Before the rise of the craft beer industry, the pint by which the world measured a good stout was a cascading draft of Ireland's black stuff, Guinness. But that was then. With Portland now considered one of the, if not the, beeriest of cities, there are plenty of local alternatives to the old beer-so-thick-you-need-a-knife-and-fork-to-drink-it. Here are five Portland stouts we think are worth the quaff.
New Old Lompoc's Sockeye Cream Stout
Bryan Keilty, Lompoc's brewer and production manager, says it's all about balancing the flavors. Made with roasted barley and carefully selected malts (caramel and chocolate) with oats for the finish, Lompoc's Sockeye Stout is creamy and smooth, has a dense foam head and an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 4.9 percent, making it easy to drink more than one. But you'd better drink fast. The end of April also brings the end of Lompoc’s NW pub (it's being razed to make room for an apartment complex, although negotiations are underway for Lompoc to stay put by opening a ground-floor pub). So, say goodbye to on-site brewing and Lompoc's "secret" back patio. You may even have to say goodbye to the Sockeye (Keilty says Lompoc might permanently replace it in favor of Stout Out Loud, which’ll be served at the four other locations). So hurry!
New Old Lompoc, 1616 NW 23rd Ave., 503.225.1855
Tugboat Brewing Company's Chernobyl Stout
Tugboat Brewing Company's Chernobyl Stout
It was all an accident, says Tugboat senior bartender Linsel Greene. Somehow too much sugar was spilled in the stout prior to brewing. Rather than pitch it, they brewed it, liked it enough to keep it, and gave it its "accidental" name. Clocking in with an ABV of a whopping 13 percent, Tugboat's Chernobyl Stout (wisely served in only half pints) is chocolatey, black as pitch, and has, despite the extra sugar, an unusually dry, bitter finish, which cuts its potency. So, if you're looking for a place to unwind (even when it's full, Tugboat's atmosphere is relaxed), order a half pint, take a seat, and read that book you've been neglecting. Forgot it? Just borrow one from the many that line the walls.
Tugboat Brewing Company, 711 SW Ankeny Street, 503.226.2508
Lucky Labrador's Black Lab Wheat Stout
When you think of wheat beers, you think golden, summery and a little cloudy. What you don't expect is something black. Lucky Lab brewer Ben Flerchinger says brewers are drawn to stouts because they're fun to experiment with. So why not one made with wheat? With an ABV of just over 6 percent, this English-style white wheat stout may not be very creamy, but it is biscuity, and not too bitter. In fact, it finishes slightly sweet, but that finish gets drier and drier, especially after a second sip, and a third, and...
Lucky Labrador Tap Room, 1700 N Killingsworth, 503.505.9511
Hopworks Urban Brewery's Organic Survival 7-Grain Stout
Barley? Check. Wheat? Yep. Oats? Those, too. But spelt, quinoa, kamut and amaranth? It is these last four grains, not often used in brewing, says HUB brewer Trevor Bass, that give HUB's 7-Grain Survival Stout its complex taste and unusual profile. Well, those seven grains and a healthy dose of Stumptown's Holler Mountain coffee blend. This 100 percent organic "espresso" stout's dominant flavor is coffee, but the subtle mingling of those seven grains lead to a rich, dry and almost airy stout that's not too filling. You could pair one with your food, but at a modest ABV of 5.3 percent, you could just as easily pair your pint with another pint.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, 2944 SE Powell Blvd., 503.232.4677
Alameda Brewing Company's Black Bear XX Stout
You can always get this "foreign extra" stout served one of two ways: gassed with carbon-dioxide or nitrogen. The nitro stout pours rich and creamy, but brewer Marshall Kunz prefers the Black Bear gassed with regular, old CO2. The nitrogen, he says, masks the complexity of the beer's chocolate, black cherry and coffee flavors. Big, rich and bold (with a reasonably potent ABV of 7 percent), this stout, Kunz says, pairs well with desserts, all things beef, and, perhaps not surprisingly, cigars. He also likes to use it for cooking. So, the next time you stop in, down a pint at the bar and then take home a growler full of it—use some of it to cook your dinner and then drink the rest.
Alameda Brewing Co., 4765 NE Fremont St., 503.460.9025
Which Portland brewery makes your favorite stout? Let us, and our readers, know what we're missing.