They call it Beervana, but Portland, Oregon’s got more going for it than just what comes from the taps—though the pints you’ll find here are certainly worth the price of a plane ticket.
By Nino Marchetti
Hopworks Urban Brewery (Creston-Kenilworth, hopworksbeer.com) is built from the shell of a fuel company keeping the buzzword “sustainable” alive and well at this all-organic brewery,. Check out its award-winning, dry-hopped organic IPA and Survival Stout, brewed with local Stumptown espresso. A legendary Bend, Ore., brewery, Deschutes (Pearl, deschutesbrewery.com), has an amazing new outpost in Portland’s fancy Pearl district. There, patrons enjoy the open environment and fantastic views of the brewing equipment while gorging on clams, oysters and pizzas, and drinking renowned brews like Cascade Ale. A local chain with several popular spots around the city, Laurelwood Brewing (Rose City Park, laurelwoodbrewpub.com) has a variety of fresh beers on tap, be it the eco-friendly Organic Tree Hugger Porter or the refreshing Mother Lode Golden Ale. Our favorite spot is the main Public House & Brewery. New Old Lompoc Brewery (Northwest, newoldlompoc.com) is a cozy joint where patrons sip C-Note, the fantastic creation that loves any hop beginning with the letter C—Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Challenger, Cluster, Crystal and Columbus. Too many hops? Try LSD (that’s Lompoc Strong Draft), another hefty beer that’s sure to satisfy. This next dog is a bit off the grid, but Hair of the Dog (Reed, hairofthedog.com) is worth the trip (make an appointment!) because of brews like Adam, a lovely beer that weighs in with a 10% ABV and pairs amazingly well with chocolate cake. You can smell the beer from Oregon’s oldest craft brewery from blocks away, BridgePort (Pearl, bridgeportbrew.com) will invariably lure you in for a bite and top-notch brews. The big boy beer here is Old Knucklehead, a full-on barleywine that resoundingly confirms what’s already fairly clear: Portland is a craft beer capital.
If there’s only one place you go to drink beer in Portland, make it the Horse Brass Pub (Sunnyside, horsebrass.com). This legendary British tavern is where innovative brewers have dreamed up their wildest brews. More than 50 drafts await on an ever-rotating list, all of which are inspiring for brewers and regular beer lovers alike. The tiki scene once thrived here, and Thatch Tiki Bar (Grant Park, livepdx.com) pays careful respect to that lost lounge era. Enter into a dimly lit Polynesian setting, complete with tiki gods and other kitsch, and order the flaming Volcano Bowl, the mother of all tiki drinks; it will more than sate your South Seas cravings. During warmer months, Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub (Buckman, pdxgreendragon.com) opens its huge door to the outside, making a pleasant scene for enjoying beers and people-watching. This Eastside brewpub is always hopping with a rotating tap list, “meet the brewer” nights, live music and spirits from the attached distillery. At Mint/820 (Eliot, mintand820.com) top mixologist Lucy Brennan and her staff of cocktail-crafting geniuses concoct fruity mixed drinks that have put 820, the bar portion, on the map, while top-tier food comes from the next-door establishment, Mint. Try the Bella: The combo of blackberry puree mixed with vodka and lemon-lime, served in a sugared martini glass, is as sweet as it sounds. Take a hip wine bar, toss in delicious German fare, and you get Alu (Eliot, aluwinebar.com) This clandestine European-inspired spot is worth the entrance fee; patrons enjoy a lively wine bar area as well as outdoor patio seating. Come for the wine list, but stay for the beers: There’s a global list to choose from. Henry’s 12th street Tavern (Pearl, henrystavern.com) is 18,000 square feet, but it fills up quick with a button-down and loafer crowd after work; it’s not your typical “beer geek” crew, but anyone who knows their way from sour ale to imperial stout will quickly feel at home among the 100 taps offering local favorites, seasonal releases and more. Set your beer on the bar’s chill strip and dig into a filet mignon. With only 4 taps Belmont Station (Laurelhurst, belmont-station.com) may seem like an unlikely choice. However, the taps are always exceptional and there is something to be said about the more than 1,000 bottled beers that are carefully stored away from UV-light at cool temps. Go for lunch at the biercafe, order a salad or sandwich and see how long it takes for your eyes to glaze over from staring at all that beer. From the