Reflections on time well spent

Sorry for the radio silence. The trip has met it’s end in Carlsbad California. After traveling south out of Portland, east over to Sacramento, and finally through the Central Valley our train hit the coast. The beauty of this final stretch of track inspires a somber reflection on the distance I have come. Over 120 hours of total train time spanning 15 days. I have called these trains my temporary home. They brought me to family and friends, showed me stunning landscapes, and let me completely relax the entire time. I feel indebted to have had such an amazing experience and not had to lift a finger to get where I’m going.

I’m picked up in Los Angeles at around 9 pm tired and dirty. We drive the I-5 the rest of the way to Carlsbad. Highway just isn’t the same, the personality is gone. Instead of meandering across the rolling hills we eat the pavement like there is someplace else we would rather be. That is part of the allure of train travel. The entire time I spent in transit I never felt I had to be anywhere or had to do anything. I could sit in peaceful bliss and read a book, or just kick back and watch the trees pass by if I so desired. There is nowhere to go but the dining car, nothing to be but free.

This will not be the last train I ride. With all the miles I covered there are still plenty left unseen. With all the beers I drank there are more out there to try. My goal for the ride was to drink good beer with good people in every city I went. That was definitely accomplished. I had fantastic pale ale in Chicago, Geuze beer and French cheese in DC, pilsner and Helles in Florida, and of course an IPA in Portland. But just think of all the cities I missed. Beer Meccas like Denver, New Orleans, and San Antonio. I haven’t yet enjoyed an ancient ale in Delaware or an irish stout in Green Bay. There is much more rail to explore and plenty of time to get there. The Brewtrain has come in to station but this is by no means the final destination

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Portland IPA’s

Northwest IPA’s pair beautifully with Indian cuisine. How fitting, seeing as this style was originally brewed for long distance transport to India. Without refrigeration beer often spoiled on its long journey from England to British soldiers stationed there during colonization . The solution was the addition of more hops to British pale ales which acted as a natural preservative in the beer. The British soldiers loved the taste of these new hop heavy brews and the style remains.

I now sit at an Indian restaurant drinking an Oregon local Bridgeport IPA with chicken tikka, goat curry, and plenty of naan. A bold American hop aroma sits on top of the beer which pours a bright gold with a thick foamy head. Floral citrus flavors match the complex spices in the tikka as the heavy hop character is able to slice through the chillies in the curry, just bitter enough, and with a smooth dry finish. The lifting carbonation cools the flames, preparing the palate for the next bite.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw Bridgeport on the menu but I still was. When you typically walk into an Indian or Chinese or Thai or Vietnamese restaurant, the beer list is severely lacking. Usually 2 domestics (bud or bud light) followed by two “imports” which taste exactly the same as the domestics. Chang, 33, Tiger, Asahi, Sapporo, I guarantee they all taste exactly like everything coming from Anheuser-Busch. In fact some of the above are brewed by Anheuser-Busch. Bland Pilsner has taken over the world. Portland is fighting back. The front lines are restaurants like these. Non-beer centric venues that are still willing to serve great brew. As I take another perfect sip of Bridgeport I wonder how it took me so long to get out here.

Iceberg wedge Caesar salad with pickled beets and fresh anchovies, beer batter fried pickles with horseradish sauce, and a tall cold Bavarian pilsner. All enjoyed at a gothic burlesque bar in south east.

Portland is a bizarrely awesome place.

Growler

The growler tradition. 64 ounces of beer in a glass jug you can take to go. What more could you need. Take your growler around town with you in Portland and you will never go thirsty. The cheapest fill I encountered was at Alameda Brewhouse for $15. Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA, a true northwest hop bomb. Portland loves their IPA’s, and this beer will show you why. The cascade hops boldly sit on the beer giving off a piney floral aroma. Spicy citrus carbonation wakes up the palate and unapologetically slaps you in the face. And I have 64 ounces to go.

It seems as if every bar in this city has a brew kettle in the back. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s like an homage to a time when beer was brewed only at small inns and houses. Smells of toasted barley and malty sweetness permeate the bars.

People are happier here. You can walk into a bar and not feel like you just walked into a bad drug deal. The bartenders love beer and aren’t pretentious about their knowledge. Bottles in coolers line every available wall. Peruse the vast selection; Vlad the Imp Aler, Hop Wallop, La Folie. You can’t make a bad choice. Take a bottle to the bar and sink into the pleasant warmth of a summer afternoon in beervana.