Portland is beer heaven, there's no denying it. In a city with over half a million people, there are 65 independent microbreweries in the metro area, with 96 total in the city limits. Portland is the largest craft beer market in the U.S., both by dollars and shares, and the unofficial beer capital of the US. In essence, Portland is a beer-lover’s paradise. Every beer in this city is unique, and each brewery has a story. The brew scene is open and inviting, there’s no snobbiness or cut-throat competition - breweries often work together in helping with recipes, and they are delighted to share their beer and knowledge with the public.
They’ll open their doors proudly for visitors, and are eager to regale you with facts, tours and stories of all the hard work that went into the deliciousness that fills your pint glass. So if you’re a casual beer drinker, a connoisseur, or even someone who doesn’t know what the hell ‘IPA’ stands for, the craft brewery experience has a flavor for everyone and is a quintessential part of your Portland experience. It might be hard to know where to start. This is where VIVA is here to help - we've listed Portland’s marquee breweries for you. In order, as if you were touring on a circuit. Most breweries specialize in a particular style - e.g. Cascade focuses on sours, Commons with Euro-style ales, etc. - so you can hit what you love, or just try to visit as many as possible. Just promise us you won’t do it all in one night. And at last - here’s your guide to the ultimate craft brewing experience in Portland:
2204 NE Alberta St #101
Great Notion opened in early 2016, and within months their demand increased so much that they ran out of their entire back-stock of IPAs. To curb this, they’ve placed a limit on their beers to go. It’s that good. Though they focus on IPAs (New England-style, specifically), it’s their stouts selection that gets me buzzed (literally) - locally-roasted coffee beans, Vermont maple syrup, Vanilla, licorice…these are the stout ingredients that turn Great Notion into a winter wonderland for beer-drinking.
832 N Beech St
Stormbreaker has one of the best patios in Portland, an open-air spot located at the foot of Mississippi Avenue, one of the city’s most happenin’ blocks. This is a great spot to catch the buzz of the street while sipping delicious beers. The Mississippi Red and Cloud Ripper IPA are what keeps people coming back. The Red has hints of an IPA, but has a very smooth finish.
825 N Cook St
Ecliptic is founded by craft brew legend John Harris (the brains behind some of Oregon’s most popular beers), and this bar is a combination of the two things he loves most - beer and outer space. Their beer list rotates every six weeks, as based on the seasonal changes during Earth’s yearly path around the sun, and it’s a damn good rotation. Their flagship beers are the Spica Pilsner and the Orbiter IPA, while their Capella Porter has won some of beer’s most prestigious awards and is considered one of the best porters in the world.
929 N Russell St
Behold the kings of craft brewing. The Widmer brothers started this brewery 30 years ago, using tanks they built from junkyard remnants of an old nuclear power plant. Now they’re the largest producer in all of Oregon, and they’ve gotten so big that some don’t consider it a craft brewery anymore. Regardless of size, they continue to make experimental beers and are a key player in craft brewing. Their Hefeweizen is legendary (many credit them with having popularized it in America), and now a household name across the US, so it’s a must-order when you visit.
2326 N Flint Ave
“Drink Beer and Do Good” is the motto here, and Ex Novo does their part - they are the first non-profit brewery in the world, and 100% of the profits are donated to charities. So your hangover will feel better, knowing your drinking made a positive impact on the world. Now, that said, the beers here are top notch. They pay homage to Portland with locally-named beers like ‘Eliot IPA’ (local Portland neighborhood) and ‘Damon Stoutamire’ (get it?). They also have creative recipes such as ‘The Most Interesting Lager in the World’ - a Mexican lager with Vienna malts, flaked corn and a lime wedge.
240 N Broadway #2
The coolest of the cool. Why is it so cool? To get there, you must enter through an office building, take an elevator into the basement, then follow the smell of hops through the winding hallways. When you see the beer tanks, you’ll know you’ve made it. This is Portland’s most intimate beer experience - you are drinking in the actual brewhouse, as opposed to a separate tasting room. They pour mostly Belgian/French farmhouse ales, which are perfect in the summer. Pro tips - (1) this is cash-only; and (2) this is one of the best spots for pre-drinking before Trail Blazer games. It’s a 5-minute walk to the Moda Center, and on game nights you’ll get to talk of Trail Blazer glory days with some of the team’s most devout fans. Get there early to get a seat, or stand with the rest.
1318 NW Northrup St
Ah, the place where it all began - Bridgeport is Portland’s first craft brewery and, 30+ years later, they’re still pumping out some of the city’s finest ales. This place paved the way for what Portland’s beer scene is today. Each beer has their own character, but the Old Knucklehead Barleywine is a staple for them and the regulars. The building is industrial (it was originally a rope factory), with a clean, modern feel on the inside. It’s one of the few breweries in the Pearl District, one of Portland’s most walkable neighborhoods.
