Burnside lives! …Sorta… For Now..

When Burnside Brewing closed back in February, it was ugly.  Leaked employee emails about not getting their last paychecks, padlocks on the doors and a note that they hadn’t paid rent in three months, announcing they were closed for a snow day and then never opening again.  Lots of rumors, and to my knowledge still no official announcement from the Burnside Crew.

The Oregonian dropped a bombshell on Friday that really flips the Burnside story from negative to somewhat positive.  Apparently, famed Danish brewer Mikkeller (who also has locations in New York and California) is going to take over the Burnside location in a series of pop-up pub situations as they try to navigate the regulatory hurdles to open a permanent brewery/restaurant in that location.

There’s a couple of really juicy tidbits in this story that caught my eye.  The first is that Mikkeller and restaurant partner Chefstable have purchased all of Burnside’s physical assets (brewery equipment, bottles, kegs etc) and paid off all of Burnside’s debts. Not only is this a huge windfall for the Burnside crew, of course, it also signals that the Mikkller crew is all in on this location.  Technically, they probably paid way more than they would have for a blank empty location.

Also, in the agreement is that Burnside keeps all of their “soft” assets. Names, trademarks, etc.  So, in theory, Burnside Brewing could reopen in a different location and start up again.  Not sure how likely that is, but it could happen. The Burnside “brand” still lives somewhere out in the ether. This, according to a follow up story from New School Beer.

A lot of the discussion around this is how well Mikkeller will fit in to the crowded inner Southeast Portland space, but I think they’ll do just fine. What is interesting to me is that Portland has been considered a “beer destination” for a long time, from the point of view that people come here for the beer.  That is starting to flip (and is a direct byproduct of the beer tourism) to a “brewery destination”, i.e. breweries are looking to expand and they think “Well, we have to have a place in Portland.”  It was relatively close to the old Burnside location where San Diego brewery Modern Times took over the old Commons location (the Commons also retained their names/rights etc and are rumored to reopen at some point). Even small local breweries are getting into the act, Vagabond Brewing out of Salem just recently opened a Portland taproom.

2019 has been a rough year for the local beer scene.  Hopefully this is a little ray of light to offset some of that bad.  There will still be more breweries that struggle and close. Such is the nature of business, but hopefully some places will continue to grow and shine.

My experience with Mikkeller is very limited.  I’ve had four of their beers, but the first one was certainly a doozie.  The first Mikkeller beer I had was Black (Grand Mariner Edition) at the Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was an imperial stout aged in Grand Mariner barrels and clocked in at 21% alcohol. That was a beer that when I saw it on the menu I just had to try it, but was also very glad it was only a 3 ounce pour. I can’t imagine drinking much more than a few sips of it.

The Mikkeller pop up is scheduled to open in June and then run till the end of the year, when it will close again with the hopes of reopening permanently.  One of the articles also mentioned that Mikkeller has to find out what the building owner intends to do with the space. So, it seems they have an agreement for the short term, but the owner may still decide to sell the space or tear it down.  My assumption when Burnside closed was that it was going to be bulldozed for condos, like basically everything else in Portland (especially inner Eastside). This keeps the location intact. At least, for now.

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7 Devils Brewing – Coos Bay

7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, Oregon is, to my knowledge, the southernmost brewery along the Oregon Coast.  Back in August when I wrote about my Oregon Coast Brewery Tour it was a location I had found on Google Maps but hadn’t been to yet.  This past weekend we finally made it.

Every year, my wife and I go camping down in Florence.  It was on last years trip we discovered Yachats Brewing.  This year we headed down south to Coos Bay.  A portion of the coast I had never been to and my wife hadn’t been to in a long time.  After exploring the coastline of Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks we headed back into Coos Bay to have lunch at 7 Devils.

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We tried four beers between the two of us, Chinook Redd (amber ale with Chinook hops), Endless Summer Blonde (light blonde ale), Groundswell IPA (flagship IPA) and Lighthouse Session Ale (light pale ale).  The beers were solid. The Groundswell was a typical NW style IPA and the blonde was very refreshing on a hot day.  The Chinook Redd was a bit muddy, but not bad and the Lighthouse Session was almost flavorless, but that seems to be the target.

