With the opening of Ruse Brewing and Mt. Hood Brewing’s new Portland outpost, the path carved by the Orange MAX line has seen notable new additions to the beer scene in recent weeks. In fact, there’s enough beer-related stuff going on in that corridor of Southeast Portland that there’s a reasonably epic beer crawl to be had—because the best kind of beer crawl is the kind where you don’t have to drive.
Some of these stops are only an empty beer can’s toss away from the nearest MAX station, while others may require a short hike, or, if you prefer, a super-quick bike ride*. A few minutes of physical activity never ruined a good day’s drinking—but for best results, plan ahead, check hours, know where your next stop is (your phone has a map inside of it—use it!), and take advantage of the bathroom at the correct places. Maybe you’ll want to break the crawl up into more than a single long afternoon’s worth of fun—we definitely did.
*(If a fair bit of walking or biking is not possible, you can easily get almost everywhere on this crawl by switching from the Orange MAX over to the 70 bus line once you’ve reached Ruse Brewing—although you’ll probably have to skip Gigantic, unfortunately.)
There’s time for a quick one even before you get out of downtown. Chain microbrew pub Growler USA opened a Portland branch inside Portland State University’s School of Business, and much of the time, the glass-walled spot feels sterile and anonymous, but during rush hour, there’s a fun exuberance to the place, as the MAX whizzes by and commuters crowd the pavement. The pub’s utilitarianism, with exposed pipes and inoffensive ’80s hits playing in the background, is carried over into the non-discriminatory breadth of its 100-draft repertoire, broken down by style (with a few oddities corralled together). A recent visit found Reuben’s Brews Gose and pFriem’s Cerveza Negra, both refreshing summer beers for completely different reasons. Growler USA, 615 SW Harrison, 11 am-11 pm daily, growlerusa.com
OMSI SE Water:
Once you’re over the river, hop out at the OMSI station to visit the just-opened Portland location of Government Camp mainstay Mt. Hood Brewing, which has been making traditional Pacific Northwest beer styles on the slopes of Mount Hood since 1991. Their offerings lose a tiny bit of charm at lower altitudes—Ice Axe IPA and Multorporter Smoked Porter might be best appreciated after a snowy day of skiing—but the setting, right next door to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, is a train enthusiast’s paradise that kids’ll like, too. Two old railway cars—including a bright red caboose—have been converted into seating areas, and a wood-fired oven turns out great pizzas (the burrata, a mozzarella-like ball served on a piece of olive-oil-soaked flatbread with veggies, is also very good). This is the place to fill up on food before your beer crawl gets too wild, so wash down your pizza with a pint of their Mt. Hood Lager, only served at this Portland pub. Mt. Hood Brewing at Tilikum Station, 401 SE Caruthers, Sun-Thurs 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm, mthoodbrewing.com
The next MAX stop, near the intersection of Southeast Division and 12th, is lousy with choices, including the well established Apex and Beermongers beer bars. (Salem’s Vagabond Brewing is supposedly opening a spot in the neighborhood soon, too.) Duck around the corner and find the hidden entrance to Grixsen Brewing, whose cozy, wood-paneled pub is about to become part of a much larger operation—Grixsen’s in the process of taking over the former IPRC space. In the meantime, patrons can try their brash, interesting beers including the Chardonnaison (a saison brewed with chardonnay grapes), a pilsner made with Sorachi Ace hops, and an aggressively malty brown ale. Be aware of Thursday night trivia, which packs the place, with contestants spilling out into the back brewing area. Grixsen Brewing, 1001 SE Division, Thurs 4-9 pm, Fri 3-10 pm, Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-8 pm, grixsen.com
Head a couple of blocks north to Baerlic Brewing, which in any other city would be top of the beer heap. In super-competitive Portland, it’s merely another excellent brewery with lots of interesting stuff to try, including some very good IPAs (such as the hazy What the Fluff and the Hi-Li, a brut IPA made in collaboration with Migration) and a continually changing menu of seasonals, one-offs, and self-described “experimental” beers—even the occasional cask-conditioned beer. In other words, there’s something always new on tap, and the choices don’t necessarily stick around, so drink ’em while you see ’em. There’s even easy-quaffing stuff for non-beer-nerds, like a corn-flakey Dad Beer, or an addictive Altbierior Motives, a yummy malt-forward altbier that goes down incredibly easily. Baerlic Brewing, 2235 SE 11th, Mon-Thurs 4-10 pm, Fri 2 pm-midnight, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-9 pm, baerlicbrewing.com
