R.I.P. Portland Breweries

WARNING: This post contains nostalgia.

Even before the Ronies set in, I found out that a couple breweries I’d visited in Portland in 2017 had shut down.

There’s speculation that in any given craft beer market, supply will overwhelm demand and some craft breweries will get the short end of the stick and have to go out of business. Is that what happened in this case? I have no idea.

(At the very least, it’s not what happened in the case of Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC, which suffered because of “equipment failures, construction and permitting delays, storm-related outages and losses,” according to their Facebook post. They never had a line of flagship beers, which some think may have led to their downfall.)

At any rate, I was fondly remembering our excursions through Portland several months ago and randomly googled a couple of the breweries we’d visited, only to find they no longer exist. It was heartbreaking, and not just because I’m sentimental; one of them made some of the best beer I’ve ever had in my life.

Who knows if the Ronies will make more breweries go out of business. In the meantime, this is for the ones that are gone and the ones still alive. Live on.

The day we arrived, we started at Burnside Brewing (R.I.P.) simply because it was close to our AirBnB, and we were hungry. They served good noms, and even though their beer seemed mediocre for the most part, the Sweet Heat ale with gentle chilies was exactly what a hot day called for.

Later in the week, we noticed they had a fruit beer festival going on in their parking lot, so they were obviously rockin’ it in the craft beer scene. Because we had other plans, and because I generally don’t like fruit beer, we ogled the scene yet ultimately walked on.

Deschutes was our dinner stop that first night. They had killer appetizers, including beer cheese with a soft pretzel. I had a flight of mostly IPAs, and even though they each had their own character (hoppy, dank, floral, etc.), it was pretty much what I had expected: run of the mill. I don’t plan on going back or buying their beer in the grocery store, but considering how popular they are and how wide their distribution is, I’m glad I tried it.

Who knows how The Commons (R.I.P. – not pictured) was birthed. For all I know, it arose from the Pacific like Venus and chose to live out its days on Belmont Street. The large warehouse was hard to miss, especially with “The Commons” painted plainly on its side (but you still had to know what it was.) They had a bar, bathrooms, and tables roped off in one relatively small corner of the place, and even early in the afternoon, it was hard to get seats. I went for a flight, and the beers were incrementally more exciting as I went. I noticed they didn’t have many IPAs, but they were keen on Belgians. My favorite beer above all, one I will remember forever, was their Belgian quad. Its plum, molasses, and dark cherry characteristics will never be forgot.

Whenever we visit a town with a lot of breweries, we usually stick to the on-foot method: walk to the breweries that are close to each other, or at least in walking distance, and ditch the ones that aren’t. But Portland is one of those cities where a BUNCH are close together, so we did some searching online and chose the ones that sounded interesting based on Google reviews.

Old Town Pizza & Brewing (not pictured) was literally around the corner from the Cycle Portland, the bike shop where we did a really cool bike tour of the Pearl District. I highly recommend seeing a city on bike because you get around fast but still have time to see the sights. We rode past the Willamette River, which we were told rhymes with “Janet,” and through the bustling campus of Portland State University. Having been an avid biker as a kid (I could ride without holding onto the handlebars!), I learned that I’m quite wobbly these days.

So it was nice going to Old Town to kick back and grab some brews and pizza after our excursion. We sat at the bar, which I don’t recommend unless you want some random group of bros to come in and stand behind you, and the drinks weren’t that great but it was kind of like Burnside: a nice place to chill.

We like fairly long-ish walks between breweries to stretch our legs and digest a bit before drinking again, so we crossed the river and went to Base Camp (not pictured). On the internet, it seemed pretty neat, with an outdoorsy theme and interesting brews. In reality, we had gotten slightly soaked from drizzle that had started after we crossed the bridge, and I was feeling super self-conscious among a big crowd consisting of mostly young 20-somethings. I tried two or three IPAs, and none were my jam. This was when I started to realize that maybe I’m not fond of most IPAs made on the West Coast, which was disappointing since Portland is known as one of the beer meccas in the world. Ah, well. We all have our tastes and preferences.

With the rain gone, we wandered about the residential neighborhoods and stopped into a neat retro furniture store. Then we went to Lucky Labrador (not pictured), which had a genuine pub feel on the inside and a nasty, pet-friendly patio outside. Despite the sticky, ash-strewn surfaces, we had a very satisfying pint out there (great IPA!), and I would have loved to have had more if I weren’t feeling pretty tipsy already. That is definitely a place we’ll visit again.

The Adam and a pickle plate at Hair of the Dog

And Hair of the Dog — oh my goodness. For some reason full of East Indian bros that day, not to mention half the population of Portland, it was homey and unpretentious, although the beer most certainly looked at me through square specs and asked, “Are you worthy?”

Adam was my favorite. (They name their beers after people.) I remember it as a stout, but it’s actually an Old World ale. It has many iterations (cherry, aged, etc.) but I liked the regular just fine.

By the time we left Portland, I was sad to have missed so many breweries that I’ve heard of and that have wide appeal: Ecliptic, Great Notion, Culmination, etc. Fortunately, I was able to try Rogue (technically an Ashland brewery) at its airport location before our flight. I wasn’t a big fan of whatever I got — certainly not the grape-flavored something or other they were heavily advertising — but not every beer in one’s life need be incredible. Sometimes, all that matters is going places, trying new things, and making memories one can look back on fondly later.


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