Portland has become something of a base for up-and-coming alternative-rock bands, which perform in clubs scattered throughout the city. Good jazz groups perform nightly in a handful of bars as well.
Portland’s most diverting neighborhoods for bar-hopping are, not surprisingly, its favored dining districts, too—the West End, Pearl District, and Nob Hill on the west side of the Willamette River, within walking distance (or a streetcar ride) of downtown hotels; Alberta Street, North Mississippi Avenue, East Burnside Street in the 20s, the Central East Side, Belmont Street, Hawthorne Boulevard, and Division Street on the East Side. Note that many of the restaurants listed in Where to Eat also double as highly popular nightspots; especially notable for sipping and socializing are Bluehour, Clyde Common, Departure, Interurban, Irving Street Kitchen, RingSide Steakhouse, Smallwares, and Veritable Quandary.
The best way to experience quite a few of the city's hottest spots is to check out the happy hour menus offered at most Portland bars; these offer excellent deals on both food and drinks. Typically, bars present late-afternoon happy hour deals from about 4 until 6 pm; a smaller number of establishments also offer late-night happy hours from 9 or 10 until typically 11 or midnight.
It’s worth noting that Portland is a bit less of a late-night destination than many cities its size—chalk this up, perhaps, to the local love of the outdoors, as many locals like to set out early on weekend mornings for road trips, hikes, and bike rides. Bars often become quite crowded by late afternoon or early evening, and they tend to peak in popularity—even on weekends—by midnight. You’ll find some exceptions downtown, especially among the handful of warehouse-style dance clubs around Old Town and Chinatown, which pulse well beyond last call (2 am).
Portland’s reputation for high-quality microbreweries rivals that of any city in the country; you’ll find dozens of small breweries around town producing hoppy IPAs (Oregonians tend to favor crisp, aromatic, bitter beers), complex Belgian-inspired saisons, unfiltered farmhouse-style beers, potent barley wines, rich porters, and luscious stouts. Most of them serve food to complement their brews, and several others have food carts parked beside them and encourage patrons to bring food inside from other restaurants to snack while they sip. "Brew theaters," former neighborhood movie houses where patrons enjoy food, suds, and both recent and vintage theatrical releases, are part of the microbrewery phenomenon here. Many are branches of McMenamins, a locally owned chain of quirky bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels, many of them installed in restored historic buildings.
In recent years, a number of artisanal distilleries and boutique wineries have opened in Portland; most have tasting rooms open during weekends and some weekdays, usually during the afternoon and early evening (some are listed as Sights). A wine-tasting rooms stay open late and serve food and other drinks and are listed in Nightlife.
From the preponderance of coffeehouses around town, it may be safe to assume that espresso flows through the veins of Portlanders. Indeed, the city has been at the forefront of the nation’s artisanal coffee-roasting movement. It’s the home of the now nationally renowned Stumptown Coffee as well as a few hundred indie cafés around the city, many serving their own house-roasted beans and others serving Stumptown or other locally favored beans, such as Coava and Water Avenue Coffee. Many Portland coffeehouses close by 6 or 7 at night, but you will find a few late-evening options. Regardless of when you stop in, the social vibe and eclectic crowd is typically similar to those of local bars (a fair share of Portland coffeehouses also serve beer, wine, and even cocktails).
Although Portland has a sizable and highly visible gay community, there’s no LGBT nightlife district per se. For years there were several gay bars in the West End, but all but one of these (Scandal’s) has closed or moved. Old Town and the downtown blocks near it have about a half-dozen gay bars of varying popularity, but this is very much a city where gay and mainstream culture blend together, and many—perhaps most—LGBT Portlanders hang out at the same bars and lounges as everybody else. Especially in hip East Side neighborhoods like Alberta, Mississippi, Hawthorne, and the Central East Side, you’ll typically encounter a mixed gay–straight crowd at most establishments.