Bull Ridge Brewpub: R.I.P.

The guidebook Oregon Breweries is mere weeks old but the nature of the Oregon brewing scene is so fluid in nature, there are already a few brewing companies serving us that aren’t fully introduced in the book as well as one that is no more. In full candor, I have a mental list of a very small handful of breweries that I feel are not long for this world. In rare instances, it’s because the beer’s just not worth selling. In most instances, I just don’t see them being able to get their product into a sustainable number of thirsty mouths. Heck, maybe in such a Venn diagram there’s a large intersection. In any event, I had Baker City’s Bull Ridge pegged for the brewery obituary section and lo and behold, they’ve perished.

Rip page 197 out of Oregon Breweries. No, don’t! Double Mountain is on page 198 and they’re never going anywhere!

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.37.58 PMAs seen in the screen shot above, I’d even contacted this brazen brewpub that bid to build Baker City into a two-brewery town alongside Barley Brown’s. Scroll through the comments on this thread this yarn and you’ll see there’s little love lost in town. The owners were inexperienced both in the restaurant game and the brewing biz. Two things pretty vital for operating a successful brewpub even here in Portland let alone a town of fewer than 10,000 people with tourism seasons that are more shoulder than peak.

On the upside, Barley Brown’s runs both the pub and the “Baker City Brewing” tasting room across the street, so Baker City’s still, technically, a two brewery town.

StormBreaker Brewing

Since the entry on StormBreaker Brewing in my book was one of the few profiles written without getting to actually visit the pub or taste the beer, given that the whole development occurred while we were abroad and I’d already written the entry for its predecessor, Amnesia Brewing, it behooved me to pop in and kick the tires.

IMG_9351I didn’t visit alone. After a great bowl of chili for lunch at the revamped Widmer Bros Pub, including having IPYae charming said Widmer brothers into this awesome photo opp, 10712487_10102769754756095_223378480444289136_ohe and I walked up to Mississippi to check out Amnesia’s reboot because it’s a terrible thing to say I’ve been to every brewery in the state of Oregon and then actually not have visited one that launched/relaunched while I was gone that’s right here in Portland.

First impression is that I, for one, like it better then it’s old incarnation. The beer is a bit cleaner. The menu is wider; instead of brats and cheeseburgers, there’s an array of, yes, burgers, but other meatiness and somehow I didn’t get the bbq broccolini since I love broccolini, plus the pumpkin cake is TDF. Overall it’s more inviting. And yes, in self-interest, I love that minors are now allowed even if they didn’t go so far as to have a few “little ones” items on the menu.

IMG_9352IPYae and I enjoyed a great afternoon “campfire.” This is what I mean by more inviting. The gruff ‘tude that drenched the former brewpub has been whisked away; it literally feels like what worked in 2004 when Amnesia occupied this less-than-ideal-at-the-time spot has been updated for what the 2014 edition of Mississippi in the Boise neighborhood looks and feels like. Some old timers who hate kids may not feel the same way, but I’ll bet if StormBreaker keeps making its Cloud Ripper IPA packed with classic ‘C’ hops as good as it is now, it’ll thrive long past 2024.

The OC’s Yard House calls Portland home

Taps & tubes

Taps & tubes

Amid the brewery acquisitions and Portland’s westside invasions, Pioneer Place is now flooding with beer courtesy of The Yard House, a sports pub/family dining restaurant that also, most likely, presents more tap handles than any single establishment in Oregon: 130. Yes, one hundred and thirty beers on draft. So let’s first focus on a bunch of numbers.

First, from their own press release in July, 2012, “Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) announced that it has agreed to acquire Yard House USA, Inc. for $585 million.” Olive Garden is another restaurant chain in the Darden Restaurants portfolio. More numbers:

34: number of television sets throughout the Yard House, all airing games.

42: The number of the 130 total taps pouring beers from the Pacific Northwest. This actually represents the largest number of regionally brewed beers in the chain.

57: Locations in said chain, spanning 20 states.

250: The most taps presented at a single restaurant, which I believe is the Irvine, Calif. spot where it all started back in 1996 when, according to their own About page, “the craft beer revolution began nearly 20 years ago.”

3: Light/Lite beers available from the two largest brewing companies.

67: Number of six-tops at the Portland Yard House. (Scratch that; two of those are four-top tables.)

