One of the first things visitors to Portland are likely to notice is the number of brewpubs scattered throughout the city. Portland has more brewpubs per capita than any other city in North America, helping the city earn a reputation as the unofficial beer capital of the world. Many of these establishments are found in unique historic buildings; former theaters, schools, and stores that otherwise would have been demolished. Exploring the brewpubs of Portland is a great way to discover the city?s special charm.
The concept of the modern brewpub, or combination restaurant and microbrewery, is a fairly recent one in America. European brewpubs (simply referred to as ?pubs?) have been brewing their own beer for centuries, particularly in Germany, Ireland, and England. In the years before Prohibition, American saloons would pour distinct beers brewed at small local breweries. The dry spell of Prohibition changed the American brewing landscape, and for the next half-century the industry became dominated by a handful of giant brewing companies.
It wasn?t until the late 70?s and early 80?s that small craft breweries began to appear around the country. The first Portland microbrewery was the Cartwright Brewing Company, formed in 1980. Though the brewery lasted only two years (the beer wasn?t particularly good and the bottling left much to be desired), the response from the public was enthusiastic. In 1984 the Columbia River Brewing Company (later to be renamed BridgePort Brewing Company) was formed. Shortly thereafter Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and the Portland Brewing Company opened their doors, and the local craft brewing industry was off and running. Today Portland boasts 28 microbreweries in all.
The first American brewpub (Grant?s Brewery Pub) opened in Yakima, Washington in 1982. Just three years and a few altered liquor laws later, the McMenamin Brothers opened Portland?s first brewpub, the Hillsdale Pub. Today brewpubs can be found in virtually every neighborhood, and they are a vital part of the city?s identity. The Oregon Brewers Festival celebrates this tradition each June.
For a detailed listing of microbreweries and brewpubs in the Portland area, visit the Travel Oregon website.
Photo courtesy of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association.