With the most microbreweries of any U.S. city (70 as of December 31, 2016 plus another 35 in the metropolitan area) Portland, Oregon is a paradise for every craft beer lover. To assist with your beer choices in America’s craft beer capital, we’re compiling the Where Is Your Toothbrush? Guide to Portland Breweries. In this installment, we cover NE Portland breweries, located in the quadrant of Portland between North Williams Avenue, the Columbia River, and East Burnside Street.
In this article
- Northeast Portland breweries
- NE Portland breweries: Alameda Brewing Company
- NE Portland breweries: Burnside Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Columbia River Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Concordia Brewery at McMenamins Kennedy School
- NE Portland breweries: Culmination Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Fire on the Mountain
- NE Portland breweries: Great Notion Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Laurelwood Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Level Beer
- NE Portland breweries: Migration Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Natian Brewery**
- NE Portland breweries: Old Town Brewing
- NE Portland breweries: Second Profession Brewing
Some of these NE Portland breweries are featured in our ebook 365 Weird Things to Do in Portland, Oregon. Check it out!
Northeast Portland breweries
These are microbreweries in NE Portland with on-site brewing operations and attached brew pub, taproom, or tasting room (we do not include standalone brewpubs where beer is not made on premises or breweries that only make beer for distribution).
For Alameda Brewing, it’s all in the name: the Northeast Portland brewery takes its name from the upscale neighborhood adjacent to Beaumont Village where it is located. No surprise, then, that it lives up to one half of its website tagline: brewing since 1996, long before craft beer was cool, Alameda truly is “a neighborhood institution.”
And it feels like one. The spacious beer hall-like space on NE Fremont Street combines common pub features (brown all around) with touches of slickness (cool underlit booth dividers). More importantly, there’s something refreshing nowadays to visit a brewery in Portland bereft of craft beer tourists.
In combination with the location and feel of the place, the beer and food would place Alameda squarely in the “premium mediocre” category: Alameda makes drinkable beers for everybody. Rather than a bad thing, it’s reassuring, like comfort food on a blustery day.
Siskiyou Golden Ale (4% ABV, 15 IBU) sounds like a great fusion on paper—a Kolsch made with Scottish ale yeast—but the result is neither here nor there. Similarly, P-Town Pilsner (4% ABV, 20 IBU) aspires to be a German-style pilsner but misses the style’s characteristic crisp bite underneath its lightness.
Klickitat Pale Ale (5.3% ABV 36 IBU) fares and goes down much better. Its pretty amber hues betray an inoffensive everyday pale ale.
India Pale Ales at Alameda, too, are a mixed barrel. A solid old-school IPA, Admiration (6.5% ABV, 65 IBU) is an intense, big, and piney ale with a nice aroma from dry hopping. We would have returned the seasonal Alternator Session IPA because of its strange something-went-wrong-somewhere aftertaste that reminded us of dried up pine had its sales not raised money for “protecting and enhancing Oregon’s beaches.”
After all that, come what Oregonians call “the weather,” we can’t wait to get back into Black Bear XX Stout (7% ABV, 55 IBU), a brew that’s bigger than most of its peers.
You may not find cutting edge or even best-in-style brews at Alameda but as a neighborhood brewery and brew pub, it does the job and does it well.
If you go:
- Location: 4765 NE Fremont Street, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Monday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Happy Hour Monday–Friday 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.)
- Website: www.AlamedaBrewing.com
Burnside Brewing will forever occupy a special place in our hearts. On the bike route home from downtown Portland after we returned from our big trip, for a couple of years it provided a Friday Happy Hour respite where the first pint of Oatmeal Pale Ale (5.6% ABV, 44 IBU) put a period on the work week and the second launched the weekend.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. When we moved to Northwest Portland, other breweries became our go-tos, Burnside now out of the way. But when we returned to the East Side, we were disappointed to find the NE Portland brewery had discontinued the beer the year before.
The place on the northern side of East Burnside Street remains the same: the giant canoe suspended over the bar, the funky art and driftwood decor, the lazy fans spinning far above, the soft lighting that turns the place into a haven on dark and stormy winter bike commutes. The food remains above pub average.
And so does the beer. Year-round brews share the long tap list with fast-rotating seasonals at this Portland brewery.
Light and easy Couch Select Lager (5% ABV, 18 IBU) tastes best on the parking-lot patio on a hot day. Sweet Heat (4.9% ABV, 9 IBU) peppers a spicy surprise atop a tasty apricot-flavored wheat ale. Get Keller Couch, a dry, unfiltered keller-style lager fresh hopped if you can for one of the season’s brightest beers around.
