Updated 10.4.13 – lots of updates, updated hours, and the removal of a few distilleries which have passed on.[FD]
Portland is a mecca for micro-brews, artisan espresso and local coffee roasters, chocolatiers, pizza, breads, pastries etc. Oregon also has an established wine industry and an agrarian economy for ingredients just meant to be distilled – local fresh fruits for brandies, grains for whiskey and vodkas, and nuts and herbs for seasonings. Along with a booming restaurant and bar scene, including several nationally leading bartenders committed to crafting quality cocktails, it makes sense that Portland has a growing small batch distillery scene as well. Oregon boasts over a dozen distilleries, with at least eight in Portland. The city even has its own “distillery row”, a small area of Southeast Portland near downtown. Some are new and tiny, only producing a few cases of any spirit at a time, while others are internationally known and distributed
Hunting these small batch beverages by the glass or bottle can be a chore. Most provide “where to find” sections on their websites, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) does have a handy search feature on their website: OregonLiquorSearch.com
Bull Run Distilling Company was founded by acclaimed Portland distiller, Lee Medoff, and business partner Patrick Bernards in the spring of 2010. What began as a “what if” conversation over cocktails a few years ago evolved into a full-on crusade in 2010.
So what’s next? “It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves a little higher and get to work making distinctive provenance-based rums and whiskey – and a lot of it,” says Co-founder and Head Distiller Lee Medoff, referring to the goal of producing 3,000 bottles a week of high quality, craft spirits. And Mr. Medoff has wasted no time as Bull Run’s distillery is now producing a range of spirits. The company’s Medoyeff Vodka was designed for sipping, and retains that velvety full mouth feel and slightly sweet undertones found in many small batch Russian vodkas. Other products include Bull Run’s “Temperance Trader Straight Bourbon Whiskeys”, Pacific Rum, Aria Portland Dry Gin, and, arriving in 2015, Bull Run’s Very Own Straight “Oregon” Whiskey, meaning distilled using local water and grains, aged in the unique Oregon climate.
A great destination to taste terrific spirits, Bull Run Distillery is located at 2259 NW Quimby Street adjacent to Portland’s popular Northwest 23rd Avenue, with a plethora of great shopping, restaurants and bars where you can sample Bull Run spirits. They are open Wednesday – Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm (21 and older only).
- 2259 NW Quimby St, Portland OR. 97210 Map
- Check the website for the latest tasting room hours and information.
Clear Creek Distillery
One of the oldest and best known of the Portland artisan distilleries, Clear Creek has a reputation for outstanding, high quality Eau de vies, grappas, brandy, and fruit liquors for the simple reason that they do not compromise on ingredients, production or taste. Founder Steve McCarthy started Clear Creek about 25 years ago as a way to showcase our region’s bounty of fruit. Back in 1991, the New York Times caught on, stating this was the best fruit brandy being produced in the U.S., with the writer Eric Asimov echoing the same sentiments again in 2007. Clear Creek is probably best known for their award-winning Poir Williams pear brandy, including the flashy pear-in-a-bottle. Yet, their other liquors, such as Framboise, “we aren’t allowed to call it Calvados” apple, and Kirschwasser are equally wonderful. Clear Creek’s Blue Plum brandy is really that Eastern-Euro firewater known as Slivovitz, minus the hangover inducing impurities usually found in the cheaper imported stuff (Editor’s note: Food Dude’s first experience with alcohol was Slivovitz – never again). The unusual and unusually complex Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, may sound like a Pacific NW drunken camping trip gone haywire, but it is actually based on an ancient Alsatian liquor named Eau de Vie Bourgeons de Sapin. As of this writing, Clear Creek also offers not one, but six different Grappas, from those found in Italy, to an Alsatian style Marc, and a Oregon Pinot Noir Grappa. Other items include local fruit liquors ranging from Blackberry, to Pear and even Cassis made from black currents grown in nearby Scio. Clear Creek’s newest project is McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, described on their website as “very peaty” and “Made from peat-malted barley brought in from Scotland; our whiskey would be a single malt Scotch if Oregon were Scotland”.
Clear Creek Clear Creek Distillery tasting and sales room is open for visitors to drop in Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. They have a wide distribution network locally and nationally, as well as online sales to states that allow it.
Though they do not offer tours, they host an open house twice a year, during which the production area is open to visitors. The distillery staff pours samples next to the stills and gives explanations of the process throughout the day. Those weekends are Thanksgiving – Friday November 29th and Saturday November 30th, and the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. The distillery is closed major holidays.
Eastside is always creating original spirits and expanding their product line, with their holiday liqueurs currently stocked on the shelves. Eastside Distilling was started in Portland, Oregon by Bill Adams and Lenny Gotter, two long-time friends with a passion for distilled spirits and distinguished flavors. The pair started from the ground-up, developing the recipes and company mission in 2008. In November of 2009 their fine, flavored rums (branded as the Below Deck Rum line) started to appear on liquor store shelves. Today, Eastside continues its tradition of creating unique and innovative spirits with their award-winning Burnside Bourbon, second-to-none Portland Potato Vodka, Cherry Bomb Whiskey and Marionberry Whiskey, made with real Oregon fruits. Eastside spirits are available for purchase at Eastside Distilling and at a majority of liquor stores in Oregon, and can be found at many bars and restaurants in the Portland area.
