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The New Brews of Portland

Portland’s pioneering beer scene defined Northwest’s hoppy, citrusy IPAs. But creativity doesn’t stand still in Beervana, and now there’s much more diversity among beer styles and the pubs serving them.

One of the newest kids on the block, Assembly Brewing takes pride in brewing approachable ales that appeal to a wide range of beer lovers. This minority-owned brewery was four years in the making, and the culmination of a longtime dream between home-brewer and chef George Johnson and his friend and early fan Adam Dixon. Opened in late March 2019, Assembly is the only brewpub in the under served Foster-Powell neighborhood, and as its name suggests, it aims to be a gathering place for all comers, with Detroit-style pizza, a full bar, pinball machines, live music stage and it’s open until 2 a.m. A mural inside depicts features of the neighborhood, and represents the artistic collaboration between five local Portland artists.

Just opened in February 2019, Vagabond Brewing in the southeast industrial neighborhood marks the first foray into Portland from the beloved Salem-based brewery founded by Marine veterans. They pulled out all the stops to take the brewery beyond brewpub into full-service restaurant, even hanging a salvaged 1958 Cessna airplane from the rafters. There’s a full bar with house cocktails and 19 taps flowing with pilsners, farmhouse saisons, Belgian pales, and yes, IPAs. Chef Victor Deras, formerly of acclaimed Olympia Provisions, brings an upscale bistro touch to the food, with freshly shucked oysters topped with beer mignonette, plates of roast chicken and root vegetables, steak frites, and pan-roasted steelhead with ginger-soy broth.

On the other end of the spectrum is Threshold Blending and Brewing in east Portland’s sleepy Montavilla neighborhood. Opened in mid January 2019, the snug, no-frills brewery specializes in hazy IPAs and tart Belgian saisons, with the ultimate goal of creating a strong barrel-aged blending program. Food comes in the form of a rotating cast of food carts each weekend, and the family friendly vibe welcomes the whole neighborhood, toddlers included.

It seems hazy and Belgian are the new hallmarks of Portland beer. Every new brewpub is diving deep into the styles. They dominate the taplist at Ruse Brewing, which opened July 2018 in southeast Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood, and at West Coast Grocery, a new addition to inner Southeast Portland, cherry sours and hazy IPAs flush with strawberries join saisons as well as German styles like pilsners and dunkels.

Belgian is the cornerstone of the Thirsty Monk on bustling Hawthorne Avenue. The first West Coast outpost of the iconic Belgian-centric brewpub from Asheville, NC, the pub features its own house Belgians as well as an expertly curated list of Belgian style beers from around the country and the world.

Von Ebert, on the other hand, specializes in everything else. Opened in the Pearl District in March 2018, plus a second location on east Portland’s Glendoveer golf course a few months later, the brewery makes about 100 different styles each year. Two dozen taps flowing with house-brewed beers change up every few days, so there’s always something new to explore, particularly if want to try one of the many iterations of IPAs, from brut to hazy to New England style.

And San Diego-based Modern Times, which expanded into Portland in early 2018, loads its 24 taps with hazy IPAs and barrel-aged sours. Now the vegan brewpub is expanding its current location in the Central Eastside neighborhood with a complete overhaul of the building next door. The additional space will allow for more seating, a bigger kitchen for a bigger menu, expanded cellar space to expand the brewery, and a rooftop deck and bar.

Clearly there’s a lot more to Portland’s beer scene than the usual suspects, and there’s never been a better time to try it all.