Among the bigger brews, Too Sticky to Roll IRA (6.2% ABV, 78 IBU) stands out with chewiness characteristic of the style underpinning a big, hoppy body. The IPAs, Burnside (6.6% ABV, 84 IBU) and Isomer (8% ABV, 86 IBU), have become such standards for us we don’t even taste them anymore, the way you don’t feel good old slippers on your feet—they’re just there.
In this post-OPA world, we return to Burnside Brewing for the seasonals. Every sip of Whoa Nelly (6% ABV, 30 IBU), a citrusy ale brewed with a lager yeast, deserves its name. Lime Kolsch (5.4% ABV, 18 IBU) and Cherry Berry Pie (5.1% ABV, 9 IBU) are refreshing and fruity (Burnside hosts the annual Fruit Beer Fest). Mirror clean, Fest Bier (6% ABV, 28 IBU) is a big and beautiful gold-colored lager that puts a nice touch on October sunshine.
T.S. Pale (5.6% ABV, 51 IBU) tops a bright, hoppy ale with a pleasant dry finish. Brewed during the 2017 solar eclipse, Totes IPA (6.3% ABV, 71 IBU) is on the hazy side of cervisian obscuration, borderline juicy, and leaving us parched and thirsty for the next one.
Until next time!
If you go:
- Location: 701 E Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Sunday–Tuesday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Wednesday–Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight (Happy AKA Fermentation Hour every day 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for food and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. for beer)
- Website: www.BurnsideBrewCo.com
We’ve never been able to wrap our minds around Columbia River Brewing.
At first glance, the brew pub located in an awkwardly-accessible part of the Hollywood neighborhood, just north of NE Sandy Boulevard, should be just fine. Oldtimers sit at the bar; business people, occasional families, and meetup groups scatter around the pub, heavy on brown wood; classic rock plays on the stereo; portions of usual pub fare are huge; and the brewery is on full display behind large glass panes in the corner.
Yet the space is so large it looks empty most of the time and feels a little sleepy overall.
Perhaps it’s the beers. We’ve heard them described as fine, and that’s just as good a description as we can muster.
The quaffable ESB (5.7% ABV, 37 IBU) boasts a refreshing tang behind the classic English-style profile. Sandy Blonde (6% ABV, 24 IBU) is a hard-to-describe, indeterminate light ale with a hoppy edge that we could drink more of just to find out what her deal is.
The best beer at this Portland brewery: Stumbler’s Stout (6.5% ABV, 34 IBU), deserving of all its awards. An oatmeal addition bulks up the brew’s body, while roasted malts lend it mild chocolate notes.
After years of tasting the evolution of IPAs in Portland breweries, Hop Heaven IPA (7.5% ABV, 78 IBU), a monster with a dry aftertaste, comes across like a blast from the past.
Perhaps that’s it: Columbia River offers a rare glance back to the era when Portland breweries didn’t care—or need—to impress (this goes for their website, too) and you could count on them being there, doing their standard thing day in and day out. In a city that has been changing as much as Portland, there’s something to be said for that.
If you go:
- Location: 1728 NE 20th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Tuesday–Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Website: www.ColumbiaRiverBrewPub.com
Ubiquitous throughout Oregon and Washington, almost 60 McMenamins locations, including historic buildings, hotels, theaters, and even a few strip-mall storefronts, are like adult playgrounds with quirky decorations, booze, and entertainment like movies, music shows, and soaking pools. Twenty-five locations include a brewery.
McMenamins Kennedy School, a 1915 former elementary school converted into a hotel (and pubs and bars and a movie theater and a soaking pool) retains a school-house theme. Its six restaurants and bars include Detention Room, where you can smoke cigars, and Honors Room where you can bring your little honor-roll kids.
Kennedy School also features the 6-barrel Concordia Brewery, which makes both McMenamins perennials and a large number of seasonals.
There isn’t a craft beer connoisseur in Portland who doesn’t know McMenamins standards like Terminator Stout (6.5% ABV, 30 IBU), a flavorful, full-bodied, black brew; Hammerhead Pale Ale (6% ABV, 44 IBU), a well-balanced, if a bit bland classic Northwest pale; and Ruby (4.13% ABV, 5 IBU), a light raspberry pale.
