By Brian Yaeger
If you visited a brewery a week in Portland, it’d take you over a year to check out every brewpub and tasting room, so the idea of hitting ‘em all in one visit is ridiculous. To explore a good variety of what Beervana has to offer, start with these five that conveniently flow like a five-mile river of suds alongside the Willamette River.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
3947 N Williams Ave.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, known colloquially as HUB, enjoys a hyper-loyal following. It starts with delicious and organic beers; HUB Lager and Hopworks IPA are the flagships but you’ll find that abundant hops work their way into a sturdy lineup of offerings (if you see Abominable Winter Ale or Galactic Imperial Red available, drink up). Add tasty pizzas to the mix and that’d be enough. That it’s exceptionally bike-friendly (check out the canopy of bike frames over the bar or the electricity-generating stationary bikes parked outside Hopworks BikeBar located on North Williams) and family-friendly (it does resemble a kindergarten upstairs) only adds to their fan base. Founding owner and brewmaster Christian Ettinger says, “I came at this from a long career in brewing. I viewed getting into the restaurant world as a way of creating a dynamic experience where you could put forth food that you’re proud of, service that you think is remarkable, and controlling the environment. I took the design and aesthetic as seriously as the beer.”
915 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
On the surface there’s nothing mind-blowingly monumental about this brewpub, but that’s just it for the jeans’n’T-shirt (and flannel) crowd. Inside, it’s spacious, all wooden and down-to-earth. The walls are bedecked with paintings of Labradors both black and yellow, as well as thumbtack boards pinned to the hilt with customers’ pooches. The real tail-wagger here is the back patio where this public house transforms into a public doghouse when the weather’s nice. It’s a place where Fido and Fifi get to socialize as their masters play Battleship or any of the board games available inside. It’s probably best that the dart boards are on the opposite end of the game room and dog area. Solid core and seasonal beers abound and Super Dog is a big, fluffy IPA with a wet nose and offers lots to love, especially for fans of grapefruity hops and ample malt body.
Cascade Barrel House
939 SE Belmont St.
The Belgian side of the Raccoon Lodge, er, make that the “Northwest Sour” side, has been giving sour beer fans sanctuary since 2010 with long-standing treasures such as Bourbonic Plague and Vlad the Imp Aler as well as perpetually new treats often embellished with a wide variety of fruits (see Tangerine Dream, Figaro, and my personal favorite, Noyaux that has a raspberry component but is marked by its use of apricot pit meat, yes, the nutty innards of said stonefruit). Patrons are invited every Tuesday for a tapping of a live barrel of sour ale, where folks up at the bar may receive what is affectionately known as a “sour shower.” The beers are world class, the new kitchen specials are intriguing vittles, and even if you just want to quaff a non-challenging but steady pale ale, the beer garden up front is the place to do it.
701 E. Burnside
The star in any brewpub should always be the beer. That’s why it’s called a brewpub and not a pubbrew. Not to take away from Burnside’s fantastic lineup of brews, but this is one of the few pubs where the food menu takes center stage. The iconic staple is a starter called the Cohiba, duck confit rolled in collard greens in the shape of a cigar and actually served on a handsome ashtray replete ashes (malt) for dipping. The burger—it’s seared in duck fat. As for those beers to pair it all with, yes the IPA is tasty but where else are you going to find an award-winning wheat beer made with apricots and chili peppers? There are always innovative seasonal offerings, which applies to both the beer menu and the food one. Not that they’ll stop you from simply enjoying several pints of the Lime Kolsch on the front patio.
240 N. Broadway
This weekends-only tasting room (also open before Blazers’ homestands) began as a straightforward farmhouse slanting brewery (albeit shoehorned into the basement of the Leftbank Building) with four core beers as has taken its affinity for jazz to some next level stuff by improvising dozens of rare beers—often riffed as part of the Sole Composition series. Any ingredient from peaches to oysters can take a solo. Pop downstairs into the tasting room to see, taste, and listen to where the magic happens (there’s often live blues). Part bunker, part beer cave, sit’n’sip among the casks—spent wine, bourbon, or maybe even gin barrels—where your future beers are maturing. Then again, the not-at-all Belgian style Engleberg Pilsner is great and won’t scare off those not ready to dip their toes, well, tongues, into “weird” beers.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.