1. Bird Creek Distillery
815 SE Oak St., Suite B, birdcreekwhiskey.com. Noon-5 pm Tuesday-Saturday or by appointment.
Oregon may be best known for craft beer and wine, but it turns out we also work wonders with whiskey. Bird Creek is the latest brand to join established names in Portland like Westward, Bull Run and Aimsir. Its pint-sized tasting room is located in the same building as Portland Coffee Roasters (Mark Stell founded both), and all of the barley used to make the whiskeys is sourced from Oregon and Washington. Now’s the time to try a flight; the business’s Baronesse variety just nabbed the title of Best American Single Malt Whiskey 2023 at the ASCOT Awards, and Full Pint, named after the barley developed at Oregon State University, won a platinum in the same competition.
2. Great Notion Brewing
Various locations, greatnotion.com. Hours vary.
Halloween has definitely evolved into a monthlong celebration, much like Christmas, so you better get your themed drinking on right out of the gate. And we’re not talking about pumpkin beers. Great Notion has produced its largest lineup of brews with spooky season names to date, including Orange Screamsicle, similar to the Creamsicle IPA only stronger and sour; Possessed, a strong tart ale with flavors of pineapple and black cherry; and Boo Berry Muffin, which tastes like the breakfast cereal its named after. You can find those beers in Great Notion’s four area taprooms, as well as unique scary-themed drops every Friday through October.
3. Portland Cider Company
Various locations, portlandcider.com. Hours vary.
Portland Cider has spent the past few weeks working to save area fruit from an undignified, ugly death on a hot sidewalk. Every year, the company asks people to bring in unwanted apples and pears from trees growing on their property and then turns them into a crisp, delicious beverage. The results of those efforts, Community Cider, are ready to enjoy. The flavor profile changes every year—the business is, after all, dealing with literal mixed bags of fruit—this year, 38,000 pounds were donated to its Clackamas facility. Go ahead and drink up; proceeds benefit an organization trying to expand free school lunch access to all Oregon students.
4. Ponderosa Lounge & Grill
10350 N Vancouver Way, 503-345-0300, jubitz.com/ponderosa-lounge-country-bar. 9 am-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 9 am-2 am Thursday-Friday, 8 am-2 am Saturday, 8 am-midnight Sunday.
In WW’s 2018 Bar Guide, we called the Ponderosa the “crown jewel” of Jubitz, which is more of a miniature city than a truck stop in far North Portland. The lineup of country music performers is as solid as it was back then, and now the rowdy lounge is hosting a six-week Battle of the Bartenders, in which teams of two will go head to head March Madness style every Wednesday beginning Oct. 18 (7-9 pm). Judges will score competitors based on their signature drinks and knowledge, but audience support is also factored in. Sounds like the makings of a scene from Cocktail, so consider us in.
5. Sandy Hut
1430 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-235-7972. 11:30 am-2:30 am daily.
We should all aim to be this much fun when we’re 100. The Wolf’s Den, the Sandy Hut, or the Hut of Huts is an idealized version of a midcentury bar and restaurant. The restored Hirschfeld mural, cozy booths and padded bartop add vintage flair, while a slushy machine, Big Buck Hunter and pinup calendars keep things from getting too fancy. The crowd is a mix of folks who’ve managed to survive the bar’s zhuzhing up by new ownership in 2015 and whatever counts for a hipster these days. No matter the name or the state of the interior, the bartenders will not stand for any of your lip but will be generous with the pours of liquor, essential for any top-tier dive.