Story and Photos By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
It was at the corner of West Burnside and NW 12th in Portland that the Blitz-Weinhard brewery, starting in 1864, turned grain and hops into liquid gold.
But slowly Portland turned into Portlandia and the West’s oldest, continuously operating brewery was forced to shutter its doors in 1999, making room for trendy boutiques, independent theaters and hipster bars. What would the famously uncomplicated Henry Weinhard think?
Thankfully a number of industrious Oregonians took up Weinhard’s mantle and helped create a city that has the largest number of breweries per capita in the U.S. and has become a tourist destination for many beer lovers.
But where to start? Well why not in the same Northwest neighborhood — known as the Pearl District — that the Weinhard brewery called home. Within walking distance there are five great microbreweries, including big names like Rogue and Deschutes and smaller breweries like Lucky Labrador and Lompoc.
If you’d rather not walk and driving is out — pub crawls tend to do that — there’s Brewcycle Portland. Get at least eight friends together, or join another group, hop on the Brewcycle, basically a mobile bar with stools and pedals and get going. Brew-cyclists pedal as hard as they can — or not — to get to each of the three breweries on the tour. Once at the brewery, sit back, order up a cold pint and enjoy. Then it’s back on the bike.
“A lot of people get on and want to peddle hard because the faster you get to the brewery the more beer you get to drink,” said Brewcycle Portland’s Elliot Ford, who was waiting outside Lompoc Brewery while his charges were inside during a recent tour. “Others want to just go slow and enjoy the ride.”
Lompoc Tavern on NW 23rd Avenue is a great place to start a tour of Portland beer in the Pearl. Here’s a look at the five breweries to hit, including when to go and what to drink:
Where: 1620 NW 23rd. Ave.
Grab a seat at the renovated bar at Lompoc Tavern and order up a pint. Lompoc Tavern is part of the Lompoc Brewery family, which started brewing beer under the name Old Lompoc Brewery in 1996, only to be reopened in 2000 under the name The New Old Lompoc. The space on 23rd was recently renovated and has a new look and feel.
When to go: Miser Mondays offer $2.50 Lompoc pints all day.
What to drink: LSD, or Lompoc Special Draft, is a dark ale with notes of chocolate and licorice.
Where: 1945 NW Quimby St.
Take a stroll east on Raleigh for three blocks, turn south for a block to Quimby and look for the sign with a dog on it — a black labrador to be specific. Survey the dog artwork and metal-sculpted taphandles before ordering a pint, then go out to the beer garden outside — obviously dog friendly — and grab a seat at one of the picnic tables. Sit back. Drink. Repeat.
When to go: Dogtoberfest in the fall. On their anniversary, Lucky Lab holds a free dog wash to raise money for the emergency animal hospital DoveLewis.
What to drink: Dark amber in color, Crazy Ludwig’s Alt is a dry hopped alt-style ale that is perfectly balanced.
Where: 1313 NW Marshall St.
Head south to Marshall and then four blocks to 13th and you’ll stumble upon the Bridgeport Brew Pub, which is a bit of a misnomer. With sockeye salmon and artisan salads, this isn’t the usual pub fare. Order up some fresh-baked pretzels and grab a seat on the deck outside — unless it’s raining.
When to go: A sunny weekday between 4 and 6 p.m. is happy hour. Enjoy 20-ounce pints for $3.50 on the deck.
What to drink: Bridgeport does many things, but nothing as well as India Pale Ale. Floral and citrusy, it’s a picture — or pitcher — of consistency.
Where: 1339 NW Flanders
Turn left on 13th, walk seven blocks and keep an eye out for the picnic tables. Rogue has 38 beers on tap, many of them limited releases that you won’t find anywhere else. Also there’s plenty of food to choose from, including pizza, Kobe beef burgers and haute dogs. Also while you’re sipping some beer take a distillery tour.
When to go: Go on a weekday between 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and enjoy a Hoppy Meal.
What to drink: Rogue Ales prides itself on using organic, homegrown ingredients and no beer showcases that better than the Rogue Farms Single Malt Ale. A blonde ale with a deep golden color with a dense creamy head.
Where: 210 NW 11th Ave.
By this point in your crawl you may actually be crawling so thankfully this is the shortest route, with Deschutes just a few blocks east to 11th and south to Davis. This Bend brewery’s Portland pub house is a sprawling shrine to one of Oregon’s best beer producers. Try an experimental beer on tap or, if you’re lucky, The Abyss on nitro. The food is great as well and if it’s nice they’ll open up the garage doors and you can sit in the sun. They also have an extensive gluten-free menu and usually a tap dedicated to a GF beer.
When to go: Early evening. Grab a seat in the busy bar area, survey the 19 taps and catch a Timbers game on one of the TVs.
What to drink: As mentioned above, The Abyss, a dark imperial stout, on nitro is a can’t-miss.