A challenge: Say someone (like me, perhaps) will be in Portland for a week around Christmas. What are the top five can't-miss Oregon beers for an out-of-state visitor? I thought this might make for a good blog post for you. I would disregard the beers widely distributed out of state, like Black Butte Porter, for example.This is the kind of thing beer geeks enjoy--barking out recommendations someone may actually heed. Okay, here goes. If a person comes to Beervana, my recommendations will be based on a belief that no beer tastes as good as when its served on tap (or cask) at a warm, pleasant pub. Therefore, my suggestions involve ferrying yourself around Portland. Hey, you asked.
1. Adam, Hair of the Dog Brewery. If you give Alan Sprints a heads up, you can visit the Hair of the Dog brewery, which is always a treat. I've selected Adam as my choice cut, but if you go, Alan is very likely to offer you something interesting while you're there. Drink that. Permissible substitution: Four, Upright Brewing. Upright has a tasting room, which is actually just the brewery (that's a plus, incidentally). It's only open afternoons on the weekend, but my guess is that you could contact brewer Alex Ganum beforehand for a tour if you couldn't make those times. Same advice as with HotD: you may be offered something interesting while you're there so don't be slavish with this recommendation: try whatever's on offer. In both cases, you can buy a bottle of Adam and Four to go. [UPDATE: Hair of the Dog has moved to a snazzy new place at 61 SE Yamhill Street, and you no longer have to call ahead; it has a tasting room.]
2. Bachelor Bitter, cask, Deschutes Brewery. Bachelor Bitter is a triumph of understatement, and few beers taste as good on cask--and how could you go to a beery locale without trying something local on cask? Permissible substitution: ESB, cask, BridgePort (either NW or Hawthorne). Another beer that sings most purely on cask. These are two pillars of my regular rotation, and my go-to beers when I want a cask tipple.
3. Black Lab Stout, Lucky Lab. This isn't the best stout in the city, but it's the best stout in the most pleasant pub in the city. I think it's just wrong for someone to come to Beervana and miss the Lucky Lab. Permissible substitution: Imperial Stout, Roots. This is actually one of the best beers in the city, never mind the groovy, laid-back warmth of the pub, which is also a draw, and comparable in ways to the neighboring Lab. Yes, I've heard the recent complaints about Roots, but it will be a cold day in hell before I abandon Craig Nicholls. [Update: Roots has gone out of business, so try a Shakespeare Stout at the Rogue on NW Flanders instead.]
4. DOA, Hopworks. Actually, if I were heading there myself, I'd try Kronan the Barbarian Baltic Porter, for I haven't had the luxury yet. But of the regular Hopworks beers, I like this kind of crazy, strong comfort meal of a beer. It's in one of the newer brewpubs, a must for anyone who wants to get a sense of the local ethos. Beer and bikes--a classic Portland combo. Permissible substitution: Workhorse IPA, Laurelwood. Laurelwood was founded by Christian Ettinger, who went on to found Hopworks, so this is all in the family. I select Workhorse IPA because last year it beat 63 other IPAs across the nation in a blind-tasting tournament. And when in Oregon, you should try an IPA--it's easily the state's fave style. In Ettinger's absence, Chad Kennedy has stepped in to produce some of the most reliably good beers in the city.
5. Younger's Special Bitter, cask, Horse Brass Pub. There is no more important shrine to beer than the Horse Brass, which has been serving good beer since before it was brewed here. Rogue made this beer especially for the founder and local beer legend Don Younger, and nothing tastes finer with a scotch egg than a cask pour of the house brew. Permissible substitution: There are so many fine beers bars in this city that you should probably find the time to step into one and order the tastiest local offering you see. Any of these places are guaranteed to have something special on tap: Bailey's Taproom, Belmont Station, Concordia Alehouse, Eastburn, Green Dragon, or Saraveza.
I know I've already cheated and gotten ten recommendations for five slots, but I'm not done cheating. I would have recommended going to Cascade for some sour ales, but they don't have them on tap. You could still head out and buy one of the bottles (this year's Kriek was exceptional; the Apricot Ale is always fantastic), or grab one at Belmont Station (also a bottle shop).
Finally, you didn't mention anything about needing to eat, but if you do, you could try Higgins, a landmark restaurant that pioneered local cuisine and which has 20 taps and 100 bottled beers, the Pilsner Room, a joint project of McCormick and Schmick's and Full Sail, where happy hour will get you a $3 half-pound burger, and the regular menu will get you wonderful local seafood, or the Widmer Gasthaus, where you'll find great beer not available in grocery aisles along with tasty, hearty German food.
Addresses and directions for all of these places can be found at the Beer Mapping Project.
I believe I have failed the challenge, but perhaps visitors will appreciate that. Others feel free to weigh in--what would you recommend?