Even some of the seasonals have become classics. Available only in October thru Halloween, Black Widow Porter (7.22% ABV, 29 IBU) sends pleasant roasty shivers down the spine. Kris Kringle (6.84% ABV, 79 IBU) is a winter warmer ale whose robust hoppy, malty profile with hints of holiday spices will make hanging out with family so much easier.
Among lighter brews, Jam Session India Session Ale (4.77% ABV, 26 IBU) is what makes summer at McMenamins summer, blending hoppy and citrusy flavors into an easy bright brew. And Nebraska (English) Bitter (4.52% ABV, 20 IBU) pleases every beer lover who appreciates ales but doesn’t like the typical Pacific Northwest hoppiness.
McMenamins is like comfort food: it’s not the healthiest thing you can have, but it makes everything alright. Though we’ve had a love/hate relationship with “McMinimums,” it always reminds us of being home here in Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
If you go:
- Location: 5736 NE 33rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon
- Hours vary by room:
- Boiler Room: Monday–Thursday 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., Friday 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturday noon to 2:30 a.m., Sunday noon to 1:00 a.m.
- Courtyard Restaurant: Sunday–Thursday 7 :00 a.m. to midnight, Friday–Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
- Cypress Room: Monday–Thursday 4:00 p.m. to midnight, Friday 3:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., Saturday 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to midnight
- Detention Bar: Monday–Thursday 5:00 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 5:00 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 1:00 p.m. to midnight, Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Theater Bar: Monday–Friday 5:00 p.m. to midnight, Saturday–Sunday 11:00 a.m. to midnight
- Website: www.McMenamins.com/Kennedy-School/Concordia-Brewery
Kennedy School is featured in our ebook 365 Weird Things to Do in Portland, Oregon. Check it out!
When Culmination Brewing opened in January 2015 six blocks from our place, it cut down the walking distance to the nearest microbrewery by 30 percent. The new NE Portland brewery made home in a small office park building located in an awkward, mixed industrial/residential area sandwiched between NE Sandy Boulevard and I-84, a block away from a dairy. They complemented the handful of their own brews with guest taps. “It’s okay,” we thought at the time and visited the nearby taproom a few times, never lingering.
Two years later, we ranked Culmination as the most underrated Portland brewery. The warehouse-y taproom (the brewery is behind the bar) has acquired a lived-in feel; there is a patio with picnic tables out front. The “seasonally focused, locally driven, and changing often” food menu stands above and beyond average in Portland breweries (mmm, tacos frescos…mmm candy bacon).
Most importantly, no matter your preference there isn’t a weak pour on the 20-strong tap list featuring 100% their brews (some are collaborations with other breweries in Portland or elsewhere) plus a few guest ciders.
On warm days, we default to Culmination Pilsner (5.6% ABV), stronger and hoppier than expected from the style, and the Good Intentions Helles Lager (5.3% ABV), which is as clean as its name.
This past summer the Table Saison (3.6% ABV) was a gentle introduction to the style and a great thirst quencher, while Verdita Lager (5.2% ABV), a collaboration with Level Beer (see below), put a mysteriously-flavored spin on the style.
On the ale side of the list, Phaedrus American IPA (6.7% ABV) is a classic Pacific Northwest brew and the closest Culmination has to a flagship.
We could go on, but we’d rather be checking out what’s new on tap at this Portland brewery.
If you go:
- Location: 2117 NE Oregon Street, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Monday–Thursday and Sunday noon to 9:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday noon to 10:00 p.m.
- Website: CulminationBrewing.com
Places like Fire on the Mountain have always confused us. Known for their food, wings in this case, they also brew their own beer. The restaurant-brewery combination doesn’t always work out (thinking of you, BTU Brasserie, see below), but FOTM keeps pulling it off, even expanding. Still, to us, FOTM is a wings restaurant with a brewery—a wings place with a beer problem—more than anything else. Even their website address flaps its wings across the internet, not craft beer, and their tagline reads, “We put the wing in brewing.”
The NE Fremont Street pub is the one of three Portland locations where beer is brewed. As a family restaurant, it’s usually too loud and energetic for us old fogies, and it’s a little out of the way in the Cully neighborhood. The newish small taproom behind the brewery, opened in 2016, is quieter but lacks the cozy feel of the restaurant.
One of our visits had us here at the tail end of the fresh hop season, when the brews made with wet hops have lost their brightness but still shine through, kind of like sunny days in early fall.
- Fresh Hop Wet Wondern’ Rye Ale (5.5% ABV) was a lovely golden ale that brought to mind the late summer sun and the falling leaves of autumn.
