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.

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