Walk This Way: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Portland, Oregon’s Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood
As brewery-centric neighborhoods increase, more walkable hot spots are heating up the American beer map. Perhaps none glows as warmly as Portland’s twin districts: Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy. These districts, which measure about 2.5 miles, are home to 10 breweries, with even more coming online soon.
Here’s the thing about Portland, Oregon: It’s home to 650,000 people and 65 breweries (we’re talking city limits, not greater metro). That’s one brewery for every 10,000 Portlanders. Part of the reason these two abutting hoods are flush with small and independent brewers is that Portlanders love variety in our beer, love supporting homegrown businesses and love to visit them by foot or bike.
Incidentally, divvied up among this embarrassment of riches are five GABF medals; that means within this wonderfully walkable route, you won’t just get to try a lot of beer — you’ll get to try a lot of award-winning beer.
Grixsen Brewing Co. | 1001 SE Division St. #1
A block away from two of Portland’s best beer bars and bottle shops is this walk’s newest brewery, Grixsen, which is actually still in its soft opening. The name is a portmanteau of the owners’ surnames: Kurt Gritman, DJ Moxley and Scott Petersen. Grixsen is one of a small handful of Portland breweries that doesn’t brew IPA. Having said that, the kölsch has a hop kick to it as does the dry-hopped saison, while among the malt-head pleasing offerings the brown ale leaves a delicious bitter chocolate finish.
Baerlic Brewing Co. | 2235 SE 11th Ave
Two blocks away, Baerlic — olde English for “of barley” — is a back-to-fundamentals brewery. The brewers do have the propensity to add oats to nearly every grain bill, but the results are tasty, quaffable beers. Invincible IPA is, as expected, the best-seller. It’s a bit English-ier than most local versions built on Munich malts (and oats!) but grapefruity hop notes emerge. Cavalier Cream Ale is the second most popular call and the Basmati rice in there makes it smooth and refreshing. Speaking of refreshing, try to grab the Lacto-forward lemony tart Nice & Easy Gose.
Ground Breaker Brewery | 2030 SE 7th Ave.
Ground Breaker Brewery and Gastropub is America’s first 100 percent dedicated gluten-free brewery. With beers made from chestnut flour and oats (not sorghum), I swear the beers are actually tasty to regular beer lovers’ palates even if the target demo are Celiacs and those leading a gluten-reduced lifestyle. The IPA is often evolving but its current iteration, IPA No. 5, took silver at the 2015 GABF. A new Tepache Ace, which is a radleresque mix of IPA with fermented pineapples, is simply mouthwatering as is Chef Neil Davidson’s menu.
Lucky Labrador Brewing Co. | 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
The Lucky Lab is the epicenter of the cluster and is vintage Portland. The back patio is seriously composed of a muttley crew where the old school English ales flowing. It’s one of the few places you can find an ESB. Hellraiser ESB is rife with toast ’n toffee while Super Dog IPA is a big, fluffy IPA with a wet nose and offers lots to love, especially for fans of citrusy-pithy hops and ample malt body.
Green Dragon/Buckman Botanical Brewery | 928 SE 9th Ave.
Walk five minutes due north of Lucky Lab and you arrive at the Green Dragon. The pub was bought by Rogue of Dead Guy fame and today boasts 56 taps, where at least four are devoted to the in-house nano Buckman Botanical Brewery. As indicated by the name, instead of hops, these beers generally focus on herbs, spices, teas, or fruit such as Chamomellow Pale Ale or Ginger Beer. If you’re looking for extra antioxidants, try the light and sour Kombeercha.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House | 939 SE Belmont St.
Directly across the street is the world-renowned Cascade Brewing Barrel House. While the highly-coveted sour beers aren’t brewed on premise, wholly unique “Live Barrel” blends are tapped each Tuesday. You may end up wearing more than you drink if the tapping doesn’t go well. There’s no end to the creative blends but Apricot and its pit-meat cousin, Noyaux, are always great calls if you love wild ales. You can also find bottles to go including vintages. Perhaps you’ll find the 2009 GABF gold medal winning Bourbonic Plague or a 2013 Kriek if you can never have enough sour cherry.
The Commons Brewery | 630 SE Belmont Ave.
Bank west and two blocks later arrive at The Commons Brewery for a deep list of Belgian-inspired beers, not to mention the Cheese Annex, courtesy of cheese monger extraordinaire, Steve Jones. The Commons excels at light, eminently drinkable farmhouse ales. Once again, no IPAs here. Starting with their flagship Urban Farmhouse, the fruity and peppery esters make it simple yet elegant. Myrtle has a tangy twang thanks to a Lacto ferment with part of the lemongrass kick coming from Meridian hops, while Flemish Kiss comes out of a foeder with a mellow funk and fruit cocktail finish.
Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. | 61 SE Yamhill St.
Farther west just before reaching the Willamette River unleash yourself at Hair of the Dog. Alan Sprints is respected by young brewers around the world today, but has been brewing bold, brash beers since 1994. His “beers are individuals just like people,” Sprints once told me. “Don’t judge them based on what something else tastes like.” Michael, a sherry-aged Flanders Red, honors the late beer writer Michael Jackson, while Fred, a peppery strong ale that masquerades as a Belgian-style double IPA is an homage to Portland’s late, beloved Fred Eckhardt.
Base Camp Brewing Co. | 930 SE Oak St.
Darting northeast from there, Base Camp ushers its love of the great outdoors into its adventure-themed tasting room. Their flagship In-Tents IPL (India Pale Lager) is fragrant and toasty thanks to resting on house-toasted oak. Celestial CDL (Cascadian Dark Lager or what outsiders might call an India Black Lager) is roasty and more dank than In-Tents. But when it comes to dark beers, S’more Stout stars biscuit malt in the role of graham crackers, roast malt conveys the chocolate character, and that sweet, vanilla gooeyness comes in at the finish. Glasses are garnished with mini marshmallows toasted to order.
Burnside Brewing Co. | 701 E. Burnside St.
Rounding out the tour of the inner southeast Buckman brewer’s row is Burnside, a place popular among imbibers for its easy-drinking Couch Lager and equally sessionable Lime Kolsch. Sweet Heat, a wheat ale with apricot puree and spicy peppers, can be even more intriguing when pairing with food. I like Sweet Heat with the Kentucky-inspired Hot Brown open-faced sandwich or the Mexican-style chilaquiles with pork verde. The food here is almost an equal draw, as it’s at the top of the Portland-wide belief that brewpub menus can be as inspired as the beer (which is important, because it takes a lot of fuel to walk to this many breweries in one condensed area).