It was a gloomy Sunday in Portland, Oregon. I was dropped off by my husband at Growler Guys to meet Emily, our tour guide, and the other participants of the Tour De Funk BREWVANA tour. I anxiously said hi to Emily, then headed to the bus to get settled for the tour. The rain was gently beating on the bus windows as I took in the glory that is the bus ceiling, the rules of the bus, and the plethora of brewery stickers from all over the world that plaster the walls of the bus. Soon after, two other beer enthusiast climbed into the bus, followed by Emily. She announced that we were waiting on one more person, then we would start our beer adventure. I made small talk with the other two guests as the last member of our party boarded the bus.
After we got the legal necessities and rules of the tour out of the way, we were off to our first stop: Labrewatory. We rolled up to the brewery, Emily gave us directions on which building to enter as she parked the bus. When we walked through the door, the main focus was the stunning bar, which was brightly lit, modern, with touches of reclaimed wood and a warm feel. The bartender pointed us over to a massive marble cube dotted with embedded pennies. We each had a tasting glass that was reminiscent of chemistry class, along with the beer menu and a dump bucket and water for rinsing…and drinking, if you wanted. Soon Emily was pouring us our first beer: the Ca Blonde. This liquid gold in a glass is a mezcal barrel aged blonde with a sweet nose and a clean mouth feel. Once it hit your lips you got a subtle, yet delicious hint of tequila. Emily then began to go over the main ingredients that go into making a beer: grain, hops, water, and yeast. We then had a discussion about each of those ingredients, why each is important and the various brewing methods that can be used to craft a great beverage. During the history and science lesson we tasted the Madeline NW Lager (I’m pretty bias to this one, since we share similar nomenclature), the Suzy Q Peach American Sour (refreshingly mouth puckering), and we finished off the tasting with the Against the Currant Belgian Tripel (a roasty delight). We then had a quick tour of the brewery, said hi to the brewer, and loaded back into the bus for our second stop.
As we cruised over to BTU Brasserie, my brain was trying to figure out how any brewery could top our first stop, but I was in for a happy little surprise. We were conveniently dropped off at the front door where the host was waiting eagerly for us, and guided us toward our table. Emily then handed out a little souvenir: a BREWVANA Pilsner glass. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from BTU, I mean a Chinese food restaurant with a German-Style brewery inside? Sounds a little crazy, if you ask me. The host quickly brought our our first beer, the Ghostman White Lager along with the most delicious double garlic broccoli and melt-in-your-mouth shrimp and radish cakes. The coriander from the beer paired impeccably with the dish. All four of us quickly devoured both the food and the beer and eagerly awaited our next pairing. The Fresh Hop Wet Tiger was a juicy addition to the meal, but the star of the show was the Buttah-Nut Gose. Our second plate of food was served, Dan Dan noodles with crispy pork smothered in a magical numbing sauce. Emily let us get some of the noodles in our bellies, then served us the dreamy Buttah-Nut Gose, which was so fruity, then a little salty, but equally balanced at the same time. We ended this stop with the Horned Hand Doppelbock as a liquid chocolatey, roasty dessert.
We headed to stop three with warm food in our bellies and large grins on our faces. None of us could wait to see what Oregon Mead and Cider Company had in store for us. Brooks was eagerly waiting for us at the front of the brewery, ready to show us his craft. He and Emily told us the story of how BREWVANA and OMCC made two separate beverages for the PRO/AM this year, and how hard it was for everyone to decided which one to enter. Luckily for us, he had both on hand to try. While the mead that was entered in the competition was delectable, the runner up- the “coconutty” rum-soaked goodness that he siphoned out of a rum barrel for us to try, transported me to a beach, lounging in the sun. We tried the Trinity mead, Free Press Dry Cider and the Free Press Hopped Cider, but the hidden gem that was the mead that had not one, but two strains of brettanomyces co-exisiting inside a whiskey barrel. That was such a funky libation, I loved it so much, and I cannot wait for it to be available to the masses.
We trudged trough the mist the 100 feet to our last stop, Culmination. Here, we sat around a large barrel, which is now purposed into a table as we take in their extensive tap list. This brewery always feels so warm and cozy, especially on a wet Sunday evening. Just when I thought Emily couldn’t have any more surprises up her sleeve, she pours us the Fresh Hop Farmhouse Ale. This is such a light, refreshing beer with a great funky nose, but it had the added juiciness of the fresh hops. Up next was the Elation Imperial IPA, which was curiously floral in the nose and juicy for an IPA. The Sour Flower Power Hour was a great slap in the taste buds to remind us that we had one more beer left. Last but not least, we finished off the night with the New Olde English Stout. Like the other dark beers on this tour, it was a great finish for the night, a coffee nose with a chocolate taste, it was just what we all needed.
Before we piled back into the bus to head back to Growler Guys, we got a group picture to commemorate our incredible beer adventure. When we first introduced ourselves on the bus earlier that day, Emily said we would all be the best of beer friends once the day was over, and she was right. We all loved listening to each other’s stories, respected the opinions of everyone, whether it be beer tasting notes or politics (eek!), and shared a lot of laughs. We all learned something about beer and ourselves on that rainy Sunday.
All in all, this experience was one I won’t soon forget. It was fantastic to see people learning, sharing, and loving beer in such a unique setting. Emily is a spectacular teacher and guide; she went above and beyond to make sure our day was special. I am excited to join the BREWVANA team, and look forward to providing a memorable experience to my own guests in the months to come. Come join me on a tour soon!