North Portland Beer Guide debut

It’s no minor responsibility to carry the weight of sampling scores of brews in researching North Peninsula Review’s first annual North Portland Beer Guide.

Sages and scholars from Oxford University to Oregon State tell us of the role that decorous social beer drinking has in stabilizing society and keeping people together.

Beer might even help local government. Legendary North Portland Mayor Terry Schrunk set a high bar in his devotion to St. Johns bistros in the 1960s. He would often start his day knocking off a pint at a Lombard tavern and then head down to City Hall to knock out legislation benefiting our city. Schrunk may have been onto something. He got elected four times.

There are more than 50 taverns and taprooms serving greater North Portland. You don’t have time to sample all those bistros, so our crack team of draft beer professionals and citizen connoisseurs has done the deep tasting for you. They include former draft beer sales professionals John Watters and Jerome Stretch of North Portland with 30 years’ cumulative experience under their belts. They know a great draft beer–when they drink one. 

We hope our Beer Guide will increase your thirst for exploring North Portland taprooms and taverns. 

ST. JOHNS – CATHEDRAL PARK

Occidental Brewing Company 

6635 N Baltimore Ave, 503-719-7102. 4-9pm Wed-Fri; 2-9pm Sat; 12-7 pm Sun

The tantalizing aromas of sweet malt and hops await visitors to the Occidental Brewing Taproom near the beautiful St. Johns Bridge. Brothers Ben and Dan Engler created Occidental with the goal of giving Portland premier quality German-style helles lagers and pilsners to match the city’s reputation for craft IPAs. They have succeeded.

Their lagers are well-rounded with a touch of sweetness and the signature Kolsch ale combines the best qualities of an ale and a lager. Occidental’s specialties include Hefeweizen and the newly debuted Further Route IPA with delicious floral aroma and appealing citrusy kick.

The taproom is just feet away from the working brewery, adding to the barrel-to-glass tasting experience. 

Urban German Wursthaus

6635 N Baltimore Ave, 503-286-3686, 12-9pm Sun; closed Mon; 4-9pm Tues-Thurs; 12-10pm Fri-Sat

Just across the courtyard from Occidental is Urban German, a taproom and restaurant with the best dining view in North Portland, overlooking the verdant West Hills and emerald spires of the St. Johns Bridge. Owner David Gluth created the venue with the beers and foods of his native Berlin, Germany, in mind. 

The draft beer menu has rotating Munich lagers, hefeweizens, helles lagers and pilsners. Try the dark lager with the sweet molasses flavor or Rothaus Pilsner with the hoppy tang that lingers in one’s mouth. The authentic German fare including sausage and schnitzel will satisfyingly stick to your ribs. 

StormBreaker Brewing, St. Johns

8409 N Lombard St, 503-971-1481, 11am-9pm, Sun-Thurs, 11am-1pm, Fri-Sat 

The liveliest spot on many summer evenings in St. Johns is the sidewalk patio at StormBreakers where locals enjoy pints of North Portland-brewed IPAs, stouts, reds, ales and more. 

Try their kicky Cloud Ripper West Coast IPA with a wonderful aroma and crispness. The aptly named Alterior Motive Alt has a creamy, caramel color that swallows with a lingering sweetness. Their New Zealand-style pilsner is an easy-to-drink warm weather treat. Check out StormBreaker’s other venue at 832 N. Beech St, where they do the brewing. 

Lombard House

7337 N Lombard St, 503-539-5889. 5-10pm Tues; 2-10 pm Wed-Fri; 12-10pm Sat; 12-8pm Sun

This pub shared the 2024 Oregon Beer Award for best tavern, and no wonder. Everyone is your friend here, or soon will be. Ebullient owner Brian Koch has rotating draft beers. Favorites include Upright Pilsner from North Portland’s Yovu Brewing. Another is the Underground Pale from Grand Fir Brewing. A husband-and-wife team operated Grand Fir and before that, their first date began at—you guessed it—Lombard House.

