Monday, February 18, 2013

My Portland Shortlist

Here's my shortlist of must visit breweries, brewpubs and taprooms in Portland, Oregon. If you take a trip to my burg, you must go here:

  1. Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) – These folks have two locations in town. Although the BikeBar on N. Williams is closer to home, I prefer the big location on SE Powell. Hopworks beers are organic and the brewery and pubs are state of the art and eco-friendly. They always have 10 of their own beers on tap and those beers are typically quite exceptional. The pubs have a cycling theme throughout, providing what I think is the quintessential Portland beer experience. It's all about bikes and beers here in Stumptown. Hopworks IPA is one of my go-to beers. You'll always find a few cans of it in my fridge. They also make some exceptional seasonal brews. Abominable Winter Ale is out right now and I bet they have some aging in bourbon barrels somewhere. Can't wait. The food is pretty good, too. Pizza, sandwiches and burgers. The main dining area at the SE Powell location is kid friendly.
  2. Breakside Brewery – The beers brewed at Breakside are sophisticated and unique. Take the Aztec Ale, for example. It's an American Strong Ale brewed with cocoa and Serrano and Habanero peppers. It's spicy, delicious, and at 9.4% ABV, packs a wallop. It seems they are always brewing up something new and interesting at Breakside. The food they serve also keeps me coming back for more. It's far above your standard pub grub in taste, quality and presentation. The service has always been friendly and efficient whenever I've been in. A singular, large, open, multi-level room makes up the bar and dining area. You can observe the brewery operation down in the lower region. When the weather is nice (short window of opportunity for sunshine here in Portland), they have some big picnic tables out on the sidewalk. Good for larger groups.
  3. Hair of the Dog – The big, bold beers they brew at Hair of the Dog probably aren't for everybody, but if you're a real beer geek, you MUST stop here. I love the stuff. My personal favorite is the “Fred”. Yes, many of the Hair of the Dog beers have human names: Fred, Bob, Adam, Matt. Many of the beers also have big ABV's, so consider yourself warned. Go here with a DD or take the bus. They have a unique take on pub grub, too. I recommend the Beef Brisket. The brewery/pub is located in an old building in an industrial area near the riverfront. Don't be put off by the surroundings—you're in the right place.
  4. Bailey's Taproom – Not a brewery, but Bailey's Taproom will give you the ultimate Northwest craftbeer tour right from the safety of your barstool. They have 20 rotating taps of just about any style of beer you could possibly want. With an emphasis on Oregon breweries and Northwest beer styles, Bailey's won't disappoint the visiting beer tourist. No food served, but there are a bunch of eateries in close proximity. I love the big screen TV behind the bar that not only presents a detailed taplist, but also tells you when the keg is going to blow. How cool is that?
  5. Alameda Brewhouse – Here's another great brewpub close to my neighborhood. It's on NE Fremont and you can't miss the giant hop sculpture hanging over the front door. That big hop flower is telling you precisely what's in store for you inside. Nice, big, open space.  Huge old-time bar runs almost the entire length of the pub. I really like the huge booths that surround the perimeter of the dining room. You can see the operational brewing equipment in the background. My favorite Alameda brews are the seasonals, especially their Papa Noel's Olde Ale. The Bad Bunny Barleywine is amazing, too. Food is your typical pub fare. I highly recommend the nachos. They really load them up with goodies. Trust me, you'll need to share.
  6. Cascade Brewing Barrel House – In addition to some topnotch IPA's and traditional Northwest beer styles, Cascade Brewing specializes in sour beers—some tapped straight from the barrel. Their eclectic taplist is as long as my arm and it's almost a certainty that they will have something you've never tried before. Tasters are only two bucks and you will want to try them all, trust me. Interesting Euro-style appetizers served.
  7. Roscoe's - The place looks pretty divey from the street but once you get through the door, you'll be impressed, especially by the huge taplist behind the bar. Believe me, I wouldn't recommend just any old dive bar. Roscoe's is a diamond in the rough and they take beer seriously. I'm talking Pliny the Elder and similar rarities that you hardly ever find on tap. The food is pretty good, too. I highly recommend the catfish sliders.
  8. The Beermongers - I love this place because IT'S A BEER STORE! A nice selection fills several cold cases. I like the way the beers are arranged in categories. Looking for a barleywine? An Imperial IPA? A seasonal winter brew? It's easy to find what you're looking for at Beermongers. Friendly service, too. The proprietor seemed genuinely interested in my story about Merry the Hop-loving Wonder Beagle, and didn't roll his eyes or try to hustle me out the door. They usually have something tasty on tap and there are a few tables scattered about where you can enjoy some beer with friends.
  9. Upright Brewing – The tasting room is in a crowded little space in the middle of a basement brewery. The beer is fantastic and the experience will give you a true sense of Oregon brewing craftsmanship. There are people close by making beer; it's all around you in various stages of production, and you get to drink it as soon as it's ready. It almost feels like you shouldn't be there, but you've been given a very special privilege.
  10. McMenamins – These folks are like the McDonald's of pubs around these parts. Seriously, all roads seem to lead to a McMenamins. Nevertheless, I have to say that McMenamins has some the most scrumptious pub locales and amazing boutique hotels I've ever seen, anywhere. The McMenamins are expert at taking old, derelict eyesore buildings and restoring them to their original architectural beauty—and then some. The Crystal Hotel, The Kennedy School, The Edgefield, just to name a few, are beautiful places to stay and decent spots to have a beer. Every attention to detail goes into the refurbishing of these buildings and the results are truly grand. Original artwork adorns the walls, folk/craft art embellishments go into every fixture, and the grounds are meticulously tended. McMenamins does brew their own. They are original Oregon craftbeer pioneers, so they deserve props for that. Their Terminator Stout is pretty good. If you want the full Portland experience, avoid the Hilton and stay at a McMenamins.
  11. Gigantic Brewing - These guys are one of the newer brewers (haha, that rhymes) in Stumptown, but they sure know their way around a mash tun. I have yet to drink a Gigantic beer that I didn't love. That's the stuff, Maynard. No food available in the taproom, but there's a really good taco truck across the street.
  12. Base Camp Brewing - Another newer kid on the block, but they put out some mighty fine brews. The taproom is bright and inviting and you won't be disappointed. Their flagship IPL (India Pale Lager) is terrific. Once again, they don't serve any food, but there's a pizza cart right outside the door. 
  13. Apex - 50 taps! One look at the big screen menu hanging behind the bar and you'll know ASAP that Apex doesn't f**k around. These folks know beer and they serve up an eclectic mix of some of the best craft brews anywhere. The outside patio is huge with lots of umbrellas for shade and places to lock up your bike, if you arrived on two wheels. The atmosphere is chill and the service is friendly.
  14. Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom - The newest shop in town at this writing, but with a unique twist that makes it a must for any hardcore beer geek. These folks will sell you a 16 oz. bottle (or growler) of any of the 16 beers and ciders they have on tap. Nobody else does that. Great atmosphere and extremely friendly, knowledgeable people behind the counter.
  15. The Commons Brewery - A small craft brewery that produces some amazing, European inspired beers. This is a must-visit tasting room. Trust me on this one.

If you're a beer lover, or if you're just looking for a bargain vacation, you really can't go wrong making Portland, Oregon your destination. You do get a lot for your buck in Stumptown. (No sales tax!) This list is just a few of the great places in town. There are so many, many more. 50 plus breweries and counting!

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