I first came across BrewCycle when I was in Sacramento, California. Kendall and I were heading to Rubicon Brewing when 10 people on a bike passed by shouting and cheering as they made their way down the street at snail speed.
When I found out that it wasn’t just a Sacramento tour but actually a worldwide phenomenon, I immediately signed up for my own BrewCycle experience in Portland for Kendall’s birthday. It just looked too unique and ridiculous of an experience to pass up, and we do love our craft beer.
We started the tour at their headquarters in the Pearl District, right near Rogue and 10 Barrel Brewing. I wasn’t aware that they made their own beer, but when we arrived we noticed that they had a tiny brewery set-up at their location. They produce a few tasty styles from which to choose, and we had a pint each as we signed the waiver basically saying we wouldn’t sue them if we fell off the bike in our own stupidity.
Our guide went over the safety instructions once we were all there. The main takeaways were don’t jump off the bike when it’s in motion, don’t yell at people or harass cars as you’re going by because you travel at a very slow speed that gets real awkward real quick, and, of course, tip your bartenders.
I could tell right away that we had a fun group. A few San Franciscans, a couple from Santa Barbara, a big group from Michigan, and us, the new transplants to Portland from New Zealand. Luckily it’s not that hard to pedal a BrewCycle when there are about 5-7 other people pedaling as well. Even up hills, there was hardly any resistance, and the bike powered itself with its own momentum when it went down hills.
BrewCycle PDX offers a few different tours around the city, but the Old Town route has the least amount of pedaling because the bars are so close to each other. They also offer a BrewBarge tour, where you BYOB on a barge and have an afternoon of drinking on the river. Clearly they provide good times all around.
Just as an aside, I believe that every BrewCycle tour is different depending on the city and the local liquor laws. When we saw that first one in Sacramento, I’m positive we saw a mini keg on board. I’ve also heard of other tours letting you bring your own beers on board, but for the Portland tour there was no alcohol outside of the pubs.
We started off downhill, Kendall and I took turns pedaling after each stop, since not everyone on the bike has pedals to use. The guy that was nominated as DJ asked what everyone wanted to listen to, and Kendall immediately suggested his favorite band, Sublime, and slipped in that it was his birthday. So we listened to Bradley’s good vibes as we made our way down the street to our first bar on another scorching day in Portland.
Our first stop was at Pints. Kendall and I had already been to the small brewery once before, but they have really nice beer so we didn’t mind stopping in a second time around. We mainly kept to half pints the whole day so that we could try as many different types of beer as possible. They usually don’t let you buy tasting trays for these types of tours because of the limited amount of time at each place.
We went to the back of the bar and started to get to know the group from San Francisco better. They were originally from New York, but had recently all moved to the West Coast for jobs. We played Trivial Pursuit and drank delicious beer. Some of our favorites from Pints were a berliner weisse (I’ve been on a big sour kick lately) and a cinnamon red ale that resembled Big Red chewing gum.
When it was time to get going again, we all happily hopped back on the BrewCycle and continued on our way to the most haunted bar in Portland, Old Town Pizza.
The smell of pizza hit us as soon as we walked in. I was craving the cheesy goodness even though I wasn’t hungry. It smelled so good but I stayed focused and made my way to the bar. Old Town is known for their Sun Dazed Kolsch and Shanghai IPA, but they also have a really nice Brussels Black Ale that’s worth trying if you’re into dark beers.
We didn’t see any ghosts while we were there, but the single-stall women’s bathroom was creepy enough for me. I’ll get more into the history behind this haunted pub in another post when I talk about the haunted pub tour I went on last night (spoiler alert: it was creepy as).
In any case, we had the chance to get to know the newly-engaged Santa Barbara couple on our tour, and had a great 20 minutes or so of tasting a few different beers.
The last stop of the day was at Fat Head’s Brewery, which we had already heard quite a few positive things about. They had so many beers on tap it was a tad overwhelming. Besides their own range, they had countless other popular beers pouring from breweries around Portland and a few other states.
The only downside about Fat Head’s is that it’s owned by a big corporation over in the Midwest. You can kind of tell that it’s from a corporate mindset with their brand design and overall industrial feel of the bar.
With that said, there’s no denying that the beer was really good. We were chatting with the friendly bartender and he was saying that although they’re backed financially by a big company, they have a lot of freedom in brewing their own beer. Some of the best beers we tried from them included the Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale, the Hop Juju Imperial IPA, and the Head Hunter IPA.
As our time at Fat Head’s started to wind down, we knew that our tour was almost over as well. We all jumped on the BrewCycle again and pedaled back to our starting point, took a group picture, and thanked our guide profusely for such a great Sunday afternoon.
I think one of the best aspects of the day was how many people on the streets stopped in their tracks and looked at us in either astonishment or amusement, it was hilarious. The cars throughout the day were quite friendly even though we were going max 7 miles an hour. I mean, it’s a biker friendly city so they can’t discriminate just because we’re a bit bulkier, right?
After the tour, We continued the pub crawl with the friendly Santa Barbara couple at 10 Barrel Brewing next door and watched the women’s USA soccer team take the championship from Japan.
It was a great atmosphere in which to watch the game, the bar was packed and there were multiple times when everyone erupted in an earsplitting roar when a goal was made. We luckily snagged some seats at the start of the game by making new friends that were situated in front of the TV.
After 10 Barrel we went to go grab dinner at Bridgeport, the oldest pub in Portland, and decided that we were all going to head to a Timbers soccer game that night. Once we finished dinner, we took an Uber to the stadium and haggled with scalpers until we bought some fairly cheap tickets that provided us with killer seats in front of the field.
The rest of the night only continued the great day we’d already had around Portland. The Timbers won against the San Jose Quakes, and we were inundated with a lot of happy fans as we were leaving the stadium. Needless to say, Kendall definitely had a good first birthday in the States.
BrewCycle Portland was kind enough to offer me a complimentary seat on the tour, but all opinions are always my own.
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