A Portland Beer Hike

Our tenth visit to Portland was also a first for us. This trip to the Rose City was our first not during Oregon Brewers Festival. Those sunny and warm July days were our only reference point for Portland weather. But we’d heard that it can be quite rainy other times of year, especially in Spring. With an urban beer hike planned for the Saturday of Easter weekend, we traveled prepared for non-July conditions.

A beautiful morning in Portland

Thankfully, Mother Nature was smiling upon on Easter Eve. We left our downtown hotel on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning and were down to t-shirts before we reached the Burnside Bridge, our gateway to the East side of the Willamette River. The first leg of our beer hike was the longest, almost 3.5 miles. After crossing the bridge and a few slight lefts, we were strolling up East Sandy Blvd. destined for the Hollywood district.

Columbia River Brewing

The journey up East Sandy wasn’t that memorable except for passing a Voodoo Donuts shop. We wanted to try a one of their doughnuts but the long line inside discouraged us. We continued on. If I won’t stand in line for over-hyped beer, I certainly won’t stand in line for over-hyped doughnuts.

We reached Columbia River Brewing, just off East Sandy, in about an hour. Merideth immediately recognized the building as the Laurelwood we visited several years back, a fact later confirmed. There were only two other customers in the brewpub and we joined them at the bar. As further proof that it’s a small world, they were a Bay Area couple we met several years ago at a SF Beer Week event.

A well-deserved taster set at Columbia River Brewing

While we chatted with the couple and the bartender, we enjoyed our fourth straight nine beer sampler set of the trip. Merideth continued her search for the perfect Peep-beer pairing. Put to the test was Rose City Wheat, a raspberry Wheat, and Ground “N” Pound Double IPA. Of course the Peep went well with the IPA, as the super hoppy and sickly sweet balanced nicely. It didn’t go as well with the wheat, however. A prime example of fruit beer done right, the Rose City Wheat had a subtle, dry raspberry flavor; something the Peep’s sweetness completely overwhelmed.

For me, the Oatmeal Stout was really nice, but Hop Heaven, their 78 IBU, 7.5% ABV IPA was really heaven after a long walk. The real treat was getting to enjoy a pint of Hop Heaven since we were on foot.

Migration Brewing

After the hits and misses of the previous day, it was great to start our beer hike with a real winner in Columbia River Brewing. Our friend Mike joined us at Columbia River and accompanied us for the rest of the afternoon. Since we had more ground to cover, we reluctantly finished our brews and moved on.

Returning to East Sandy Blvd., we headed back the way we came, towards downtown Portland. After a little over a mile, we reached Migration Brewing.

Enjoying the sun and a Lupulin IPA at Migration

Planning an urban beer hike is more than just picking all the beer stops. The key to successful beer hike is building in pee stops at just the right intervals. We visited Migration on a beer hike during our visit to Portland last summer. We really liked the beer and atmosphere during our first visit, so we were happy to return. It’s location between point A (Columbia River Brewing) and point B (Burnside Brewing) was perfect for a quick toilet break and beer stop.

While the majority of customers were inside watching the Trail Blazers playoff game, our trio enjoyed the beautiful Portland weather outside on their patio. Merideth put the Migration Pale Ale to the Peep test, while Mike and I split a pitcher of the citrusy and delicious Lupulin IPA.

Merideth being difficult at Burnside

Business taken care of  and beer finished, we could now move on to point B, Burnside Brewing. We continued in the general direction we had been heading and after another mile we were sitting outside at Burnside Brewing pouring over the  their menu.

I have to admit, I was a bit worried at first. While Burnside looked like just another casual, former industrial space Portland brewery, seeing the word ‘confit’ on the food menu had my douche radar going off. We’re just not confit people. But once the taster set was in front of us, my fears were disappeared.

The taster set at Burnside Brewing

While only five beers, the lineup was eclectic. There was an interesting Oatmeal Pale Ale, probably the first I had ever tried. Chili beers still seem to be alive and well in Portland and Burnside’s entry was Sweet Heat, an Apricot and Scotch Bonnet Wheat. The apricot was wonderfully subtle. Unfortunately, the Scotch Bonnet wasn’t. The star for me and Merideth was ‘Le Bas et Lumiere”, their session Belgian-style table beer. A perfect brew for the weather and timely as we needed to start pacing.

Sour heaven, Cascade Barrel House

The out and back portion of our hike was done as we left Burnside and headed south. Crossing into Southeast Portland, it was only a short half mile before we were at our next stop, Cascade Barrel House, the “House of Sour.” Arriving late afternoon, the Barrel House was packed with Trail Blazer fans with their eyes glued to the television. We grabbed a few seats at one of the non-prime TV viewing tables.

Now that is a taster set

The taster set was an overwhelming 17 beers. Remarkably, that was not the most ever. In 2008, we ordered an 18 beer sampler set at Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage. When we did the 18, we had the advantage of Moose’s Tooth being the first stop of the day. Well into our beer hike, I have to confess that we weren’t in the condition to truly enjoy the bounty in front of us. But we liked the pretty colors. When we return to Portland, we’ll have to pay the Barrel House another visit and make it our first stop.

Merideth did get a new angle in her search for the Peep-beer pairing. Would the contrasting sour flavors of the Cascade beers match well with the sweetness of the candy?

Several of the beers stood out for different reasons. The Gose was very salty, much saltier than the one we had in Germany. I loved the Vine, a blend of soured Tripel, Blonde and Golden ales with white wine grapes. But the  ‘WOW’ beer for me was Barrel #2 Live Kriek. Already a huge fan of the style, I have to say now say Cascade makes on of my favorites.

Merideth enjoying a Peep and Ginger Beer

Luckily, the next leg of our hike only took us around the corner because I was almost done and dusted. We stopped at Green Dragon to try their house beers brewed next door at Buckman Village Brewery. After the diverse collection of beers at Cascade, we didn’t bat an eye at Chamomellow, their chamomile brew, or the Ginger Beer.

Our Portland beer hike finished at Green Dragon. Over the course of a half day, we walked approximately six miles and visited five beer spots.  The weather was great, the beer excellent and the company enjoyable. Had we wanted to extend our beer hike, we would have had many choices in the area surrounding Green Dragon, but we’d already had a big day and were ready to settle down to watch the Timbers FC match. Beer and Football; there ain’t no pity in the Rose City!

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