Tugboat Brewing Company

Tugboat Brewing CompanyTugboat Brewing Company

Type: Brewery, Bar, Eatery

711 SW Ankeny St
Portland, Oregon, 97205
United States

(503) 226-2508 | map

Operation Hours:
Mon: 5-10pm
Tue-Thu: 4pm-12 midnight
Fri - Sat: 4pm-1am
Sun: closed

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Reviews: 37 | Ratings: 60
Photo of puck1225
4.06/5  rDev +21.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3.75

I loved this place. Pleasantly dark and cozy, with a huge selection of good book lining the wall near the bar. The selection is limited but good quality. The afternoon I was there, there were only two Tugboat brews on offer, but the IPA I had was great. Food was good and the service was comfortably grumpy but efficient. Recommended!

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Photo of StJamesGate
1.93/5  rDev -42%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 1.25 | service: 1.5 | selection: 2.5 | food: 2.25

I haven't written a review in a while but I feel the need to warn people:
This place is a pit.

I was originally attracted by the idea of an English ale specialist in a city of hop bombs.
And there is some charm in the scruffy interior, a sort of "Old Portland" unreconstructed dive bar, even if it looks nothing like an actual English pub.

But first looks is as good as it gets.
Their own beers are not just uninspired but actually flawed: papery staleness, mineral tang that suggests bad water chemistry, and phenolic notes that can come from high ferment temps. (Check the listings: only one that's rated >3.7 out of about a dozen beers.)
Food is perfunctory. Pot-stickers were OK but likely packaged, nachos were only a notch above what you'd get at a Blazers game.
And service is somewhere between gruff and alienating. Don't try asking about hop varieties. They can't do itemized receipts because their cash register is too old, but I got grief from the bartender for asking!?

I'd be fine with all this from a neigbhorhood spot in, say, Buffalo.
But smack in the center of Portland, with so many amazing options for beer, food, and service, there's just no excuse.

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Photo of brewtalthrone
4.64/5  rDev +39.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4.5

Step into this place across the street from Bailey's and it seems as if time has stopped. The first thing you're gonna notice is the books on the shelves, lots of books; and plenty of board games (it's a Portland thing, evidently). This is a place that certain of us beer geeks revel in - a dark'n'dank type of atmosphere, the kind of place where you feel like you are stepping away from reality (ironically, the world-famous Horse Brass pub has that same vibe). Service was friendly, I was there alone, but didn't feel "alone". I had some food, though I don't remember what; nevertheless it was delivered quick & was very good I do remember. The crown jewel was the IPA, one of the best (if not THE best) IPA in Portland. Off the beaten path, though yet still in downtown, this would definitely be considered a hidden gem in Portland. Beercationers in Portland would be well-advised to drop by.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.9/5  rDev +17.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.25

I have a feeling this little brewing isn't getting caught up in the craft beer "revolution", and it seems just fine. A small place, not blinding lights, cozy, book shelves, nice old-style pub going on. Only 5 house beers on tap, but several guests and ciders. The atmosphere itself would make me a regular....if'n I didn't live in Denver.
Great music. I mean Music, none of that new-age crud. Music that was played and recorded by musicians. Nice little place off the radar it seems

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Photo of Quentin33
4.68/5  rDev +40.5%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

I usually agree with the Beer Advocate reviewers (indeed, I depend on their reviews and often base my visits on them), but I totally disagree here - the Tugboat is one of the most attractive bars I've been in: inviting, warm, comfortable, and with tons of board games available, too. It also has an extremely savvy selection of Oregon craft brews. Yes, it's quiet (no TV, some nice soft music, bluegrass-southern rock when I was there), yes I suppose you could call it somewhat a coffee house atmosphere, but I and everyone I brought there (I was in Portland for a Bar Mitzvah) loved it. I've gone to 15-20 Portland places over the years, and most are great, but this would probably be the first I'd re-visit.

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Photo of DavidB123
2.93/5  rDev -12%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 2.5 | service: 4 | selection: 2

First place me and my buddies stopped at while in Portland looking for something that was the "IT" place . Atmosphere is cool, dim lighting and books line the walls.. looks more like a cafe though. The bartender was the also the owner/brewer and she was friendly. Other than service and atmosphere the beers are average, there beers on tap along with a few other micro brews.

