Month of Festivals, Bars and Great Beer – Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Victoria

Posted on April 8, 2010


The last month has been a whirlwind of travel for various reasons, work, research and pleasure with a mixed bag of results for beer related information. Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Victoria BC have been my recent stops, which I have to say I’m sick of cheap motels for a little while. First weekend at home in this period, and no 11am checkouts after drinking till 2am the night before on 10-15% beer.

Seattle is a city dominated by Boeing and Microsoft, but somehow has a great sub-culture of beer and wine loving palates. Portland is the home of craft beer without much question due to having some of the top craft brewers in their city limits, and bars that you’d only wished for. Las Vegas is not a beer city, but one controlled by the big boys of beer, and it appeared 3/4 of the people were holding metallic Bud Light Cans. Victoria BC is known as a brewpub town as they have several brewpubs within the town itself that is sheltered by public servants and tourists.

Seattle is a great city with lots of people from elsewhere, whether they came for school/work or other things and ended up staying. The two events recently were the Washington Cask Festival and Brouwers Hard Liver that is a Barley Wine fest. The major draw is the few bars that serve great beer in this city are hard to beer for any other city in the US. Brouwers is a 1st class institution that is filled with not only great bar tenders, but great locals that know their beers. Uber tavern is one of my favorite bars in the world, and must be experienced. There is also a new bar called Naked City that is a quality beer bar in its own right, and if your after the best Washington Beers in one stop, this is your stop.

Portland is one of the oddest cities in the US, as there are highways that seem to run through the middle of it, and its based on a North, South, East West code of direction in the city. TO be honest out of my 20 odd trips there I still get confused as to which is South/North, and I consider myself good with directions. Saravesa and Baileys Taproom, along with Widmer are some of my favorite stops, and I still want to spend a whole evening drinking at each of these bars, but with often little time and many stops its quite hard to do. I still find it strange with the people in this city, as people move here from across the country for the beer. No other beer stop in my life has that been the case, but in Portland its all about the beer. Though there is a wine region at their door step, and traveling through it, I came to the realisation that Locals Drink beer, and Wine Lovers outside of Portland who can afford the Pinot drink Oregon Wine. No wine bars seemed to have any decent Oregon Pinot by the glass.

Las Vegas was a pleasure trip!! I cannot honestly tell the tax man that I was there for the Beer. As much as I love the strip for the Americana of it all, there was nothing there to drink. Years ago I remembered drinking Sierra Nevada for the first time, but not this time. There were 3 considered Beer bars on the stip, and unless you live in a swamp in Kentucky, it was pretty forgettable. Though rated highly on some of the ratings sites, and given rave reviews by some, I guess when you have just come from Portland, it should be missed.

Pour 24 in New York New York was in the middle of the Food Court. It felt like you were in a nightclub, and every beer off tap that I tasted was stale. At $9 a pop it was pretty poor form but there gimic was that FROZEN area with taps. The bar in Monte Carlo had about 40-60 beers on tap, though the list was wrong, the bartender wouldn’t tell me what else was on tap. Bad service in bars in Vegas is not a shock, especially on this trip. Service was shithouse across the board. Having settled on a Widmer Deadlift Imperial IPA, it was almost the highlight of the trip, aside from costing $11. Due to having no service, and no idea what was on tap other than trying to read the tap handles, I give this bar a half a point more than Pour 24.

The Burger Shack in Mandalay was the only promising bar, with a good list, but when you live on the west coast, it would only be considered not bad if we’re comparing bars here. But when your in the middle of the desert with only BUD LIGHT on tap everywhere, its like a mirage. The time we got into the bar, the bar area was full, and the bartender seemed to be ignoring not just us, but everyone.

Upon coming back from Old Vegas I spotted a liquor store for which I found Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (13%) and some Stone Ruination IPA in bomber bottles. These beers helped in a pretty barron wasteland of beer in Vegas.

Victoria BC is the capital of the Province of BC, and is a historic English style town that caters to public servants and cruise ships on their way to Alaska. This trip was about watching some mates play soccer, so not a beer trip, but a trip in which beer could be tried.Though the town has Spinnakers, Swans, and Canoe Brewpubs, so there was some selection to try out.

Spinnakers Pub is one of the first brewpubs in Canada, and is a very common pub for festivals, and has a great reputation amongst the beer crowds. This was my 1st stop for lunch on day and its a great pub atmosphere, shitty service, and about 10-12 taps of their own beer off the top of my head. There was nothing outstanding about the beer, or food, but I understand why they brew that style, as its quite a tourist destination due to overlooking the water. To call the beer watered down, without anything that jumped out as outstanding is what I will say.

Swans Brewpub was the highlight with their scotch ale, stout, and raspberry beer. Canoe Brewpub is a restaurant that produces not bad beer, but the service was like something out of the stone age. Why employ disgruntled bar staff that don’t care?

The beers at the Brouwers Barley Fest are reviewed in an earlier post, with the Washington Cask festival a great festival for new breweries, and the big two from this year were Black Raven in Redmond and Fremont Brewing in Fremont. Washington is about to pass laws that will increase taxes for Macro Beers, which exclude micros, which is a huge sign of how seriously the state loves their beer. Low point was the sad beer bars in Vegas, and reminding me that 98% of the population still drink the big brand box beers. Craft is growing but the dominant big names are still the big players..

Seattle Beer Week & Vancouver Beer Week are both approaching in May. Great events are penned in for both cities that will highlight craft beer with food, tastings and various events. It would be great to see some of the Washington Beer crowd north for some good beer events.