I’m not sure what my expectations actually were, but the taproom certainly exceeded them.  Somehow I wasn’t expecting a coastal brewery to be so… hip, if that’s the right word.  Covered in local art and the music overhead was all recordings of local bands who had performed at the brewery.  They seem to be deeply entwined in the local community.

The food was also very good.  They offer a small, but well curated, food menu including a lot of local items like Face Rock Creamery cheese and Oven Springs Bread, as well as seafood caught close by.  We had a tuna melt sandwich and “The Devil’s Flock” (chicken strips) in a sweet, soy Asian sauce.  Served with local Kettle brand chips (Salem, OR).  They also highlighted the wines and spirits on the menu that were from Oregon.  Very intentional focus on “local”.  We have good stuff here, why truck it in?

It takes a bit of effort to get down there (especially from Portland/SW Washington area) but it would be worth the trip.  Plus, this is what’s waiting for you when you get down there.

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Houston and Austin, Texas

My wife and I recently returned from a nearly two week trip to Houston and Austin, Texas.  We were volunteering at a large youth conference in Houston and then spent a couple days in Austin visiting family that we don’t get to see very often.  Given the nature of the Houston part of the trip, volunteering and working with high school aged kids, we chose not to drink during that part, so we only had one day in Houston that we were “free”.  We still managed to find three places that were pretty close to where we were staying, in the Heights neighborhood, in NW Houston.

Playtpus Brewing: This was an interesting place, run by a group of Australians (much like Todo Santos brewing in Mexico) there was a blend of southern comfort and exotic Pacific rolled into one.  The beers were pretty straight forward and the food menu was mostly pub food but a few Aussie twists like meat pies and lamb skewers.  36712506_10215052596722898_1256815552316309504_n

Standout Brew: Hey Helga – Saison dry hopped with Southern Hemisphere hops.

Eureka Heights Brewing: I was excited to go here as soon as I saw the online menu.  My wife had found it on Google maps and when I looked at the beer list they had a pale ale called “Mostly Harmless” and the logo was a dolphin wrapped in a towel.  Three-layered Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference? Sign me up! Most of the other beers followed with the video game/sci-fi theme. The brewery was a wide open warehouse with long picnic tables, corn hole, pinball, other games etc.  I can imagine this place would be hopping at times.  Google told us it was “less busy than normal” and after we got there we realized why.  The space is not air conditioned and it happened to be close to, if not over, 100° that day.  The open garage doors didn’t really help much.  It was really a shame, because the beers were fantastic but it was just too uncomfortable to stay long, so we finished our taster flight quickly and then left.
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Standout Brew: Buckle Bunny Cream Ale (Recent GABF Winner, perfect for hot weather)

Town in City Brewing: The third and final Houston brewery was the Heights oldest brewery.  The name is a reference to The Heights Neighborhood which is called a “town in the big city”.  A small but cozy place with a crowded taproom and patio.  They were just finishing a round of Geeks who Drink trivia, so we missed out on that but it was fun to listen to the last couple groups of questions.  They also had a cidery on site, which is the Houston Cider Co.
Standout Brew: Dampfit Bobby! Dampfbier.  I had to ask what a Dampfbier was, and it’s a Hefewiezen but with no wheat.  Same yeast profile but made with barley.  It was darker and clearer than a traditional Hef.  Plus, who doesn’t love a King of the Hill reference?

The unfortunately theme for the Austin portion of the trip was “Why is nothing open?” We were there Monday-Thursday and it seems like a lot of Austin breweries only have weekend hours.  Some places Thurs-Sun, some just Friday-Sun, one place was open Saturday only for 3 hours only (production brewery with tours only, no taproom).  Throw in the July 4th holiday on Wednesday just to make things interesting.  We did manage to make it to two open breweries that just happened to be across the street from each other.

