Whenever Portland seems like it can’t possibly sustain another craft brewpub, one seems to open up next door, or across the street, or across the river. In less than 30 years the city has gone from having zero to more than 50 independently owned brewpubs, more per capita than any other metro region on the planet. Boundaries are pushed as brewers make beers with ever bigger hop profiles, uncommon ingredients, and new brewing methods. Many brewers compete for and win coveted local and national awards but the real winners are the pubs’ pint-swilling customers.
Brewpubs quench thirst in the city’s suburbs, too, but those listed here are top picks in Portland proper.
In keeping with Portland’s culture of sustainability, Hopworks Urban Brewery (or simply HUB to locals) handcrafts rich organic ales and lagers in biodiesel-fired kettles. The brewery won a State of Oregon Sustainability Board Grand Champion award in 2012 for its low carbon footprint. But it’s the beer (and a worthy pub food menu) that keeps Hopwork’s flagship location on Southeast Powell Boulevard bustling with patrons every night of the week. HUB’s more intimate Bike Bar on North Williams Avenue pours frothy pints for the “NoPo” (north Portland) crowd. Try the hearty organic Survival 7-Grain Stout or if it’s in season, the Secession Cascadian Dark Ale, a piney, roasty beer with an attention grabbing hop profile.
The brewers at Cascade Brewing Barrelhouse knew they needed to create some truly unique beers to compete in a city with twice as many brewpubs as post offices. So, they spent the next several years developing, then perfecting the wine and whiskey barrel-aged sour beers that have earned the brewery a loyal fan base in Portland and across the country. Creative small plate offerings are designed to complement the unique beers. The fig pesto chevre panini goes well with The Vine, an ale blend re-fermented with white wine grapes. The beer cheese soup and a red ale blend named Sang Rouge (red blood in French) will warm your belly on a drizzly Portland evening.
For even more unusual brews, grab a pint of a Buckman Brewery botanical beer at Green Dragon on Southeast 9th and Yamhill. Green Dragon boasts 62 taps from around the world -- but you want local suds, and Buckman’s 6 distinctive fermented beverages are unlike anything you’ve likely had before. The Apple Beer -- yes, beer with apple cider -- is a perennial favorite. The no-hop Black Gruit is brewed with mugwort, wormwood, yarrow and heather tip. Keep an open mind and you won’t be disappointed.