Behind a fleabag motel on the eastern outskirts of Gresham, you’ll find it: the mythical tobacco store with a growler filling station.
There, surrounded by Donettes and Romeo y Julieta cigars, hangs an impressive line of tap handles, including Worthy’s Imperial IPA, Base Camp’s S’More Stout, an apricot cider from Bend and an India pale lager from San Diego.
Gresham Tobacco Outlet will fill your 64-ounce brown glass jug for $9—a buck less than at one of several bodegas offering fills just off Hawthorne. “We can’t seem to get them to send us RPM anymore,” the clerk says of the Boneyard IPA that lands at No. 3 in our top 10 beers of the year. “But we keep trying.”
Amazing bodega beers were just one of the many odd and inspiring discoveries we made while compiling this guide to every brewery and cidery within an hour’s drive of downtown Portland. Everyone knows Portland loves beer, but it’s never so clear as when you’re just north of the MAX line’s last stop, standing behind a couple in matching camouflage caps as they debate a $50 investment in the Portland-made Bräuler.
Along the way, I realized there’s something special about Portland’s relationship with growlers. Sure, they’re both the least expensive and the most environmentally friendly packaging. But it’s more than that. Portlanders love growlers because they’re big and perishable. In other words, because they’re meant to be shared.
I’m constantly amazed by Brewvana’s sense of community. About crackerjack brewers from Kells and Pints meeting to sniff new coffee beers out of Mason jars at the Lucky Labrador. Or a Montavilla neighborhood house party where Ben Edmunds of Breakside splits a five-year vertical of Bell’s Expedition Stout with the Wildwood chef who built an outstanding beer program at an old-school restaurant on Northwest 21st Avenue. Or the legendary John Harris of Ecliptic showing up to watch pinot noir crushed at an urban winery near his home.
Each time, I was surprised to see them. But I shouldn’t be. Portland brewers get around. The secret ingredient in our beer isn’t our soft water or farm-fresh hops, it’s all those thoughtful sips and heated debates held over shared growlers.
Here, you’ll find a guide to getting your fill, starting with our picks for the best beers of the year and continuing though a dozen local cideries. Hopefully, this guide will stay with you for a year, serving you well wherever you find yourself with an empty jug and a long list of options.
Editor Martin Cizmar
Art Director Amy Martin
Copy chief Rob Fernas
Copy Editors Matt Buckingham, Nina Lary, Jessica Pedrosa
Fact-checker Ezra Johnson-Greenough
Penelope Bass, Martin Cizmar, Ramona DeNies, Jordan Green, Rebecca Jacobson, Nigel Jaquiss, Frank Johnston, Matthew Korfhage, AP Kryza, John Locanthi, Aaron Mesh, Lyla Rowen, Matthew Singer, Adrienne So, Enid Spitz, Brent Walth, Savannah Wasserman, Brian Yaeger
Photographers Cameron Browne, Emma Browne, Natalie Behring
Illustrator Edward Juan
Production Manager Ben Kubany
Ad Designers Brittany Moody, Xel Moore, Dylan Serkin
Director of Advertising Scott Wagner
Advertising Assistant Ashley Grether
Account Executives Maria Boyer, Ginger Craft, Michael Donhowe, Kevin Friedman, Janet Norman, Kyle Owens, Sharri Miller Regan, Andrew Shenker
Marketing & Promotions Coordinator Steph Barnhart
Accounting Manager Chris Petryszak
Credit/Collections Shawn Wolf
Manager of Information Systems Brian Panganiban
Circulation Director Mark Kirchmeier
Associate Publisher Jane Smith
Publishers Richard H. Meeker, Mark L. Zusman