Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Portland, Oregon - Biking, Beer, and Baristas

Downtown Portland, Oregon Sign

This week, I have returned to my hometown as a tourist...visiting my family and showing Matt (a New England native) a taste of Oregon.   Our first full day in the great state was spent in the city of Portland. Portland is a unique and thriving city - I was eager to show Matt the place that I called home for so long.  Our tour guides were my sister, Kelly, and her boyfriend, Chris.  They did a great job of showing us a glimpse of Portland that included traveling by bicycle, trying local beers, and trying coffees and foods in the city.   In one day, we got an excellent taste of this funky and passionate town.

 Here is how to recreate this adventure...


Kelly and Matt lock up our bikes at our first stop.
Portland, Oregon has an AMAZING bike culture.  It is celebrated, supported, and possibly expected that you are a bicycle enthusiast.  As a result, there are excellent bike lanes, bike "boulevards", special stop light signals, and bike parking all over the city.

Matt, Kelly, Chris, and I left their house in the "Cully Neighborhood" and cycled via a bike boulevard (a through-way street that are heavily trafficked by bikes and has a slower speed limit) to Northeast Alberta Street.

In this area, we visited the Community Cycling Center - a nonprofit that provides bike programs, workshops, camps, and a full service bike shop for the community. Our biking continued throughout the day making it to Voodoo Donuts, the Portland Waterfront, the Pearl District and back to Cully.  It was refreshing to tour a city without the constant fights in traffic, search for parking, and navigating busy streets.  By bike, we were able to slow down, take our time, and wander - how true travel should be.  See the google map at the bottom of this post to trace our +17 miles around the city.

Community Cycling Center Non Profit and Bike Shop


Upright Tasting Room
Craft beer and microbrews take on a new meaning in Oregon.  Everywhere you look there are new beers being designed and shared.  We only got a chance to visit two of the +30 breweries in the town.  The first brewery stop was the Upright Brewery.  Upright is a small operation.  A friend had told us about it- saying we would have to go into a cafe, take the elevator to the basement, and at the end of a hall is the brewery/tasting room.  He was right.  This small, one room brewery had a number of beers to try.  I enjoyed "four" - their wheat beer.

Rogue Ale 
We also enjoyed our time at the large (and well known) Rogue Brewery.  Their substantial restaurant in the Pearl District was crowded and bustling.  Kelly, Matt, and I tried some awesome beers and also enjoyed their food.  Oregon Craft Beer Month was conveniently underway which gave us some discounts and new brews to try.

During the day, we had a few other food and drink stops including The Bye and Bye - a vegan restaurant (very Portland) that had a great beer selection on tap.  If you love craft beer and breweries, Portland, Oregon is a must see travel destination.

Vegan Kraut Dog at The Bye and Bye Restaurant 

Portlanders LOVE coffee.  For many, it's more than a morning wake-me-up - it is a hobby.  In the same way Portlanders take their beer seriously, you can find many coffee shops with knowledgeable baristas who are well versed in the subtle flavors, history, and fine art in a good cup of Joe.  Kelly took us to the shop "Barista" in Northeast Portland.
Coffee is King

The Barista website claims they serve "Exceptional coffees from the world's finest roasters, prepared by the most skilled baristas in Portland, Oregon."  That said, we had to try a cup.  Before entering, Kelly advised, "Ask open ended questions about their coffee.  They know a lot about it and love to share."  She entered and asked the hipster-looking barista what he could tell her about that day's house blend.  The gentleman was extremely knowledgeable about his product and truth be told - it was an awesome cup of coffee.

Voodoo Doughnut

What goes best with coffee?  Doughnuts of course!  After coffee, we biked over to the Voodoo Too doughnut shop where you can get strange donuts such as: "Bacon Maple Bar", "Cock and Balls", or a "Fruit Loop" Doughnut.  I stuck with the store's traditional "Voodoo Doughnut" which was delicious and humorously filled with red jelly.

Our guide, Kelly, takes us over the
Broadway Bridge by bike,
Our day of biking around with Chris and Kelly allowed us to experience life as a Portlander for the day.  Even though I spent my childhood just outside the city, I got to experience new (and more adult) adventures in the City of Roses.  I recommend a trip to Portland - especially if you like Beer, Bikes, and Baristas.

What you might realize is - whether it's bikes, beer, or coffee - Portlanders are a group of passionate, knowledgeable people.  They take something - like bike commuting, a morning beverage, or a afternoon bar tab - and turn it into a work of art.  THAT is one reason why Portland is so special.

Map of our Route - Courtesy of Google Maps

Please leave comments and questions below.