If you’re ever in Portland, you need to try the beer.

By Andrea Romano
October 24, 2019
Courtesy of Great Notion Brewing

Craft brewing is a huge part of life in Oregon, and Portland actually has more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. The entire state has over 200 different breweries, and over 80 are in Portland alone, effectively making it one of the country’s best beer cities.

While the craft beer craze seems like a new phenomenon, Oregon has actually been making beer since the mid-1800s, according to 1859 Oregon Magazine. German immigrants Henry Saxer and Henry Weinhard were two of the first brewers in Oregon, founding Liberty Brewery in Portland and Columbia Brewery in Fort Vancouver.The two men competed for years until Weinhard bought Saxer's brewery, which essentially made him the beer king of Oregon at the time.

The beer making tradition continued (and escalated) from there. Today, hundreds of thousands of people visit Oregon’s unique breweries every year, especially in Portland and the Portland Metro Area. Craft beer aficionados flock to the city for its unique brews, rich and diverse beer scene, and the many beer-centric things to do (including making stops along the Oregon Beer Trail).

Take a look at some of these best breweries in Portland that both locals and tourists love to stop in for a pint.

Methodology: We decided to take a sampling of some of the best and most recommended breweries from a number of expert and user-rated sites, including RateBeer, TripAdvisor, Beer Connoisseur, and Beervana. We also took into account breweries that have been featured in other publications. While the breweries listed below are not necessarily ranked, each one has a special feature, whether it’s an attached restaurant, awards and honors, tours and tastings, an interesting space, a unique method of brewing, or fame for making brews that locals love the most. All breweries on this list are established or headquartered in Portland and the Portland Metro Area, therefore some beloved spots like Deschutes Brewery from Bend and pFriem Family Brewers from Hood River could not be included, though they may have secondary locations in Portland as well.

McMenamins

Courtesy of McMenamins

McMenamins isn’t just a brewpub. The family who owns this long-established chain also runs their own breweries, historic hotels, music venues, craft coffee shops, and even a movie-theater-plus-pub, located all over the state. Even though it was only established in the 1970s, it’s still one of the top 50 largest craft breweries in the U.S. You can even take tours of its many breweries throughout Oregon and Washington.

Hair of the Dog Brewing Company

This Portland classic was first established in the 1990s, and it is still a local favorite today. It specializes in high-alcohol, bottle-conditioned beers, which actually get better with age, as well as barrel-aged brews. But it’s not just a great place for a cold one, it’s also a great place for farm-to-table food. Specifically, Hair of the Dog sources all of its ingredients within a 350-mile radius of the brewery and works directly with farmers to bring customers the freshest menu items around. Of course, anyone who goes needs to stop by the brewery’s tasting room.

Ecliptic Brewing

Courtesy of Ecliptic Brewing

This brewery is a must-go for locavores and space geeks alike, making it one of the most unique destinations on this list of the best breweries in Portland. Owned by craft beer maker, John Harris, it blends brewing and astronomy in the most original way. Since “ecliptic” means the earth’s path around the sun, this brewery focuses on seasonal brews and foods that change throughout the year. Many of their beers are space-themed as well, like Quasar Pale Ale, Orbiter IPA, and Starburst IPA. There are also walk-in tours available at noon on Mondays and Fridays.

Culmination Brewing

Courtesy of Culmination Brewing

This microbrewery truly represents Portland, focusing on sustainability when it comes to their beer and food. It won Brewery of the Year at the 2016 Oregon Beer Awards, and its impressive taproom is a smattering of delicious brews with both unique and classic flavors, including some tart and trendy sours and barrel-aged ales. The brewery tends to change out the beer selection fairly often (every week or so), so there’s always something new to try. You can pair your brews with local, seasonal bar bites as well.

Gigantic Brewing Company

Courtesy of Gigantic Brewing Company

Gigantic Brewing Company has one gigantic credit to their name: the “best damn IPA in Portland,” according to their website. Even though it’s “gigantic,” part of their philosophy is starting small and staying small so they can really control the quality of their product and serve up some truly local beer varieties. Not only does it have an excellent tap room, but it also has a small variety of champagnes available by the bottle. If you want to take some beer home, they sell 500ml bottles and growlers, or you can bring your own growler to fill up.

