Monday, December 21, 2009

John's Marketplace

There is a store in Portland, Oregon, that sells the widest variety of beer I have ever seen in a single store. They also sell wine, and the wine part of the store is bigger than the beer part of the store, if that tells you anything.

I imagine it probably doesn't.

There are places in California that I used to frequent called the Liquor Barn, which is an appropriate name. Kind of the Costco of booze. But they lacked true variety in the beer department. Oregon is one of those states where hard alcohol is sold by the government (and at bars and restaurants), but beer and wine are sold by anyone willing to pony up for a license. John's has simply taken the brass ring of license-holder and run with it.

And I mean, run like hell with it.

There are lots of those wire-rack shelves that you can buy at places like Storables, called Metro-cart systems. Commonly used in industrial and grocery applications, they can take up a lot of space very quickly. and they can hold a lot of stuff. I haven't done the math for this, but there does seem to be an endless variety of beer in the world, and I wasn't aware of just how endless it was until I walked through the doors.

There is one standard large cooler full of things like Bud Light, Coors Light, Michelob, etc., and other forms of American carbonated pee (including that most detestable of yuppie affectations, Pabst Blue Ribbon - "I'm a steelworker, too!"). Then there's a cooler of what I would call transitional macro-micros - Red Hook, Anchor Steam, Sam Adams, etc. This section also includes the oddball light alcohol beverages like Mike's Hard Lemonade and other concessions to America's incredibly hypersensitive palate. Again, even the variety of these leaves one's mind a little boggled.

Then the cooler of large-size microbrews that are meant to be served cold. This usually includes pale ales, some porters and a few stouts, and the current fad micro, India Pale Ale (IPA - still my favorite varietal). Next to that is the ice freezer and a door to the back of the building, where secret plots are hatched to wedge me further from my money. Next to that...

A thirty foot long open cooler (like the meat department coolers at Safeway) of mostly foreign, small and large beers. Even these are often recognizable beers, such as Olde Peculier, Orvas Trippel, Aass Juleol, Sapporo Black Beer, and so on.

There are cases marching across the floor in endless variety. There is a three-foot wide rack, four shelves tall that holds the workers' faves at John's. Lots of odd brews in here. There is the occasional display of a bottle or two of Stone Brewery's Double Bastard in magnums.

And still we haven't caught the scale of this place. Again, remember the beer section is smaller than the wine section...

There are three rows of racks, eight feet long and I think five shelves tall, reaching to over six feet, when you add in the height of the beer bottles themselves, and these are all big bottles. Every shelf is covered, end-to end, and each bottle facing outwards is different. On both sides of each rack. And on each rack section. This is between the cooler of American beers and the cooler of large microbeers opposite. There is a very narrow aisle in between each rack. One side of one rack is devoted to American-made Belgian-style ales from a pretty wide variety of sources.

Across from these racks are the two long racks, forty feet long, and again, each beer on each shelf is unique and sits close to its neighbors all the way down the line. Lots of different sizes, from ten-ounce barleywines that will knock most serious drinkers off their asses to great big magnums of strange one-offs, that cost $60 if you can lift the damn thing off the shelf.

I had no idea there was that much of a market for Danish supermicros that have limited-edition, numbered bottles of red and dark ales. Still haven't had the courage (or the scratch) to pony up $30 for one of these.

My most expensive purchase so far was for Nogne Ø (Naked Island) brewery's Dark Horizon 2, an Imperial Stout they claim to have added coffee extract and demerara sugar to, as well as further yeast starts to do a little added bottle fermentation. A good stout, really one of the best, but Deschuttes Brewery's Abyss is still my favorite Imperial Stout.

Anyway. The place is huge. The beers are phenomenal both in variety and in intrigue. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It is my main source for all the enjoyment you will read about on the following posts.

Banana Bread beer indeed!

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