The Road to Beervana

Portland, Ore., deserves the title "Beervana" as much as any city in America. There is no shortage of Seattle- Portland beer connections; Pyramid absorbed Portland Brewing, so the Pyramid logo is common down there, and Portland-based McMenamins has outlets in Seattle. But Portland is blessed with its own sturdy, thriving beer culture, distinguished by its own "small is beautiful" ethos. Some new brewery pubs have opened recently, among them Amnesia and Roots. Amnesia occupies a converted garage in north Portland. Roots is in a plain, nondescript southeast Portland hood. Amnesia proffers a fine range of beers, including a kick-ass bitter IPA and Sleighjerker, a wintertime dark ale with an alcohol kick. Food is mainly sausages and burgers from an outdoor grill. Roots is housed in a converted industrial- warehouse space, pub up front and brewery in back, and bills itself as an organic brewery. Getting organically grown barley isn't too hard, but it's tougher to find organically grown hops: In North America, hops are usually sprayed to prevent powdery mildew from wreaking havoc. Workarounds include importing organically grown hops from New Zealand or planting new varieties resistant to powdery mildew. Roots' range of top-fermented ales includes a toasted-coconut stout and a fruit-flavored winter warmer dubbed Epic Ale, perhaps the most exceptional beer I sampled in Portland. (Roots' beers are poured elsewhere in the city, too.) Newer beer venues worth a detour include the Concordia Ale House in northeast Portland and Henry's 12th Street Tavern on Burnside Avenue downtown, just a block west of the legendary Powell's bookstore. The Concordia is a modest place with a superb beer list, 20 on tap and another 80 in bottles, including lots of Belgians. An upscale downtown drinking venue, Henry's 12th Street pours from 100 taps, everything from pale megabrews to craft brews and about a dozen imports. The menu is extensive; the ambience is brick walls, high ceilings, and subdued lighting. It's kind of like Bellevue's Taphouse Grill, but grander in scale and with one slick gimmick: an "ice bar" for those who feel the desperate need to keep their beers cold while perched on a bar stool. For road trips closer to home, on Saturday, Jan. 21, Ellensburg will host its second annual WinterHop Brewfest (, featuring a range of local craft brewers at several downtown venues. The Water Street Brewing pub and brewery in Port Townsend will host its second annual Strange Brew Festival Saturday, Jan. 28, and Sunday, Jan. 29, featuring nearly two dozen craft breweries under a big-top tent (see Staying in town to get your brewfest on? Go to the Museum of Flight's Web site ( for information about Hops and Props on Saturday, Feb. 11, where you get to eat, drink, and be merry while checking out the museum's collection of vintage aircraft. Three brewfests coming up: Why wait for summer?

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