I have been visiting Asheville for over 20 years now. When I was a kid, my family rented a time-share on Lake Lure. I fell in love almost instantly with the beautiful mountain town. My most recent trip, last December, involved experiencing all that Asheville had to offer a newly certified cicerone. Beer. Lots of amazing, well crafted, locally brewed beer. 70,000 people in this town and they are about to open their 7th brewery! Do the math kids, Asheville is nipping at your heals, Portland. With breweries like Highland Brewing Company, Green Man Brewing and Pisgah Brewing Company producing some of the most serious ales I've ever consumed, it is east to deduce that Portland is not alone.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, is the other side of the proverbial "beer coin" which misses the most important ingredient in a beer culture; a sense of community. Everything is a fucking competition there and everyone hates everyone else. Two of the biggest names in LA's weak beer scene, who shall remain nameless, actually detest the very people who make them successful; the people who sell, serve and drink/eat their product. On a positive note, for anyone who enjoys the great beers of Belgium and other European countries, you have David Farnsworth to thank.
I am 5 weeks into my "Portland Beer Experience", 20 or so brewpubs and bars have my resume and I have only landed one job interview. I realize that the economy, as it currently is, and the overwhelming unemployment rate that Portland has has a lot to do with that. So I try to be patient, or I was until tonight...
I went to my first "Meet-the-Brewer" night very recently. I was truly excited because I was about to meet the head brewer of Oregon's best brewery. I got there early because, as you will learn, I cycle EVERYWHERE. I have no car. I sold it 3.5 years ago when L.A. broke me of that ideal. I was excited because of all the beer that I have had in the Pacific Northwest, this brewery has been the most consistent and most readily available in Portland, as far as regional craft brew is concerned.
I started out with their playful variation on an English style, the ESB, and it was great, everything that you would expect from an American-English style bitter. It was full of a melon-type flavor with light body, perfect carbonation and vanishing finish. Beautiful to say the least because I feel that there are very few drinkable, and different, representations of this style. I was impressed and feeling good about the beers to come.
My next half-pint was his pale ale. When the bartender placed the glass in front of me, it was to the rim with NO head to speak of. As it turns out, it wasn't that the bartender was trying to give my my money's worth, there was no carbonation to speak of in this ale. I even asked a waitress to give me a cocktail straw to see if I could induce some head from vigorously stirring this beer. For a moment I wondered if this keg was intended for a swan necked hand pump. Other than the carbonation issue, the beer itself had an amazing and refreshing peach aroma and citrus finish. I thought this was an overall great take on the American Pale Ale style that most of us have taken for granted.
Then shit really went south. I ordered a half-pint of the stout and realized, from first whiff, that this was not even close to balanced. I am sorry, but I have a have a really hard time with ales that are over-the-top and secondary flavor heavy. You have no business calling it a "stout" if their are no obvious "stout" points of reference. If it were to be classified as a "stout vanilla ale", my opinion would be different. It tasted like a homebrew.
Now, as all of this is going on, the brewer is talking with the owners of the pub. They are all talking about this very limited release. The brewer described it as an IPA that smelt of "dank" weed. This is a style of IPA that I am totally familiar with. When done badly, it tastes of bong water. When done well, it's called Green Flash's Imperial IPA. This well-hopped IPA reminded me of nothing even close to cannabis. It smelt like every other "uber-citrus" Imperial IPA but had an initial taste of mustard/collard greens with a nice dry finish.
I'm sorry, but I'm gonna be that asshole that can't understand why a brewer would continue to "sell" a beer with the description of his intentions. He obviously intended this IPA to smell like pot. He listed up to 8 different hop verities that he used. I know as well as any brewer that while beer is designed, in the end, it ends up being what it is, yeast are crazy little fuckers. Why he would continue to describe his beer as something that it is obviously not, is beyond me.
I am sure that Asheville has it's faults, just as LA does, but I expect a lot from Portland, it's brewers and it's bars. We are talking over 30 years of beer culture here. I think I have a lot to offer Portland and the beer world in general.
Just to clarify: I'm not anti-Portland, I think this city is amazing, I am just PRO-beer.
I'm just calling it like I taste it!
Love me or hate me,
Portland's first Cicerone