Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oregon beer

Western Oregon is one of the great beer meccas in the United States. A trip back there around Christmas proved the perfect opportunity to sample some of the Beaver State's much-ballyhooed craft brews. Unfortunately, a huge snowstorm kept Soggy Coaster from trying several pubs, but he did his best.

Soggy Coaster embarked to Deschutes Brewery’s cavernous new restaurant-pub in Portland ’s oh-so-trendy Pearl District. Deschutes is the seventh-largest craft brewer in the U.S. , according to the Brewers Association, and one of Soggy Coaster's favorites. They started in Bend in 1988 and opened the Portland pub only last year.

Unfortunately, they were out of The Abyss, their ridiculously good Russian imperial stout. Soggy Coaster opted instead for a spiced, high-octane version of their Jubelale winter seasonal that turned out to be sickly sweet.

Another day, Soggy Coaster went to Rogue Brewing's headquarters on the docks of Yaquina Bay in Newport . The big winner there was an imperial stout. Rogue’s maritime setting can’t be beat; you can see the docks from the tasting room.

Deschutes and Rogue beers can both be found in several Durango liquor stores. Soggy Coaster recommends Deschutes' Mirror Pond Pale Ale (in six packs) and Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar (bombers).

Other notes:
* Strangely enough, the standout beer Soggy Coaster had in Oregon was from a California brewery. A bottle of Russian River Damnation, a Belgian-style strong golden ale (7 percent alcohol, 25 IBUs) from the Sonoma County, Calif., brewery, was outstanding. Sadly, Soggy Coaster has not seen Russian River beers around Durango .

* Ninkasi, a brewery founded in Eugene in 2006, seems to be everywhere in the Willamette Valley. They don’t even have a tasting room yet, but the brewery is generating considerable buzz in that area. Soggy Coaster enjoyed a Believer, a double-red ale (6.9 percent alcohol, 60 IBUs).

* Soggy Coaster poured a 2007 Saison du Pelican, an expensive, hand-numbered bottle from the Pacific City brewery. Unfortunately, as even the brewery admits, the saison lacks character. It was especially disappointing for such a compelling style. Hopefully, Pelican will improve this beer in coming years.

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