Monday, June 26, 2017

Sample Tray Stunt 2017

One of the early hits here on It's Pub Night was 2008's Portland Sample Tray Marathon, where Dave and I got hall passes on Father's Day and sampled 78 or so beers that afternoon by biking around and getting the sample trays at 11 breweries. The goal was to only partake of beers brewed at the very places we visited.

Remember 2008?  That year the Oregon Brewers Guild put out a press release (duly posted by -- where ya been, Matt?!?) touting the 32 microbreweries in Portland.  So Dave and I were pretty proud to have visited 1/3 of them in one day.  We didn't skip any along our path (Tugboat was closed), and we went to two Lucky Labs.  Ah, those were the days, when we hadn't yet heard of Facebook.  I had only joined Twitter two months before, and I thought since no one followed me on there I would mostly use it to make a note of times I bumped into things so that later I could figure out where I had gotten this or that bruise.

I've always wanted to repeat some variation of the sample tray stunt ("stunt" is a more fitting description than "marathon", though like a marathon it did require a certain amount of mental toughness).  This year Dave and I finally resolved to take another stab at it.  Like the original ride, it would be on Father's Day and we would only sample beers brewed on premises, but this time we would only visit places which had opened since our last adventure.

It wasn't difficult to pick new breweries, since OBG's 2017 press release counts 70 breweries in Portland, more than double the number in 2008.  In fact, this time we would be skipping over a dozen breweries near the route, only a few of which had been on our original tour.  On the other side of that coin:  two of the original stunt's breweries -- Roots and Clinton Street -- had gone out of business, and the beer served at the Lompoc Tavern on 23rd is no longer brewed there.  Here is a map of this year's route:

The other thing we did differently this time was to invite more people along. In fact, we opened it up to the public at large by adding it to the 2017 Pedalpalooza calendar. That could have gone spectacularly wrong if, say, 50 people showed up and we had to order 10 sample trays at every stop.  As it happens, it's a very small Venn diagram of people who are free on Father's Day and want to take 7 hours to bike 7 miles while sipping beer from 100 tiny glasses.  In the end, no one joined us that we didn't already know, so we could have skipped the Pedalpalooza bit entirely.  You bike people don't know what you missed.

Our core group of six biker/tasters hit 8 breweries on a 10-mile ride over the course of 6 hours, sampling 93 beers, for a velocity of 15.5 Beers per Hour (BPH).  Several of us made it to the 9th brewery to notch our 105th beer.  Of the original 6, Tim and I got in 111 beers in 7.5 hours by tacking on Hair of the Dog, with an assist from Lindsey who had joined us at Baerlic.  And though that sounds like a dangerous amount of drinking, let me say that 111 samples shared by 6 people is much more sensible than the 78 beers shared by Dave and me back in 2008.

Here is a diary of our exploits, including the beer at each place that got the most votes as the group favorite (which was rarely my personal favorite):
  1. Ecliptic Brewing: 13 samples. Favorite: Lupulin Nebula IPA.
  2. Ex Novo: 12 samples.  Favorite:  Best Budz Hazy Sour Pale (Great Notion collab).
  3. Back Pedal: 8 samples.  Favorite:  Kumulus Chamomile IPA (Fat Heads collab).
  4. Breakside NW:  7 samples.  Favorite: (tie) Big Ern Texas Pilsner/Precious Snowflake DIPA.
  5. PINTS: 10 samples.  Favorite: Single Hop Pale (oops, forgot to note which hop it was).
  6. Burnside: 19 samples.  Favorite:  Sweet Heat (!).
  7. Commons: 12 samples.  Favorite:  Nocino Brady-barrel aged Pumpernickel Rye Saison.
  8. Baerlic: 12 samples.  Favorite:  Fancy Umbrella Drink Guava Gose.
  9. Grixsen: 12 samples.  Favorite (difficult to choose something we liked here):  IPA.
  10. Hair of the Dog:  6 samples.  Favorite:  Peach Adam from the Wood.
What a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself.  How cool is it that we went from the latest Breakside jam straight to PINTS, whose first head brewer Zach Beckwith conceived of it as the anti-Breakside?  Not to mention the fact that as we sat at Breakside debating whether to hit PINTS or Fat Heads, our server chimed in to say what a hidden treasure he thought PINTS was.  And though the Roots Brewing that we visited in 2008 is justly lamented, it was a delight to sample almost 20 beers at Jason McAdam's Burnside, which shines far brighter than Roots.  Burnside's Sweet Heat -- which was the crowd favorite -- was born as Calypso at Roots, as their 2008 OBF entry.  I can vividly remember the first few times I tried Calypso:  it was so different, wonderful, refreshing, and complete.  Another beautiful connection with the 2008 ride:  the Full Sail beers we had at the harbor that year were brewed by John Harris, who struck out on his own in 2013 to start Ecliptic, which was a brilliant opener for us in 2017.

Thanks to my co-conspirators on this ride!  Stay tuned for more excessive beer adventures.