1: Master sommelier employed by Darden Restaurants. George Millotes is one of 219 such experts in the world. I’m told several Cicerones (with apologies to Ray Daniels, those are the sommeliers of the beer service world)

All of the above underscores the impressive stats this outpost brings to downtown Portland that, truth be told, does not feel very Portland. If you want the geekiest beers on the westside, you’re going to head to Bailey’s Taproom. But Bailey’s’ 24 taps made me realize, Yard House offers as many taps as the top 7 beer bars in the city. Quantity over quality is never the better option, but here’s the deal: if you can get over the Yard House being a $585 million chain from Orange County, in a neck of these urban woods populated by other chains such as Qdoba, Jimmy John’s, and, egads, Buffalo Wild Wings around the corner if you want the lowest common denominator of sports bars, at least there’s a level of quality accompanying all those screens and mile’s worth of draft lines. Upon being invited in to explore the over the top menu, I’m happy to report that the Brussels sprouts atop “ripped” potatoes–described to me by their corporate executive chef Carlito Jocson as, “because potato skins are too eighties”) are crave-worthy. The Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches are pretty good for being this far west of 82nd Ave. You can order any of the tacos “vampire” style which entails grilling cheese on the outside til it becomes crunchy and hand-holdable.

And most importantly, among those nearly eleven dozen taps, every level of beer drinker will find something with his or her name on it. Yes, there’s behemoth light American adjunct lager. But I also lost count of how many great IPAs they had on–yes, multiple IPAs because whoever tag-teamed on the beer list knew we demand such things. Boneyard RPM? Check. Boneyard Hop Venom to boot? Check-check. Ballast Point Sculpin is in the mix as well. The cider section alone trumped most places’ attempts at placation. When the house beer being aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels is ready, you bet I plan to pop down into this basement-level resto and try it.

Those aren't mini-mallows.

Those aren’t mini-mallows.

Speaking of how over the top they go, you can pair a Base Camp S’more Stout with the largest friggin’ s’mores brownie. The marshmallows were toasted to perfection though I found the brownie itself a bit dry. I guess that’s where the wet stout comes in handy.

Good to know:

YARD HOUSE PORTLAND

888 SW 5th Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
503-222-0147
HOURS OF OPERATIONOpen
Sun-Sat 11:00amFood Last Call
Sun-Thu 11:00pm  |  Fri-Sat 1:00amAlcohol Last Call
Sun-Thu 11:00pm  |  Fri-Sat 1:00am

Happy Hour

Mon-Fri – 3pm – 6pm
Sun-Wed – 10pm – Close

Bend, Oregon > Bend, Belgium/Brazil

Bud Apricot Crush?

Bud Apricot Crush?

Opinions are like assholes AND beer: Not only does everyone have one but some are industrially large while others are artfully crafted.

The news is still sinking in that adorable, warm, fuzzy 10 Barrel Brewing, the homegrown brewery in the quaint, high-desert town in Central Oregon, has been acquired by beer behemoth Budweiser (ABI). The name 10 Barrel had already become outmoded considering the company ramped up to a 50-barrel system in Bend while keeping its original 10-barreler for R&D, added a 10-barrel pub in Boise, and will soon open the doors to its Portland pub* with a shiny new 20-barrel system thereby brining the total to 90 barrels already. Combine this with AB-InBev’s and it’s something on the level of 10 Million Barrels (give or take a few hundred million in overall volume).

Whether you, dear reader, personally take the “Sellouts!” side or fall into camp “Good for them,” and whether your BuyLocalism will lead to you never buying a drop of beer from this brewery now under the Bud-brella or you think that crowd’s just butthurt and it won’t affect your purchasing decision since good beer is good beer no matter who cuts the paychecks, one thing is clear: Oregon beer will never be the same again. Exactly the way it was never the same again when they bought a 30+% minority stake in Widmer Brothers and the Craft Brew Alliance. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just ask the folks who worked at and drank beers from Chicago’s Goose Island, New York’s Blue Point, Hawaii’s Kona, Seattle’s Red Hook, and, undoubtedly, Anywheresville, USA’s next AB takeover.