outside Concordia Alehouse (Concordia, Concordia-ale.com) is boxy and a little, well, green, but it’s the sort of place you wish you had in your ‘hood. It’s a clean quiet joint with a kick-ass beer selection on 22 taps comprised of rare Northwest favorites and some hard-to-find foreign selections. The steaks are cooked to perfection, and there’s not a skimpy dish in sight. Despite all the goodness, you won’t be dealing with lines or beer snobs, just good people who enjoy good brew. Located within walking distance of Portland’s waterfront and best hotels, Bailey’s Tap Room (Benson, baileystaproom.com) is a sleek watering hole that pours out the region’s best and often most obscure (like Walkabout’s Jabberwocky) beers on tap and on cask. Keeping it local, the cheeses and truffles are West Coast delights and pair oh-so-well with the beer born from the same terroir. Higgins Restaurant and Bar (Downtown, Higgins.ypguides.net) may be best known (and deservedly so) for its restaurant, but you simply can’t overlook this iconic Portland bar that is rustic, warm and equipped with a beer menu that can satisfy anyone. Beers like Adam sell for less than $5 alongside, say, the 25-ounce bottle of Prestige that goes for $80, while taps from Ommegang and Laurelwood complement some tempting cask options. And, if you’re real lucky, Higgins will have Pannepot or a variety of sour ales any hops-weary palate longs for.
50 Plates (Pearl, 50plates.com) is a contemporary, clean-cut establishment that does up traditional American cuisine in fun, new ways, like the Snap, Crackle Squid (rice cereal-crusted calamari). You can share small plates here or dig into something filling and hearty, like the organic bison-filled Buffalo Tamale Pie. A spinoff of a local bakery’s Monday pizza night, Ken’s Artisan Pizza (Kearns , kensartisan.com) arguably makes the best pies in town. Come early to avoid the long line of locals all eagerly awaiting indoor seating set aglow by the wood oven. The pizzas, with their ever-perfect crusts, pair excellently with a fresh local brew from the in-house bar. Voodoo Doughnut (Old Town, voodoodoughnut.com) pumps out the most creative deep-fried breakfasts imaginable, from bacon-topped maple bars to cereal-sprinkled pastries. Come early for the best selection, or go late—it’s open 24/7. Bring a sense of foodie adventure to this communal dining room, Beast (Concordia, beastpdx.com) is run by local food star Naomi Pomeroy. Come in for a choice of five or six courses, with little substitutions. Menus change daily and you can expect, like the name implies, a nod toward the carnivorous appetite. Patanegra (Northwest, patanegra-restaurant.com) is a tapas hotspot that offers a flat-out amazing selection of sharable dishes, accompanied by a great Spanish wine list. We recommend the Conejo, a rabbit tenderloin in mustard sauce with braised leeks, or Jabali, a marinated and grilled wild boar chop.
What looks like a regular motel from the street is actually one of Portland’s hippest hotels. Adjacent to the extremely popular Doug Fir music venue, the Jupiter Hotel (Buckman, jupiterhotel.com) is a hipster hangout sporting modern, minimalist bedrooms that offer few frills, but are really there for you to feel like you move and sleep among the cool kids. One of the newest and plushest hotels to grace Portland is The Nines (Downtown, starwoodhotels.com). Perched atop the historic Meier & Frank Building, it offers down pillows and 350-thread-count sheets in luxurious rooms. The hotel also houses the high-end Urban Farmer Steakhouse and is a stone’s throw from Portland’s Pioneer Square. Off the highway as you head toward the Columbia River Gorge sits McMenamin’s Edgefield (Troutdale, mcmenamins.com). This former county poor farm was transformed by the McMenamin brothers into a full-scale resort that includes: a hotel, brewery, distillery, winery, spa, movie theater and golf course as well as bars and restaurants. Hotel Lucia (Downtown, hotellucia.com) is set on prime real estate, setting visitors within walking distance of the city’s best activities. It’s romantic and artistic; but even better, the staff is highly attentive to all of its guests—even four-legged ones. Bonus: Room service delivers fresh, well-prepared Thai cuisine. Ace Hotel (Downtown, acehotel.com) is just a short walk from the noteworthy Powell’s Books. The Ace’s rooms are comfortable and showcase eclectic design touches. The draw here is the food, as well as the fact that it’s anchored by Clyde Commons, Kenny & Zuke’s and Stumptown Coffee—three of the Rose City’s finest.
