Visiting Portland, Oregon, and not drinking beer is like hitting a steakhouse and only ordering a salad. The city is America’s craft brew Mecca, lousy with loads of top-flight breweries and bars flying against mainstream beer. In Portland, Bud is a four-letter word.
So imagine my surprise when I read Food Republic colleague Matt Rodbard’s rundown of five great places to tipple in Portland. Sure, he included peerless cocktail lounges such as Whiskey Soda and Beaker & Flask, as well as wonderful Willamette Valley wines, but beer? As missing as my dignity after a half bottle of Buffalo Trace.
“I’m a wino, OK,” Matt said, explaining the dearth of beer. Screw that. It’s time to set the record straight. Though selecting a favorite spot to sip suds in Portland is a bit like Octomom picking a favorite kid, here are five places where I’d gladly spend an evening getting pie-eyed.
- Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Head brewer Ron Gansberg is mad for sour beers. Sequestered inside this former produce warehouse are hundreds of oak barrels of beer filled with fruit and dosed with Lactobacillus bacteria — the critters that turn milk into yogurt. Over time, the bacteria slowly rewire the beer, creating tart, puckering flavors as quirky as they are refreshing. To create beers such as the Apricot Ale, Gansberg blends disparate barrels, resulting in a lip-smacking elixir infinitely tastier than the sum of its parts. Come on Tuesday nights for special tappings of one-of-a-kind barrels.
- Hopworks Urban Brewery
HUB is oriented around two of my favorite activities: riding bikes and drinking beer. At the two locations of the bicycle-themed brewpubs, you’ll find a killer collection of organic ales such as the dank, resinous IPA, the smooth and fragrant Crosstown Pale Ale and the creamy, coffee-tinged Seven-Grain Survival Stout. For bikers not looking for too much of a buzz, the Totally Radler is a 70–30 blend of HUB Lager and freshly made lemonade — plenty of carbs, precious little booze.
- Upright Brewing
Hidden inside the basement of the historic Left Bank complex, Upright focuses on Belgian and French farmhouse-style beers. Swing by the tasting room Friday through Sunday (and before every Portland Trailblazers game) to sample suds such as floral, dry Four; the dark, earthy, rye-driven Six; and the oddball Reggae Junkie Gruit, which was flavored with hyssop, lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorns and bitter orange peel.
- Spirit of 77
Most sports bars are noisy, chaotic factories dispensing crappy quaffs and greasy eats deep-fried till they’re brown and indistinguishable. Not so the Spirit of 77. Sure, there are TVs arranged willy-nilly, but here the snackables excel (fried baked potatoes, roasted pork shoulder–and-chorizo melt, hushpuppies with jalapeño jam) and the beer list includes offerings from statewide standouts including Double Mountain, Laurelwood and Southern Oregon Brewing. Sweetening the deal, they’re all served by the 20-ounce pint.
- Mary’s Club
The Rose City has no shortage of strip clubs. But it’s a testament to Portland’s love affair with craft beer that even bare-breast emporiums such as Mary’s Club serve craft suds. Starting at 11 a.m., you can pop into the nearly half-century-old strip club, catch a tattooed dancer contorting herself and knock back one of 25 tasty draft brews from the likes of Widmer Brothers and Deschutes — or so I’ve, uh, heard.
Ok Rose City aficianados, here’s your chance to chime in: What’s the best place to quaff a beer in Portland?