Gritty, alternative and with a diverse microbrewery scene, Portland is the new craft brewery capital of the world, giving cities in Belgium and Germany a run for their grog.
– Voyeur magazine (Virgin Australia)
There was a time when rain was the liquid most strongly associated with Portland. It still rains here, but these days, locals use all that “liquid sunshine” to craft beer, brew coffee, steep tea and mix many fine cocktails. The rain also nourishes nearby wine- and beer-dependent crops of grapes, hops and barley. And Portland’s wet months might be part of the reason the city has so many convivial pubs, coffeehouses, wine bars, cocktail lounges and tearooms. Many of these specialize in the local, artisan-crafted beverages for which Portland is now internationally acclaimed — everything from pear brandy to Pinot Noir.
Here’s a quick primer on the five key liquid assets for which metro Portland is known: beer, coffee, spirits, tea and wine, plus a brief consideration of a few additional less prominent but still expertly made beverages, including saké, hard cider and drinking chocolates.
Portland first became awash in handcrafted beer in the mid-1980s, shortly after the state’s progressive legislature legalized brewpubs in 1983. There are now 51 — and counting — microbreweries within city limits, ranging from large-scale operations with distribution around the country and even the world, to highly respected neighborhood brewpubs that are producing innovative new beers and bringing back largely forgotten brewing traditions. Four of the country’s largest microbreweries are in Oregon: Widmer/Craft Brewers Alliance, Deschutes, Full Sail and BridgePort.
Portland’s reputation as “Beervana” has much to do with the region’s access to the best ingredients for making beer. Oregon is the second largest hop-growing state in the country, with 14 different types grown in the Willamette Valley, which makes it easy for local brewmasters to produce “fresh hops” beers (made from hops picked within the previous 24 hours). Two-row barley, a soft and sweet variety of the grain that’s preferred for making high-quality craft beer, also grows here, and brewers enjoy access to pure glacial water from the slopes of Mount Hood, which flows freely through the city’s pipes and out of its faucets. Also nearby is the Great Western Malting Company in Vancouver, Wash., which sells a complete range of malts for brewers.
Early Craft Breweries
Among the most esteemed of the city’s craft brewers, BridgePort Brewing has been operating longer than any other in Oregon. Its sleekly retrofitted brewpub in a late-19th-century factory building in the Pearl District comprises a restaurant and two-story main bar with five stainless-steel 300-gallon serving tanks that dole out popular brews like Blue Heron Pale Ale, Kingpin Double Red and Hop Czar IPA.
Another local legend is Widmer Brothers Brewing and its Gasthaus Pub on North Russell Street. Opened in 1984 by brewing legends Kurt and Rob Widmer, and famous for their award-winning Hefeweizen, Widmer Brothers is the largest brewery in the state, and ninth largest in the country. It is now part of Portland-based Craft Brewers Alliance Inc., whose portfolio also includes the Seattle area’s acclaimed Redhook Ale Brewery and Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company. Visit the Gasthaus to nosh on hearty German food, including fondue and sausages cooked in Widmer’s Drop Top Amber Ale.
Also important in the city’s beer-making ranks, McMenamins has more than 65 atmospheric neighborhood bars as well as eight historic inns throughout Oregon and Washington, including several in Portland (five have on-site breweries). Favorites include the Mission Theater in Northwest/Nob Hill, Kennedy School (a hotel with a bar and restaurant created out of a 1912 former elementary school) in Northeast, and Edgefield — in the small town of Troutdale, at the entrance to the Columbia Gorge — a 38-acre resort with an on-site brewery, winery and distillery.
A few acclaimed microbreweries with headquarters elsewhere in the state also have brewpubs or bars here in Portland, among them Hood River’s Full Sail Brewing Company, with a bar inside the RiverPlace location of McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant; Bend’s exceptional Deschutes Brewery, with a handsome brewpub in the Pearl District; and Newport-based Rogue Ales, with beer halls in the Pearl District, Portland International Airport and Portland State University, in addition to the Green Dragon beer hall and microbrewery in Southeast Portland.
