Their Hawthorne Avenue location, in Southeast Portland, is the original, and though I’ve been there before, it’s been years since the last time.
In fact, I was there in November 1998 with my brother Ben and friend Justin when we found out Jesse Ventura won the Minnesota governorship; we had a beer to commemorate such a crazy notion.
The Lucky Lab is my idea of the quintessential Portland brewpub. Their own description reads:
[The brewpub] is located in an old roofing and sheetmetal warehouse. With high wood trussed ceilings, the Lab’s warm rustic ambiance is a great place for a neighborhood pub. Founded in October, 1994, the Lab produces some of the tastiest brews in the northwest and serves up some simple, yet excellent, pub fare. Outside on the back covered patio is a great place to relax and converse with friends or hang out with your canine. We are proud to be a casual brew pub where people can enjoy quality products in an unpretentious atmosphere.
We stopped in for lunch, along with a beer and pictures.
This is the front of the building from Hawthorne Avenue (looking west). There’s a strong warehouse impression from the outside, for sure.
Enter the brewpub, walk past the entrance/foyer area (with dartboards), and this is the main beer hall and seating area you’re greeted with. Note the dog pictures on the walls (if you can see them) and the plain table and chair (almost bench-style) seating. Very casual, very Portland.
I love the open, raw-wood ceiling beams; for me, it adds great character to the place. Not sure why.
There were a lot of kids there, too (besides our own); it’s actually fairly kid-friendly.
The main bar, left hand side—where you can order food, obviously. You can order beer on the right; there are a series of taps topped with various bronze fixtures. The menu is entirely up on the chalkboard—all very casual and reasonably priced. To the far left, not in the picture, is a self-serve water station. You’ll notice back behind the bar, below the T-shirts, is the beer board…
That’s what they had on tap that day (Sunday, February 17th). Lots of choices and only time for one beer… I went with the Crazy Ludwig’s Alt. Hey, I see a microbrewed Altbier, I’ll likely go for it.
Served up in a 20-ounce pint (for $4.25), this was a deep amber ale, very hoppy—not the Northwest hops but a definite spicy German feel to them. Malt is roasty with a touch of black malts and works wells as a subtle background to the big generous hopping. This was a tasty beer, I was pleased with the pick. Check it out:
I paired the beer with the "Roast Beef Classic" for lunch: a super-generous sandwich with a huge pile of chips for only $6.25:
It was tasty!
Now, there’s an interesting thing the Lucky Lab does that I haven’t encountered before from a brewpub: they will sell you 22-ounce bottles of their beer to go. The catch is, they don’t have them pre-filled—they fill them up from the tap right in front of you, pop a cap and slap a label on them and they’re yours. Like a growler, which is what everyone else does, and all for only $4.75 a bottle.
The only reason I asked about bottles at all was because I knew the Lucky Lab had bottled a limited run of their Imperial Stout, and so I was curious if they had any left. So I asked the guy and he said no, but they’d bottle anything anyway.
So I opted for two bottles: the Blue Dog Pale Ale and the Stumptown Porter. (Reviews forthcoming.) I wanted to take a couple of "standard" beers since I was in "review mode."
The method for filling them was interesting: he had a small length of plastic tubing—the kind typically used for siphoning among homebrewers—stuck it into the spigot of the tap, and ran it into the bottle. He filled generously, too; as the beer foamed over, he caught the excess in a glass to make sure the bottle was all beer and no foam, and he filled them nearly to the crown. Voila! Two bombers of exclusive, brewpub-only beer to take home.
All in all, the Lucky Lab is still right at the top of my list for Portland brewpubs. Good food, good beer, great atmosphere. Very much recommended if you’re in Southeast Portland.
Lucky Labrador Brewpub
915 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to Midnight
Sunday, Noon to 10 p.m.
Minors: Allowed until 9 p.m.