Ten beer samples for $10? Froth’s US correspondent Luke Gillman finds his dreams come true at 10 Barrel Brewing’s pub in Portland, Oregon.
The last time you heard from me, good Frothies, I was reporting from the LA Fall Beer Festival just days after Donald Trump’s election. This time around, your US correspondent finds himself a long way north of Los Angeles – almost 1000 miles north to be precise – in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon.
During a pleasant stroll through the hip Pearl District in the city’s south-west, my wife and I came across 10 Barrel Brewing’s pub and rooftop bar. Giving off a vaguely Melbourne vibe, the subtle sense of homesickness that has accompanied us over the past eight or nine months here in the US pushed us through the door.
10 Barrel Brewing was founded in 2006 in the town of Bend, in central Oregon, and has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. They still have a brewery and pub in Bend, and now have pubs scattered across Portland, San Diego, Denver and Boise, Idaho.
The Portland pub opened early last year, and has 20 beers on tap as well as a kitchen serving hearty farm-to-table pub grub, a range of veggie options and sweets. We came in for lunch and a local ale, but when a lady at the next table ordered a ‘sampler’ and received a giant metal paddle holding 10 beers, I knew there was only one thing for it – I had to order a paddle myself and then write about it for Froth magazine.
When the sampler arrived it took two staff to clear space on our table and ensure the paddle was sitting securely. Each beer was about a three-ounce pour – almost 100ml – rounding up to just under two pints in total. And all this for a measly $10.
The beer menu listed a recommended order for the sampler which jumped around from IPA to sour to Schwarz back to IPA, but my waitress advised me to keep it simple and work from light to dark. I more or less followed her advice.
Proceedings kicked off with the Chilly Bin Session IPA, made with hops shipped all the way from our cousins in the Land of the Long White Cloud. I am not usually a big fan of IPAs – the hops overpower the other flavours for me – but this one nailed it. The taste can only be described as super clean with a subtler hoppiness than many IPAs.
Next up was the Grapefruit Tartelette Gose. Gose – a German wheat beer – was not something I had tried before so I was keen to taste it. It did not disappoint. Incredibly fruity, this drop reminded me of the sake punch served at Northcote’s Dojo Ramen Bar.
The Hold The Floor Sour Coffee Beer followed. Brewed using a combination of Ethiopian and Colombian beans from Oregon’s Backporch Coffee Roasters, this sour had a scent of cappuccino, but I couldn’t taste it. Regardless it was delicious, and followed the gose up nicely.
Number four switched things up with Bubbly Hard Apple Cider, which was fermented with a wine yeast for a champagne-like quality. It was sweet and soft, and very refreshing on the palate before the variety that was to follow over the back half of the sampler.
By this point the alcohol was beginning to work its magic on my empty stomach, and I was looking around for lunch to arrive. Before it did came the Monsieur Canard Dry Hopped Saison. Nothing I have to say about this beer is as pertinent or honest as my wife’s assessment (she was working her way through an Oregon pinot noir but “helping out with the sampler” when she felt like it). “I like it, little bit hoppy, pretty soft overall,” she said. “Palatable. Maybe not the beer that you would introduce someone to beer on. A good midway point between lagers and dark beers without being an IPA. Would drink again.” Who can argue with that?
Just as I was getting light-headed, hearty beer food arrived. The California Dog was nice but a little too sloppy, while the BLTAE (A for avocado and E for egg) was delicious. Importantly for a drinking establishment, the fries were sensational and maintained an excellent crunch.
Feeling satiated in the belly, I was ready to tackle the sixth beer of the afternoon – the Yas Queen Tangerine Rye IPA. The citrus hit my nose but never really hit the tongue, perhaps hidden behind the hops. The finish was super dry.
The Rye IPA turned out to be a lovely introduction to the Short Girl IPA which was up next. It’s not often I come across a hoppy ale that feels like a real session beer, but this one is damn close. The subtle hoppiness and a pleasant floral bouquet combine to make the Short Girl one to put on your list.
By this point I was ready to head to the dark side of town. My wife referred to the Salute Your Schwarz Schwarzbier as “dessert” and she was right. It was incredibly soft, with both chocolate and caramel in the after taste, and a strong hint of syrup. Divine.
The Blarney Stone Irish Red was next on the list, and the second-to-last beer of the sampler, so expectations were high. The red ale did not disappoint – it was smoky and oaky on the nose, and very easy to drink. There was nothing too complicated or overpowering coming through the flavour profile, and I could easily have had another pint or two if I wasn’t obliged to continue on for you Frothies.
At this point I reached the climax of the sampler – the P2P Power To The People Stout. This really was one of the most interesting stouts I have tried. It was quite hoppy but made use of plenty of malt to balance out the flavour. Slightly smoky, I couldn’t pick up any of the coffee or dark-chocolate tones many stouts bring to the table, which intrigued me. It was a fantastic drop and a great way to close the sampler and my experience at 10 Barrel Brewing.
If you find yourself in Portland any time soon – and if you are travelling to the US you absolutely should be heading there – be sure to set aside an hour or two for this. If you pick a sunny day, the rooftop area is absolutely delightful, but downstairs has plenty of space to sit too if you need to stay out of the weather.
With friendly locals, knowledgeable staff and a great location, you can’t go wrong with a trip to 10 Barrel Brewing’s Portland pub.
10 Barrel Brewing is located at 1411 Northwest Flanders St, Portland, Oregon.
Open Sun-Thur: 11am-11pm, and Fri-Sat: 11am-12am