Nanobrewery Gretta

There’s a very tiny brewery in the West Hills of Portland that’s not on any map — you have to know the brewer in order to sample some of his fine creations. Some people call this “homebrewing,” but it’s more fun to call it Nanobrewery Gretta. It shares space with the nanowinery Chateau Gretta, but as yet there is no Nanodistillery Gretta.

new brews at Gretta

Brewmaster Robert with his latest creations — Portland, OR

Over the course of the weekend, I was able to try five of his beers, and I’m looking forward to visiting again when his two new brews are bottled and ready to drink.

Update! 8/15/2012:  I haven’t been back to Portland, but last month Robert and his wife came up to Seattle, and they brought a few new brews with them.  It’s really quite convenient when the beer comes to you.

    Rob’s Picks

  • Smoked Märzen – Quite smoky, and a bit creamy on the tongue. Sort of like drinking smoked gouda. Good malty base, subtle banana/clove flavor, great balance.
  • Lichtenhäner – Smoky/floral/sour aroma. Crisp, with a somewhat sweet start. Smoky and slightly sour finish. Also very subtle banana/clove flavor.
  • 2007 Cabernet Lambic – Awesome aged lambic, with that pure sour lambic flavor. Cabernet grapes give a good tannic and subtle grape flavor. Great balance.
  • 2008 Fresh Hop – Last bottle! I love me some fresh hop beers, and this one was no exception. Strong hop aroma and great flavor, with subtle caramel notes.
  • Irish-Style Stout – Nice and creamy, with coffee/smoky flavor and a slight dryness. The aroma seemed a little bit off, but everything else was on.
  • Framboise – Strong raspberry aroma, great raspberry flavor. Good sour edge. Not as tart and tannic as the Cabernet Lambic.
  • Gueuze – At first I tried Robert’s Gueuze neat, and while I thought it was a very drinkable gueuze, after the Cab and Framboise, I felt like it was missing something. Robert had mentioned a few times about adding a little brown sugar to the glass, which he had done, and I finally followed his lead. That did the trick — it balanced out the gueuze and added a whole new level. Yum!
    The Rest

  • Gose – Not too sour. Coriander and salt flavors, bit of maltiness. Lingering salty finish. A little too salty for me.
Gretta's Brewmaster Robert

Nanobrewery Gretta’s Brewmaster and his beer — Portland, OR

Robert’s wife wanted a picture of the two of them kissing in front of the beer, and although I did take said picture, I have since decided to add a new BreweryTreks rule: No kissy-kissy pics. I’ll be happy to send them a copy of the kissy-kissy, and they can create their own blog and post it. So here instead is my preferred alternative:

Team Gretta

The Brewmaster, his wife (Brewwife? Brewbabe?), and their Brewcat, Hypatia — Portland, OR

And that concludes my whirlwind Portland brewery tour. Whew! What will I do now? Will I let the blog go silent for another couple months? Will I finally visit some more Washington breweries? Will I take a trip to some other state or province? The suspense is killing me!

Upright Brewing

I feel a little bad for Upright Brewing because it seemed like my taste buds hit the wall at this point, kind of like beer tasting fatigue. Oh well. Maybe I’ll give them another shot next time I’m in Portland.

horizontal Upright samplers

Upright Brewing sampler set — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Seven – Saison. Lemony aroma. Interesting flavor: kind of sweet, not very malty, somewhat bitter.
  • Scotch Ale – Nice maltiness, nice bitterness. Pretty crisp, too.
    The Rest

  • Four – Saison. Bitter, bready, astringent.
  • Five – Pale Ale. Floral aroma. Hoppy, not much of a pale.
  • Six – Rye. Sweet but hoppy. Kind of bock-like, but not bad.
  • Engelberg Pils – Pretty light, but still interesting. Wouldn’t want a whole pint, though.

This was the last brewery on the tour. I said goodbye to the rest of the folks who headed off across the bridge to the train station. Then the hail started. Doh! Fortunately for me, I had a warm, dry car ride to Robert and his wife’s house.

Lompoc Brewing

Lompoc Brewing seems to consist of two breweries, the first at New Old Lompoc, and the second at Lompoc 5th Quadrant, which is where we visited. They both brew pretty much the same stuff, but the first does most of the seasonals, and the second creates the supply for their distributor. Or something like that. What it means to me is that I only have to visit one to do an “offical” Lompoc Brewing post.

After a welcome walk from Breakside in the brisk sun, I was ready for either a late lunch or an early dinner along with the fine Lompoc ales. The portabello sandwich hit the spot. Robert and his wife rejoined the tour here, and he got a comprehensive taster tray to complement the various pints others had ordered.

