On New Year’s Eve Day the BarTrek crew decided to do some reconnaissance work for season 2 by touring Portland’s Distillery Row.
First, if you’re reading this and you don’t know what Distillery Row is: Portland has incubated a retro-pioneer group bonded together with a common goal: Create Good Booze. We here at BarTrek firmly believe in the magic of the distiller, the beauty of the burn, the subtle flavors of the exotic and new, and we are proud to be located in a city at the forefront of micro distilling.
The last decade has ushered in a growing number of distillers congregated in Portland. A wealth of local flavors combined with a spirit of independence and small business has fostered this very creative crop of companies who have started to band together to create a first in the nation Distillery Row. Think wine tasting for the boozy crowd. We wanted to bone up on the wealth of distilled options local to home before BarTrek Season 2 and felt at home every step of the way.
Our initial goal was to go on a 3-hour tour (I can’t really say nor type “3-hour tour” without summoning images of Gilligan and singing not so quietly to myself). 3 hours, 5 distillers on Distillery Row; math is hard. Educating ourselves with the passports, maps, tour information and details available on DistilleryRowPDX.com, we started our quest with Stone Barn Brandyworks.
Stone Barn is the furthest off the path; so we started with them. Walking in we were immediately hit with the sights of a working distillery: equipment and supplies ruggedly visible adding a beauty and reality to the event. They also had a tasting area with a very large offering of 11 beautiful bottles. Yes, as the name suggests there were regional fruit brandies (they excelled at their fruit liqueurs) and had 3 decent whiskeys: unoaked Oat, Rye, and an oaked whiskey.
Our DD then drove us to SE 8th and Hawthorne where we intended to stumble-walk the rest of the way through the tour.
The next stop was intended to be Integrity, but they were closed …something about family and holidays. We resolved then that our New Year’s Resolution was to investigate this family and holiday connection and, oh, yeah, to come back to Integrity at some point in the future.
Our next stop was New Deal Distillery. Gayle guided us through our tasting with a deep knowledge of the history and subtlety of each well crafted option. NDD is one of the more established distillers in Portland with a rich line of vodkas, liqueurs, and a few surprises. A trend we noticed: these tasting rooms are actually just space carved out of the working distilling and bottling areas with the industrious lucky bastards working just a few feet from us lucky bastards drinking. We even received an impromptu tour and tasting of the distiller’s work in progress. BarTrek spent $200 at NDD so that speaks to how well we liked their wares. Two faves: Mud Puddle and Hot Monkey both flavored vodkas, not our usual but exquisitely crafted.
Our next stop was House Spirits Distillery, another early pioneer with its very successful and established Aviation Gin. House had a small offering of 3 spirits: Aviation, the “barrel kissed” White Dog barley whiskey, and Aquavit. Their tasting room was rich with company history, details of botanical infused, and they showcased an Apothecary Library; a display of the first bottle of every crafted creation.
We moved on to wrap up our tour at Deco Distilling, however when we arrived, they were packed and we added to our New Year’s resolution to complete the Distillery Row tour another day.