Recently, our pal Jacob Grier invited us to a specialty cocktail event at The Hop and Vine in North Portland. He was guest bartending and turning out some seriously delicious adult-type beverages, but not your average "2 parts whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth, shake with ice and garnish with an orange peel" libations. Jacob specializes in beer cocktails. In fact, he is one of the most knowledgeable people in this genre of mixology that you will ever come across. The event at The Hop and Vine was actually part of a promotional tour for his new book Cocktails on Tap: The art of Mixing Spirits and Beer. His book officially comes out on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th. We enjoyed a little sneak preview of two of the more delicious concoctions in his book, and got to check out The Hop and Vine in the process.
From the moment you walk in, you notice there is a mild classiness about the place. It's not fancy, but the overall quality seems slightly sophisticated. The bar/restaurant side isn't particularly large, but it's big enough, and the other half of the establishment is a bottle shop. There is a really nice outdoor space in the back, with a lot of tables, half of which constitute the smoking section. The bar is nicely done up, and the general decor is pretty low key. Part of what adds that classiness to the place is the look of all the food that is turned out by the kitchen. Everything that passed by us appeared to be spot on and delectable, and geared towards a more discerning palate.
We were there for the beer cocktails, but obviously we were going to order something. This is Fooditka after all...
Bacon Wrapped Dates - We ordered the bacon-wrapped dates, which were out of this world. A perfectly cooked pinwheel of bacon around a soft, sweet center made for one of the more delicious bites I've had in a while. The bacon was that perfect balance of charred and chewy, with a peppery kick to it that tied it all together. Like I said, everything else we saw looked good as well, and I'm sure we'll be back soon to eat a proper meal there.
Outside of a Michelada or two, I don't think I've ever really had a beer cocktail before. Unless you want to count Irish Car Bombs, in which case I've had hundreds of thousands. Regardless, this is the first time I ever got to taste some seriously crafty cocktails made with that delightful substance Benjamin Franklin once said is "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." The particular beer that Jacob used for his cocktails was a Ryewine Ale that Breakside Brewery made special for the occasion.
Flip - O.K. Bring me some ale, some rum, some caramelized sugar, and a red-hot iron ball. Then stand back. Jacob proceeded to mix these ingredients in a large metal cup and then break out a blow-torch to heat his iron until it was literally glowing red. He then submerged it in the metal mug and we watched as the entire drink foamed up. After a few minutes, once the foam subsided, he poured it out into a few coffee mugs and I finally got to taste it. A perfect drink for a chilly evening, the flavors themselves seemed to warm you up in addition to the temperature of the beverage. The essence of the rum is there, along with the brulee taste of the now slightly burnt caramelized sugar. Overall it was very interesting, and a far more complex "beer" drink than I've ever tasted.
Mulled Ale - Another hot, comforting drink (it's February after all), the Mulled Ale was also made with the Ryewine from Breakside. Garnished with an orange slice, it reminded me of a hot toddy. The fact that it is a hot drink helps you savor it, as you almost have to drink it slowly. I can't decide which of the two drinks I preferred; fortunately I got to sample both. I guess if pressed, I'd go with the Flip, because fire just seems to make everything more fun.
The step by step recipes for both of these drinks, along with a plethora of others, are in Jacob's book. Although the official release date isn't until St. Paddy's Day, you can pre-order it from a variety of places like Powell's, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. You can also get more info on Jacob's website.
Service and Cost:
The service was very good; everyone behind the bar was attentive, polite, and eager to help. What little food we ordered came out quickly, and obviously, the bartender was on his game. As far as cost, the cocktails were $8.00 a piece, and each bacon-wrapped date was $2.00. So while it wasn't particularly cheap, the overall experience and quality was well worth the price, and I'm sure we'll be going back.
The Hop and Vine - 1914 N. Killingsworth St Portland, OR, 97217