Oskar Blues Austin: Oskar Blues jumped onto my radar when they started building their North Carolina brewery a couple years ago.  I don’t think it had opened before I moved to Oregon, but it had been announced.  I’ve enjoyed several of their beers when I found them.  I had hoped to visit the Colorado (original) location when we were in Denver but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Nice location with an outdoor patio, live music stage and really great staff. I will definitely put this on the repeat list.
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Standout Brew: Bourbon Barrel Aged Ten-Fidy Imperial Stout

4th Tap Brewing Co-Op: Literally across the street from Oskar Blues this was a small brewery and tap room with a comic book/video game feel.  Co-op to me sounded like something where multiple different brewers were sharing space, but when I asked they told me it was all employee (“worker” as the barkeep put it) owned, which is still super cool.  The beers ran the gamut from light Berliner Weisse to heavy Russian Imperial Stout and being small obviously lends itself to being experimental.  Several of the beers included a spice, fruit or nut.
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Standout Brew: Biere de Gardeless – Biere de Garde with Vanilla and Pecans.  Sounded bizarre, but I had to try it and it worked really well!

Draft/Bottle/Cans: We did get to try some local beers at restaurants and bars since a lot of the places were closed.  I won’t list them all, but some of the highlights.

Karbach Brewing: This Houston brewery was very popular in Austin.  We tried the Hopadillo IPA and the Love Street Kolsch.  The lighter Kolsch was perfect for the hot weather and then IPA was a major hop bomb, in a good way.

Pinthouse Pizza Electric Jellyfish IPA: Sadly, I didn’t make it to one of their locations after meeting someone from the brewery in Montreal, but when I saw one on the menu I had to try it.  Hazy but not full-on milkshake, very nice modern hop flavor without being overly bitter.

Live Oak Brewing Big Bark Amber Lager: I’ve really been digging on Vienna and Vienna-style dark lagers lately, pretty much since we had super fresh Modelo Negra in Mexico.  This one was true to style and really hit the spot.
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Lone Star: Texas’s version of PBR because, well… it’s basically PBR.  Brewed by Pabst and I’m not convinced it’s not the same beer in a different can, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  “Cheap” beer has its place.  Bar hopping down 6th Street is one of those places.

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Austin Eastciders Original and Blood Orange: This local cidery makes some great products.  They have several flavors available in cans around town and the two we tried were great.

Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap: This German-style pilsner is another one that was ubiquitous around town.  You weren’t “Austin” if you didn’t have this on tap.  A clean crisp light lager that’s just perfect for hot weather.  An Austin staple.

Shiner Heat Wave Summer 6-Pack: You come to Texas you got to get Shiner right? I’ve had Shiner’s famous Bock, but that’s all we can get in Oregon.  Found this mixed sixer at the liquor store (surprisingly the best place in town to find beer, the grocery store selection was abysmal and not refrigerated).  Three light, fruity styles to beat the heat.  Shiner Prickly Pear, Hill Country Peach Wheat and Mango Kolsch.  They were all nice, the prickly pear had an interesting flavor.  The peach and mango went down way too easy.

Several of the Austin stars such as Infamous Brewing and Jester King weren’t open while we were there, so we’ll certainly have to go back. Having family in the area makes for a really good “excuse”.  We will absolutely be back to Austin in the future.  Just not in July.

Upcoming 2018 Breweries

New School Beer recently published an article called The Most Anticipated New Oregon Breweries of 2018.  I got a chance to read the article before we left for Mexico but I hadn’t had time to react to it.  I would suggest reading the whole thing, but here’s what jumped out at me.

First, several of these breweries were also listed on the Most Anticipated of 2017 list.  It’s becoming more and more apparent that city planning and permitting and licensing in the City of Portland goes at it’s own pace, and that’s very slow.  I don’t understand why that is, considering these businesses, especially breweries, bring a lot of money into the city coffers.  They should be excited to get them up and going.  But, such is the way of bureaucratic red-tape.  In at least one case, it’s been nearly fatal.  Ross Island Brewing is struggling to stay open, despite only being in business around a year, due to over a year in delays before opening.  They went deep into debt while they waited, and anyone with student loans can attest how hard that can be to get out from under.  Hopefully, Ross Island makes it (Go there and drink beer! They do good stuff!) and these other ones can survive as well.