The New Guard
Among the many excellent breweries that have developed in the past few years, check out Hair of the Dog, which has a tasting room where you can sample their heady, organic beers, some of them bottle-conditioned — these improve with age, much the way wine does. The Cascade Brewing Barrel House, also in the Central Eastside, specializes in distinctive sour beers, developed as an intensely sensory alternative to what the owners see as Portland’s ever-escalating “hops arms race”; their expansive patio is a pleasant spot to relax in the evening.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, with its original location on Southeast Powell Boulevard and a newer Hopworks BikeBar on North Williams, bills itself as an eco-brewpub, crafting only organic beers and powering its facility with 100% renewable energy — it also serves tasty pizzas and other delicious comfort fare. At the BikeBar you can help generate the building’s electricity by pedaling away on two stationary bikes. Upright Brewing is making waves with its emphasis on barrel-aging and heirloom, farmhouse-style beers.
Great (Non-Brewery) Beer Bars
Plenty of Portland’s bars specialize in local and other fine craft beers, such as the lovably raffish Horse Brass Pub on Southeast Belmont, which was one of the first to serve local beers on tap — it’s still a stalwart, serving 50+ draft selections, including Hair of the Dog, Hopworks and others. On Southeast Division, Apex Beer Bar has a lovely beer garden, four pinball machines and 50 craft beers on tap, from regional favorites to Belgian and German imports. Saraveza Bottle Shop, on North Killingworth, carries a huge selection of bottle beers as well as a nice mix of rotating tap selections — snack on traditional pasties (Midwest meat pies) while you sip. And don’t miss Henry’s Tavern, which occupies the old Pearl District building that once held the historic Blitz-Weinhard Brewery complex. The restaurant and bar offer more than 100 draft beers, from pilsners to porters.
Beer Events and Festivals
You’ll find many events around Portland that celebrate the region’s love affair with beer. These include the Holiday Ale Festival in late November and early December and the Spring Beer and Wine Fest in April, and Fresh Hop Festivals held across Oregon in late September and early October.
Without a doubt, the biggest beer celebration in Portland — not to mention North America — comes at the end of July (aka Oregon Craft Beer Month, in the form of the Oregon Brewers Festival. This four-day event in downtown’s Waterfront Park features more than 80 beers from craft breweries from around the country.
Pub and Brewery Tours
You can also lift a mug to some of the best beer-drinking hangouts around town by joining a Pubs of Portland Tours excursion. These are conducted Monday through Saturday, last about five hours, and include visits to at least four breweries and brewpubs. Portland Walking Tours also offers a Beervana Tour that takes in some of the city’s key breweries.
Prime growing conditions and favorable clay-loam soils have fostered Oregon’s rapid emergence as one of the world’s finest wine-growing regions. Gourmet magazine described Portland as “the Burgundy of America, rich in produce, laden with seafood, and blessed with fabulous wines.”
Most of Oregon’s more than 415 wineries are in the temperate, marine-influenced climate of the interior valleys, with the state’s most famous AVA (American Viticultural Area), the Willamette Valley, beginning just a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland (it extends south another 150 miles, just beyond Eugene). Here you’ll find more than 200 wineries set among six sub-appellations: Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton District, and Chehalem Mountains.
Wine grapes were first planted in the Willamette Valley in 1847, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Oregon’s modern winemaking tradition began. That’s when a number of maverick students from the University of California, Davis, winemaking program began to try their luck growing Burgundian varietals (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) — as well as the first Pinot Gris vineyard ever planted in America — in the fertile Willamette Valley.
These efforts produced such still-prominent vineyards as Erath, Ponzi and Eyrie Vineyard — the latter helped put Oregon on the world wine map when its South Block Reserve Pinot Noir ranked among the top three in an international tasting held in Paris in 1979. The acclaim grew during a 1985 blind tasting in New York, when experts compared Oregon and Burgundy wines of the same vintage. Not only could the experts not distinguish Oregon from Burgundy, the five top-rated wines were all from Oregon.
Today, the Willamette Valley is recognized as one of the world’s premier wine-producing regions, and Oregon ranks second nationally in number of wineries and fourth in gallons of wine produced. The growth and acclaim haven’t resulted in inflated egos, though. Oregon wine producers are renowned for their down-home attitude and accessibility.