They are now open at 1512 SE 7th Ave. off of Hawthorne. Weekdays: Noon-5pm, Fridays: Noon–7:30pm, Saturdays: 11am–6pm, and Sundays: Noon-5pm. Eastside also offers behind-the-scenes tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday- see the Tastings and Tours page on the website for more details.
Love ‘em or loathe them, McMenamins is a unique Oregon institution and empire. Most known for their hippie-trippy historic renovations of buildings like music and film theaters, old County Work Houses and Funeral Parlors, hotels, and brew pubs, McMenamins has been distilling whiskey, brandy, and gin since 1998. Their Edgefield Distillery is located just outside of Portland at their sprawling Edgefield Hotel near the airport. It is one of the most accessible of the region’s distilleries for show and tell. From the Edgefield website, “With glass in hand while standing behind a wall of ornate etched glass, visitors can watch our 12-foot-high, gleaming copper-and-stainless-steel still in full swing. It resembles a hybrid of a 19th-century diving suit and over-sized coffee urn, a design made famous by Holstein of Germany.” Their Hogshead Whiskey is neither a straight Scotch, Bourbon or Irish Whiskey style, but a signature hybrid of their own. It’s smoky amber whiskey with a fair wallop of barley. Their Penney’s Gin is English style flavors such as juniper berry, citrus and cardamom, while Professor’s Gin is more spicy and herbal in nature. Brandies include Pear, an aged oak Edgefield, and their Longshot Brandy made with the estate’s own Syrah grapes. Edgefield is also making Three Rocks Rum from a molasses rich sugar, fermented and double-distilled before being aged for two years in used Hogshead Whiskey and port barrels. Even a coffee Liquer is in the lineup, made from house-roasted beans.
The distillery is open to the public, and their spirits can be purchased at Edgefield by the bottle or other select McMenamins locations.
- 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, OR 97060 Map
- Local: 503-669-8610
- Elsewhere: (800) 669-8610
Although less than 8 years old, House Spirits’ ambition in the micro distillery world has launched the company into world-wide fame with several features in magazines like GQ and Bon Appetit. What sets them apart from other manufacturers is their commitment to artisan distilling alongside a jet-set cocktail culture mentality; the cocktails at House Spirits often seem to have equal footing with the other items they are made with. Thus, you’ll find House Spirits hosting special cocktail pairing dinners at some of Portland’s finer restaurants, or you may run into them in places as far-flung as New Orleans, New York, or Australia, spreading the word about their unique Northwest/Old World style spirits. As of this writing, House Spirits makes four different varieties, along with limited release lines. Aviation Gin is probably their best known. Created in the “Dutch Gin” style, they describe it as “a botanical democracy of Juniper, Cardamom, Coriander, Lavender, Anise Seed, Sarsaparilla and dried Sweet Orange Peel”. Aquavit is a love-it or hate-it kind of firewater, but the Krogstad Aquavit is more balanced than most, with Star Anise and Caraway. While House Spirits’ releases might be limited to several bottles, it is certainly not limited in variety. Their seasonally released spirits range in production from a few cases to a few pallets. These rare releases are available in Portland, Oregon at the House Spirits Tasting Room. So, the next time you’re on SE 7th Avenue, drop by to see which of these select experiments is on the shelves.
Adjacent to the distillery itself, the House Spirits Tasting Room offers a chance to sample all our spirits and browse our barware, books and apparel and ask all sorts of questions relating to the vast world of distilled spirits.
Our Tasting Room partners are very knowledgeable and enjoy talking about our history, philosophy, products, cocktails and Portland!
The New Deal Distillery Tasting Room & Store is open Wednesday – Saturday 12 pm – 6 pm, and Sunday from 12 pm – to 5 pm. Tours are offered Saturdays at 1 pm and 3 pm – a sign-up sheet is located in the tasting room. Drop in and sign up for available tours.
House Spirits products are available at the distillery, at most Portland bars and liquor stores or through select online outlets.
New Deal Distillery
Another company that launched in 2004, New Deal makes two products: vodkas and their Loft brand liquors. New Deal Vodka is extremely smooth and clean, while their Portland 88 is described as, “like New Deal Vodka’s younger cousin with a mustache and a Camaro. Its 88-proof recipe delivers a swift kick for those who like to taste the drink in their drink. Refreshing and crisp, it holds up to bold mixers, but it’s perfectly at home straight over ice with a twist of lemon – albeit a big, manly, behemoth twist of lemon.” Witty. Other vodkas include the Portland 88, Hot Monkey Mud Puddle, Mudpuddle Vodka, Gin No. 1, Portland Dry Gin, Recipe 33, Ginger Liqueur and Coffee Liqueur. For Tom and Matthew of New Deal, craft distilling is about creating unique spirits and getting to know their fans one drink at a time. To top it all off, New Deal offers a “Distiller’s Workshop Series”, a small-batch, limited release line where you’ll find small-batch rums, white dogs, moonshines and other specialty craft spirits. All New Deal spirits, including seasonal and limited-run products are available for tastings and purchase at the tasting room.