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Photo of KDawg
2.75/5  rDev -17.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2.5 | selection: 2.5 | food: 3

I dropped in here on a saturday night while bouncing around Portland. It had a pretty laid back vibe, but there was barely anyone there. I don't mind a laid back vibe, but it felt more like a coffee house than even a brewpub. Not a full negative for me, but I did notice it.

There weren't that many beers on tap. I think there were like 6 on the night. What they had was pretty decent, but there wasn't that much available.

The service was on the surly side. There weren't that many people and it would take a bit to get a beer. The food was solid. Nothing spectacular, but being hungry and having drank a bunch of beer, it more than did the trick.

Tugboat is 'aight. It's proximity (ie being right next to) to bailey's will mean that I come back and re-evaluate at a point in the future.

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Photo of GreenCard
3.38/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 2.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5

This one had been on my to-try list for a LONG time and I finally made it happen not too long ago when a friend from high school was in town for a conference. We decided to meet up there because it was near one of the conference venues. Haven't seen this guy in over twelve years and it turned out to be the perfect place to spend a couple of hours catching up because the decor was a lot like the coffee-houses we used to hang out at back in high school. The low-key lighting, lots of dark wood surfaces, books and board games, etc. Though it was a Friday evening, it was relatively quiet, so there wasn't a long wait to order at the bar and we didn't have to shout to be heard. Not sure if the place ever gets to that level of noise, but since it's so small, I imagine it could.

The nachos were pretty good. The beer was decent (I only tried their house beers), though I did NOT like the strong stout. I know it was supposed to have a bit of a tang to it, but it just tasted wrong and smelled like the rubber floor mats behind the bar. Having said that, I would like to go back there again solely for the ambiance and vibe.

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Photo of miserableassin
1.83/5  rDev -45%
vibe: 2 | quality: 1 | service: 2 | selection: 2.5 | food: 2

I think this is the worst brewpub I've been to in the U.S. I've visited three times, hoping my previous experiences were one-offs. Their beer is consistently off: sour, bitter in all the wrong ways, and with a terrible aftertaste. Worst of all, they consistently refuse to exchange or even taste it. The food is mediocre at best, all microwaved, and the atmosphere, which has potential given the decor, is impaired by the asinine comments of the bar staff when you try to complain about the beer.

If you have to go here, try a guest beer, then head over the road to Bailey's Tap Room, who acknowledge the benefit of picking up pissed-off Tugboat customers. I have no idea how they made it into Willamette Weekly's bar of the year list in 2010, but they are an embarrassment to the city.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.5/5  rDev +5.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

A: Different. Walked in and it was pretty busy. We found a small table upfront by the bar. So much talking we could not hardly hear ourselves talk. Pretty "radiant". Almost looked like an old bookstore.

Q: I ad the Chernobyl Stout and I thought it was better than the ratings reflected

S: Not bad. I walked up got a beer, not slow, no attitude so I was happy

S: Could not recall how many beers but i thought maybe 8 to 10?? A range of Stouts, IPas and usual suspects. nothing to mindblowing

F: No try

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Photo of DigitalEye
3.6/5  rDev +8.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3

Tugboat brewing doesn't really fit the brew-pub mold. In fact, the best way I can think to describe it would be "brew-dive", a cross between a brew-pub and a dive-bar. But at the same time, that's what gives it much of its charm. It's a hole in the wall with no big flashy sign and no glass-walled brew rooms, it's a dark and cozy library with a small bar that smells like beer and a bit like cigarettes. I love the walls of books and the "stuff" everywhere and I especially like the sparse lighting fixtures with bulbs hanging at the end of long swirling stalks of conduit.

This place isn't trying to impress anybody its simply a low-key place to disappear into and have some decent well-made beers. They specialize in English style ales and the ESB I had was quite nice. Their motto says it all Tugboat: Small, Strong and Hard-Working (or something like that).

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Photo of plaid75
3.7/5  rDev +11.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Located directly across the street from Bailey's.

Upon entering, it is clear that this is a unique place. The decor is an eclectic combination of antiques and garage sale salvages with the random bookshelf and beat up piano.

The bar itself was very small, with a half dozen or so seats.

The beer list was limited, and there were only two house beers pouring at a time. I get the impression that the brewer brews as his schedule permits.

