WEST OF THE WILLAMETTEThe west side of the Willamette River may lack the east side’s dizzying cultural output. It may lack the great restaurants, the edgy aesthetic, the diversity (read: “young white people”). It may lack the sheer number of bottle shops you’ll find across the bridges. But, spread throughout downtown Portland and its surrounding hills, the west side also has some of the best outlets in town.
But before getting to the best bottle shops in town, let’s start with the Pearl District. First, picture a Pearl bottle shop. Got it? Now, double the Pearliness and you’ve got an accurate picture of Pearl Specialty Market (900 NW Lovejoy St., 477-8604, pearlspecialty.com). It’s like a jewelry store for booze. The beer selection is limited by Portland standards, but the presence of gleaming bottles of liquor (including local spirits), a wide array of bitters, and wine earns forgiveness. If you’ve ever doubted that the Pearl’s denizens live a utopian existence, just remember: They buy their liquor and beer in the same place.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find John’s Market (3535 SW Multnomah Blvd., 244-2617, johnsmarketplace.com). This Multnomah Village icon is dim and dingy with shelves that seem to shift around like the rooms in Cube. It also has probably the largest stock of beer in Portland. John’s Market is a must-visit, if only to see all that beer in one place, all precariously stacked, with total disaster one tectonic quiver away. The staff can find anything you need, but stumbling across stuff you won’t find anywhere else is part of the fun.
Uptown Market (6620 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Beaverton, 336-4783, uptownmarketpdx.com) is a spectacular little pub, bottle shop and brewing supply store housed in a renovated 7-Eleven on the boundary between Portland and Beaverton. The selection can’t match that at John’s Market, but there are six taps and the shop plans to start brewing on its own seven-barrel system this summer. Clientele ranges from Garden Home lifers to Nike employees to all seven Southwest Portland beer geeks. Uptown has something for everyone, including coffee in the mornings, weekend visits from Bunk and Koi Fusion food carts, and a decent stock of homebrewing gear. Oh, and a freezer full of wild game.
The west side’s premier beer hangout, Bailey’s Tap Room (213 SW Broadway, 295-1004, baileystaproom.com), impresses even eastsiders. Opened in 2007, Bailey’s features an eclectic tap selection guaranteed to please any palate: The woman seated next to me was happy with her Goose Island Urban Wheat, as I struggled to choose between 2008 versions of Terminal Gravity’s Festivale and Alaskan’s barleywine. Fortunately, the bar’s DigitalPour menu helps flip-floppers make up their minds by blinking lighter kegs a hurrying red. Bailey’s best-kept secret is a bottle list of approximately 100 meticulously chosen beers going back a few years. —Jordan Green
NORTH & VANCOUVER
Far from the parts of town where a humble bungalow now sells for $400,000, North Portland’s beer bars fit the turf: tatty and intimate, evoking that first moment of wondrous discovery.
Located in a small clay-colored building, Bridgetown Beerhouse (915 N Shaver St., 477-8763) is a dark, cool respite from the fuss and bustle of trendy North Mississippi Avenue. Neighbors saunter in and out in gym clothes to pick up a four-pack of Maui Brewing’s coconut porter or stay for a pint at the bar. The Beerhouse also fills growlers from a rotating tap list featuring seasonals from local breweries like Migration and Boneyard.
North of the Beerhouse, on Killingsworth, publican and Green Bay Packers fan Sarah Pederson runs one of Portland’s best and most popular beer bars. Her namesake bottle shop and pasty tavern, Saraveza (1004 N Killingsworth St., 206-4252, saraveza.com), boasts a formidable array of selections in vintage freezers, in a cozy, brick-lined space full of funky vintage beer artifacts that feels like your cool neighbor’s living room. Dig into a pasty while watching the game from one of the deep, comfortable booths, or sip from a sampler tray curated by an expert “beertender.”
Killingsworth is the only place in the world where it’s possible to travel from a Wisconsin living room to an Oregon wedding reception in a half-mile. Come summer, the wide patio at The Hop & Vine (1914 N Killingsworth St., 954-3322, thehopandvine.com) is packed with people nibbling on bacon-wrapped dates and swigging selections from the ever-changing and well-curated tap list. Owner Yetta Vorobik, along with mixologist Jacob Grier and gadfly Ezra Johnson-Greenough, is also credited with popularizing the beer cocktail in Portland.
Randy Plew, owner of Plew’s Brews (8409 N Lombard St., 283-2243), is a proud resident of Portland’s northernmost hinterland, St. Johns. Inside, you’ll wonder if Plew built a time machine and transported his basement bedroom intact from 1976. A chalkboard details the current eclectic offerings, from Lost Coast’s tangerine wheat to Astoria Brewing’s porter. If you don’t mind the ever-present waft of patchouli, you can snag a pint (cash only), grab one of the dozens of board games, and curl up on the plushy couches. But avoid the $2 house lager— unless you have a taste for Bud Light.
In Vancouver, Wash., By the Bottle (104 W Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, 360-696-0012, bottledbrews.com) is like a fireworks stand selling bottle rockets just across the state line. It carries beers from Washington breweries like Hales and Hilliard that, for logistical reasons, are not distributed in Oregon. The sunlit taproom—actually the taproom at Salmon Creek Brewery next door—hosts frequent tastings and events. —Adrienne So
NORTHEASTIn Northeast, it seems people like to drink at home. Or at least you’d think so given that the quadrant seems to have better bottle shops than beer bars. While there’s no guarantee of ambiance, there is a damn good collection of beer.