Next, Southeast Portland is getting some love! Assembly Brewing which is opening at 61st and Foster is just a stones throw from IPA-bar N.W.I.P.A and is walking distance from my house.  That will be the third brewery in the area (including Zoiglhaus and Double Mountain’s Portland Pub) that’s within walking distance.  Ruse Brewing will hopefully finally open at their location on 17th Avenue in inner SE.  This is one of the  holdovers from 2017, although, they were targeting a December open so it didn’t take a huge delay to push them over.   Looking at Spring 2018 opening now, this one is certainly on my Most Anticipated list.  I haven’t had much of their beers (currently co-op-brewed at Culmination Brewing) but what I’ve had has been amazing.  Threshold Brewing sounds interesting and Montavilla is a hopping place these days.  Although, one thing does give me pause.  It says they plan to make barrel-aged beers, mixed fermentations and hazy IPAs.  All things that are super trendy right now but how long will that last? I hope they have a back up plan or can be flexible.  Some people are arguing against “flagship” beers since the Untappd and RateBeer style encourages as many new styles as possible, but a good solid Pale Ale or IPA can go a long way to cement you while still giving you room to experiment.  Case in point, Gigantic Brewing.

Lastly, while only tangentially mentioned in the article, one thing that hangs over the whole list is the 10 breweries that closed/transitioned/sold in 2017. I read, in an article that I, of course, cannot find now, that this smoothing of the peak (10 closings vs 14 openings) is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a sign of a market that’s maturing and stabilizing.  It’s bad, of course, for the 10 places that closed, but it could mean good things for those that live on.   I’m not an expert in any sort of business stuff but it seemed to make sense to me.  If I ever find that article again, I’ll link it here.

Three places on this list fit into that category.  First, the 10-ton gorilla in the room.  San Diego, CA based Modern Times, who has desired to be in Portland for a long time, is finally opening their Portland Brewery dubbed the Belmont Fermentorium.  The hitch is, they are opening their new place in the space formally occupied by The Commons.  A brewery that, by all outside indicators, seemed to be doing great and very suddenly shut down.  I will give Modern Times a ton of credit.  They have been very delicate about the “take over”, saying they were fond of The Commons and they aren’t “replacing” The Commons and hopefully The Commons can exist again in some other form.  The Commons still owns the building and some of the equipment that MT is leasing from them, so a steady source of income, and there are rumors that The Commons may not be as dead as previously thought.  I hope it’s true.  They had a small niche market, with sours, saisons and Belgian style beers but they were world class.  Next, we have Bazi Bierbrasserie, a Belgian focused beer bar that is being bought by Thirsty Monk.  While sounding vaguely familiar, I was surprised to learn Thirsty Monk is based out of Asheville, NC and has a location as well in Denver, CO.  Bazi was only a beer bar, but Thirsty Monk plans to install a small brewery at the location to make house brews.  They will likely also serve other commercial Belgian style beers.  The unfortunate story behind this sale is the owner needed to move back to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help her family and be closer to them.  Hopefully, Thirsty Monk can live up to the history the place has, and it sounds like that’s the plan.  Last is Von Ebert Brewing.  This is a weird one for sure, but I feel like it will work out for the best.  The team behind Van Ebert will be the same team behind the award winning beers out of Fat Head’s Portland location.  Turns out, the Ohio based brewery is expanding operations in the mid-West including a new production brewery in Ohio and they couldn’t continue to support the franchise in Portland.  Both sides mutually agreed to end the agreement and go their separate ways.  Von Ebert is keeping the brewing team intact and restaurant employees will be given the opportunity to keep their jobs as well, so this should be a pretty quick transition, but as far the official stats go “Fat Heads” will close and “Von Ebert” will open, even though it’s essentially the same brewery.

