The Burnside Brewing Company – Try the East Side

2017 has seen Thebeerchaser’ Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs move slightly away (although never too far in physical proximity and thought) from classic dive bars to breweries and brewpubs.  Recent visits to the relatively new Portland brewpubs of Ten Barrel and Breakside in the Pearl District were interesting (the reviews are forthcoming) but the east side of the Rose City cried out for attention.

While not in the legendary Barmuda Triangle southeast of the Willamette River and not a new establishment, having been opened in 2010, Burnside Brewing Company has a nice atmosphere, some good beer and a reputation for being a progressive and innovative force in the Oregon beer community.

Not only experts on the Code, but great people!

As has been the case at two prior Beerchasing events (Life of Riley Tavern (3/16/16) and Brannon’s in Beaverton (3/3/15) – a venue which had great potential, but unfortunately a rather short lifespan, I joined a distinguished and erudite group (if you will…..) – eight individuals who all are either current or former members (or have a direct connection) to the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm Tax and Estate Planning Group.

For the brewery’s grain storage

Burnside Brewing, like many of its competitors, is housed in a building with roots other than malt and hops – in this case an industrial laundry built in 1927, according to Mary, the manager.  The exterior is pretty Spartan and aside from the massive and distinctive silo (used to store the grain for brewing) and the patio in front, Burnside looks like a plain industrial facility.

The availability of parking in its lot and spaces available on the street is a plus, however,  and one which makes parking in the Pearl District frustrating.

The interior is spacious and pleasant with high ceilings, an exposed kitchen, a long walnut bar with walnut tables and a Pacific Northwest décor that is tasteful and interesting.  Compared to a similar nearby (5 minutes or 2.3 miles) venue previously visited by Thebeerchaser – that being Ecliptic Brewing (5/6/15) – it has much better ambiance.

The lunchtime crowd had a nice energy – and it wasn’t just because of the outgoing natures of our cadre of tax lawyers who not only earned law degrees, but supplemented those three years with Master of Tax (LLM) degrees.  This graduate degree required an additional year of focus on such stimulating topics as conduit entities, the assignment of income doctrine and constructive receipt.  

The brewery prides itself on innovation and their “think-outside-the-box approach to brewing reminded me of the nearby Hair-of-the-Dog Brewery reviewed on this blog in February23, 2016 –  https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/02/23/hair-of-the-dog-brewery                  

  For example Burnside’s website states:

“The people of Burnside Brewing Co. make it what it is. They are risk takers, lovers of food to be enjoyed with easy to drink beers……takes an alchemist approach to enhance the craft beer and culinary experience……is widely recognized as a visionary leader in the Northwest brewing industry—bold enough to take risks and smart enough to leave a creative impression on your palate. The finished product is an outstanding combination of original cuisine and beer, both deeply rooted in innovation and quality.”

And the press and media reviews are very positive about this seven-year old venture of co-founders Jay Gilbert and Jason McAdam and echo plaudits for their creative approach to brewing, which the Portland Mercury described in a 4/28/2011 article, the year after the brewery opened, as “Beer-ed Science – Burnside Brewing’s Futuristic Fermentation.”

Beer-ed Science

Another example is this excerpt from the 2016 Willamette Week Bar Guide:

“Between its extensive, off-the-wall lineup of seasonals and decor guaranteed to appease the expectations of tourists visiting a Real Portland Brewpub™, Burnside has maintained its status as a must-visit for nearly six years…….. To complement its enduringly popular IPA and throwback Couch Select Lager, Burnside has concoctions infused with everything from Earl Grey tea to galangal, pumpkin puree and pepitas.”

We had various sandwiches on the lunch menu ranging from the chicken and the schnitzel sandwiches to the cubano and the burger.  All were good and had a generous helping of fries although the prices were a little bit high at $14 and $12 for the burger.  And one of the more pleasant parts of our lunch was the demeanor and competence of our server, Amethist, (she changed the y to an “i” but she is still a real gem!)

Amethist – a real gem!

Burnside takes pride in its food prep (“a menu offering cured meats, charcuterie, pickling, and culinary artistry all done in-house”) and gets good marks especially on the dinner menu for such entrées as Maple Cured Pork Loin ($15), Grilled Octopus ($16) or the old standard – Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($16.

