Portland's best beers: seven top breweries and brewpubs
The city of Portland, Oregon, is awash in beer. With 56 breweries – more than any other city in the world – the City of Roses offers the chance to try a myriad of ales and lagers at the breweries where they were made. Because it’s unlikely you (or your liver) will be able to visit every single one, choose your destinations wisely in order to discover the city’s true range of breweries and beer styles.
Here are our recommendations for the Portland’s best breweries, the kind of hot spots where you can drink stellar IPAs, inky stouts or experimental brews made with ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns and fresh peaches. If you cap your brewery tour by making plans to relocate to Portland, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Commons Brewery
Rub elbows with fermentation tanks and chat with brewers in this casual, standing room-only tasting room (there is a bar, but no bar stools). The sipping area occupies a friendly corner of the brewery, where eight taps deliver mostly The Commons (commonsbrewery.com) beers, with a few guest taps on occasion. The brewery consistently delivers some of the city’s best beers, which range from the refreshing Urban Farmhouse Ale to the tart and funky Plum Bretta, which is fermented with local plums.
Newbie Ecliptic (eclipticbrewing.com) has already established a reputation for greatness. Local craft beer legend John Harris wanted his brewery to incorporate his love of astronomy, so the beer and food rotates according to the Old World calendar of solstices and equinoxes. Take the opportunity to try one of the seasonal beers paired with the burger, which comes topped with pancetta and gruyere. Otherwise don’t miss the year-round Spica Hefepils, an intriguing unfiltered ale or the perfectly dry Mintaka Stout.
Widmer Brothers Brewing
When brothers Rob and Kurt Widmer opened a commercial brewery in Portland over 30 years ago, they joined the ranks of some of the first craft brewers in the US. Today their business has grown; Widmer (widmerbrothers.com) makes more beer at a single location than any other brewery in the city. Located in an industrial zone on the east side, the Widmer pub is the best place to try the beer that made the brewery famous. The American-style Hefeweizen launched the Widmers’ careers, and the beer tastes best here, on tap, where it can’t get any fresher.
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
As one of Portland’s pioneering craft breweries, Hair of the Dog continues to brew beers that become highly sought after as they age. Beer aficionados from around the globe flock to the taproom, where they try the newest versions of these beers on draught, some of which have spent time in bourbon and sherry casks. Most HOTD beers are high in alcohol and boast plenty of complex flavors, so sip slowly and be sure to eat while you’re drinking. Happily, the food menu was designed to accompany these big beers, with things like spicy duck wings and beef brisket braised in beer.
Located in the belly of the Leftbank Building, Upright (uprightbrewing.com) is the kind of place that feels like an insider’s secret. After all, there’s not even a sign on the building, nothing to indicate that special small-batch beers are being made inside. Among barrels bursting with fermenting beer, the underground taproom serves a small selection of Upright beers, which can be as esoteric as a gruit brewed with calendula, wild lettuce, white willow bark and galangal or as expected as more traditional saisons and a delicate pilsner.
The beers from Breakside (breakside.com) are never boring. What started out as a small neighborhood brewpub in Northeast Portland has grown to include a second location capable of making lots of beer. Breakside has been known to create more than 100 types of beer in one year – the kind of mad-scientist tinkering that makes brewers envious and beer drinkers thirsty. Hunker down at one of the glossy wooden sidewalk tables at the original location for some beer tasting or head to the more Spartan tasting room in the Portland suburb Milwaukie. Either way, don’t pass up the Breakside IPA, which has quickly become one of the city’s most beloved hoppy beers. If you’re lucky, you’ll also try the Salted Caramel Stout and the sessionable Passionfruit Sour.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Known for its eco-friendly practices and love of the bicycle, Hopworks (hopworks.com) makes a range of organic beers at its brewery in Southeast Powell Blvd. Head to that original location, where you can get a full brewery tour Saturdays at 3pm, or go north to the brewery’s second outpost, the BikeBar, a more intimate space with a big patio out back and bicycle frames hanging above the bar. Try the Organic Survival 7-Grain Stout, which is brewed with quinoa, spelt and kamut before the beer is finished with organic Stumptown coffee.
Bike-friendly and public-transportation heavy Portland was designed so you can ditch the car, a good practice during a beer-tasting tour. Try visiting breweries by bike, on a guided Portland brewery bike tour or plan your own brewery bike tour with suggestions from Hop in the Saddle: A Guide to Portland’s Craft Beer Scene by Bike (hopinthesaddle.com). Also consider the city’s public transportation system of buses, light rail and streetcars (trimet.org). Otherwise, the city’s home to a few pedicab (pdxpedicab.com) companies, a convenient way to move between breweries, especially on the west side of the Willamette River.
For a full list of the city’s breweries, visit the Oregon Brewer’s Guild (oregoncraftbeer.org).
Last updated in April 2017.