Portland Pub Crawl Kicks Off 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference

The term “pub crawl” has a tendency to conjure images of packs of young inebriates traveling from spot to spot drinking cheap “domestics” and shots of jagermeister.  Fortunately, the crowd of 40 or so beer bloggers who gathered Thursday evening to unofficially kick off the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland has far more respect for craft beer. And good beer was had by all, along with some pretty cool perks.

Perk number one started with the first stop, at Widmer’s tiny Pilot Brewery located just steps away from Portland’s basketball arena, the Rose Garden.  It’s not open to the public, but Widmer was kind enough to open it up to us and provide a selection of growlers to sample some of their wares. Widmer uses the location to brew its one-off specialty beers served at it’s Gasthaus Pub a couple miles away as well as a variety of experimental beers. Like an electric pink colored brew that clearly takes the award for most unusually colored beer. I wasn’t close enough to the brewer to hear the explanation of what we were drinking, but I enjoyed the three samples I tried, while making introductions with other bloggers and trying to remember names.

Out next stop was Deschutes Brewery’s block party, which Deschutes calls Street Fare, where live music combines with some of Portland’s best street food vendors paired with variouse Deschutes brews.  Perk number 2 was a VIP media pass for all of us to wander around and enjoy the event.  Yeah, media.  That’s me. Awesome.  The warm, sunny Portland evening provided the perfect backdrop to the well attended event.  My favorite paring was a spicy, meaty, Chicago style pizza paired with Conflux No. 2, a collaboration beer by Deschutes Brewery and Boulevard Brewing Co.

Stop number three was the Lucky Lab Beer Hall housed in an old Freightline warehouse.  The super long, wooden tables create a communal feel to the beer drinking and with 16 house beers on tap, there was something for every taste.  Brewer Ben treated us to Perk number 3, a tour of the grain room and brewery facility.

From Lucky Lab, we walked up to 23rd Street and New Old Lompoc Brewery.  It was the only joint who seemed surprised to see us, but they nevertheless rose to the occasion and quickly had beers in our hands.   By this time I was finally starting to remember some names and faces and struck up some great conversations with Ryan, Sean and Amber of 2BeerGuys (yeah, that sounds like three people to me, too) and Bryan of Seacoast Beverage Lab, all doing very well representing the northeast U.S.

While the official Pub Crawl ended there, it wasn’t time to turn in yet, so we added two additional stops.  First, no trip to Portland is complete without a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts late at night.  I can’t say enough about the Maple Bar with two strips of bacon on top, thought the captain crunch encrusted glazed doughnut looked well worth a try.

Our final stop was Burnside Brewing Co. which looks like it inhabits a former retail paint store.  Nevertheless, the beer is excellent and the food is darn good, too.  I highly recommend the Oatmeal Pale Ale, the first pale ale I’ve tried that was brewed with oatmeal.  The Sweet Heat was a big hit around the table as well.