Pinot Noir and Other Varietals
The Willamette Valley is one of the world’s most ideally suited regions for Pinot Noir, meaning that this light- to medium-bodied, delicate, and often complex varietal has become the one most associated with Oregon — indeed, just over half of the wine grapes planted in the state are Pinot Noir. Certain white wine grapes also thrive in the area, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and the increasingly popular Pinot Gris — a New World take on what’s known popularly as Pinot Grigio in Italy. The New York Times observed in 2007, “Oregon Pinot Gris is one of the least-talked-about, best-value wines on the market today.”
Recently, however, the region’s wine production has experienced some notable changes. First, more and more wineries in the Willamette Valley are experimenting with other red and even white varietals. Second, other parts of the state — notably the Umpqua and Rogue valleys to the south, and the Hood River area, just an hour east of Portland in the Columbia Gorge — are rapidly developing cachet as first-rate wine-making regions. And these areas, which are generally warmer and drier than the Willamette Valley, are growing a wide range of grapes, producing classic Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) and Rhone (Syrah, Grenache) wines, some outstanding versions of Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel, and increasingly respected renditions of Italian- and Spanish-style varietals — everything from Barbera and Dolcetto to Tempranillo and Albariño.
Additionally, quite a few Willamette Valley wineries are now buying grapes from other, generally warmer, parts of Oregon as well as neighboring Washington and California, thereby greatly expanding the state’s vinicultural offerings. If you were under the impression that Oregon is a “one note” state when it comes to winemaking, nothing could be further from the truth. Still, Pinot Noir remains our flagship wine, and a darling of critics.
Fostered by the strong relationship between Oregon and Burgundy, the state’s wine producers have pioneered the green movement within the industry. In 1999, Oregon became the first American region certified by the International Organization for Biological Control and Promotion of Integrated Systems (IOBC), the official European certifying agency for sustainable agriculture. Currently, 38% of Oregon’s 20,500 wine acres are “Certified Sustainable,” per the stringent requirements of the Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) program.
The lush countryside outside of Portland provides an ideal destination for day-tripping wine enthusiasts — and invites longer stays as well. Less than an hour from downtown, myriad vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms beckon. You can access some of the closest wineries to Portland by following the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route through Washington County, where you’ll discover such stand-out vineyards as David Hill, Montinore and Ponzi.
Another of the area’s conveniently accessible touring routes is Sip 47, which runs along scenic Highway 47, approximately 25 miles west of Portland, through the wine towns of Forest Grove, Gaston and Carlton. Great vineyard stops along the way include Elk Cove Vineyards, WillaKenzie Estate and Cana’s Feast.
Many of the Willamette Valley’s best wineries are concentrated along Highway 99W, the Pacific Coast Highway, which passes through the towns of Newberg, Dundee, McMinnville and Amity, providing easy access to some of Oregon’s most internationally celebrated wine producers — Rex Hill, Argyle, Sokol Blosser, Domaine Drouhin, Erath, Stoller, Eyrie and Amity.
Out in the emerging Hood River wine country, the Fruit Loop Tour highlights nine different wineries around the area, including award-winning vineyards like Cathedral Ridge and Phelps Creek. You’ll also find a handful of tasting rooms in downtown Hood River, such as Quenett and Naked Winery.
Urban oenophiles can now sample the region’s offerings at a number of wineries in the city. Twelve wineries located near the city center have joined forces to form the PDX Urban Wineries collective, which offers a shared website and schedule of events. Enso Winery, Hip Chicks Do Wine and Grochau Cellars have regular tasting room hours, while others are open by appointment and for special events. Aside from those in the collective, Boedecker Cellars — open seasonally — also moved its winery operations from the countryside to the city.
Portland Wine Bars
Most of the city’s top restaurants feature a nice range of Oregon wines, and the city also has a number of first-rate wine bars that provide visitors with a chance to sample local vintages, perhaps enjoying them alongside inspired food. Check out Noble Rot on East Burnside, Bar Avignon on Southeast Division and Thirst (which also has a tasting room featuring Oregon and Washington wines) along the RiverPlace Esplanade.
