Portland: Your Summer Beer Destination
I may be prejudiced, but the Portland area is shaping up to produce some of the best beers and brewers in the world. Our pubs are interesting and well managed. They often serve a wide-ranging selection of draft craft beers, accompanied by good food. Craft beer sells well in these parts, with sales in the 11-percent range (as compared to the national craft-beer market share of 3.4 percent sales), and those sales have grown at something like 10 percent in the last year. Moreover, mega-brewer sales here have fallen off at even higher ratios than the average national rate.
The best time to visit Portland is during the last week of July. That’s Oregon Beer Week, starting Saturday, July 22nd and culminating with the Oregon Brewers Festival, which is held Thursday, July 27th through Sunday, July 30th. These events will be held at Portland’s beautiful downtown waterfront park, located between the Burnside and Morrison Bridges on the Willamette River. Our town has some 26 (of Oregon’s 87) breweries and brewpubs inside its city limits—more than any other place on the planet.
This year will be the 19th running of the Oregon Brewers Festival, which was established in 1988 as the first exhibit of independent small brewers ever held (the city’s then-popular mega-brewer Blitz-Weinhard was not invited). Twenty-two of America’s smallest and finest craft brewers were on-hand to present 49 of their best efforts, to the delight of Portland beer lovers. The brewers represented a good percentage of the approximately 100 “micro” brewers that were active in the U.S. at that time. Nineteen of them remain today, as part of the 1400 currently in production.
The sponsors of that first festival were astounded when 10,000 people descended on Portland’s Waterfront Park to enjoy that first three-day gathering. Last year, some 53,000 beer enthusiasts swarmed over the park for four days, as part of Oregon Beer Week’s eight days of festivities. The 72 breweries invited included 12 of those original 22! (For more info on the Oregon Brewers Festival, visit www.oregonbrewfest.com.)
For visitors to Portland, the beer events are many and varied, and our fine public transportation system (free in downtown’s “Fareless Square”) allows one to wander about, avoiding the dreaded drinking-and-driving problems so common in our society. The 70-odd breweries (supplying one beer each) invited will suffice, but the reader may wish to expand his or her range, as we shall point out.
Oregon Brewers Festival Calendar: A Week to Remember
The following listings of events show that the Oregon Brewers Festival has something for everybody. (By the way, you can find two good maps of the area on the Internet. Visit www.guestontap.com. You might also try heading to http://placemapper.com/index, and clicking on Portland.)
Saturday, July 22nd. Sausage and Beer Tasting at Raccoon Lodge and Brewpub, 7424 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, afternoon and evening.
Monday, July 24th. My annual Beer and Cheese Tasting at Rogue Public House and Distillery, NW 14th and Flanders, from 6 to 8 pm.
Tuesday, July 25th. Waterfront Park, Oregon Blind Tasting and Test of 24 different local beers, to benefit the Oregon Commission for the Blind Foundation, from 5 to 9 pm ($40).
Wednesday, July 26th. Waterfront Park, Oregon Brewers Dinner. Come and meet Oregon’s finest brewers and sample some Oregon beers you won’t find at the festival. Reservations are required, so call the Oregon Brewers Guild: (503) 288-BREW (x. 2739). A location map is posted online at http://oregonbeer.org/mapport.html.
Thursday, July 27th. Oregon Brewers Festival. Admission is free, but you need a plastic mug ($4) and tokens ($1 = 4-ounce pour). From 4 to 9 pm.
Friday, July 28th. Hair of the Dog open house. From 2 to 6 pm. Friday and Saturday, July 28 & 29. From 12 to 9 pm.
Sunday, July 30th. Token and mug sales cease a half hour prior to closing each day. From 12 to 7 pm.
Public Transportation: Ticket to Ride
All of Oregon Beer Week’s festivities are readily reached by our fine public transportation system. Of course, some of the activities take place beyond the free zone, in transit-accessible areas: My Cheese and Beer Tasting at the Rogue Public House in Northwest Portland, for example. Here’s how you get there: Catch the No. 17 (“NW 21st Ave., St. Helens Road”) north of the Morrison Street Mall stop, on the Sixth Avenue Transit Mall, after which the bus turns west up one-way NW Glisan. You exit at NW 14th Ave., and go left (south) one block to Flanders St., and Rogue.
Don’t Miss the Hair of the Dog!
You can’t come to Portland without visiting the Hair of the Dog Brewery, which brews the beer “Fred.” On Friday (July 28th), brewmaster/owner Alan Sprints, will conduct an annual (free) tasting of his beers at the brewery, which is located at 4509 SE 23rd Street. Call the brewery at (503) 232-6585, or consult Alan’s website (www.hairofthedog.com) for directions on the No. 17: Take the Holgate bus, southbound. (Catch it at SW Fifth and Oak.)
Other Portland Places to Visit
There’s lots more going on in Portland during Festival week, and here are some breweries you might want to add to your itinerary. (Check your hotel’s concierge for bus specifics. All busses listed here are found on the Transit Mall: Sixth Avenue Northbound, or Fifth Avenue Southbound.)
During the week, Don Younger will hold his annual “On the Edge” Celebration of Oregon Beer at his Horse Brass and Rose and Raindrop pubs. The latter (at 532 SE Grand Avenue) is within walking distance: At the south end of Waterfront Park, walk across the Morrison Bridge to Grand Avenue. Then cross the street, turn left and walk two blocks on the right (east) side. The Horse Brass Pub (located at 4534 SE Belmont, and reachable at 503-232-2202) is also worth a visit: To get there you should take the No. 15 Belmont bus south (Fifth Avenue Transit Mall), going across the Morrison Bridge and out SE Belmont Street to 45th St.
To get over to the Lucky Labrador Pub Brewery you walk east across the Hawthorne Bridge (second bridge south), and on up Hawthorne to 9th Street on the left side. For Roots Organic Pub Brewery (1520 SE 7th Ave.), turn right (south) at 7th, and walk about half a block. If you feel lazy, take the No. 10: Harold bus south, and exit at 7th or 9th on Hawthorne.
Finally, it’s easy to get over to the Widmer Brewery and Gasthaus Restaurant, which is located at 929 N Russell (reach ‘em by phone at 503-281-3333). Just catch the MAX Yellow line at Oak Street stop north, go four stops to (Albina/Mississippi), walk north up that street to the light, then head left (west) down a block to the next light. The Gasthaus entrance is right there on the corner, with the brewery across the street.
We’ll see you in Portland this July!
Portland resident Fred Eckhardt loves free beer, but spends about $150 a year on “beer for organoleptic examination,” just for scientific purposes.