There are few pastimes that attract my interest more than cycling and beer and so when the occasion arises to combine the two passions it’s double happiness. So it was ahead of a recent trip when my research found a local bicycle tour and rental company, Cycle Portland, that runs a daily “Brews Cruise” cycling between craft breweries through historic neighborhoods.

Cycle Portland headquarters is in the 1905 Rich Block in the Old Town/Chinatown area of the city and in addition to escorted city bike tours does bike repairs and rentals.

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I met my tour guide Sam at the shop and learned I was the only tour participant and in learning that was expecting notice of the tour cancellation for lack of sufficient numbers but was pleasantly surprised to learn my confirmed tour would go ahead as a private tour for one. With slate grey skies threatening Spring showers we headed out on our tour.

Early on the tour we crossed the Steel Bridge, a beloved Portland landmark which in engineering terms is correctly called a  through truss, double-deck vertical-lift bridge with  passenger and freight trains on the lower level which may be opened to river traffic without interfering with car, bike and truck traffic on the upper deck. Opened in 1912 it is one of only two telescoping vertical-lift bridges in the country and the lone one still operating.

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The pedestrian and bike lanes on the side of the historic bridge, which is from the same era and reminded me of Edmonton’s High Level Bridge, are wide and the views of the Willamette River and city skyline including the glass spires of the convention center worth pausing to admire.

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Our first pit stop is Culmination  Brewing where we were greeted by a ferocious guard dog named Barry whose bark is worse than his bite as he warmed up to me after a gentle word for his owner.

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Culmination Brewing is “built around the idea that sustainable manufacturing and building practices can and will lead to superior products and customer satisfaction. Great beer, with good food and community can be brought together in one concept, under one roof”.

The tap list is varied and deciding the hardest part but being so over IPA’s I opted for #15, the Belgian Blonde, which didn’t disappoint although I normally prefer brunettes.

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We pulled up a picnic table on the outdoor patio and enjoyed our beers. The residential neighborhood that surrounds the brewery gives it a really casual atmosphere where you imagine as many people walk over for a pint than ride or drive.

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Before leaving we peeked into the working end of the craft brewery with its tanks and vats and Sam noted the computer Culmination uses but which other brewers eschew preferring instead to rely on their experience and senses to balance the ingredients even if that means a slight taste difference in every batch.

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Off to one side there are old fashioned barrels wooden used for small batch and seasonal brews.

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Culmination Brewing does have a kitchen with popular pub favorite finger foods such as fries, pretzels, mac & cheese and sandwiches.

As we made out way to our next stop we passed through East Portland communities that have decorated their small traffic circles with vibrant floral patterns in an effort to encourage drivers to pay attention to the road.

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Many of the houses in this part of Portland are a century old four-squares and large Craftsman style bungalows and the streets shaded by stately elms.

Our arrival at the adventured-themed Base Camp Brewing Company coincided with the forecasted late afternoon shower so we headed indoors instead of braving the elements on the patio with its Tibetan prayer flags. It seems however that my prayers for a dry day went unanswered.

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Base Camp opened its doors in 2012 and its founders took the adventure of the outdoors indoors with a taproom adorned with rustic canoes overhead and tables made of planks from tree trunks with rough bark edges.

Base Camp is famous for its S’mores Stout that comes with a toasted marshmallow right on the stein but the New Wave Amber caught my eye and the Bavarian style malt beer hit the right notes as Sam and I enjoyed a respite from the rain.

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Base Camp has a pair of local food trucks on-site including a Sherpa Kitchen which unsurprisingly serves authentic Nepalese cuisine.

I learned more about how the craft brewery scene in Portland was a case of the right products being readily available at the right time in the 1980’s when empty industrial space was relatively cheap and abundant. Today there are more than 70 breweries clustered in Portland producing award-winning beers in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition.

The tour cost doesn’t include the beer at the two stops however I found the USD$5 – $6 price range of pints very reasonable considering the high quality of all the beer consumed. The tour ended with a free pint of Lompoc Brewing beer back at the Cycle Portland store which came in a souvenir glass I’ve now added to my growing beer glass and stein collection.  Sam is a genial and knowledgeable tour leader and the leisurely pace of this 2.5-hour perfect for spacing out the samples consumed and still being able to ride well even in the rain.