have pinball machines.

From Day One, they had an impressive draft beer selection. Actually, it's hard to describe the draft selection, because the 20 taps are always changing, but the consistent thread running through the choices is that every tap is special -- very few of the beers they serve are on tap anywhere else in town. It's serious beer nerd territory here. Not a single tap is wasted on Hef or Black Butte or even Laurelwood Red -- all decent enough beers, but they're available everywhere. At the Green Dragon, the regional beers are often from breweries I hadn't heard of before (!) or, if I've heard of the brewery, the beer style is one that no one else pours. The imports are stylish choices like Dupont's Avec les bons Voeux, or Kulmbacher Schwarzbier, or the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. I don't really like the J.W. Lees -- too sweet -- but my hat's off to them for serving it.

Last spring the pub night gang was sitting outside of Roots when Lolo, one of the Green Dragon owners, wandered over and gave us some stickers. He told us about the pub they were planning in the old Yamhill Brewing space, including the plan to mostly serve rarities. We were excited to hear about a new place in the neighborhood. But after it opened, I didn't really warm up to the Dragon. The space seemed a little haphazard, and I was concerned that the pretty glasses they sold "pints" in were more in the 12 oz. range. There didn't ever seem to be too much of a crowd in there, and I was afraid the Green Dragon was just going to be a flash in the pan.

I've been straightened out on all three of those quibbles, and now I can picture myself spending quite a bit of time there. The space feels better now, they have more tables than they did, they slapped some brighter paint on the walls, and -- most important of all -- there is a well-lit dartboard set up in a good place. As for the pints, Jeff at Beervana has pronounced the Green Dragon's glasses to hold 15 ounces, which, while not a pint, is close enough for me, given the quality selection and knowledgeable servers. Finally, the crowd that filled the place Tuesday convinced me that they're going to hang in there. Food's good, too. The spicy meatloaf sandwich with gravy and fries set me up pretty well.

Eventually Lolo will be brewing his own beer onsite. Just one more thing to look forward to.

Ninkasi Night

It was nice to meet the Ninkasi brewer, Jamie Floyd, on Tuesday. (He's not in this grainy photograph, that's the pub-nighter table from Tuesday.) As mentioned previously, Ninkasi sprang onto the scene last year with some excellent beers. Jamie says he's happy just being a brewery as opposed to having a pub attached, and it seems to be working out -- the beer is all over Portland now.

The attraction Tuesday was Ninkasi's new Dunkelweizen, which was delicious. It's lighter in color than the typical German Dunkelweizen, but it has the classic yeasty/sour taste and esthery aroma. Higgins has it on tap right now also.

Another nice surprise was Jamie's version of Spank Dog Pale Ale, a recipe from Eugene's Wild Duck Brewery, which must have gone out of business about the time I arrived in Oregon. The Spank Dog was malty and tasty with almost a fruity taste. It reminded me of something I've had, but I couldn't quite put a finger on it.