What is Portland best known for? With all of its microbreweries, wine bars and boutique distilleries, the answer could well be high-quality adult beverages.
“We have more microbreweries than any other place on earth, but that’s just the beginning,” says Mike Smith, vice president of convention sales for Travel Portland. “We’re also known for our amazing wineries and distilleries.”
Groups need not even stray from the Oregon Convention Center (www.oregoncc.org) to sample local wines, microbrews, spirits and specialty cocktails concocted from Oregon ingredients. All are featured at Stir, a restaurant and lounge located in the convention center lobby.
While most are not event venues per se, Portland’s new crop of distilleries welcome visitors for tours and tastings, usually on weekends or, in the case of groups, by appointment. Their products, which include gin, vodka, ouzo, absinthe, whisky, eau de vie, brandy and sake, are featured in cocktails at bars and restaurants around the city.
The largest concentration of distillers is in Portland’s up-and-coming Central Eastside Industrial District, where they have joined forces to create Distillery Row (www.distilleryrowpdx.com). The collaboration has led to common tasting room hours on weekends and a walking tour to each location. The Distillery Row Passport, which costs $20, waives tasting fees and provides discounts to neighborhood restaurants and merchants.
According to Michael Heaver, president of Distillery Row, the goal of the organization is to not only showcase Portland’s unique spirits companies, but to “encourage tourism, and help define the Eastside Industrial District as a destination.”
Among them are Eastside Distilling (www.eastsidedistilling.com), known for its coffee rum and spicy ginger rum; House Spirits (www.housespirits.com), maker of the widely distributed Aviation Gin; New Deal Distillery (www.newdealdistillery.com), known for vodka and liqueurs; and Stone Barn Brandyworks (www.stonebarnbrandyworks.com), maker of fruit brandies.
The metro area’s most event-ready distillery is SakeOne (www.sakeone.com) in Forrest Grove, 25 miles west of downtown Portland. Groups can enjoy outdoor events on an expansive deck with umbrella-shaded tables overlooking a Japanese garden.
The sake maker brews both traditional Japanese sake and varieties in flavors such as Asian pear that it mixes into its own specialty cocktails. Tastings and tours can be arranged for groups by appointment.
Urban Wine Scene
Even if time does not allow for a wine-tasting excursion out of the city, a venture into Oregon’s celebrated viticulture is possible at Enso Winery & Tasting Lounge (www.ensowinery.com), an event-friendly, small-batch wine producer in southeast Portland. The Barrel Room accommodates groups of up to 30, while the Tasting Lounge holds up to 90. Along with featured wines, event fare can include locally made truffles, cheeses, cured meats and breads.
Offering themed-wine dinners and a tasting room featuring Oregon wines, Thirst Bistro (www.thirstbistro.com) is a stylish downtown restaurant with private dining spaces overlooking the Willamette River. The River Room accommodates up to 55, while the Tuscan-style Cellar, often used for wine seminars, seats up to 40.
Just across the river in Vancouver, Wash., Niche Wine & Art (www.nichewine.blogspot.com) is a convivial wine bar that opens onto an adjacent art gallery. Adorned with local art, the wine bar, known for artisanal pizzas and savory tarts as well as an extensive selection of local wines, Niche is also the scene of live jazz on weekends.
Visiting all of Portland’s microbreweries could fill an agenda of several weeks, but if only one can serve as an off-site venue, there’s no better choice than BridgePort BrewPub (www.bridgeportbrew.com) in the Pearl District. Located in a 120-year-old brick and timber building, BridgePort offers several private event spaces, including the Heritage Room, accommodating up to 100, which has a full-service bar and audiovisual facilities.