Please, Send Me to the Hop Farm!

Image courtesy of Deschutes Brewery

Image courtesy of Deschutes Brewery

Why I walked off with a Starbucks chair in downtown Portland, Oregon at 10:00 at night gets complicated. I mean, if the chairs outside The Armory hadn’t been locked together, we would have just grabbed one of them. And Tasha had already asked the hostesses at Deschutes Public House if we could borrow a chair for just a few minutes and we promised to bring it back and they’d said no.

The story starts in mid-November when I saw a tweet about the Deschutes Armory XPA Hop Farm Contest. (That’s XPA as in experimental pale ale, not an official BJCP beer style, but a good name for this particular beer.) Participants have through January 31, 2017 to upload a photo that shows why they should win a September trip to an experimental hop farm with Deschutes brewers.

I’ve visited hop fields at harvest, even an experimental one, but a visit in the company of Deschutes brewers? The only thing I didn’t get was why half the craft beer fans in the U.S. hadn’t already submitted their photos.

Given some tough competition at #ArmoryXPA, this called for serious planning and creativity. I’d have to go photo-to-photo against rubber duckies, clever puns, at least one bright green hop tat on a muscled arm and, from the looks of it, a few professional photographers.

Photo courtesy of Heather Curry Self. Contest caption: "Samantha Sally Mae, Seymour, & their ducky entourage find their Deschutes XPA-nentially awesome and tasty!"

“Samantha Sally Mae, Seymour, & their ducky entourage find their Deschutes XPA-nentially awesome and tasty!” Photo courtesy of Heather Curry Self.

And then there was the matter of where to get Armory XPA around the Monterey (California) Peninsula. I tried the three major grocery store chains and two largest liquor stores with no luck. On a Thanksgiving trip to Portland, I promptly bought a 6-pack and started experimenting.

Maybe an Armory bottle pyramid. Maybe something more exciting than a white wall for background. Add a Santa hat, a few Christmas ornaments, and voilà, an Armory Christmas tree. Okay, so the idea needed some work.

First attempt

First attempt

I took the 6-pack along on a visit to beer blogger friend Natasha Godard and her husband Bill Weiss. Over homemade pizza, I suggested the contest photo as post-dinner entertainment—and did they possibly have a Santa hat?

Bill, Tasha and a fantastic homemade pizza

Bill, Tasha and a fantastic homemade pizza

Now, these are two highly creative and intelligent people who each know at least ten times as much as I do about technology and photography. Bill quickly started talking about photo collages and the iPhone app and I could do this and that with it and . . . I was lost. Tasha, who ordinarily speaks at the speed of a marathon runner in a race, grew more animated with Bill’s ideas. Metaphorically, I marveled as their conversation morphed into tennis players in a sustained volley.

Before I knew it, the 6-pack and I were in the chilly passenger seat of Tasha’s car, flying over the Willamette River on the Burnside Bridge, bound for the Pearl District and Deschutes Public House. The same Deschutes across the street from The Portland Armory. Constructed in 1891 to house the Oregon National Guard, the stately building is today home to the Gerding Theater.

Outside the Armory, Tasha quickly put us to work clearing fall leaves from words etched in the granite of a lengthy fountain that ran along the Davis Street side of the building. While I carefully pushed aside leaves, a trickle of water flowed serenely through a shallow trough in the granite. Each breath I exhaled condensed into a tiny cloud in the cold night air.

Once we had strategically set Armory XPA bottles alongside the engraved words, Tasha began filming, iPhone in one hand, flashlight in the other. “What do you think of this?” “How do you like that?” she asked enthusiastically.

“To be honest, I don’t see the big picture. But whatever you’re doing looks impressive.”

“I don’t see the big picture yet either, but isn’t this fun?”

For someone who’s usually in bed by 10:30 on a Friday night, yes, I was feeling alive and in the moment.

Minutes later, we were on the 11th Street side of the building with Tasha raising an expensive-looking camera over her head while I toted the case and various lenses. Her goal: the perfect photo of the Armory and the neon Deschutes sign a half block down the street. “Damn, I’m not tall enough!” she muttered. “I just really need a step ladder.”

That was when I tried to commandeer one of the Armory chairs and discovered the steel cable woven between them. Undeterred, Tasha gathered her equipment and trotted down to Deschutes, where we couldn’t get them on board with the idea of us taking a dining room chair outside and standing on it even though Tasha explained that it was for the Armory XPA contest. From there I hurried along as Tasha raced a block uphill to Starbucks and explained our plight to a young cashier who surprised me by saying sure it was fine to take a chair.

I fully expected a police officer, or at least a passerby, to shout at me when I grabbed the chair and hustled off. When it didn’t happen, I focused on catching up with Tasha and her cameras heading back down the hill.

Ten minutes and beaucoup photos later, I lugged the chair back up the hill while Tasha put away cameras and equipment. “So, how ‘bout a beer?” she asked as we walked towards Deschutes.

Minutes later, we were standing outside the pub, pager in Tasha’s hand, when she spotted a group of twenty-somethings with their own pager. “Hey, guys, since we’re all waiting for a table, want to have some fun?”

Final photo, courtesy of Natasha Godard

Final photo, courtesy of Natasha Godard

And that was how the final photo, the one that totally made the big picture, came about.

Even with Tasha’s editing skills, our odds of winning the contest are long, but one thing is for sure: we can thank Deschutes for an unforgettable, off-beat and fun night.

Enjoying good company and a pint of Armory XPA at the Portland Deschutes

Enjoying good company and a pint of Armory XPA at the Portland Deschutes


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