The bartender was very nice and talkative and there was free popcorn at the bar!

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Photo of shivtim
3.84/5  rDev +15.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

This laid back little place is right across the street from Bailey's Taproom.
It's like a small old library in an old woman's estate. Wood shingles, bookshelves, small lamps on the tables. Cozy. The bar is tiny - seating for only 4 or 5 people. They had 6 on tap brewed by them, plus 13 others, mostly from Oregon. Decent selection.
The bartender was friendly and sometimes talkative, but seemed somewhat disinterested. He didn't really know too much about the beers they had available.
Very cheap happy hour beer - $3 pints of anything.
Nice stop, especially when combined with Bailey's.

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Photo of gxm99
2.8/5  rDev -15.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 2 | service: 2 | selection: 4

With Bailey's right across the street, why would I ever go here again?

I went in the afternoon with some friends. 3 of their 6 house taps were offline, so I tried their "Trip Bock", and so did my friend. I would have rejected the beer the server handed my friend, it was so murky. A "Bock", even when brewed as an ale, should be clear. I was happy that mine was just cloudy, and cheap at $3.
I was told this was a 12% beer by the somewhat annoying server. Bullshit. I know what a 12% beer is, and there is no way this was a 12% all malt beer. It *might* have been 8-9%. I also know this beer wasn't tasty. It needed to age at least another month, both to clear up, and to remove the young off-flavors.

We tried all 3 house beers, and all agreed that none were worth the $3 price. I did order a thoroughly tasty Warsteiner Dunkel. An excellent beer, well worth the $1 premium over the house swill.

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Photo of egospoon
3.88/5  rDev +16.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

I really like this little place. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, an old library with good beer, or a casual, co-ed, slightly funky/shabby version of how you'd picture a gentlemen's club on Pall Mall in the 1890's. The Anti-Bailey's. Selection was half their brews, half guests, maybe a dozen in total. I really liked their own Flower Power Pale. It reminded me of ruby port, which insight rather surprised the proprietor. Maybe it's just me. A jazz trio was playing for tips in the corner, and there were a great many old books and board games and quiet conversations in a youngish crowd. I asked the barman to fetch me a few pepperoncini from a big jar I spotted high on a shelf, to have with my popcorn (free and fresh), and he very pleasantly obliged. He was very good alike with irritable beer snobs and novices who would probably would have asked for a Bud Light in other circumstances. Really a nice experience.

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Photo of morebeergood
3.41/5  rDev +2.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

Day 2 & Stop 2 of the Portland Pub Crawl. With the door shut, the place looks like a back alley movie theater. When you walk in, it looks like grandma's house. Old, dusty, and lots of worn books. But...that's the charm of the place. It's a dive brewpub that works. Greeted when we walked in by a nice bartender and a local. I went with the Chernoybl Stout in a 8 oz glass, and both commended my choice. My wife had the porter. Pretty good selection of beers, and quite a lot of guest beers available also. There were a few items on the food menu. Grabbed a booth seat, and noticed all the board gamed. Ended up playing "Operation" for half an hour. It was quiet, the beers were cheap, we had a good time in this darkly lit place. I applaud this place for being different and downtown.

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Photo of Floydster
2.76/5  rDev -17.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 2.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3

We went here for one reason and that is because we noticed it was right across from Bailey's, otherwise we probably would not have stopped, would have been fine with it either way after visiting, this was a weird place inside, books lining the walls, old wooden tables with big booths, very dark inside, looked like bands play often with some kind of stage area in the back of the establishment, run down bar area, did not seem like any brewing went on here, bathrooms were disgusting to put it lightly, we each had a glass of the Chernobyl Stout, a ten ounce pour was a little over five dollars, it was a damn good beer, at thirteen percent it really packed a punch, they had a few of their own brews on tap in here, also a few Alameda offerings, the one guy working at time was pretty rude and in a hurry even though nobody else was in there, probably would never go back, did not try any of their other beers but heard that the one we had is the only real reason to step foot in this place, might be worth visiting

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Photo of jdense
3.4/5  rDev +2.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

The Little Brewery that Could....