New Deal Distillery Tasting Room & Store is open Wednesday through Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm, and Saturday – Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm. Come in for a tour of the distillery to find out what our Master Distillers have been up to and take a peek (or, sip) of what New Deal has in the works. If you plan on bringing a large group in for a tour and tasting please call the Distillery at 503-234-2513 to schedule your visit.
These microbrew masters might be best known for their Dead Guy Ale and Shakespeare Stout, but they’ve produced spirits since 2003. While their original distillery is on the rocky coast of Newport, Oregon, their Portland micro-micro distillery is the first in the state to produce rums. Varieties include White, Dark and a Hazelnut Spice. Many have won silver and gold awards at world liquor competitions. Their dark rum is a favorite and described accurately by Rogue as a deep amber color with toffee, stemmy oak and nutmeg aromas….Finishes with a nutty, spicy fade and peppery alcohol.” Branching out from rums, the company also produces Dead Guy Whiskey, an Oregon Single Malt Whiskey and two types of gin: Pink Gin is highly flavored. Aging in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels gives it hue and a fruity quality, along with a bounty of flavors including spruce, cucumber, orange peel, angelica, coriander, orris root, juniper berries and several other ingredients. The Spruce Gin contains 14 different ingredients as well, but spruce dominates.
The Portland Distillery, located inside their Portland Flanders St. Pub, was where they first started tinkering with spirits in 2003. It is also the first rum distillery in the State of Oregon. The distillery produces: Dark and Hazelnut Spice rums from 100% Hawaiian Cane Sugar. Tours are given daily at 5:00pm.
The Rogue House of Spirits in Newport, Oregon opened for business on June 10th, 2006. Additionally, House of Spirits on the Oregon coast is one of the first distillery pubs in America producing award winning Rums, Gin, Vodka and Whiskey. Spectacular views of the Yaquina Bay marina, bridge and Pacific Ocean are showcased from our Newport distillery. A full selection of Rogue’s award winning spirits are available in cocktails and bottles to go. House of spirits has a limited food menu , as well as wine, ales, porters, stouts and lagers. Tours are available daily at 4:00 pm.
Rolling River Spirits
“Rolling River Spirits is a Portland, Oregon based family-owned and operated business producing handcrafted organic spirits from still to bottle. We use the freshest organic ingredients in our vodka and will do the same when crafting our future production of whiskey. We are currently working on our organic certification. Our family has a keen interest in craft and dimensional arts. Our Master Distiller, Tim Rickard has produced and shown many of his artwork in local art galleries and on the coast and has taken on numerous privately commissioned projects for folks in the Northwest.”
The grand opening is expected to take place in the Fall of 2013. They will be located at 1215 SE 8th Street, Portland 97214.
Stone Barn Brandy Works
Founded by Sebastian and Erika Degens, Stone Barn Brandyworks makes hand-crafted brandies and spirits from Oregon and Pacific Northwest fruits and grains that are both characteristic of their origin and distinctive to their variety, grower or vintner. They are working to produce both traditional and uniquely creative products, with a commitment to excellence and a direct connection to our community of customers & suppliers. The local distiller produces craft distilled, regional fruit brandies and spirits. They have a wide range available, including Northwest Cherry Brandy, Oregon Blush Rhubarb Liqueur, Oaked Apple Brandy, Pear Brandy – Comice from EZ Orchards, Biggs Junction Apricot Liqueur, Quince Liqueur, Red Wing Coffee Liqueur, Crandberry Liqueur, Unoaked Rye Whiskey, Unoaked Oat Whiskey, and Hoppin’ Eights aged Whiskey Barrel #10.
Their tasting room is open Sat – Sun from 12 pm to 6:00 pm, with evenings and Fridays by appointment 503-341-2227. If you have a group of five or more, please call ahead.
Vinn Distillery is a family-owned company located just south of Portland in Wilsonville, with their new Tasting Room now opened in Distillery Row. Vinn Distillery exclusively produces and bottles rice-based spirits from recipes that have been passed down for over seven generations.
All of their spirits are handcrafted in small batches – the way their ancestors taught them. The meaning of Vinn is “infinite” and is the shared middle name of the five Ly children. Since they products are made entirely from rice, they have the added benefit of being gluten-free. They are currently producing Baijiu Vodka, Mijiu Fire, and Mijiu Ice.
- 833 SE Main St., Suite 125, Portland, 97214
A guide to Portland’s distillery row can be found here DistilleryRowPdx.com.