210 NW 21st Ave
Make no doubt about it - if you’re wanting an Irish bar that delivers on Irish beer, then Kells is the place to be. Their more popular and raucous pub is downtown, while the beer is made in the more comfortable Northwest location. A cozy set-up with stained glass windows, iron chandeliers and oak finishes, this feels like a slice of Dublin fitted comfortably within Northwest Portland. They keep it simple with the beers - they have four mainstays: the Irish Red Ale, Irish Pale Ale, Irish Lager and Irish Stout, and they offer seasonal beers as well.
701 E Burnside St
Alert - Burnside Brewing has an actual food menu. Instead of again choosing between pretzels, nachos and hummus, you now have options like friend cauliflower, salt-roasted fingerlings and grilled octopus. The beer recipes are creative as well, and the list was curated to pair well with the food offerings. If you are looking for a dinner place along your pub crawl, Burnside Brewing is the ideal place to go.
2828 NE Glisan St
Welcome to the neighborhood pub. Migration was started by five friends who strapped the cash together to start their own brewery, and they’re forever thankful for it. There’s a strong communal feel here - plenty of regulars and a friendly, inclusive vibe. Their intention was to create beers for “newbies and hopheads alike”, and they followed through - their Migration Pale Ale is the perfect balance of hops and smoothness.
2705 SE Ankeny St
What Coalition lacks in glitz and grandeur, they deliver in service and drinkability. This is a small, no frills production house, easy to miss if you’re driving by, but they have a rock-solid lineup - their Space Fruit IPA and King Kitty Red are the top-sellers, and have a near-100% approval rating with their customers. Oh, and they have cornhole. Ten bonus points.
930 SE Oak St
Base Camp boasts some mighty fine beers, but it’s the atmosphere that makes it a must visit. This outdoor-themed brewpub is for outdoor lovers. Inside feels like you’re drinking in the lodge just off the mountain, and outside is one of the best patios in the city. They have the perfect beer for each season as well. Their Lost Meridian Wit just won a medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the American-Style Wheat Beer category, and is an ideal summer beer. For the colder nights, you’ll want the S’More Stout - a rich stout with chocolate aroma and a toasted marshmallow on top. Good for drinking as well as dessert.
939 SE Belmont St
Sour beers were mostly an old-world, European-style beer, rare to North America and Portland especially. Enter Cascade Brewery , a family-owned brewery who is boldly bringing sour back to America. Dubbed ‘The House of Sour’, Cascade has 38 beers on tap, making it as good a place as any for the sour beer experience. Their beers are barrel-aged and take almost a year to produce, and it’s worth the wait - the Honey Ginger Lime knocked my socks off.
630 SE Belmont St
Commons' motto is ‘Gather Around Beer’, and their intention is to create beers that enhance good conversation, not dominate. They design sessionable beers, i.e. ones with moderate alcohol volume that are easy on the palate, which means you can drink a few without getting dizzy. Their space reflects this - we put three stools around an upturned wheelbarrow and sat for hours.
61 SE Yamhill St
Hair of the Dog was founded by Alan Sprints, who’s known in the brewing community for making high alcohol beers (their beer “Dave” has 29% alcohol by volume (ABV), was aged for 19 years and sold for $2,000/bottle). The best examples here are his barleywines and old ales. Hair of the Dog will put some hair on your chest - over half of their beers are over 10% ABV, as opposed to the usual 5-7% most breweries offer. So beware - you don’t need much here to be tipsy.
1945 NW Quimby St
Before all dogs go to heaven, they make a stop at the Lucky Labrador . Dog-friendly, dog-themed, and dog-run (just kidding), they have a strong beer lineup, most notable being the Super Dog IPA and Black Lab Stout. Their patio is equipped with board games, typically filled with canines and is completely covered for rainy days.
2235 SE 11th Ave
Baerlic is the perfect place for a night of low-key, easy-going drinking. It’s nestled in one of Portland’s most beautiful neighborhoods, never too crowded, and has a rustic and modern design that’s comfortable and inviting. You will come in with the intention of having a quick beer and end up drinking and chatting throughout the night. Their Primeval NW Brown Ale is a standout for brown ales, and their cream ales are as smooth as they come. The staff will tell you everything you need to know about the beers, and even give on-the- spot tours if they aren’t too busy. If you do close the bar down, head next door to Blitz Ladd for some of the best bar games in the city (foosball, shuffleboard, darts, etc).
All this craft beer makes Portland the ideal place for a guys weekend. Do it right with this guide.