Lots to look forward to in 2018, it’s going to be a busy year!

Proper Pint Taproom

It seems you can’t blink in this town without a new brewery/restaurant/taproom opening.  Most of it goes unnoticed because we just can’t keep up with it all.  Proper Pint was different.  My wife and I drive by the location everyday and have been watching the progress since before we even knew it was going to be a taproom.  When the signs went up for Proper Pint we were excited to have another beer bar in the area that would be walking distance from our house (Only 7 blocks).

Last Saturday, we drove by the location (52nd and Woodstock) and saw people inside.  They looked open.  We already had plans for that day, but we decided we would swing by on Sunday.  While I was searching the internet for a website with online tap listings and hours of operation, I didn’t find it, but I did run across this great article from New School Beer  which gives a little bit of history of the owner Sean Hiatt, formerly of the Civic Taproom.  The article also has some great pictures of the interior, which I neglected to take because I was more interested in the beer.

So we stopped in on Sunday, and as fate would have it, ended up sitting next to Sean at the bar.  He looked nervous, but in that excited energy kind of way.  Turns out they had opened the day before, when we saw people inside, so this was only their second day open.  We chit chatted with Sean and with Gary behind the bar while we ordered a couple beers and enjoyed the space.  Sean said they hoped to have a “grand opening” celebration in a couple weeks.  He said the target was Saturday August 5th, but that sounded up in the air, so don’t quote me on that.

One of the things I discovered in the article, and then spoke to Sean about on Sunday, was that he built the bar. Literally.  He is an accomplished wood worker and he built the tables, stools, shelves, bar, barback etc.  Anything made of wood in that bar, he made it.  He said it took him about four months to make all the chairs and tables.  Talk about a labor of love!

I would certainly call last weekend a “soft opening”, there are still some kinks to work out, like tap handles that don’t fit quite right and figuring out how to best utilize the flow control taps, but I feel confident they will get those worked out quickly.

Another thing that I observed, which was both a kink to work out and a great example of customer service, was when a patron ordered the de Garde Bu Weisse, and then she came back a few minutes later and told Gary that she thought this was the Zitrus Weizen and not the Weisse.  The two taps were side by side.  Gary poured a small amount from both taps, looked, smelled and tasted them (which is allowed now by OLCC regulations) and told the customer she was absolutely right.  Poured her a new glass and then went to the back to see what had gone wrong and discovered the two draft lines were swapped.  The way he handled that situation was very well done.  Obviously with being newly opened, things like this will happen, but to handle them with class and grace is a tribute to the team there at Proper Pint.

When we were there they had a good mix of beers on tap, which has probably changed by now, including the requisite IPAs and Double IPAs, but also a handful of lighter beers like Kolsch and Weizen and Farmhouse beers.  They also have a couple of ciders on tap and two nitro taps.  One was Left Hand Milk Stout on Nitro, the other was a Nitro IPA from Loowit.  While I loved the hop profile of the IPA, the Nitro made it seem flat and overly sweet.  It was missing that bite from the carbonation.

If you live in SE Portland (or maybe if you don’t) I’d highly recommend you swing by.  I know my wife and I will be back fairly often.

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Proper Pint Taproom is located at the Intersection of 52nd Street and Woodstock Blvd. They are open from noon to about midnight, 7 days a week (official hours not yet posted).  For more information check out their Facebook Page.

Belmont Station

Portland is a beer town.  Some would argue the beer town.  Despite having the most breweries within it’s city limits of any city in the world (and always adding more), a bunch of thirsty beer geeks demand great beer from all over the world.  And they get it.  There’s a number of top notch bottleshops in town that have a great selection.  The one I’m going to recommend to you right now is Belmont Station.  It’s now on Stark Street, but it used to be on Belmont Street right next to Don Younger’s Horse Brass Pub, which is another local institution with a story for another time.