There are also some good bargains during the Fermentation Hour menu and beer is only $3.75 for a pint on Wednesdays – $4.75 on other days)  Check out their brunch menu – Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00, where you might want to try the Pork Belly Eggs Benedict.

A Jambalaya special with chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage.

Since a majority of our group was still working, partaking of beer was minimal, but I returned a few weeks later and had a sample of the Isomer IPA and a pint of the Burnside IPA, two of their flagship beers – I understand why.  The Isomer had a nice fruit taste and the IPA was just the right hoppiness for me.

Grace, the bartender also talked about the cherry wheat beer they were introducing later that day which would have been a good bet.  And the pints were only $4.25.

National and State recognition for its beers

Burnside has been recognized for its beers, winning its first gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 2012 for Sweet Heat Ale (The chutney inspired wheat beer made with apricots and Scotch bonnet peppers won the gold medal in the Herb and Spice Beer category.”

Sweet Heat Ale –  Gold Medal Winner

More recent awards were at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards including a silver medal for their Juin in the Belgian category and a gold in the dark and hoppy category for their Keg Nog.

One way to explore the broad selection of beers at Burnside and which draws rave reviews, is to try the sampler.  As Grace explained, one can either sample the nine seasonal beers or seven perennials for $12 each or try the entire menu (usually 18 beers on their tap list) for a very reasonable $20.  Typical reaction to the deal is this 12/5/16 review on Yelp:

“The fact that they offer a sampler of everything on tap for $20 is amazing.  We split that sucker 3 ways and left feeling good.   The vibe here is a cool and definitely different from the typical hipster brewery feel.  It’s more classed up and full of adults on dates and stuff.  That and 3 wet dudes at the bar drinking 17 beers (it’s now 18) for $20.”

Sample either the Perennials or the Seasonals or all 18 for $20

The following complaint about the sampler was a little bit unusual – it’s from 2014 so the sampler had only 12 beers for $16:

“……the sampler tray (made of wooden blocks) was filled with beer that the bar tender over poured so the sampler tray was seeping beer onto the table and the cups were dripping a lot when picked up.”  Yelp 10/14

Most of my Beerchasing companions would not look at this as a negative and would just ask for a sponge and then slurp up the seepage, but then we are not a genteel crowd.

Now some who have read the past posts in which the Beerchasers attending are tax lawyers have questioned the quality of the conversation with such a learned professional group.  They have asked rhetorically, “Who wants to ponder the advantages of an S versus a C corp while swilling the seepage on a beer sampler or downing a pint of the Burnside porter named ‘Guts and Black Stuff?’” 

A great law firm with an outstanding Tax and Estate Planning group

But as I have stated before, this team is a well-rounded and quality group of individuals involved in broad civic, athletic and intellectual adventures.  As evidence, take Pete Osborne – now partially retired and of counsel at Schwabe, but recognized by his peers as one of the brightest tax lawyers in Portland.

Pete Osborne

Pete and his wife Terry, now retired from the legal department at Standard Insurance, are reading the Modern Library list of the 100 best 20th century novels.  Pete has checked forty-seven off his list although he admits that a number of them were read in his twenties ((on top of his law school reading….) including A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises both of Ernest Hemingway’s works on the list .  He also stated:

The biggest surprise author for me on the list was Carson McCullers’ ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’. The weirdest book so far is ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess.”

Note:  I can identify with Pete’s earnest ambition although from a slightly different focus.  Pete is reading 100 of the greatest novels and after five years of Thebeerchaser, I have now visited and/or written on 208 bars, taverns and pubs in Oregon, Europe and throughout the US.  Having a “worthwhile” educational goal in retirement is very important!

Obornes rendering of The Three Sisters

In the prior posts, I also included some of Pete’s art, which is impressive and asked him to send me his latest piece which is untitled –  a collagraph (a print made from a collage of various materials glued onto a board.)

Untitled caligrograph

As additional evidence that Pete is a Renaissance Man besides understanding the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code  he is a skilled poker player.   He travels to Las Vegas each year for the World Series of Poker and reported that in 2016 while playing in the Super Seniors (over 65) No Limit Hold Em event last June, he placed 36th out of 1,476 entries –  “This was in the money.”

