PDX: Beer-Friendly Airport

10171192_10152105696932798_2130356938288851234_n As far as airports go, our own Austin Bergstrom International Airport certainly has its merits. It boasts local food vendors, live music, a Book People location, no pass through charges and, perhaps most importantly (and I say this as a Dallas-Fort Worth native) the significantly diminished stress of a cozy, single terminal operation.

Then again, I’m one of those crazy people who love airports. Maybe after a few more decades of obligatory business trips or increasingly invasive body scans (anyone else live in constant fear that they’ll one day ban underwire?) I’ll change my tune, but right now–airports represent that first breathe of vacation, and always bring back happy memories of family trips, studying abroad, etc.

I say this to provide a little context to how strange it’ll probably sound that we’re coming off a six day beer drinking trip of the Pacific Northwest (one in which we visited 17 breweries, eight craft beer bars and nine bottle shops) and the first thing I was inspired to write about was Portland International Airport.

Before we embarked on our trip I discovered that both Rogue and Laurelwood had locations inside of PDX (Laurelwood actually has two locations) behind security. Behind security is obviously the holy grail here considering you can then carry bottles and growlers on board in a shopping bag or carry-on luggage without having to deal with TSA liquid requirements. This was doubly important for us Bitch Beer ladies considering we had already collectively packed dozens of bottles of beer into some extremely overweight checked luggage. So, a few more after security (that we could keep our eyes on) couldn’t hurt. Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 11.19.05 AM

Before the trip, a Thrillist listicle from a few months ago made the rounds chronicling “The Best US Airports for Beer Snobs” Austin obviously wasn’t on it, but PDX came in fifth, just behind JFK, Boston Logan, Minneapolis/ St. Paul and top pick–San Diego. I haven’t drank in most of those airports, so I reserve my judgement, and the comment section certainly boasts more than one heartfelt defense rant about how somebody’s local airport which contains a brewpub was left out. All of this was all well and good, but my Internet snooping, this Thrillist list–they all buried the lede about two key facts that make PDX a pretty amazing beer destination.

1. Made in Oregon.

Shoutout to Twitter tipsters @PDXbottleshare and @TapDancerBlog for singing the praises of this souvenir shop (again, located AFTER security) which boasts a huge selection of local wine, cider and beers from Cascade Brewing, Logsdon’s Farmhouse Ales and countless other Oregonian gems.

2. Prices. Prices. Prices.

We were shocked to notice just how reasonable the prices at Made in Oregon were. Many bombers from that part of the country are cheaper than what we’re used to paying in Texas already (many started at $4 or $5 for standard offerings), and these prices were just as good as the ones we were seeing at bottle shops and grocery stores around town. The prices at Laurelwood for both on and off-site beers were also startlingly reasonable ($4.50 for a pint, takeaway bombers starting at $5.00 or so). Considering we each payed $8.75 for a pint of (512) Pecan Porter (one of the very few craft beers on tap) at Ray Benson’s Roadhouse at ABIA just five days earlier, the contrast was certainly stark. We soon learned that PDX actually has a mandate that airport vendors are not allowed to raise their prices above what they charge at their non-airport locations. In other words, since $8.75 for a pint of beer would never, ever fly at Laurelwood’s regular in-town locations, it can’t fly at the airport. The cherry on top of this customer-friendly sundae–Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax, so airport shopping is also tax free.

Of course, Texas isn’t going to eliminate sales tax any time soon ever, which is honestly fine, but considering Austin and Portland share similar small business sensibilities, ABIA could definitely take a note from Portland in terms of the selection of local beer and the fair pricing practiced at PDX. (This is another rant, but I’ve always found it so confusing how Austin festivals, the airport, etc. tout local food vendors so heavily as part of their mission statement, and then their bars just offer a wide array of everything from Budweiser to Budlight instead of all the great local beverages crafted in Austin.)

Anyway, after a carry-on full of bottles from Made in Oregon and Laurelwood, and a pint of Workhorse IPA, we were on our way back to Austin, well, with a quick layover in Salt Lake City….which you could imagine was a pretty dry experience.


Beer Hot Spots in PDX:

Rogue Ales Public House
Concourse D, Gate 4

Laurelwood Public House
Concourse A & Concourse D (we visited the D location)

Made in Oregon
Concourse C & D (we visited the D location)

Bonus: House Spirits
Concourse D


6 Comments on PDX: Beer-Friendly Airport

  1. Really enjoyed this post, would love if you followed for follow!!

  2. ctsheppard // April 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm // Reply

    Good tips. I thought, in general, the beer prices were more pocket friendly in ALL of Portland, compared to Austin.

    Cigar City in the Southwest terminal in Tampa is another great airport beer spot.

    Sounds like you had a great trip.

    • You’re right, they actually seemed really reasonable everywhere we went in hindsight, on or off-premise. The tax free thing sure doesn’t hurt either!

  3. Tax free shopping and a 3 times lower per gallon beer excise tax is generally why Portland beats Seattle when it comes to beer prices. It is also why I usually load up my car with all of the stuff in PDX I can’t get in Seattle (or can get cheaper in PDX) when I am down there visiting.

    Having spent a ton of time at both JFK and Boston/Logan, I can tell you that neither of those places would rank very high on my list for best beer airports. There is a big difference between having a big selection and having a quality selection. Neither of those places rank high on the quality scale.

  4. Couldn’t agree more about Austin Bergstrom, sadly. I love Austin and the Austin beer scene and look forward to my annual conference their every year (coming up again in 5 weeks). The airport; however, is a poor (very) representation of the vibrant craft beer scene that welcomes those lucky enough to hit the Ginger Man, Austin Ale House, and Dog & Duck Pub downtown (not to mention the Flying Saucer and host of others). Unfortunately, after the Salt Lick satellite, its mostly downhill at the airport.

    As for San Diego, now that Stone opened a World Bistro there, there will be a few tourists who might not feel compelled to venture from the terminal.


  5. Great tip!!!! Love this so helpful! – Christina

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