By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The sign was eye-popping. A stack of metal beer kegs holding up a neon raccoon’s head. The stack is still there on Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Portland. But the raccoon head is gone, now in storage.
The name of the place is new, too. The Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub has morphed into The Lodge at Cascade Brewing. Owner Art Larrance says the 19-year-old brewery had lost its identity. “Some people thought it was a family restaurant. Some people didn’t even know it was a brewery.”
And that is befuddling, considering all Larrance is to beer in Oregon. He’s a founding member of the craft beer industry, he’s run the Oregon Brewers Festival and he’s introduced us all to the devilishly tasty sour beers at Portland’s Cascade Brewing Barrel House. In other words, the man has a lot of cred when it comes to beer. But he also knows a reputation won’t necessarily make you any money. And a brewery needs money like a brewer needs water.
So, it was time for change. But cautiously. While the new name and sign are attention grabbers, the serious newness is subtle, comfortable. “There are positives that come with change, and I think when the whole team is behind it and looks forward to it, it makes the change easier,” said Michael Mathis, Cascade’s head brewer. “And when people come in, they realize it’s not a huge change, things haven’t been turned upside down.”
One change is behind the bar. There are more sours on tap. For many beer fans, these are the flavors that define Cascade. For Mathis, the beers also have to blend into something else Cascade is doing: dressing up an already tasty menu. “A lot of it is education in knowing what beers are going to work best with food.”
Alfredo Godinez is chef at The Lodge. He has two priorities. First, echoing Art Larrance, he says, “I look at what sells, what we don’t sell … whatever people come in and ask for, do I have that?”
Godinez knows to make sure Cascade has plenty of pizza and wings for folks shooting pool, watching sports or who just want to sit back and relax. But he is also creating dishes that complement the beer. “The day before I want to feature a dish, I sample the beer to make sure I’m going to get what I want the next day because we do everything from scratch. Nothing is pre-done.”
The one-time wine country chef aims for the same love and care Mathis puts into his beer. Godinez emphasizes that quality is key. “You’ve got to give your customers the best,” he explained. “You’ve got to be fresh all the time. I don’t want to get frozen meat or frozen fish. I want something fresh and local. It can be tough. Produce is seasonal.”
Making beer and making a meal have at least one thing in common — both involve cooking. Mathis appreciates what he’s learned from chefs: putting flavors together and applying that to brewing. Godinez also likes that challenge. For instance, how do you match fish and sour beer?
“It is tough,” both Mathis and Godinez chuckle as the chef recalls using one of Cascade’s wild ales to go with salmon. “Flavor-wise, we have the honey salmon with chipotle, so it’s matched up with the honey, ginger and lime.”
“So,” I ask while staring at the food in front of me, “what did you whip up for me today?” The three-course meal starts with Beer Cheese Chicken Bacon Macaroni. Godinez explains writing the recipe involved taste testing and two other beers were sampled before the kitchen settled on Portland Ale. That beer uses two different malts and hops to balance nicely with the cheese sauce covering the bacon and chicken. I usually think of mac and cheese as a soft dish, nothing crunchy. But the broccoli in the Cascade version adds snap. The Portland Ale has enough flavor to remind you it’s also in the cheese sauce while not overwhelming the dish.
The monster on a bun, sticking its bacon tongue out at me, is Godinez’s spin on a Cascade mainstay: the hamburger. He repeats his mantra by emphasizing the need for fresh Angus beef. Also between the upper and lower halves of a toasted brioche bun is … everything! So what could possibly stand up to the best-tasting burger I’ve taken a bite out of in some time?
“Our 2016 Sang Royal,” Mathis says, beaming. For this creation, the brewer aged the sour beer on pinot noir grapes in oak barrels for more than 18 months. And the beer does what you want it to. Take a bite of burger and while your tongue tries to sort out the confusion of beef, guacamole, bacon, onions, tomatoes and dressing flavors, take a drink of Sang Royal. The acidity in the beer peels those flavors away and sets you up for another bite.
Finishing off this remarkable lunch is another example of how beer makes all things better. Creme Brulee is another one of those dishes I think of as soft food. Yes, it does have a crunchy, caramelized crust, but inside it’s all eggy and creamy. But try it with Cascade’s Brews of a Feather. All of sudden your mouth is full of coffee and vanilla and sugar sweetness.
There is something special happening at The Lodge at Cascade Brewing. It’s not just a new label on an old package. It’s another step up for a leader in Oregon’s signature industry.
Beer Cheese Chicken Bacon Macaroni
Paired with Cascade Brewing Portland Ale
By Chef Alfredo Godinez
5 ounces grilled chicken breast
3 ounces smoked bacon
2 ounces broccoli
2 ounces fresh tomatoes
2 ounces parmesan cheese
6 ounces beer cheese sauce
--Cook 1 1/2 cups macaroni in boiling salted water until tender; drain.
--Melt cheese; add beer to taste.
--Chop grilled chicken breast, smoked bacon, broccoli, tomatoes.
--Mix macaroni with beer cheese sauce.
--On plate, top macaroni with tomatoes, broccoli, bits of bacon and shaved parmesan.
Guacamole Bacon Burger
Paired with Cascade Brewing Sang Royal 2016
By Chef Alfredo Godinez
Brioche bun, toasted
2 ounces guacamole
1/2 pound beef patty
2 slices tomato
Red onion slices, to taste
Leaf of lettuce
Thousand Island dressing
--Cook patty according to personal preference.
--Layer patty and condiments on top of brioche bun.
Paired with Brews of a Feather
By Chef Alfredo Godinez
2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, split in half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup white sugar
--Prepare custard mixing slightly beaten eggs with sugar and cream.
--Cook over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until mixture coats spoon.
--Scrape in seeds from split vanilla bean.
--Stir in vanilla extract.
--Pour into individual ramekins; place in shallow pan of icy water.
--Broil 8 inches from heat until top begins to bubble.
The Lodge at Cascade Brewing
7424 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Highway, Portland
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