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.
1. Hopworks Urban Brewery
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.
2. Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Torsten Kjellstrand /TravelPortland.com
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.
3. Buckman Brewery (Rogue)
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.
Get back to Northwest-style ale basics with a stop at Migration Brewing. This popular Kerns neighborhood-gathering place produces a solid range of well balanced ales. Head Brewer Paul Fletcher says, “We’re not in a race to make the next over-the-top triple hop. We just want to brew nice, drinkable beers that you can have one after another of.” (Take the bus out front when you leave!) Paul is particularly proud of the Glisan Street Dry Hop which pairs nicely with food. And the seasonal Kolsch is perfect for a lazy spring afternoon on the brewpub’s large outdoor patio.
5. Laurelwood Public House and Brewery
Laurelwood Brewing has been a standard bearer in the Portland craft beer movement since 2001. Laurelwood’s family-friendly Hollywood and Sellwood neighborhood pubs pair their ever-popular Workhorse IPA and Free Range Red ales with extensive menus of pub food favorites. Have the delicately fried fish tacos and a Mother Lode Golden ale. Savor a Megafauna Imperial IPA if you’re lucky enough to be at Laurelwood when it’s on tap. The Brewing News National Imperial IPA Champion is the unintimidated hophead’s dream: 9.5% alcohol by volume and 140 IBUs!
When brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin opened Oregon’s first post-prohibition brewpub in the fall of 1985, few could have predicted the emergence of the brewing empire they oversee now. Twenty-four regional McMenamins pubs, most of which are in Portland, brew beer for an even greater number of the siblings’ whimsically renovated vintage movie theaters, historic hotels and music venues. Since the raspberry tinged Ruby Ale and the almost chewy Terminator Stout are notable mainstays at every location, one could be excused for thinking the beer at McMenamins’ Bagdad Pub is all the same as the beer at the company’s Chapel Pub or Ram’s Head. But, each of the company’s breweries crafts its own unique seasonal and one-off beers. McMenamins brewers collectively average 250 different beers each year, many of which are aged in hand-me-down wood barrels from McMenamins’ own spirits distilleries.
Whether it’s to enjoy the superlative beer, the food, or the company of friends, patrons are known to occupy Breakside’s long rows of sidewalk picnic tables for hours. Beers include a grapefruity IPA, a golden pilsner, a dry stout and a broad spectrum of seasonal beers whose ingredients might include habanero peppers, coconut or pumpkin. Breakside raises the bar with their pub food favorites. The succulent pulled pork and the hearty carne asada feature locally raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats. The grilled portabella sandwich is graced by artisan goat cheese and Walla Walla onions. And the deep-fried pickles are, well ... pickles. Deep fried!