Lompoc taster tray

Taster tray at Lompoc 5th Quadrant — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Centennial IPA – 6% – Malty start, lingering floral finish. Nice and drinkable.
  • C-Note IPA – 6.9% – Really nice! Smooth maltiness and good strong floral/bitter/citrus hops. Slight sweetness, too.
  • Proletariat Red – 6.2% – Good nutty maltiness, lingering hoppiness.
  • LSD (Lompoc Strong Draft) – 6.9% – Alcohol aroma. Dry and smoky, sort of stout-like, but with slight alcohol flavor and bit of sweetness. Interesting.
  • New Olde Ale – 7.5% – Smooth, well-balanced, touch of sweetness. Sort of amber-like, but nice. Very drinkable.
  • Batch 69 Baltic Porter – 7.7% – Alcohol aroma. Smoky, chocolatey goodness. Yum!
  • Jolly Bock – 7.2% – Really nice brown ale. No bocky sweetness.
    The Rest

  • Fool’s Golden Ale – 5% – Lemony, hoppy aroma. Light and somewhat sweet, crisp, slight breadiness.
  • Sockeye Cream Stout – 4.9% – Pretty creamy, but somewhat watery, oddly enough. Not too flavorful.
  • Oregon Special Bitter (OSB) – 4.2% – Some bitterness, some maltiness, but a little watery. Light.

At the end of the visit, I tried to buy a logo glass, but they had just run out of their selling stock, unfortunately. Should’ve pinched one of the glasses that had been on the table. Next time I’ll know better than to try and be honest in my logo glassware acquisitions…

Breakside Brewery

Robert, Morgan, and I lingered at Fire on the Mountain after the others set off on foot to Breakside Brewery, but they had already arrived and ordered a few beers and free samples by the time Robert dropped off the two of us (he had a few things to do other than hang out and drink — weird). So I spent some time playing catch-up with the beers on the table and giving the glad eye to one of the waitresses, but she never even looked my way.

Breakside has a cool space: two levels, lots of light, modern feel. Nice neighborhood brewpub.

Papa beer and baby beers

Papa beer and baby beers at Breakside Brewery — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Hoppy Amber – 5.5% – Hoppy aroma. Great citrus hoppy bite and good malty base.
  • Aztec – 9.4% – Nice amber color. Great spicy maltiness and good alcohol edge.
  • Alanbier – 8.2% – Nice brown with slight nuttiness. Good body and dryness.
    The Rest

  • Dry Stout – 4.7% – Good chocolatey aroma. Very dry, but kind of watery. Flavors are kind of weak.
  • BLT Gose – 4.6% – Watery, bready, slightly lemony. Odd.
  • Triple – 9.1% – Slow start to sweet caramel finish. Doesn’t taste strong. Not the usual tripel, not too sharp.
  • American Wheat – Kinda blah. [Not the best tasting notes, I know…]

What else to say? Only three more Portland brewery posts to go — can’t wait till I’m all caught up!

Fire on the Mountain

After Saturday’s seven or so brewery visits, it was kind of hard to wake up Sunday morning. Ugh. I was moving way too slowly to make it to the first stop of Day Two of the Portland tour: brunch at the Columbia River brewpub. Instead, Robert and I joined the attenuated tour (about half the participants had returned to Seattle that morning) at the more civilized time of 1:00 pm at Fire on the Mountain.

This is a curious place. It’s a Buffalo Wings joint, and this one (the Fremont location on NE 57th — there are three) started brewing its own beer sometime around the beginning of December 2011 (and they already have an oak aged stout!). No wings for me, but I did have a taste of their hottest sauce, El Jefe, and yeah, The Boss slapped the hangover right out of me.

Fire on the Mountain tasters

New brewery offerings at the Fire on the Mountain wings joint — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Shocks of Sheba IPA – Nice hoppy aroma. Good malty base and decent hoppy bite. Very drinkable. Not the hoppiest, but nice.
  • Electric Mud Stout – Oak aged. Pretty light on the start, then the stoutness kicks in. Not bad at all.
    The Rest

  • Wonderin’ Rye – Pretty smooth, but a little watery.
  • Pancho Pale Ale – Somewhat bitter, somewhat malty, but a little too light on the tongue for me.
  • Lefty Lager – Like the Pale, but less hoppy. Drinkable but not too memorable.

Not the usual brewery visit, but it was a fun way to start the day, and they even had FotM Brewery logo glasses for sale.

