Serious Eats: Drinks

Portland, OR: Drink Local Beer at Hawthorne Hophouse

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[Photographs: Jim Bonomo]

Hawthorne Hophouse

4111 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214; (map); 503-477-9619; hawthornehophouse.com
Beer Focus: small-batch local gems
Taps: 24 rotating

Portland, Oregon's Hawthorne Hophouse is a laid-back addition to the hustle and bustle of its namesake thoroughfare. Inside, the Hophouse is clean and family-friendly, two unusual traits to find alongside a quality tap list 24-deep. The soothing combination of wooden furniture, candles, and olive green walls sets the mood, and the plentiful selection of locally produced beer seals the deal. Deep fried cheese curds and wasabi deviled eggs pair nicely with a session of ale consumption. On my visit, I aimed for local winter seasonals to warm my belly.

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Beetje Farmhouse Ale (left) and Boneyard Femme Fatale (right)

The Beetje Brewery is one of the Portland area's newest, producing Belgian-style ales a tad more traditional than those made at Upright Brewing. I sampled their Farmhouse (aka B-Side), a quaffable, dry beer in the style of a summer saison. It began with an aroma of hay, and the earthy flavors continued once the beer hit my palate. Floral notes and hints of white grape and butterscotch flowed underneath a bitter, well-attenuated Belgian base. Hoppier than expected, the complex Farmhouse maintains drinkability.

Femme Fatale Sour Ale ($3.75/12 oz.) from Bend's Boneyard Beer fooled me a little with its tart moniker. The sourness comes not from wild yeast, but from the flavors of the raspberry and cranberry used to flavor this toasty brown ale. A berry depth was present, as was a nutty, rich cocoa note. The fruit came off as more jammy than anything, which is appropriate for a beer Boneyard advertises as "breakfast beer". My cheek puckered slightly, but this beer far from satisfied my love for truly wild ales.

20110120_hh_2_side.jpg The highlight of my visit was the Alpha Centauri IPA ($3.75/12 oz.) from Hop Valley Brewing Company. It looked crisp and bright, and as the glass approached my nose, I caught whiffs of piney perfume and mango. The body had a bit of caramel sweetness to balance out the aggressive hoppiness, and the finish was loaded with lemon rind and fresh cut grass. This beer rode the line of IPA/Double IPA in its extreme bitterness. It left a beautiful lacing on the stemware, and actually developed more herbal flavors with warmth. This beer was not the most even keeled, but it spoke loudly to my inner hophead.

The draft list includes some real hard-to-find small-batch local gems, and growler fills are available. The beers I tried were fresh and served at an appropriate temperature by very attentive staff. Some might complain about the serving size—even low alcohol beers are served in twelve ounce tulips—but I applaud this choice. The price per ounce still manages to be reasonable, and the smaller serving allows for more exploration of the excellent list.

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