Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Portland Recap, Chapter 2

Okay, by god, time for me to finally make some progress on recounting my magnificent Portland vacation back in July-August. (Part 1 was here.)

So back when Bill and I lived together here in Austin, it was he who got me into bicycling. Having grown up in a small town, where a car is a matter survival, I couldn't imagine actually getting around a big city on human power. Sure, I was a good environmentalist, but to me, alternative transportation meant taking the bus. And I'm still a mass-transit believer, but he showed me that, with a little practice, you can get around a city just fine on a bike.

And that's especially true in Portland. God bless Austin, it's trying to be bike-friendly, but it's still a good decade behind Portland. Getting around that city is so easy that, by god, you can even do it when you've been drinking beer — as Bill was determined to prove. (My joke about Portland: You can't swing a dead cat in that town without knocking someone off their bicycle, and you can't swing a dead bicyclist without knocking a microbrew out of someone's hand.) He hopped on his bike, he loaned one out to me, and Todd and Bill's next-door neighbor hopped on theirs, and we set off on the Bicycling Tour of Portland's Brewpubs (not an official event — I just like the way it looks in all caps).

We headed off a surprisingly easy two miles east to the McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant that sits on the lovely Willamette River, just a little ways down from the park where we had enjoyed the Oregon Brewers Festival the day before. No, M&S is not a brewpub, but apparently they've worked out some kind of a deal with Full Sail, and so we settled into a tasty plate of calamari and I think I had a cask-conditioned IPA in front of me. A rare treat in Austin, cask-conditioned ales are
de rigeur in Portland – I think every place I went had one. Now that's some full-scale urban beer snobbery – when cask-conditioned ales are expected. Wow.

Then we headed three miles north – again, amazingly easy, despite cutting right through the heart of Portland. The city's bicycling lanes are so well-defined and uninterrupted that at no point, despite traffic all around us, did I ever feel unsafe. Man, I love this town. Our new destination was the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus, where we sat down and enjoyed the pleasantly sunny weather (I swear it never got above 84, while it was sweltering back home in Austin) outside on their sidewalk tables. I think I tried their summer seasonal (damn me for not writing this down two months ago!). Yes, the obvious urge was to have the Broken Halo IPA, one of my favorites, but why taste something that I can get back in Austin? Unfortunately, I seem to remember my adventurousness letting me down a bit; I wasn't super-impressed. We also tried some sort of cherry beer, maybe a lambic, but we all agreed its sourness was a bit much.

Off again, up an ungodly steep hill (okay, Bill was a great tour guide, but not perfect). We worked our way over to Laurelwood Pizza Company. They had a mighty tasty sampler tray as well as fine artichoke dip. And they had a play area for the kids — always a brilliant idea to combine amenities for the kids with beer. This type of forethought is what makes me a loyal customer of Brentwood Tavern and Phil's Ice House/Amy Ice Cream here in Austin. I seem to remember liking everything Laurelwood had on tap.

From there, we headed up some more stiff hills so that we could take up a game of darts at the Horse Brass, a beautifully authentic British-style pub – think the Draught House, only about four times bigger. I got my butt kicked at darts, but I consoled myself with something hoppy. In fact, I think the really hoppy brew was actually Bill's, but I liked it better than what I ordered, so I mooched off his.

Sadly, that ended our pedaling tour. (But boy, wouldn't the folks at New Belgium have been proud of me!) My wife has been suffering from some kind of malady that causes dizziness, and a phone call from her cut short our travels, despite the fact that Bill had mapped out two other stops for us. (Thankfully, I still had another day to squeeze in more bars.)

I have to say, other than the obligatory (day I got married, day my older daughter was born, day my younger daughter was born), this rated as one of the five greatest days of my life. A wonderful bike ride, great beer, and even better friends — how could it get any better than that? Thanks for organizing, Bill!


Anonymous said...

Your beer pals at New Belgium are proud of you for combining two of life's biggest pleasures: biking and enjoying beer... in Portland no less! Doesn't get any better than that!

Greg at New Belgium

Lee said...

Hey, will you be in Austin on the 20th? (New Belgium is sponsoring a bikes-n-beer event that comes here on Oct. 20th: