As the Sip Advisor and company packed up to celebrate the Easter weekend in Portland, we knew we were in for good times, but I’m still amazed at how many good beers I was able to cram into the short time.
Following a nice dinner at Mama Mia Trattoria (where I had a delicious Boneyard RPM IPA) on our first night, the Sip Alliance made our way to Tugboat Brewing, which claims to be Portland’s smallest craft brewery. There, we sampled each of Tugboat’s three own beers, as well as ordered some from their guest taps from around the state. As we enjoyed our beers, we were able to play one of the bars many board games, chat with the knowledgeable and jovial barkeep Linsel, and just take in the Portland scene.
The Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest is the main event of this yearly pilgrimage and while this year featured a mix of ups and downs, we all still had a great time. The first issue came as we tried to redeem our tickets. We each purchased the VIP package add-on, to go with the regular entry ticket bundle. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the ticket takers weren’t really trained on what kind of tickets they should expect to see, as it took a team of two to figure out that we had paid for both packages. With the regular ticket, visitors get entrance to the festival, a souvenir glass and 10 tokens. The VIP package provided an additional six VIP tickets to use on an advertised 20 special items.
Speaking of those special items, there only ended up being about a dozen to choose from, mostly comprised of cheeses and chocolates. One of the bonus beer items I had my heart set on was already unavailable, despite us all showing up at the very start of the second day.
In the end, it seemed as if there was absolutely no benefit to the VIP package and serious changes should be made to that option for next year, or it should be abandoned entirely. Admittedly, the Sip Advisor and Mrs. Sip ended up trading our VIP tickets in for normal tokens, just to get something out of them.
Not to harp on the event too much, but one other disappointment from the festival was the elimination of info/pairing seminars. These have been a highlight of our past visits to the Beer & Wine Fest and I really hope they are brought back.
Okay, enough of the negatives, let’s finish with some positives. I tried a number of very good beers over the afternoon, including wares from StormBreaker, Snipes Mountain, Leikam, Coin Toss, Gilgamesh, Krauski, Unicorn, Elysian, Lompoc, Rusty Truck, Old Town, Natian, and Sai What.
My choice for best booth of the show was the Thomas & Sons Distillery, where Mrs. Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and I spent a fair bit of time tasting each of the company’s tea-based liqueurs (I was particularly enamoured with their Smoke Tea Liqueur). This is where I used my one and only VIP ticket, trying their Boilermaker collaboration with Planktown Brewing. We also purchased one of Thomas & Sons liqueur sample packs for future cocktail experimenting.
The following day, we hit the town for a Portland brewery crawl, making our way to five different locations and experiencing the city’s public transportation (day passes were only $5!). Our first stop was Breakside Brewing, which has a few products that can be found on our side of the border. Mrs. Sip and I shared a flight of tasters, with my favourite being their Salted Caramel Stout.
Stop number two was Old Town Brewing, which we conveniently drove by en route to Breakside. Here, we ordered another flight, which was comprised of eight different beers. The tops among them for me, were the Law & Porter and Paulie’s Not Irish Red.
From there, we ditched the vehicles and hit public transport, where we first ventured to Burnside Brewing. I had another really good beer here, the Too Sticky To Roll India Red Ale. Next up, was Hair of the Dog, where I had their Adam beer, the brewery’s very first release. They even have servings available of that inaugural brew from 1994… which will only set you back $1500 (they call it the most sought after beer in the world).
We then rushed to our dinner reservation at Der Rheinlander, where our ravenous group destroyed as much schnitzel as possible to go along with some great German beers. The only disappointment here was that two of us ordered a “boot” of beer and were simply served giant mugs. That’s what I call flagrant false advertising!
As we arrived at Der Rhinelander, Mrs. Sip spotted Laurelwood Brew Pub just up the street, so we decided to pop in following our meal. Here, we had another awesome server, who took care of all our beer needs, while also charging a couple of our phones and setting us up with an Uber ride back downtown. I enjoyed their Rando IPA #11, while playing with their set-up meant for small children.
The night ended with some burlesque at Dante’s Sinferno Cabaret. While watching a number of crazy acts, I took advantage of Dante’s decently priced line-up of Portland-based beers. Before officially packing it in, we also managed a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, which provided breakfast the next morning.
Before you knew it, it was time to return home. This weekend looks to be a little quieter, but every time I venture to say that, we end up going all out and comes across more than enough to document.