We went to Portland for the beer.
As far as I am concerned this is as good a reason as any to travel. Sure, there are a lot of other amazing and wonderful reasons to visit Portland: There are the many breathtaking hikes (both breathtaking because of their beauty and because they are damn hard).There is the shopping (no sales tax!), in particular the always worthwhile Saturday Market. There is the obligatory visit to Voodoo Donuts and the coffee shops as far as the eye can see. And there is Powell Books, my own personal heaven and quite possibly the coolest book store in North America.
But for us this visit was all about the beer.
Portland, or “Beervana” as it is sometimes called, with its nearly 60 breweries boasts more breweries than any other city on earth and is huge on the craft beer scene. You’d be hard pressed to find a true craft beer connoisseur that hasn’t tried at least one Portland brew (and if they haven’t I would question their authenticity as a beer lover).
We sadly did not have an opportunity to sample any of the unique touring options such as the Bicycle Brewery Tours or even the Brew and View theatre, but I am still thrilled with the breweries we did visit. During our two day jaunt we sampled 6 different locations which felt like a small (and delicious) victory.
First we randomly stopped at the Rock Bottom Brewery while looking for a place to eat dinner. While both the beer and food were good we had gone in expecting a unique brew pub for our first Portland dining experience rather than a chain restaurant and it wound up being a bit of a disappointment. If you’ve ever been to a brew pub you know that you form ideas in your head about what they should feel like and you truly come to expect a certain atmosphere even if you don’t know it. Rock Bottom Brewery didn’t fit my expectations of “Beervana”.
Next up it was Deschutes. I loved the beer at Deschutes! Heck, I loved the atmosphere at Deschutes with its long wooden tables, its high ceilings, the eclectic art on the walls and the friendly staff. It was a cool spot, very happening on a Friday night and the busyness somehow made it more appealing as we experienced the much coveted realization that you have stumbled upon something popular.
After Deschutes we called it a night as we were planning for an early start the next day. We had a few rough goals in mind for our Saturday in Portland but mostly we just didn’t want to waste a moment of our short adventure.
The next morning we ventured into downtown where we took a brief detour to a homeless shelter and accidentally lined up for free winter coats thinking we had found the famed Saturday Market. Luckily we realized the mistake before offending too many people. With that awkwardness over we each spent far too much time in line for coffee (Kevin) and donuts (me) before meeting up again to enjoy our role as tourists.
Not wanting to start drinking before at least noon we checked out the shopping and I found myself delightfully lost in Powell’s Books. It was everything I had dreamed about and I could happily spend days there browsing the shelves and breathing in the aroma of new and used books.
Alas, we had beer to try so I reluctantly pulled myself from between the shelves and we made our way to the next stop on our list.
We visited Rogue Brewery and it very quickly became my second favourite stop. We had heard about the brewery from a friend and were very happy we did. From the uniqueness of their “Beard Beer” (beer made using yeast from the brew master’s beard) to the joy of sampling both a free taster and our own handpicked flight of beers it was a great experience.
Next it was a jaunt to a McMenamins location which happens to be one of many unique restaurants located throughout Oregan. We wound up sitting upstairs alone with our taster trays and plotting our next stop while a group partied below us. It was very mellow.
After McMenamins we made our way to Old Town Brewing, home of Portland’s best pizza! We had dinner and fell in love with some new beers all the while enjoying the cozy brick walls with the candlelit mood lighting. The restaurant was filled with boisterous mini-crowds and I settled in to an hour of people watching while making my way through my flight.
Our final stop for both the night and the trip was PINTS Brewing which also happened to be my favourite stop. The flights came in a brilliant wooden carry case and snifters which thrilled us both. Their beers were amazing and there wasn’t a single taster I had that I didn’t love. I still carry a list of their best in my wallet in hopes that I will find them at my local liquor store one day. A girl can dream!
Sadly after PINTS it was time to head back to the hotel, our whirlwind weekend over in a flash.
We came to Portland for the beer but we found so much more than that. From the random yet sophisticated live music performances on street corners to the hip atmosphere of the crowds, Portland was everything I ever imagined it to be.
And I can’t wait to go back.