The compact-size tavern doesn’t have a kitchen and Brian encourages patrons to grab entrees across the street at St. Johns Food & Beer Porch and eat at the bar or spacious back patio. 

Nicole and Gadsby at The Park Taphouse
Nicole and Gatsby at The Park Taphouse

The Park Tap House

8401 N Ivanhoe St, closed Mon-Tues; 4-10pm Wed-Thurs; 2-10pm Fri; 12-9pm Sat & Sun 

No taproom in Portland puts on the dog more than the Park Tap House where the house Chihuahua terrier “Gatsby” personally welcomes visitors. Gatsby’s owner and Taproom proprietor Nicole Harris brings a friendly small-town vibe to urban North Portland. Parks’ selection of 21 beer taps features a light and savory Volatile Substance IPA by Von Ebert brewing and an invigorating Park Dry Cider by Double Mountain Brewery. A few food items are offered, a variety of Franks at excellent prices. You can also bring food in. Keep up with their Instagram because they also do events like Karaoke every Friday. For the St. Johns Bizarre, Huk Lab and Harris plan to convert John Street adjacent to the taproom into a mini-disc golf course. Fore! 

McMenamins St. Johns Theater & Pub

8203 N Ivanhoe St, 503-283-8520, Open 11am-10pm daily 

As befitting McMenamin’s family’s Celtic ancestry, this pub reminds us of pubs in Ireland with its intimacy and textured, dark-wood interior. The structure, not surprisingly, was designed for a party, the historic Portland Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905, and was later barged down the Willamette River to its present site. The taps include 20 of McMenamins’ own brews. Our favorite beverage is the delicious Ruby Ale with a touch of raspberry, but there are 19 others on tap. “Ah,” as the Irish say, “so many beers, so little time.”

UNIVERSITY PARK – PORTSMOUTH

Mock Crest tavern neon sign
Mock Crest tavern neon sign

Mock Crest Tavern

3435 N Lombard St, 503-283-5014, 11am-Midnight Mon-Thurs; 11am-1am Fri; 9am-1am Sat; 9am-Midnight Sun

Thousands of westbound Lombard Street motorists and bicyclists every day see painter Edmond Booth’s mural gracing the east side of the Mock Crest Tavern.

If they should step inside, they’d also see why former literary editor of The Oregonian, Paul Pintarich, praised the pub in his book “History by the Glass” as one of Portland’s iconic neighborhood taverns. 

The care with which Mock Crest owners, Jon Batcheller and Rainer Wieland, select their eight tap beers springs to life the proverb, “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.” 

The eight taps tilt to Northwest craft beers including the beloved Astoria-based Ft George Pale Ale, a lip-smacking tasty pale ale brewed with Oregon-grown hops. The popular St. Helens, Oregon-crafted Crooked Creek Red Stout is lightly malted and lends itself to ordering another. Those wanting a deeper malt will love the Lights Out Stout from Central Oregon’s Worthy Brewing. 

Live music, especially blues, every Friday and Saturday night.

Musical performance at Mock Crest tavern
Musical performance at Mock Crest tavern
Sundown Pub interior

Sundown Pub

5903 N Lombard, 503-283-4200, 4pm-2:30am Mon-Sun 

Art historians credit the iconic lanky cowboy “Vegas Vic” sign in Las Vegas as a turning point in moving neon design from typeface-based signs to a friendly human form. The Vegas Vic sign inside the Sundown Pub on Lombard Street similarly welcomes visitors.

The friendliness of the bartenders stands out, as does some of the best pub grub in North Portland, particularly the pulled pork and corned beef sliders on Wednesday evenings, and chef Joaquin’s tacos on Thursday night. Enjoy the country vibe of the live music. Drinking the Be Happy Hefe Hefeweizen from Vancouver’s Barrel Mountain brewery got us smiling. The tangy and fruity Moonberry Cider topped off the night. Spacious outdoor seating on summer evenings. 

