Editor’s note: Amy O from the Brew Crew Bullpen continues her series of articles from her recent visit to Portland. This time around she finds that those wacky Oregonians have gone and taken the great combination of craft beer and foot trucks/carts one step further. Think it will ever happen in New Mexico? Share your thoughts. — Stoutmeister
Food carts have been serving Portlanders for decades. Certain areas of town have multiple carts that park together and congregate in the same area, allowing hungry patrons a wide variety of food to choose from. These groups of carts are known as pods. In college, I had access to multiple pods in the downtown Portland area, so that’s where my love of food carts began. Food carts have a long standing relationship with breweries as it’s a natural relationship for breweries that do not serve food. Customers don’t need to leave a brewery when they start to get hungry, therefore increasing beer revenue for the brewery and also helping the small, local food providers.
Portland, on the cutting edge of the food cart world, decided to go one step further. In 2012, with the help of the owner of a very large cart pod called Cartlandia, Portland gained approval to serve beer in cart pods. Cartlandia actually built a fairly large permanent bar at their pod called The Blue Room. I took the opportunity last week to utilize Portland’s extensive mass transit system to visit Cartlandia as well as two other beer-friendly pods.
Cartlandia is in a strange part of town. I’ll just say it — it was seedy. I had to take light rail and switch to a bus that in total took over an hour from downtown. When I arrived, it looked a little like a state fair or carnival food area. However, there is a tented area with television to watch sports and to take advantage of beer specials for Timbers (MLS) games. And of course, the food is so much better than just the corn dogs and turkey legs at the fair. I was really there for the beer, so I went over to The Blue Room. The bartender, Rhiannon (yes she was named for the Fleetwood Mac song), was really sweet and offered me tastes of any of the beers I wanted before I even asked. I happily munched on a gourmet grilled cheese and a blonde ale while taking refuge from Portland’s hottest day of the year in this air-conditioned bar.
After I left Cartlandia, I ventured over to Carts on Foster. I entered the Pod Bar — a small cart with a wooden structure and indoor/outdoor patios attached. That made me wonder — the food carts were stand-alone, but The Blue Room at Cartlandia, and the modified Pod Bar cart, are more substantial and fixed structures. I asked Pod Bar’s owner if that is a requirement. He said it is. Your liquor license is tied to the address of the pod and the cart cannot move. If you decide to relocate, you have to get a new license. I had a great local pear cider that was perfect in the heat and got back on a bus, headed for Scout Beer Garden. By this time I decided I would affectionately call these purveyors Pod People. And I only mean it in the nicest way. I am not saying they are vacuous aliens!
My last pod stop of the day was Scout Beer Garden at the Good Food Here pod. Scout Beer Garden is very “Northwest” looking and has many shade trees. It also had my favorite beer list of the three. I had a Belgian Strong Ale and enjoyed some much needed shade before heading back to downtown. I am definitely a big fan of the beer serving pods but I was very surprised that my friends who live in Portland didn’t know about them. They do now.
— Amy O