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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is Craft Beer Leaving the Brewpub Model Behind?

A (seemingly) long time ago in a (beer) galaxy not far from home, the craft beer revolution was born. There are arguments over the specific place. Some would argue Fritz Maytag's Anchor Steam was the first craft brewery...the counter argument being that Maytag merely retooled an existing brewery to produce something better than what it made before. I don't want to get into a controversy about that and, anyway, the question of who was first isn't on my mind today.

In our galaxy, the brewpub started here
What I am thinking about is the brewpub...and how it was crucial to the development of the craft beer business here (and everywhere). Brewpubs are a big reason we have such a healthy beer culture in Portland today. More on why in a second. There isn't even an argument over who opened the first brewpub in Portland. McMenamin's Hillsdale Brewery and Public House was the first. It opened in 1985. Others soon followed.

Why was the brewpub a crucial cog in the spinning wheel of craft beer? I once held the view that the 21-34 demographic made craft beer a success here in the early days. My logic: They drink a lot of beer and they got interested in craft beer. Fine. Unfortunately, wrong. The craft beer movement did not grow into something formidable simply because young adults drink more beer than their parents. Nope.

Not in Portland, but there's no food here
The fact is, craft beer needed the brewpub to spread its wings. It would most certainly not be what it is today if it had been confined to taverns, bars and tasting rooms. No question about it. In that scenario, it never would have gotten the wide exposure it got through the brewpub. Craft became what it is because the brewpub opened its doors to all ages. That includes the young adult drinkers I mentioned, but it also includes adults of all ages, some who have kids.

From a business standpoint, the brewpub helped craft brewers build their business. It provided a place where people could go to eat a reasonable lunch or dinner and have a quality beer. Most owners will tell you their gross revenue leans in favor of food. The owner of my "home" pub recently told me his revenue is 60-40 food to beer. I suspect that's pretty standard. Of course, there's more profit in beer than in food, so you have to be careful about these numbers.

My point is this: A lot of people come to brewpubs because they are essentially restaurants where you can get good beer. The genius of the brewpub is that it dramatically expanded the available demographic of craft beer consumers. The founders of the craft beer industry in Oregon knew what they were doing when they lobbied to make brewpubs legal. People of all ages came in for the food. The beer flowed...making money for the business in the process. A perfect match.

A tasting flight at The Commons
If I sound like Captain Obvious, hang on. The reason I'm bringing up the brewpub concept is that a growing number of breweries are choosing a different path...a path that doesn't include food. Here's a quick list of nearby breweries that have no food: The Commons, Occidental, Gigantic, Mt. Tabor, Natian (no tasting room, to my knowledge), Upright, and Harvester. These are essentially production breweries that intend to make their money through distribution by keg and (especially) bottle (or can).

I can't help but wonder how this is going to work out. There's growing competition for shelf space in stores and tap space in pubs. Remember, these breweries typically have limited tasting room hours. If you want to try their their beers at the brewery, you better check the calendar and plan ahead. It's hard to imagine all of the players in this sandbox succeeding, even with the ongoing growth of craft beer as a sail.

Sprints (right) launched the specialty sales model
In the end, I suspect the ones that succeed will be the ones that are able to sell a unique product, likely barrel-aged or limited release beer, directly to customers. This model is already being used by Upright and The Commons. Alan Sprints (Hair of the Dog) is the godfather of this model in Portland, having perfected it over many years. He effectively sells limited edition beers directly to customers for high dollar.

The brewpub model is the foundation of craft beer revolution in Portland and beyond. Is it possible that we've moved on? Are these production/specialty breweries the next step in the evolution? Only time will tell. My guess is not everyone trying this is going to be able to pull it off. We shall see.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sasquatch Adds to Hillsdale Options

I'm not sure how often I've mentioned it, but Southwest Portland is very underserved in terms of beer and brewpubs. Common knowledge, really. While Northeast and Southeast are packed with viable destinations, there are only a handful of places in Southwest...including the Raccoon Lodge, The Old Market Pub and the Hillsdale Brewery and Public House.

Sasquatch Brewing joined the Southwest club back in October, taking over the space previously occupied by Alba Osteria, an Italian restaurant, in Hillsdale. This is a bustling area. Owner and brewmaster Tom Sims ran into opposition from nearby residents, mainly having to do with noise, traffic and parking. The concerns were eventually minimized by way of a good neighbor agreement that allows ongoing dialogue.

