It’s impossible to talk craft beer without quickly mentioning Oregon. So when I headed to Portland for this year’s IACP conference, I hopped around the Hood River region discussing and, of course, sipping beer. Here are the highlights:
Deep in the Columbia Gorge in the most stunning part of nowhere, lies Wyeast labs. For more than 20 years these guys have been cultivating brewing yeasts and they’ve got something special going as they are one of only two brewer’s yeast labs in the states. They have strains for lagers, ales, and every subcategory imaginable and they even concoct proprietary strains for the brewer seeking the most unique of unique beers. The whole lab smells like rising bread and they have endless beer knowledge — basically, it’s a beer dorks’ heaven.
One of the largest of the Portland area craft brewers, Full Sail makes upwards of 130,000 barrels annually. Despite the volume of production, they have great quality stuff and first caught my attention with oh-so drinkable beers like their Session Lager. And after my first few sips, I was instantly digging their the Session Dark Lager; it’s a Schwarzbier twist on the original Session and still a prime option when an afternoon of beer drinking beckons. But my visit went from awesome to stellar when they gave us a taste of their coveted Top Sail Boubon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter — it’s got notes of fig, cocoa, bourbon and is addictive when poured over vanilla ice cream!
If Full Sail is the giant of Oregon craft brewing, then Double Mountain is the littlest of little guys. Started by Matt Swihart and Charlie Devereux in 2007, the brewery and taproom is not even a block away from Full Sail — they worked at FS for years — yet it’s a whole different animal. Despite the breweries’ youth, Double Mountain has a wide variety of thoughtfully-crafted beers; favorites were the Kolsch and the cherry lambic, both of which were complemented nicely by their creative pizzas.
My time in Portland flew by so I didn’t get a chance to visit other breweries, though I did crack open my share of other craft brews like Rogue and Descuhutes when the opportunity arose. But, with 38 craft breweries in the Portland area and more than 80 in the state, well, let’s just say I’ve found a new food adventure in the making.