Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tourist's Guide to the Oregon Brewers Festival (3rd Edition)

I love the OBF.  Sure the Oregon Brewers Festival gets crowded as the weekend wears on, and it's often hot and dusty, and there is only one beer from each brewery.  Still, it's hard to beat in terms of a happy crowd and pretty surroundings.

In 2008 I wrote up a meandering guide to the Oregon Brewers Festival, which I followed up with a more to-the-point Tourist's Guide in 2010.  The rest of this post is a rerun of that 2010 guide, updated with even more Eastside places to drink beer.  The guide and the accompanying map have recommendations of things to do within walking distance of the festival, not all of which have to do with beer.

The Journey is the Destination

The OBF's location at Tom McCall Waterfront Park makes for a nice 2.5 mile loop along the east and west banks of the Willamette River, walking over or under four of Portland's drawbridges. Go south along the river, beneath the Morrison Bridge, and cross the Willamette (rhymes with "dammit", by the way) on the beautiful Hawthorne Bridge (1910). Pedestrians should keep toward the bridge railing -- bicycles get the part of the sidewalk nearest the cars. Follow the curving sidewalk down to the path on the east side of the river, the Eastbank Esplanade.

View Larger Map

Heading north along the river, accompanied by the automotive roar of I-5 overhead, you'll cross under the Morrison and Burnside Bridges before coming to a stretch of the sidewalk which actually floats in the Willamette. You'll cross the river back to Waterfront Park on the Steel Bridge (1914). There are other double-deck drawbridges in the world, but the Steel Bridge is the only one that telescopes: the lower deck can be raised while the upper deck remains open to traffic.  (For a shorter route, take the corkscrew sidewalk up to the nice wide sidewalk on the Morrison Bridge, and then cross Naito to get back to the festival.)

For Kids of All Ages

If you brought your kids to the festival and need to give them a break, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a science museum on the east side of the river, just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, easily accessible from the Esplanade. There is also an IMAX theater and planetarium at OMSI.

Another interesting eastside youth attraction is the skateboard park hidden under the Burnside Bridge. Originally a do-it-yourself project that was later embraced by the city, you can't get to it directly from the pedestrian loop described above -- you can't even see it from there. You have to get onto the south sidewalk of the Burnside Bridge, either on the west side at Saturday Market, or by taking the stairs labeled "Burnside" from the Esplanade. Follow the Burnside sidewalk to MLK, turn right and go a block to Ankeny, turn right and go two blocks to 2nd (the sidewalk runs out), and turn right again to go under the bridge. You probably shouldn't go down there at night, but it's a cool thing to see during the day.

More Beer!

There are several interesting pub options you can walk to from the festival.

The Morrison Bridge sidewalk drops you right at the door of the Hair of the Dog tasting room at Water and Yamhill Streets.

The Full Sail Pilsner Room [review] is about 3/4 mile south of the festival. Go underneath the Hawthorne Bridge and follow the sidewalk down towards the sailboat harbor.

Bailey's Taproom [review] is about 1/2 mile west of the festival. Follow Oak St. across Broadway, Bailey's is one block to your right.  Tugboat Brewing Company [review] is across Ankeny.

If you took the stroll to the east side of the river, you're only about a half-mile from a cluster of breweries in a neighborhood that is also known as Distillery Row:  the Lucky Labrador [review] at 9th and Hawthorne, the Green Dragon [review] at 9th and Yamhill, Cascade Barrel House at 10th and Belmont, and the Commons Brewery at 10th and Stephens.  There is also a brand-new taproom at the corner of 12th and Hawthorne:  Lardo has about 15 nice taps, and high-fat snacks.

Further Afield

This article is too long already, so I'll briefly list a few more attractions that you should see while you're in Portland.

The Horse Brass would be quite a long walk: take bus #15 (to Parkrose) and get off near SE 45th. The Tram is not too long of a walk if you're already at the Pilsner Room, but it's not a very pleasant one; you could also take the streetcar.


  1. Someday I'll put all of your hard work to good use and get my worthless behind down there for OBF. I think I'm the only person I know who has never been. Lame.

  2. One month since your last post. What gives?


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