There are sports bars and game bars and goth bars. But Burnside Street's Natian Tasting Room (1306 E Burnside St., 503-719-6994, natianbrewery.com) is probably the city's only bar devoted full-time to penguins, whales and weird bugs. "One TV is always on the nature channel," our bartender told us. "The owner figured there were already lots of sports bars."
But that's the thing about Natian Brewery: They never do things the way you'd expect. For eight years, they've quietly been brewing cans of Everyday IPA and Undun Blonde out of Couch Street's Portland Bottling plant—they were canning long before canning was cool, and it gave them a niche in an increasingly competitive industry. But unlike taproom-first breweries, there's been no reliable place to drink Natian's beer on draft until this August, when they opened up a no-nonsense, blonde-wood taproom in one of those big new buildings on Burnside.
Another quirk surfaced when Guinness threatened to sue owner Ian McGuinness for selling his excellent milk stout under his own name; he repackaged it as Cease and Desist. It's still the best beer Natian makes, but now among the bar's 24 taps of tea-leaf ale or pumpkin stout, you can get a four-year vertical of Cease and Desist stretching back to 2014. We recommend this heartily—though the vintage 2016 IPA is an anomaly we were a lot less excited about.
There's also a nutty selection of board games, from Uno to Connect Four, and a gargantuan big screen tuned to prank-call TV shows. The only thing missing is food, a problem in a no-man's-land stretch of Burnside five blocks from the nearest take-out. Whatever solution they come up with, it probably won't be anything we expect.