Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Laurelwood: A Great Portland Pub

By William Brand
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 at 9:02 am in Uncategorized.

We made a quick, 36 hour trip
to Portland, Oregon this week to help our daughter move back to the Bay Area. She’s transferring from a university in Portland to Mills College, here in Oakland.

Traveling with two women can be demanding. Helping one of them move can be – a moving experience. Anyway between packing boxes and visits to my daughter’s favorite sushi place, Saburo, and favorite dessert place, Papa Haydn , I managed to visit Laurelwood Public House & Brewery.

I’d heard about Laurelwood, Portland’s first organic brewery, but in a city with 20 or so brewpubs and dozens more places with great beer, it’s hard to choose just one. So I called a friend who knows Portland well.

“Go to Laurelwood,” he said.

“I did followed (reluctantly) by my wife and daughter and (not-so-reluctantly) by a male friend of my daughter’s.)

Walking up to Laurelwood is like coming home: A row of plain wood picnic benches in the back of the building were filled with customers, families with kids and people with dogs. Inside, it’s big and airy, lots of unfinished pine, fir plank floors. It’s total, lovable Oregon.

The large, moderately priced menu features lots of organic dishes and even the pork comes from a green, free range producer.

God I hope there’ll always be an Oregon; I’d hate for this beautiful city of rivers and bridges and pine forest liberals to grow up, become sleek and sophisticated.

Our “waiter” turned out to be Patrick McComas, the floor manager. Guess he was curious about somebody who ordered the eight-beer sampler set, while the two women on the other side of the table asked for water only. Our daughter’s friend arrived late and gratefully accepted a pint.

Laurelwood has a second restaurant (no brewery) across the river. It’s Laurelwood NW Public House, at 2327 NW Kearney St. The place I visited at 1728 NE 40th Ave. in Portland’s eastside Hollywood district, is just a half block north of Sandy, the eastside main drag. According to Lisa Morrison, ace Portland beerwriter, Laurelwood’s owners are opening a new, larger brewery and pub a few blocks away

Laurelwood has won a string of awards, under founding brewer, Christian Ettinger, who left to create his own brewpub, also in southeast Portland to open this fall. But head brewer Chad Kennedy, who brewed here with Ettinger for three years, has quickly established his own reputation with the help of assistants Paul Bergeman and Dustin Keller.

Patrick said their number one selling beers are their IPAs. They make 10 throughout the year, culminating a couple of months ago with At their Portland retail accounts – other bars and restaurants – is Laurelwood Organic Free Range Red.

Not a bad beer in the bunch. But there were a couple of surprises. First, Mother Lode Golden Ale*** was a complete surprise. It’s malty with a gently hoppy follow, an excellent, very drinkable beer. No wonder it’s won a string of competition medals.

It’s common for brewpubs to brew a “starter” beer for Budweiser drinkers. The argument is that Bud drinkers can’t take too much flavor, all at once. That’s nonsense. Suppose you have a guest who has only eaten Wonder Bread. Do you serve a bland, major bakery, thin-crusted “better” bread or do you serve a crusty, fresh-baked baguette?

Moving on, the Boss IPA***+, a 6.7 percenter, emphasized the malt, some hop aroma, full, taste of malty barley with hops rushing in. The pub tasting notes say its 60 IBU, made with Fuggles, Goldings, Cascade and Ahtanum hops. Curious about Ahtanum, it’s a variety developed near Yakima, WA., named for the area near Yakima where the first Washington state hop farm was established in 1869.

My other surprise or I should say, surprises, was/were two dark beers: Tree Hugger Porter***, a beautiful brew with a roast malt nose that fades into a chocolate taste, and Space Stout***+, an opaque brown with an aroma of black malt and coffee notes in the full, malty taste.

My only disappointment was the seasonal, a Triple, which was far too sweet for my taste. But it’s only a blip on the screen. Laurelwood’s a place I intend to visit again.

They sell growlers to go, quart bottles, $6.50 for the first one; refills $4.50; gallon growlers, $13 for the first, refills $9.

Curious about brewpubs/craft brewing in Portland? Here’s a link.

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