Portland is a city rife with roses, bicyclists, gourmet food trucks, and – beer. In fact, there are over 58 breweries in the city. The Pearl District, known for its art scene and lively pubs is also home to a very high concentration of micro-breweries that offer some excellent and unique brews.
The oldest Oregon craft brewery is BridgePort Brewing, which began in 1984, with the brewery’s classic Blue Heron. Winemaker founders Dick and Nancy Ponzi returned to wine, and Texas-based Gambrinus took the helm, crafting the then-revolutionary BridgePort IPA in 1996. Craft beer fans flocked to the brew, and Oregon is still in love with it – IPA’s represent upwards of a quarter of all beer sales. Australian Phil Sexton, a micro-brew pioneer, introduced the owners to IPA, which was envisioned as a niche beer, something different not something that would go on to win a gold medal for Classic English Style Pale Ale in 1997. Today, BridgePort Brewing is a must stop in the Pearl, and it even offers a private brewery tour. Conviction Pale Ale is one of the brewery’s current signature tastes, launched to celebrate the brewery’s 30th anniversary. It has a strong citrus note and is brewed using both pale and Munich malts, and sports an ABV of 5.21.
Today, BridgePort may be the oldest craft brewing outpost in the Pearl, but it’s not the only one. Rogue Distillery & Public House operates throughout Oregon, but it’s in the Pearl where the brewery has branched out into rum making, with the first rum distillery in the state located here and offering daily tours. Some of the more inventive beers on tap at Rogue include the Voodoo Doughnut, Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate Ale. All these flavors are evident in this heady, sweet brew, which includes the brewery’s signature Rogue Farms Rebel Hops, and two different malts. Suggested as a pairing with desserts, this beer could be dessert on its own.
Another quirky-but-awesome recipe is the Mocha Porter, a dark, heady beer that has its own chocolate note, but offering a more bittersweet melding of malt and hops. Weighing in on the IPA side, the brewery’s popular Yellow Snow IPA is as golden as its name suggests, with a hoppy medium body that makes good use of slightly spicy Amarillo hops. There’s a vast array of tasting choices at Rogue, and each one is delightfully unique. The brewery hews to one of it’s crafting mottos “To remember it is not simply a matter of profit but a highly personal work of art.” If tasters aren’t taken by one micro-brew artwork, they’re sure to find at least one they’ll want to experience again and again.
Also in the Pearl is McMennamin’s Crystal Hotel & Zeus Café. This spot is home to one of the twenty-four microbreweries the McMenamin brothers operate throughout Oregon and Washington. The McMenamins convert historic properties into hotels, concert venues, and theaters, as well as breweries. This particular outpost offers accommodations and dining for concert goers at the adjoining Crystal Ballroom, and houses the Crystal Brewery, where brews like Crystal IPA and Irish Stout hold forth. Hammerhead is a top selling pale ale, with a mellow mix of hops and malt that sports a caramel hue and ABV of 5.93%.
Terminator Stout is a dark and heady ale that touts its kiln-baked grains. Toasty, nutty, and redolent of both coffee and chocolate, it features black barley, Munich malt, and Nuggets hops. The ABV is 6.45%.
At Hopworks Urban Brewery and Hopworks BikeBar, there’s micro-brewing with a twist. Sustainability and eco-friendliness are the key notes, with the location being renewably powered. At the adjoining BikeBar, visitors can contribute to the building’s electricity by pedaling on stationary bikes. Meanwhile, this 20-barrel brewery crafts some fifteen different HUB organic beers, including the award-winning, crisp, Organic Hub Lager.
Beer lovers could easily spend days tasting their way through the Pearl, the perfectly named Portland district to find true beer gems.