There’s too bloody much to do in Portland. You might know this. If not…dude. Every district has a dozen little neighbourhoods, all of which are self-contained with every kind of restaurant imaginable, countless bars, excellent coffee shops, strip joints and, yes, of course, breweries.
Which is why, if you’re only in town for two or three nights, it’s important to hunker down in one area and explore everything it has to offer. You’ll waste your time gallivanting across the city in an effort to “see it all” –it’ll prevent you from stumbling upon the nooks and crannies that make this city so rewarding to visit.
South East Portland is where to stay if you’re in town for beer tourism. It’s the unofficial beer district of the city, with 15 breweries and brewpubs, and a staggering amount of beer bars and bottle shops. Here’s what you should do here, assuming you have three nights in town.
You’ll probably be arriving later in the afternoon, having spent the day fighting traffic at the border, then Seattle, then Tacoma (ugh), then Olympia. I recommend checking in to your hotel* and just taking it easy.
By “taking it easy,” I mean stumbling around the immediate vicinity of your hotel and getting faced at the nearest establishment. Anything you find in this neighbourhood will be guaranteed weirder and more appealing than anything you’ve ever visited in or around Vancouver.
Whenever you wake up – eat a relatively healthy breakfast. Drink coffee. Rent bikes, in order to get the most out of this day. Don’t bother walking – this trip will take way too long.
Noon // Hopworks Urban Brewery
HUB is a very popular organic brewery. They do set tasting flights of 10 or 15, so there’s no mixing-and-matching, which is fine. Most of the beers are worth tasting. The menu is stacked with both healthy (salads) and non-healthy (pizza, burgers) food options, with locally sourced ingredients. It’s worth putting some greens in your belly, just to get the nutrients necessary for the thrashing you’re about to put it through.
2 pm // Gigantic Brewing Co.
Located in the industrial boonies, but definitely worth the visit. It’s sort of a spiritual sibling to Vancouver’s Parallel 49, with its bat-shit marketing, zany beer labels and emphasis on quality experimentation. Like most Portland breweries, there’s ample patio space, and the whole vibe is arty without being pretentious.
4 pm // The Beer Mongers
This is one of the most impressive bottle shops you’ll stumble upon. Two entire walls are lined with refrigerators with thousands of bottles of beer from all over the world. Buy a few and drink them right there. If you prefer fresh beer, there are 10 taps featuring brews from across Oregon. The space is a bit grungy, but supremely relaxed and full of people that care deeply about beer. You will meet good people here.
5:45 pm // Get Food *
7:30 pm // FREE TIME
We recommend that you a) visit any of the nearby breweries or beer bars, to soak up the culture. Dig A Pony is good fun. The Morrison Hotel looks exactly like you’d imagine; or b) head back to the hotel, completely exhausted, with a pint of locally made ice cream to watch The Notebook and Superbad on TV in succession before passing out (recommended only for people travelling solo or with a romantic partner).
Take a cab to the Pearl District, specifically to visit Powell’s Books, get overwhelmed by the selection and then purchase something that’ll sit unread on your bookshelf indefinitely. Visit Deschutes Brewery and Public House down the block if you simply must get your beer fix in.
Noon // The Commons Brewery
Arguably the finest brewery in Portland (depending on your taste, we suppose), this European beer-style establishment has just moved to its new location. It’s greatly expanded, with minimalist décor and a restaurant, of sorts, that specializes in cheese and meat platters. This is highbrow beer-mongering at its best.
1:30 pm // Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Highly recommended for those who love sour beers or just want to see what all the fuss is about. Take it easy though – some of these barrel-aged beers are huge, and tart enough to burn the top layer of skin off your tongue. You will likely wreck your palate.
3 pm // Base Camp Brewing
This is a weird sort of outlier in the beer industry, with its outdoors/mountaineer theme. Beer and exercise? OK. The beer is standard Pacific Northwest fare, and something of a letdown considering the variety available throughout the rest of the city. Still, the tasting room has one of friendliest social environments you’ll find in the city.
5 pm // Eat Again!
Then do whatever you want. We hear Sassy’s is fun…
* Where to Eat
The Farm Cafe: A farm-to-table restaurant and a wait staff straight out of a Portlandia episode.
The Noble Rot: Great name with great food and a stellar view of the city.
Porque No?: Absolutely worth the cab ride with far superior Mexican to what you’ll find back home.
Sizzle Pie: Excellent pizza-by-the-slice, with fresh beer on tap. It’s open into the wee hours, which means you can stuff your grumbling, beer-filled belly with its greasy deliciousness at any point.