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Prowling the Dives of St. Johns 

The friendly locals of far-north Portland

The beer scene along North Lombard Street, in the northern Portland neighborhood of St. Johns, is shrinking. Literally. Start on one end of the busy avenue, and it's possible to visit a succession of neat local joints that do, in fact, get successively smaller and smaller, wrapping up in a place that's scarcely larger than a shipping container.

Portland might be in the throes of a post-gentrification identity crisis at the moment, but this stretch of road on the northernmost tip of Portland, just a stone's throw away from Vancouver across the river, is about as old-style Rose City as it gets. True, there's a fancy New Seasons Market in nearby University Park, but this is still the realm of decades-old bars that feature character, intimacy and perhaps not the cleanest floors. Slim's Restaurant, for example, describes itself as "a little dingy, a little dark and divey" on its own website, and is absolutely all of those things. It feels a bit like stepping into the 1960s, except there's things like Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA on tap—this is Portland, after all.

To begin this tour down North Lombard, however, it's best to stop at the St. Johns Beer Porch first. Sharing space on a street corner with a local farmers market, the Beer Porch is both a food truck pod (Chowdah has arguably the best cheesesteak in the state) and outdoor lounge featuring a hefty taplist. This is the spiritual Portland home of Captured by Porches Brewing, which actually does its brew work in Gresham but retains a presence here, pouring its beers out of an old, rusted bus in one corner. Invasive Species is their main IPA, available in bottles around a few different places in Portland, but for this hot, dry summer, the apricot blonde currently available is a surer pick.

Right across the street from the Beer Porch is Lombard House, which opened in a converted craftsman-style home last fall. It's run by Brian Koch, well known locally for his time working at places like Upright and The Commons, and there's usually a bit from both on tap. It's got a huge outdoor backyard, and thanks to Koch's connections, it's a good place to try the newest in Portland beer, including a saison from the brand-new Little Beast Brewing in Beaverton.

Last, and also least size-wize, is Tap Haus a few doors down. Tap Haus is another primarily outdoor-oriented place, for the simple fact that the interior can hold maybe four people at once, including the proprietor. It is perhaps this coziness that makes it a neighborhood staple, featuring a large cast of regulars and all the $5 Boneyard the city can consume. Just like the rest of North Lombard, it's not fancy, but it's eminently inviting.

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