Yeast Meets West

By Angelo De Ieso II
Photos by Matthew G. Monroe

At the forefront of the microbrew revolution since the 1980s, Portland has continued to be a leading producer of handcrafted beer, thanks in part to the efforts of brewers such as the McMenamin and Widmer brothers, not to mention Portland’s oldest craft brewery, Bridgeport. Today the liquid artform is an integral part of the city’s landscape.

Currently with more craft breweries than any other city in the world, Portland has become a destination for artisan beer zealots from around the globe. The popularity of Henry Saxer and Henry Weinhard’s Old World recipes—dating back to the 1850s—has survived war, economic depression and even Prohibition.

Closing its brewery doors in 1999, the historic Weinhard’s marked the end of an era in Portland brewing, while designating the beginning of a second epoch in modern craft beer.

The Old World impact has married itself with modern day innovation and currently runs the gamut of cultural and stylistic diversity. Here is a look at some of Portland’s most popular craft brewers and the beers that made them famous:

Alameda Brewhouse

John and Eric @ Alameda Brewing
John and Eric @ Alameda Brewing

Founded in 1996 by Matt Schumacher and Peter Vernier, Alameda (4765 NE Fremont, 460-9025, is currently under the watchful eye of Head Brewer John Eaton. Eaton continues to offer the Beaumont neighborhood a steady lineup of house favorites and seasonals.

Beer of note: The gold medal winning Blackbear XX Stout—A sweet and robust foreign-styled stout. Deep black in color with an inviting gray-brown head, it is like a dessert in a glass (also available in 22-ounce bottles).

Roots Brewing

Currently Oregon’s only certified all-organic brewery, Roots (1520 SE 7th Ave, 235-7668, serves a niche of sustainability-minded beer drinkers. Brewers Craig Nicholls and Jason McAdam combine a wealth of craft brewing experience and offer big bomb ales and a variety of scrumptious seasonals to complement their brewpub’s tropical hospitality.

Jason McAdam brewing at Roots Organic Brewing Co.
Jason McAdam brewing at Roots Organic Brewing Co.

Beer of note: Burghead Organic Heather Ale—Sculpted from a 3,000-year-old recipe, this gratifying copper-amber beer is brewed with heather tips instead of hops. It is a tangy and floral beer that defies explanation, it just has to be tasted.

BridgePort Brewing

An Oregon pioneer, BridgePort (1313 NW Marshall St and 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd, was opened in 1984 by winemakers Richard and Nancy Ponzi. Since being purchased by Gambrinus Corporation in 1995, their beer is now distributed in 18 states and the brewery produces about 100,000 barrels annually.

Beer of note: Bridgeport IPA—The quintessential IPA to which many others are compared. With slightly dry, well-balanced flavor, finishing with a subtle bitterness, this beer is less extreme and more consistent than many of today’s IPAs.

Widmer Bros in Portland, OR
Widmer Bros in Portland, OR

Widmer Brothers Brewing

Oregon’s largest craft production brewery, Widmer (955 N Russell St, 281-3333, is a living legend. Started by brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer, the brewery combines a German and American approach to brewing that is recognized nationally.

Beer of note: Widmer Hefeweizen—The bulk of Widmer’s production rests on the shoulders of this flagship brew. A light yet full-flavored unfiltered wheat beer with a hazy golden straw hue, this Hefeweizen has set an industry standard and is enjoyed nationwide.

Hair of the Dog

Started in 1993 by founder and brewer Alan Sprints, Hair of the Dog (4509 SE 23rd Ave, 232-6585, makes anything but ordinary beer. Known for oak barrel and bourbon aged beers, Hair of the Dog brews its often-potent beers in small batches in a truly handcrafted style.

Beer of note: Hair of the Dog FredNamed after a local brewing hero who was the first to try Hair of the Dog’s beer in 1994, Fred is a deep golden beer made with rye malts and 10 different kinds of hops. It finishes sweet and complex and at 10% ABV bottles of it are suitable for cellaring.

Pint of refresing Lucky Lab beer
Pint of refreshing Lucky Lab beer

Lucky Lab

Lucky Lab’s ( brew pub location on SE Hawthorne and 9th Avenue is one of three wide open gathering spots. Founded in 1994, the Lab has remained a social environment where cask pump, nitro, and guest tap beers are readily available.

Beer of note: Hawthorne’s Best Bitter—An amber dry-hopped ale with a decorative, flowery nose. It is an easy-drinking British-style brew with a distinct Northwest personality.

New Old Lompoc

New Old Lompoc ( began as a tavern in 1993 before starting to brew at its NW 23rd and Raleigh location in 1996. The company recently expanded with a new brewpub on the corner of N Williams and Failing dubbed the Fifth Quadrant. With a variety of tasty mainstays as well as artful seasonals, Lompoc is a hot spot for local hopheads.

Beer of note: Lompoc Strong Draft—Claims “you don’t have to be a hippie to love LSD!” Also available on nitro tap, the LSD is a hearty malt-laden beer with a healthy dose of hops. It is smoky, earthy and quite delectable.

Laurelwood Brewing

Laurelwood is known for award winning beer and a one-of-a-kind kid-friendly environment ( and they’re a champion of organic recipes and sustainability. Brewmaster Chad has built upon the work of his acclaimed predecessor, Christian Ettinger.

Beer of note: Organic Free Range Red—A top seller at the brewery, this amber colored brew is earthy with a citrusy and resinous bitter finish and a bit of an English twist.