- Fresh Hop (Wet) Pancho Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) was undistinguished on its own, which would probably make it perfect as a complement to a platter of spicy wings.
- You can sink your teeth in Fresh Hop Red Hornet IRA (7.2% ABV, 97 IBU), an India Red Ale massive enough to portend the season of winter beers. Be careful, though: it sneaks up on you.
Compared to the wet brews, Paulie Walnuts Vienna Lager (6.1% ABV, 27 IBU) would have come across as a pedestrian amber lager were it for the subtle nuttiness from conditioning on wild toasted black walnuts. The Old Peg Leg Porter (5.4% ABV, 18 IBU) is an easy-drinking chocolate porter that is the onyx to the gold of all the lighter brews.
If you go:
- Location: 3443 NE 57th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Sunday–Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (taproom hours: Thursday–Sunday 5:00 pm. to close)
- Website: www.PortlandWings.com/brewery
Great Notion made a splash in the Portland beer scene with a line up of New England IPAs. Indeed, hazy brews occupy half of their beer list. A local weekly declared Juice Jr. to be the beer of the year. Not huge fans of the style, we never got a chance or, to be honest, cared to try it.
The brew pub is located on the trendy Alberta Street, with crowds and turtle-speed service to go with it; in summer time, when the patio is open, the place feels overrun with tourists/travelers and their luggage.
The hazy IPAs on offer seem like different fruit versions of the same beer, all juicy and boozy and cloudy from supended yeast—and, the way burčiak (cloudy Slovak young wine) leaves us wanting for actual wine, unfinished and not our thing. Orange creamsicle of Orange Creamsicle IPA (7% ABV), raspberry of Raspberry Dream (7% ABV), mango/papaya of Ripe IPA (7% ABV), or peaches of Ocean Peaches (7% ABV) simply don’t spell beer to us.
Perhaps we’re behind the times or not cool enough for school—hey, we can’t get around to sours either—or we simply haven’t acquired the taste yet. For now, we’ll leave this Portland brewery for those who like hazy IPAs, and drink beer elsewhere.
If you go:
- Location: 2204 NE Alberta Street #101, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Sunday–Thursday noon to 10:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday noon to 11:00 p.m.
- Website: GreatNotionPDX.com
Laurelwood was one of the first microbreweries we frequented when we moved to Portland in 2005. The now-shuttered Northwest brew pub was always busy with families, and both its current NE and SE Portland locations retain their hectic rug-rat friendliness.
The NE Portland location makes the beer and hosts an ultra busy brew pub where we prefer the bar section on weeknights. It isn’t a place we choose on purpose, but we never decline an opportunity to see what’s new.
Just as the brewery has become a fixture at the Portland airport, Laurelwood’s perennials have become fixtures in our beer-drinking ways. Workhorse IPA (6.7%-7.5% ABV, 80 IBU*) is a classic Northwest ale that’s eminently drinkable despite its heft. Likewise, amber-colored Free Range Red Ale (5.9%-6.1% ABV, 50-60 IBU) goes down easy with hints of caramel between each soft hoppy bite. Tree Hugger Porter (5.8% ABV, 30 IBU) is pitch-black and surprisingly light.
It’s the rotating brews that keep us returning, though all the commotion and ruckus in the pub prevent us from enjoying these more.
- Pale Project #36 (4.5% ABV, 35 IBU) and Prevale Pale Ale (6.9% ABV, 60 IBU) are tasty enough, if not forgettable.
- Variations of Rando IPA, of which we sampled #20 (6.7% ABV, 60 IBU) and #22 (7.5% ABV, 70 IBU), offer hoppy peeks at the experimental side of Laurelwood’s brewers.
- Vinter Varmer (6.4% ABV, 45 IBU) is a brown ale that is an average winter ale that we wish were be stronger to truly counterbalance the cold wet Northwest winters.
- The bourbon barrel-aged version of the Tree Hugger Porter (6.8% ABV, 30 IBU) impressed as a dessert sipper.
- Portland Roasting Espresso Stout (6.3% ABV, 30 IBU) is one of the better stouts we had in the fall of 2017; big, creamy, and yes, very coffee-y.
- Blood Orange Pale (5.6% ABV, 50 IBU) lives up to its name with the strong citrusy flavor but without the sweetness.
