written by Beau Eastes
Let’s kill the “Portland is burning” narrative right here.
Yes, Stumptown is changing, as any dynamic and modern city should. But Portland still oozes creativity and innovation, it still embraces anyone willing to think outside the box, and it still finds ways to surprise and inspire. Especially in the city’s perpetually evolving beer scene.
We here at Beerlandia recently took up the cause of exploring everything new, awesome and funky coming out of Portland’s craft beer scene in the hopes of shattering the notion that the city is essentially RoboCop’s dystopian Detroit with bike lanes.
Here’s what we found:
Helles yes to Wayfinder: Is anyone in the state making better beer than Wayfinder Beer on SE 2nd? Their helles, the Wayfinder Hell, won silver at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival and their CZAF Czech-style pilsner is the poster child for the perfect Zoom-with-buddies beer. Best of all, their Relapse Cold IPA may or may not have caused a small civil war within the beer community on whether or not it’s a new style. It’s delicious and we approve of the chaos.
Perhaps—no, definitely—a Great Notion: We’ve been in love with Great Notion since they stole our heart at Bend Brewfest in 2019 with their Blueberry Muffin sour, their Double Stack imperial breakfast stout that tasted unbelievably like pancakes, and Juice Jr., possibly the best West Coast example of a New England IPA. And in a spark of Covid ingenuity, Great Notion now delivers to certain parts of the state.
Gigantic’s Robot Room: Any brewery that doubles down on its city and opens a second space during the middle of a global pandemic will forever have a beer in our fridge. Gigantic Brewing’s Robot Room serves as the taproom at the new Rocket Empire Machine food hall that opened in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood last August. We can confirm that Gigantic’s Sassy Pony Pale Ale makes for fine day-drinking, especially on Rocket Empire Machine’s outdoor patio space.
Portland’s craft beer crowd is hardly the only local industry finding ways to shine right now. Downtown hotels are right there with them, and we stayed at Hotel Lucia, the perfect jumping off point for adventures in the northwest (Great Notion), inner eastside (Wayfinder) and outer northeast (Robot Empire Machine). In addition to offering a happy hour beer of your choice during non-pandemic times, the hotel will store bikes you bring or you can ride one from their fleet.
We ate as well as ever in Portland, gorging ourselves on Cambodian fried chicken at Prey + Tell, the new food concept at the Psychic Bar on Mississippi, jump-starting the weekend with Bloody Marys at an old favorite, the Leaky Roof in Goose Hollow and concluding the trip with a night of cocktails, gnocchi and pinsa style pizza—think delicious—along with perfectly executed flatbreads at Montesacro in the Pearl District.
By the end of our trip, we’d eaten, drank and biked our way through a multitude of Portland neighborhoods, exhilarated by the ingenuity and optimism we found at nearly every place we went. We can’t wait to get back.