The state of Oregon is ranked number 1 in the US for having the most breweries per capita… and Portland alone has 58 of these! So when you guys suggested trying a brewery or two… I figured it’d be rude not to!
I thought I was going to have to look for a food link as an excuse to spend an afternoon tasting craft beers, but it turns out Oregon state have got my back! They have pretty strict policies and licenses for alcohol sale, one of which is that every establishment that sells alcohol MUST also serve hot and cold food for the entire time it’s open. So in Portland, great beer and awesome food go hand in hand!
I started my two-bar crawl off at Deschutes. Deschutes have been brewing in Oregon (originally in Bend) for 27 years and their Portland pub had an impressive bar with 19 taps. Plus, they pride themselves on serving what they call ‘next-level’ pub grub. And I’d agree… it was gastropub quality and beyond. I sat at the bar with my 6 beer sampler and ordered 3 items. They do hefty plates of food too, from sandwiches, burgers, steaks, mac ‘n’ cheese and gourmet chicken and waffles, which were all flying out of their smart, open plan kitchen… but on this tour I find myself eating so much that I restricted the order to the beer snacks menu!
I say restricted, but that wasn’t the case. The food was delicious! I opted for:
1) Hopped Lox – A stack of salt and hop cured salmon, rinsed in IPA and served with creme fraiche and dill cucumber and topped off with plenty of crispy, Jerusalem artichoke chips (we’d call them crisps in the UK :p). It looked stunning, tasted great and felt more like a starter from a decent restaurant than a casual bar snack.
2) Fried Pickled Cauliflower – Beer battered, pickled cauliflower with a red onion remoulade dip and grated Parmesan. These were great finger food bar snacks. In fact, I got chatting to the group next to me at the bar and offered them food. It was these that they all dived in for. Easy to grab, eat and very moreish!
3) Green Eggs and Ham! A take on Dr. Seuss’ fictional food. The plate consisted of naturally-dyed, hard-boiled egg (dyed with leafy green purée), slices of cured pork tenderloin ham, black sea salt and a pale ale aioli. It was fun, tasty and got everybody talking! Although I challenge you to say “Pale Ale Aioli” after 6 sampler glasses of craft beer! Ha
The buzz at the bar was fun, the food I was genuinely surprised by (not what I expected for ‘beer snacks’) and the whole thing cost just $24… including tasting 6 of their seasonal craft beers! Not that I’m here to judge or critic the places we go, just gather inspiration to conjure up new recipes, but I’d give it a solid 5* rating! Loved it.
Having only tackled one of your many brewery suggestions I felt I ought to crack on and experience another. So I moved on to Fat Heads Brewery… a relatively new brewery to Portland that had moved from Pittsburgh. Having had it suggested on twitter by @ScienceSpencer I was pleasantly surprised to see the owner of the brewery, Glenn, get in touch and invite me down. Glenn, who founded Fat Head’s 23 years, said I should speak with the manager and chef at the pub… so how could I refuse!
Greeted by Matt, chef and support supervisor, he showed me into the back room where they brew and talked me through some of their award winning options. The place was huge and super shiny… like the NASA of craft beer! So I settled on a half of the Bumble Berry Beer that Spencer suggested and a half of Head Hunter IPA. Both get a big thumbs up from me! But you don’t need me to tell you that, the Head Hunter won silver medal 3 years running at the World Beer Cup in the American Style IPA category!!!
Matt also twisted my arm (not that it ever needs much pressure) into grabbing some of their bar food. A very different style to Deschutes, this was more what I’d associate with bar snacks… but then you taste them and they surpass all expectations! I went for (and shared with some locals I got chatting to):
1) The Giant Pretzel– literally the size of your face! Soft, dark golden in colour and scattered with sea salt. A joy to rip bits off and dunk into the 3 dipping sauces… a honey and mustard, an ale mustard and some beer cheese!
2) The Frickles – described on the menu as “Frickin’ Dillicious!” and they were just that! Panko breadcrumbed and deep-fried dill pickle slices with a sriracha thousand island dipping sauce… yep you heard it right… I will be making these when we get back home!
3) The Wings – these had the full wing and tip to them so were much bigger than the buffalo wing style portions you get elsewhere. They had been dry rubbed in the secret spices, smoked, and then charred grilled. Served with yet more different dips and a side of carrot batons and celery sticks.
Washed down with the beer and I was a very happy man! Big thanks to Matt for taking the time to show me around and next time I’m in I’ll turn up with an empty stomach to grab one of their “headwiches”… yep you guessed it… sandwiches the size of your head!
The afternoon and evening that I spent at these two I could repeat every day for a month without having to return to a single brewery… the choice in Portland is immense! And it just goes to show… bar and beer snacks can mean very different things to very different people!
What do you like to eat when you drink?