Breakside Restaurant & Pub Brewery

Courtesy of Breakside Restaurant & Pub Brewery

This fairly young brewery, established in 2010, is known for being a little more experimental than your average brewer, and it was named Brewery of the Year at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards. Originally a brewpub in Portland, it expanded to Milwaukie, Oregon, where it produces wild and non-wild sours, and features a 24-tap tasting room. The brewery doesn't just sell its brews to thirsty Oregonians- its products can be found around the country.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House

Courtesy of Cascade Brewing Barrel House

Sour beer lovers should definitely put this brewery on their bucket list. Specializing in “fruit-forward” and barrel-aged ales, Cascade is one of the best makers of sours around- so much so that it calls itself the "House of Sour." The brewery has its own Blending House, where its beers are kept in 1,300 oak bourbon and wine barrels. Naturally, you can get other, non-sour beers here, but this particular kind of brew is their specialty, and it's worth a trip to taste them.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Courtesy of Hopworks Urban Brewing

Much like other Portland breweries, Hopworks is all about sustainability and the local community. Perhaps what sets it apart is the incredible food you can order with your brew. Its world-class menu features classic bar bites with trendy twists including mouth-watering burgers and shareable appetizers that will please anyone in your group. HUB also offers free tours of the brewery on Saturdays, so it’s a tasty way to spend a lazy afternoon in Portland.

Ascendant Beer Company

Whether you’re looking for a hip, modern pub or a brewery dedicated to classic tastes, you’ll find what you want at Ascendant. According to the brewery website, it was established in downtown Portland in 2012 and was the first brewery to open in the Old Town/Chinatown area since Liberty Brewing in 1852. Naturally, the establishment pays homage to traditional craft brewing techniques for many of its beers, but it offers some innovative brews too. They also function as a coffee shop that’s open in the mornings from Monday through Thursday.

Kells Brew Pub

Courtesy of Kells Brew Pub

This classic brewpub is proud of its Irish roots. You can find some traditional Irish beers here, like their Irish-style lager, Irish red ale, and Irish stout, but they also have some more modern and interesting blends like Peach on a Beach (a summery peach and mango Kolsch) and Wild Rosie (a tart raspberry sour). In addition to Irish beers, you can find some of the best Irish food here, including corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and Irish stew.

Great Notion Brewing

Courtesy of Great Notion Brewing

If you’re looking for impressive IPAs, sours, and stouts, look no further. This brewery's award-winning beers are aged in barrels for nine months to two years before they ever get served. Plus, their restaurant serves some local dishes that are a little more unique than your classic bar bites, like blackened salmon, halibut fish and chips, kale salads, and more. One of their beers, the Space Invader, was named one of the top five beers of the year in 2018 on the Beer & Brewing Critic’s List.

Lompoc Brewing

This brewery’s classic porter recently won the gold medal at the 2018 American Beer Awards, and that’s not the only incredible brew you can get there. The 5th Quadrant restaurant and bar on Williams Ave. is the main home of the brewing company, where you can enjoy your brew in a hip, modern space featuring high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and industrial design features. It even has an excellent, dog-friendly back patio that’s perfect in the summer. You can also visit Sidebar next door, where the company keeps its tasting room.

Wayfinder Beer

Courtesy of Wayfinder Beer

Even though this company came onto the scene less than five years ago, it’s already won its fair share of accolades, including the 2018 Rate Beer Award for Best New Brewers in the World and the 2018 New School Awards for Best Brewery and Best Brewpub. It was even honored on the list of Best Beers in America from Bloomberg News. Their brews are authentic, simple, and very delicious. Plus, their tap hall has a 2000-square foot deck with a fire pit – so it’s the best location for an outdoor party.

Zoiglhaus Brewing Company

Rounding out our list of the best breweries in Portland, Zoiglhaus offers the best, most authentic German beer in the city.  The family-friendly brewpub was started by Alan Taylor, who studied brewing science in Germany before settling in Portland. While you can find some fine German beers at other breweries, Zoiglhaus specializes in an obscure brewing technique called “wort-sharing.” By sharing the wort (a liquid created by the mashing process), Zoiglhaus hopes to bring this communal tradition of brewing to Portland.

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