Ah, Portland. If ever there was a city custom built to house this Aussie on the Road, it would have to be the jewel of Oregon.
- Amazing microbrew beer? Check
- Laid back, hipster vibe? Check
- Cool weather? Check
- Fantastic food? Check
- Short drive from the ocean, mountains, and beautiful forests? Check
- Full of cool people? Check
Yeah, it goes without saying that Portland is far and away my favourite city in the United States. So, when Nomadic American and I were planning our US road trip – Portland had to get a spot on the itinerary.
Me? I was most excited about catching up with my good friends Cody and Dez, who I hadn’t seen since my last visit to the States in 2009. I think Heather was perhaps more excited about the promise of Voodoo Donuts, the beer festival, and the visit with her own friends in Seattle.
It was happy circumstance that my visit to Portland just so happened to coincide with the annual Oregon Brewers Festival. After my 2009 visit had featured plenty of beer and our very own Portland brewery tour, I couldn’t wait to sink a few ice cold beers in the sun on Portland’s picturesque waterfront.
The luck being in my favour didn’t end there; I was also invited to come along to the festival for free complete with complimentary beers, shiny Media tag, and the chance to shoot a few questions to the event’s organiser, Chris.
I was beyond excited. My first real media trip coupled with icy cold microbrew beers and some of my bestest buds in the world? Fuck, I’m a lucky bastard.
After a late arrival into Portland and an even later bedtime following some much needed catching up with our friends (and dealing with their entirely too affectionate cat), we were up relatively bright but not entirely early to make our way down to Portland’s waterfront to have a few brews.
Our late start meant missing out on the opportunity to catch up with my former travel partner, Fallon, but Adam from Idaho was on hand to fly the flag for his state.
First stop? A bite to eat at the Portland Saturday Market which was, sadly, missing the giant evil clown that had tormented poor Dez in 2009. What it wasn’t missing was a good selection of cheap food cart goodness, so we tucked into that and did a little people watching and shopping along the way.
In hindsight, it was a bad idea. Beer, like all good things, cannot last forever.
Getting Boozy at the Oregon Brewers Festival
After collecting my shiny media pass and grabbing a few tokens, it was time to hit the beer tents. What wondrous ales, heffs, lagers, and porters would we be delighting in on this bright and sunny day?
Well, not a great many.
You see, through no fault of the organisers, the majority of the good beer had already run out. That’ll happen when you have great beer, a hot day, and people with entirely too much disposable income. The variety was severely diminished and IPAs seemed to be the only thing in ready supply. Not really the kind of beer you want to be throwing back in quantity on a hot day. A nice summery ale? Sure. A heavy IPA? Not so much.
I wouldn’t be Australian if I couldn’t make the most of free beer and sunshine. I sank a good few brews, soaked in the ambience, and generally had a good time as I wandered around and became my socially lubricated self.
There was live music playing, ingenious guys selling pretzels from long hooks to avoid having to pay a vendors’ fee, and plenty of people just having a good time.
My time at the Oregon Brewers Festival wasn’t what I’d dreamed it would be – but a lot of that is on us for making such a damned slow start to the day. Had we been there earlier, I don’t doubt I’d have been shit-faced and happy as a fat kid with cake with my day.
I do think that it was a bit of a pain in the ass that the ‘back up beers’ for most of the popular beers tended to be IPAs – not exactly a light drink for a hot and sunny day. Hopefully in future, the organisers can have a better line on demand and either get more of the popular beers in – or have substitutes that aren’t all of the same variety.
As it was, I left pleasantly buzzed but a little disappointed. The dream of a completely shit-faced had died, but the day was still young.
Voodoo, Powell’s, and the Raccoon Lodge
With daylight remaining and our hunger whet by a few beers in our belly, we stopped by Portland icon, Voodoo Donuts, for some post beer repaste. As always, the line to get into Portland’s most famous non-alcoholic export was huge, but there were a pair of crack-heads popping pimples on one another’s backs to lighten the mood some. Surprisingly, I still had an appetite when it came my turn to order.
Nothing custard filled for me.
Full of carbs and on a sugar high, it was off to another Portland institution, Powell’s Books. The largest independent bookstore in the United States also happens to be one of my favourite places in the city. Books for an entire city block? Yes, please!
As always, I spent about ninety minutes not buying a single thing. There’s too many options!
Our last port of call before retiring for an evening of microwave burritos and friendship-straining Munchkin was the always awesome Raccoon Lodge, which I’d sampled the food (and beer) of previously in 2012. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit.
Have you been to a beer festival before? How did you like it?
What’s your favourite US city? If it’s Portland, why do you love it? If it’s not, what is it?