Finished “In the Money”

One final note on Burnside Brewery.  Some patrons prefer a venue where they can raise a mug without having to watch or listen to youngsters as part of the equation.   Burnside is one of a number of breweries and pubs where kids are welcomed  – until 10:00 PM when accompanied by an adult.  However, sometimes this creates dissonance with the patron who craves a more sedate experience as evidenced by this 2/28/16 complaint on Yelp:

“Special note for Parents who bring in their precious spoiled children:  DON’T!!  Can’t you monitor your brood and keep them from tearing up the crayons so OTHER children may play with them???? Is it really that hard?? JUST STOP IT.” 

At least the dispute wasn’t about the President.

Or perhaps the complainant was irate because his or her kid didn’t get to use the crayons.  This was not a problem with the tax group because they unequivocally deferred to Pete’s use of the crayons given his artistic talents.

By the way, another interesting feature of the décor is the local art they feature.  Most recently, one of the prominent pieces is the one of the “hairless cat” which changes colors and one unnamed source opined that the regulars would probably not be sorry to see it go.  (While having no artistic judgement, it did appear to be inconsistent with the rest of the décor and was a distraction.)

In summary, Burnside Brewing Company earns good marks for ambiance, beer, food, parking, the staff and its entrepreneurial spirit.  While there are some good options on the Westside, try this near Eastside venue and you will want to return.

Amethist and Grace at work with local art in the background (notice that the cat is now green…)

Be sure to say “hello” to both Amethist and Grace, and if it is a nice day, stretch out with a pint of Burnside’s Immaculate Decoction Belgian Strong Golden Ale and dig into W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage.

British novelist and playwright

Then return and have their Too Sticky to Roll IRA and start your second work on the Modern Library 100 list – let’s say, Oregon’s own, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.  Maybe Pete Osborne will be willing to start a book club with meetings at breweries – “Book and Brew” might be a good moniker!

Note:  I see that Book & a Brew is also the label for a “……one stop monthly subscription (£12.99) service for book lovers and people who appreciate a nice brew,” but it should be noted that the brew, in this case, is tea rather than beer. 

A good place for a book and a brew on a sunny day…

Burnside Brewing Company           701 East Burnside

Hair of the Dog Brewery – “Ale Strong Enough to Make You Attack the Mailman” *

P1040064

*  Quote from an article in Maxim Online by Tim Clark

Followers of this blog will already know that Portland’s Eastside Industrial District is a thriving area as evidenced by the post on the resurrected Produce Row Café on 12/7/15.  There are also a lot of good restaurants such as Clark Lewis, Olympic Provisions and bars such as Bunk Bar, Side Door and My Father’s Place.

P1040063Essentially the same folks who enjoyed Produce Row, recently tried the Hair of the Dog Brewery and Tasting Room on a Thursday night and then we walked through the inaugural Portland Winter Light Festival after drinks and dinner.

The Inaugural Winter Festival of Lights

 

This brewery, founded in 1993 and one of Portland’s earlier micro-brew enterprises has differentiated itself from others as described on its website:

“Hair of the Dog Brewing Co is dedicated to providing the beer lover with new and unusual beer styles. Several of our beers are bottle-conditioned or re-fermented in the bottle resulting in beers which improve with age. Beers that are bottle-conditioned have a built-in shelf life.

They can be stored at room temperature (50–74 degrees F) and will continue to mature in the bottle for several years like a fine wine. We make only a small amount of beer and each bottle has a unique bottling number. This number changes every 5000 bottles, or 200 cases.”       

Aging behind the scenes

Aging behind the scenes

Now there is some debate about whether the aging process or re-fermentation does, in fact, improve the beer, but the comments on their beer are generally good and there is no debate that it is strong.  For example, one article stated the average micro-brew ABV (alcohol-by-volume) is slightly less than 6%.  HoD beer is generally much stronger as you will see below. 

Perhaps the high ABV is the rationale for the name of the brewery, since the Urban Dictionary defines “hair-of-the-dog” as an “alcoholic beverage consumed to ease a hangover.”

One of HoD’s beers, “Dave,” which is no longer produced, had an ABV of 29% and was rated by “Beer Tutor” as the twelfth strongest beer in the world in an undated post.  According to Wikipedia,  “The high alcohol level was achieved by repeated freezing and removal of the frozen water, a process called freeze distillation.”   

They had nine of their twenty beers on tap that night and the beers we tried were as follows:

Bourbon Fred from the Wood – 10% ABV

Blue Dot – 7% ABV         Ruth – 5% ABV

Fred – 10% ABV

That compares with one of Thebeerchaser’s standard favorites – PBR with an ABV of 4.74%.

