Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pubs of Portland Tours

Yesterday I went on part of a pub crawl organized by Marc Martin and Charles Culp. Not unusual in and of itself -- I'm often drinking beer with those guys -- but this was a preview of their new business venture: Pubs of Portland Tours. It's a great idea -- guided pub crawls that get around solely on foot and by public transport. What better way to give people a glimpse of the Portland lifestyle than by getting them on their feet, on trains and buses, and drinking good beer?

OK, sure, a better way would be to make them ride bicycles between pubs -- this was an idea I tried to pitch to Dave next door when I was between jobs a few years ago -- but in our lawyer-infested society that simply isn't practical. You couldn't get insured to do it, and you wouldn't chance it without insurance. In fact, those kind of liability issues are what defined the Pubs of Portland model. Originally Marc thought he would do van tours of pubs, but insurance costs led him to look in a different direction. He and Charles guide the tours, but participants pay for their own beer and even their own transit passes. Take that, lawyers and insurance leeches!

Each tour will have at most 12 participants, and costs $25 per person cash ($27 if you pay with plastic). For that you get:
  • Walking/transit tour of 3 or 4 Portland brewpubs (about 5 1/2 hours long).
  • Expert beer advice and education on the brewing process
  • Meet and greet the brewers
  • Portland historical information
  • A brewery tour if desired
Marc takes the educational aspect seriously -- he has a masters degree in education and is a fanatic beer evangelist.  I have fond memories of him stomping around the Lucky Lab patio each year during the hop-shucking bee, examining peoples' cones and pronouncing on what variety they are based on their shape, size, or aroma.  And while "historical information" might sound like a stretch for a beer tour, think of how many breweries are located in the historical part of town.  On yesterday's tour, I learned that the Centennial Building that houses Portland's branch of Rock Bottom was the largest building of its time in 1876, and its construction displaced the existing Chinatown to its current location (where it displaced a Japantown).

The tours start at 12 noon 6 days a week at Pioneer Square downtown, for easy connection to MAX, streetcars, and downtown hotels.  Pubs of Portland will choose the itinerary, but if your group has bought out the whole tour, you can work with them to hit the destinations you want.

I like it that they're just easing into the business slowly -- rather than try and dive in during the frenzy of July, they'll do their first tours starting September 1.  Call them for reservations (hey guys, what's with the Austin phone number? You should be in the 503 now, or at least the 1-800).  I'm sure they expect mostly tourists, but it's not a bad deal even for locals who have yet to make the rounds of Portland's great pubs and breweries.


    1. I also think it's odd that the photo on their landing page is of Three Creeks Brewing, man that's a heck of a public transportation journey.

    2. It's probably faster to walk to Sisters than take public transportation. Maybe they'll replace that picture with my abusive cell phone picture of the two of them waiting on the streetcar.

    3. $25 for TriMet Day Pass? Steep! Is this for the directionally challenged who can't cross reference Mapquest with a TriMet map??

    4. Well Reggie, you couldn't pay me $25 to spend 5 hours with you, so maybe you should sign up. It's a bargain.

      I don't think they're aiming at those of us who already have Ph.Ds in beer and transit. More for tourists or uninitiated locals.

    5. You think someone needs a PhD to do a Google search and cross reference to a TriMet map? TriMet day pass $5. Google search - Free. You? I wouldn't pay a dime for you to hand me a towel in the John.

    6. Too much logic Reggie! ;-}

      What happened to

    7. Hehe. Brew Bus was the lamest thing ever. It was just a bunch of drunks on a rented school bus. The owner, Jim, was a nice guy, but I could have done it myself.

    8. least they had a bus. Sounds kind of downhome Portland funky... In a good way

    9. We just went on one of these tours hosted by Marc Martin. What an outstanding experience! Marc knows beer and brewing front to back, as well as a ton of Portland history. It’s really two tours in one. You get a great sampling of local brewpubs and beers, along with a great history lesson on beer making in the city of Portland. Marc gives a world class tour, and is just an all around great guy to spend an afternoon drinking beer with. A great value for the money as well, and lots of fun. I can’t recommend Pubs of Portland tours highly enough.