Tugboat Brewing

After Migration, the brewery tour headed off to the Deschutes Public House. I’ve been to the Deschutes brewpub in Bend many times, and when I finally do an “official” visit for the blog, I want it to be from that one. So I went rogue and left for Tugboat Brewing with Robert, his wife, and their friend.

Tugboat is a cozy little pub. Lots of bookshelves with odd titles for a bar (The Nursing Mother, From Here to Maternity, iMac for Dummies, Internet for Dummies) and retro lamps on the tables. They had three of their beers on tap, but unfortunately the Chernobyl Stout (13%!) was out.

good picture of bad beer

Great atmosphere at the Tugboat brewpub. Wish I could say the same for the beer… — Portland, OR

    The Rest

  • Hop Gold/Wheat – Hop craziness. Superstrong grapefruit/tangerine citrus flavors that overpower everything else. Intense face-puckering bitterness that just doesn’t go away. None of us could drink more than a couple sips. One of the worst beers I’ve ever had. Robert suggested re-naming the beer “Fool’s Gold.” We returned the two pints, and the bartender replaced them with the Hop Red, mercifully pouring the Hop Gold down the drain.
  • Hop Red – Malty aroma. Hoppy, malty taste, but very bitter. More manageable than the Hop Gold, which isn’t saying much, but still too bitter for me. Got through about a third of the pint before giving up. None of us finished this beer.

We also ordered a plate of nachos. Robert described them as “good for washing away the bitter memories.” To be fair, though, the various reviews we looked at after the fact had good things to say about the Chernobyl Stout and their IPA, and one of the Portland brewery tour organizers had great things to say about their visit to Tugboat. But that doesn’t change the fact that the two beers we tried were horrible. Maybe next time they’ll have decent stuff on tap.

Migration Brewing

When we arrived here, I thought this place was pretty great, but by the time we left it had gotten so crowded and loud that it just wasn’t very enjoyable anymore. Better to get to Migration Brewing early, or go mid-week. The curse of success, I suppose.

Most folks on the tour ordered individual pints here, but Robert, who rejoined us here with his wife and a friend after a post-Green Dragon hiatus, got a comprehensive sampler of the Migration ales. So I was able to try everything on tap. After a whole day of sampling beer, however, my notes were somewhat sub-par. Oh well. Just go meta with this one.

Migration Brewing

Migration beers migrating to our bellies — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Migration Pale Ale (MPA) – 5.2% – Floral aroma. Broad malty base with some floral hoppiness. Very drinkable.
  • Luscious Lupulin IPA – 6.5% – Floral/citrus hop blend — quite nice. Subtle maltiness. Good lasting hoppiness.
  • Black Hearted CDA – 7% – Seasonal. Great blend of roasted maltiness and bitterness.
  • Terry’s Porter – 6.7% – Malty and dry, with bitter undertones. Really good porter.
  • Deuce Double IPA – 9% – Seasonal. Good hoppiness, but maltiness really shines. Awesome balance. Bitter but smooth.
    The Rest

  • Clem’s Cream Ale – 4.6% – Very bready, pretty crisp. More like a blonde.
  • Glisan St. Dry Hop Pale Ale – 5% – Sweet aroma. Pretty good, but kind of sweet instead of extra hoppy.
  • Old Silenus Strong – 7.2% – Malty sweet aroma. Doesn’t taste strong, more like a good bock. (Too bad I’m not a big fan of bocks…)

Usually the intros and outros are fairly easy to write, but after so many breweries in one day, and so many posts in a short span of time, they’ve been getting harder and harder to come up with and make entertaining (although the next one will be easy). Sigh. My life is so hard!

Coalition Brewing

I liked Coalition Brewing. Pretty small, with a great hang out vibe to it. Plus the bartender was quite pretty and gave out free stickers. They have a program where you can try your hand at the brewing process on their pilot system, and if people like the beer, they’ll scale it up to the bigger system. If I lived in Portland, I have the feeling I’d spend a little too much time here.

