Beer and Bikes in Portland
Have you read “Pilgrimage to Portlandia?” It would be good to know how I got here.
I wake up in the lovely Red Roost Guest House ready to explore Portland. It’s Memorial Day and the plan (Ha! Plan, I know, makes me laugh too) is to meet a friend, return the rental car, head downtown to do a fun tour and spend the evening with family. It can be expensive to park downtown and, between using public transportation and offers from friends and family I know there, this is a good opportunity to save a little money. Something to remember when you’re traveling; if you rent a car, consider whether you want to keep it for the entire trip.
I meet my friend Barb and we drive separately to the airport where I return the car and proceed to drive to a Max station (the Portland public rail transportation) for a quick trip downtown. After walking a few blocks we settle on a brewery and restaurant. This is my first taste of Portland’s beer culture. An interesting thing about Oregon is that they are well known for both their wine and beer industries. It’s one of the only places in the world that does not limit you to great, creative beer OR wine, but allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds (and I did).
We finish lunch and walk up the street to BrewCycle Portland. BrewCycle is a unique business which was started in Portland three years ago by Andrea Lins. For $20-$25, customers can book a seat on a bicycle which holds 11-15 riders gathered around a table. Andrea was living in Colorado, not very inspired by her life at the time and, during a trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, saw one of these cool bikes heading down the street. She thought it might be a good idea to combine that with a pub crawl. After researching the most bike friendly cities along with the best beer scene, she realized Portland was the place she ought to be, so she loaded up the truck and she moved to, uh, Oregon (random Beverly Hillbillies reference). She also decided to open the BrewStop Pub which not only houses the three Quadra cycles (they have four wheels, after all), but is also a fully operating brewpub which serves 12 beers and two ciders as well as an array of food to absorb the alcohol and provide energy for pedaling (don’t be intimidated, it’s not the Tour de France).
Barb and I arrive 30 minutes early as requested, sign a waiver (if I die, she gets my bottle of wine) and order a pint to split from the bar (pacing ourselves). We chat with a family on vacation who are having drinks and a bite to eat and, before long, Shirley pulls up. I should explain; the various bikes have names including Jimmy Googins (the bike came with the name, no idea where the name came from), Laverne and Shirley (figure it out). We climb onboard with nine others and off we go. Our guide is Ben, who happens to be the owner’s brother and we head out of the BrewStop Pub (no drinks are allowed on the cycle as, apparently drinking and biking don’t mix). Pedaling is not difficult; it’s staying on the seat that’s the challenge. The seats seem to have a slight lean forward and, with the bike pedals located nearly directly under the seat, we hold onto the counter in front of us in order to not slide off and under the wheels (seriously, did somebody rub WD40 of on these seats?
After about ten minutes we stop at our first pub. The handy sticker that BrewCycle gives you gets you happy hour prices at each of the pub stops. Barb and I stick to our plan of drinking ½ pints as we’re in our forties and fifties and well, we’ve learned. It’s a beautiful day and all of us Shirley riders gather at the picnic tables outside to share a brew and some conversation. After twenty minutes Ben gives us the five-minute-warning so we can use the bathrooms and hop on our seats (and slide off our seats, and hop on our seats again) to pedal to the next stop. When we arrive at our next pub, the routine is much the same only our ½ pint plan falls to the wayside as pints cost $2.50. At these prices we can afford not to finish our beer (but that would really be a waste as I’m sure children somewhere in the world have no beer).
At the third stop, Barb and I being lightweights (aah, we drank our fill of beer when we were in our twenties) head to the coffee shop across the street (a cappuccino and a biscotti are almost the same as a beer and pretzels). With Ben heading across the street for the twenty minute warning, we collect our things and take our seats on Shirley for the ride back to the BrewStop Pub. Before long we park our bike, take photos and throw some money into Ben’s tip jar (Enjoy your ride? Tip your guide!) and head back to the Max.
I do the transportation combo platter and combine a Max ride with a taxi ride (a recommended app is Taxi Magic) back to the Red Roost Guest House where I have dinner with the fam., get some work done and get ready for a big day of touring Portland tomorrow.
Tomorrow – Secrets of Portlandia – Bookstores, Doughnuts and why it’s so weird.