Oregon beer legend, Fred Eckhart, namesake of a few Hod's beers

Oregon beer legend, Fred Eckhart, namesake of a few Hod’s beers

Some Comments on Beer Ratings!

Although this blog is primarily about bars and not the intricacies of the beer itself, let’s talk a little about Beer Ratings from the view of a non-connoisseur.   According to Wikipedia (okay, its not the Oxford Encyclopedia but remember this is a blog post not a Harvard Business Review article)  BeerAdvocate (has a “database contain(ing) about 3,783,570 ratings of about 100,976 beers,”  on 11/13/15.

RateBeer, founded in 2000, which at an unspecified time in the last ten years, “….had 4.5 million ratings of almost 200,000 beers, from nearly 16,000 breweries.”

Perhaps a more valid opinion than Beer Advocate or RateBeer!

Perhaps a more valid opinion than Beer Advocate or RateBeer!

BeerAdvocate is a great resource on beer terminology, home brewing, the history of beer and does explain rating criteria –  appearance (6%), taste (40%), smell (24%) and mouthfeel (10%).

But I tend to agree with their staff member who wrote, “Many see reviewing as an unnecessary process best left to geeks…..”  So rather than get caught up with what the experts think – see some of that below – let’s look a bit at what the common person thinks about HoD beer.  These are a few comments on Yelp from different time periods and seem to be consistent:

“The beer was complex and delicious.     3/26/13

“Well balanced beer.”        3//13

“Beers were expensive, but excellent. You won’t get these beers anywhere else and it’s well worth the $ spent.”         2/22/14

“Not your typical beer.”          

“Beer was very much for the adventurous, ABVs all pretty punchy. Delicious beer though.”             9/8/15

P1040062 And a comparison by our “Walking/Drinking Group” (WGD!), who in the last eight months has visited Ecliptic Brewing, Produce Row in addition to HoD (see the links for Thebeerchaser’s review).  Produce Row does not brew its own beer but has twenty-three beers on tap.

Keeping in mind that there were two tax lawyers in our groups of six at HoD and eight people at the other two venues, you can understand why there was no consensus except with the tax lawyers in their animated discussion on the benefits derived under sum-of-the-digit depreciation (SOD) pursuant to Section 167 of the Internal Revenue Code.

IRS Logo

IRS Logo

As evidence:

“‘SOD,’ as accelerated depreciation, better matches costs to revenues because it takes more depreciation in the early years of an assets’ useful life,” 

and
“‘SOD’ reflects more accurately the difference in usage of different assets from one period to the other.”

A majority in our group liked the beer at Ecliptic best and thought the beers on tap at HoD okay but pretty hoppy.  “I had the Bourbon Fred from the Wood, and would recommend it.  Heavy, full of flavor.  (My wife) had the Blue Dot, and it was ok.  We shared a Fred, and it was tasty.   And my wife and I each had the Ruth, which was fine, but not exceptional.  Another had the Fred and stated, “I was not impressed by any of the beers available.”        

P1040067

One annoyance at HoD, and not one found at most of Thebeerchaser’s prior stops, was the inability to taste any of the beers before having to make a purchase.

The brewery would respond that they had three-ounce samplers available, but they cost between $1.25 to $3.25 and a patron should not have to shell out that sum or any amount just for a small “sip” of beer.  I hope this is not a trend.  Come on guys…that’s the cost of doing business and especially when you pride yourself on “new and creative beer styles.”

More on Beer Ratings……

RateBeer brags that it has “the world record holder for complete beer reviews, RateBeer’s Jan Bolvig of VestJylland, Denmark has over 36,000 beer reviews to his credit.”  Now not to be cynical, but I’m not sure that I would put a lot of credence in a guy’s palate (or liver…) once he had sampled that many beers.

And, for example, a guy named Joe who has a blog called “Epic Curiousity,” mapped out the locations of BeerAdvocate’s World’s Best 250 Beers” as of June 2014.  At least ten or 11% pf the 89 from the Western US and Alaska were from Oregon.  (214 of the 250 were from the US.)  Oregon’s highest was “The Abyss” from Deschutes Brewery at #33 with a rating of 4.5.   Following it was Hair of the Dog’s “Adam of the Wood” at #55 with a rating of  4.45.

