With more craft breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., Portland’s beer-tasting scene is enormous — full of beers of different styles, tasting profiles and ABVs. If you’re the type of person who likes to do it all, we can promise you, that’s not really possible — at least in a weekend. At last count, there were 77 breweries in Portland and 177 in the Portland Region (not including taphouses, which are also ideal for tasting).
With the right direction, however, you can enjoy a beer-cation with minimal planning and logistical hassle any time of year. Wintertime, especially, is a special time for craft beer since a nice dark beer often warms you up from the inside, and it’s a nice escape from the bluster outside. Here’s a quick guide to top spots for beer tasting in the Portland Region.
From their first bronze medals in 2013 at the Great American Beer Festival to their Oregon Brewery of the Year award in 2019, Breakside Brewery has collected accolades for their smooth and highly quaffable beers. They are known for pushing boundaries, from their wintertime salted-caramel stout to their summertime passion-fruit sour. Look for a table at their Slabtown pub in Northwest Portland, Dekum pub in Northeast Portland or taproom in Milwaukie, less than 10 miles southeast of downtown Portland. Tasting tip: Don’t miss their giant soft pretzel, which the whole table will want to gobble up.
Since 2014 Ex Novo Brewing Company has been making great beer with an overarching mission: to donate 100% of their profits to charitable causes through partnerships with Friends of the Children, Mercy Corps and others. Their motto being “Do good, drink beer,” it’s easy to feel good while sipping a flight or a pint of one of their releases — neatly arranged in four categories: hop forward, malt forward, light and fresh, and Belgian and sour. Their North Portland pub is a beautifully rustic space, as is their newer location in downtown Beaverton, half a mile south of the Beaverton Central MAX stop. Tasting tip: Come for dinner — their sauce-on-top, thick and spicy Detroit-style pizza is spectacular and meal-worthy.
In almost any Portland neighborhood, you’ll find a good mix of brewpubs scattered about, many within walking distance. In the Pearl District of Northwest Portland, you’ll hit many of Oregon’s top beers at 10 Barrel Brewing, Back Pedal Brewing, Rogue Pearl Public House, Backwoods Brewing, Deschutes Brewery and Von Ebert Brewing. In North Portland, park your car, ride a bike or hop on transit to North Williams to sip a pint at locals’ favorites including Ecliptic Brewing, Stormbreaker Brewing, Bridgetown Beerhouse (with a curated selection of bottles and beers on tap) and German-style Prost!. There’s more just a half mile east on North Mississippi, where Hopworks Urban Brewpub and Beer Garden is considered a craft-beer classic.
South Side: Oregon City
Sixteen miles southeast of downtown Portland, the cluster of breweries in Oregon City is an ideal destination for those who want an off-the-beaten path experience. You’ll find fewer crowds, easier parking and mostly locals here, gathering for stories, live music and other events. Stop by the Hive Taphouse, a large, artfully decorated, converted warehouse with plenty of room for large groups. Inside you can sample German-inspired lagers at Shattered Oak Brewing and grab some beer cheese soup at the Perky Pantry. Tasting tip: To receive a discount at participating breweries in the area, download the Mt. Hood Territory Tap Trail mobile pass.
Less than a half mile east, true craft-beer fans will want to sample the Heritage Series at Coin Toss Brewing, brewed with historical recipes. Call ahead for the food truck’s schedule. And about 4 miles west, on the Willamette River, Feckin Brewery is a popular Irish pub for families, with a kids’ play area, an axe-throwing area (with small axes for kids, and adult supervision required), and winter seasonals like their Dia Los Muertos, a whiskey-barrel-aged espresso horchata porter. Tasting tip: Feckin is a smokehouse, too. Splurge for the Pit Boss Sampler and no one will go hungry.
East Side: Gresham
Beloved for their large, party-friendly patio space on Northeast Glisan in Portland, Migration Brewing now has a beautiful pub in Gresham, as well, and a burger shack at Lloyd Center in Northeast Portland. Like many other breweries, they’re constantly evolving, so if you taste a beer you love, enjoy it — because the limited releases may not be around next month or next year. Tasting tip: It’s happy hour pricing during Trail Blazer games, so drink up. We’d recommend the Straight Outta Portland IPA, with juicy notes and a crisp finish.
West Side: Beaverton, Aloha and Hillsboro
Beer tasting is as much about gathering with good company as it is about the beverage. These taprooms on the west side set the vibe for both, with cheery, vibrant spaces, walls and walls of refrigerated cases for bottles to go, and top-notch food to soak it all up. With dozens of local beers (as well as wine and ciders) on tap, you could easily get intimidated by the constantly updated tap list. But that’s where your friendly servers come in. Knowledgeable and helpful, they’re happy to answer questions about the beers and may even offer a small taste if you’re unsure before you order.
In Beaverton the Craft Pour House is a fun spot with frequent tap takeovers, trivia nights and other events; there’s even cornhole outside in the summer. The 649 in Aloha is a sweet gathering space with a wide assortment of beers and ciders on the tap list, and upscale pub grub like pulled-pork nachos and charcuterie. And ABV Public House in Hillsboro, hidden in an office park just off Highway 26, is a dreamy wonderland for craft-brew lovers, created by a homebrewer with a homebrew shop adjacent. Vertigo Brewing and the new outpost of Corvallis-based Mazama Brewing at Orenco Station in Hillsboro are also excellent bets for the Tualatin Valley, as is Ridgewalker Brewing, with its 34 taps and lovely outdoor patio, just west in Forest Grove.
Tasting tip: If you’re headed to any of these spots for dinner, call ahead to check on wait times or come early to beat the crowds and order a pint to sip while you wait. Also check out local events in the Tualatin Valley and beyond to make it more than a beer-tasting trip.
If You Go:
Thirsty yet? Consider taking a guided beer-tasting tour, so you don’t have to worry about transportation or logistics — just having a good time. In the Portland area, Brewvana offers four different tantalizing tours — one about beer’s ingredients, history and culture; another about beer and whiskey pairings; one about coffee, beer and doughnuts (hello, Homer Simpson); and another about the process of beer and other fermented beverages.
BeerQuest Walking Tours offers a 3-hour tour of three local breweries, 11 samples in all (traveling by foot). Pedal Bike Tours lets you pedal your way to three breweries within 5 miles, sipping some of the city’s best at each. And for a party vibe, BrewCycle is a favorite activity for groups, as you sit around a large street-safe vehicle and pedal your mini pub on wheels while heading to three different brewpubs in two hours.
The Holiday Ale Festival in December and Zwickelmania in February, among other events, are superb ways to catch up on the scene.