Two swift kicks to the bass drum resounded in stereo through our tiny room and rattled the bed frame. A quick "check, check" into the mic was muffled but clearly audible as we lay down briefly to unwind from the Friday evening rush hour drive to Portland.
A room with a view
*See also: Are Beerfests a Rip?
Lured by the $55 a night price, we'd booked a two night stay at the White Eagle, a hotel/tap room/rock club owned and operated by McMenamins, the company that opened the first brewpub ever in Oregon. McMenamins operates nine hotels - most of which have breweries on site - and with a room looking over a storage lot full of kegs, we were certainly getting the full experience. But as sound check continued to rattle the window panes, we contemplated in the bleary eyed way that road weary travelers do: what had we done?
The answer to that, we would come to learn, is land ourselves in a prime position for a beer lover's second trip to Portland: while not close to some of the city's better-known taprooms, the hotel bar takes beer as seriously as cocktails; it sits one block away from Widmer Brothers Brewery; and it is an easy walk to the city's bustling Boise neighborhood, providing an opportunity for a stumbling tour of some lesser known brews. As it turns out, the kegs that we looked at from our window didn't even belong to McMenamins but another brewer, so prevalent is the business in the area.
But that's getting ahead of things. First there was that sound-check to contend with.
Quickly recognizing that rest would be futile, we headed downstairs to order up our first round. Like many good tap rooms, the White Eagle offered a cheap, 8 oz., option for their beer, something I'd like to see a lot more of at craft breweries. However, we were quickly talked out of ordering any of those little sippers by the bartender, who reasoned that we were going to have a lot more than 8 oz. of beer, so we'd might as well buy in bulk.
Fair enough. We swilled our way through a folk set followed by a rousing Johnny Cash cover band with a nitro Scottish, a golden ale, and then the classic Hammerhead IPA. When my wife felt the weight of her eyelids were heavy enough to counteract whatever hellish noise the next band could release into our sleeping quarters, she turned in and I turned to the winter ale - my favorite of the bunch. (I should note that the White Eagle thoroughly warns potential guests about the noise in the rooms; we were not unsuspecting victims here.)
Sporting the slightest of hangovers the next day, we set out in search of food trucks that could quell our growling stomaches, opting naturally for a sausage wrapped in a waffle. But our search for grease also gave us a nice roadmap for a second day brewery tour in north Portland. Less than a mile up Mississippi Avenue sits Amnesia Brewery (813 N. Beech Street), a taproom of yore that looks as if the brewers reluctantly put some stools and tables out for people who demanded their beer on site. About half a mile from that is HopWorks Urban Brewery (3947 N. Williams Ave.), a far more put-on affair with heavy emphasis on sustainability and biking (are you reading this, Carrie Brownstein?) And, given that it's Portland, the hood is sprinkled with food trucks and coffee shops for whatever soaking up or perking up you need.
And there's Widmer Bros. just down the street, which at 5 p.m. on a Saturday was so packed we skipped it and went out for Thai.
Of course, to make White Eagle your home base, there is the window-shaking music to contend with. When we returned from a house party around 12:30 Saturday night, some white boy reggae was going strong, and we were hearing every upbeat. All I can say on that score is this: complimentary ear plugs are provided in each room, and did I mention they serve the winter ale by the pint?