It’s hard work, cranking out guides like this one. We spend months researching (that is, drinking) and writing (often while drinking) and fact-checking (usually not while drinking) to ensure we print the best possible directory of bars this city has to offer. In the thick of reviewing, sometimes we visit three, four bars a night. It’s exhausting, all this drinking on the company tab. I mean, we’re not exactly firefighters, but still...
No, there’s no need to thank us for our service. The knowledge that this guide will be of use to our readers is all the thanks we need. That’s why we put in the hours of liver-enlarging labor to freshly review the city’s best 105 bars. In between pints, we noticed a few things about the state of Portland’s nightlife in 2012:
WE EAT AT BARS AND DRINK AT RESTAURANTS
Restaurants that dress like bars, such as Clyde Common, Beaker & Flask and Pok Pok, have been commonplace in Portland for some time, but the last two years have brought a boom in bars that think like restaurants. Drinking establishments both swank and divey are hiring skilled cooks and serving food that does a lot more than just soak up beer. Some, like Central, Burnside Brewing, Bunk Bar, Rum Club and Interurban, have high culinary ambitions, with menus conceived by chefs with fine-dining backgrounds. Others, like the recently reinvigorated Club 21 and Lutz Tavern, stick to making the classics better. Lutz even cures its own bacon for its cheeseburgers. With any luck, the days of microwaved nachos are numbered.
WE’RE DRINKING MORE OF EVERYTHING
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (that bunch of killjoys), beer has been losing market share to wine and, more recently, spirits since the ’80s. Not in Oregon. Our overall ethanol consumption has been rising steadily since 2003, and although most of that growth has been in wine and hard liquor, our beer drinking has remained steady. We’re also drinking locally: The Oregon Brewers Guild estimates 40 percent of draft beer sold in Oregon is brewed in-state, and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission says local hooch made up 12 percent of its sales in 2010 and 2011.
BARS ARE OUR CHURCHES
We don’t have any statistical evidence for this one, but it sure seems like Portland’s pubs are filling the role of so-called third places—that is, neither work nor home—that in other cities might fall to churches, community centers and cafes. The proliferation of bar quizzes, lecture series, craft nights, knitting circles, karaoke, The Walking Dead screenings and other interactive social events seems to indicate that we’re spending more time fraternizing, as they say in England, down the pub. And why not? Most churches don’t serve beer.
And that’s it, that’s all you get. My drink is empty, and I need a refill. When I get back, you can tell me exactly what an idiot I am for leaving out your favorite bar—please send complaints, suggestions and abuse to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we missed a good one, let us know, and we’ll get to it next year. It’s a dirty job, et cetera.
Matt Buckingham, Kat Merck
Penelope Bass, Ruth Brown, Martin Cizmar, Kelly Clarke, Rob Fernas, Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Heidi Groover, Whitney Hawke, Rebecca Jacobson, Casey Jarman, Matthew Korfhage, AP Kryza, Michael Mannheimer, Aaron Mesh, Matthew Singer, Aaron Spencer, Ben Waterhouse, Kara Wilbeck
Mike Grippi, Vivian Johnson, Inger Klekacz, Ivan Limongan, Leah Nash, Jarod Opperman, Ro Tam, Matt Wong
Melissa Casillas, Dylan Serkin
Special thanks to
Apex, Bailey’s Taproom, the BeerMongers, Belmont Station, the Hop & Vine and Saraveza for the bottle caps. Support your local bottle shop! Give them all your money!