Beers, Books, and Shopping: The Portland Essentials

These are a few of my favorite things to do in Portland, Oregon.

Portland is a beautiful place, and more importantly, to me, it is a place filled with my three favorite things: beer, books, and shopping. I really love stores—bookstores, clothing stores, stores that sell statues of babies with beaks (I’ll explain). Love ’em. I don’t even need to buy anything—I just like to know that option is available to me—and Portland gave me five hundred thousand options for shopping. Portland also gave me approximately six million different options for places to enjoy craft beers. Allow me to help you navigate those options.

Back Pedal Brewing is the smallest nano-brewery in Portland and packs in several excellent craft beers brewed in-house on its tiny premises. After you have a beer inside, you can get on a little peddling car with all of your friends and peddle to several other breweries, on the BrewCycle. Doesn’t that sound great? No? It sounds horrible? That’s what I thought too—who needs exercise to get in the way of drinking? I don’t want to move and drink at the same time. I am drinking a beer, I would like to be extremely still—just as still as humanly possible, really.

Did people yell at us as we rode by? Yes. Did cars get annoyed by us as we slowly peddled down the street? Yes. They sure did. Did I eventually get over myself and have a nice time? …Yes. Yes, I did.

PINTS Brewing reminded me of somewhere I would drink in college—which sounds not great, but honestly, I mean that in the best way possible. It was homey and the atmosphere was really comforting—I actually felt cooler being inside of there, just like the old days, when I was a young 20-something at a cool bar, and not the easily annoyed, slightly dorky jerk I am today. They had several of their own small-batch brews, made in-house, including a few seasonal highlights like the Edgar Allan Kolsch, a dark brewed Kolsch, a Kettle Kreme Soft Serve cream ale (made with actual Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream), and a Demodog Baltic Porter, which is a chocolate malt (and I guess probably a “Stranger Things” reference, if you’re into that). Anyways, the beers are really good.

Old Town Pizza was formerly The Merchant Hotel, where a lot of shady business went down. Apparently ghosts haunt this downtown pizza establishment because it’s built on top of the Shanghai’d Tunnels, which is a place where ghosts live. According to local lore, sailors used to get kidnapped in the tunnels, and that caused murders and hauntings to happen in the former hotel, I guess. Don’t worry, though—that was a long time ago! Now, the ghosts are probably just hanging out for fun. You’re fine.

There is one ghost who still pops up every now and then—her name is Nina. She sounds lovely though, and apparently smells like perfume. So it’s fine! Have a beer, and you will forget all about the murdering ghosts, and the nice ghost that smells good. This pizza store has the best Oktoberfest on draft that I have ever tasted in my life, and I would’ve stayed there for a very long time had I not had to get back into the peddling bike thing to go to the next brewery.

Everybody was mad when Fat Heads came to Portland because Portland is a beer city with its own breweries, and then this annoying Ohio brewery stomps its way into the city and thinks it can get away with it? Well, it did get away with it, and… people like it. It’s been really successful. Probably because it’s a good brewery, with an unusually high selection of its own craft beers, plus about a million other beers available on tap.

Also, this guy is on all the walls, and he’s fun. He’s kind of the main guy. It’s him: He’s the Fat Head.

Look, Portland has a lot of bookstores, but Powell’s City of Books is kind of like 15 bookstores inside of 1 bookstore. I mean, c’mon, it’s got “city” right there in the name. I got lost in the kids section. I am not a kid. I did not need to be in this section.

Book a Hotel

This store had it all: expensive chocolate! Expensive peanut butter! Expensive other kinds of butter! Tea that was also very expensive! Very small $24 candles, with scents like “Tattoos + Cutoffs”!

And, my favorite item of them all: This $30 toothbrush. Everyone was like, “Oh, it’s charcoal, that’s why,” and I would reply, “I don’t care,” and they’d say, “No, but that’s why it’s $30,” and I would say, “That makes no sense to me,” and they would say, “You just don’t know what charcoal toothbrushes are,” and I would say, “It’s a toothbrush” and they would say, “Yeah, so?” and I would say, “We’re done talking.” Somehow, I still wanted the $30 toothbrush. I have no explanation for my thoughts and actions.

Even this famous Portland mountain had its own store, which I did go into, and, naturally, did find something I wanted to buy. As you can see, this baby is taking a nap inside of a leaf. This gift shop, the Rose Garden Store, sold a lot of tea, tea cups, and anything rose-related.

Three Monkeys is an actual treasure chest of a store in the Alphabet District that sells vintage clothing, jewelry, decor, and… a lot of other items. Like dolls and masks and statues of beaked children. It’s Portland’s oldest emporium, it’s three levels tall, and it’s got all of your basic needs covered (if your basic needs include statues of chickens and gigantic skulls—which, obviously they do).

Here is the Target in Downtown Portland. It does not look like a regular Target, which was extremely intriguing to me. I walked by it several times, each time saying out loud to myself, “Do not go in there, you idiot. It’s Target. You can do this at home,” followed by nearly walking inside, then turning back around, then almost walking inside again, and finally stomping away, shaking my head. It most likely looked like I was having a very serious argument, with myself, to anyone who happened to watch this happen. To these people, I say: I was, and I’m sorry you had to see this.

I had not had any coffee yet one morning and merrily walked into a Safeway, thinking, “Ah, this is a Safeway in Portland, how neat,” followed by, “This is extremely stupid, why am I walking around this regular grocery store?” So I left, because it was just a Safeway and there were better stores to see. I’ve seen Safeways! No thanks!

Okay, so this isn’t exactly “shopping,” but you can buy donut merchandise/shirts here, if you’d like. A Lyft driver told me “not to bother” going to VooDoo Donuts, because it was “overhyped” and “there are better donut places.” Okay. Sure. Fine. Maybe you’re right. Here’s my take: Who cares. I don’t care if it’s overhyped! Look at these donuts. These donuts are not messing around–these are beautiful donuts. Don’t tell me not to go in here! Don’t tell me to “not bother” with the donut store, simply because it is “overhyped”! Sometimes the overhyped thing is “overhyped” for a reason–because it’s very good.

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