One of my favorite neighborhoods to drink beer in doesn’t require a lengthy car journey, just hop on the Yellow Line MAX and head in the direction of the Expo Center. The second stop across the river brings you to Stop 1. North Portland is Portland’s wedge-shaped “fifth quadrant” stating at the East end of the steel bridge and swelling out to encompass St. Johns and the shipping terminals on the Columbia River.
Stop 1: Widmer Brothers Brewing, 929 N Russell, 503.281.2437 widmer.com
I must say I’m a little biased as a tour guide at Widmer I spend a lot of time at the state’s largest brewery. The Gasthaus pub, modeled on a Düsseldorf brewpub seves special beers brewed on the company’s pilot brewery at the Rose Quarter, as well as standards brewed on the 250-barrel system across the street. Hearty food and big portions won’t leave you hungry. The pork schnitzel with spaetzel is a personal favorite, and the beer cheese soup is the perfect thing to warm you up on a soggy Oregon day.
Stop 2: Amnesia, 832 N. Beech and Mississippi, 503.281.7708 amnesiabrew.com
When Kevin King sited his brewery in a former ironworking studio on North Mississippi, he had no idea that in a few years it would become the center of a newly gentrified shopping and eating district, cumbrous with condo developments. The Amnesia model is simple, brew beer, grill sausages. A large, tented outdoor patio is home to the barbeque and plenty of seating, while the simple pub hosts rotating art, and opens onto the brewery. The beers are generally on the hoppy side, with two IPAs in the standard lineup. A new production brewery in the Columbia Gorge may free up tankspace for the delicious pils King brewed when Amnesia first opened.
Stop 3: Lompoc, 5th Quadrant 3901 N. Williams and Failing 503.288.3996 newoldlompoc.com
Originally the New Old Lompoc’s second brewery, the 5Q has become the company’s sole brewery since the venerable NOL met the wrecking ball this spring. The 5Q, named for North Portland’s status as the “fifth quarter” of Portland serves a variety of Lompoc standards and seasonals along with pub food done right. Sidebar, just around the corner, features Lompoc specialties, and an imposing black concrete bar, while you sit among barrels of future projects.
Stop 4: Saraveza, 1004 N. Killingsworth, 503.206.4252 saraveza.com
A Wisconsin theme bar in North Portland? Ya, you betcha. Expats of the Midwest find solace in Sara Pedersen’s collection of Wisconsin breweriana, taxidermy and the Green Bay Packers on TV. Locals love it for the bottle shop and charming staff. The menu is Midwest food done Portland style (better and with fresh, local ingredients). The house specialty is the pasty, the national food of Cornwall. These meat or vegetable handpies where brought by Cornish miners to Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people think of them as indigenous. (I recommend the Nater, though the daily specials are often tempting). Saraveza’s pickle plates are also out of this world.
Stop 5: Hop and Vine, 1914 N. Killingsworth, 503.954.3322 thehopandvine.com
Beer bars are generally male-dominated, with a hunting lodge feel, but Hop and Vine owner Yetta Vorobik lets a feminine touch infuse her pub. From the graceful peacock logo to the excellent north-European influenced menu, there is something to appeal to everyone. In summer months the tree shaded back patio is a haven for North Portland denizens. Visit the adjoining bottle shop for fine selections of beer and wine.
Other places to see:
Bridgetown Beer House, Red Fox, Tardis Room (A Doctor Who themebar attached to an English Fish and Chip Shop), Bikebar (a Hopworks taproom), and Lucky Lab North.
Bonus Trek: St. Johns
Plew’s Brews, 8409 N. Lombard, 503.283.2243
Stepping into Plew’s Brews in St. Johns is like stepping into a bar on SE Hawthorne in the late 1990’s. The former discount market is cluttered with bric a bric from pictures of the queen to Bob Marley tapestries, incense is likely blazing, and funky couches and tables are spread around. Dozens of board games line the walls for customers’ enjoyment. The bar at Plew’s is a humble affair with cushion-topped kegs for bar stools, and the taps simply come out the side of glass-fronted reach in coolers. Don’t let appearances fool you though, the rotating tap selection at Plew’s includes some gems, and best yet, they’ll fill a growler of almost everything on tap for $7 or 8.
Occidental Brewing, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave, 503-719-7102, occidentalbrewing.com
Located in the shadow of the majestic arches of the St. Johns Bridge, Occidental specializes in German-style beers, from Koelsch and Alt to Dopplebock.
Most breweries have a tasting room overlooking the brewery. At Occidental the tasting room is actually inside the brewery with just a wooden railing dividing the service are from the production area. The limited taproom hours are posted on the website.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.