Distilleries of Portland

You can be forgiven for thinking that Portland Oregon is the distillery capital of the country.  Our neighbor/hat to the north Washington has significantly more even just inside the Seattle city limits but their distribution around town makes any kind of reasonable tour more difficult.  The density and number of distilleries who have landed in downtown PDX makes it one of the most interesting places to sample distilled spirits around.

The Portland Distillery Row in the SE industrial district has continued to grow since my last post about them and even more since my last attempt at a distillery crawl.  Most notably the other side of the river has gotten into the act and formed the Northwest Distiller’s District.  Nominally just the 3 distilleries off of NW 23rd between Quimby and Vaughn it has since expanded somewhat to include Indio Spirits’ new tasting room in the Pearl district.  One hopes that Glaser in the Pearl will get the hint and jump on board as well but who knows what the future will bring.

All of this (except Glaser) is covered in the Portland Distillery Passport which is now produced and managed by Proof PDX, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with PROOF the Washington Distillers Guild convention. (The Oregon Distiller’s guild convention is called TOAST).  The passport is still $20 which is a fantastic deal for all of the stuff that it now includes.  One caveat that I haven’t had to test yet is they want to limit you to 6 visits per day.  The passport covers 11 distilleries and from what I can see doesn’t actually expire.  There is a web version of the passport for the same price, but it only lasts for a year. I couldn’t figure out what it was going to do before it tried to charge me and I was more comfortable with an app than a website log in so I passed and went with a physical copy that you can get at any location.

On the west side

On the East Side:

National Tequila Day

Happy made-up-holiday recognition day!  July 24th is National Tequila day.  At least according to someone with a vested interest in keeping mentions of tequila in the news.

In the spirit of exploiting cheap excuses to write puff pieces about a given subject to fill airtime I give you a short listing of my best posts about Tequila from the last several years.

Understanding the Tequila NOM  – How to know where your tequila came from and who made it.
Sparkle Donkey Tequila  – The best tequila bottled in Seattle with a name you’ll never forget.

 

 

 

Tequila Sunset Cocktail  – Something I came up with to try out grenadine
Rhulmans Paloma  – A great cocktail idea I stole from Imbibe magazine
Make your own Margarita Mix  – Ditch the bottle mixes, make your own with very simple ingredients.

Chipotle Margaritas  –  Your final reminder that even fast casual places want to sell you cocktails in this day and age.

 

Glaser Distilling

glaserLogoI was very pleased to run across a new addition to the Portland distillery scene.  While they don’t operate their actual stills in Portland it is the place to be for tasting rooms as many others have already proven.  Based out of a celebrated winery located near Roseburg they produce a number of very keen products that I was able to taste on my visit.

Glaser in the Pearl can be found at 1230 NW Hoyt A, Portland, OR 97209
a few scant blocks from I-405.  Parking is a challenge unless you’re there during the day.  They are open 2pm to 8 pm Tuesday through Sunday.

Among their offerings were both Vodka and White rum as well as a spiced rum and a few other items that I can’t seem to find on their website.  This may mean they were seasonal or could just indicate that they don’t update their site often.

Their more interesting items were a Limoncello, coffee, and Butterscotch liqueur.   I would have loved to have bought a bottle of each but funds limited me to a single bottle of the butterscotch.  I was assured by the very lovely Sandy Glaser herself that they produce all of the butterscotch used in the liqueur themselves which makes it doubly wonderful.

It has been a while since I visited but their selection does not appear to change often.  Prices were reasonable for the region and the liqueurs were excellent.  Personally I didn’t find anything in their regular spirits to write home about but your mileage may vary.

Update: Devils Bit Irish Whiskey

wpid-wp-1427222705400.jpegSt. Patrick’s day has come and gone and with it the green beer and drunken revelry of those who want to pretend they’re of Irish extraction for 24 hours.

As every year the distilleries of McMenamins release their small batch Devil’s Bit whiskey.

I wasn’t aware until I put the last three years side by side but each year the release is a little bit different.  The 2013 is a 12-year aged Irish, the 2014 is an 8 year four barrel and this year is a 5 year port barrel finish.

The bottles are all still 200ml and the price has stayed at $17.  I’ve run a side by side tasting on all three and I’m hard pressed to find the differences.  The aging process is pretty light and the finished product is still a little harsh even for the 12 year.

