Max's Fanno Creek
12562 SW Main St
Tigard, Oregon 97223
The West Side and I ... we don't mingle. I do occasionally pass through the West Side, but rarely is it my final destination. As a result, oversights will happen. Max's Fanno Creek, one of a tiny handful of brewpubs scattered among the hills (excepting McMenamins' outposts, you got your Raccoon Lodge, your Old Market Pub, and Max's) opened 20 months ago, but I just made it out on Friday.
I arrived there at 7 pm, expecting a madhouse like you'd find on the East Side at the busiest hour of the weekend. Instead, it was only a half to two-thirds full and I was guided to a primo booth by a rather excitable waiter. Odd. Still, I ordered a taster tray of the beer and a pile of fries and waited for my West Side friend to arrive.
[I'll get to the beer in a moment, but first let me remark on how strange it is for the East-side tourist to visit Tigard. The little stretch of downtown there is quite pleasant, with a wee creek--Fanno, brewery namesake--running just by the brewery (one can imagine how in centuries past, that's exactly the kind of place you'd find a brewery--right next to a ready water supply). Yet the decor of the place is stripped-down. You walk through a no-man's land out at the front of the pub, and the inside is spread out and lacks an inviting feng shui. I don't know how to describe it. And then the topper: last call at 8:45. Maybe there was a private party afterward or something, but it was astonishing to visit a pub and have last call that early. I felt as if I had visited a foreign city--Bucharest 1983, say. Could this have been Beervana?]
Fortunately, the waiter screamed right over with several vessels my nostrils and tongue recognized. I had found familiar ground. The beer range is idiosyncratic--a couple of Belgians, some standard ales, and an experimental beer or two. I was served a more traditional line-up of six beers which ranged for the most part on the good to excellent side of the scale--with one notable exception. Notes below, in the order I tasted them.
- Golden. Many brewpubs offer a "golden," which is code for "micro beer for macro drinkers." This version a little less characterful than Full Sail Session, but similar. Fine, but not designed to wow.
- Nit Wit. Belgian whites are becoming, thanks to their approachable tastiness, almost ubiquitous. The downside is that you therefore find many ordinary examples. Max's is one of the finer versions I've had recently. Richly wheaty, modestly but appropriately spiced, crisp, very refreshing. Great beer.
- Reverend's Daughter. I have had this beer--a Belgian golden--before, and it had an unavoidable off-flavor then. I had hoped that was due to extenuating circumstances, but alas, here it was, brewery fresh, and here was the off-flavor. I don't mean to diagnose DMS, but the character is very much of over-boiled vegetables. Both in the nose and on the palate. If it's intentional, I'd like to know what the intention is.
- Scottish. Great example of style, with a nice nutty, slightly roasted malt character and silky mouthfeel.
- Pacific Red. I anticipated a burly, hoppy beer, but this was a lighter, chalkier brew. For malt fans, the Scottish is the better choice. I found it wanting hops.
- O Holy Hops. The brewery's big winter ale, this is more strong ale than Imperial IPA (though distinguishing the taxonomic differences between the two might provoke a spirited discussion), so intense that you get a bit of kickback on your first sip. Power through and keep sipping, however, and you'll be rewarded with a piney residue on your tongue, a warmth in your belly, and a smile on your face. Hopheads will rejoice.