*Even more than my curiosity how this will impact the forthcoming Portland outpost, I’m more curious how other brewers in the tight-knit community of Bend brewers will handle this in the short and long term. Naturally, in the now, they’re all ShockTopped, er, shocked. But will it really have any implications for them, financially? The original and graddaddy, Deschutes, is already tracking to brew 2 million barrels by 2020. Worthy just opened with a hefty pair of deep pockets. Add in Boneyard and those four already factor into Oregon’s 14 largest brewing companies. The money’s already there. We still call it “quaint,” but beer is already big business in Bend, also home to a few others.**

**Ale Apothecary, Below Grade, Bend Brewing Co., Bridge 99, Crux Fermentation Project, Good Life, North Rim, Oblivious, Old Mill Brew Wërks, Old St. Francis (McMenamins), Platypus,  Rat Hole, RiverBend, Silver Moon, and soon a few more, not counting their neighbors throughout Central Oregon.

In the end, unless the guys from St. Louis, er, Leuven, Belgium, er, São Paulo, Brazil decide to expunge the firepit, revoke the welcome sign to dogs, stop serving kids meals on frisbees, and turn the beer from delicious to disastrously flaccid like some others in their portfolio, this game-changing news will, ultimately, result in a collective yawn like the one yawned every time a beer geek gets his mitts on one of the various bottles of Bourbon County Stout. Or, locally, Widmer Bros. Marionberry Hibiscus Gose.

Y’know what else this means? The Big Boys are really, really paying attention to what Oregon breweries are up to. And they, like us, like what they see.

Obituary: Rogue Ales founder Jack Joyce

At first I was inclined to not post this In Memoriam I penned following the loss of craft brewing industry pioneer Jack Joyce. He co-founded one of Oregon’s oldest and largest breweries in Rogue. Then I figured that A) I’m honored to be able to continue to pay respects to him and B) I write about all facets of the brewing world, namely the people who populate it, and death is a fact of life that, as the industry and its pioneers age, will become more of an issue. It’s even possible in the future that beer publications will have to start an obit section seeing how many thousands of people are employed by the industry.

Bonus hyperlink alert: One little-known fact about me is that the first brewer-related story I ever had published was an obituary for Karl Strauss, the legendary Pabst brewmaster and namesake of San Diego’s first microbrewery. It appeared in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

Wooos and Brews: Oregon Brewfest 2014

Illustration: Kenneth Huey

Illustration: Kenneth Huey

This year’s Oregon Brewers Festival has something for every kind of beer lover, and there are many kinds of beer lover. The festival has beers for hopheads, sessionistas, fruitheads and those drunks who always grab the highest-ABV brew on the board—this year that’s Dogfish Head Burton Olde English at 11 percent.

There are 88 beers from 85 breweries. Actually, though, there are about 200 beers to sample this year thanks to the Dutch—more on them in a minute.

Here’s what to expect at the 27th annual installment of Oregon’s biggest, drunkest party.

Hoppily Ever After

This isn’t really a Portland Monthly story, but when I was contacted by the same publishing company to write a story about beer weddings, I had to accept if only to say I’ve been published in Portland Bride & Broom. It ended up being a fun story to think about and organize, even though I was given tons of direction on that end. What can I say? I love love. And beer.

The Rural Brewer

The-Rural-Brewer-2-300x139-1Equal parts spotlight on Oregon’s most remote breweries (and no, I don’t just mean distance from Portland) that I found myself slogging to on the open road while working on Oregon Breweries, as well as homage to the running gag about the Broadway show (or was it a Lifetime movie?), The Rural Juror, on 30-Rock, The New School was kind enough to start this series. Here are the ones I’ve profiled so far. I promise more to come. I mean, Burns, Ore?

1. Fire Cirkl Braggot-brewery in White City (Dec. 13)

2. Wolf Tree in Seal Rock (Jan. 14)

3. 1188 Brewing in John Day (Apr. 14)

Hood River: Brewery Incubator

Working on “Oregon Breweries,” themes and patterns started emerging in the way I think about all the wonderful breweries in my home state. Hood River‘s simply an awesome place. All the more so because of handful of amazing breweries in such a small town. And for that, we all have Full Sail to thank!

An Oral History of BridgePort India Pale Ale

This is the second installment of this type of oral history of a Portland beer that would go onto help shape not only the Portland beer scene, but impact the national beer climate as well. Crazy to think that before this beer debuted in 1996, most beer drinkers in America had no clue what an India Pale Ale was.

Image courtesy BridgePort

Image courtesy BridgePort