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!

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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.