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Where to Buy Beer in Portland: The Best Bottle Shops
There's a reason why beer lovers call Portland, Oregon 'Beervana'. Fifty-two breweries and counting—even more if you include the entire metro area—leave citizens of this fair (ok, sometimes rainy) city happily in their cups with options galore.
The fun doesn't stop at the taps; Portland also happens to have some of the best bottle shops in the country. No matter what part of town you're in, there is good bottled beer to be found, and plenty of it. While just about every corner market and gas station carries at least a few quality craft beers, these are our picks for the very best bottle shops in Portland. Hope you're thirsty!
What, exactly, do 1,300 beers look like? Take a drive to John's Marketplace deep in Southwest Portland and you'll see firsthand, although you'd never know it to look at the place. Resembling nothing so much as a rundown liquor store with an ancient sign badly in need of a paint job, John's Marketplace isn't interested in outward appearances so much as it is cramming this former convenience store with as many different beers as will fit. Row upon row, shelf upon shelf, cooler upon cooler, it's beer in every direction, a veritable library of ales and lagers numbering far more than the out-of-date website touts.
Expect to find everything from mass-market brands to Oregon favorites to international curios you'll be hard-pressed to find in many other shops (Dragon Lady Doppelbock from Lithuania's Rinkuskiai Brewery, anyone?). Beer geeks who step through these doors can expect to have their wallets and purses lightened considerably by the time they stumble back outside, dazed and giddy with excitement at the treasures they've uncovered.
When it comes to bottles, Belmont Station features the second-largest selection of any shop in Portland with over 1,200 beers, ciders, and meads to salivate over. But not only is it a fantastic bottle shop spanning every style you can think of, it's also one of the best beer bars in the city. 20 taps dispense an always-changing variety of beers and ciders, many of them rare for Oregon, and there's even a covered back patio for additional seating sheltered from the inevitable rain.
Free tastings are held almost every week with breweries large and small. Owner Carl Singmaster recently brought on popular beer writer Lisa "Beer Goddess" Morrison as co-owner, further upping the shop's considerable street cred. When beer geeks go to bed at night, they dream of places like Belmont Station.
Sure, they've got a great selection of over 500 carefully selected bottles in stock at all times. And yes, they've got 8 rotating taps of well-chosen ales and lagers to quaff—many of them tucked away in a back room for months or years before they're deemed ready to present—while you mull over which bottles to take home with you. But what's really impressive about SE Portland's The Beer Mongers is the extraordinary zymological knowledge these guys have to offer. Owner Sean Campbell finds his role akin to a fishmonger's, presenting only the very best of each beer style to his customers with the hope of broadening their palates and getting them to try something new. The members of The Beer Mongers staff (including Serious Eats writer Jim Bonomo) are connoisseurs of the highest order, so if you're just starting out in the world of craft beer and need recommendations on where to go next, these are the people to turn to.
Ostensibly, your primary impetus for a visit to Cheese Bar is to purchase—what else?—some of the world's finest cheeses from expert Steve Jones. But look beyond the dazzling case of funky local blues and soft-ripened goat wheels and you'll find around 60 bottled beers, mostly Belgian in style, that pair exquisitely with the shop's specialty product.
You'll be hard-pressed to find some of these from your average beer supplier; you'll find picks from Oklahoma's Prairie Artisan Ales, a few rare brews from Logdson Farmhouse Ales, and maybe even Mother of all Storms from Pelican Pub on the coast on the well-curated bottle list. No need to guess which beer goes well with which cheese—the shop's knowledgeable staff won't lead you astray.
Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom
Amidst the current explosion of new restaurants along Southeast Division, a new bottle shop was inevitable. Lucky then that it's as good as Imperial. Owners Alex Kurnellas and Shawn Stackpoole stock their coolers and shelves with around 250 different beers, each paired with a helpful description for a little background info on what you're buying.
