If I there is a Heaven, I would want it to look like the Cascade Brewing Barrel House.  No joke.  This is the way the gods intended us to live, where the food is fresh and the beer is aged.  And by "fresh", I mean that even the crackers taste like they were just hand-ground, with just the right texture and a little spice.

I'm a cheap-skate, which is difficult for an aspiring beer writer because good beer ain't cheap.  And to make matters worse, now I went and did something stupid - and terrifying and cathartic - by turning in my resignation at my hateful corporate job with no real distinct plan as to how I'm going to actually pay my bills.  But it was my birthday, so it was an opportunity to make my husband buy me lunch.  Naturally, great beer had to be involved.  So I chose the Cascade Brewing Barrel House.

It had been a while since I'd been to the Barrel House.  The last time I went, I had their beer cheese soup which was sinfully delicious but gave my lactose-intolerant ass a killer stomach ache.  It was totally worth it, by the way.  This time, I went all out.  I ordered the escargot (partially because it's so rare that I get a chance to have it, and partially just to watch my husband squirm), the artisanal cheese platter, and the fig pesto chevre panini, along with several beer tasters.

The attention to detail at the Barrel House clearly communicates a much-deserved reverence for the art of food and drink.  The colors and complexity of flavors sing and dance for you.  The cheese plate featured a huge variety of local and imported cheeses, covering a vast range of flavors and textures - all of which melted in your mouth as though they'd just come from the farm.  It was so carefully and artistically presented with fresh bread and fruit that you could almost taste the love.  Then there was the panini: on fresh locally-crafted brioche with apricot sour beer-sauteed black figs, house-smoked tomato pesto, and creamy chevre, there was so much going on here that it would pair well with almost any of their beers.  Important to note here is the total lack of greasiness that's usually associated with paninis and has made me avoid ordering them lately.  THIS is the way a panini is meant to be.  It wasn't huge, but for $6 - and served with their house-pickled vegetables - it's a great deal.

The beer tasters are the way to go.  It allows you to try a lot of different beers - and you'll want to at the Barrel House because they have so many great, interesting beers - and most of them are only $2.  The glasses they're served in are nice, too, and although it doesn't allow for a lot of room to stick your nose in, the Cascade beers are so aromatic that you don't even notice the difference and the shape and size allow it to warm quickly, really bringing a variety of flavors out nicely.  Okay - I kind of have a glass fetish I guess, but I won't go on about that anymore.  Below is my take on a few of the beers they had to offer that day:

Honey Ginger Lime: I'd had this one before when it was on tap at Belmont Station but my husband ordered it so I decided to give it another try.  This one is refreshing and has a good flavor profile but is not my favorite as it kind of reminds me of soda.  To each his own. 

The Vine: An oak barrel-aged blend of soured blonde, tripel, quad and golden ales fermented with fresh-pressed juice from white wine grapes, with lactobacillus.  White grape skin dominated the finish.  I found this to not be quite as complex as I wanted, but it was definitely a good, crisp sour.

Noyaux: This was the one that I'd been wanting to try for a while.  A blend of Belgian strong blondes aged with raspberries in white port barrels, then blended with strong blondes aged with the toasted meat of an apricot nut (noyaux).  This one was very complex and managed to meet my fairly high expectations.  It started out tart and crisp with a hint of raspberry and apricot then an interesting, warm marzipan finish.

Elderberry:  A sour red ale oak-aged with elderberry and spices, this one surprised me as I've read some mixed reviews.  It had a beautiful ruby color and a fragrant ruby port nose.  I kept tasting port throughout, but it was fairly complex, starting out with tart elderberry and finishing with rich dark fruit and a hint of tobacco.

Spiced Cherry Gose: Live from the barrel.  Clove really dominated in this one, with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg and a tart pie cherry finish.  Not super complex, but good.

Anti-Bourbonic: Live from the barrel, one of their non-sour beers.  A spiced double porter with a candy-sweet nose and a flavor dominated by vanilla and bourbon.  Not complex, but very good for someone who loves bourbon-barrel aging.

The Cascade Brewing Barrel House serve the freshest local and sustainable food possible and offer suggested pairings with all their dishes.  They limit you to two tasters per person at one time, but the server was so attentive, she never left us wanting.  If you missed them at Puckerfest yesterday, you can always visit their Barrel House at 939 SE Belmont St. in Portland, Oregon. 
Visit the Cascade Brewing Barrel House website to find out what's on tap



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