The Great Portland Brewery Tour

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I am awe-struck by the beers at Widmer Brewery
Awe-struck by the first beers of my Portland brewery tour

It’s a little known fact but Portland, Oregon has more microbreweries per head than any other city in the world. There are 30 microbreweries in the fair city of Portland and a total of 46 microbrew outlets in the city.

If you are a beer lover (and why wouldn’t you be!?) – a visit to Portland should be at the very top of your list of things to do while you’re in the United States. That’s right kids, I’m proposing a Portland brewery tour.

Don’t let the American predilection for Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon fool you – the Americans, particularly those of the fair state of Oregon, know how to make a damn fine beer.

Picking a Tour

 

With so many microbreweries and so many companies offering to take you on a tour of the city, it’s not easy to choose one. A quick Google for a Portland brewery tour brings up a few options – but the cheapest of these comes in at $45. Why pay money for something you can do on your own?

The tour I list below includes five of Portland’s breweries all within a fairly pleasant walking distance of one another. The walk has the benefit of letting you get in a bit of exercise between beers and also has the added bonus of letting you sober up a little bit between sampling platters.

And trust me, in between five breweries you’ll be drinking plenty of beer. Unless you want to be carried home – that walk will prove a lifesaver.

And it gives you a good chance to see more of the beautiful city.

The Great Portland Brewery Tour

The tour I’m about to described, designed by my ex-girlfriend and still good friend, Fallon – includes five breweries and covers a total of about 3.5 miles in walking. That might sound like a lot, but remember that you’ll be stopping for beer and food pretty regularly.

The original Portland brewery tour included the sinfully good Laurelwood Hotel, but they seem to have closed the venue we visited. It’s a shame too – they made amazing carrot cake and some pretty damn good beers too.

The Laurelwood menu
Alas poor Laurelwood. I knew him well!

But I’ve consulted the Portland locals and been told that the Bridgeport Brew Pub would be a worthy addition to the tour. It slots in nicely at stop #3 to ensure a smooth day of hops related shenanigans.

The five breweries included are:

That’s five of the Pacific North West best breweries and a scenic walk through the beautiful city of Portland for the hefty fee of zero dollars. Well, aside from beer and a ticket on the Max to get you to destination #1.

Stop #1 – Widmer Brothers Brewery

A Word of Warning: Windmer Brothers is popular! If you don’t want to wait for a table – call ahead and make a booking.

Widmer Brothers Brewery is located at 929 North Russell Road, which places it right on the yellow line of Portland’s fantastix MAX service. There are also some pretty detailed instructions for walkers and riders here underneath directions. We start our Portland brewery tour here.

Widmer Brothers have the distinction of brewing the single best hefeweizen (wheat beer) I’ve ever had the pleasure of sampling. It was the first beer I sampled upon arriving in the United States and the one I still lament the absence of in my life two years on.

Enjoying my first ever Widmer Hefeweizen at the White House in Post Falls.
Enjoying my first ever Widmer Hefeweizen at the White House in Post Falls. Photo by Fallon Fehringer.

The Widmer Brothers Brew Pub has the benefit of being both a restaurant pub and the site where the beer is brewed. If you want to do a tour proper of the brewery – they run them at 3pm on Fridays and 11am & 12.30pm on Saturdays.

For the purposes of this tour, we’ll just assume you’re looking to try some fantastic beer and good food. We started our tour at around 11am and decided to make our late breakfast one accompanied by beer.

I am awe-struck by the beers at Widmer Brewery
Awe-struck by the first beers of my Portland brewery tour

My personal beer recommendations from the very impressive Widmer stable would be the aforementioned Hefeweizen, the Drop Top Amber, or the Drifter Pale Ale. There’s also a Pitch Black IPA if you’re a stout man, but I like my beers on the lighter side.

Prices start at $3.25 for a glass and stop at $14 for a pitcher. Go the $6.25 Weiss glass and treat yourself or just grab a sample paddle and see where your tastebuds take you.

My friend poses next to a stein almost as large as his head
Adam poses next to a stein that almost matches his head

The food at the attached Gasthaus is worth a look as well. With everything from fondue samplers to pretzels to pulled pork sandwiches to burgers and desserts, you really do feel a little spoiled for choice. I can personally vouch for the very good Reuben (complete with sauerkraut) while my friends all raved about their burgers.

A delicious Reuben sandwich at the Widmer Brewery
My first Reuben experience was transcendent

Unlike most Australian brew pubs, where eating seems like an exorbitant affair, the food is all reasonably priced. The $10 Reuben was criminally filling.

Full of beer and delicious food, it’s time to make our way to brewery numero dos.

Stop #2 – The Lucky Lab Beer Hall

With a real Germanic feel to it, the Lucky Lab Beer Hall is a hall in the traditional sense of the world. There’s no isolated booths or darkened corners for would-be canoodlers here. Instead tables and benches fill the vast hall in a scene reminiscent of medieval banquets.

