Review: Base Camp Brewing
Base Camp Brewing Company is a fairly new brewery located at 930 SE Oak St. in Portland. The place is one of the coolest breweries I’ve ever been into. They are all about the outdoors, as you may have guessed from the name and logo. I mean, they have a freaking canoe hanging above the bar. It’s all dented and probably doesn’t hold water anymore, but still, canoe. The bar and all of the tables are made from rough-hewn logs that have been polished to a shine, and they use boulders for table legs. Those are the most secure tables in all of Portland.
Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to skip the snazzy Google Street View inset here, because the picture of Base Camp shows the building, but before Base Camp moved in and cleaned up the place. I’ll save you the nice view of a warehouse. You’ll figure it out, I have faith.
Unlike some of the other reviews that we’ve done, Base Camp is 100% about the beer. No food, unless you count the food truck out front (which you should). Rose City Brews has a definite pro-food-truck stance. In fact, that’s my platform for when I run for mayor (of Beaverton). My first royal edict shall be food trucks and craft beer for everybody! So I guess that’s pretty much business as usual for most of the Rose City…
Anywho, back to Base Camp. We were first there the day after the tasting room opened, which was lucky for us because we missed the huge crowds. It’s a great place to go when it’s not super busy (a.k.a. not on Zwickelmania). We’ve been back for the unveiling of their Acclimator Doppelbock, and a great time was had by all. The decorations and the layout really make the place. If I had a brewery, and it was going to have a tasting room, and I had a bunch of money to burn, this place is exactly what I would want it to look like. Granted, that’s a pretty specific set of circumstances, but who knows? Monopoly has bank errors in my favor all the time, it could happen…
The high ceilings, the wood everywhere, beams, tables, bars, the awesome outdoorsy pictures of people doing inspirational things like climbing mountains and brewing beer… it’s a wonderful place. Lots of natural light on the rare days when there’s natural light to be had in Portland. They also have the COOLEST growlers and bottles. Extruded stainless steel, they are. Not kidding about the coolest, I mean that quite literally, shit gets cold, yo. I had to by a growler of the Acclimator when we were there for the debut, the growlers are too awesome and the beer was too tasty.
- Paolschenbier: I liked it, pretty tasty, and good an beer. K said “Yeah.” Good contribution, K. B said “Light. The end.” B also noted that there were orange-ish notes. It’s dry-hopped so it’s bitter up front and fades away to nice and mellow. I likened it to a hair cut that my friend had way back in elementary school: the pineapple. It’s a reverse mullet, party in front, business in the back. The haircut was awful, the beer is good. K also said it was like Rogue’s PSU IPA and water, nobody else agreed. There’s a story behind the PSU IPA and water thing: when we were at Rogue one time, the bartender said he had a trick to show us. Usually that worries me, but eh, whatever. So he poured two tasters, one of half PSU IPA, half water and the other of Miller High Life. The two tasted the exact same. Mind. Blown. Also, for some reason B noted that K was talking about deep-throating beer. Not at all sure what to make of that, so, yeah…
- In-tents IPL: IPL stands for India Pale Lager, by the way. B said, and I quote, “Bleh.” Both K and I liked it. It was like a good IPA, but with malt! B thought it was hoppy up front and more mild/malty toward the back end. Almost another pineapple haircut.
- Out of Bounds Brown: B said this was kinda light for a brown. K (after cleansing his palate) thought it was a decent, generic brown ale but said it wasn’t “OMG I want this.” He said he would take a Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale or a Rogue Hazelnut Brown over this. I thought it was almost like a pale ale, slightly hoppy and bitter. Didn’t seem too much like a brown to me, but maybe I should’ve cleansed my palate pompously as well.
- Hop Voyage: I found this a bit hard to describe. However, I think B said it best when she said “I’m about to become the Captain of the Hop Voyage.” She didn’t think it was very hoppy, which is kind of miraculous. I dunno what K thought, he must not’ve said anything terribly noteworthy or memorable.
