I think we all agree it's bullshit that at age 18 you're "old enough to die for your country, but not old enough to have a beer." If folks could stop uttering that statement like they've just thought of something profound, the world would be an incrementally less inane place. Rather than viewing the period between ages 18-21 as the "years in which our government values the enforcement of overzealous liquor laws over our lives," I prefer to think of them as an opportunity for young people to learn how to drink with a modicum of class, while getting a few of the inevitable embarrassing and idiotic drunken exploits out of their systems. You're at college, in a relatively controlled environment—what better place to explore the line between blacking out and alcohol poisoning, or between getting laid and getting Chlamydia? But once 21 rolls around and the now-seasoned college drinker makes their formal debut into the society of adults, it's time to bid farewell to keg stands and beer pong, and make sure once and for all that no matter how drunk you are, you can still get the condom on. (Practice this if you have to. It should roll right down. If you have to force it, you're doing something wrong.) Once you've hit the magic 21, here are a few places to exercise your newfound freedom and still stumble safely back to the dorms.
Portland State University
PSU is many things to many people, with a campus plopped square in the heart of the city and a student body composed largely of commuters and part-timers. I've heard it can be hard for new students to make friends, so here's my official prescription for insta-bonding: drunken karaoke at Suki's (2401 SW 4th). Shame, regret, and public humiliation—those are the bonds that last a lifetime. Those committed to less exhibitionist means of recreation might try the Cheerful Tortoise (1939 SW 6th), a quintessential college sports bar with all the good and bad that such a term implies. And since PSU also hosts a fair number of returning students, this one's for you, oldsters: Candlelight Room (2032 SW 5th) is a venerable blues bar that apparently doubles as a prowl-zone for middle-age singles looking to get a piece. Hot!
When you throw a whole bunch of highly intelligent, socially awkward teenagers into close, academically challenging quarters, an unsurprising truth emerges: Reed students like to get fucked up! I learned everything I know about gravity bongs, the recreational use of prescription pills, and drug-induced panic attacks on that picturesque little campus. The social life of the college revolves around the library, and so bars provide a valuable opportunity for Reed College students (they call themselves "Reedies," but that doesn't mean we have to) to practice interacting with the commoners. For Reed students still leery of the outside world, the labyrinthine Pub at the End of the Universe (4107 SE 28th) provides a comfortable home-away-from-dorm, with a self-selecting clientele that appreciates Hitchhiker's Guide references, an atmosphere that evokes a basement rec room, and a better-than-average selection of beer taps. Closer to campus is the popular Delta Café (4607 SE Woodstock), a hipster enclave whose Southern-inspired food is less impressive than the fact that they serve 40s of PBR in a champagne bucket. You're in Portland now, kids.
Lewis & Clark College
You gotta feel a little bit bad for L&C students, stuck out there on the margins of the city, a bus ride away from downtown. Sure, the campus is gorgeous, but the lack of walkable nightlife has to hurt a little. Still, though, college kids will find a way. The Tryon Creek Sports Bar (8610 SW Terwilliger) is a mere mile away—as drunken stumbles go, not terrible, so you can pound a brewski, watch the big game, and pretend you're at some big university with a thriving meathead scene instead of a hippie liberal arts school in the middle of commie pinko Portland. Lewis & Clark's proximity to suburbia does offer its students some unique drinking opportunities—case in point, the Hi Hat Lounge (11530 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard). Okay, I don't actually know if the Hi Hat is a Lewis & Clark hangout or not, but it should be. The funky little karaoke lounge is the type of place that seems to only exist in the suburbs, largely uncorrupted by the non-native but highly invasive irony of us urban types. Plus, drinks in the deep suburbs are usually cheaper and occasionally stiffer than drinks in the city, and it's way more likely that you'll be the coolest person in the room if the room is in Tigard.
Portland Community College students are a motley assortment of folks united by the fact that they haven't been suckered into paying $40 grand a year to major in being a trophy wife. (Apologies to the liberal arts students, but seriously. Good luck with that comparative lit degree.) While community colleges aren't exactly known for their wild party scenes, there are still some bars in the neighborhood worth frequenting. Mere blocks away from campus, The Florida Room (435 N Killingsworth) specializes in all things deep-fried—swing by before school for some tater tots and a Bloody Mary, guaranteed to quell any lingering hangover in plenty of time for that evening veterinary pharmacology class, or reward yourself for a hard day of studying with live music and a stiff drink at nearby Pshaw (825 N Killingsworth).
University of Portland
This is all we know about U of P: They believe in God, and they have a very good women's soccer team. Located in University Park in deep North Portland, near St. Johns, students at the Catholic university do their drinking in some decidedly un-Christian establishments. The divey Twilight Room (5242 N Lombard) boasts lots of taps, live music, and decorative vestiges of U of P history, so when you're getting sloppy you know you're part of a fine university tradition. Or unleash your inner singer/songwriter at the nearby Portsmouth Pizza & Pub (5264 N Lombard), a spacious venue with pool tables and live music. A few extra blocks will deliver you to Lombard's newest drinking treasure, Leisure (8002 N Lombard), which, along with beer and wine, hosts outdoor ping pong, an actual bocce ball court(!!), and plenty of those dark make-out corners you college kids like so much.