Sasquatch has an attractive street presence
I'll get to the beers and pub momentarily, but I want to take a small detour to discuss what happened here. Sims lives in Hillsdale and wanted to open his business there. He tried like hell to find a space, but couldn't for many moons. He actually considered opening his brewpub in the St. Johns area. Then he got lucky. Alba Osteria vacated its space and he jumped on it. Sasquatch was born.

There are certainly more than a few reasons why there aren't more breweries in Southwest, not the least of which is that there's no ready supply of cheap space. Seriously. One reason there are so many breweries in the old industrial parts of town (Northeast and Southeast) is that de-industrialization opened up cheap warehouse space there. (Northwest would be on this list, as well, except it has been overrun by high rises, condos and snarky businesses...which have combined to make space very expensive there.) Southwest has always been more of a residential area and never had the kind of industrial infrastructure that would have produced a lot of commercial space as the economy changed.

Four house beers on the menu
Here's something else to think about. Look at the breweries that are located in Southwest. All of the ones that come easily to mind have locations on the Eastside. The Old Market Pub has the Broadway Grill and Brewery (a misnomer since they brew no beer there). the Raccoon Lodge has the Cascade Barrel House. The Hillsdale Public House, part of McMenamin's, has locations all over the map. There's a common theme here...which has something to do with the Eastside being prime beer space. But never mind.

Okay...returning to the original story, the Sasquatch space is pleasant and comfy, though perhaps a little dysfunctional in terms of where the kitchen is located. It's nothing they can't work with. I suspect it gets fairly noisy in the pub when its crowded. They have limited outside seating along the sidewalk, and these tables will undoubtedly be popular in the warmer weather. Is it summer, yet?

The big board in one of the dining areas
As for the beer, Sims shoehorned a 7 bbl brewing system with three fermenters into a back corner of the building. Pretty cramped space. Nearby, he has large serving tanks in a walk-in cooler...very handy since it allows you to serve your house beers without kegs. Local homebrewer Marc Martin is evidently supplying recipes and brewing guidance to Sims and assistant brewer Steve Neely.

Brewing did not commence until February, Sims told me. No surprise there. Getting a brewery up and running involves navigating a maze of red tape, to say nothing of the logistics. Sasquatch poured guest beers from its taps until the in-house program got going. They had four house beers on tap when I visited...to go with six guest beers. More house beers are on the way, for sure.

Steve Neely working the mash
Alright, alright...the beers. The four were: Healy Heights Pale Ale (5.6%, 46 IBU), Woodboy IPA (6.8%, 74 IBU) , Dry-Hopped IPA (6.8%, 74 IBU) and Bertha Brown Ale (5.3%, 37 IBU). Each beer presented well, with good color and creamy head. They use a mix of CO2 and Nitrous in their lines...I'm not aware of anyone else doing that locally, though I may just be unaware. 

Frankly, the beers were not particularly memorable. The Pale Ale is easily the best of the bunch, well balanced and a good example of the style. The IPAs both lacked substance. These are the same beer, by the way: Dry-Hopped IPA is simply dry-hopped Woodboy...thus the identical ABV and IBU values. Dry-Hopped IPA did not deliver the aroma or flavor I expect to see in this style. The Bertha Brown was pleasant enough, but seemed to have a slightly astringent aftertaste.

This hallway separates the bar area from the dining rooms
My guess is these guys are still refining their recipes and brewing processes. I have to assume they will rectify the issues I perceived and get around to producing good beers. I'll be making another trip over there at some point to check on that. Meanwhile, the place is worth a visit. My lunch of fish (catfish in cornmeal batter) and chips was quite good, and really more than I needed to eat.

The bottom line? Sasquatch is a nice addition to the beer culture, particularly in an area that has limited choices. Folks in that area who don't want to drive across town now have another option. That's good news. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Botched: Coors and the Mark Harmon Campaign

Not that any of my craft beer readers will give a damn, but the mainstream beer industry has been providing me with some fantastic entertainment lately. It's all part of some research I'm doing for a book...a book which currently has no publisher...I turned down the contract. That's another story for another day.

If you know anything about how the macro beer industry operates, you know there's a lot of humor there. You essentially have a few major brands hawking beers that few consumers can tell apart in a taste test. Because the products are so similar, companies go after customers largely with images and price points.

Current Coors Light marketing
In his book, Silver Bullets: A Soldier's Story of How Coors Bombed in the Beer Wars, Robert Burgess unveils hilarious stories of how stupidity, greed and incompetence damaged the Coors brand during the 1980s. Burgess was a Coors market researcher at the time, with first-hand knowledge of botched product launches and stiffed marketing campaigns.

