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!