Last stop before the TV on the Radio Show. One of Oregon's smallest breweries. While I didn't try any of the house brews, the Chernobyl Stout bomb (13% abv!) appeared to be the flagship, though served in small doses. The barkeep seemed to be genuinely enjoying his job, and making sure all the customers got a beer that would make them happy, serving out tasters to those unsure of what to order. The atmosphere was ultra-cool, a jazz quartet that was laying down some hot licks, the perfect prelude to the show. Suffers from same parking problems as its neighbor, Bailey's. I'd definitely recommend doing both of these stops in one tour, and will be curious how other BAs think they stack up to one another. A pretty cool little spot worth checking out.

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Photo of indiapaleale
2.98/5  rDev -10.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3

This place has three things going for it:

1) its a cozy little hole in the wall place that has the feel of a cafe.

2) its a small brewpub that also has some guest taps. A perfect combo if you ask me.

3) its located 15 feet from Bailey's Taproom.

I liked the feel of Tugboat, nice and comfortable interior.

Beer selection was modest, the beers they brew are all rather bland except for their 13% imperial stout which is the stand out for sure.

Food was basic, we got some nachos that weren't bad but not great.

The service was pretty weak if you ask me. Only bar service and cash only make it sort of unfriendly to begin with. Also, the bartender gave a friend I was with a hard time for mentioned the word "thick" when referring to stouts and porters. She was lambasted for not knowing proper beer terminology. That was a turnoff as well.

Worth stopping in for a beer as its close to proximity to Bailey's Taproom makes it pretty convenient.

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Photo of akahn
3.98/5  rDev +19.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

A hole in the wall with good food and good beer. The ambiance is just right, dark and cozy, with a lamp at my booth to read a book. The cheese ravioli in marinara sauce was perfect comfort food, and the coffee brown ale was on point--modest, drinkable, tasty--and I don't even like brown ales generally.

I'm not sure what other reviewers are expecting, but a hole in the wall with house-brewed beer is great in my book, there are enough overpriced fancy beer places that take themselves too seriously back home.

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Photo of canucklehead
2.3/5  rDev -30.9%
vibe: 2 | quality: 2 | service: 2 | selection: 3 | food: 2.5

Ok enough with the smoking shit especially when most places in Portland don't allow it. This is a dark small bar that doesn't have much going for it. The house beers are pretty crappy with weird inbalances and some nasty finishes. The guest beers are OK and for sure the ones to drink. Food is uninspired and the service is too tied up with hanging out with the regulars. With all the great places in Portland (Baileys is across the street) this is worth a miss. Get rid of the smoking and improve your house beers and then I might return.

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Photo of chuchoteur
2.23/5  rDev -33%
vibe: 4 | quality: 1.5 | service: 1.5 | selection: 3

Even being from Seattle, i consider Portland to be something of a brew pub mecca. I first spotted Tug Boat a couple years ago while I was employed on a boat and not "allowed" to drink. I followed the rules and didn't drink, but I was intrigued -- the location is great, sort of hidden away. The space is awesome, too -- dark, cozy, walls lined with books, and while I don't generally like televisions in bars, this one was at least playing cool shit -- Planet Earth, no less. Beautiful.

Unfortunately, beauty is only skin deep, and with brew pubs as with everything else, you find the good, the bad, and the ugly. And once I cut through the things that drew me in, Tug Boat became downright repulsive.

The beers were so-so. Nothing offensive about them, but nothing that tasted particularly good, either. The best one I had was the porter, but I'd take a Black Butte over it any day. Okay, so now I know why they're only $3 per pint. Three bucks seems pretty cheap up front, but I would gladly have paid five for a better beer.

What WAS offensive, however, was the bartender's attitude toward beer. This guy used the same glass for all of my beers (except the 14% ABV RIS) all night long. When I asked for a taste of something (not to be mentioned because it's not worth buying) he refused until I finished my current beer on the grounds that he'd have to use an extra glass, and that meant another glass to wash!

Tugboat occupies a great space. The atmosphere is awesome, they have a sweet collection of games to play while you're there, and it's in a nice location, central but still sort of tucked away. What really bothers me about it is their cavalier attitude toward their beer and service. They should improve the quality of the beer, charge accordingly for it, and move their dishwasher so the bartenders don't have to leave the bar to go wash glasses -- which my bartender explained as his reason for reusing glasses.

I want to like Tugboat, but I can't. I wish I'd read all the reviews here before going.

