Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Audience Participation: As I Contemplate A Trip West, How Do You Travel?

One thing I've realized. I know very, very little about beer not produced in Wisconsin.

I have the occassion to drive to Portland, Oregon starting on Thursday through Monday (Labor Day). I'll be passing through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Aside from Surly and Upright, I have no idea what beer is any good, what I should be getting, or even what I can expect to find in stores. I have to check luggage for my flight back (I'm taking a tent with me and tent stakes aren't exactly allowed in the carry-ons, you know?), so I plan on bringing back as much beer as I can.

There is one side of me that says "Eh, f- it, figure it out on the road." This is my impetuous sense of adventure that can result in really cool, unique stuff based on the personal recommendations of people and places that you meet and see along the way. It is this sense of "get in a car and go" that, frankly, got me into this trip to begin with (you will find out, if you were to meet me, that you can pretty much talk me into doing anything that I've never done before). However, this is putting my faith in strangers as I have no frame of reference or guide to show me the way. Moreover, there is a huge possibility for missed opportunity for the sake of spontaneity.

On the other hand, by planning and having some idea of what to look for, I can maximize the bounty of my trip. This is my first trip out there, and while I may get back to Oregon or Washington, the odds of me being in North Dakota, Wyoming or Idaho anytime soon is pretty slim. So, my other option is to assiduously research the breweries and brewpubs, make a list of stuff that I want and go straight for that at the liquor store and supplement that list (or check that list) with local knowledge.

So, what do you think?

How do you travel? Do you throw caution to the wind or do you do your research down to the beer bar closest to your hotel?


  1. If you wanted authentic experiences (in the sense of "this is what locals do") and didn't care what the actual experiences were, I'd wing it. However, you're looking for a specific type of experience and you know that a large fraction of the population is ignorant about what makes it worthwhile. I'd beermap the route.

  2. Research research research. Why would you take an extensive trip and leave everything to chance?

  3. Plan ahead, but don't be disappointed if you can't make it to everything. If you're on a schedule having a plan is a must, but if it's a relaxed rambling trip....

    I've always tried to make arrangements to visit/taste one or two specific places (like Captain Lawrence Brewing and the Gingerman in NY state) when I'm on a trip and then if it's a longer stay I can ask the locals. Beyond that...there's more to life than beer.

    Drive safe and have fun!

  4. I usually like to have an idea of what's out there, but I cannot stand a regimented itinerary so I'll leave more to chance than most. Missed opportunities are the price of this approach, but that's life. I've hit more than I've missed on my latest trips.

  5. You lucky dog!! Depending upon your time, you have to plan your attack. Destination Portland, Beermap the trip out to Oregon to see what's convenient on the way, but then, if I may be so bold, allow me to guide you in beer city. In Portland, stay downtown to take the convenient trolley; the downtown area is also very walkable. You will notice many McMenamin pubs. This family buys historic buildings (old schools, theaters, ballrooms--check out the Crystal with its spring dance floor)and converts them into brewpubs. While the beer is OK, the restorations are amazing. In Portland, you have lots of choices, but I recommend: The Lucky Lab, the small Tugboat, Bridgeport, the New Old Lompoc, and, if you can get in, a tour of the fantastic Hair of the Dog. So many more, Jeff. For a great day trip--it's a beautiful drive--head east from Portland on 30/84 along the Columbia River. Many stops for waterfalls, etc., but there are several brewpubs that you can hit in one great day. Get to Hood River (wind surfing capital of the US!) for Full Sail, then go down 35S to Parkdale to the quaint Elliot Glacier Brewpub. Small, friendly and a fantastic view of Mt. Hood and fruit tree orchards in the backyard. It doesn't get much better. Get back in the car and go from 35S to 26W to Mt. Hood Brewing. As you return toward Portland, just before returning to 30/84, stop for one last one at 4th St. Brewing. You will never get to everything, but it sure is fun trying. Portland, even with its large number of homeless people, is a great city to visit and drink in. It's clean, beautiful, friendly and you have so many beer choices. Best of luck, Mr. MBR!

  6. Excellent comments and thanks for the tips. I hope to have some time to spend in the Portland area, but one full day of the trip will be Glacier National. We are coming from Glacier through Washington, so hopefully we'll be able to hit some of the brewpubs and breweries along the way. I know I will have an evening of bar-hopping though!

    Interesting that only person said "wing it" since that is my general "default" mode. But this is a weird trip for a number of reasons (not the least of which is that I'm not traveling for the purpose of beer, so I can't monopolize the trip), so I've done some basic homework to familiarize myself with some of the breweries and brands so that I know what I'm looking at on a shelf. But I'll be bringing back pretty much a full suitcase of beer, so I'm curious as to what I'll end up with.

  7. With the exception of Bismarck, North Dakota is a vast beer wasteland. But do stop at Bismarck's new Irish-style pub downtown for a Rogue product and some good food...as well as Irish tunes.

    Montana is a totally different story. This small-population state has perhaps the greatest ratio of breweries to consumers than any state in the union. Start at the Montana Brewing Company in downtown Billings. This neat brewpub was voted "Best small brewpub" a year or so back--their pale ale is top-notch. Then drive south to Red Lodge and enjoy Red Lodge Ale's Bent Nail IPA in their beer garden. While you're there, take a drive on the Beartooth Highway--the scenery is fantastic.

    Be sure to stop in Bozeman,home of Montana State University and the Bozeman Brewing Company. Their tasting room is fun place to enjoy some of their excellent ales and only a short drive to Montana Ale Works--one of the best beer bars around. With more than thirty taps--many of them Montana brews--you'll have some difficult choices to make.

  8. Anon: holy cow. THanks for the ND/Montana tips - that part of the trip is most definitely the "grey area". Interestingly, my parents were in Yellowstone a few weeks ago and brought back some Grand Teton ESB (Extra Special Brown) and it is REALLY good - and I don't even like browns. In doing my research, IPAs/Pales and Porters seem to be REALLY popular in that area - since those are definitely in my wheel house, I am super-excited to check out some of the local brewpubs.

  9. Jeff, give me a call if you need a tasting partner in PDX(ryan 503.475.6783). I always print out the "good beer maps" from brewing news. Not always the most updated, but it gives you a trail to follow pending your route. Check out Apex Beer Bar, Bailey's Taproom, or Green Dragon in Portland if you want a monster selection of the best in the northwest. Amnesia Brewing on Mississippi Ave shouldn't be missed. Nor should Walking Man in Stevenson, WA in the Gorge, or Double Mountain in Hood River, OR. Glacier Brewing in Polson, MT is a good roadside stop en route to GNP. Drink it Up!

  10. Hey everyone! Thanks for the suggestions. I brought back entirely too much beer, but thankfully Alaska Airlines didn't charge me the over-weight fee (over by 12 pounds, no less). In the brief time we were in Portland we went to Bridgeport (cask IIPA was AWESOME) and Macminnamons Baghdad Theater. Had some other pretty amazing beer as well, including Mad River Brewing's Extra Stout (yes, technically California beer, but you can't get it here and it seems pretty popular there as most retailers seemed to think highly of the barleywine in particular - which I bought 2 bottles of). I may write up more, but just wanted to say thanks for all the help!!


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