Imperial also offers something rare: 16-ounce bottle fills of any beer on tap. The Blichmann beer guns serving as pour spouts expel air from the bottle and keep its contents fresh and carbonated once capped, a great idea if you want a rare draft beer to go but don't want to commit to a full growler. A buck gets you the bottle; return it to get your dollar back, or swap it for a sanitized one and get another fill.
In a section of town where craft beer is a scarcity, N.W.I.P.A. is a godsend. Owners Jackson Wyatt and Daniel Huish looked all over Portland for an appropriate location for their bottle shop/taproom before taking over a long, airy space that formerly housed a coffee shop, finally giving deep-Southeast residents a place to pick up quality beers without having to drive halfway across town.
Despite the name, the obvious favoritism on the taps, and a cooler entirely dedicated to the style, this is by no means a strictly IPA-only shop. You'll always find a cider on draft, and the coolers are stocked with an ever-shifting rotation of styles and breweries, with ample seasonal offerings. Currently, N.W.I.P.A. carries around 150 different bottled beers, but expect that number to grow as more and more beer aficionados in the neighborhood discover this fine little shop.
Some might call opening a bottle shop and taproom a mere 34 blocks from the well-established and much-loved Belmont Station a risky move, and on paper, it is. But throw in the fact that a dormant volcano separates them and suddenly you have two distinct neighborhoods easily capable of sustaining their own beer suppliers. Montavilla's Beer Bunker is open, bright, and good for large groups, with a 12-tap bar on one side and a line of coolers holding around 250 bottles on the other. The owner continually seeks out small batch and unique beers, so expect to find bottles from folks like The Commons alongside the usual Oregon standbys.
With a well-curated assortment of around 250 bottles, 10 rotating taps, and great bar food in the form of the homemade pasties (get the one stuffed with beef and potatoes), Saraveza is a pub among pubs. You know you'll drink well here: a recent pumpkin-ale themed night included Midnight Sun's Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, two vintages of Southern Tier's Pumking, and Elysian's rare and coveted 'Mr. Yuck' pumpkin sour. Add in a great atmosphere from the vintage beer signs (skewed heavily on Schlitz, Miller, and Old Milwaukee—owner Sarah Pederson hails from the Midwest) and the coolers from an era long since passed and you have one of the best places in all of Portland to spend your hard-earned beer dollars.
Even if you're only swinging by to restock your fridge, come by on the second Monday of every month for Free Bacon Night, and bring your mass-market-lager-drinking buddies along for a pint or six of Hamm's whenever the Packers are playing. Maybe you'll coax them into going home with something a little higher quality.
If the mouthwatering aroma of slow-cooked pork wafting from the smoker next to the front door don't lure you into Bottles, perhaps the rotating selection of over 450 bottles and 8 taps will. With ample seating inside and on the wraparound patio, Bottles is perfect for rounding up some friends for an afternoon or evening of quaffing quality tipples in a casual setting. Unlike just about every other bottle shop, the coolers here are not all in one location, but spread throughout the building, encouraging you to wander about and peruse the inventory. Owners Shawn Meyer and Brant Kunze prefer to tailor their stock to the current season, so expect lots of pilsners in summer and hearty stouts in winter.
Five owners (including Hop & Vine's Yetta Vorobik) might sound like too many cooks in the kitchen, but if the result is a bottle shop of the 1856's quality then we say bring 'em on! Opening just over a year ago, 1856 has become perhaps Portland's most stylish bottle shop, with around 300 bottles of prime Pacific Northwest beers from the likes of Bend's Ale Apothecary and Port Townsend's young Propolis Brewing sharing shelf space with handmade wines and designer bitters. Co-owner Matt Genz handles the beer side of the business and knows his stuff, devoting the majority of 1856's seven taps to mostly local ales.
One of the major perks of buying your beer at 1856: no corkage fee, so feel free to pull something you like from the coolers and have them pop it open right there. Don't feel like a beer at the moment? Try one of the six or seven wines by the glass or the daily sake pour.
