Some anthropologists claim that beer, rather than bread, enticed human tribes to abandon the ways of the nomad and settle down to develop agriculture. It was a powerful inspiration. By 3000 BC, the Sumerians were so devoted to the craft of brewing that it had a patron goddess: Ninkasi. If Ninkasi were looking for new recruits for her cult, she would have to look no further than Portland, where new disciples are born every day. Portland may have more microbreweries and brewpubs than any city in the nation—32 at last count—reflecting a climate hospitable to hops and a fanatic devotion to the homegrown. Our climate is excellent for growing hops (we grow at least 14 varieties) and barley, and beer brewing is a long tradition. Combine these resources with the do-it-yourself ethos left over from Oregon’s hippie days, and you have a revolution in the making. All over the area, commercial brewers and backyard enthusiasts are creating microbrews, cask-conditioned ales, and other delights.

Some well known names in brewing legend here include Mike and Brian McMenamin, two brothers who have become not just brewers but real estate developers, hoteliers, and visionaries. They have more than 30 enterprises—including pubs, restaurants, hotels, inns, and theaters—throughout the city and beyond, stretching far south into the Willamette Valley and north to Washington. While their shadow has grown long, nonetheless, their pubs are wonderfully Oregon experiences. Many of them have splendid gardens and appealing interiors, and they all have good beer, from old standards such as Crystal, Ruby, Hammerhead, and Terminator Stout, to seasonal and other special beers.

Other important beer names are Fred Eckhardt, the beer writer whose most frequent label is “legendary,” because his book The Essentials of Beer Style is regarded as the gospel by homebrewers and international beer judges; the Widmer Brothers, who made hefewiezen a household word (at least around here); and Henry Weinhard, the progenitor of beer production in the area. But many of the best beers in the area don’t have well-known names or even their own pubs. Hair of the Dog—who named one of their special ales “Fred” after Fred Eckhardt—is one to keep your eye out for at taps throughout town.

WhereTraveler Staff
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