Liz Clayton and USBC After-Hours

Liz Clayton’s coverage of SCAA / USBC after-hours continues. Read part 1 here!

FRIDAY:

The day gets off to an inarguably good beginning with a light rail train full of prominent espresso brewing equipment manufacturers sharing PDX restaurant tips. (“Chipotle. You eaten there? It’s pretty good.”) This was just the kind of sage advice I needed after a night like Thursday, when a raucous crew took over Spirit of 77 for not one but two parties!

Spirit of 77 being the largest, nearest, most basketball-themed bar adjacent to the Oregon Convention Center made it the natural choice for lots of parties each night, or, hey, lots of parties on the same night. A La Marzocco/Stumptown/Barista Magazine happy hour was reported to have taken place in the earlier shades of the evening on Friday — but with all that barista competing going on after hours, it can sometimes be hard to, say, feed yourself, or cross the street. Our merry band of travelers chose instead to arrive on the later side, either fashionably late for the Marzocco party or unfashionably early for the Sprudge.com/Red E Cafe fete. The empty-ish room provided clear sightlines to key partiers like Tim Varney and Ben Kaminsky, who proceeded to show each other several things on space-age so-called “smart” telephones, clearly dedicated to preserving their dancing energy for later. Olympia, Washington’s Michael Elvin was found again at Spirit, hoping to recreate what he described as “probably the best bathroom experience I’ve ever had” with a particular World Barista Champion at the same bar the night before. The mind boggles.

But faster than you can say “sustainably sourced local milk I had overnighted across the country“, the room began to fill up with party runoff from other night clubs. These revelers were clearly marked by rave-style glowing necklaces and assorted deely-bobbers, and this seemed as good a time as any to call it a night, lest my Sprudge Editors pocket-call me again from across the bar.

SATURDAY

Post-gaming a day like Saturday’s hugely competitive Semi-Finals seemed nearly impossible, even for the seasoned pros. To sturdy up for the night’s worst, an emergency meeting of the 2012 United States Tomato Soup team convened at an undisclosed location, where everyone pretended not to talk about barista competitions. From there, a Radio Cab was dispatched to the “Tight Butts and Short Pants” party hosted by Stephen Morrissey, La Marzocco, cute little baby Linzmeier, some cup manufacturers, David Walsh, the law offices of Zell, Kahn, and Michelman, Roger’s Party Rodeo, Portland Union 106 (piano tuners, cheese mongers, and awful DJs), Parents For A Concerned Society, and surely several other party sponsors, et al.

Directed downstairs to the correct party, I encountered a dance floor lousy with bloggers, water-heating moguls and gigantic, floaty orange cushions that seemed like a bad omen of things to come. As coffee folk dug into case after case of beer shipped exclusively to the party from…Indiana (no real craft beer scene in Portland, I guess), an architect from Brooklyn wished this reporter “good luck” on the evening (another bad omen) while a certain barista finalist’s sister offered to flash me as a pandering attempt to make it into the party recap. NICE TRY, KID. Over in the corner, James “Hot Diggity” Hoffmann doled out free consulting advice to some aspiring cafe owners whilst having his biceps squeezed. The night was off to a good start.

By 10:20PM PST it became painfully obvious that something was missing, and that something was actual music to dance to. Even David Latourell couldn’t have saved this dance floor, but thank goodness Sprudge did, intervening with an emergency double-down of Stacey Q and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity“. Real dancing began to ensue, ensnaring those at the party that hadn’t yet fractured into repeat grazes of the pu-pu bar and a lockdown of seats closest to phone-charging outlets. Marcus Boni led an impromptu Kangoo class while Amanda “Portland, lock up your daughters” Ventresca shook the room with such intensity no one noticed the beer had run out, until eventually, everyone noticed that the beer had run out. (There were still pea crostini.)

As the night wound up, down and off, the word “Jupiter” got passed around the room like a sticky business card. Reports from Tote Fest across town indicated that party had finally dwindled into people peeing off the hotel balcony, so our group agreed that attempting the dregs of the Speakeasy party sounded interesting, if perhaps uncivilized. In the taxi over the river, at least one of the World Barista Champions present began discussing his difficult bowel movements, at which point the previously silent cabbie began repeating “…wow…” over and over until finally presented with the the soonest opportunity to discharge our party.

[Ed. note: Liz did not actually cross the Willamette River while traveling from the Left Bank Annex to the Jupiter Hotel, but Ms. Clayton, bless her soul, does not actually live in Portland.]

Hey, it’s the Jupiter! And there’s nowhere to stand and we aren’t allowed into the section with seats, but all of Los Angeles and Scandinavia and Vancouver are here and boy are they feeling convivial. As our group decides whether or not to stay or go, the bar announces it has stopped serving, and I grab a cab that almost runs over Marcus Boni, and then the driver invites us to help clean the salmon blood from his boat. I’m not from the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t think he was speaking in code.

A tired return to the hotel district downtown yielded a string of late-night fried chicken deliverypersons, the closing bell on the night striking only when a small but work-hardened group of coffee folk trickled in with tales of their evening’s visit to a strip club. (“I think it was actually a brothel.”) Before they could show us any more pictures, this reporter called it a night. One must get a good night’s sleep if one plans to clean salmon blood in the morning!

Having helped refine the dubious “art” of coffee blogging on her influential website Twitchy.org, Liz Clayton contributes coffee and tea coverage to Serious Eats, and is shooting a book of coffee photography to be published by Presspop. She lives in Bed-Stuy and has two (and a half) cats.

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