6635 N Baltimore Ave., No. 102, 503-719-7102, occidentalbrewing.com. 4-9 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 3-9 pm Friday, 2-9 pm Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday.
HEFE HEROES / Occidental founders Ben and Dan Engler never bothered to wait for drinkers' tastes to learn to embrace lighter craft beer. They just started making impressive lagers from the get go, and are now perfectly positioned to attract the wave of customers moving away from hoppier beverages. Inside a lofty warehouse nestled next to the picturesque St. Johns Bridge are a dozen taps pouring beer that's primarily Bavarian in persuasion. A recent visit rewarded with a tart barrel-aged quad that cut the traditionally yeasty profile of the Old World classic with a deep cherry flavor, and the Lucubrator—a malty doppelbock equal parts rich and accessible—is a fan favorite that returns to the menu every November. Occidental's most popular flagships, like the Hefeweizen or the Altbier, hover around the 5 percent ABV mark, which means sampling your way through the menu is an attainable goal. Guests are welcome to bring in food, but you're better off crossing the parking lot and eating at Urban German Wursthaus, where there is snappy sausage and pretzels with creamy Swiss fondue. Pete Cottell.
832 N Beech St., 971-703-4516, stormbreakerbrewing.com. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Monday, 11 am-11 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday. 8409 N Lombard St., 971-255-1481. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday.
BREAK ON THROUGH / What's that old saying? "When God closes a brewery, He always opens another one—often in the same building"? Something like that. In any case, StormBreaker is familiar with the Portland brewing circle of life. In 2014, founders Rob Lutz and Dan Malech set up shop in the former home of Amnesia Brewing, changing up the food menu and, of course, the beer program while maintaining the property's best feature: the large patio facing North Mississippi Avenue. Then, two years ago, Lutz and Malech expanded north, moving into the space once occupied by Plew's Brews and a neighboring dentist office, adding ax-throwing lanes and a magnificent mural of the St. Johns Bridge, while once again keeping the attractive patio intact. Not to speak ill of the dearly defunct, but both takeovers proved instant improvements. Name a style and StormBreaker makes a damn fine version of it, from its citrusy Cloud Ripper IPA to the Opacus Stout, which has all the hints of chocolate you want without going down like a pint of Ovaltine. Matthew Singer.
825 N Cook St., 503-265-8002, eclipticbrewing.com. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday.
STAR STATUS / While many of its contemporaries have grown into taprooms that feel like a bougie Buffalo Wild Wings, Ecliptic has kept its personality. That's partly due to its loose theme: Head brewer and local beer legend John Harris is a hobbyist astronomer, so all the beers are named after celestial objects and events. Even though its taproom occupies a whole block of North Mississippi Avenue, Ecliptic still feels like a neighborhood watering hole. On any given day, you'll find crowds of families chowing down the brewery's upscale pub grub, and there's usually a local folk band jamming in a corner of the bar. But most of all, Ecliptic's character is defined by the carefully calibrated beers. There's a reason six-packs of Starburst IPA have become ubiquitous in stores: It has enough bite to satisfy hop heads, yet it's incredibly crisp. Ecliptic's lineup gravitates toward the bitter, but the long tap list accommodates a wide range of tastes. Sixth Orbit, a plum IPA created in late 2019 in honor of Ecliptic's anniversary, is spiced with a hint of vanilla, like a Christmas pudding. Shannon Gormley.
Widmer Brothers Brewery
929 N Russell St., 503-281-3333, widmerbrothers.com. Public tours 3 pm Monday-Friday, 1 and 3 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Acquired tastes / The storied history of what is now Oregon's largest brewery (albeit no longer independent) stretches back to 1984, in a somewhat sketchy part of town we now call the Pearl District. When Kurt and Rob Widmer opened their little brewing enterprise, they were hoping just to survive, make enough money to keep themselves housed and fed, and expand the range of beer available in Portland. The climb was not just uphill, but akin to scaling a 90-degree vertical wall, and a slippery one at that. More than three decades later, that barrier has been breached, torn down and left behind. The brewery morphed from a tiny, struggling operation to a merged entity with Seattle's Redhook to a wholly owned piece of the world's largest beer conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch InBev. So does Widmer have any mojo at all? In a word, yes. But a lack of transparency hasn't made finding that out easy, especially with the 2019 closure of its taproom. Sure, you can find classics at the supermarket: the Hefe, Upheaval IPA and Brrr Hoppy Red are all credible. But Widmer is also making experimental offerings, like a big barrel-aged stout called "Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo" served at a recent brewery tour. Find me a bar that pours it, though. There was a time when you could taste batches from the Widmers' pilot system in the Gasthaus. Why don't they reopen that damned taproom and give those beers the showcase they deserve? Don Scheidt.
Ex Novo Brewing
2326 N Flint Ave., 503-894-8251, exnovobrew.com. 3-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 3-11 pm Friday, 11 am-11 pm Saturday, 11 am-10 pm Sunday. 4505 SW Watson Ave., Beaverton, 971-249-3737. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday.
EX FACTOR / When it opened in 2014, Ex Novo was the first of its kind in the country—a nonprofit brewery. Its legal status has since changed, but its charitable spirit remains steadfast: Founder Joel Gregory has vowed to give four charities $100,000 apiece. He's well on his way, and it's easy to see why. After all, his blond, wood-laden brewpub in North Portland is a popular pregame spot for fans with tickets to the Blazers, or really anything else at Moda Center, just a 15-minute stroll away. But it's not only the prime real estate or do-goodery spurring sales—the beer speaks for itself. The tap list is divided into categories, like "Hop Forward" and "Light and Fresh." But even the flagship Eliot IPA, which falls into the former, is well balanced: crisp, dry and hardly a hop bomb at 65 IBUs. Truth be told, approachability is probably Ex Novo's chief characteristic: Sour skeptics are encouraged to sample the Puff Puff Passion—tart but not overwhelmingly so, with a refreshing, almost sangrialike quality. Matthew Singer.
240 N Broadway, Suite 2, uprightbrewing.com. 4:30-9 pm Tuesday-Friday, 2-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Hidden gem / Alex Ganum's brewery has captured numerous awards over the years and earned a stellar reputation among hardcore fans. Nonetheless, Upright remains relatively undiscovered by many. That's probably a symptom of its location in the basement of the Leftbank Building—not the easiest place to find, even with GPS. In an effort to modernize and attract more patrons, Ganum had the place remodeled in 2018. A walnut bar top and additional seating were added. He expanded hours and started accepting credit cards. The transformation brought the tasting room look and feel in line with the amazing beers. Casual drinkers will enjoy refreshing standards like Engelberg Pilsener or Supercool IPA. But the real stars here are the barrel-aged beers, including the mixed-fermentation Pathways; Special Herbs; and Oregon Native, an annual pinot noir collaboration with Patton Valley Vineyards. This is one of Oregon's top beer destinations, and also a place many beer fans have yet to visit. Pete Dunlop.