If you go:
- Location: 5115 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Monday–Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Website: www.LaurelwoodBrewPub.com
Laurelwood and a couple of other family-friendly breweries are featured in our ebook 365 Weird Things to Do in Portland, Oregon. Check it out!
Level Beer demonstrates inner Portland’s gentrification and the Drang nach Osten of all that makes Portland weird. Founded by exiles from other Portland breweries (see Laurelwood above and Ex Novo in our roundup of North Portland breweries) and located “way the f*** out there” in the industrial area past the airport, the brewery and its game-themed taproom occupy a barn with a big covered patio and food carts out in the parking lot. The place feels decidedly rural and friendly in the same way. The planes flying overhead are just an added bonus to the place that has given us a new reason to take bike rides on the windy Marine Drive, a path that runs along the Columbia River.
For good reason.
Get to the Chopper Vienna Lager (4.7%) improved our rankings of the style, which tends to be too malty. Czech Sheet Czech Pilsner (5.4% ABV) pours on the maltier side of pilsners.
Let’s Play! Dry Hopped Pilsner (5.2% ABV) is an exceptional German-style pilsner with a mellower fizz typical of the style. Though Level has been brewing its own beers only since summer 2017, you can already find Let’s Play! on the shelves of Whole Foods stores around town, something few breweries in Portland accomplish, let alone that quickly.
To our pleasant surprise, we enjoyed these brews more than any pilsners we’d had on a recent European trip!
Level also brews IPAs and other you’d expect in the Pacific Northwest but we opted for European brews simply because there is still such a dearth of good pilsners out there. Next time.
If you go:
- Location: 5211 NE 148th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Monday–Thursday and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Website: www.LevelBeer.com
Migration is the closest brewery to our apartment in SE Portland; half a mile or 8 blocks away, it’s our neighborhood brewery. Laid back, friendly, and comfortable, Migration’s two rooms and a large street-side patio make us feel like we’re hanging out in an old acquaintance’s remodeled and well-loved party garage.
While Migration’s beer line up doesn’t blow our minds with crazy experimentation or ever-changing seasonals (there are two at most at any one time), it always offers an above average brew for the occasion.
Clem’s Cream Ale (4.6% ABV, 22 IBU) reminds us of German pilsner while remaining a solidly light and crisp ale. Drinkable, with clean chocolate hints, Outlaw Josey NW Red Ale (6% ABV 46 IBU) makes us wish it made it onto Migration’s perennials list. Old Silenius Strong Ale (7.8% ABV, 75 IBU) is always a treat: an English-style ale with sweet caramel, even burnt sugar notes.
Glisan Street Pale Ale (5.1% ABV, 33 IBU) is a nice, classic pale on the hoppy side. Patio Pale Ale (5.8% ABV, 55 IBU) is a perfect drinking beer for summer, refreshing with hints of tropical fruit you want to linger on your palate the same way you want to lounge by a lake.
Similarly, Luscious Lupulin IPA (6.5% ABV, 77 IBU) and Straight Outta Portland IPA (7.3% ABV, 69 IBU) are big, yet very drinkable, clean Northwest/West Coast IPAs, with the former leaning piney and the latter tropical-fruity. We saw this division of IPA labor in other breweries in Portland, most notable at Ecliptic, a N Portland brewery, and we’re glad to see Migration does it, too, and with pale ales as well.
If you go:
- Location: 2828 NE Glisan Street, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Monday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Happy Hour Monday–Friday 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and during Portland Trailblazers and Timbers games)
- Website: MigrationBrewing.com
By a sheer stroke of luck, we were the first customers of Natian Brewery’s taproom, a day before its official opening in summer 2017. There was no signage yet, windows were yet to be cleaned, and the brewer, Ian McGuinness (real name), relaxed at the bar after a 10-hour day, while the barkeep, Nick, set up the TVs above the bar for NFL football, a Led Zeppelin concert, and nature videos.
A few months in, the taproom is still a work in progress, but it’s starting to acquire a neighborhood-y, sports bar-y feel, after-work regulars such as ourselves, and some local media buzz.
By contrast, the beer is a known entity; we’ve enjoyed Natian’s brews on tap around Portland for a few years now.
Smooth and eminently drinkable at the end of a summer day, the Undun Blonde Ale (5.3% ABV, 28 IBU) pours on the hoppy side of the style. The “regular” version of Lifted Lager (6% ABV, 20 IBU) makes us nostalgic for the special-edition aged on Oregon oak chips whose woodsy notes remind us of Slovakia. Knockback Amber Lager (4.4% ABV, 18 IBU) fuses the classic Vienna lager with Mexican lager yeast for a light, and malty complement to the Thursday-is-the-Portland-Friday experience.