Others in the top 250 were Cascade Brewing’s “Sang Noir” at #65 (4.41), Pelican Brewing’s “Mother of All Storms” at #69 (4.41), HoD’s “Matt” at #87 (4.39), Hood River’s Logsdon Farmhouse Ale’s “Peche ‘n Brett” at #116 (4.35) and Bend’s Boneyard Brewing “Hop Venom Double IPA” at #117 (4.35), Boneyard’s “Notorious Triple IPA” at 142 (4.32), Cascade Barrel House’s Cascade Apricot Aleat #171 (4.3), Cascade’s “Cascade Sang Royal” at #182 (4.3) and  Cascade’s “Cascade Noyaux” #210 (4.28).

GravityTap

So many good choices…..

 A quick review of BeerAdvocate’s most current ratings shows eight Oregon beers in the top 250 with Deschute’s “Abyss” again the highest (#45) and no new Oregon beers or breweries appeared to make it.

And Trillium Brewery of Boston has an astounding fourteen of their beers in the list, which begs the question about the impact of marketing and politics on the ratings, especially because “Trillium opened in March 2013 with the support of family, volunteers, two babies, and three employees.”

Now how they distinguished between a rating of 4.39 and 4.35, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s because BeerAdvocatate promotes its sophisticated formula: “We use the same true Bayesian estimate formula used by the Internet Movie Database for calculating average ratings.”  To further the rationale, perhaps they use Robert Redford, Emily Blount and Robert De Niro as raters although I think Redford flunked statistics in college.

p(\tilde{x}|\mathbf{X},\alpha) = \int_{\theta} p(\tilde{x}|\theta) \, p(\theta|\mathbf{X},\alpha) \operatorname{d}\!\theta

Posterior Distribution

So in concluding this rant, rather than use elements of Bayesian statistics such as posterior predictive and the principle of maximum entropy, etc., I would recommend just going to one of Portland’s 750+ watering holes or Oregon’s “234 brewing facilities operated by 194 breweries” (Oregon Craft Beer website) and tasting the beers yourself.  Or consider using the close-to-home 2016 Oregon Beer Awards sponsored by Willamette Week as a reference. (They primarily use local experts such as Beerchaser of the Quarter, Lisa Morrison, and Rob Widmer as their blind tasters.)

However, Beer Advocate concludes its top 250 beer list with the admonition, “But enough nerd talk. Let’s drink a beer!”  Thebeerchaser thinks that’s good advice unless you are reading this post at 3:00 AM.

Now Back to Hair of the Dog!

2016-02-04 18.00.23Hair of the Dog has a pleasant atmosphere – very clean and light and nice décor.  I would suggest that it had a charm that was totally absent at Ecliptic and an ambiance comparable to Produce Row.

The servers and staff were also courteous and responsive.   (For example, our waitress opined, “Switching from ‘SOD’ depreciation to the straight-line method during the life of the asset has some advantages that should be considered.” 

How about the food?   Two of us had the grilled cheese sandwich and rated it outstanding although there was some disappointment that only chips rather than fries were available as a supplement.  One comment about the Reuben and the special sandwich was “the food was ok, but not particularly memorable,” and another stated, “the brisket was okay but not great.”  

The food was okay, but not memorable.

The food was okay, but not memorable.

And another annoyance, but worth commenting on, albeit not confined to HoD and asked rhetorically, “Why can’t I get horse radish dressing for my Rueben?  This is a reoccurring issue I have in Portland when I order a Rueben?”  

I suggested that he try the Goose Hollow Inn that proudly (and I might add with possible justification,  advertises “The Best Reuben on the Planet!”  

Try the Goose Hollow for Horseradish!

Try the Goose Hollow for Horseradish!

To summarize on the menu, I think all of us thought the food was okay and reasonably priced, but of the three aforementioned venues, the food at Produce Row was superior.

We finished with a very nice stroll down the Eastside Esplanade observing the Winter Light Festival, which had some technical glitches and being the inaugural event, can show improvement in the future.  But it was “enlightening” and a credit to the City and its sponsors – something to anticipate next year.  P1040076

The Portland Spirit

The Portland Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016-02-04 18.52.00

Hair of the Dog Brewery and Tasting Room

61 SE Yamhill Street    Portland