When you live in the best damn beer city in the country, the world is your oyster. More specifically, it's your oyster stout. With more than seven dozen breweries operating in the metro area, we're not at a loss for options.
You owe it to yourself -- nay, your city -- to try each and every one of them. But just in case you don't make it, here are the 23 essential Portland beers to drink before you go to that big brewpub in the sky, from old-school pioneers to new-school trail blazers and, because it's hot, some refreshing seasonals. Consider it a work in progress, and let us know what else should make the cut in the comments section (we know you beer people are shy about voicing your opinions).
The Commons has more Belgian cred than JCVD these days, and, simply put, its Farmhouse Ale might be its finest offering.
Red ale, 6.1%
The pioneer of the organic beer movement came out of the gates with its fantastic take on a red. And while the gates have become childproof thanks to the brewery’s kid-friendly vibe, the beer’s stayed the same.
NW brown ale, 6.8%
Baerlic sticks mainly to small-batch, barrel-aged wonders. But it’s got a few fantastic mainstays, too, including the Primeval, which, frankly, is good enough to pass as one of its more fleeting offerings.
India red ale, 6.1%
SE & Williams/Vancouver
IRAs are on the rise right now, causing us to simultaneously celebrate and make off-color U2 jokes. Hopworks' take is a fine addition to the growing field.
Sure, in 30 years, Widmer’s put out superior beers, but its flagship is basically the OG of Oregon’s craft beer movement. It’s hard to imagine a Portland where people were confused by an unfiltered beer. Never forget!
Rye pilsner, 5.7%
Base Camp’s come a long way in a couple short years, and while it's still working out some kinks, its mission to create beers to quaff in the great outdoors seems complete. The Rye Pils is a great campfire beer and, thankfully, comes in a metal bottle, just in case you drop it while imbibing deep in the woods.
American IPA, 6.6%
In a few short years, Breakside’s managed to pop out hundreds of amazing beers, from chili-spiced to sour. But in a city obsessed with IPA, it also makes the best of the best. Wanderlust stands right next to its GABF-winning Breakside IPA on that mantle.
Rice lager, 5.5%
Of course Portland has a Chinese restaurant that’s also a brewery. And of course it made a rice beer that pairs perfectly with spicy dan dan noodles.
American blonde ale, 5%
Naturally, Portland’s most iconic strip club has its own beer. But because the joint’s so beloved, it’s brewed by the folks at Cascade Brewing. So unlike some of the private dances, the beer’s great from start to finish.
Set up in the face formerly occupied by Amnesia, Stormbreaker took over one of the best brewery patios in the city. And when the sun’s out, it’s hard to beat its take on kolsch. Hopefully, Kuato's Kuatrouple is on the horizon.
Cream ale, 4.8%
Between the new P.R.E.A.M. brick and mortar and Coalition’s fantastic cream ale, SE Portland’s basically bringing more dopeness than the last two Wu Tang albums combined.
Imperial IPA, 8%
Proceeds from your drinking habit at Ex Novo benefit local charities. Which means you can feel great about drinking a few rounds of its fantastic IIPA, one of the city’s best. Until you don’t feel good about it, because you drank too many of these deceptively smooth monsters.
Oftentimes, Alameda gets lost in the craft-beer conversation. Black Bear is a solid reminder that it's been quietly making world-class beer -- and GABF gold medal winners -- all along. At 6.8%, it’s a stout that shows its teeth without shredding your liver.
Imperial IPA, 8.8%
Gigantic’s usually got a great lineup of collaborative beers (its stuff with 3 Floyds is legendary), but its IIPA is a solo endeavor that lives up to its name.
Golden strong ale, 10%
Lower Eastside Industrial
Alan Sprints is the patron saint of weird-ass Portland beers. Fred just might be his masterpiece... at least we think so. We couldn’t afford the $2,000 barleywine that sold at auction. Fred packs more flavor than any other beer on the market, but manages to go down smooth every time. Must be the candi sugar.
American pale ale, 5.6%
Burnside’s known to do weirdness like put beef hearts and uni in its beer as stunts, but its mainstay OPA manages an oat-y take on the classic pale. It's the best of its year-round offerings, with Sweet Heat close behind.
Imperial pale ale 6.9%
Lompoc quietly brews one of the city’s most impressive lineups of one-off beers, but we’ll always come back to the old-school C-Note. And we’ll keep coming back, since it’s only $2.50 on certain nights at the brewery’s multiple locations.
Terry’s is deceptively smooth and quaffable, so much so that you don’t think twice about taking a pitcher for yourself. And since it's $10 at happy hour, you might as well take two.
Rye saison, 6.7%
Another take on Belgian tradition, Upright uses open fermentation to throw PNW flair into farmhouse ales. They change all the time. When in doubt, just pick your lucky number.
Russian imperial stout, 13%
Claiming status as Portland’s oldest microbrewery, drinking among the books in Tugboat’s darkly lit quarters feels like stepping back in time. Leave it to a 13% stout -- its finest offering -- to snap you back into the present as you walk out into the fray of Broadway, often to the hearty "booooooos" of the barflies.
There are many finer stouts in Portland. But only McMenamins offers you a chance to drink Terminator while actually watching The Terminator in one of its many theater pubs. Hell, it might be the only thing that makes watching the new movie fun.
Hoppy lager, 5.8%
Ecliptic, as a brewery, is pretty new to the scene. But brewer John Harris is the man behind Deschutes’ beers like Mirror Pond and Jubelale. Which is to say, he knows his way around beer, even the ever-difficult lager, which gets a hoppy punch without losing its sessionability.
Sour ale, 8.5%
A leaders in the sour revolution, Cascade is a barrel-age aficionado’s dream. So much so that we just kind of arbitrarily picked the Kriek. Really, just roll the dice and get whatever’s coming out of the cask, pucker up, and prepare to be bowled over.