P’s Downtown Beer Tour: Stop 1 and 2 of Deschutes and Rogue

My sister and her F came to visit this past weekend. Since they came on a weekend rather then a weekday, I was able to take them on my guided tour of some of the highlights of Portland. They arrived late on Friday evening, but not too late to get a start on the PDX experience- starting with microbrews.

Given our start of 11 at night and the fact that no one had eaten dinner yet, we were only able to hit two local breweries. My opinion is that Deschutes Brewery Portland Pub  is a nice intro to a local microbrew because they offer a large selection of their own beers to try (for instance, 16-20 of them) while offering decent food. They are also only a few blocks away from Rogue Distillery and Public House which offers some very interesting beer profiles that are not as common (chocolate, soba, juniper, chipotle, etc). But I don’t think the food at Rogue (with the exception of their tater tots and carrying Rogue cheese even though they are not directly related) is anything to highlight. It’s like they admit they know their beer is so good you will go there despite their lackluster food.

Add to this that the atmosphere at Deschutes is more on the gastropub that appeals to tourists with their carved Northwest wood and Northwest animals and scenery, while Rogue is the neighborhood bar restaurant that has sticky bench booths  that you might find at a sports bar in Wrigleyville but without all the TVs. At Deschutes, the sampler trays offer each guest the ability to pick out any 6 beers to try, and they write nice entire paragraph descriptions for each beer, so again, a great intro to microbrews. Rogue also has their beer binder, with a page each for each beer, but the descriptions at Deschutes are more relatable to the novice and focus more on flavor then history and stats. So… let’s warm up with Deschutes!


For food, J and I tried Northwest oysters on the half shell as a starter. You can order each or half a dozen in 3 styles (we got 2 of each): Classic Style with Black Butte Porter Cocktail Sauce; Beer, Lime, and Cilantro Mignonette; and the Chef’s Favorite of Mango Granité. My favorite was the Beer Lime Cilantro Mignonette and then the sweet Mango Granite, I thought there was a touch too much cocktail sauce in the classic style that overwhelmed the oyster. They were great, but those $3 an oyster sure go quick. I got my usual grilled washington pear and goat cheese pizza made of spent grain dough topped with Pears, Goat Cheese, Mozzarella, Hazelnuts (I forget that outside of the NW Hazelnuts are not as common until my guests tried to identify the nut) topped with Arugula tossed in White Balsamic Dressing. Fruit, diary, nuts, and greens in one plate! My F got his usual house-made veggie burger made with Black Beans, Vegetables, Spices, Barley, Brown Rice and Spent Grain from the Brewery on a Brewery-Baked Wheat Ciabatta with Avocado-Tomatillo. I have no idea why he always get this, he never finishes it, and I always end up taking it home and eating it as a leftover but adding cheese and bbq sauce to make it more juicy.

Her F also went with the burger but carnivore style, aka he had the black butte porter burger with pan seared Coleman Ranch Beer Burger finished with BBP-Worcestershire Sauce and a creamy Italian Asiago Cheese, Grilled Red Onion and Mushrooms with a BBP Mayonnaise on a Brewery-Baked Challah Bun. My sister had a dish that had a very similar to mine, the Tortellini Salad with Fresh Ricotta-Filled Tortellini with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions, Baby Arugula, Fresh Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts in a White Balsamic Vinaigrette topped with Aged Pecorino Cheese. I’m not sure who’s was healthier, mine or hers, but both were in the same taste profile family- you can definitely say these were sisters in dishes. Also how weird were our couples parallel version of ordering? Hers was a much better leftover later then mine.

Rogue also has tasting trays, but they aren’t on the menu, and when we arrived an hour before closing the bartenders said they were not pouring those anymore- just normal pints. So we only saw them pouring glasses of beer and shots of their distilled liquors, I guess pouring essentially shots of beer was too much work. This meant we weren’t able to try as many beers so wasn’t what I was hoping for, though J really liked trying the  Hazelnut Brown (third from the left). Also shown are Old Crusty barleywine, Morimoto Soba Ale, and on the very right the Irish Lager.

Bridgeport Brewery is also in the area, as is Bailey’s Taproom and Henry’s Tavern, but we stopped after Rogue as it was already 1am and we had a plan to go snowshoeing the next day. I like Bridgeport also for the atmosphere and decent food, it is along a similar experience as Deschutes but with less beer on the list. It ended up lower on my list as its location is on the other end of the Pearl District so not as convenient for a walking beer tour unless you time perfectly to minimize trolley wait – and honestly you could possibly walk and get there faster then waiting (as a side note, why don’t the Android Trimet apps have trolley stops, only bus and train! Grrr). Meanwhile Bailey’s and Henry’s both offer a wide selection, with Bailey’s offering more unique rotating tap but Henry’s offering wider variety but not as necessarily unique and local, and the feel is more corporate then Bailey’s. Henry’s also is a larger space and has pool tables and lots of TVs in the bar area, while Bailey’s has no TV- just board games and talking to your friends. If you are looking to explore beer, all are stops that offer plenty of microbrews to try all in essentially a stumbling distance. These are my cut of a downtown beer highlights list.

I also have a liquor-drink progressive walk as well, but this weekend we stuck with beer. Maybe next time.


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