November 9, 2008

T'ales from Brewtopia

Greetings from Vancouver, eh. I'll get to my tales from the Great White North in a bit, but first, I had to drive through Oregon to get here (and Washington, but I'm not there yet).

Just as Half Pint started my tour with me by driving from Cali to Chitown, she's doing the last leg with me, too. Friday we piled into my car (made lighter by several cases-worth of beer picked up along the odyssey that I'll be drinking/blogging in due time) and cruised up I-5, barely making Oregon by the new dark. We stayed in Ashland with Susan, who's like a second mom. For dinner, we hit the Standing Stone Brewing Co., my second trip to the brewpub after first going years ago, which makes a cameo in Red, White, and Brew. I gotta say, it's a top-notch brewpub from both the food and beer perspective. Half Pint's Oatmeal Stout on nitro and my wet-hopped Hoptoberfest were impeccable. Susan's actual half pint of the Hefe wasn't bad. As for the food, it's hard to get excited about tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, but not when it's an heirloom tomato bisque and a grilled Rogue Stout cheddar on grilled sourdough! And if you go, and there's at least 4 in your party, get the chickpea fries with curry dip.

The next morning, we completed our drive to Portland, aka Beervana, aka Brewtopia. First I checked in at the author sign-in at the Oregon Convention Center, as I was in town to speak at Wordstock, Portland's literary festival and was "escorted" to the "VIP" room. Ooh, I'm so fancy. I basically grabbed a cup of coffee and talked to the audio/visual guy about the PowerPoint Presentation I'd put together. Yes, I taught myself the basics of PPT just for this gig. But my speaking time was at 5 and it was only 3, so I headed off for a live on-air interview on KXL's "The Libation Station," (which seems like you could download here, but it's long). My hosts were "Dr. BBQ" Bruce Bjorkman & the "Beer Goddess" Lisa Morrison. Not only did I have fun, but I got to try the previous guests' homebrewed pumpkin beer.

Then it was back to the Oregon Convention Center for Wordstock. Half Pint had several friends show up and they actually were not the only seats filled for my presentation on the McMenamin Stage, though no McMenamin Bros. beers were being poured, sadly. The festival organizer, Greg, kindly introduced me and though I'm no fan of public speaking, I thought I was off to a decent start and my slides were proving to be a hit... until I looked behind me and noticed a giant blank screen. See, unlike another litfest speaker that day, John Hodgman, better known as the "PC" from the Mac computers, I'm a Mac person. Woe that PPT on a Mac doesn't jibe well with A/V intended for PCs, so the visual portion of my 50-minute presentation was nixed. I could be heard throughout the talk uttering "if you could see the great picture I have of..." Other than that one gaffe, it was a great thrill and honor, the audience lobbed some great questions my way (including one young woman who asked if I gained weight during my "research," thanksalot) and I got to sign a bunch of books. (I popped back in the next morning to see how many they had left and it was down to 3.)

Afterward, I went to Hopworks Urban Brewery, the eco-friendliest of all of Portland's thirty-ish breweries. I enjoyed a pint of their British session style ESB and then some "DOA," or Deluxe Organic Ale, which I can only describe as being hoppier yet smoother than your average pale ale. Organic AND tasty--now that's a treat. FYI, the pizzas ain't cheap, but they are good and big. I was there with Half Pint and a slew of friends of hers who have all moved to Portland who all gave us the hard sell on moving there. If the beer scene factored into my move from LA to SF, then it could come into play here, too.

After dinner, us old fogies tried to rally for Kat's kid brother's friend's b-day party, his Dirty 30, but the over-30 crowd only had one more drink in us, and once back to Stephanie's and Drew's pad, I crashed. Hard.

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