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Hoppy Trails: Learning About Beer with Brewvana, Portland


I had my first beer in the eleventh grade.  I had my second beer about twenty minutes later.  Both were cans of Coors Light.  They were warm and tasted like a cantaloupe and a dirty sock had a disgusting, fizzy baby (and I hate cantaloupe).  To make matters worse, those two beers made me have to pee so badly that I had to make my boyfriend pull over on the side of the road on the way home to let me pee in someone’s front yard (uh, sorry someone).

It took me seventeen years to have my third beer.

That’s right–I did not drink another beer until I was 34.  This past January, to be exact.  It honestly really wasn’t that hard to avoid.  I was kind of a loser in college, but when I did go out, it wasn’t difficult to get someone else to drink my beer pong beer.  And then, after college, I discovered wine.  And all was good.  Until one magical day this past January, when a work trip and a blizzard conspired to strand me at Troegs Brewery in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  It was there on a blustery winter day where I discovered Mad Elf, a beer that surprisingly tasted nothing whatsoever like cantaloupe and dirty socks.

It took me seventeen minutes to have my fourth beer.

One would think that after this revelation, my life as a born-again beer drinker would be hoppy, er, happy trails.  But one would be wrong.  You see, without really trying, I spent the last decade or so learning about wine (ok, maybe I tried a little.  Fine.  Maybe I tried a lot).  And I learned enough about wine to be able to order–or purchase–wine which I would enjoy.  After all, a crucial step in being able to enjoy beverages is being able to, you know, procure them.  I suddenly found myself, halfway through my 30s, in want of beer but lacking the knowledge of exactly what kind of beer I wanted.  At that point, all I knew was: I did not want Coors Light.

So I went to Portland.

Ok, to be fair, I didn’t, like, say: hey self, you want to learn about beer so you should go to Portland.  But I did go to Portland.  And while I was there I made sure to learn all about beer.  And I did so in the best way possible: by taking a Brewvana Beer Lover’s Tour. I can assure you, this was a fabulous idea.

Experience Brewvana

There were many highlights of the Brewvana Beer Lover’s Tour.  I’ll get to those in a minute.  But the number one highlight, beyond even the beer itself, was: Matthew.  Matthew was our guide.  This is Matthew:


Matthew is the dude with the beard and the orange shirt who looks like he knows that he’s talking about (because he does).

Matthew was everything any kind of guide (but especially a beer guide) should be–he was friendly, passionate, and extremely knowledgable.  At no point did he make me feel stupid for asking a simple question, yet at the same time he was able to astutely address any queries from the more experienced beer drinkers on the tour. And I assure you, those on the tour ran the gamut from extreme beer novice (me) to beer connoisseur.  Everyone–absolutely everyone–came away from the evening having learned something.  And we all had a fabulous time and drank a bunch of great beer.  If that’s not the description of a winning evening, I don’t know what is.

Long story short: if you are in Portland, take a Brewvana Tour.  They have a bunch of different offerings, which you can find here.

As for my evening: I was on the Thursday Night Beer Lover’s Tour.  We went to three different breweries.  Like any good travel blogger worth her weight in ones and zeroes, I took notes.  Here’s how well that turned out:

The Three Breweries We Visited and the Notes I Took While We Were There

The Commons


-Wow.  This place is, like, an actual brewery. It feels more like a warehouse than anything else. Toto, we’re not in Napa anymore.

-We are tasting a saison.  Saison was originally brewed to keep farmers hydrated. That is awesome. I feel more hydrated already.

-This brewery leans toward more malty beer, rather than hoppy. Apparently Portland is known for more hoppy beers. I don’t even know what that means.

Base Camp


-It smells so good in here. They said it is the malt (I asked).

-Man, this is so much information. And I’m not even drunk.

-Base Camp also offers hiking and climbing classes. That is awesome. I feel more fit already.

-I really like the Northwest Fest. I wonder why.

-Northwest Fest is very malty (I asked). Apparently I like malt.

Migration Brewing


I don’t have any notes from Migration (gee I wonder why). I do know that we were served a whole lot of really good pub food (there were nachos), and that this is where I tried Kolsch–and learned what Kolsch is (basically a German pale ale that I didn’t really love but I could see being very drinkable on a warm day. Not that Germany or Portland are super warm climates.)

As we merrily made our way back to the hotel, expertly driven by entirely sober Matthew The Greatest Tour Guide Ever, I smiled.  Because I realized that I finally did what I set out to do so many years ago: I wanted to know something (how to drink beer), I went to the source (Portland), and I learned (ask for something malty/avoid IPAs*).  This.  This is why I travel.  This. Right. Here.


*It is extremely important to note: I’ve since learned to love IPAs.  I blame/credit Colorado (yes, the entire state). But that’s a story for another post.

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Brewvana, but as always, all thoughts and opinions (and poorly documented notes) are my own. 

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