Silver Bullets is worth a read. One of the things Burgess does is attach funny names to characters and entities. Big Wig, Captain Kangaroo, Cowboy, The Schlitz Mafia, The General, Rod Sterling and The Force (Coors' sales division) are substituted for actual people and groups. Good stuff.

Shucks...I better get to the point before I finish my Coors Light...time sure flies when you've got a fine beverage in yer hand. (Yeah, I'm kidding.)

That's a big ten-four
A little background. Some of you may be old enough to remember when Coors Banquet was a highly sought-after brand. Ever seen Smokey and the Bandit? All about Coors. The Bandit and the Snowman were trying to smuggle a truckload of Coors across several states. See, you couldn't get Coors in many states back then...which promoted hoarding and smuggling.

In those days, Coors invested heavily to make sure its beer was kept cold from the time it was brewed until it was consumed. The company insisted that distributors invest serious dollars in refrigerated trailers and coolers if they wanted to sell Coors. They didn't like it, but what could they do?

Of course, no one kept track of how often Coors wound up in non-refrigerated storage rooms once it was delivered to retailers. But never mind. Coors got tremendous mileage out of the cold transport and storage con. "Coors is better because we keep it cold from the time its brewed until it gets to you." Sure thing.

Fast forward to 1985. Coors sales were flat or declining when it signed former UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon as pitch man. Ruggedly good looking and just recognizable enough, Harmon appeared in natural settings dressed in casual apparel. It was all very plain spoken. "Coors is the one," he would finally say. 

Coors is the one...
The Harmon ads were a huge hit. Sales of Coors Banquet increased slightly. But Coors Light sales exploded, increasing by 30 percent in 1985 and by 18 percent in 1986. Women were particularly enamored with the ads...People magazine named Harmon Sexiest Man Alive in 1986. The ads seemed to wash away a boatload of negative PR that had dogged the company for years. Coors had hit a home run.

It all unraveled shortly, when Harmon appeared in an ad showing cases of Coors on an unrefrigerated store shelf. A wildfire erupted. Consumers wondered if the "cold storage" claim had been a con all along. Distributors demanded to know why they had spent so lavishly on refrigerated coolers and trailers. Many wondered how Coors could have been so negligent.

Needless to say, the momentum of the Harmon campaign was lost. Sales declined. This foreshadowed more bad news for Coors, which resorted to heavy discounting to complete with better-funded Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Coors had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

This kind of screw-up is common in the macro industry, which spends millions every year to build brand recognition and loyalty, often unsuccessfully. When your business is based on imagery and dubious claims, as opposed to a product people can relate to based on taste and quality, it's a slippery slope.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gigantic Brewing Blasts Off

There was great anticipation in the days, weeks and months before the doors at Gigantic Brewing finally opened a few weeks back. That's largely because co-founders Van Havig and Ben Love both have extensive connections to the local beer community.

The schwag wagon arrived early on
If you aren't in the know, Havig was the head brewer at Rock Bottom Brewery (downtown) for 16 years before he left in a dispute over the direction there. Love worked with Christian Ettinger at Hopworks from the beginning there. If you consider the gestation period typically required to convert brewers to brewery owners in Portland, it’s pretty clear that Havig and Love were ready for their own gig.

This business will do well. The brewery and tasting room is located in a good spot…a hop (haha) and a skip from the Reed College campus. That should provide a regular crowd of thirsty patrons to go with the folks that come here from around town.

House IPA + Sunshine = Gigantic!
During the recent grand opening, they featured five house beers and three guest taps. I suspect the guest taps will go away as they evolve. I want to mention the IPA, which I first tasted at the Oregon Garden Brewfest about a month ago. It reminds me of Boneyard RPM...lots of floral and citrus notes. Terrific!

Havig and Love intend to maintain a rotating list of beers. They will reportedly have only a single year-round beer...I assume the IPA, which will sell well. This means they will be brewing a lot of specials and seasonals. That’s in keeping with the general Portland trend of increasingly eclectic beers.

The bar's over there
It’s worth mentioning there’s no food here. Nada. This is just a tasting room. They’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not offering food in this under-served part of town. But food obviously is not their thing. They intend to make it or not based on the quality of their beer.

Those beers will be distributed to a variety of pubs and retail outlets via Maletis Distributing. However, the tasting rooming is more than worth a visit. It's small, interesting and comfortable. They now have tables outside, which wasn't the case initially because they were waiting on the appropriate city permit.

