You know you’ve found a great beer town when even the strip clubs have a couple world-class IPAs on tap. That’s just how it goes in Portland. In the same way that New Yorkers can reliably find a Duane Reade on every other street corner, the people of PDX are overrun with breweries committed to turning the local bounty—like Willamette Valley hops and top-notch beer-making water—into an ever-changing lineup of super-fresh lagers and ales.
The city’s evolution as the so-called “Beervana” of the Pacific Northwest dates back to 1984, when trailblazers like Widmer Brothers Brewing and BridgePort Brewing first set up shop. Now, there are over 90 breweries in greater Portland—more than any other city in the world.
Of course, a PDX zip code and a wet-hop DIPA on the menu doesn’t guarantee that a brewery is good, and you’ve only got so much bladder space and beer money to spare. To help you navigate the endless tasting rooms and flights, here’s our hit list of Portland’s essential breweries.
Gigantic Brewing Company
Address and phone: 5224 SE 26th Ave (503-208-3416) Website: giganticbrewing.com
Portland is an IPA town at heart, and few places work as much magic with hops as Gigantic, led by beer-making vets Ben Love and Van Havig. While the flagship IPA is among the best in Portland, the more unusual IPL—a Northwest-style pilsner packed with a citrusy mix of Simcoe and Citra hops—offers a better sense of brewery’s range. The funky tap room is decorated with the famously outlandish label art that adorns bottles like the Catch 23 Experimental Pale Ale, which features a bear, a shark, and an eagle engaged in a three-way battle royale. It’s no-holds-barred—just like the beers.
The Commons Brewery
#commonsbrewey #portland A photo posted by @berzerklyn on
Address and phone: 630 SE Belmont St
The Commons recently moved to a larger, more comfortable space to accommodate its increased distribution, but it remains true to its farmhouse-inspired roots, turning out insta-classics like the floral Urban Farmhouse Ale and dry Flemish Kiss, as well as tasty experiments like the strawberry tea-infused Één-Drietje. If you’re a fan of funk, the tasting room, which offers a view of plenty of barrels used for aging, is a necessary respite from the hops onslaught.
Baerlic Brewing Co.
Address and phone: 2235 SE 11th Ave (503-477-9418) Website: baerlicbrewing.com
You’ve got to respect a place that takes its brown ale seriously. Baerlic’s version of the oft-overlooked style delivers all the biscuity malts and roasty, chocolaty notes you’d expect, with the welcome addition of a citrus burst from PNW hops. Belly up to the bar and choose a tasting flight from the colorfully painted menu; other must-try brews include the Eastside, a pilsner that gets its extra heft from the sacrilegious addition of raw oats, and the rotating cast of experimental beers like Doug E Fresh, a woodsy IPA aged on local Douglas Fir. Baerlic is one of Portland’s most talked about new breweries, and the hype is well-deserved.
September in Portland for the third year running. The best tradition. A photo posted by nachohunters (@nachohunters) on
Address and phone: 825 N Cook St (503-265-8002)
Ecliptic is coming up on its second anniversary, but its already developed a strong reputation in the crowded brewpub scene—no surprise, really, with Deschutes vet John Harris manning the kettles. There’s a lot to like here, but the standouts are the lagers, so be sure to spend some quality time with the hopped-up Helix and bright, unfiltered Spica Pilsner. The massive space can feel a bit impersonal, but the outdoor patio, with views across the river to downtown Portland, is exactly where you want to be at sunset.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Address and phone: 939 SE Belmont St (503-265-8603) Website: cascadebrewingbarrelhouse.com
Cascade is Portland’s mecca for sour aficionados, and its also the best possible antidote for the hops overload that comes with any PDX brewery crawl (besides not drinking, but let’s be real here). The 18 taps behind the bar dispense tart, barrel-aged flavor bombs like the Bing cherry-packed Kriek, apricot- and wild honey-infused Honeycot, and The Vine—a blend of wheat and blonde ales aged with white-wine grapes. For real sour geeks, the tasting room is also a great place to score vintage bottles.
Burnside Brewing Co.
Sound check is starting…It’s PARTY TIME!! #beeriversary #pdxnow #craftbeer #happybirthdaytous A photo posted by Burnside Brewing (@burnsidebrewco) on
Address and phone: 701 E Burnside St (503-946-8151)
Burnside gets props for having one of the better barrooms on brewery circuit, not to mention some serious chops in the kitchen. But it’s the stuff in the glass that really stands out—creative brewmaster Jason McAdam nails just about every style, so pick up one of the city’s most Instagrammable tasting flights and work through the offerings. The one must-try ale is the Sweet Heat, an expertly balanced apricot wheat ale that gets its blast of spice from Scotch Bonnet peppers. It’s a compelling rebuke to anyone who thinks fruit beers and chile beers are unworthy of your time.
Address and phone: 240 N Broadway #2 (503-735-5337)
Tucked away in the basement of a multi-use building near the Moda Center, Upright Brewery is far from bucolic. Yet somehow it turns out some of the best farmhouse-style beers you’ll find anywhere in the U.S., crafted in open-fermentation vessels as Pacific Northwest odes to Belgian and French brewing traditions. The numbered saison series is reliably excellent, but don’t overlook some of the funkier experiments like the seasonal Special Herbs, a gin barrel-aged gruit infused with lemongrass, sweet and bitter orange peels, hyssop, and Sichuan peppercorns. Old basketball cards of Trailblazers give the tasting room a strong sense of place, even without windows.