Brian's Photo Blog — Article 591
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McMenamins Portland Alphabet District Pub Crawl
Sunday 18 September 2016   —   Category: Dining Out
A couple of weeks ago I posted A Pic­tori­al ABC of Portland’s NW Alphabet Dis­trict, in which I reported on my June 2016 walk north along NW 19th and 21st Avenues in the Alphabet District of Portland, Oregon. In that article I men­tioned my return trip south along NW 23rd and 21st Avenues. The details of what turned into a McMenamins pub crawl is the topic of today’s article.
Traversing the “alphabet streets” in re­verse order, it wasn’t very long until I arrived at NW Thurman Street and the newish Mc­Men­a­mins 23rd Avenue Bot­tle Shop, where I admired the wide selection and made a few purchases.
In order to experience all that my McMenamins Passport ad­ven­ture has to offer, I bought their $5 Passport Insert so I could po­ten­tial­ly, eventually, earn an addtional $40 in McMenamins gift cards — and have a lot of fun in the process!
You may not know that besides their 25 breweries, McMenamins also operates two distilleries. I had toured one of them at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse just a few weeks before this walk. So I bought a bottle of their Billy Whiskey.

With that purchase, I received a “Buy a Bottle of McMenamins Spirits” Passport stamp in the new Insert.
By this time I had been roaming the Alphabet District for two and a half hours; I was quite hot and thirsty. So in addition to my other purchases, I perused the Bottle Shop’s collection of bottles until I found a brew that might suit me.

I have to admit that the on-sale price of $1.85 influenced my de­ci­sion. But I was glad for that, because this twelve-​time-​award-​winning Red Seal Ale, by North Coast Brewing Company, lo­cat­ed in Fort Bragg, California, was really good. According to the brewer:

“Malt and hops are beautifully married in this full-bodied, cop­per-​red pale ale. Red Seal is generously hopped for a long, spicy finish. An excellent accompaniment to grilled meats and rich sauces.” Meas­ure­ments: 5.4% ABV • 42 IBU

When I went to sit at a sidewalk table to enjoy my cold, re­fresh­ing beer, a guy named Jerry joined me. I had a bottle opener, so I opened both of our beers, and we chatted as we drank. Later, when I went inside to leave them our empty bottles, they told me that next time they needed to open the bottle for me! Ap­par­ent­ly it’s a city law in Portland — perhaps this one? Gosh!
Once 11:00 rolled around, I moseyed next door to the McMenamins Tavern & Pool. Of course, seeing that it had just opened, I pretty much had the place to myself. I would imagine that it is a lot more lively there at 11:00 PM instead of AM!
One thing I have noticed about Mc­Men­a­mins: their appetizers can be spendy (like most everything else on the menu), but they are generally large portions — enough to share, or to make yourself an entire meal (which I have done a number of times).

For the first part of my lunch, I had their garlic-parmesan bread knots with zesty tomato sauce. It was delicious, but I wish the tomato sauce had been hot in­stead of only lukewarm.
To wash it all down, I tried a glass of their popular Bagdad Ale, for the first time. According to the brewer:

“Bagdad Ale is a benchmark beer for McMenamins. Inspired by the Pilsner style, our Bagdad Ale is one for the lager lovers. Its fine hop aroma and quick, light finish makes this a good ale for hot weather. It has become a favorite at McMenamins Bagdad Theater in Portland.” Meas­ure­ments: 5% ABV • 22 IBU

My notes from that day read: “beer was kinda weak and wa­tery ... maybe that’s what I get for IBU 22 ... don’t think I would try it again.” By the way, the picture is not out of focus, it’s just that I was us­ing a slow shutter speed in the low lighting, and the beer bubbles were moving fast!

After that very filling appetizer, I was off to the next Mc­Men­a­mins for my actual lunch. If I had been wise, I would have ad­just­ed my plans according to the state of my stomach ... but I was not wise! As I was walking south along 23rd, I was accosted by a lovely, vivacious redhead on the corner of Kearney Street.
While being employed by the Dialogue­Direct fundraising agency, she was try­ing to collect money for Save the Chil­dren. Rather than brushing her off, I took a few minutes to banter with her.

I for sure was not going to donate right there on the street, but nevertheless she did pose for a picture, even though I didn’t actually ask her to. All part of keeping Portland weird, I suppose. At least I got a photo for this part of the story!
After disentangling myself from the chugger (charity mugger!), I made my way a few blocks further south along NW 23rd Ave­nue to Hoyt Street, where the McMenamins Rams Head bar and restaurant occupies the ground floor of the historic (built 1912) Campbell Hotel — now the Campbell Court Apartments.

