In preparation for experiencing Portland, Oregon, KC and I watched a couple of episodes of Portlandia and talked about our game plan for the city. To decrease potential headaches from parking a car in a congested city, to not pay the parking fees associated with city parking, and to force us to see the city up close, we decided that walking would be the best mode for transportation (plus this has the added bonus of exercise). This led us to our next question: What do you see when you are in Portland?
We have both heard of Oregon’s reputation for breweries and having a taste for beer, we decided to seek out some of the city’s best breweries on a walking tour. Along the way, we wanted to also include Powell’s City of Books (a favorite place of mine that I wanted to share with KC) and Voodoo Donuts.
After meeting someone I used to work with in Pioneer Square for coffee, we started our walking tour with the Deschutes Brewery Pub. Along the way, KC noticed that the people who passed us appeared to mostly be in business attire. “What happened to ‘the dream of the nineties is alive in Portland’?” KC asked. “Maybe Portlandia was an exaggeration, “ I responded. KC looked disappointed. “I wore my flannel shirt just for Portland!” he said.
While sitting at the Deschutes bar, snacking on chicken wings, we asked the patrons which other breweries we should visit. Oddly, it was the two bartenders who gave us recommendations. When I looked surprised at the recommendations, the bartender said, “We are one big brewing family, in Portland; we support each other in the brewing business.” As we toured the city, we found this sentiment echoed in almost all the other breweries. Each brewery was happy to point toward another brewery for us to try.
As we left Deschutes, I realized that we were close to Powell’s City of Books and we headed towards the bookstore. One of the appeals of Powell’s is its size. Powell’s is five stories tall and occupies one city block. There are maps to help you navigate through the various sections. It is by far the biggest bookstore I have been in and rivals the size of some of the libraries I have seen. However, where a library has a quiet academic atmosphere, Powell’s atmosphere is one of easy wandering, loosing one’s self in the books. As you wonder the aisles, you can smell newly printed books mingling with the musty smell of old books.
From Powell’s, KC and I went to the 10-Barrel and Rogue Breweries, which were across the street from each other. After sampling their beers, we decided it was time to cross the Willamette River and try the breweries on the east side of town.
On the way, we planned to stop at Voodoo Donuts. As we were walking towards Voodoo Donuts, I sensed something had changed in the people around us on the street and I couldn’t figure it out until a man passing us gave a thumbs-up to KC. That man was wearing the same flannel shirt as KC! Suddenly I realized that we found ourselves in the not-so-mythical Portlandia.
“Babe, look! Others in flannel and hot girls with glasses!” KC told me.
“We found the dream of the nineties!” I responded and we fist pumped. “Why now?” he asked. We continued walking, thinking about it. Then it occurred to me. It was four in the afternoon, when we started noticing the change. I turned to KC, “I think we didn’t see them before because they sleep till 11 and didn’t make it out till now.” He thought about this and agreed.
We made it to Voodoo Donuts, which is a hole in the wall donut shop with loud music and got our donuts to go. Outside the donut shop, we found a purple table to take a break and eat our donuts. I took a bite of my donut and was disappointed. Then I tried KC’s donut to see if his was any better and was also disappointed. Both donuts tasted a little bland and stale.
The next stop was the Commons Brewery, across the Willamette River. There are views of downtown Portland as you cross the East Burnside Bridge. We made it to the Commons Brewery and walked in. This brewery felt intimate, like someone’s garage. There was a bar in the center and barrels scattered throughout the large room. I quickly realized that there were no chairs. “We probably won’t be here long if they don’t have chairs,” I thought as we walked up to the bar. KC and I tasted a couple of beers and ordered one of our own to sip on at the bar.
This place had a relaxed atmosphere and both the bartender and patrons were friendly and chatty. I asked them if they had seen Portlandia and if they think Portland fits that show. The guy next to me laughed and responded, “Yes, this city does fit the show. They may exaggerate a bit, but only a bit.”
“Can you give me an example?” I asked. “I’m a beekeeper in the city who keeps the bees on roofs and I make specialty honey. I work a few hours a day and make enough money to support my family. Which other city would that happen? Besides, look at all the men in here, they all have beards and flannel shirts,” he answered. I looked closer at everyone in the brewery and noticed the flannel shirts and beards. He added, “All the businesses around here work together and build off each other. They do that to create more innovation, which is valued more than making money. They build off each other. Where else is innovation valued in small-business like that?”
KC and I ended up hanging out at the brewery for a while, enjoying the conversations and flannel shirts. Eventually we made our way to the Green Dragon Bistro and Pub. While I couldn’t tell if the Green Dragon makes its own beer or if they only sell other beers, I did enjoy the different menu and the quinoa salad I ordered, which is surprisingly healthy for a pub menu.
Our last brewery for the day was the Cascade Brewery, which also calls itself the House of Sours (all of their beers are fruity sour beers). Nearing our capacity for beer for the day, we ordered a few tasters and made our way out the door.
To get back to our hotel, we walked over the Morrison Bridge to the train and caught a nice view of the city’s nighttime skyline. As we traveled, first by train, then by bus, we talked about the city. “Do you feel like you have experienced Portland?” I asked KC. He answered, “We tasted their beer and found Portlandia; we have experienced Portland.”