If you're headed their way, check the website before you drive, bike or whatever. They're open five days a week, but hours are somewhat limited. Oh, they will evidently be open for Portland Timbers games, regardless of the day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Omission Beers Appear to Launch New Category

You may be aware that Widmer recently released two gluten-free beers...a pale ale and a lager. This actually happened locally back in March. Omission is the brand name. They had a release party somewhere. I'm not exactly sure where.

They announced today that they will be rolling the gluten-free beers out nationally in the next month or so. Sometimes it truly does pay to have the Anheuser-Busch distribution network in your back pocket. These are going to be the first nationally distributed gluten-free beers. Hold that thought.

Clearly Widmer?
When I first saw the Omission packaging, I was perplexed. Nothing about it told me this was a Widmer beer. There's a small, screened Widmer logo on the packaging and label. If you compare this to the standard packaging, it's pretty clear they wanted to differentiate the Omission beers.

Clearly Widmer
They haven't commented on the branding issue to my knowledge. I initially thought perhaps they wanted to sequester the Omission beers in case they bombed. Why damage your brand with a product that is, for whatever reason, not well-received? Obviously, they did not bomb.

With revelations of a national release, I now realize protecting their brand wasn't what they were up to. Nope. With national release of the Omission beers, Widmer is essentially creating an entirely new category. Just as Miller did when it launched Miller Lite in the 1970s...to dramatic success.

I'm sure they've done their homework down on Russell Street. There's a growing demand for gluten-free beer on the part of people who are gluten intolerant or have other health issues. And let's not forget the folks who will drink this stuff simply because they feel it is healthier than standard issue beer.

With essentially no competition out there at the national level, Widmer is going after this market. You can bet there will be more beers in this category once the initial two gain acceptance. The most obvious choice is an IPA, which would capitalize on the popularity of the style. Others could follow.

Like I said, they aren't saying much about any kind of master plan. But looking at the declining popularity of Widmer's core Hefeweizen in recent years, it make sense that they would be looking to take advantage of a significant emerging opportunity. This could prove to be an ingenious move.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last Call for Angelo at By the Bottle

The local beer community is losing one of its finest. Not losing as in dead...losing as in going away. This isn't exactly breaking news. For a couple of months, we've known that Angelo De Ieso, better known to many in these parts as Angelo Brewpublic, would soon join his wife in the Bay Area.

It was inevitable that Angelo and the new wife, Ashley (aka the Beer Wench) would choose a common city. They are beer geeks in a pod. Angie going to California makes the most sense to me. Ashley has a beer job down there. Angelo's beer work will transfer to the Bay Area.

Last call at By the Bottle
Why is Angelo's departure from Portland important? Because he has been a tireless promoter of all things craft beer. His blog, Brewpublic, is undoubtedly one of the best places to go to keep up with the local beer scene. I have no idea what his readership is, but I'm sure it's large.

My guess is the blog will live on. In fact, I know it will. Angelo has operatives here who will continue to cover the local scene. He'll likely be shifting the bulk of his own focus to the Bay Area. That works for me. I'm looking forward to reading what he was to say about the beer community there.

Angelo hasn't left the building yet. He has a couple weeks worth of celebratory events on the calendar before he heads south at the end of the month. But he worked his last official shift at By the Bottle last night. A small crowd toasted Angelo as the owners thanked him for contributions to the business. Good stuff.

I'm quite sure Angelo won't be a stranger to Portland. He'll be visiting from time to time...too much going on here to ignore. There's an over/under pool on...oh, never mind. As for myself, I'm hoping to meet up with him in Oakland next month. Beer research, you know.

Happy trails...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Heineken Squeezes Competition with Olympics Deal

Venues for international events typically showcase what they have to offer. So you would expect the upcoming London Olympic Games to put on display what the city's prime attractions. Once you get passed the dreadful English food, London has a lot to offer.

British beer is something that might be of interest to visitors. But it turns out those beers won't be in evidence at any of the Olympic venues. "How's that?" you ask. Well, it's all about the power of Olympic sponsorship and the willingness to force visitors into buying your product only.

This story has been widely reported. I first saw it in Beer Advocate and it was also reported here. The just of it is this: Heineken, the Dutch company, paid something like $10 million for rights to be the only branded beer available at the 2012 Olympic events. In London! 

If other beers would normally be available at any of these venues, tap handles and signage will be removed for the duration of the games. British beers aren't going to be a part of these Olympic games, unless visitors search them out...which some surely will..