Machinery hanging ominously overhead at the Lucky Lab

Once again the beer is fabulous and the food is on a par. The Lucky Lab, rather than having a formal restaurant setting like the other bars on this tour, instead boasts a menu of pizza that can be bought whole or by the slice. The beer on hand didn’t (in my mind) really match up to some of the other breweries on the list – but still hit the spot.

Enjoying beers at the Lucky Lab
Cody & Desiree enjoying their beers at the Lucky Lab

The best beers I tried included the Dogfather and the Organic Golden Ale. Sample paddles are available for those wanting to try a selection.

Sharing a Lucky Lab sampler
Sample paddles may be the greatest invention ever

If not for the beer and pizza, visit the Lucky Lab Beer Hall just for the atmosphere. Even quiet as it was on the afternoon we visited, the acoustics of the place mean that even a small group of slightly rowdy drinkers will make the place feel full. And the staff were lovely.

Stop #3 – Bridgeport Brew Pub

Good friends and good beer
Enjoying good times and good beers with Caitlin, Fallon, and Stephen

A brewery that is fast gaining credence both in the United States and around the world (its beers have been winning awards in Australia and Germany to name a few) – the Bridgeport Brew Pub takes the place of the Laurelwood on our tour list.

Located inside of a heritage building with plenty of the rich historic charm that exists in Portland, the Bridgeport Brew Pub is a pleasant stopping off point and a nice change of pace after the larger Lucky Lab.

Like the other breweries to feature on our Portland brewery tour, the Bridgeport boasts a menu of delicious food as well as a selection of top quality beers.

The highlights of the beer menu include the multi award-winning India Pale Ale and the exotic Summer Squeeze.

Stop #4 – Rogue Distillery and Public House

Much like McMenimans above, Rogue Breweries have become something of a PNW icon – with breweries and bars scattered across the map in places such as Ashland and Newport as well as Portland.

More than anything about the Rogue Distillery and Public House, its the vibe and design of the place that stands out. With the open design of a good old Aussie pub and plenty of out of the way tables – it was easy to find a quiet spot to drink and chat even on a busy Friday afternoon.

Highlights of the menu include the Idaho Fries, the Spruce Gin Oyster Shooters, and the jaw dropping selection of sandwiches and burgers. There’s even Kobe beef on the menu! Re-reading the selection makes me wish I hadn’t been so full by the time we rocked up to the Rogue Brewery actually…

A paddle of fantastic Rogue beers
A paddle of fantastic Rogue beers

The list of beers available is pretty exhaustive as well. Rogue Breweries make almost 50 unique beers – and the selection at the Distillery and Public House changes pretty often. Spoiled for choice – my party of three opted for three tasting paddles just so we could cover as much as possible.

Standouts included the Dead Guy Ale, the Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale, Shakespeare’s Oatmeal Stout, and the oddly named Menage a Frog Ale.

Rogue beers are world renowned for their quality, and can even be found right here in Sydney at the Pumphouse.

Stop #5 – Deschutes Portland Brew Pub

By this point in the day the legs are probably feeling a little sore and your head should be spinning just a little. You’ve tackled four of the five breweries that comprise my Portland brewery tour.

Press on, brave traveler! The end is in sight!

The final stop on this particular tour of Portland’s breweries is the slightly fancier Deschutes Portland Public House. Even if you’ve been throwing down your beers like water and hitting a brisk pace, chances are the sun is setting by the time you’re at Deschutes – and this means contending with the dinner rush.

There’s a more formal feel to drinks and food at this particular bar and it’s a fitting end to a day of drinking and eating. The more sedate ambiance is a good way to wrap up your day.

Whether you’re throwing back a Black Butte Porter, a Twilight Summer Ale, or a light Cascade Ale – you’ll be doing it in comfortable surrounds. Still hungry? Like every other stop on this list – the pub offers up everything from salted peanuts to more formal fare such as a ribeye steak or the Obsidian Stout Mac & Cheese. It weighs in a little pricier than previous venues, but you’ve earned it!

Victory!

I let out a barbaric yawp at the Mud Festival
ALL YOUR BEER ARE BELONG TO US!

You’ve done it! You’ve drank a huge selection of fine beer, eaten entirely too much food, and walked off barely a third of the calories you’ve probably consumed. What does the rest of your night hold?

If you’re anything like I was – drunk – you’ll not be ready for your night to end just yet. And why should it? Portland isn’t just a city of good beer – it’s a city with one hell of a night life.

Play retro video games while sinking cheap beer at Ground Kontrol; see a drag show; rock some karaoke at one of the many regular bars; and finish the night off at the fantastic Voodoo Donuts.

The Budget

Our day of drinking featured five breweries (with food at four of them), liberal gaming at Ground Kontrol, a ride on the MAX, and a late night showing of Zombieland. We even finished the night with a few of Voodoo’s more unhealthy options. All told we spent no more than $150 between the two of us. Not a bad day out.

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