Monday, June 16, 2008

Portland Sample Tray Marathon

Since Portland has so many breweries in a concentrated area, I got it into my mind to see how many beers one could taste in a small amount of time, bicycling from pub to pub. Yesterday, after weeks of scheming, Dave and I cut a swath through 11 breweries in a 6-mile stretch, using the technology of the sample tray to sip 78 beers brewed on premises. It was like a private Oregon Brewers Festival, and we did it all in six hours. It's tempting to call it a bicycle pub crawl, but it was more like a pub sprint.

Obviously, this isn't a way to do any meaningful tasting or comparison -- we even took the unprecedented measure of leaving beer in the glass. But the goal wasn't to do something meaningful -- it was to do something senseless, but something that's only possible right here in Portland.

Here's our itinerary:
  • New Old Lompoc: 2:38 to 2:51. $7.50 for 8 samples.
    1. Fool's Golden Ale
    2. Condor Pale Ale
    3. Centennial IPA
    4. C-Note IPA
    5. Proletarian Red
    6. Lompoc Strong Draft
  • Lucky Lab Quimby: 2:56 to 3:15. $1.25 per sample.
    1. Mai Bock
    2. Baltic Porter
    3. 5-ton Lager
    4. Black Sheep IPA
    5. Organic Brown Brown
    6. Organic Red
  • Bridgeport: 3:22 to 3:36. $7 for 9 samples.
    1. Old Knucklehead Barley Wine
    2. Black Strap Stout
    3. Porter
    4. Beertown Brown
    5. ESB
    6. Haymaker Extra Pale Ale
    7. Blue Heron Pale Ale
    8. Ropewalk Amber Ale
    9. IPA
  • Deschutes: 3:46 to 4:06. $6.50 for 6 samples.
    1. Mirror Pond Pale Ale
    2. Fleet Week Red Ale
    3. Rose Peddler Pale Ale
    4. Inversion IPA
    5. Black Butte Porter
  • Ringlers: 4:13 to 4:37. $6.95 for 9 samples.
    1. Belgian Trippel
    2. Liquid Friend (light lager)
    3. Decent IPA
    4. Copper Moon Copper Ale
    5. Ruby
    6. Hammerhead
    7. Porter
    8. Terminator Stout
  • Tugboat: oops, closed on Sunday. No sample trays anyway.
  • Rock Bottom: 4:48 to 5:07. $6.80 for 10 samples.
    1. Swan Island Lager
    2. Volksweizen Wheat
    3. Sunny Day IPA
    4. Oregonic Amber
    5. Multnomah Porter
    6. Morrison Street Stout
    7. Blond Ale
    8. American Dream IPA
    9. Hoppy Days
  • Full Sail Pilsner Room: 5:19 to 6:10 (had dinner). $7.50 for 6 samples.
    1. Prodigal Sun IPA
    2. Dubbel
    3. Nut Brown Ale
    4. Brewer's Share ESB
    5. Topsail Porter
    6. Stout
  • Roots: 6:24 to 6:41. $8 for 8 samples.
    1. Suds Lager
    2. Belgian Golden Ale
    3. Barley Jule ESB
    4. Island Red
    5. Burghead Heather
    6. Exxxcalibur Stout
    7. Woody IPA
    8. Nevermined Pale Ale
  • Lucky Lab Hawthorne: 6:45 to 7:30. $1.25 per sample.
    1. Steam Lager
    2. Malt Bomb Lager
    3. Quality Rye
    4. No Pity Organic Pale
    5. Black Lab Stout
    6. Blue Dog Amber (formerly Extra Pale)
    7. Triple Threat IPA
    8. Crazy Ludwig's Alt
    9. Open Bridge Brown
    10. Stumptown Porter
  • Clinton Street: 7:45 to 7:50. No sample tray: $4 for 2 half-pints.
    1. Amber
    2. Wit
  • Hopworks: 7:56 to 8:32 (toured brewery). $8 for 10 samples.
    1. Baltic Crude Porter
    2. Original Organic Red
    3. 78 Steam
    4. Survival Stout
    5. Deluxe Organic Ale
    6. IPA
    7. Organic Velvet ESB
    8. Organic Crosstown Pale
    9. Organic HUB Lager
Whew! that's 13 beers per hour. Not surprisingly, the first hour was the fastest, clocking in at 21 BPH. It was tough going at the end, but we did what we had to do. We were originally hoping for 100 different beers in 5 hours, but it's not a bad thing that we only got to 78.

Some of the lists above don't add up to the number of samples, because of duplicates, or beers not really brewed where we were at. For instance, we also got an Irish Red at Deschutes, but it was brewed in Bend instead of the Portland brewery, so I didn't count it. We also had two sample trays at Full Sail, but I only counted the beers brewed here in Portland. On the other hand, it's possible that some of the beers we had at the eastside Lucky Lab were brewed at Quimby, but since we were at both, I didn't get too fussy.

Many other variations of this stunt are possible. A marathon starting in Northeast with Alameda and Laurelwood would hit a bunch of pubs that we missed; or you could remove our "brewed on premises" restriction and include Rogue and Laurlewood in the dash through Northwest. But count me out -- once was enough. Many thanks to Dave for being sporting enough to go on such a mission.

Further reading: the follow-up.


  1. I'd like to thank Jill for watching the kid and cheering Bill & I on via text-messages; that was the best Father's Day I've ever had!

    Also, thanks go out to Jamie (I hope that's his name...we were at the 70-beer mark by that point) at HUB for the excellent tour of the brewing facilities.

  2. That's great! My colleagues and I have done two "Bier Tours" in PDX, for the same reason you did this. Beervana and bicycles are great together.

  3. Very cool fact I think I'll try it too. But Maybe I'll go for a Portland Pedicab so I don't have to worry about ending up roadkill on the Portland streets.

  4. You may have the right idea, Banjo.

    At first I wanted to do it on foot, but we used bikes to make it faster.

  5. Actually, it was 6 hours and 39 minutes.... ;)

  6. Jill, you're right... I got 6 hours by only counting the time between stepping into Lompoc and stepping out of HUB, not the wife-to-wife time :-).

  7. Holy crap! Glad to hear you were on bikes--that probably helped you metabolize things, and you only put your own, crazy selves at risk.

    Thinking back, do any of the beers managed to stick in your head? I'd be interested to hear what stood out (aside from the headache you must have had the next day).

  8. Jeff, there were enough interesting beers that I'll write a more detailed follow-up in a couple days.

    But I will say that the biggest revelation for me was how good the IPAs were at Rock Bottom, especially the one they had on cask (I think it was "Sunny Day"). I'll have to lose my snobbery and pop in to the bar side there more often.

  9. Wife-to-wife time...sounds like a subject for a completely different blog.

    I was also impressed by the IPA offerings at Rock Bottom; both the Sunny Day on cask and the American Dream were excellent. The 5-ton lager at the Quimby Lab was pretty tasty, too; very malty for a lager.

  10. You sir, are my new hero. Incredible. I'm just mad I didn't think of it first!

  11. Bill, since Van Havig's been at Rock Bottom, they've been rockin'. Forget the corporate, he's a helluva brewer--and they wisely give him his space to brew beers worthy of Beervana.

  12. Wow, and I thought the plain old bicycle pub crawl was taxing.