As was pointed out in the earlier stories, the timing of the Heineken deal is unfortunate. British brewing has experienced a resurgence in recent years. There are evidently more small brewers operating in Great Britain now than at any time since World War II. Lots of great beer choices around London. But only Dutch lager at Olympic venues. 
What Heineken did in the case of these Olympics they have done before. At last year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Heineken secured sponsorship rights which meant Heineken and Amstel Light were the only beers poured at games. Imagine the thrill of watching a rugby game while drinking a light beer. 

What's wrong with this picture? Beyond the irony of a Dutch lager dominating an event in London, it's bad news anytime a gigantic beer company buys up the rights to a sporting event. They do it to push out the competition, including craft beer, and push their own flawed product.

We already have issues with this kind of approach in all of the major US sports. Anheuser-Busch is the dominant player. Budweiser occupies taps and advertising opportunities all over the place. You can get a decent beer at many of these places, but you can bet the sponsor agreement restricts your choices.

So while you're watching these Olympic Games on TV and absorbing the Heineken signage and advertising, remember arrangements like this are not good for craft beer. The big guys want to paint the little guys into a corner. They do it by spending millions on sponsor deals that limit choice and promote inferior products. Don't buy into it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Velo Cult takes Bikes and Brews in a New Direction

Every now and then you run across something that makes so much sense you wonder why you haven't seen it before. The recently opened Velo Cult in the Hollywood District (across the street from the Moon and Sixpence) is that kind of concept.

Velo Cult is a bike shop that serves up a nice selection of craft beer in a comfortable setting. The roomy space on 42nd Avenue will also host regular special events that include live music, movies, race viewings, dinners, meetings and more. Obviously, a variety of rides will start and end here.

Owner Sky Boyer started Velo Cult more than five years ago. But not in Portland. The business was born in San Diego. And it did well. But at some point Boyer and his employees reckoned Portland was where they wanted and needed to be.

"From a cultural and ideological standpoint, Portland is just a better fit for us," Boyer says. "Nothing against San Diego, which is a great city."

So they shut down the San Diego operation and moved. Challenges remained. When his employees arrived in Portland in early January, Boyer had still not been able to find a suitable venue for the store.

"Finding the right space was a challenge," he recalls. "I had spent plenty of time looking and nothing was quite right. Right after my people arrived here, I found this place. I signed a lease virtually on the spot and we started making it ready for business."

That took several months and a massive amount of work. The space previously housed an antique museum with countless display areas. All that had to be removed. There were issues with layers of floor material that had to be torn up. The lighting had to be changed. And so on.

During the demolition and construction, Boyer's vision of what the store should be changed slightly. The amount of space (5,000 sq ft) gave him a lot of flexibility in terms of how to organize things. The bar area, in particular, became a sort of pivot point.

"We had always planned to serve beer," Boyer says. "We served beer in San Diego. But it was small scale. During the construction here, we all realized the bar area could be large and comfortable without taking anything away from the store. In fact, it probably adds to to appeal."

From a retail standpoint, the arrangement is odd. Velo Cult carries a selection of bikes, apparel and related accessories. Those items occupy the rear of the store. Up front, there's the bar and a large table covered with literature. It screams out: Have a beer or a coffee! Sit a spell and relax!

The scoop with the beer is simple: Boyer will soon have three rotating taps to go with a nice selection of cans and bottles. He plans to keep different beers rolling through those taps. What's the holdup? He's waiting on a permit that will allow him to install a sink. No draft beer until that happens...probably a few weeks.

Food is also on the agenda. Boyer plans to offer a line of tamales with authentic seasonings and sauces, leaning heavily on the San Diego connection.

It's evident in my mind that Hopworks is Portland's champion of combining cycling and good beer. They are decidedly a brewery/pub with a strong cycling connection. Velo Cult is taking that concept in a slightly different direction by combining a bike shop with small scale pub.

The idea has Portland written all over it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bowling and Craft Beer Fit Right in There

It occurred to me the other day that we (the Royal we, if you must) who attempt to follow what's happening on the craft beer front sometimes lose our way. We pay plenty of attention to the newest eclectic beers and breweries and we're forever blathering on about special events and festivals. And that's cool...that's cool.

As a result, we sometimes forget about the people who drive around and bowl for recreation. You may be surprised to hear it, but more men and women worldwide participate in bowling than any other sport. Softball? Forget it. Golf? No chance. Any schmo can bowl...and they do in great numbers.