If you haven’t been to Belmont Station I highly recommend it.  They have an extremely well curated selection and friendly staff that can help you find what you’re looking for.  The bar side has 8-10 rotating taps of draft beer, but you can also grab a bottle from the bottleshop side, take it to the bar and have them open it for you to drink on site.

A couple nights ago a group of friends and I had a party there, essentially a bottle share.  We all grabbed a couple bottles to share and pass around the table.  With 10 people picking things you can imagine the variety of things that people brought to the table.  In fact, it impressed me so much that’s why I wanted to share it.  I didn’t take any tasting notes so I just wanted to list some of the different breweries that were represented, from all over the U.S. and a couple from overseas.  All of these beers were available for sale at Belmont Station, no one brought any outside stuff.

There were plenty of local favorites represented, lest we lose our Beervana cred.  Deschutes, Full Sail, Heathen (Vancouver), Ale Apocathary and Upright were represented from Oregon (and close-in Washington).

From further out in Washington, we had Sound Brewers from Poulsbo (across the Puget Sound from Seattle) and Wingman Brewery from Tacoma.

California, not surprisingly, had a good showing with Heretic from Fairfield (North of San Francisco), Lagunitas from Petaluma, Smog City Brewing from Torrance (Los Angeles area), Three Weavers from Inglewood, North Coast Brewing from Fort Bragg, Stone Brewing from Escondido, and El Segundo Brewing from El Segundo.

Now things start getting a little further afield.  From Colorado we have Avery Brewing from Boulder and Trinity Brewing from Colorado Springs.  From the Midwest we have Off Color Brewing from Chicago and from Alaska we have Anchorage Brewing.

For my East coast friends, we managed to get two breweries from Brooklyn, Other Half and Evil Twin (which almost sound like they could be two breweries separated at birth?) and from Delaware, we have Dogfish Head.

Last but not least, a couple of beers that came to us from across the pond! We have To Øl Brewing from Denmark and Brouwerij Van Steenberge from Belgium.

So there you have it.  A rather impressive list, and thankfully everyone had arranged for a safe ride home after swapping all those bottles.  If you want to take a trip around the world of beer, it doesn’t hurt to start at your local bottle shop.  Once again, if you haven’t checked out Belmont Station, you should.

Bigfoot Growlers – Damascus Oregon

On Friday evening, my wife took me on a surprise date night.  She had driven past the place and with our running Yeti jokes knew it was a place she needed to take me.  So, imagine you’re leaving town and getting out into a more rural area and you come across a country store with a growler fill station.  You’d expect the place to have 4 or 5 taps of a few major local brands right?

Try 42!

Welcome to Bigfoot Growlers. The L shaped bar takes up an entire corner of Nature’s Country Store in Damascus Oregon.  Along with 33 beers, the taplist also includes 1 wine, 7 ciders and Crater Lake Root Beer.  The staff behind the bar is great at recommendations and pouring samples.  We were there when one of the kegs blew, and we got a sample of the new beer that replaced it just because we were sitting there. Turns out it was Half-Hitch IPA from Crux, which was incredible.  They also aren’t afraid to experiment with things.  My wife couldn’t decide between the Chocolate Shake Nitro stout or the Black Cherry Imperial Stout, and so they mixed it 50/50 which turned out to be pretty incredible.

Although it will likely change very often, the current taplist (link) includes:

14 taps from Oregon
8 taps from Washington
8 taps from California
1 tap from Utah (Uinta Brewing)
1 tap from Idaho (Woodland Empire)
1 tap from Missouri (Shock Top)
1 tap from Illinois (PBR)
1 tap from Texas (Shiner)
1 tap from Germany (Ayinger)
1 tap from Wisconsin (Leinenkugels)
1 tap from New York (Original Sin Cider)

They can take care of all your beer needs ranging from sampler trays, glasses, pints, howlers (32oz) and growlers (64oz).  You should check them out!

We met the owner, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, but he’s a really nice guy and he interacts with his customers the same whether they are regulars or first timers like us.