Before Tin Bucket, Portland's outpost of the growing nationwide Growler Station chain, a growler was a dicey proposition that usually translated to flat, oxidized beer if you didn't drink it within a day or two after filling. With Tin Bucket's Pegas CrafTap growler filling stations, futuristic chambers that purge the vessel with carbon dioxide to prevent any chance of lingering oxygen, the beer in your growler will keep as long as you need it to. I once kept one sealed for over two weeks before cracking it open, and the beer tasted as fresh as the day it was poured.
If you're not interested in bottling one of the 40 beers on tap, a line of coolers along one wall stock over 250 bottles, mostly local selections and a few good imports. You'll often find congenial co-owner Jason Monge behind the bar, and he's keen to offer a sample or suggest a beer based on your preferences, so there's no reason not to walk out of this shop happy.
The Hop & Vine
As the name suggests, you'll find both beer and wine at Yetta Vorobik's Hop & Vine, as well as ciders and meads. The adjoining pub hosts eight rotating taps, but the bottle shop's smartly curated roster of around 300 cans, 22s, and 6-packs makes every visit here worthwhile. Hop & Vine has an impressive lineup of Belgian, Belgian-style, and sour beers, many from local breweries like Upright, Logsdon, and Cascade. Recently the shop expanded its gluten-free options, a market few other bottle shops have capitalized on. They do a pretty good job of updating their website to let you know about upcoming free Wednesday evening tastings in the shop and new beers they've brought in.
Just off the heavily beaten path that is North Mississippi Avenue is a small, dimly lit, terrific bottle shop that has grown in size over the past five years to its current capacity of around 400 different beers. Like The Beer Mongers and Saraveza, every bottle sold here rests inside a cooler, so no need to worry about having to wait a few hours while your beverage chills in your fridge back home. Any bottle can be drunk on premises for an extra buck, but the shop also offers five rotating but always interesting beers on draft. Recent pours include the Stone / 10 Barrel Brewing collaboration Suede Imperial Porter and Crux Fermentation Project's Crystal Zwickel Pale. Look for even more coolers and a larger bar in the coming months as owners Mike Waite and Mychal Hoffman continue the expansions.
Pearl Specialty Market
Burnside Whole Foods isn't a terrible place to buy craft beer, but if you're in the Pearl District, Pearl Specialty Market is the place to check out. The spotless, stylish, painstakingly arranged shop sits in stark contrast to the majority of its grubbier competitors across the Willamette, but it takes its beer just as seriously. There's a tremendous selection of liquor, and a decent number of wines, but the 500+ bottles of beer take up nearly the entire western half of the space. Most if not all of the great local breweries are represented, but check the back of the westernmost shelf for a nice assortment of German beers.
39th Mini Mart
Mini marts selling microbrews are de rigueur in Portland, but a mini mart with over 400 bottles and cans and a growler station where all fills are $9.99? That's something special.
Rotating above a busy stretch of Southeast 39th Avenue—er...Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard—39th Mini Mart's signage offers none of the usual siren's calls to draw the consummate beer enthusiast inside, unless the juxtaposition of the words "specialty beer" and "cigarette special" drive you mad with desire for barrel-aged barleywines and fresh-hopped IPAs. Look more closely and you'll spot a "Growlers Here" sandwich board or a banner from a local brewery, albeit in type about half the size of the current Marlboro carton prices. Marketing aside, where else are you going to grab a growler of Hopworks Abominable Ale, a Snickers bar, a bomber of Gigantic IPA, and a lotto ticket in one location?
About the author: Adam Lindsley is a Pacific Northwest-based writer, musician, and the author of the pizza blog, This Is Pizza. You can follow him at @ThisIsPizza on Twitter. He is currently searching for the recipe for Boneyard Beer's RPM IPA, so if you have a lead, get in touch!