I found myself in Portland recently with several hours to spare before catching a red eye flight, so I decided to check out a brewery with some friends while in town. Widmer Brothers Brewing fit the bill of having food, beer, and was close to the airport, so in we went. One of Oregon’s oldest breweries and standard bearers of the original craft beer movement, Widmer has grown into one of the largest breweries in the country. Located in north Portland, they have taken over a section of downtown with an expansive beer-vana. Grab a pint and read on as I discuss my experience at this titan of the Oregon beer scene.
NOTE: Technically Widmer Brothers Brewing does not count as craft beer as it is partially owned by AB InBev.
- Beer – Holy variety Batman! Not only do they have their traditional brewing facility, cranking out their year-round and well-established beers, they also have a 10-barrel system focusing on innovative and experimental brewing wizardry. While their classic hefeweizen or altbier are always good choices, I encourage you to try some of their other offerings. You will find just about every beer category here, including an IPA brewed with hemp, something I have been eager to try since hearing about New Belgium’s Hemperor. I was exceedingly pleased with what was available and just how creative their offerings were. Easily one of the best tap list I’ve seen in a while. Score: 4.5/5
- Brewery – Trendy, stylish, hip…you could use any of those words and more to describe the tap room. The room itself was moderately sized with plenty of seating scattered throughout the vaguely industrial themed brewery, with a large bar that was the center point of the room and excellent views into their 10-barrel brew floor. In addition to the tap room, a well-appointed beer garden is available during the summer months just across the street with a 12-tap trailer so you don’t have to keep walking back inside to get a refill. The food menu was limited to a few items while I was there, but the food was pretty darn good. There is also a rotating food truck list that puts in an appearance at the beer garden when it is open. Prices are average when compared to the Portland area however they have great happy hour deals. Their hours are surprisingly short for a brewery in a town that size, open only until 8pm Tuesday-Sunday, so be sure to have another place to go afterward if you are out on the town. Score: 3/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – The music was loud, the lights were low, and the place was hopping when I stopped in. Various bar games are scattered around the pub and the beer garden has a few to play as well. A couple televisions are available to watch the Timbers or any other sporting events. Trivia, beer releases, charity events, they have it all, even occasional live music. You can even take a tour of the brewery if you have enough time. Score: 3.5/5
- Location – Located by the river in North Portland, they are just down the road from the Mississippi Avenue area, home to tons of shops, restaurants, and other breweries you can also stop at once Widmer closes. There is a nice view of the river from the beer garden, and the surrounding area reflects the historical port component in Portland’s name. They have a small parking area and street parking is available, though you may have to hunt around during the busier times. Portland is a bike-friendly city, though getting to Widmer requires navigation of some potentially dangerous roads should you be inclined to take that method of transport. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – Solid customer service, though the kitchen can move a little slow when it gets busy as they only had one person making food. The bartender had plenty of great suggestions for some of their pilot and experimental batches and was quite liberal with the tasting samples. There is no table service, so all your refills will come from the bar, which can get a bit backed up when busy. Score: 3/5
Total Score: 17/25
Favorite Beer: Black Dynamite – 8.8% ABV Porter
Final Thoughts: Despite their age, Widmer Brothers have managed to keep innovating and creating unique beers served at a well put together tap room. While they get knocked some for not being true “craft beer” anymore I still found my experience more on par with an independent craft brewery and would certainly recommend stopping in for a beer if you are in town.