Besides the torture of having to look at Brandon in my rearview mirror, our trip to Portland got off to a great start. Spring break was bringing on all the normal symptoms common in college students. The feeling of freedom was as expansive as the Columbia that would lead us to the promised land of Porter and Pinot.
Unfortunately, south central Washington is somewhat… uneventful, and our only entertainment was the naming scheme of road signs outside (or were we inside?) of Richland. Locust Grove Road, Coffin Road, we half expected to see “Blood of the First Born Road.” But soon we dropped into Oregon via I-82, and hopped on I-84, which led us west toward Portland.
Around Hood River, we learned we were about 45 minutes ahead of the rest of our party driving in from Bellingham, so we decided to stop off at a winery for some free tasting.
The Cathedral Ridge Winery billboard boasted of their blue ribbon “Oregon Winery of the Year” award. We had to check this out, after all, we couldn’t think of any reasons not to stop. After a few winding roads leading to the winery, we unglued ourselves from the car and shuffled into the tasting room. The pourer explained that we could have six free tastes, of any wines listed. I tried the Pinot Gris, to get in the wine mood, then moved on to five remaining reds including their Pinot Noir, which was described as “classic and smooth.” On a clear day Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are visible from the winery, what a treat! Though we didn’t buy a bottle, Brandon did purchase a “Got Wine?” tee, which he instantly donned.
We could hear the kegs of Portland breweries calling us back on the Interstate, and thanks to Google Maps, we were able to find our 2.5/5 star hotel without any trouble. After lazing around the hotel for a few hours, we formulated a game plan, which started at Rogue Brewery. Though Rogue’s base brewing station is in Newport, Ore., they have several restaurants with extensive beer selections. So, we met up with a friend from the area and went for drinks and dinner.
The waitress, or brew wench, as I found myself thinking, helped us enlist in Rogue Nation, a free club that had a lot of perks, but mostly gave us a 75-cent discount on every pint. Around the table we sipped several Rogue ales, ranging from a Chocolate Stout to St. Rogue Red. Let’s just say collectively we saved six dollars on beer.
Our next stop was just down the road at the BridgePort Brewing Company, which claims to be Oregon’s oldest craft brewing company. I have to admit, walking in I was a little apprehensive of a brewery that advertised a bakery on the very same sign. But then again, how could I complain, sweets and beer? The space was full of energy, and we were seated at a tall table near the bar; well one of them. It seemed like there were about three large seating areas on two levels. We ordered a round, and were instantly thrilled despite our full stomachs, at the larger (22oz) pours and cheaper prices. We are after all, still in college. Maybe James summed it up best, “I’m full. They have really big beers, and really big urinals.”
Next, we headed to McMenamin’s Ringler’s Annex and descended to their Cellar Bar, which like the name implies, is a tiny underground bar that was perfect for a Monday night on the town. A collection of vintage light fixtures hanging from a tiled mosaic ceiling dot the bar, and their seasonal brews caught our eye.
We all chose nitrogenated beers, which are infused with about 75 percent nitrogen and 25 percent carbon dioxide, causing smaller and more stable bubbles to form in the beer. This was my first nitro experience, and I am a fan. I would nitro Busch Light if I could!
Portland is named the City of Roses for their ideal rose-growing climate, but its nicknames round out an interesting piece of the city’s history. “Beertown” or “Brewtopia,” as Portland is sometimes referred to, only scratches the surface of the history of the city, but certainly suggests the interesting industries of Portland.
The next leg of our trip took us up to Washington again, and off I-5 at Tacoma. I won’t mention the… eh… uneventful parts between Portland and Tacoma, except for stopping in Longview for gas in the industrial area and feeling like we were in Chewelah. But it doesn’t rain that much in Chewelah.
As it turns out Tacoma has a growing brew scene too. Being that it is James’s hometown, he led us to his favorite brewery, The Harmon, and we filled up the growler with some stellar Point Defiance IPA, and headed across the pass, only to be met with what no optimistic college student on spring break should be met with… snow. Our next destination was two hours away, in Wenatchee, a growing city straddling the Columbia. So just as many great movies, books and stories end where they begin, we found ourselves at a local winery, just as we had started our trip, happily sampling the fruits of the Pacific Northwest.