One of the main reasons for choosing Portland for my winter escape this year was its abundance of craft beer. Many say Portland has the highest per capita concentration of craft breweries and beer bars in the USA – that was good enough for me to book my flights! Once I arrived in the city, I knew I would be dedicating at least a couple of afternoons to some beer tastings.
My first afternoon “crawl” started at Rogue. When you arrive here, they pour you a sample to welcome you. For me, it was their Chocolate Stout, which ended up being my favourite of the visit.
They have so many beers on tap it was difficult to make a selection of only four. I knew I’d be hitting two more breweries, so was trying to pace myself. My favourite of these was the 4 Hop IPA on the far left which was very full flavoured for a lower alcohol beer. By far one of the most intersting samples of my trip was their Beard Beer (second from the right) using wild yeast from the brewmaster’s beard. It was a touch sour with a hint of hipster.
A short walk away was my second stop – 10 Barrel Brewing. Their tasting flights featured a generous selection of ten of their beers. I really enjoyed a few of these – the Elevensies Pale Ale, the Yellow Sub IPA and the Grapefruit Tartlette Gose were right up there with my favourites from the whole trip. What I also loved was the pig skin snack – so light, crispy and salty.
After fifteen samples, I probably should have just headed back to my hotel room for a nap, but there was another brewery on my path back to my bed. I’m glad I stopped at Deschutes as three of the six selections were outstanding. The Red Chair NW Pale, Black Butte Porter and the River Ale were all first class. If I lived in Portland, there would always be a couple of bottles of River Ale in my refrigerator.
All that sampling made for a nice afternoon siesta, but not before I picked up three bottles for my hotel room mini fridge on the walk back to the hotel. I saved these for another day.
The next afternoon I vowed not to do any 10-sample tastings, and made sure to fill myself up with a delicious lunch at Pok Pok to get things started and lay down a solid base to soak up the alcohol. Planning a tasting crawl of a couple smaller breweries on this day, I started at The Commons Brewery.
Two of their beers really caught my attention. Second from the right, a Pumpernickel Rye Saison was a perfect beer for a winter day – spicy from the rye with a touch of caraway. The beer of theirs that blew my mind was the “Microbiere” (second from the left). It was only 2.8% alcohol but had so much flavour. I’ve been drawn to more lower alcohol beers, but had never had something this light on alcohol have so much flavour.
Keeping my second day of tastings to just two breweries, I popped in to Hair of the Dog. I enjoyed all of these beers, but nothing stood out to my tastebuds as outstanding here. However, two of these beers caught my eye for their name. Second from the left was a beer named “Greg” – I always wanted a beer named after me! Even better, on the far right was “Greg from the Stone” or fermented Greg.
And no trip to a beer city like Portland would be complete without finding a craft beer bar that feels like home. Bailey’s Taproom was laid back and had a great selection of beers from the city and elsewhere in Oregon. I had a couple of pints the following afternoon here while escaping the rain. The best of the two was “Amaterasu” by Culmination Brewery. It’s a witbier, and was pleasantly and surprisingly sour with the expected wheat finish.
Four days only let me scratch the surface of Portland’s beer scene (except at 10 Barrel – I tried just about everything they brew!). I really liked what I got to try and the craftsmanship of much of what I sampled was evident. The best news – there’s lots more for me to explore on a return visit someday.