As an annual tradition I still enjoy heading out to Edgefield or CPR, taking the tour and getting my one or two bottles.

Weltenburger Kloster Pils – Review

16-24 Weztenburger kloster pilsI am a sucker for a good Pilsner, let me start this by stating that right from the outset. I think the craft beer movement has forgotten its roots to an extent, with all the IPAs, and Saisons you’re seeing lately. Not that I have a problem with them mind you, but I feel there is a place in the market for a delicious crisp Pilsner. The Weltenburger is a German Pilsner if the name didn’t give it away and I was not disappointed.

First the facts: 5.6% ABV, and a 22 on the IBU scale.

It had a clear pour, nice and bubbly almost like a champagne. Very light citrus smell on the nose, with a crisp and light flavor with only a slight grain or popcorn finish that is characteristic of much of the German beer I drink. This would be a beer that I could drink ice cold after mowing my lawn. At first glance it almost looks like what American mass market beer wants to be, however it has none of that vague uric flavor that is so common in American beer.

It was pretty much everything Budweiser wants to be. I have found websites that sell it, yet finding a vendor in Portland seems to be difficult. It is not currently on the list at Johns Market. I will be doing an expedition down there soon, and if I find it I will report back dear readers!

 

Portland International Beerfest!

Well, its that time again folks. Portland International Beerfest in the Park-blocks. This is my personal favorite fest in Portland. Its not over crowded (yet) its in a nice shady area, its dog friendly and they have some amazing beers available. Not to mention a good old standby – full pints of Pilsner Urquell for 3 tickets.

Its a great way to spend an afternoon. I usually try to go with some friends on opening day, just to beat the weekend crush. This was a good year as well, beautiful weather they opened up a touch early, which is never a bad thing to this humble critic. Beautiful weather abounded, as did a delightful number of beers (my favorites and not-so favorites to come) but for now I wanted to spend a few moments and discuss this fest in general compared to some of the other that this city tends to host.

OBF is the elephant in the room, everyone knows about it, everyone goes and everyone has the same gripes. Its too hot, its too crowded and it tends to be a place to queue for a beer and swelter like pigs at the trough, hoping to get a taste of the new Ninkasi, or Dogfish Head brew that is on offer. It’s lost its charm, is what I am trying to say!  But, that is why I love the PIB so much, it’s still easy to get in, and get the rare stuff on your list. It’s a well run and well executed affair, plenty of facilities to accommodate the slightly tipsy.  Koi Fusion and a Jerkey stand which is always nice. I must admit I missed the presence of Albina City Nuts this year, I love what those guys do and nuts make a perfect snack to go along with beer.

2013-07-19 15.41.11

I purchased the $35 dollar big deal, which netted me entrance into the fest plus 30 tickets. It was a much better deal than the 25 dollars at the gate for 10 tickets. Sometimes kids, it pays to be waiting for things to go on sale. The doors opened this year around 3:30 and taps opened about 15 minutes later.

Last call was just slightly after 9 and most of the goers seemed to have no problem getting to try what they wanted, although there was one beer (the name escapes me) that the Alchemist wanted to try, but it was already gone after about an hour and a half into the fest. It was on the bottled side, so it does pay to hit that area of the festival up first, if there is something you want to try that is. Things are winding down at the fest now, and the vendors pack up and the volunteers pick up the cups and dog crap I must reflect it was a great year. Next year, hopefully we will see you down there.

 

 

 

Some Tips:

  • Drink Plenty of water: It’s hot and you’re consuming alcohol.  Water is a no brainer.
  • Camp a spot early.  Once you get a couple of drinks in you verticality becomes a problem and unless you’re cool popping a squat the tables go fast.
  • Don’t stand in front of the taps after you get your brew.  There seems to be a rank tendency to hover around the pour spouts with your beer and your friends.  This creates a massive traffic problem for people trying to get a refill.
  • Sample a bit randomly.  Things that look good aren’t always great, and things that are great don’t always look fancy from the listing.

Events: OMSI Mixology Night

At least once a year the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)  Does a night dedicated to cocktails, local distilleries and alcohol tasting.  Running from about 6-11pm it was an interesting and excellent way to spend an evening.

Normally I do my distillery crawl which is 5-6 locations over about 6 hours with stops for food.  OMSI offered up 15 different distilleries in about 5 hours without the option for bunk sandwiches in the middle.

