Trip Report for Distiller's Row
- Last Saturday was my birthday, and my kids and kids-in-law, bless 'em, gifted me with a pedicab tasting tour of Portland's Distiller's Row, an area of many micro-distillers in a neighborhood of ancient gritty warehouses in near Southeast Portland, Oregon. It was the most birthday fun I've had since that one in the old German artillery emplacemnt on the Isle of Jersey, but a married man can't properly talk about that (anymore).
I don't know how many distillers are in that area, but it seems there are more every day. We were only able to do justice to 3 of them in our afternoon, New Deal Distillery, House Spirits Distillery, and one other I can't remember because the head distiller was drunk, even a little more than I was. Oh, and one more; we went back to New Deal Distillery at the end, because that's where our car was, but they made us stop and taste some more anyway.
Of the three, New Deal as probably my favorite, because the spirit was great, the tasting-bar ladies were friendly and very knowledgeable, and we got to talk to the distiller for quite a while. They do grain (their grain fermentations) vodkas, a couple of very nice gins, some infusions, and were playing with a luscious sweet-cherry eau-de-vie while I was there. The stills, three vodka stills that were very hobbyist-familiar (probably bokakobs, but I couldn't see the slant-plates) 3-inch columns with structured copper packing, and one smaller stainless potstill, were all spitting-distance from the bar, so it was kinda cozy. They had shelves full of labeled mason jars, just like my garage. I can't wait to go back again.
House Spirits was also very nice, but the lady at the tasting bar was more of a hostess than a distiller-wench, and the bar was removed from the stills, an old (Dutch?) copper alembic in a loose-brick base, and a newer larger stainless still that was apart while we were there, so I can't really describe it. House is the distiller of Aviation Gin, a very popular Northwest gin, and several very intersting rice spirits. The distiller was also great, and very free with discussion and information. I also picked up a copy of "Chasing the White Dog" here, and I highly recommend it.
The last place, the drunk one, also did gins and an absinthe, which was very nice. The still was a showcase Christian Carl one-plate copper beauty, plumbed to a jewel-polished stainless chamber that could have been a thumper, but was used for botanicals vapor extraction, and a gorgeous copper 6-plate separate column that evidently had never been plumbed to anything, but looked great.
Two important facts you need to know about all this: all the spirit was fine sipping-quality, and the tasting was all free, although you can buy bottles on-site. I enthusiastically recommend the tour, which can be had on any Saturday. Those of you Portland 'stillers who aren't doing it every couple of weeks probably need psychiatric care.
Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller