Hoppy Times on Portland Brew Bus

Hopworks brews and malts. Tastings all came from a tap and you could try the malt.

Wine tasting tour? Done that.

Pub crawl? Done that.

Beer tasting tour? Whoa! I gotta do that.

And, so I did.

Some out-of-towner friends (actually from Australia) are bidding farewell to Portland’s brew scene and heading back down under.

Could there be a better way to send them off than with a trip on the Portland Brew Bus. I don’t think so.

The Portland Brew Bus takes off on Sundays at 1:30pm from the DoubleTree Hotel at Lloyd Center. It is literally a “bus.” Bright yellow and ready to hop along.

We had over 22 people in our group and got an ear full of entertaining Portland brewery history from our guide, Jim Long.

Jim is quick to let you know that this is the “College of Brew Knowledge” and you will definitely learn a few things about beer on the tour. He had us smelling our beers and taking notes.

The smelling of the beer sometimes worked against me. Whenever I smelled a “lager” I immediately thought “college.” I was pleasantly surprised multiple times that these lagers were not the lagers of my college days!

We were probably a bit rowdy as a group, but Jim was able to keep us on track while letting us have our fun. He even serenaded us with some sing-a-long songs that he cleverly replaced “happy” with “hoppy.”

If you’re hoppy and you know it….

Brian named this room at Hopworks, "The Alter." Way to cold in there for a wedding though.

Tour stops vary, but there are typically four different breweries featured. We had 4-6 good-sized samples at the first 3 stops and just 2 at Lucky Lab because our time was up.

There is also a “private” tour option. Jim will pick you up at home and you can fill up a limo with your friends. I might prefer that route next time. Though the rowdy factor could go up significantly.

The cost is $45 per person for the the “public” tour and $55 per person for a private tour.

Our tour group stopped at Hopworks Urban Brewery first. I’m already a fan of Hopworks, but it was fun to see the underbelly of the pub and get a run-down of how it all comes together from brewmaster Amelia.

I will admit though, all her talk about the yeast eating this and eating that and being super active, kind of creeped me out. Luckily, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the tastings and declaring the Survival Stout as my favorite.

Our second stop was Amnesia Brewery. Picnic tables, a walk-up ordering bar for sausages and chips, bags of malt piled up on the floor. A little “rustic” no doubt. However, the beer was voted the tops of the 4 breweries by the majority of our bus.

Super casual and super beer at Amnesia.

I’ve got a soft spot for IPAs, and their Copacetic and Desolation IPAs were fantastic. And, the sausages? Yep, they hit the spot and Jim kept stealing our chips.

Our third stop was Pyramid Brewery. It’s a draw for many pub crawlers because of the huge copper kettles as you walk in.

They started us with the Pyramid Apricot Ale. I LOVED the apricot ale in my early microbrew days. But I’ve moved on from the fruity beers.

Nothing really matched the Hopworks or Amnesia offerings…not even the Hefeweizen.

We did get to eat at Pyramid. The “Hoppy” hour menu was a great deal.

Brian and I split the $4 chipotle chicken tacos. They were excellent. Our tour guide ordered a $4 Scottish Pie and others grabbed the $4 pork sliders.

We ended the tour with a quick stop at Lucky Lab on NW Quimby. Just a couple of beers to taste and we were off.

Polishing the copper kettles at Pyramid.

That’s a pub I would definitely like to revisit and truly experience. I have been to a different Lucky Lab location before and remember great pizza and a killer organic brew. The Super Dog IPA is a winner.

So the big question. Would I hop on the Portland Brew Bus again?

I would definitely choose the private tour so that I and my friends could all land back at a home afterwards. It would be best if no one has to drive home right away and could enjoy the experience a little longer. The tour was a little over 5 hours.

I had fun. And, I learned quite a bit. And, I tried many beers that I wouldn’t normally choose. And, I liked many of them.  For example, the Amnesia ESB was a surprise hit for many of us.

So, yes, I would hop on for another round.

The Portland Brew Bus is a great way to welcome someone to Portland or send them off. And, I’m thinking it’d make a great birthday party.

Lucky Labs and Lucky Lab

In the meantime, I know now that the “tasting” thing is something to keep exploring. Most breweries will let you get a taster before committing to a pint. I rarely take advantage of that free taste.

And, quite a few breweries offer a sampler that includes a little tray of up to 6 different brews.

That’s worth checking out on my next trip to McMennamins, Bridgeport or Deschutes.

Note: A fun little bit of McMennamins history from a recent Oregonian.