Our Labor Day trip to Portland yielded a first-time visit to the iconic Hopworks Urban Brewery, fast becoming one of Portland’s premier microbreweries thanks to their solid beer, good food and emphasis on green, organic, sustainable lifestyles. No exaggeration—if anything, I’m understating; they have taken a thorough approach to this:
HUB is Portland’s first Eco-Brewpub to offer all organic handcrafted beers, fresh local ingredients, and a sustainable building with a relaxed and casual atmosphere. Brewmaster Christian Ettinger has spent the past year and half constructing his “dream brewpub.” HUB incorporates all aspects of sustainability. From composting to rain barrels, and from pervious pavers to hand dryers, we have made every effort to protect “our” future with a thoughtful alternative.
Hopworks in particular is all about the biking culture, offering a large bicycle parking area, bike-themed decor throughout the brewpub, and even on their merchandise list offer bicycle tubes for $4 (with a repair station available) and tire patches for free. And that’s not even getting into their Beer Bar Bike, something that has to be seen to be believed.
HUB has a big, easy-to-find presence on Powell and 29th traveling east or west; the logo stands out and the building has a distinctive look with the triangular awnings sawtoothed along the side.
Inside they have a big space, very industrial in atmosphere: concrete floors, exposed wood beams above mingling with shiny ductwork, hammered copper tabletops, lots of open space. Inside is divided into three fairly distinct areas: a bar where minors are not allowed, the main downstairs dining area that has a childrens corner (toys, play tables, and chalkboards); and an upstairs dining area. In the bar there is what appears to be a private “bank vault” room: room enough for maybe six to eight people around an oval-shaped table, with a large imposing door—I don’t know if in fact the door closes for private parties, but it’s definitely a unique space.
There is also outdoor seating on the south-facing patio and I imagine this would be fantastic in the warm(er) summer months. And as I mentioned, there is bike-themed decor everywhere: light fixtures on the walls made from old wheel rims, and a bike frame sculpture hangs above the bar to name two examples.
My friend Justin advised us that the burgers are fantastic at HUB, and he was not wrong. This is what the special of the day was:
The burger was indeed “Oh-So Gouda”—one of the best burgers that I’ve had in a while, I think. I ordered mine with a crisp, fresh green salad, and my wife got the beer cheese soup, which was excellent too. The kids thoroughly enjoyed their food as well.
A quick note about the kids: Hopworks is very kid-friendly. Besides the play area in the back corner of the dining room, the staff will also bring out small rolls of raw pizza dough for kids to play with at the table, play-dough-style, at no charge. Our kids loved it, which tends to be more unusual that not these days. (“Dad, why do we have to go to a brewery all the time?“)
So on to the beer. I’ve tried various Hopworks beers at different times but a first visit always warrants the sampler tray. HUB’s tray is generous: ten samples, basically every beer they currently have on tap. This is typically six regulars and four seasonals.
My notes, starting with the Organic Lager at about 10 o’clock on the tray and moving clockwise (except for the seasonals, which I drank out of order):
- Organic HUB Lager: 5.1% abv, only beer with Czech hops; crisp and tasty Czech-style Pilsner. Nicely bitter without being punchy
- Crosstown Pale Ale: 5.3%, nice citrus hop kick right up front; beer (malt) is light, toasty, and refreshing. Hugely drinkable. Juicy.
- Velvet ESB: 5.2%, light, a touch of roast, clean hoppy bitterness, floral but not fruity/citrus.
- Hopworks IPA: 6.6%, big hops, controlled and very tight. Not overdone, not monstrous—a very nice IPA.
- Survival 7-Grain Stout: 5.3%, (cold-pressed coffee) a bit light in the body but a nice coffee flavor and fairly mild on roast, but a nice presence (not overbearing).
- Deluxe Organic Ale (DOA): 6.9%, flavorful and quite tasty—their most popular beer and I’d believe it. Toasty, biscuit, a hint of chocolate, luscious maltiness. Like a strong really good amber ale (almost brown).
- Gayle’s Pale Ale (seasonal): 5.8%, Light, grainy, not as hoppy as the regular Pale; more English/Noble hopping here. [Apparently a fresh hop pale ale!]
- Rise Up Red (seasonal): 5.8%, Hoppy, pretty standard Red ale.
- Galactic Imperial Red (seasonal): 9.5%, Very good, almost Barleywine-like in character, nice but not overwhelming hops, and warming.
- Imperial Black Velvet ESB (seasonal): 8.7%, Sweet and strong, almost like a liqueur; coffee and conversely mellow for its strength. Very nice sipper. [Written on their board as named "Velvet Underground."]
All in all, it was a great brewery and a great experience, and I hope to visit again when I get the chance. I highly recommend it as one of the better brewpub experiences I’ve had in Portland, and I don’t think you’ll go wrong there.
A few more pictures:
And, as a final nod to Hopworks’ bike culture, a picture I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else: the bicycle banana seats mounted above the urinals in the men’s room. I guess so you have somewhere to lean your head while you’re doing your business.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
2944 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-HOPS (4677)