A good place to start, especially if you’re a newbie, Bottles NW (5015 NE Fremont St., 287-7022, bottlesnw.com) frequently beckons drinkers with a smoking outdoor grill and fridges stocked with Ninkasi, an extensive collection of IPAs and unique German bottles. This chill local hangout welcomes wander-ins with an unpretentious vibe. In the back, you’ll find bigger cases and a TV alcove that resembles Red and Kitty’s den.
With Bottles’ barbecue still within whiffing distance, Beaumont Market (4130 NE Fremont St., 284-3032, beaumontmarket.com) offers as many bottles in a completely different setting. Someone seems to have built a quaint mom-and-pop grocery around this impressive booze store. The beer-fridge glow draws shoppers out of aisle three to peruse a collection of Oregon and Washington brews, plus picks from Germany and Norway. Half the market is groceries, so don’t be surprised if you leave with artisan mustard and fresh apples, too.
Also on Fremont, County Cork Public House (1329 NE Fremont St., 284-4805, countycorkpublichouse.com) is sort of a poor man’s Horse Brass. This loosely themed bar, best known for its trivia nights, has classic Irish fare along with a tap list that includes offerings from Russian River, Lagunitas and Elysian along with the locals.
The less-polished Concordia Ale House (3276 NE Killingsworth St., 287-3929, concordia-ale.com) is half family restaurant, half bar and fully divey. The glossy sign out front masks a ramshackle interior with out-of-place New Age artwork and baskets of kids’ toys. Past the dinner tables, the bar has an impressive wall of tap pulls. If you venture into the shop’s nether regions, you’ll find a cooler with an impressive stock of light beer.
If you’re on a classy date instead, opt for 1856 (1465 NE Prescott St., 954-1104, 1856pdx.com). This is the Stumptown bottle shop seen in glossy magazines, with raw wood flooring, whitewashed walls and a chalkboard tap list. Wood shelves are stacked with beer and wine from floor to ceiling. While designer bitters and rare imported wine carry a whiff of elitism, a friendly staff remedies it. Beer cases run the length of the tasting room, with an extensive collection of gluten-free offerings. Take any bottle to the bar if nothing on the eight taps tempts you. Or just grab a bottle to go—it’s the local way. —Enid Spitz
For beer drinkers, Southeast is, without doubt, the king of quadrants. In fact, when it comes to serious bottle shops and brew-focused taverns, it doubles up any other part of Portland.
The corner of Southeast 12th Avenue and Division Street is ground zero for contemporary Northwest beer, with the geeked-out bottle shop and bare-bones tavern the beer Mongers (1125 SE Division St., 234-6012, thebeermongers.com) sitting kitty corner from the mammoth Apex tap house. Apex’s huge selection—broadcast online and in-house with a highly detailed electronic tap list—lures you back, even though the bar is inconveniently cash-only, service is too often unfriendly, and takeout grub from neighboring taco and banh mi shops is iffy.
Forty blocks and 30 years away, you’ll find the classic Portland beer bar, Horse Brass Pub (4534 SE Belmont St., 232-2202, horsebrass.com). Modeled on a traditional English pub, the Brass remains vital even after the passing of legendary proprietor Don Younger. A few blocks away, the pub’s sister bottle shop and tasting room, Belmont Station (4500 SE Stark St., 232-8538, belmont-station.com), has a huge bottle selection and knowledgeable staff, though highly sought releases are often gone within hours.
Southeast’s main commercial corridor, Hawthorne Boulevard, is home to two beer bars that would rate among any other quadrant’s best. The Belgian-focused Bazi Bierbrasserie (1522 SE 32nd Ave, 234-8888, bazipdx.com) pairs funky Trippels with truffle frites while the hawthorne hophouse (4111 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 477-9619, oregonhophouse.com) sticks mainly with Oregon beers, including an impressive array of IPAs.
If you’re looking for more IPAs—with a little gangsta swagger—Mount Scott’s N.W.I.P.A. (6350 SE Foster Road, nwipapdx.com) has you covered. The small pub is on a gentrifying stretch of four-lane Foster Road where bombed-out buildings sit next to arty bars and speciality shops. Also on the outskirts of town, but at the opposite end of the spectrum, Sellwood’s mannerly Portland Bottle Shop (7960 SE 13th Ave., 232-5202, pdxbottleshop.com) has a well-curated selection of beer and wine sold next to house-smoked salmon mousse and mushroom pâté.
Out in Montavilla—that odd stretch of restaurants, bars,
shops and a by-the-hour hot-tub joint separated from the grid by Mount
Tabor—two underrated beer bars sit two blocks away. Opened just about a
year ago, Beer Bunker (7918 SE Stark St., 254-8200, facebook.com/BeerBunker) is an airy warehouse with exposed ductwork and homey couches. Meanwhile, Roscoe’s (8105 SE Stark St., 255-0049) tries to maintain a little 82nd Avenue edginess (one WW intern from Beaverton deemed it “scary”) that lasts until you order beer made with green tea and hazelnuts.