The McMenamins (Portland Metro, mcmenamins.com) brewpub chain is a storied and funky part of the Portland beer scene. Many of its locations are historic spots restored in the colorfully tasteful McMenamins way. These include the aforementioned Edgefield, Kennedy School (an old elementary school), Crystal Ballroom (a music venue) and the Chapel Pub (a former funeral parlor). A journey down Oregon Route 99W from Portland takes you to the heart of Oregon’s pinot noir-happy wine country. Oregon Wine Country (McMinnville and nearby, oregonwine.org) has the ideal climate and growing conditions that make this a top global destination for pinot fans, with wineries large and small dotting countryside roads. You might also stumble upon a few worth-your-stop breweries along the way. Portland’s best-known retailer is Powell’s Books (Pearl, powells.com). This mammoth independent bookstore takes up an entire city block and carries more than a million new and used titles spanning some 3,500 sections. Author signings occur here pretty much daily, and there’s a fantastic café where you can hole away with your next new read. Portland’s NW 23rd Avenue (Northwest, nobhillbiz.com), part of the Nob Hill area, plays host to a trendy and eclectic mix of upscale shops and restaurants. The tree-lined street is always bustling with shoppers and diners; join in the fun and spend an afternoon people-watching and perusing. Shanghai Tunnel Tour (Old Town/Chinatown, portlandwalkingtours.com) is the underbelly of one of Portland’s older sections that once teemed with brothels and other illicit affairs, including the disappearance of many people into forced servitude. You can now wander these dark, historic tunnels with a guide who will tell you tales of the city’s sordid past.
Standing around and eating has become a Portland pastime: You’ll find some of the best roadside food at these cuisine-driven carts. Former New Jersey resident Kevin Sandri has recreated the fine art of Southern Italian cuisine in this unassuming food cart, Garden State (Sellwood-Moreland), in a popular southeast Portland neighborhood. You can chat it up with him as he fries up for you some fresh arancine—rice balls stuffed with cheese—or watch in awe as he whips together one mean meatball sandwich. Moxie RX (Boise, moxierx.com) is a roadside juice bar and café stand that sits at the entrance of the up-and-coming Mississippi Avenue retail/dining area. Even though there isn’t seating or service, locals line up for brunch at this cart. With delectable eats like made-from-scratch waffles, who can blame them? Stumble upon one of these food carts around town, and you are in for a heaping bowl of vegetarian goodness. The Whole Bowl (various locations, thewholebowl.com) mixes rice, avocado, black olives, sour cream and Tillamook cheese, topped off with its special lemony-garlicky Tali Sauce. Late night on a Friday, and looking for some grease? Roll over to Potato Champion (Hosford-Abernethy, potatochampion.com) and sate your craving Belgian-style. We recommend the french fries—these bad boys are blanched then fried to crunchy-fluffy perfection. You get your choice of a variety of sauces as well; try the Tarragon Anchovy if you dare.
If you crave baked, sugary goodness, you can’t do much better than confections at the Sugar Cube (Downtown, thesugarcubepdx.com), a food cart laden with fresh-made cupcakes. You could spring for one of the soups if you really want to, but why bother when you can replace a real meal with the decadent Highway to Heaven, a chocolate ganache, buttermilk cupcake with a salted caramel center?[Photo: Ziga Cetrtic]