Annual Wine Events
- Portland Seafood and Wine Festival – February
- North Willamette Wine Trail Weekend – March & April
- Spring Beer & Wine Fest – April
- Celebration of Syrah – April
- Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country – May
- International Pinot Noir Celebration – July
- Wine Country Thanksgiving – November
Portland has been at the heart of the microbrew revolution since its roots in the 1980s, while the adjacent Willamette Valley has been producing world-class wines since the ‘70s — that ought to be enough cutting-edge and critically acclaimed beverages for one area, right? Well, no. Thirsty (and entrepreneurial-minded) Portlanders have begun blazing another trail, making the city one of the country’s leaders in the artisan-distillery movement.
Several of the city’s new distillers started life as brewers and are applying the skills they developed in beer making — passion for quality, dedication to local ingredients, and willingness to take risks — to crafting spirits. Others capitalized on the local wine industry, recycling the grape material left over from winemaking into eau de vie or grappa.
Clear Creek Distillery led the way, beginning production of its signature eau de vie in Portland in 1985. Founder Steve McCarthy was one of the first artisans to distill eau de vie in America, using fruit from his family’s Hood River orchards. You can tour Clear Creek’s facility in industrial Northwest Portland on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and the tasting room offers free samples Monday through Saturday. Favorite Clear Creek products include Williams Pear Brandy; Kirschwasser (cherry brandy); highly distinctive Douglas Fir eau de vie (made from an infusion of springtime buds from Oregon’s official state tree); and a limited-release single-malt whiskey, McCarthy’s, made from peat-malted barley imported from Scotland.
The McMenamins, pioneers of Portland’s brewpub revolution, were also early adopters of microdistilling, launching the Edgefield Distillery back in 1998. In typical McMenamins fashion, Edgefield’s offerings are abundant, including whiskey, brandy, gin and coffee liqueur.
Portland’s craft-distilling boom began during the past decade. Among the 22 distillery members of the Oregon Distillers Guild, 10 are based in Portland. Five of these are in the city’s up-and-coming Central Eastside, where they have formed “Distillery Row”, a collection of producers that are open on weekends (some on weekdays, too) for tastings and occasional behind-the-scenes tours. For $20, you can buy a Distillery Row Passport that includes premium access to the five distilleries, a cidery and a winery (tasting fees are waived); plus discounts and incentives at more than 50 partner restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and other Portland businesses.
Highlights among Distillery Row products include spicy Dutch-style Aviation Gin and boldly balanced Krogstad Aquavit from House Spirits Distillery, stellar vodkas at New Deal Distillery, and, at Stone Barn Brandyworks, such creations as Unoaked Rye Whiskey, Cranberry Liqueur and Willamette Strawberry Liqueur.
Since 2004, Portland has hosted the annual Great American Distillers Festival in late October, the first gathering of its kind in America. The festival features craft distillers offering more than 40 spirits, a bartenders’ competition, and seminars about distilling and appreciating spirits. This is particularly good time to experience the best of what the city’s top mixologists have to offer, as the festival coincides with Portland Cocktail Week.
Notable Bars for Handcrafted Cocktails
Many bars around Portland carry locally produced spirits or specialize in distinctive, handcrafted cocktails. One of the most beloved of these is downtown dining destination Clyde Common, notable for sophisticated cocktail innovations, including barrel-aged martinis and negronis. There’s also an extensive list of absinthe and single-malt whiskey. In the Pearl District, bar stars Daniel Shoemaker and Ted Charak have been described as “fanatical” in their dedication to reviving the classic era of mixed drinks — their swanky Teardrop Cocktail Lounge is known for concoctions that use house-made bitters and tinctures. Rum Club, in the Central Eastside, draws raves for fine-tuned cocktails like the Fancy John Collins (Dutch gin, lemon, sugar, nectarine, quinine, and soda). Back downtown, Kask — the bar adjunct to the revered Grüner restaurant is quickly developing a loyal following for their dedication to artisan bar drinks.
A certain beverage empire may be headquartered in a city to the north, but for handcrafted, artisanal, single-origin brews that’ll knock your socks off, look no further than Portland. The city’s appreciation for exceptional coffee fits with its support of fine brewers, distillers, and vintners — indeed, though a number of cities around the country have fervently embraced top-of-the-line coffee, Portland continues to lead the way with its impressive selection of “third wave” artisan roasters.
Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson has been a pioneer in Portland’s bold embrace of high-quality coffee and often cited as a creator of third-wave coffee. He was one of the firsts in now widely followed practices like purchasing directly from growers at fair-trade prices, and emphasizing the tasting notes of beans, depending on their origins, blends, and roasts. Other still-popular forerunners in the city’s coffee scene have included World Cup, with locations inside Powell’s City of Books and in Nob Hill/Northwest; Urban Grind in the Pearl District; and Boyd Coffee, which no longer has any of its own shops but was established in Portland in 1900 and continues to supply many restaurants.
Rooted in the city’s coffee-making ethos is a growing dedication to eco-conscious principles. A number of roasters around the city are deeply committed to developing organic, sustainable coffee. Portland is also headquarters to Sustainable Harvest, the world’s largest independent importer of organic and fair-trade coffee beans, with operations also in Mexico, Peru, and Tanzania. The company’s efforts help improve the livelihoods of nearly 200,000 coffee farmers throughout Latin America and East Africa.
Top Roasters and Coffeehouses
Although it’s grown significantly, with an East Coast empire now blossoming in New York City and locations in Seattle as well, Stumptown Coffee Roasters remains the city’s most vaunted roaster — the company runs five shops around the city and also sells beans to dozens of cafes, restaurants, and markets. The Stumptown locations downtown at the Ace Hotel and on Southwest Third Street, and in southeast on Belmont Street (where the Stumptown Annex offers free daily “cuppings” to let customers try different varieties) are particularly popular.
Other roasters that have drawn a strong following among connoisseurs, both because of the integrity of their buying and roasting practices and the passion and knowledge of their staff, include Ristretto, which has a shop on the North Williams Avenue restaurant row and in Northeast Portland; and Courier Coffee, which began as a one-man outfit from which owner Joel Domries delivered his beans by bike. There’s now a brick-and-mortar Courier space downtown on Southwest Oak Street — it’s a source of delicious, made-from-scratch baked goods, too. In the Central Eastside industrial district, Water Avenue Coffee turns out expertly roasted beans at a café anchored by a 50-foot counter built from reclaimed century-old Douglas fir, and Coava is an exemplar of artisan-brewing virtue, roasting exceptional single-origin beans, primarily from Central America. Heart Coffee Roasters has become a local champion of micro-roasting since it opened on East Burnside in 2009. Just a block from downtown’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, Public Domain is a long-time artisan roaster that’s now close to many downtown hotels.
One of the newest stories brewing in Portland has nothing to do with local coffee roasters or craft breweries, but it fits the city to a T — or should we say “tea.” Steve Smith, a tea maker of legendary proportions who founded both Stash Tea and Tazo Tea in Portland, has created a new line of high-quality, small-batch teas under the name Steven Smith Teamaker. At this small facility just west of the Pearl District, Smith and company develop, produce and package the line while inviting visitors to see it all in real time. Tea lovers can blend a case of their own custom tea with Smith’s expertise, or just stop by to enjoy a cup of tea in the distinctive tasting room.
In addition to Smith Teas and Stash Teas offering tastings at their respective headquarters, the city is also home to a handful of merchants that specialize in high-grade varietal teas and blends from around the world. One of the real treats for tea lovers is visiting the Tao of Tea’s Tower of Cosmic Reflections, set within the tranquil landscape of Old Town’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. A chado tea ceremony is performed here monthly in summer. Tao of Tea serves primarily rare and other Chinese teas both at their location inside the garden and in their teahouse — the city’s oldest — in the hip Southeast Belmont neighborhood.
The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants launched their company inspired by family histories and world travels enjoying tea. They sell their tea and blends wholesale, retail and online, and have a fairly new teashop in the Pearl District. Foxfire Teas is another relatively new company run by a husband and wife team in Southeast Portland. They have a retail shop, and their loose-leaf teas are a favorite of many local cafés and restaurants.
Portland has a number of teahouses throughout the city, as well, such as Tea Chai Té, along bustling Northwest 23rd Street in Nob Hill, and Townshend’s Tea Company, with locations on Alberta and Division streets, where you can sample fine teas from around the world, as well as their Brew Dr. Kombucha. This fermented tea, often used for its purported health benefits, is quickly developing a following.
