Medford, Oregon: Portal Brewing and BricktownE Brewing

This past weekend (OBF weekend, in fact) was spent in Southern Oregon on a family vacation-slash-birthday trip, and while in Medford we managed to slip in a couple of mealtime brewery visits: Portal Brewing for lunch, and BricktownE Brewing for dinner. I’m not writing full reviews, but I have some thoughts on each, the beers, and took a number of pictures.

First though, a quick note about Southern Oregon in general. It’s a beautiful, temperate region, hot in the summers, green and fertile—the Rogue Valley region in particular is one of Oregon’s great wine regions. It’s relatively sparsely populated, with Medford and Roseburg being the most populous cities (with about 78,000 and 22,000 people, respectively), which means it’s fairly agrarian and rural in atmosphere, which is fairly apparent when you cross over into the State of Jefferson area.

Which for a lot of years translated into, “not having very many local breweries.” That’s been changing quite a lot in recent years, which a plethora of new breweries and brewpubs popping up in Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland, and elsewhere. Seeing that develop is always fun.

Portal Brewing

This was a cool, intimate, funky space, probably as close to “hipster” as you can get in Medford—and I mean that in a good way. It’s located on the corner of E. 6th and S. Front, in an historic brick building that at one time served as a jail, and the space was smaller inside than I would have guessed at first blush. We stopped in to check out lunch options and really enjoyed it.

I wasn’t really aware of it before visiting, but Portal has a very nautical, pirate-y theme going on, both in their decor and the names of many of their beers. (Keep an eye out for the tiny skeleton dioramas tucked away into wall nooks in a corner.) In addition to lunch and a sampler of beers, we chatted for a few minutes with the owner and brewer, who was tending bar. From him I learned they have (if I recall correctly) a one-barrel and a three-barrel brew system, located on their residential property.

The beers were good; I liked the lighter ones better than the darker, heavier ones. Here’s what I had on the sampler (from my Untappd checkins):

  • Tangerine Dream Sour: “True to name, very tangerine like, not bitingly sour”
  • Pear Blossom Pale: “Mellow, easy drinking, lightly floral”
  • Sunset Cream Ale: “Grainy, crisp, very tasty, light and drinkable”
  • Coconut Vanilla Brown: “Coconut is here, slight tang to it, not bad”
  • Passage to India Double IPA: “Big and malty, leans toward sweet, hops are present but not as prominent”
  • Hoptopus Imperial Cascadian Dark: “Murky. Woody hops, trend towards sweet like the DIPA.”

We all enjoyed our lunch, the kids had schwarma and we split a turkey bacon wrap. Portal also serves locally-made soda from From the Earth Soda Company, and the kids really enjoyed the Cream Soda.

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BricktownE Brewing

BricktownE is bigger and seems like more of a night spot for downtown Medford. We stopped in that night for dinner and while it’s obvious they brew on premise, I didn’t get any details on the brewery other than snapped a few around-the-corner and through-the-glass pictures. It’s more conventional, with a family-friendly restaurant/pub space and the BricktownE Saloon next door, bar only. They had a nice but not overwhelming crowd for a Saturday night.

A couple of fun touches included a wall of coasters next to our table, which was amusing to play spot-the-brewery (which included some fun, older finds) and, and one of the tap handles is an old cap gun, a six-shot “Wild West” pistol. The beers were decent; conversely, while I liked the lighter beers at Portal better, at BricktownE I liked the darker, heavier beers better than the light ones.

Here are my Untappd notes from the sampler tray:

  • Blue Collar Cream Ale: “Little heavy, maybe under-attenuated. Muddled grainy flavors”
  • Siskiyou Pass ESB: “Earthy, English malts, bitter at back. Easy drinking”
  • Workin’ Gal Brown: “A touch roasty, but a nice brown”
  • Whiskey Canyon Porter: “Tasty, enjoying the booze soaked wood presence. Roasty”
  • Calypso Cowboy IPA: “Mango, fruity, kind of a creamy bitterness.”
  • Ore-Gunslinger Double IPA: “Hop forward, sticky & resinous, nicely built”

Food was decent and followed the typical pub menu, burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, and so on. I had a caramelized pear burger and enjoyed it, though I think in general we liked lunch better.

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