Obviously you're not a golfer
 There's more. First of all, the bowling industry generates more money for airlines, restaurants (bars), hotels and rental cars than any sport worldwide. There's also the fact that you can do virtually everything in a bowling alley that you do in a bar. White Russian?

Bowling alleys have changed a lot in recent times. To compete with other entertainment and gaming options, bowling alley have gotten bigger and they've introduced new activities. Modern bowling alleys are apt to have gaming rooms, restaurants, night clubs, even movie theaters.

Famous bowling buddies
Which brings me around to craft beer. I had to get there at some point. Back in the day, the only beer you were likely to find in a bowling alley was American lager. If you've ever watched a movie with bowling as the backdrop, you probably saw the main characters drinking light beer. Does the Pope shit in the woods?

To check on the current status of beer and bowling, I made a stop at the Hollywood Bowl in Northeast Portland the other day. They've got 48 lanes. It wasn't very busy on a Friday afternoon, but I'm informed the place gets pretty well packed during league play, which runs Monday through Thursday evenings. In general, the place tends to be busier in the winter than in the summer. The bah's over there.

Nine of out of 12 ain't bad
They've got 12 tap handles at Hollywood Bowl. I was impressed to discover nine of those taps pouring respectable beers. The choices included Widmer Rotator IPA, Bridgeport Kingpin, HUB IPA, Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA and several more. Not exactly the Horse Brass, but not bad.

It gets better. The barkeep told me the different breweries take turns sponsoring some of the leagues they have at the Hollywood Bowl. Taps rotate according to who is sponsoring a particular league. It's plain to see out on the lanes, where I saw banners from Laurelwood and Widmer.

It isn't just about good sarsaparilla these days
It doesn't take great eyesight to see that they go through a lot of beer here...and craft has clearly earned a bigger piece of the pie than would have been the case historically. This is not your father's bowling alley beer selection, not by a long-shot. 

I'm not saying your nearest bowling alley is a substitute for the finer brewpubs or ale houses in town. Far from it. What I am saying is craft beer has come a long way when you can find it dominating the beer selection in a place where the patrons didn't always care about good beer. 

I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pints Navigates the Simple Approach

I don't frequent the Northwest area all that often. It just isn't all that convenient these days. If I was a regular over there, Pints Urban Taproom is a place I would visit often.

Pints is nominally a coffee house by day and a pub by night. They open for coffee and pastries at 7 a.m. weekdays and shutter the morning operation at noon. They  reopen as a pub from 4 to 11 p.m. On Saturdays they're just a pub from 6 to 11 p.m. Live music is also part of the mix (best check their site for details).

Located deep in the Pearl
The space is pleasantly inviting, with ornate brick, a classic wood bar and artwork on the walls. They are in the process of expanding their kitchen facilities. They already offer sandwiches and snacks; my guess is they will expand their menu somewhat once the kitchen is fully functional.

You're wondering about the beer, huh? This is a beer blog, after all. Well, brewer Zach Beckwith heads up the brewing operation at Pints. He came over from New Old Lompoc a few months ago, then worked with the owner to design the brewery and pub space.

A nicely designed brew system resides in the rear
Pints has 10 taps, six of which were occupied by Pints beers on my visit. Choices include: Tavern Ale (5.1% ABV), Seismic IPA (6.1% ABV, 77 IBU), Rip Saw NW Red (5.9% ABV), Steel Bridge Stout (6% ABV), Legalize Wit (4.9% ABV...a collaboration with Lompoc for the recent Cheers to Belgian Beers festival) and Red Brick Rye (5.2%, 40 IBU).

My visit to Pints was part of a Brewvana Tour, so I did not taste all the beers. I did taste the Tavern Ale, the IPA and the Stout. They were all pretty good. You'll have to make your own choice based on personal preference. Hard driving IPA fans will want the IPA, and so on.

Zach explains the simple approach
Zach's approach to beer and brewing is decidedly out of the mainstream in today's Portland. He talks about getting back to the basics and producing beers reminiscent of the beers that got the lot of us hooked on craft beers in the first place. Even his seasonal offerings will apparently be modest.

If you've been watching trends, you know it's quite popular for breweries around town to offer one or more one-off, special beers at any given time. Barrel-aged IPA with lemon zest and a ginger twist is a style that comes to mind. Most imaginative. But I digress.

I cannot say what will happen to the brewing community as it moves further and further away from what would be considered traditional styles. I'm not even sure if the trend is a bad thing. What I will say is I'm impressed that Zach is taking the approach he is at Pints. I wish him well.