Each of the past two years, my best friend Jen and I, have taken a long weekend trip to Portland. The initial draw was beer. Jen and I have found a new calling in life (one of many these days), and that calling is for us to try as many beers as humanly possible. Here in the Chicago area there are many breweries that we can visit, but when we travel, we like to expand our horizons.
The first trip in October 2010 was Jen's idea. She found an article stating that Portland had more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. Portland had just surpassed Munich for this title. With this information in hand, we were prepared to explore a city that neither of us had ever been to, let alone the state of Oregon. We stayed in the Northwest District at the Inn at Northrup Station. I would highly recommend this boutique hotel. The rooms were huge and the staff was extremely friendly. For those traveling with a car, they have parking on-site, which I believe is free, but I'd double check that before you go. We decided public transport was going to be our main mode of transportation. Their Max Light Rail line will take you from the airport to many of the main spots in the city and is very easy to navigate (and cheap!). From there we took the streetcar to the Northwest District, which dropped us off right in front of the hotel.
Once getting settled in the hotel, our real adventure began. We started at Laurelwood on NW 23rd, which was a cute restaurant that brewed their own beer. (When we went back to Portland in 2011, Laurelwood was no longer at this location. There are other Laurelwood locations in NE Portland and West Moreland.) We then shopped a little bit, after I insisted on getting my eyebrows done. One of the many random events that occurred that weekend...
We then walked up to New Old Lompoc, where we tasted 12 different brews and talked to some locals. We found that many people relocate to the Portland area because of the many outdoor activities available and the easy-going way of life. The also found "Aardvark", which is a fantastic hot sauce. It was created by a couple of young guys from Champaign, IL of all places. One of the creators was dropping off a shipment, as they are a small company and do all deliveries themselves. He gave us each a free bottle to take home with us. Very enjoyable and something I would tell everyone to try. Our last stop for the daytime adventure was The Lucky Labrador. We each tried a few more brews and then headed back to the hotel for a short nap...it was going to be a long weekend and we had a lot of drinking to do! (I want to emphasize that the goal wasn't to get drunk, it's just a hazard of our new profession.)
The first night, we went to dinner and then out to try more beer. We ended up going to about 10 different bars along NW 21st avenue, trying something new at each place. I'll try to find the list of places that we stopped at, but from what I remember, my handwriting became a little hard to read as the night went on. It was a lot of fun. There were a lot of people out that night and every place was busy. People in Portland are very friendly though, so we made our way around fairly easily and with good recommendations. The best part, was that the city is a safe place to be, all things considered. As I remember, we only saw one cop all weekend, which is a testament to the kind of place we were visiting.
The next day we got a late start. Our first stop was the Bridgeport Brew Pub. It's a huge establishment, with lots of sports and tv's. Not to mention good beer. Then we found the best cab driver in the city who took us to the remainder of our stops for the day.
Our next stop was the infamous VooDoo donuts. If you've seen any of the TV episodes on the Food Network featuring VooDoo donuts or if you've read about it, it's better than you can imagine! On this stop, I only tried the original VooDoo, but we did get a Maple Bacon Bar for the cabbie. (We tried the Maple Bacon Bar on the second trip and everyone better try this one! It's fantastic!)
Our driver took us to the east side of the bridge and gave us a list of places to try. We were dropped off at Cascade Brewery, where they specialize in sour beers. I was immediately intrigued and loved everything that we tried. (Sour's are now my favorite, FYI) From there we walked to the Green Dragon. (Green Dragon was owned by Rogue and has now become a Rogue bar, losing many of the guest taps that they previously had in preference of a larger selection of Rogue beers, which is sad and no longer has the same appeal.) They bring in brews from all over the city and have too many to try on tap. This is a good place to get a taste of the city as a whole and meet more people who are willing to suggest a new places to stop. We then walked to APEX. This place was kind of crazy. It was a very different crowd of people, not a bad crowd, just very different from many of the other places. Apex was small, so we didn't spend a whole lot of time there, one and done. Our favorite cab driver picked us up and took up to Hopworks Urban Brewing. This was another place with awesome food and lots of beer to choose from. They clearly had a cycling theme, so all of you biking enthusiasts should check this place out! There is also a Hopworks Bike Bar on Williams in NE Portland.
The last stop of the night was Rogue. Rogue is a popular brand found all over the US. There is plenty of seating and is a popular spot in the downtown area of the city. It was a great place to finish the days tour and many special brews that you can't find in the store. Definitely worth a stop.
The last day of the trip, we had a fairly early flight, so we went for some pizza and the first part of the Bear's game before heading to the airport. We had our last beer at the airport (Gustav's) and headed home. It was a long weekend, but well worth the trip. We both knew that Portland was going to be a destination that we would return to because of the great atmosphere in the city and the knowledge that there were so many more beers left to try.
Anyone looking for a great weekend getaway should check out Portland. I'll upload some of the places we visited in 2011 and pictures in the next post...stay tuned!