Natian’s bigger brews, too, are becoming fixtures in our Portland craft beer exploration. Full Pour IPL (India Pale Lager, an IPA brewed with lager yeast; 8.1% ABV, 68 IBU) comes in a 12 oz tulip but you really don’t need any more than that of this super-dry, hoppy brew with the bright notes and nose of Citra hops.
Everyday IPA (5.5% ABV, 62 IBU) lives up to its name, feeling light at first but packing a hoppy punch. We could chew Handful IRA (6.2% ABV, 67 IBU) as a snacky India red all night long. And, like with our visits to Natian, we don’t have Black Tea Pale Ale (7.8% ABV, 70 IBU) every day, but when we do, we enjoy its pleasantly odd tea notes atop a big pale all the more.
If you go:
- Brewery: 1321 NE Couch Street, Portland, Oregon
- Taproom: 1306 East Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Sunday–Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
- Website: NatianBrewery.com
Old Town Brewing resulted from the rebranding of Old Town Pizza, a downtown-Chinatown landmark (est. 1974) pizza joint, housed in the lobby section of an 1880 hotel above the so-called Shanghai Tunnels, through which drunken sailors were kidnapped to work on ships docking on the Willamette River, and featuring the hotel’s elevator shaft, which is haunted by a prostitute named Nina who is said to have died there and never left.
Brewing since 2012 in a second, NE Portland location, Old Town has been quietly putting out great beers. The warehouse-y brew pub attached to the tap room mimics the original location’s brick-and-wood, historic feel.
It is unclear whether the ghost of Nina likes the beer at Old Town but we do. You only need one Shanghai’d IPA (6.5% ABV, 65 IBU), a 2015 GABF winner and a classic big ‘n’ hoppy brew oozing Cascade and other piney hops our region is known for. The seasonal Black IPA (6.0% ABV, 50 IBU) on tap on one of our visits in the spring was more interesting, with the fruity start, malty middle, and big finish with hints of chocolate and coffee.
Late summer and early fall welcomed us with Oktoberfest Lager (5.3% ABV, 15 IBU), a malt-forward, amber-colored Märzen beer, and Hoppy Pilsner, a beautiful pilsner with a strong touch of Northwest hoppiness which loses its edge as it warms; we’re pleased to see more and more brewers here adopting the faraway style to local tastes.
If you go:
- Location: 5201 NE MLK Boulevard, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Sunday–Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
- Website: www.OTBrewing.com
When we first heard of Second Profession opening in BTU Brasserie’s old space, we thought, ‘Great, because Portland needs yet another German-inspired place.’ Light sarcasm aside, we looked forward to Second Profession’s arrival because Occidental, a brewery in North Portland, can be far away under most circumstances.
On our first try, a gorgeous October Saturday, the place was so packed the line for beer was out the door and so we left. On a Friday a week later, the place mellowed out, though we’d still recommend arriving right after they open. Stark and simple, the interior is an updated version of the previous establishment’s decor.
The plan to have the best bratwurst in a town that loves its German comfort food is ambitious and will take a while to realize. For now, beer is decent, though it’s still in the early stages, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Portland Farmhouse Ale (5.2% ABV, 19 IBU) is a cream ale with a farmhouse problem, with hints of each style but never quite deciding which way to go. Professional Pale Ale (6.1% ABV, 41 IBU) is an easy-drinking, smooth English pale made hoppier with American Northwest hops. Perhaps the best of the new Portland brewery’s offerings, Rye IPA (6.5% ABV, 68 IBU) starts dry and finishes malty.
We’ll be back at Second Profession to track their progress. For now, to quote a friend’s verdict, “there are better places to be.”
If you go:
- Location: 5846 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon
- Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.
- Website: www.SecondProfessionBrewing.com
Have you been to any of these NE Portland breweries? What did you think?
Not in NE Portland? You may also like:
* Laurelwood’s website and NE brewpub menu sometimes show different ABV/IBU values.
** Natian Brewery’s production facility is located in NE Portland and you cannot drink the beer on premises, which would technically exclude it from our guide. No brewing takes place in their separate taproom a block away on the south side of East Burnside Street, which separates Northeast and Southeast—and which technically puts the taproom in SE Portland. We’re including this Northeast Portland brewery here anyway, just because we were the taproom’s first customers and they know our name.
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