The entry fee of $12 comes with a nice souvenir shot glass and a stack of 10 drink tokens so you can’t over indulge.  The glass has a molecule on the side but from what I can tell it’s not an alcohol molecule, if anyone can tell me what it’s supposed to be I would be grateful.  You can’t buy these in the OMSI store so I don’t have any other details about them.

As for the tokens, I think someone needs to clue the distilleries in as to their use.  I was able to toss in one token for the pair of us and sample pretty much everything each of the booths had on offer, there was an option to purchase additional tokens but I didn’t see the need.  I gleaned that some of the presenters were required to limit what they brought.  Clear creek in particular looked sparse compared to their normal selection.  They had their cranberry liqueur, some brandy and some grappa but not much else.

All of my favorites were there, Eastside was showing off their new spiced rum, New Deal, House Spirits, and Clear Creek all had their usual excellent option on offer.

Of those I was not familiar with I attempted to try anything that looked unique.  Several kinds of Bourbon, more than a few gins and some stand out unique items.  I won’t say I liked them all.  I won’t even name names here since my tasting was brief and didn’t give me the kind of time I would put into a review.

Things that stood out:

IMG_20130529_190703Imbue Vermouth – A locally made vermouth that uses oregon Pinot Gris, distilled into brandy at Clear Creek and then flavored with herbs.  I was not previously  familiar with this brand but they impressed me.  Both with their presentation and their product.  Unlike many classic vermouths this one contains no wormwood.  Not sure how that makes it stack up but I’m warming to the ideas of fortified wines and aperitif wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grog – Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery located in St Helens produces some interesting products.  I had thought that grog would be just rum, water and lime juice but these guys managed to surprise me with a lot of flavor packed into these products.  I don’t know how soon I’ll pick any up, but if you’re a fan of rum drinks this is something to sample.

IMG_20130529_180627

 

 

Sinfire – A new Cinnamon Whiskey from the Hood River Distillers, the same fine folks who make Pendleton Whiskey.  This was a very tasty drink, less sugary than fireball and with a good flavor.  Price point on it was in the line to compete, I saw a fifth going for around $17.

 

 

 

 

 

Things that Irked:

Everyone makes vodka.  This isn’t a new thing, I’m sure that since the dawn of time everyone has taken the neutral spirit distillate of their choice, slapped a vodka label on it and put it out the door.  What occurred to me then as it has so many times before is that “Vodka teaches you nothing.”  Your options when you make a vodka are either to do as well as the ultra premium brands and produce a tasteless, odorless product without the serious burn of alcohol, Or you can fail miserably.

Once you have an premium well filtered vodka the only thing you can do is compete on price.  I have a vodka that I like.  It hits all the markers for me.  No taste, no scent, no burn in the front, no burn on the back, nice soft mouthfeel, and it runs about $20 a bottle.  To get me to switch brands, you would either have to do something remarkable, or have your bottle be half that price.

Keep in mind that I’m only talking about plain silver vodkas.  Once you start adding flavors to them it’s an entirely different ball game.  Hazelnut or hot pepper is going to change the matter for the better because you’re no longer in a wide open field.

If you fail to make a decent vodka there are a couple of things that will happen.  First off it will be immediately obvious.  You can’t hide things in vodka.  It’s not aged, there’s nothing to take the sting out of failure or to hope that it will get better with age.  The second thing that will happen is people who know will assume everything else you make is equally bad.

There were two very nice booths at the OMSI show.  They each had vodka and gin, one had bourbon as well as a few other things.  I tasted both of their vodkas, both were awful.  I can’t say there was any real flavor problems but the burn was front back and center.  I assumed that if someone couldn’t do vodka well then their other products might suffer a similar lack of expertise and after tasting their gins and the one bourbon I can say that I was right on all counts.

For the love of all that is holy, do not put out a vodka simply because you had some leftover spirits.  If you put out a vodka, do it because you want to make good vodka.

Next time I do this, I promise, More pictures, better pictures even if I have to drag a photographer with me the whole way.

Also OMSI’s little presentations are cute but there are only a couple of them and they’re really reaching on trying to get the science around this stuff.  The chemical lab had some of the most interesting but it was packed the whole time so you have to wait forever to do any of them.