Whether you’re a local or out-of-town visitor, there’s never a shortage of craft beers to discover in Portland, Oregon. When I looked into Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours, one of the tours available during my time here was a Beer Love in the Pearl walking tour.
Although I’ve been to both Deschutes (downtown brewpub and Bend brewery) and Rogue in the past, I thought it would be educational to learn about the city’s brewing spots and fave pours from a local beer pro (our guide April is about to complete her level two cicerone training).
This three-hour tour is offered twice weekly (currently on Tuesday and Thursday late mornings) with stops at Deschutes, Pints and Rogue breweries.
There are currently 109 breweries located within one hour of Portland. The key to beer’s success is the water. PDX has the cleanest water of any municipality across the US, setting the standard for high-quality beer. How far water has to travel also plays an important role. Portland’s source? Harvested rainwater from Mt. Hood.
Whether or not you’re aware, Deschutes’ Pearl District location (at NW 11th and NW Davis) is the brewery’s research and development facility.
March and April are great times to be in Portland: this is when brewmasters work with experimental hops. Sour beer lovers take note: Portland does sours – especially light sours – better than anyone else in the US. Additionally, 25% of the world’s hops are grown within a 150 mile radius of where we’re currently sampling six Deschutes beers.
“At Deschutes, craft is everywhere, not just in the glass.”
From labels to growlers, art to branding, Deschutes gets the local workforce involved. In fact, three out of every 100 PDX jobs are beer-related.
We sample Deschutes Pilsner (a cloudy unfiltered pilsner), Mirror Pond Ale (their flagship beer), Streetcar Northwest Pale Ale (using experimental hops), Theory of Sourtivity Kettle Stout (a light sour), Black Butte Porter (the #1 best-selling porter in the US) and Blindside Baltic Porter (also incorporating experimental hops).
Each and every Deschutes beer is named after geological features in the Bend area and on Tuesdays, the brewery partners with various grassroots organizations, donating proceeds from each pint sold.
Pints Brewing Company at 412 NW 5th Avenue is the hidden gem of the area — locals have no idea it’s here! Brewmaster Allan Taylor attended brewing school in Berlin; three months following Pints’ 2012 opening, Taylor began winning awards for his beer.
A second location, Ponderosa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was opened in 2015. Since that time, a third location (back in Portland) has also opened: the Zoiglhaus House.
April points out that hops are 85% water so they need to be processed immediately in order to avoid rot and mildew. Hops are harvested in August, with beers hitting shelves and filling taps in September, in time for Oktoberfest. Fresh-hopped beer is an experience like no other, she adds. Hops are full of flavour (e.g. pine, citrus): “Hops don’t define bitterness, they define flavour.”
More Fascinating Beer Facts
– Red Hook was the first IPA made in the Northwest
– Bridgeport Brewing – Portland’s oldest craft brewery – revolutionized dry-hopping
– February is Stout Month in Oregon
– A comparison: in the US, malt is brewed 500 ways; in Germany, 1,500
– Barley has the most conversable sugars of all grains grown
During this tour, I’m given so many wonderful food and beer spots to hit around town, it’s nearly mind-blowing. I make notes for my next Portland adventure.
We sample three beers at Pints: a malt-forward Schwarzbier (black pilsner) that appears dark in colour but is produced in the light beer style, Zwickel Approved Rye IPA, with tropical notes and incorporating Simcoe, Mosaic and Elia hops with classic Chinook for added citrus and pine and Rip Saw Red, an ode to Portland’s former ripsaw crews.
Reds are a local fave here and this one’s packed with 60 IBU’s; true IPA lovers tend to switch to this red for its added hop plus caramel and chocolate malts.
If you’re a Multnomah Whiskey Library fan, you’ll be pleased to know that Pints has partnered with MWL to carry their library. Skip the lines at 1124 SW Alder and get your whiskey and beer pairing on right here.
Our third and final stop is at Rogue where we’re seated at a table and served a variety of snacks (tater tots with homemade ranch dressing, pizza and edamame). Our beers include an eclectic assortment of Rogue faves:
Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, 7 Hop IPA, New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta (aka New Crusty) and a dessert beer: Snickers, a mix of half chocolate stout, half hazelnut brown and only available on tap.
By the end of the tour, we’ve covered about a mile on foot around some wonderful parts of the city and have learned a ton about beer, local dining, history and other unique Portland tidbits.
Brewvana’s the top-rated beer tour company in the US and offers some pretty unique tours. Check out their Missisippin’ tour through historic Mississippi district, or get behind the scenes with the brewers on Fridays at noon. Tour De Funk is held on Sundays – here the wild side of beer is explored with a focus on upcoming trends.
The Buzz About Living Local is a seasonal tour: for spring, Brewvana’s doing a local salt, honey, mead and craft beer pairing tour that’s already gotten hugely popular — even amongst other local tour guides! If you’re headed down this way, that tour’s final two dates are on April 29 and May 13.
Visit Brewvana online for pricing and upcoming tours. I was a guest of Brewvana courtesy of Travel Portland. Opinions, as always, are my own.
I’d also like to thank our friends at Roam Mobility for providing flawless connectivity during my stay in the PDX. Check out their various affordable talk, text and data plans for one day up to several weeks, good in both the US and Mexico. Any plan you purchase for over 14 days drops to $1 per day after that time!