At least until Brooklyn gets an MLS team — Bed-Stuy United SC? FC Williamsburg? Park Slope Rangers? — the Hipster Cup will be a three-way contest between Minnesota United, Portland Timbers and newcomer Austin FC. Even before the Loons joined the league, Portland and the Twin Cities were engaged in a running contest over who was the more bike-friendly city. Beyond the plethora of bike lanes, Subarus, coffee shops, and the mixture of municipal pride and cynicism they share, Portland and the Twin Cities love both their beer and their donuts. So ahead of the Loons’ clash with the Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday, we tried out some of each in Portland to see how their goods measure up. For science.
FORT GEORGE CITY SUICIDE SQUEEZE IPA — ASTORIA, OR
In Minnesota, Surly made their Doomtree beer and in Oregon, Fort George City collaborated with Seattle label Suicide Squeeze on an IPA. The label was home to Minus the Bear, an early 2000s post-hardcore titan whose members included drummer Erin Tate and bassist Cory Murchy, originally of Minneapolis-to-Seattle transplants Killsadie. Anyone familiar with any of the beloved hazy IPAs in the Twin Cities — Fair State’s Spirit Foul, BlackStack’s 755 Local, Modist’s Dreamyard — will be right at home with this one. With Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic hops, it’s juicy, but with a bit more bitter hoppy aftertaste than, say, Spirit Foul, which is more purely citrus in its finish.
OBLIVION BACKSIDE IPA — BEND, OR
With a slightly lower ABV of 6.6% than the Suicide Squeeze IPA, Backside is less hazy and more of a classic American IPA. It’s less flavor forward, but went well with Vietnamese takeout from Luc Lac. Assertive enough to balance out spicy food — always a great quality of IPAs — it didn’t stand out enough on its own to recommend over Fort George City’s effort.
BREAKSIDE PILSNER — PORTLAND, OR
Clean and bright, Breakside’s Pilsner has been a staple for the brewery since 2013, when it was named one of the best 100 beers in Oregon by Portland Monthly. It went on to win several medals at the Best of Craft Beer Awards over the next several years, and it’s an exemplary pilsner, very clear and classic. At 5% ABV, it’s easy to drink and quite crisp with a hint of bitterness but not nearly as much in an IPA.
VON EBERT VOLATILE SUBSTANCE — PORTLAND, OR
The clear winner in terms of complexity of flavor profile of this group. With Mosaic and Simcoe hops powering the flavor, it’s easy to see why this beer won gold at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival. It’s a bit thicker than the Backside IPA, and while it’s not as juicy as Suicide Squeeze, the flavor is more balanced from start to finish. Best of the bunch.
BLUE STAR DONUTS
You talk about donuts in Portland, you’re going to hear about Voodoo Donuts and their wildly outlandish over-the-top donuts. But frankly, throwing everything including the kitchen sink onto the top of a donut is a little played out at this point. While Seattle’s Top Pot — whose donuts are available at various places in Portland — might have the best purely classic donuts, Blue Star strikes an admirable balance between new-fangled and timeless.
While they have straight ahead favorites like a Buttermilk Old-Fashioned, they ramp up a classic raised glazed into one of their most popular flavors, the Blueberry Bourbon Basil. The bourbon is the least prevalent flavor, but it does provide a little more depth to the main fruit and green notes from the blueberry and basil. There’s a good bit of sharp citrus in the flavor and it keeps it from getting cloyingly sweet, despite the overall frosting.
On the cake donut side, the Mexican Hot Chocolate donut is a real journey. The first thing that hits you is the thick, fudgy chocolate on top, which is miles away from the usual sugary frosting you get on a donut. That taste is followed by the moist chocolate of the donut itself, which is much more subtle. You might not even realize it’s chocolate at first, especially compared to that initial burst of dark chocolate. But then, like any good Mexican chocolate, it finishes with a bit of heat. Altogether richer and more intense than the Blueberry Bourbon Basil, but nonetheless a well-balanced donut.