Pedicab or walking tour makes enjoyable afternoon of sipping
Story by Amber Dudley • Photos by Amber Dudley and Perry Piper
As I learned while writing a previous article about Portland’s Food Carts (CRR, August 2011), Portlanders embrace creativity on a local scale and invite collaborative innovation when it comes to business. Flourishing Rose City micro-enterprises include food carts, small-batch coffee roasters, and craft breweries. A newly emerging micro-trend lies along Distillery Row, a 20-block area tucked away in a Southeast Portland industrial neighborhood.
Home team loyalty
With five distilleries taking part, like-minded distillers have joined forces in an effort to revive the craft distilling trade and spark the next micro-enterprise. Rather than view each other as competition, Distillery Row businesses have developed a shared website, package tour deals, and a cooperative mentality. Most of the distillers use locally grown grains, fruit, herbs, and other ingredients, which exemplifies Portland’s home-team loyalty even more.
Visitors can purchase a Distillery Row Passport at any stop along the route. The $20 booklet waives the $5 tasting fee at each of the five included distilleries. This is one way to tour and sip, but is not required. The Passport provides tasting notes and information about each distillery, and visitors receive a stamp at each stop. Be aware that the distilleries typically waive the tasting fee with purchase of a bottle (if tasting without the Passport), so if you plan to stock up along the way, the Passport may not offer the best value. On the other hand, it makes a great souvenir, and includes many other substantial discounts at over 50 area restaurants and retailers, all valid through May 31, 2012.
Four of the stops on the Row are easily walkable, within a 1 1/2-mile radius. You can also hire a pedicab and driver to take you from place to place, as we did. (See photo, above, of Amber Dudley and Perry Piper.) This was a fun way to get around, and offered a unique view of the area. We zipped around the Row on the back of our pedal-powered taxis for the day, tasting spirits and stopping for a savory homemade pie at Pacific Pie Company.
At each distillery, owners are usually on hand to pour samples, give tours, and answer questions. Tastes are small, but adequate, and served straight up at room temperature. We would have liked to try them chilled, and welcomed the stops that provided a refreshing mixed sipper in addition to the pure versions.
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?
Some of the more unique spirits we tried included Krogstad Aquavit (a Swedish digestif), tarragon-infused vodka, and a version of Absinthe, which according to one participant, “tastes like when you get shampoo in your mouth in the shower.” Yum?
We did sample several spirits that were quite tasty and learned a thing or two about the distillation process, which, like beer or winemaking, can be a complex, culinary art. Our favorite tastes of the day were Mud Puddle, a cocoa-infused vodka from New Deal, Aviation Gin from House Spirits, and a coffee-infused rum from Deco.
If you decide to give it a try, don’t go hungry. Food may not be readily available. Water is provided at each stop, but a backpack for your purchases is handy. Also, be sure to check the hours at each distillery prior to leaving… most are limited to weekends. And most importantly, allow plenty of time to enjoy all of the unique flavors along Distillery Row!
Distillery Row Passport Stops
Visit the four following distilleries in the order listed for an easy 1 1/2-mile walking tour loop:
New Deal Distillery
1311 SE 9th Ave, Portland (Founder Tom Burkleaux pictured above, right)
•Start here. Street parking is easy, and with friendly owners and a relaxed vibe, New Deal is a great way to ease into tasting.
•Try an assortment of vodkas, including Hot Monkey, a spicy pepper version, and Mud Puddle, a cocoa-infused delight.
House Spirits Distillery
2025 SE 7th Ave, Portland
•Try the locally popular Aviation Gin in this quaint tasting room.
•Distillery tours are scheduled separately. Check website for details - www.housespirits.com
1512 SE 7th Ave, Portland
• Coffee and Ginger-infused rum are their specialties, and a variety of mixed-drink ideas are available to sample.
Pacific Pie Company is right next-door, so this is a good snack stop.
909 SE Yamhill St, Portland
• Last stop along the loop. Try Absinthe prepared with a traditional serving fountain, as well a several other herbal-infused creations.
Stone Barn Brandyworks
3315 SE 19th Ave, Suite B, Portland
• Approximately 3 miles south of the other distilleries, this stop is a little farther away, but offers a variety of flavored brandy, liqueur, and unoaked whiskey.
How do you think a distillery tasting tour might be different from winetasting? Have you visited, or do you plan to visit Distillery Row? Would you buy locally-made versus national brand liquor? What difference might there be? Share your thoughts in the "Comment" space below.
Amber Dudley recently earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Washington Tacoma. She lives in Ridgefield and enjoys camping, cooking, writing, and skiing.