This last Friday was the rarest of occurrences. It preceded an actual weekend off. I hadn’t had a weekend off since…uh…a long time ago. For once, a Friday was my Friday. While I did have plans on Saturday and Sunday, I hadn’t planned on any activity for Friday night.
Then my friend, NinjaSpecs, chimed in via text with, “Informal birthday thing tonight at the Green Dragon.”
Well, so much for no plans.
The Green Dragon is one of those bars where you take people to get a crash course in local Portland culture. Want a wide variety of breweries to choose from? Green Dragon. Want to play “Spot the Hipster”? Green Dragon. Want a teabeer? Green Dragon.
The last one was my reason for going. I was on a mission to track down a certain teabeer, and – hopefully – run into other things by accident. It was a reliable enough assessment.
The rest of the party were running late, but the moment I checked out the beer menu…I knew what I was having. The Green Dragon has an aptly-dubbed “botanical brewery” attached to it called Buckman. They’re often known for doing teabeers and other concoctions, including a to-die-for green tea mead. Today, not only did they have the mead, but they were also featuring a Roobios Red Ale.
I ordered a pint.
It tasted exactly as the name implied. The introduction and top notes were all red ale with no hoppy kick, followed smoothly by a wood-sweet finish – a red rooibos requisite. Rooibos is not my favorite my tisane, and red-style ales are usually a good standby, but the combination here worked really well. Another beer boast for Buckman.
The rest of the birthday gathering arrived about an hour later. I was already one pint in. Drinks and dialogues flowed throughout the night. I even welcomed a teardrop glass of the Buckman’s Green Tea Mead. It was different this time; it tasted like a sweet apple cider. Took me a moment to figure out what was different about it, but then it hit me – no jasmine!
Such a decision could only stem from the fact that Rogue – the folks that owned The Green Dragon (and Buckman by proxy) – were putting out their own jasmine green tea mead dubbed “Rogue Farms 19 Colonies”. No matter. This was better than their previous exploits, anyway.
I hadn’t “college student” partied like that in years. It also didn’t help that the waitress was hot, and told me of a “secret tap” that was not on the menu. Said worst kept secret was a triple-IPA named “Notorious”, from Boneyard Brewing out of Bend. It tasted like grapefruit and…awesome. What a way to cap the outing.
The birthday party had extended from The Green Dragon to one of the party participant’s houses, and some whiskey was involved. I only did one shot…but that was enough. The rest of the night belonged to water, and a vial of aspirin I had on hand as an emergency.
Still didn’t prevent the feeling of “uuuugh” the next morning. The worst part? I was supposed to attend a neighborhood beer party that evening.
By “neighborhood”, I don’t mean my neighborhood. Well, it used to be mine before I had to move over the summer. When I lived with my brother – prior to his marriage – there used to be monthly beer parties at the neighbor’s place. Sometimes we would host as well.
I hadn’t attended one since June because I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. However, my brother informed me that he was hosting the October gathering, and that the other folks were wondering about me. I decided to give it a go this time. Kinda had to, since I was also the one that helped come up with October’s theme: “Dark beer”.
After running a few errands, picking up the beers per my contribution, and finding a quick bite to eat, I headed to my brother’s a little early. I even passed on a reminder to NinjaSpecs about the gathering. He was the dark beer sort. More the merrier.
The night was…a blast.
It was good seeing the old neighborhood gang again, and encountering a few new faces at the table. The biggest surprise was the quality of stuff everybody brought. Bourbon barrel-aged Velvet Merkin, regular Velvet Merlin, Back in Black…it was like a pantheon of all the best darks I’d ever had. All in one sitting.
Before everyone parted ways, we agreed on a theme for November: “Anything but pumpkin beers.”
Thanks to my brother, I was able to epilogue the night with some chamomile to chase down the aspirin. This was in preparation for the last leg of my weekend. The arrival of one “Lady Bingley” (or at least that’s what I’m calling her) – purveyor Bingley’s Teas. I was due to pick her up at the airport that morning. After that, the goals were twofold – have tea and track down teabeer. She’d never had teabeer before.
Our first stop was the Tao of Tea’s main shop in S.E. Portland, one I hadn’t been to in a few years. She ordered a roasted Taiwanese oolong (of some sort), and I opted for an Darjeeling-ish offering – Kali Cha. The Indian black was light but pretty good, the roasted oolong was…well, let’s just say I was tea drunk by the end of it.
The second stop was an attempted teabeer jaunt to The Green Dragon. They’d told me there was going to be a pumpkin ale fest that day, but had informed me that they would allow growler fills of anything not pumpkin. I had wrongly assumed we could nurse a growler on the premises if we did so. Unfortunately, the bartenders informed us that was not possible for fear of “chaos”.
I said it once, I’ll say it again: “F**k pumpkin.”
We opted instead for the brewery adjacent to the Dragon – Cascade Barrel House. They specialized in Belgian-style sour ales, and Lady Bingley hadn’t tried one before. I don’t quite recall what we had offhand, but we both took a liking to the bourbon barrel-aged offering.
So did Mini Jane Austen.
Last on our “list” was a jaunt to the Belmont Station, a bottle shop/bar with a pretty decent selection. I was too stubborn to admit defeat on our teabeer quest, and hoped that Dog Fish Head’s Sah’Tea would be there. The cashier, unfortunately, told us they stopped carrying it.
Luckily, they did have an iced tea mead I’d never heard of – from a meadery in Portland, Maine! Ram Island. Both Lady Bingley and I agreed that it tasted like a lemon-wedged iced tisane. No detraction by any means. I’ve liked my fair share of iced tisanes, and this one had a kick. Oh yeah, that was the alcohol.
Lady Bingley’s friend (and host) for her Portland trip met us at Belmont, and we retired to her residence for one last tea leg. Lady B had in her possession, a 30-year-old black tea from Taiwan. What can I say; it was nothing short of exquisite. It calmed the caffeine and alcohol tussle going on in my head, returning me to some sense of Zen after the frenzy of the weekend.
But this was just the beginning…
Continued in Book 2.