Beer Run: Four Pub-to-Pub Routes in Portland
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Drinking a beer after a run is as satisfying as eating popcorn in a movie theater. As trail runners, we tend to seek out beers that are as adventurous as the trails we play on.
Sure, the standard lager has its place. It’s the 5K road race of the beer world. But after a great day on the trails, it’s only fitting to sip on a beer that swerves from the well-beaten path.
Portland, Oregon is both a trail-running and craft-brewery hub. The city is surrounded by wilderness. Forest Park alone, set on the eastern slopes of the Tualatin Mountains, has over 5,000 acres of hilly terrain to explore.
Celebrate this city of roses, dirt and suds with these urban pub-to-pub routes that begin and end at craft breweries.
The Ridge Trail via Occidental Brewing (7 miles)
If you have to run on a sidewalk, it doesn’t hurt to be suspended 200 feet above the Willamette River. This run starts at Occidental Brewing at the north corner of Cathedral park. Make your way across the iconic Saint John’s Bridge on a sidewalk that’s just wide enough for single-file running. On the west entrance to the bridge, graffitied concrete stairs lead up to the Ridge Trail, a seriously uphill singletrack that links in with Forest Park.
Continue up until you reach Leif Erikson Drive, a blissfully car-free former road of dirt, hard-packed gravel and occasional stretches of crumbling asphalt.
Get on the Wildwood Trail and run forever in and out of woods with moderate elevation gain, or link the Trillium and Hardesty Trails for a thigh-burning loop back to Leif Erikson Drive and a few birdseye glimpses of the Saint John’s bridge on the descent. The views are worth pausing for and are some of the best in the park. But don’t wait too long, because there’s an Occidental Hefeweizen waiting for you. It’s a crisp, American take on a German tradition, a little taste of the old world.
Tip: Look closely at a map before this one, as the Ridge Trail is poorly signed.
The Aspen Trail via Portland Brewing (4 miles)
Locals know the Aspen Trail as an easy way to squeeze in forest time after work. The Aspen Trailhead begins on Aspen Avenue. There is usually street parking available nearby; however, for a tidy four-mile route, park at Portland Brewing and jog the few blocks uphill to the trailhead. This is a well-signed section of Forest Park, with wide trails and the occasional pedestal-mounted map. Run just under a quarter mile on the Aspen trail, until it verges right to just under one and a half miles of moderate hills on the Wildwood Trail before turning right onto the Wild Cherry Trail, which takes you back to Leif Erikson Drive. For a longer run, continue on Wildwood to earn your second round.
Portland Brewing has long been a popular spot for road bikers, so they welcome sweaty, thirsty customers who earn their beer by putting in miles.
Portland Brewing brewer Josh Riggs bike commutes into work most days, but he’s also been known to run in via Forest Park. “When you have that first drink after a run, it feels great,” he says. Riggs recommends Smash, a single-malt, single-hop Summer Pale Ale for cooling down after a run.
The Cumberland Trail via 10 Barrel Brewing (6.5 miles)
Start this run anywhere near 10 Barrel Brewing, in a part of northwest Portland that’s been freshly rebranded as “The Brewery Blocks.” Enjoy the moderate incline through Portland’s swanky Alphabet District, and then push past mansions in the well-heeled West Hills. The prize for these hills is the Cumberland Trail, which meanders through a dense forest of Douglas firs for a quarter mile before continuing on to Wildwood Trail for a mile more of the same. After crossing Cornell Road, ditch Wildwood in favor of Lower Macleay Trail to the right, which follows an idyllic creek and exits to the city at Lower Macleay Park. Pick your way back through neighborhoods for a well-deserved Pearl IPA.
“A lot of my beers are based off of desserts,” says brewer Whitney Burnside. “Brewing is a lot like liquid baking.”
Her Pearl IPA gives a nod to traditional IPAs, with a twist. It’s the first beer she brewed at 10 Barrel and “it came easy,” she says. 10 Barrel’s bar manager Josh Ohlsson says, “It’s intimidating at first, but then it mellows out. It’s so beautiful.” That’s a pretty good description of this run, too.
River View Natural Area via Oaks Bottom Public House (7 miles)
Lompoc Brewing’s Oaks Bottom Public House is in the perfect place to start and finish a hilly, scenic run. This route passes through a city park, a cemetery and a wooded natural area. Start near the pub, make your way through Sellwood Park and cross the Sellwood Bridge to reach the entrance to River View Cemetery on the west side of the Willamette.
After running through the cemetary, hit a quarter mile of pavement to the southwest and, ultimately, the River View Natural Area.This park has many narrow dirt paths that wind back on themselves, offering the chance to extend your mileage. Reverse the route back through the cemetery for negative splits and scenic river views.
“Beer and running go hand-in-hand,” says Lompoc owner and brewer Jerry Fechter, who has been proudly supplying Portland’s hasher running clubs for years, selling them dozens of kegs to fuel romps in the woods around Portland.
Fetcher recommends the Oktoberfest. “We actually toast some of the barely in house, bringing out a biscuity flavor,” he says. “We’ve also added more hops to make it a little bit more northwest.”
Note: River View Cemetery is open from 8 a.m.-dusk. No dogs allowed in River View Natural Area or River View Cemetery.