Rams Head was the third McMenamins location I visited, back in November 2015, before I had started my McMenamins Pass­port adventure. Unfortunately, on this return visit the meal was not nearly as good as on the first. Win some, lose some!

It was very pleasant to sit at a sidewalk table under big shady trees with a slight breeze! While I was eating, a small group of older, French-​speaking tourists walked by.

One of the ladies, who reminded me of my mother-in-law, said in French as she passed my table: “Il y a beaucoup des petits cafés dans touts les coins!” Which translates as: “There are lots of small cafés in every corner!” Not ‘ON every corner,’ but ‘IN every corner,’ which is a slang way of saying ‘everywhere.’ It made me laugh! And it made me proud I could understand.
After trying a couple different beer samples, I settled on Mc­Men­a­mins’ flagship Hammerhead Ale. As with their Bagdad Ale, this was my first time. According to the brewer:

“A classic Northwest pale ale and McMenamins standard. This rich chestnut-colored gem is a model of harmony between hops and malted barley. Hammerhead’s signature Cascade hop nose and intense hopped flavor blend nicely with the caramel tones from the crystal malt. This beer has a vocal following; to run out is an unforgivable sin.” Meas­ure­ments: 6% ABV • 44 IBU

My notes from that day read: “Really good beer ... perhaps my favorite McMenamins beer. I need to get it in a bottle some­time for my collection.”

I’ve really made good on that resolution, as I will share in more detail in future articles.
For the second part of my lunch I had a “Lillian’s lamb burger” and salad. The menu described it as spiced lamb, house­made pesto, arugula, tomato, marinated onion. For my taste buds, the pesto real­ly ruined the experience. IMHO, I think the lamb burger I had at The Ob­serv­a­tory was WAY better. But, as always, YMMV.

It was very filling ... I never should have had that plate of bread knots! Actually, the bread knots were better, so I should have skipped the lamb burger!
The last stop on my McMenamins pub crawl was a short quar­ter-​of-​a-​mile walk away. In front of the Blue Moon Tavern and Grill, on the corner of NW 21st Avenue and Glisan Street, I set­tled in at another sidewalk table.

It was kind of hot on the west side of the building on 21st Ave­nue, even though I was in the shade.
Seeing that I had already had three beers at the three previous McMenamins stops, this time I was in the mood for something different. So I ordered a pint of their delicious and refreshing, seasonal (April – July) black cherry cider. It is really good! According to McMenamins:

“Made with a generous addition of dark cherry juice to a base of dry apple cider, this bright ruby-hued cider presents with a rich cherry-scented nose, with an undercurrent of fresh apples. In the mouth, sweet cherry flavors blend seamlessly with the tart acid­ity of the apples.”

I should have gotten a “Buy a Pint of McMenamins Hard Cider” stamp in my Passport, but the waitress didn’t give it and I for­got to ask, because it was in the new Insert section I had just bought at the Bottle Shop. Oh well, next time ... this was not going to be my last cider!
Inspired by the quirky The Best Places To Pee: A Guide To The Funky & Fabulous Bathrooms of Portland book, I decided to try my own bathroom shot at the Blue Moon.

It was pretty dark, so I had to crank the ISO up to 3,200 — but the image quality produced by my Olympus OM-D E-M5 cam­era was still quite good.

For my other bathroom shots, if that’s your kind of thing, see the entire growing collection!

After my cider I walked 4 blocks south on 21st Avenue to catch a Line 20 bus back to the Sunset Transit Center. Unfortunately, the next bus wasn’t coming for another 32 minutes.

Consulting Google Maps on my iPad, I realized that there was a MAX station only a quarter of a mile down SW Washington Street.
I walked fast for about 100 yards, and then saw the train ap­proach­ing. So, like a fool, I ran the remaining 250 yards to try to catch it — 54 years old, with a big camera backpack, in the heat, after three beers, two meals and a hard cider. Gosh!

I was so out of breath and sweating, with my heart pounding like crazy, I’m surprised I didn’t have a heart attack! Would it have been so bad to wait 10 (or less) minutes until the next Red or Blue train? Maybe I had too many bubbles on the brain to make a rational decision!

Well, that was the exciting, and nearly tragic, end to my Mc­Men­a­mins Portland Alphabet District pub crawl.

I visited 5 McMenamins locations that day, starting with break­fast the Zeus Café — but that wasn’t in the Alphabet District. I also collected 6 Passport stamps.

And best of all, I created a wonderful documentation of the Al­pha­bet District. On the whole, it was a pretty great day!

Out of the 50 pictures I took during the pub crawl, the best 27 are now on display in the McMenamins Portland NW 2016 album. And if you have not done so already, be sure to check out the 94 photos in the companion Port­land Alphabet District 2016 album.
For more tales about other locations, see My McMenamins Passport Adventure.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 591
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