From 2014's World Cup beer garden to 2015's Drinking Lot on the Burnside bridgehead, it just ain't a Portland summer without a pop-up beer garden. The Bailey's Taproom beer pop-up in downtown's heroin-happy Ankeny Square—essentially a city plan to use food and beer carts as park rangers to keep the homeless at bay—has already failed, because food carts refuse to do business there.
But the Widmer Brothers Beer Garden (929 N. Russell St.), in the gravel plot across from the brewery, should be a Portland tradition in the making. Apparently, this spot was supposed to be a beer garden when the brewery started 33 years ago, but the Bros. just finally made good on their plans, throwing down a smattering of picnic tables and a four-tap beer cart every Thursday to Sunday. There are OP Wurst hot dogs served out of a cart. There is cornhole. There is giant Jenga. There is giant Connect Four. There are $3 pints on Thursdays, Journey and Foreigner on the speakers, and discount cans of hefe if you storm the beer cart when a passing train whistle sounds.
The Pilsner tastes clean and lovely in bright sun, and on our last visit, the Bros. were pouring a seriously kick-ass, lightly sweet-hot chili blonde ale called Ser Jalbanheim, mixing up serrano, jalapeno, habanero and Anaheim peppers for a subtle kick and lots of well-rounded pepper flavor. And during the Oregon Brewers Festival on July 28, Widmer will be holding a six-brewery brunch in the garden, pouring Pilsners and only Pilsners—the only beer brewers drink in heaven. Our only complaint about this summer beer garden? We don't understand how it took them 33 years to open it.