Portland Beer Adventure – Part 1
So we made it to Portland, Oregon, pretty much the craft beer and microbrewery capital of the United States. There’s tons of breweries here, and we only have two days in town, so we’re trying to make the most of it. The first five minutes in town and you can already feel that it’s a city with a great atmosphere. One day in town and this is all confirmed.
It was about a 25 hour journey to get here from Melbourne, Australia, and well worth it! There was a plane from Melbourne to Los Angeles, through customs, and then a long wait for our connecting flight to Portland which was pretty short by comparison. After this long journey, we got to our hotel in downtown Portland and only had an hour to spare before a scheduled beer tour.
Jet lag? What jet lag? The key is to just not stop. Sure, we were a bit tired, but running on the excitement of being in a new city, and a city full of beer, kept us going.
The Tour – PDX Pedicab
We took the Portland Brewery Tour through PDX Pedicabs. It was well worth it and a great way to quickly get to know the city as a tourist with a limited amount of time.
Our driver, Joe, was amazing. He’s a Portland local so he knew a fair amount of history and had all sorts of recommendations for both the tour as well as for Portland as a whole. Joe was very quick to tell us that it was our tour and we were in charge; whatever we wanted, Joe was more than happy to help.
The tour was scheduled to be about two and a half hours long and we were told we would be able to hit about 3-4 brewpubs, depending on how much we decided to linger at each venue. The tours are completely personalised, it was just the two of us, so if we wanted to sprint through as many beers as possible, we could do that, if we wanted to take our time, we could do that too.
Joe had a few places in mind, but as the afternoon progressed, you could tell he was picking up on what we liked, in both beer as well as a general tour vibe. It was great. As a tour guide, Joe really knew the city of gladly took a few detours here and there so we could see the sites a bit.
Stop 1 – Rogue
This is the best first stop for beer in Portland.
Rogue is one of the better known Portland microbreweries with a great selection and world wide distribution. A lot of their beers are only available on tap behind the bar, so it’s great to visit and try all the things you can’t get anywhere else.
This place felt like a bit of a Portland institution. It was packed when we got there and it just generally had a very good atmosphere.
The bar staff were lively and happy. They’re very used to serving locals as well as tourists so very much knew what the deal was for all sorts of clients. Since it was going to be a long day (and we were pretty jet lagged), we kept the tasting down to one paddle of four beers each: they were all amazing.
The weird highlight at Rogue is that the restrooms are marked as “Hops” and “Barley,” with no hint as to which is which. Thankfully there was a group of drunk college students sitting near by encouraging people to go into the wrong one, and, while they thought they were being clever, it was easy to see through their cunning rouse and the right bathroom was found!
Then we were back in the pedicab and on to the next stop!
Stop 2 – Lucky Labrador
This was a great choice by Joe as it’s a beer not readily available in Australia, so it was good to see something different.
On the way, our tour guide told us a little bit about the brew scene and the the different areas of Portland. Lucky Lab was in a slightly more industrial area, but an area that looked to be becoming a little more gentrified.
Compared to Rogue, Lucky Labrador felt a little quieter, but it was a much bigger venue and not in a busy part of town. Unlike the bar feel at Rogue, Lucky Lab had more of a beer hall feel.
Once again, the beer was great, but of a different style to Rogue. The tasting paddle was very generous with six beers per paddle in what appeared to be about half a pot of beer per taste. One between two worked well here as it was a fair amount of beer.
There was a good selection of about 15-20 beers on tap, so the selection of six beers allowed us to get a good cross section of Lucky Lab’s style. The highlight was the ESB, but that’s a little bit biased. Not enough breweries are doing a proper ESB nowadays so finding a good one is always exciting.
On the way to Luck Lab the pedicab’s bike was making a few funny sounds, so Joe let us start tasting while he took a look. He told us the bike are serviced near daily, but they are still machines after all… it’s best to nip even a small concern in the bud right away.
We finished the paddle and hopped back in the pedicab (all fixed!) for the scenic route to our last stop!
Stop 3 – Pints
This was the perfect last stop. Pints is very much a local’s brewpub that would best be described as a nanobrewery rather than a microbrewery. There was a good selection of beers, but it’s apparent that they don’t make a lot of it! What they do make though, they make it well!
We got chatting with a local here and, with the help of our tour guide Joe, we were given even more information on the Portland beer scene. Before we knew it, we had a laundry list of further breweries to check out as well as advice for our upcoming drive to Seattle.
We originally planned to have four tastes but the beer was so good it turned into a fifth when our new local friend suggested the Centennial Single Hop IPA. Since Joe was riding all day, he had abstained from drinking with us, but, since it was the last stop, he joined us in the final tasting.
By the time we finished, what was supposed to be a two and a half hour tour turned into a tour that was pushing four hours! We were all having too much fun together and it was good to make a new friend.
And back to the hotel…
Well, Joe dropped us off at a great restaurant, we ate and then went back to the hotel for some much deserved rest.
The old brewery blocks area of Portland has a great night scene and the meal was good too. The brewery blocks are in the Pearl District which appears to be where most of the nightlife is. Walking through the Pearl at night is great as there’s lots going on. Our hotel was just outside of the Pearl District, in the Downtown District.
Crossing from the Pearl into Downtown, there’s a big difference in what’s going on! It becomes a lot quieter Downtown, which is only to be expected as it’s more of a business district. However, the two areas are right next to each other and it’s a very walkable city.
One more day in Portland then off to Seattle!
Part two of this adventure here.
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