Jul 20, 2018

Raccoon Lodge

July, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Portland, Oregon is so inundated with brewpubs, it’s rare when a new one opens. But Art Larrance, owner of Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub, is no newcomer to the fine art of brewing. Back in 1985, he co-founded Portland Brewing Company. That company was sold to Gambrinus several years ago. So here’s the brewing pioneer back at it again.

Named after the hunting retreat in TV’s old “Honeymooners” series, Raccoon Lodge, which opened in December 1998, is just a half-mile or so past multi-tap Dublin Pub in Raleigh Hills. The two floor building has all the rugged decor and architecture of a NorthWest hunting lodge. Art’s daughter Allissa, along with brewer Ron Gansberg and Chef John Memering, run the facility. Art’s direction is apparent. He is sure that big, bold beers, strong in alcohol, are ruining beer drinking as a pastime, so Raccoon Lodge’s ten barrel system will brew “beers that reflect mainstream industry standards.” That’s a backhanded slap at much of Portland’s brewing community, an entity that he helped create, and a token approval to budmillercoors.

Perhaps I’ve misconstrued Art’s intentions, because his beers weren’t bad at all, not big and bold, mind you, but nowhere near mega-brewers blandness either. Ring Tail Pale was intentionally light with a swift bite. A fruity body enhanced Bandit Bitter, capped by a light hop snap. Hefeweizen was cloudy with only mild yeast effect, while Badger Blonde Bock was fizzy, tart with a sweet finish. Served on nitro, Black Snout Stout, despite too-thin mouthfeel, was full of chocolate and black patent taste with good hop balance.

This light, airy, blonde stained lodge has a beer garden out back. Good beer and lots of fun. Raccoon Lodge thrives on promotions, from live bluegrass on the patio to a post-festival festival serving beers leftover from the Oregon Brewers Festival to a Harvest Fest/Sausage Festival. Looks like there is room for one more brewpub in Portland.

We had time for two more stops on this rush Portland trip. Food was on our minds as we headed to the Rose City’s Northeast quadrant. So, we went to school. Kennedy School opened in 1915 as an example of an innovative single-story floorplan designed for safe evacuation in case of fire. The building was decommission in the mid-90s and, as they so often do, retrofitted by the McMenamin brothers with a brewery and other amenities in 1997.

Kennedy School is now the center of neighborhood activities for a reason other than education. And not just beer either. This large facility features meeting rooms equipped to handle ten to 250 people, a 300-seat movie theater, several pubs including a cigar lounge called Detention Bar, the indoor-outdoor Courtyard Restaurant, a gymnasium ideal for dancing, and a garden soaking pool for guests staying in one of 35 rooms.

The Courtyard menu is nicer than a typical McMenamin’s pub. The food is delicious and filling. The beers fall in with traditional McM’s fare. You can’t beat the Terminator or Hammerhead.

But the evening was getting late. We had an early flight out the next morn, so we decided one more quick stop, making this a six brewpub, one multi-tap bar day, would be the last. Established in 1996, Alameda Brewhouse usually has something weird on tap. This visit was true to that tradition. Along with Siskiyou Golden Ale, a “classic lawnmower beer,” and Chinook hops-fired Klickitat Pale Ale, we tried a flowery Burghead Pict Heather Ale and Irvington Juniper Porter, made with black strap molasses and hand-picked juniper bows. We’re it not for a big (9.3% abv) Croft-an-Righ Wee Heavy, a Scottish style ale, and nitro Black Bear Double Stout, “Alameda’s flag ship ale” suggested as a dessert with chocolate ice cream float but good enough to drink straight up, we might have moved on sooner. After tasting brewer Craig Nicholls’ seasonal Vienna lager, we hit the door of this fancy restaurant-cum-brewpub running, weary from the journey and ready for sleep.

Portland in two and a half days is just not enough.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush


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