Coalition Brewing

Tour organizer obscured by some fine Coalition beer — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • Two Dogs IPA – 5.8% – Lots of hop. Floral, bitter, crisp.
  • Wu Cream Ale – 4.9% – Very hoppy, but not particularly creamy. Sort of IPA-ish.
  • Bump’s Bitter ESB – 5.5% – Not too bitter, not too malty. Great balance.
  • Lost Glove Strong – 8% – Rose-y aroma. Caramel flavor that mixes well with the floral hoppiness, and a nice maltiness. Really good.
  • Loving Cup Maple Porter – 5.5% – Great coffee dryness. Very drinkable.
  • Hanso Stout – 6.2% – Seemed very similar to the Loving Cup. Still good, though.
  • Apollo Creed CDA – 7% – Not too hoppy, but great maltiness and good balance. Nice.
    The Rest

  • King Kitty Red – 5.74% – Hoppy, malty aroma. Malty, hoppy flavor. Okay.
  • Wheat the People – 4.4% – Bubbly, with a bready finish. Very light. Also okay.
  • Mr. Pigs Pale – 5% – Floral aroma. Flavor a little too floral for me, but otherwise nice.
  • Hanso vs. Bulleit – 6.4% – Aged on oak with Bulleit bourbon. Didn’t really taste the bourbon very much. Good stout, but I expected more from this one.

I’m now half-way through the brewery posts from this busy beer-tasting weekend. Whew!

Burnside Brewing

The Portland brewery tour took the scenic route from Cascade Barrel House to Burnside Brewing in order to look in the window of the tiny Natian Brewery. Doesn’t get much more nano than Natian.  At Burnside, there was a long table open that fit all of us, conveniently enough. This was the first place of the day for me that seemed to put about the same amount of emphasis on food as on their beer, and so it felt a little odd to just order a couple pitchers and a sampler tray. Oh well. At least we didn’t take up their 12-top for too long.

Burnside Brewing

Sampler tray and pitcher at Burnside Brewing — Portland, OR

    Rob’s Picks

  • IPA – 6.5% – Hoppy start, malty finish. Good and crisp.
  • Sweet Heat – 4.9% – Lemony and spicy — nice. A bit bready. Interesting. Can’t quite taste the apricot, which is fine with me.
  • Stout – 5.4% – Slow start, but good dry coffee stout flavor.
  • Alter Ego Imperial IPA – 8.3% – Floral aroma. Complex hoppy flavor, malty base not overpowering. Good.
  • Pinot Noir Barreled Oyster Strong Ale – 10% – Wow! Awesome balance of pinot noir and dark beer flavors. Didn’t taste the oyster, which was fine with me, but the person sitting next to me did. Life is funny that way.
    The Rest

  • Oatmeal Pale Ale – 5.5% – Floral hoppiness, malty blahness. Okay, but not too interesting.
  • Stock Ale – 5.4% – Great malty finish, but start is not too strong.
  • Bourbon Barreled Stout – 6.5% – Very bourbony, maybe too much so. Good stout, but it’s overpowered by the bourbon blast. Person sitting next to me really liked it, though.

One thing I’m happily surprised about is even though my tasting notes were very concise for the breweries on this tour, I’m able to remember a large percentage of the beers by reading them. Maybe it won’t be another three years before I go on another one of these tours.

Cascade Brewing

The Portland brewery tour train rolled on down the line from the Green Dragon to the Cascade Brewing Barrel House. The core group in the tour had been to Cascade’s brewpub, the Raccoon Lodge, on a previous trip, but fortunately they decided to include the Barrel House even though they don’t do any brewing on premises. It does house the aging barrels, and that’s good enough for me. Plus, it was on the way to the next stop. We also sat down at two separate tables here, but I somehow felt more rushed than at the Green Dragon. Oh well.

    Rob’s Picks

  • Blueberry Bourbonic – 11% – Smooth sour blueberry flavor, with bourbon finish. Somewhat heavy. Nice!
  • Rhubarb Crisp – 6.5% – Sour start, with a rhubarb blast finish that lingers.
  • Plum Rye – 7.35% – Plum aroma, flavor on finish. Very sour start. Nice broad base.
  • Shrieking Violet Blueberry – 11% – Lighter and crisper than the Blueberry Bourbonic, and really nice.
  • Kriek – Really good. Very very sour, and somewhat subtle cherry flavor.
  • Nouveau Cerise – 8.18% – Really nice and sour. Cherry “darker” than the Kriek — more complex.
    The Rest

  • Noyaux – 8.94% – A raspberry sour. Subtle start, raspberry comes through in the finish.
  • 2010 Sang Noir – 9.2% – Like a really sour sparkling wine. Very raisiny.
  • Raspberry Wheat – 5.7% – The one non-sour beer that was ordered. Basically a bubbly raspberry drink. Meh.
  • Sweetart – 8.25% – Sour and good, but nothing about it stood apart from the other sours.
  • Blueberry – Also sour and good, but after the other two blueberry drinks, this one felt and a little too light and easy.

I forgot to take a picture here, which is unfortunate because their colorful beers would have made for some great photos.

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