This week’s review brings me back to Portland and one of the older breweries in the area, Cascade Brewing. Cascade has been around since 1998 and was created by one of the founding fathers of the Oregon craft beer scene, Art Larrance. Originally brewing more traditional styles and hop-bombs common to the PNW, in 2006 they decided to switch it up and move to creating sour and barrel aged beers. That must have been a good decision as they have now expanded to several locations in the Portland area with a production of just over 3,000 bbl per year. So grab a beer, sit back, and try not to pucker up as I review this sour pioneer from Portland.
- Beer – Holy sour beers Batman! Most of Cascade’s beers are in the barrel aged and sour category, though there are a smattering of other non-sour styles available as well. To be honest, I did not realize their specialization was sours as the brewery I had intended to go to that day was shut down when I arrived, and I had not had a chance to do my research beforehand when Cascade became my backup plan. As many of you probably realized, I’ve never been much of a sour fan over the years, though I think my tastes are evolving slowly. Despite this, I was blown away by what I found here, in both the quality and the quantity of beers they offered. One in particular, the honey ginger lime sour, will likely make the top 10 list this year, though they were all well-crafted, balanced ales that did not overwhelm with sour and allowed you to taste all the other flavors that went in to each one. If everyone made sours like this, I think I’d be much more inclined to be a sour beer fan. Score: 4.5/5
- Brewery – This visit brought me to the Cascade Brewing Barrel House, their east Portland brew pub. Known as the House of Sour, this gorgeous and spacious brewpub looks like its former life was as a warehouse, with tall ceilings crisscrossed with wooden girders and exposed duct work. Well over a dozen tables are scattered around the floor, with a moderately sized bar at the back over-looking the room. An equally spacious outdoor seating area is available under a large tent for those who prefer being outside while enjoying a beer. The food menu is limited but delicious with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, and the prices are reasonable for Portland. This location is open everyday from lunch until late, so you have plenty of opportunity to stop in. Score: 3.5/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – A few televisions provide an outlet for anyone here to watch sporting events. People watching, for those who prefer a study in humanity, is abundantly available with seating on the patio. I did not see any board or card games, nor patio friendly games available. They do offer this neat live event, called Tap it Tuesday, where they tap a new or creative barrel of beer from their cellar every week. Even better, you as the consumer can enter to be selected to help tap the barrel (just bring a change of clothes). Other live events appear to be infrequent, at least at this location, however I think the weekly beer tapping more than makes up for it. Score: 3/5
- Location – Right in the heart of east Portland and just across the river from downtown and the Pearl district, it’s hard to beat this spot. Pick a direction and you will find restaurants, bars, and other breweries within a few blocks. Like nature? Mt. Tabor, with its amazing views of the city, is less than 15 minutes away, as is the gorgeous river walk along the Willamette. Its Portland, so walking and biking are encouraged, while finding parking can be a little tricky as it is all street level parking in that area. During the busier times of the week it might be better to try public transit or stay on foot. With the covered patio it can be a little difficult to see the sign, so keep a close eye out as you are getting near. Score: 3.5/5
- Customer Service – Quick and efficient, despite a full house. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast my food and drinks arrived after placing the order. Since it is more restaurant, you will have table service, and my server was fantastic at checking in and making sure I didn’t need refills or have any concerns. Plus, she made some excellent drink recommendations as the tap list can be a little overwhelming at first glance. All around great customer service here. Score: 4/5
Total Score: 18.5/25
Favorite Beer: Honey Ginger Lime – 6.8% Sour Ale
Final Thoughts: I never thought the day would come when I recommend a place that serves predominantly sour beers, yet here it is. Cascade Brewing excels at creating nuanced and balanced barrel aged beers that can make even a sour-averse beer drinker like me enjoy them. Do yourself a favor and stop by here next time you are in Portland. You will not be disappointed.