SE 17th & Holgate:
Ruse Brewing, the well-regarded spinoff from Culmination Brewing, recently celebrated the grand opening of its own facility inside the Iron Fireman Collective Building, a sprawling complex built in 1924 that formerly housed a furnace factory. The giant building feels a little like a ghost town right now, but is pregnant with possibility—a quick jog south from the Holgate MAX stop, it’s poised to become a hive of creativity. For now, Ruse is the forward face of what the area’s bound to become, with a roster of inventive, impeccably crafted beers, including the terrific Turquoise Mountain Sunrise, a Brett barrel-aged farmhouse with pineapple; the brightly hoppy Translator IPA; the New England-inspired hazy Lost Letters pale ale; and the Briar Run, a tart farmhouse ale made with raspberries and blackberries. Ruse Brewing, 4784 SE 17th, Tues-Thurs 3-9 pm, Fri 3-11 pm, Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm, rusebrewing.com
From there, Gigantic Brewing is a bit out of the way (it’s on the other side of the massive Brooklyn Rail Yard, so you’ll need to backtrack and cross over at Holgate), but it’s well worth a visit if you’ve got time. Their flagship Gigantic IPA is top-notch, but it’s more fun to see what’s new and fresh—you’ll find plenty of other IPA choices, including hazy, barrel-aged, and double-strength varieties, and if it’s Friday and you’re lucky, they might even have something pouring from a small cask. Gigantic has made the most of their warehouse setting, with outdoor seating, super-friendly service, and a food cart serving belly-filling Hawaiian eats. (After you’ve had your fill, it’s probably just as fast to walk or bike south to the Bybee MAX stop, rather than go back to Holgate.) Gigantic Brewing, 5224 SE 26th, Mon-Wed 3-9 pm, Thurs & Fri 2-10 pm, Sat noon-10 pm, Sun noon-9 pm, giganticbrewing.com
The Bybee MAX stop drops you off a few blocks east of the many beer options in this neck of the woods, but once you’ve made your way into the busy Westmoreland neighborhood, options abound. There’s the homey brewpub inside Portland U-Brew and Pub, where you can brew your own beer and buy homebrew supplies. There’s 13 Virtues Brewing, which used to be called Philadelphia’s, but still serves worthwhile cheesesteaks alongside their house beers. And there’s Laurelwood SE Public House, the Southeast outpost of Laurelwood Brewing, a former powerhouse characterized by its clean, crisp ales. It’s now best known as a kid-friendly restaurant, so you’ll see more weary parents than beer aficionados, but the beers are reliably good, so a thorough beer crawler shouldn’t skip it. Portland U-Brew and Pub, 6237 SE Milwaukie, Tues-Sun 3-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-9 pm, portlandubrew.com; 13 Virtues Brewing, 6410 SE Milwaukie, Mon-Thurs 9 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 9 am-11 pm, Sun 9 am-9 pm, 13virtuesbrewing.com; Laurelwood SE Public House, 6716 SE Milwaukie, daily 11 am-10 pm, laurelwoodbrewpub.com
If it’s Wednesday, keep going west to the Moreland Farmers Market, where Leikam Brewing has a booth set up each week. You can sample their backyard-brewed beers and take home a 24-ounce crowler of their big-flavored Grateful Red or their coffee-ish Hey Porter. Check out Leikam’s website for info on their CSA-like subscription model. Leikam Brewing at Moreland Farmers Market, 6894 SE 14th, Wed 2-7 pm, leikambrewing.com
SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek:
The Tacoma MAX stop doesn’t exactly drop you off in the middle of Sellwood, so there’s more walking involved—but here’s a public transit hack: The 70 bus line will take you virtually door to door from Laurelwood to Ancestry Brewing (the 70 will also get you to downtown Milwaukie, where our crawl ends). Ancestry’s navy-blue preppy design is accompanied by an almost dizzying array of beer styles to choose from, so order something you don’t drink everyday. Their Aussie IPA was a nifty concoction, reminiscent of Australia’s classic, yeasty Coopers Sparkling Ale, rarely seen in these parts. And their American Sour was surprisingly light and lager-like, a good point of entry for the sour-phobic. Ancestry Brewing, 8268 SE 13th, Sun-Wed 11 am-9 pm, Thurs 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm, ancestrybrewing.com
End your crawl at Milwaukie’s blandly named but welcoming Beer Store, which indeed sells beer to go but also serves as a casual neighborhood pub, with 15 taps in addition to a multitude of bottles. There’s a dartboard in the corner, a bookshelf full of games, a crate of thrift-store vinyl for their “Vinyl Night,” and plenty of outdoor seating. Choose from a fine selection of local stuff on draft, including some greatest hits of where you just were (Gigantic, Ruse). And the MAX station is close by to deliver you safely back to where you came from. The Beer Store, 10610 SE Main, Milwaukie, daily 11 am-11 pm, beerstoremilwaukie.com