Empanada Boy and I are up in Northern Wisconsin at his family’s lake house. It’s cold, and the snow has been falling almost nonstop since we arrived here last night. It all makes you feel like drinking warm beverages and curling up in front of the fire, but there’s one cold beverage you always have to make room for when you’re here, and that’s beer. Wisconsinites take their beer seriously. But then, so do Oregonians. The difference is that Oregon beer tends to be more craft-oriented and less mass-market than Midwest brews. This is evidenced by the small temples to the art of beer springing up in my home state everyday.
The last time we were in Portland, EB and I did a beer tasting with Flava Flav and Daddy Salmon at Hopworks Urban Brewery, a quintessentially Portland spot, decorated with bicycle parts hanging from the ceiling and the bar. When we were there, Hopworks was offering a great deal: 10 3-ounce pours of its proprietary brews for a mere $7.50. That’s just under two pints for about what one would cost you in New York. EB drank one whole sampler himself (obviously), but Flav and I shared and Daddy Salmon opted for a pint of IPA. Beers ranged from the Organic Hub Lager (5.1% alcohol by volume) to hoppy seasonal brews with more than 9% ABV and came on a tray lined with tasting notes. All were delicious and distinctive, but these are not weak, watery beers, and even the staunchest beer drinker cannot hope to get through a flight without some food to line the stomach.
Daddy Salmon, Flav and I shared a large pizza, one of the focal points of the Hopworks menu. We got the Gatherer topped with mushrooms, caramelized red onions, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, bell peppers and black olives. Unfortunately, the pizza sounded more delicious than it turned out to be. The crust was a little dry and lacked the chew of a wood-fired oven. Some of the toppings—olives, artichoke hearts—came from a can, and the mushrooms were basic buttons, not the more flavorful wild mushrooms that typically grow in Oregon. One noteworthy detail, however is that most of the ingredients are organic.
As soon as I saw EB’s burger, I realized I should have ordered that instead. It was huge and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Tillamook cheese melted on top and large French fry wedges came on the side. The standout burger made me wonder about the other sandwiches on the menu like the one made with Pilsner-cured sausage or the laden Hopworks Sub. I’ll probably try one of those the next time I’m feeling like drinking a whole lot of flavorful Oregon brews and need something substantial to line my stomach.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
2944 SE Powell Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202