Happy Bellies: A Weekend in Portland (Pt I.)

It was hard to say what we more excited for as we belted ourselves into our flight to Portland. Was it beer? Was it food? Was it getting out of town for the weekend—being on another flight? Whatever it was, it brought a flush to our cheeks and hammer to our hearts…or maybe it was the fact that we’d nearly missed our flight and had to run all the way from security. Now the hype has cooled and I can look back on the weekend with the sepia tones of sweet nostalgia, identifying just what, exactly, made our PDX weekend so remarkable. Part one? The BEER.

In all honesty, of the three things listed above, beer was the frontrunner in terms of excitability. We’d heard tell of Portland’s legendary beer scene for years, and couldn’t wait to cheers a pint. Lucky for us, Zwickelmania was that weekend!

What is Zwickelmania? Their website describes them thusly: “The annual one-day event in Oregon when breweries open their doors to the casual and hardcore beer fans, lands on Feb. 14 this year — Valentine’s Day — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 110 breweries, both big and small, are participating with meet-the-brewer events and beer samples.”

Toss me a life-jacket, because I am ON BOARD. The Zwickelmania map listed a total of 44 breweries to check out. It was completely insane to attempt to see all of them between 11 and 4, so we did a little strategy and came up with four that sounded good: Base Camp, Coalition, The Mash Tun, and Stormbreaker. (An added bonus was hitting up Breakside Brewing the night before on our way home from the airport.)

Base Camp Brewing Co.

Base Camp had a really imaginative set-up for their event: instead of your standard tour of the brewery and tasting separate at the bar, they set up a faux-trail through their brewing tanks. On different points along the way, we steadfast hikers were rewarded with a beer to taste and an explanation of the sights to be found from our particular “vista.” From a branding standpoint, it was really well-executed. From a drinking standpoint, their Saison was killer.

Coalition Brewing Co.

The Coalition Zwickelmania setup was basically a big backyard party—complete with a fence of kegs. There was cornhole, picnic tables, stereo music and an outdoor bar. We couldn’t be sure if it was the unseasonal sunshine or the citrusy wheat beer, but it certainly felt like summer.

The Mash Tun Brewpub

The Mash Tun was incredibly laid back. Posters inside advertised a Wednesday Cribbage night and bar trivia, and their daily happy hour was a $3.50 pint of any of their incredible beers. Try the tater tots. And the fried zuccini. Ok, try everything (especially their Kitchen Sink!)

StormBreaker Brewing

StormBreaker Brewing was the most epic in name (an old Native American nickname for Mount Hood can apparently be translated into Storm Breaker) and Zwickelmania special—patrons at the bar could get a 20 oz pour for a measly $4. An outdoor tent and fire pit kept everyone warm, but the piece de resistance were the hop-shaped lights hanging over the main bar.

Breakside Brewery

Breakside was our first stop on Portland’s beer trail—we hit it up a mere 20 minutes after landing from San Francisco. As such, it wasn’t an official Zwickelmania stop, but it did provide an excellent first glimpse into the unique specialties of the PDX Beer Scene. Case in point—the salted caramel stout that was as filling as dinner and as sweet as dessert.

But beer wasn’t the only thing filling our bellies—check back for Part II (FOOD) later this week!

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