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Photo of ccrida
3.03/5  rDev -9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 2.5

This place is super smokey on weekend nights, but otherwise has a good atmosphere, really dark and dank, walls lined with bookshelves stuffed with old books and odd photos, a tiny corner stage that usally has some spacy atmospheric type jam rock or jazz muscian/band. The bar is small and most of their beer is pretty bad for the most part. They usually have a handful of local guest taps which are always a better choice, as well as a few macro type euros. Service is just one bar tender but usually not a problem. Selection is ok, usually low on their on beers but no worries because the guests are always better. The food is not to hot, not a great selection either (5-6 total things, usually 1 entree, no real kitchen), although last time I was there, we had a cheese and fruit tray that was much better then the thai chicken skewers we had the visit before. Pretty cheap prices though, but cash only. Worth a quick duck in for the atmosphere if your looking for some live music but the real beer is next door at Bailey's.

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Photo of slander
3.31/5  rDev -0.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

Long damn day. As if the Oregon Brewer's Festival didn't put a hurting on us, it happily coincided with the "on the down low, have to know about it, HOTD open house" (where I got to shoot the shit with Fred). Psycho cabbie ran us back afterwards, but we had some time yet before din at Higgins. Everybody was feeling festival finir, so it made perfect sense that we should hunt out a brewpub instead to hold up at for a bit...

A small 5 seat cornerish bar as you enter, Hard to get a fix as not everything's currently on, but it seems like about a dozen and a half taps on the bar back below mirrored backing, blackboards above listing the selections in colored chalk, Shelved wines and growlers, and a large inner wall of bookshelves running from the end of the bar. Some local art, plants, speakers, license plates, large paintings, and then brewery shirts displayed to both sides of a center neon clock, another blackboard off to the right displaying the food menu a la Tex Mex. 7 booths "L" along the front and side walls and 6 tables spotting the floor in between. Tight. Small lamps to the booths and drop lamps over the bar. A small stage area to the rear inside corner and bookshelves on both walls.

5 house taps and a house cask offering, and 10 guest taps on just now. Taking in the sampler of the house beers ('cause that's what you do), we got vague information about what was currently on, but it seems that we got the Hop Gold (APA), Tugboat's Anchor (Amber?), Hop Red (Dark Red?), Porter Schmorter, Chernobyl Stout (Russian Impy), and the cask ESB. The Porter was nicely roasty, the best of the lot, along with the Cask ESB, which was quite smooth, but the Stout was bitter (Ken says it comes in at 13%, I don't know about that), the Dark Red was off, and overall, the beers were really just not what you would call, um, you know, good. Assertions of "everything's infected" and "the system's all wrong" were offered up.

The guest taps include some locals (Caldera Dry Hop Orange, Cascade Belgian Tripel) and regionals (Alaskan Amber, Anchor Porter & Liberty), and then imports fair to midland (Warsteiner Dunkel & Lager, Guinness, Stella), and a cider.

Truth be told, we would have done better to hit the festival for another hour instead of coming here.

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Photo of Metalmonk
2.7/5  rDev -18.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 1.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 2.5 | food: 3

This place is recommended only for its atmosphere...dark and shadowy, with old books lining the walls and some seafaring props just to top it off. Booths line the walls, tables scattered about in the middle. I don't usually care for smoky pubs, but Tugboat had just a small bit, which I admit adds something to the vibe. An extremely comfortable and unpretentious atmosphere, I may have even given a 5 if the air would've been clear of smoke.

Now...to the other stuff. Foodwise, we only got the nachos, which were good if a bit average. I could do better at home. The selection of beers isn't that exciting. With 4 or so of their own brews offered against an unimpressive list of guest taps. The best was Alaskan Amber, and I went for it. The rest were either totally common or ho-hum, which doesn't fly in this town.

The house beers are intolerable, reckless sub-homebrew disasters. I got my lips on three of their offerings (the stout, the porter, and the hoppy thing) and found them appalling. I can and have done better at home.

Duck in for the atmosphere, get yourself the best of their guest beers, play some Scrabble with a total stranger (we did), and then go across the street to Bailey's Taproom for a real beer adventure.

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Tugboat Brewing Company in Portland, OR
3.56 out of 5 based on 38 ratings.
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