Twilight Room

5242 N Lombard, 503-283-5091, 11am-12am Mon-Sat; 11am-10pm Sun 

Few Portland bistros are as embedded in their neighborhood history as the Twilight Room. After a nearby bar refused service to black University of Portland athletes in the 1950s, the T-Room welcomed them and the UofP community has been coming ever since. 

The Penner family has owned and devotedly overseen the “T-Room” for decades, satisfying a happy mix of regular-folk neighbors, UofP students, soccer and basketball fans. Kids are even allowed in the restaurant portion and the lunch menu is Willamette River-fathoms deep. 

Craft beer drinkers like the 33 beer taps that veteran bartender Christian Roggen picks out. The array includes familiar craft beers as well as exotic newcomers such as Double Mountain Japanese Jiro rice lager and Helvetia Cider Co. dry apple cider. It also offers a growing array of non-alcoholic beers, an emerging trend.

Chill NFill

5215 N Lombard St, 503-841-6361, 11:30-midnight Mon- Sat; 9:30am-10pm Sun 

Chill NFill boasts of being North Portland’s premier “Growler shop” and probably is with its 30 rotating taps of craft beer, wine, cider and even kombucha. They also pack a punch with their hard-to-find local bottled beer, wines and ciders.

The spacious picnic-table seating regularly lures neighborhood and Roosevelt High School booster groups. We especially liked their Brown Barley Pallet IPA out of Baker City, Ore. Chill N Fill has a rich events calendar of live music, comedy and even “dog parties.” 

Food cart courtyard includes Ethiopian, Indian, Mexican and other delectables.

ARBOR LODGE – OVERLOOK

The Nite Hawk Café & Lounge

6423 N Interstate Ave, 503-285-7177, 7am to midnight daily

How many neighborhood diners in Portland have been so good for so long—that Wikipedia recognizes them? The Nite Hawk has. The national Daily Meal food website named it on their list of “America’s greatest old-school restaurants” in 2020.

The tradition has been building since the diner opened in 1931 along the N. Interstate Avenue trolley line and grown since local longshoreman Bill Mildenberger, and his wife, Elaine, took over in 1980. Their son, Bill, Jr., now manages the enterprise and his mother’s cooking excellence still inspires the home-made pies and biscuits.

The vintage interior has the north side’s best display of Oregon sports history. Most of the 12 draft beer taps are Oregon craft beers. We recommend the Portland-brewed Breakside Pilsner and Ft. George Vortex IPA. The community-minded Nite Hawk is a leader in supporting local schools and non-profits. 

Greeley Avenue Bar & Grill

5421 N Greeley Ave, 503 283-0676. 11am-Midnight Mon-Thurs; 11am -1am; 9am- 1am Fri & Sat; 9am–Midnight Sun

How can you not love a pub that hosts a Mother’s Day Texas Hold ‘Em tournament? And mom might even catch some international flair when executives from the nearby Adidas North American headquarters come in with clients from Milan to Manila. Swan Island Navy shipyard riveters and welders might similarly join you at the card table or bar counter.

Patio seating at the Greeley Avenue Bar & Grill
Patio seating at the Greeley Avenue Bar & Grill

Co-owner Jon Batcheller, who also owns the Mock Crest Tavern, emphasizes first-rate food fare. The Yorgo Burger and the veggie Impossible Burger are the hot sellers. The craft beers stand out. The 20- and 30-something customers reach for the Pfriem Pilsner with its forward hoppy taste. We liked the Sunriver Brewing Co.’s vividly named Vicious Mosquito IPA. After your drinks settle in, consider strolling west two blocks, to watch the gorgeous summer sunsets from the Overlook bluff.

Catch Part II of the North Portland Beer Guide in the June issue of the North Peninsula Review.