5211 NE 148th Ave., 503-714-1222, levelbeer.com. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday,
11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. 7840 SW Capitol Highway. 3-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 3-10 pm Friday-Saturday.
PLAYLAND / Sometimes the perfect afternoon means hunkering down with a book and a beer in the corner of a quiet bar. When such a mood strikes, stay far away from Level. But if you're looking for a scene more like perpetual summer camp—where the squeals of children are the predominant soundtrack, open fields beckon, and anyone who plops down next to you at the communal picnic tables becomes a friend—then head to this 2-acre plot in the industrial hinterlands of Northeast Portland. Level is not for everybody—online reviews include more than one comparison of the business's converted greenhouse to a "day care." But in Portland, having kids doesn't mean every outing is limited to Chuck E. Cheese. Level's founders also have children, which pushed them to produce beers with an alcohol content that won't leave your head spinning, like the crisp, 4.5-percent ABV Grisetta Stone, whose flavors bob between citrus and black pepper. Two IPAs—the West Coast-style Game On! and the hazy Stable Genius—continue to be the brewery's top performers, both in execution and popularity. But on a recent visit, after the kids a few tables over began digging into birthday cake, I couldn't help but order Level's stout, which is basically a cake in adult-beverage form. Andi Prewitt.
Old Town Brewing
5201 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-200-5988, otbrewing.com. 11:30 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. 226 NW Davis St., 503-222-9999. 11:30 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-midnight Friday-Saturday.
GOING STAG / Old Town made headlines in 2018, when it was engaged in a dispute with the city over use of the White Stag logo—a dispute that was eventually settled. But the brewery doesn't live in the limelight. Nope. The business has quietly, steadily built a brewing program that meshes nicely with its pizzerias. The brewpub in Northeast Portland has the look of a mountain lodge, complete with a fireplace in the bar. It's a great spot to enjoy pizza and a pint in cooler weather. The beers run the gamut from light to dark. Shanghai'd, an English-style IPA that has won multiple medals in competition, including a gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015, is excellent. There's also Pillowfist, a hazy with bright tropical notes. Very nice. Both of these beers can be found in stores, but they taste best on draft at the brewery. Paulie's Not Irish, an Irish-style red ale, another medal winner, is a perfect balance of hops and malt and remains my favorite. Pete Dunlop.
Great Notion Brewing
2204 NE Alberta St., No. 101, 503-548-4491, greatnotion.com. Noon-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-11 pm Friday-Saturday. 2444 NW 28th Ave., 971-279-2183. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. 230 NW Lost Springs Terrace, Suite 10. Noon-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-10 pm Friday-Saturday.
HYPE BEASTS / Great Notion understands better than most the baggage that comes with being a hyped-up hazy IPA factory. What started as a modest garage project to reverse engineer the locally unavailable magic of canonized New England IPAs, like Heady Topper, by cultivating yeast from the cans, is now an institution. Four years after taking over the failing Mash Tun, founders James Dugan, Andy Miller and Paul Reiter have expanded beyond Alberta to a corner of industrial Northwest—the taproom of shimmering yellow wood with cartoons of woodland creatures on the walls has done wonders to ease the burden on the original location, which means casual connoisseurs shouldn't have trouble getting their hands on the brews that made Great Notion famous. First-timers are encouraged to plunk down $16 for a tray of five 5-ounce tasters, at least one of which should be from the Juice series. Juice Jr.'s explosion of orange, supple mouthfeel and bittersweet finish was unmatched when it hit the business's taps in 2016. Though be sure to pay special attention to the sours, like those in the Luminous series, which inject an abundance of tropical fruit flavors into a base that's almost too delicate to hold them all. Pete Cottell.
2117 NE Oregon St., 971-254-9114, culminationbrewing.com. 11:30 am-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-10:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 11:30 am-9:30 pm Sunday.
PLATONIC DIALOGUE WITH BEER / With founder and CEO Tomas Sluiter on sabbatical consulting other beer operations, Conrad Andrus has been directing Culmination's brewhouse, and it's been a successful arrangement. He's a stickler for quality. In late January, Andrus departed for a role at Modern Times, but we expect the program to keep humming along since Sluiter maintains creative control. From lagers to stouts to sours, there's something for everyone here. Standards like Phaedrus IPA are relentless crowd pleasers. The winter board was loaded with big ABV beers, including a terrific bourbon barrel-aged Multnomah County Stout. Things will lighten up when the sun returns. Electric Daydream, a brilliant hazy bursting with flavor and aroma, was my favorite, though Obscured By Clouds may be more readily available. The rotating Neon Valley Nitro, a sour that integrates different fruits with each batch, is a gem. In an effort to expand its menu, Culmination expects to complete a kitchen remodel in early 2020. Pete Dunlop.
2828 NE Glisan St., 503-206-5221, migrationbrewing.com. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm Sunday. 18188 NE Wilkes Road, 971-274-3770. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday. 2039 Lloyd Center, 503-206-7347. 11 am-6 pm Sunday-Friday, 11 am-7 pm Saturday.
PATIO PARTY / Migration Brewing's converted radiator garage pub, remodeled this year for its 10th anniversary, is a reliable place to find neighbors congregating after work, watching the basketball game or reminiscing about family vacations. A pint and a massive plate of nachos are good ideas any time of year, but especially in the summer when you can bask on the sun-drenched front patio. Beers range from sweet and tart—like the seasonal Son of a Peach, a delicate aged fruit beer—to rich and hazy. At 8.4 percent ABV, the Double Dribble hazy IPA packs a deceptive punch, making for a smooth and creamy pint. Hoppy offerings, like the West Coast-style Straight Outta Portland and juicy Mo-Haze-Ic, are where Migration truly shines—both beers are readily available at area stores. But no matter your tolerance for IPAs, you're likely to find a complex beer to quench your thirst. Elise Herron.
Laurelwood Public House & Brewery
5115 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-282-0622, laurelwoodbrewpub.com. 11 am-10 pm daily.
SLING BLADE / In most situations, beer and axes are a dangerous combination. But at Laurelwood, they're the star attraction. Tucked inconspicuously in a back corner of the bar is an ax-throwing range where beer drinkers can try their hand at hitting the bull's-eye for $15 (don't worry, there's always an "Ax Marshal" on duty). The rest of the space is less raucous and often filled with parents with young children in tow. Kids have their pick of an exhaustive pub grub menu that would tempt most adults (mac, chicken and waffles, cheeseburgers), while parents can sip IPAs like the ripe and caramelly Megafauna or the dark Banana Stand Pastry Stout—which tastes like a chocolate sauce-drizzled banana split in a glass. Elise Herron.