Friday, April 11, 2008

Next Stop, Belmont Station

When I first rolled into town, a visit to the Horsebrass was always followed by an obligatory stop at Belmont Station, the beer store next door. In a cramped little room, you would scan the shelves lined with single bottles, until you decided which Northwest or Belgian or British beers you had to have. Then you would go to the clerk and tick them off on your fingers, "I'll have two of the little Tripel Karmeliets, and a Fuller's ESB, and a Dick's Barley Wine". While you perused the glassware or the British foodstuffs -- banana ketchup??? -- the clerk would rummage around in the back and bring out your beers stuffed into a six-pack holder from some other brewery.

It was a quaint ritual, and they had a good beer selection, but the new location on Stark Street -- not that new, since January 2007 -- is far superior. Now you can pull your own beer off the shelf or out of the cooler! No more head-slapping when you get home and realize you forgot the one beer you went there for; no more buyer's remorse when you get tongue-tied and ask for the wrong bottle. The new place is bigger, too. I mean, you could still fit three Belmont Stations into John's Market over in Multnomah Village, but there's plenty of good inventory to empty your wallet on.

Another benefit of the new location is the attached pub -- the Biercafe -- including a few tables on the sidewalk. They only have four taps, but they keep them tasty -- or, as the cafe boss Wade put it to me today, "No crap on tap". It's not unusual to see less common locals like Double Mountain or Fort George on tap. Today for local flavor they had the Collaborator Altimate, plus some California and Colorado imports: a 10% HeBrew Ale, Avery Maharaja IIPA, and Six Rivers Kona Porter. That's obscure Green Dragon-ish territory. Way to go, guys! According to the Belmont Station beer blog, the cafe has plans to increase the number of taps to at least 10. That will make it an even more attractive hangout.

If you like the selections on tap, you can get a half-gallon growler to go -- prices depend on the beer. They'll sell you a two-quart mason jar for $3 if you forgot to bring your own jug. And, if you don't like the selections on tap, pick a bottle from the store side, pay a little bit of a markup, and drink it in the cafe. Highly civilized. They also have a curious device called a "surger" that purports to turn a bottled Guinness into a draft-like pint with ultrasound waves. I'm not sure what to make of that; probably if I'm dying for a Guinness I'll go find one on tap somewhere, but maybe someday I'll think of some other beer that I want microwaved.

Belmont Station is truly Southeast Portland's beer geek Candy Store. It's also the place to call if you need a keg of something offbeat -- they'll special order you almost anything in the state.

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