Portland’s business districts don’t sprawl—they usually run along the furrow of a major thoroughfare, extending a few blocks in either direction. This makes our city a disconnected archipelago of happy little hamlets, with bars and restaurants cloistered together in easy proximity. And few neighborhoods are as concentrated as Montavilla, particularly on the stretch of Southeast Stark between 78th and 82nd Avenues. Without wearing off too much of the tread from your shoes, you can amble through a multi-stop beer crawl rivaling that of any neighborhood in the city.
The bulk of Montavilla’s beer bounty lies within a single block that’s home to two of Portland’s smaller craft breweries. The newer of the pair, Threshold Blending & Brewing (403 SE 79th), opened in January 2019 just off the main drag. The extensive warehouse space suggests Threshold is playing the long game, with plenty of room for barrel-aging and blending their beers. The gleaming, 10-barrel brewery can be spied from the taproom up front, where things stay relatively cozy, except during nice weather when the garage door rolls up. The low-key hangout is an appealing blend of next-door neighbor’s rec room and up-to-date Portland chic—and all of the reclaimed wood that might suggest.
As for Threshold’s beer, the tap list veers toward hazy IPAs of various stripes and strengths. The brewers clearly favor the double dry-hopped method, whose aromatics and floral characteristics are found in the Day Runner and its beefier older brother, Night Runner. There’s also the somewhat vacant-tasting Brut Punch, a brut IPA that’s a hint sour, and the noticeably juicier Blood of My Blood, a blood orange IPA made with multiple hop strains named after fruit (and for good reason).
There are some great options for the IPA-averse, too, including the Jens Bailed grisette, a light but gently complex, farmhouse-style ale named after an electrician hired to wire the place who didn’t finish the job. A recent visit also found a pleasant Side Street Lite—a mild pilsner-style beer seemingly engineered for summer-day sipping—and a very good “experimental” stout called Roma, made with Mudd Works coffee and boasting a beguiling blend of subtle earthiness and face-punchy roastiness.
For now, the “Blending” part of Threshold Brewing and Blending appears to be limited to a couple of barrel-aged options on the tap list, but expect more weird digressions and unusual brewing techniques to come. At just a few months old, Threshold seems poised to deliver one of the more fascinating and offbeat beer rosters the city has to offer.
Montavilla’s other 10-barrel brewery is appropriately named after the ’hood itself: Montavilla Brew Works’ itty-bitty taproom (7805 SE Stark) is running neck-and-neck with Threshold in the “casual hang” sweepstakes, albeit with a slightly funkier, hippier vibe (a few of the beers have Grateful Dead references in their names). You can’t miss the brewery on your left as you walk in, and the outdoor beer garden to your right makes this a splendid spot in summertime, with enough picnic tables to easily triple the place’s capacity.
Their 16-tap beer list is impressive and runs the gamut of English-derived ales and brawny American IPAs, with a few German and Belgian entries for good measure. What Montavilla Brew Works lacks in terms of Threshold’s experimentation, it more than makes up for in consistency. Every one of the beers we tried—including the Lil’ More Righteous session IPA, the robust Red Krush red ale, and the ridiculously drinkable Körabräu Helles—was well made, true to style, and darn tasty. Plus, the 20-ounce pints aren’t anything to grumble about.
On their own, these two contrasting breweries would be enough to make the Montavilla neighborhood a worthy destination for any level of beer drinker: Threshold’s got the cutting-edge element down, while Montavilla Brew Works holds up the traditional end of things. The presence of two top-notch beer bars close by, however, seals the deal in terms of pub-crawling.
The Beer Bunker (7918 SE Stark) is a bottle shop, but it’s also a super-relaxed bar, with a huge assortment of of bottles and two-dozen well-selected taps of Northwest beer. Despite the up-to-date selection of beer, there’s an old-timey-saloon vibe here, so either soak that up with your pint, or catch some rays on the ample asphalt patio out back.
Last stop: Roscoe’s (8105 SE Stark), which in 2007 metamorphosed from your run-of-the-mill neighborhood dive bar into a dive bar with a ton of really good beer. They usually have 20 top-drawer or uncommon beers on tap, including a beer engine that, on a recent visit, poured a cask-conditioned porter from Seattle’s fabled Machine House. The hardcore-beer-dude vibes are pretty heavy here, but so is the promise of tasting something fantastically rare.
From here, the night is yours. You could catch a flick for $3 at the Academy Theater (they’ve got good beer, too), or hit up the Tub and Tan for a soak or something (we won’t judge). But chances are you’ve already hit saturation point—Montavilla has so much beer to try that a single evening won’t be enough to discover it all.