- S’more Stout: This one is all K’s. He stole the taster both times we went. He went full Gollum the second time, petting it and calling it “his precious.” I think he needs to get out more. K practically writes all these jokes for me with the crap he says. Ha! But seriously, this beer was awesome. They actually take a propane torch to a marshmallow and put it on the rim of the glass. It’s so hardcore and unexpected, but it totally completes the experience. The beer by itself is very espresso and dark, bitter chocolate, but if you have the marshmallow and the beer together it tastes like… wait for it… a S’more! Holy crap. The name is well deserved. This is the beer you need when you’re sitting in front of your fireplace, pipe in hand, wearing your smoking jacket while reading the financial news.
- Northwest Fest: This is like a really mellow pale ale. The only taste is has is a mildly hoppy front end that just kind of fades away. At 28 IBUs, I guess that’s appropriate. K said it was kind of like the Paolschenbier, kind of like a weak IPA chased with water. I tend to agree with him on that one. B said “Yeah, flavor, and then it’s gone. Nothing special but drinkable.” Actually, her phone said printable instead of drinkable, but that’s what she meant, I swear.
Ripstop Rye Pilsner: 51 IBUs, but K thought it was less hoppy than the Northwest Fest and IPL. He said it finishes like a rye where it’s a little bitter. I thought this was a good case of does what it says on the tin. Smelled like a pilsner, looked like a pilsner, tasted like a pilsner, must be a duck. B didn’t believe the 51 IBU rating, she thought it was quite pilsner-y.
- Belgian Session Ale: K thought this might have the aroma of a wheat beer. I smelled nothing, but I was a bit plugged up at the time. K said it was like a darker hefeweizen, orange included. I agree with that assessment, but it had a sour note, and that makes it far too close to a sour beer for my liking. The tasting notes said this beer is tart. B detected a hint of the sour as well, but said that that doesn’t mean this beer is in the same Zip code as a sour beer. She thought it was borderline good.
- Prime Meridian IPA: This IPA has the same IBU rating as the IPL but with less malt. K wasn’t sure it was actually an IPA, more like just a pale ale. He also stated, “I don’t dare use my trademark phrase, but…” See our dictionary for that one. He thought B thought this was the mellowest IPA ever. K thought that there were more bitter beers at the beginning of the flight, but this one is hoppy throughout, it doesn’t really taper off. Hops is the only flavor. In an IPA. Weird, right? I didn’t mind it in the slightest.
- Acclimator Doppelbock: B’s phone decided at various points that this was called Alligator, Accelerator, or Acclimator. I like all of those names, but Base Camp seems pretty certain it’s called Acclimator, so we’ll go with that. K said that the hiking theme of the brewery was appropriate here, as this will get you acclimated to drinking IPAs. B thought this was really good, didn’t taste hoppy to her. I think this is one of the best beers I’ve had. No idea what kind of malt it has in it, different from anything I’ve had before. Malty goodness throughout, and I’m a sucker for a good malty beer. Game over man, game over. I ended up buying a growler of this.
- K: S’more Stout, both times we went. He said Belgian Session Ale was a distant second.
- N: Definitely the Acclimator. If the Acclimator isn’t available, when I get done crying, I’ll have a S’more Stout.
- B: The first visit, she picked the Hoptastic Voyage. She then stated “It’s a Christmas goddamn miracle I ordered a hop beer.” The second time, she chose the Acclimator and then the Ripstop Rye Pilsner.
We’re in a bit of a quandary about how to rate Base Camp. I think they’re one of the greatest things since bread, sliced or not. K stated a couple of times that Rogue might be on notice, they might lose the title of “Our Favorite Brewery.” He then took back this comment later, but still, it was said at the time. B disagrees wholeheartedly, she dislikes the lack of light beers. If/when they introduce a hefeweizen, wheat, golden, or blonde, we may have to revisit this issue. As it stands, I think the consensus is that Rogue edges Base Camp out, even though we haven’t reviewed Rogue on this site yet. Rogue has good beers, but every one of Base Camp’s beers is good, and the bar itself is a sight to behold. However, I’m only one of the three of us, and a majority I do not by myself make. Check out where each of us think Base Camp falls on our Top 10 here.
Overall, Base Camp is great. It is a solid brewery in a great location that is in walking distance to Green Dragon and Burnside Brewing. I would wager that Base Camp will stay in all of our Top 10 lists by the end of this journey.