Townshend’s isn’t the only kombucha brewer in the city. Kombucha Wonder Drink, founded by Stash Tea and Tazo co-founder Steve Lee, produces eight flavors at the company’s Portland headquarters, including Niagara Grape, Cherry Cassis, Essence of Juniper Berry, and Spearmint & Lemon Myrtle. They’re distributed nationally in pubs, spas, teahouses and gourmet food stores. Northwest Portland’s family-run Lion Heart Kombucha sells its seasonal blends at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market and also offers kombucha-brewing classes.
Brewed like beer but regarded by many as a sophisticated alternative to wine, saké is steadily gaining popularity in the United States. Next to rice, the most important ingredient in this fermented beverage is water — and we’ve got plenty of that in Oregon. In fact, the founders of the first American-owned and -operated saké brewery are just outside Portland in the Willamette Wine Country town of Forest Grove. SakéOne produces saké in a variety of styles — from premium ginjo to innovative fruit-infused — all crafted using the same traditional methods as in Japan. SakéOne’s tasting room is open daily, and tours are available on certain Saturdays.
Chocolate is dandy any time of the day — or year — but there’s nothing better than warm, rich chocolate on a cool autumn day. Lately, Portland has seen an influx of shops, bakeries and chocolate emporiums serving premium chocolate mixed with cream and enhanced with the occasional spice. Not to be confused with prosaic powdered hot chocolate, drinking chocolate is a decadent, delicious mixture usually served in espresso-size portions. It’s ideally sipped and savored slowly.
Adjacent to the Pearl District and with an additional branch inside the Heathman Hotel, Cacao is a gorgeous space dedicated entirely to this delectable treat. The chocolate-savvy staff can help you choose among the rich drinking chocolates and navigate the store’s more than 200 pure chocolate bars from around the world. On Northeast 28th Street, Alma Chocolate specializes as well in artisan hot and iced drinking chocolates; it’s also known for handcrafted chocolate “icons” beautifully hand-brushed with 23-karat edible gold leaf.
Soda, Cider and More
The Portland portfolio of liquid assets doesn’t stop with saké or drinking chocolates. Established craft-soda makers based in Portland include Thomas Kemper Soda, known for its cane-sugar-sweetened as well as “purely natural” black cherry, vanilla cream, root beer and blood orange flavors; and fast-growing Crater Lake Soda, which is similarly known for vanilla and root beer as well as orange cream and lemon-lime elixirs. The city is also home to pizza-baker-turned-soda-maker Hot Lips, which bottles apple, boysenberry, pear, blackberry and other refreshing drinks using Oregon-grown fresh fruit.
Speaking of the state’s impressive fruit bounty, Portland and the surrounding Willamette Valley have spurred recent growth in the production of small-batch hard cider. The city’s own Bushwhacker Cider is a popular pub, serving house-made brews on tap as well as dozens of other bottled varieties from all over the world. Wandering Aengus, which opened a new tasting room in Salem in fall 2011, and Carlton Cyderworks, north of McMinnville, are also producing fine ciders. Fans of these often tangy, aromatic, fermented drinks — with alcohol content typically in the same range as beer — might also want to attend Cider Summit Portland, a June event featuring artisan ciders from around the world.
Finally, along a stretch of Southeast Division Street that’s fast becoming popular with foodies, you’ll find a pair of particularly unusual beverage-makers within a short stroll of one another: Pok Pok Som and Bula Kava House. The restaurants Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge, known for Thai street food crafted by James Beard Award-winning chef-owner Andy Ricker, have begun developing and marketing delicious drinking vinegars, using natural flavorings, organic cane sugar and natural vinegars. Produced in such flavors as pomegranate, tamarind, honey and apple, they make terrific mixers for hand-crafted cocktails or non-alcoholic sodas and spritzers.
Just down the street, Bula Kava House is Portland’s first café to specialize in the health drink kava, made popular in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, brewed from ground kava root, and said to relieve anxiety, act as a muscle relaxant and promote relaxation without any of the hangover effects associated with alcohol.