Last weekend, I was invited to participate in a media tour with Brewvana Brewery Tours. All I had to do was show up at the pickup location and I would be whisked away on a mystery tour for five hours. Of course, I'd be required to eat free food and drink free beer. Work, work, work, work, work.

Hopping on board the bus, we were greeted by Ashley Rose Salvitti, Brewvana's owner and today's guide. Over the course of 5 hours, we hit five of Portland's newest (or upcoming) breweries: Pints Brewing, Fire on the Mountain Brewing, Base Camp Brewing, The Commons Brewery, and Gigantic Brewing.

Brewvana had it's inaugural tour on April 8th 2011. Since then, they've been hand-crafting tours of Portland's best breweries. Ashley will be quick to tell you that this is not simply a beer shuttle. What makes Brewvana special is the relationships that Ashley and her team have with the breweries and beer businesses. The logistics of the tours are figured out ahead of time not to maximize beer input—though you will drink plenty—but rather to have the time to talk to the brewers and allow them to walk you through the beers, process, and facility. Brewvana tours are about the whole beer culture which is important in understanding why Portland has become such a world beer mecca.

Beer production in Portland is still climbing with new spots opening every year. This saturation and competition is great for the industry and especially good important to the consumer: breweries are finding and creating niches in the market. These specializations diversify the beer landscape giving rise to not only perfected standard styles, but also smaller markets like all organic beer, freestyle recipes, farmhouse ales, sours, barrel-aged beers, gluten free beer, and lagers.

With such a crowded market, it's important to have people who can keep up with all of the changes and additions in the Portland beer scene. Allow Brewvana to share their personal connections with you and take advantage of one of their all inclusive tour options including: weekly tours, seasonal tours, connoisseur tours, and now private build-your-own tours.

My travel log from last Sunday's Brewvana Tour:

Pickup: Convention Center

Brewvana Tour

Stop One: Pints Brewing

Brewvana Tour: Pints Brewing

Pints Brewing fired up their 3.5 bbl brew system for the first time on the day after our tour. Consequently, we didn't get to try any of their own beer. But we didn't leave empty handed. Brewer Zach Beckwith brought some of the beer he previously brewed when he was a brewer at Lompoc Brewing. Zach hopes to reach 400 barrels in the first year of their production, so we should soon see plenty of beer coming out of pints Brewing. Don't look for any frills though. Zach wants to concentrate on world class brews that are straight to the point and very drinkable. Once Pints gets rolling we'll see a few standard styles fill out their lineup and about one or two new seasonals per quarter, based on the season at hand.

Stop Two: Fire on the Mountain Brewing

Brewvana Tour: Fire on the Mountain

Many of you know Fire on the Mountain for their wings, but you'll soon know them for their beer. Brewer Ben Nehrling is already on batch number 31 in their 7 bbl brewhouse. During our visit, we sampled a lager, IPA, Winter IPA, and not-yet-released Baltic Porter. All beers were solid, clean, and to style, but the standouts were the Winter IPA with a great balance of hops to to the luscious malty backbone and the Baltic Porter which should be releasing on St. Patrick's Day. I'll post more details about the beers in the beer section of the site once some official data is published by Fire on the Mountain.

Stop Three: Base Camp Brewing

Brewvana Tour: Base Camp Brewing

Base Camp Brewing is setting out to be the place for people to go to plan their Portland and Northwest adventures. Want to go hiking, biking, climbing, or even unicycling while playing the theme to Star Wars on bagpipes dressed in a Darth Vader costume? Well, stop in to Base Camp Brewing and plan your trip over a beer! But don't stop by quite yet. The building is a far cry from its future glory, but as the dust continues to fly, owner Justin Fay has his fingers crossed for a June opening. Impossible? No. But it's gonna take a lot of work.

Stop Four: The Commons Brewery

Brewvana Tour: The Commons Brewery

The Commons Brewery occupies a small spot with very limited tasting room hours. Nonetheless, they have managed to make a big impact on the Portland beer scene by creating unique, delicious, inspired beers. Often employing Belgian yeasts, The Commons Brewery aims to a small rustic farmhouse brewery situated in the center of the city. The official kick off of the Commons Brewery was back in 2010. Then known as Beetje Brewing, the beers were brewed in owner Mike Wright's garage on a small, less than 1.5 barrel system. 2011 brought the expansion to their new SE 10th Avenue location where they've upped their capacity to 7 barrels and opened a tasting room on Fridays and Saturdays. As of last week, their taplist read:

  • Urban Farmhouse Ale – a simple food friendly saison
  • Flemish Kiss - an American Brett ale
  • Pale Evening Ale - belgian pale ale with spicy saaz hop profile
  • Sticke (shtee-ka) – a secret alt. a bigger, hoppier brother to the alt
  • Commons Biere de Garde - an amber french country ale
  • Commons Blond Ale – a hoppy belgian blond ale
  • Madrone - a tart saison with fruity Zythos hop blend
  • De Dolle de Garde - a version of our Biere de Garde with De Dolle’s yeast
The first bottled beers will start hitting the streets at the end of March, starting with Brotherly Love. Flemish Kiss, Urban Farmhouse, and Biere de Garde should follow in bottles soon.

Stop Five: Gigantic Brewing

Brewvana Tour: Gigantic Brewing

If you don't know the names Van Havig and Ben Love, you don't live in Portland. These two brewing heavyweights have partnered up to bring us Gigantic Brewing. As you can see from the photo above, they've still got some time before they start brewing at their location. They have, however, been busy brewing with other breweries in nomadic style collaboration projects:

  • Breakside Brewing: Hoppy Hoppy Nano Beer
  • Laurelwood Brewing: Cascadian Pilsner
  • Oakshire Brewing: Collabo Wabo
  • Pelican Brewing: Schwarzenfreude Baltic Porter

Check out the rest of the photos here.