All this recent talk of NW brewpubs is making me feel guilty. Several
months ago I asked for suggestions for places to hit while I was in that
region and the response was fantastic. I had planned to post detailed
travel journal entries, but as that seems unlikely any time soon I'll
have to make do with basic impressions instead.
First off, huge thanks to Denny Conn, Dan Schultz, Joel Curtin, David
Ashley, Kelvin Kundert, Phil Ullrich, Matt Jarvis, Brad Snowder, and
anybody else who made suggestions. My list was way longer than time
would allow, but my girlfriend and I managed a few very good stops. In
most cases the stuff everyone is most interested in, like exactly what
the beers tasted like, has escaped me. I hope my lack detail isn't too frustrating.
Here's the tour (after 8 or so wineries and a sake brewery in Napa Valley):
Rubicon Brewing Co.
We stopped here for lunch shortly after getting into town. This place
had a nice neighborhood feel, OK food and a decent IPA.
Calistoga Brewpub & Inn
This place was touted all over Napa Valley as the place to go for
good beer and great food. Frankly, neither lived up to the promise. They
only thing on the limited dinner menu that sounded good at the time,
they were out of. Arg. The beers didn't sound particularly exciting
either, so I went for the Hefeweizen. It wasn't fruity or clovy, but it
was hazy. Unfortunately it also came with a giant lemon slice,
PRE-SQUEEZED. Arg again.
This stop was one of the few highlights of our visit to Portland;
terrible traffic, irritating rental car fiasco and the only rain we
encountered during our entire 10-day trip. There are a lot of people who
really like Portland, and they're not ALL crazy, so I'm sure we were
there on a bad day. Anyway, we ordered the beer sampler, which included
(I think) their six current taps. Unfortunately I didn't keep tasting
notes, and I don't even recall the names, but the beers were all good.
The fries were pretty good too.
We went for a late dinner at Bigtime, but managed to showed up as the
kitchen was closing and were unable to get one of their pizzas (which
looked great). Instead we each had a hot sandwich (the turkey reuben is
yum) and a beer sampler. At Hilltop, we had an okay but pricey lunch
and, after an extended interrogation by the waitress ("Are you SURE you
know what you're getting?"), a cask-conditioned bitter. Apparently not
everyone who orders their cask beer knows what to expect.
Rock Fish Grill
Maintaining our mission of pissing off kitchen staff all over the US,
we showed up at Rock Fish Grill about 30 minutes before closing. It was
pretty quiet when we got there, but several more parties arrived after
us, easing our guilt a little. We again had the sampler and found a
couple of pretty good beers and some really good grub.
Granville Island Brewing
Maybe because it was one of our last brewpub stops, this one seems
most memorable. Steamworks is a sprawling, multi-level brewpub. Though I
wonder if it's always the case, the night we were there it was
moderately busy but not too crowded. We weren't dining, so we chose a
quiet spot near the window. There was lots of comfy furniture to lounge
on, and some of it allowed for views of the bay.
We got the sampler, which included 8 (!) beers. Our favorites were a
cream ale, the IPA, and the nut brown ale. Their seasonal tap was a
Frambozen, which seemed terribly sweet. All others were pretty good,
including an oatmeal stout, pale ale, pale lager and a hefeweizen.
Succumbing to curiosity, the next day we fought our way out to
Granville Island Brewing. In short, the tour was somewhat disappointing,
but the passing of multiple pitchers at the end was fun. Most of the
beers were unremarkable, but very drinkable.
And that's it. Thanks again to everybody for all the info.