Located on the edge of downtown Lake Oswego right up against the eastern shore of the lake itself (actually Lakewood Bay, an eastern finger of the lake), Stickmen Brewery & Skewery is one of Oregon’s newest brewery operations and Lake Oswego’s first. Opening in 2011 (though they didn’t offer their own beer until later in 2012), they bill themselves as a Japanese-inspired skewery and indeed much of their menu is built around skewered food cooked over charcoal—though the skewer service doesn’t begin until 3pm during the week and on noon on weekends. The rest of the menu is a mix of Asian-influenced dishes and standard brewpub type fare.
We were in Lake Oswego a week ago last Friday and hit up Stickmen for lunch, right after they opened at 11:30. The first thing we noticed is that while Stickmen itself was easy to find—it’s right on the main drag of State Street as you’re heading north towards downtown—parking isn’t immediately obvious as there is no on-street parking and we ended up finding a public parking lot about a block north and across the street.
The restaurant and brewery itself is located in a cute and somewhat quaint-looking brick-fronted building that shares space with a movie theater that was undergoing renovations. The main entrance is located down a short alley-like pathway leading to a rounded foyer which opens onto a modest dining and bar space.
Of course the real draw is the enormous patio and deck that is right up to the edge of—and over—Oswego Lake, and the weather was nice enough (and we were early enough) to get a prime spot right at the edge of the water.
So really, it’s tough to beat this location and atmosphere. But how’s the beer?
My spoiler-y answer: decent, but some of the ones I had need work.
They have a large number of beers on tap, 13 when we were there, spanning a range of styles from the usual (pale ale, brown, IPA) to unusual (Berliner Weisse, Imperial Kölsch). For such a big range it’s a pity that the sampler tray only consists of five 4-ounce samples, though I suppose there’s nothing preventing you from ordering two. For my part, we had a later appointment to keep and I was driving, so I stuck with just the five.
Though in actuality, you’ll notice I have six! That’s because the Berliner Weisse I ordered, the Sour Püβ, came as both a plain sample and a sample with their rhubarb syrup (really a compote). Here are my notes and thoughts on the beers:
- Sour Püβ, their 2.7% abv Berliner Weisse, the lightest such beer I’ve had yet! (They are the two lightest samples in the picture above.) I found it wheaty and light with a really nice lactic tartness, a good version that I liked. With the rhubarb compote, it softens up the lactic character and adds a pleasant rhubarb fruit character to it, slightly earthy. This beer was the best of the bunch that I sampled.
- Big Honey Imperial Kölsch: No, I don’t know what makes an “Imperial” Kölsch either, and I don’t know what the alcohol percentage was. Made with Oregon wild blackberry honey, I found it a bit on the bitter side of going too big on the malts—kind of a viney and earthy note that I think comes from having more fermentables than hops to balance. Possibly a bit boozy too, though it was tough to tell. Overall a bit harsh.
- Summer 13: A saison I had high hopes for, but unfortunately I think it was past it’s prime—it was a little off; the aroma was there for the style but it had a plasticky “off homebrew” character that threw things off. Under attenuated for a saison.
- F-Bomb: An IPA full of Falconer’s Flight hops. Nice, big and sticky, a touch under attenuated (hence a little too sweet), and a little resiny and sweaty in the hops. Not my favorite of IPAs but hopheads will like this one.
- The Other Half: a 9% abv Imperial Porter that is the base for a beer they are barrel aging. It’s full of coffee and brown malts and it’s sneaky, it doesn’t reveal its strength. Sweet with licorice and this one also is a touch under attenuated (though for 9% that might be a hard call to make).
I’m a little harsh on several of these beers, I know, but remember there are at least eight other beers and they look to rotate fairly regularly so by no means take this as a blanket judgment. The other beers on the menu look awfully enticing as well so I’d definitely like the opportunity to go back and sample more.
Our food was good too: I had a giant plate of pulled pork nachos that were cheesy, spicy, gooey and messy in all the right ways. I really wanted to try the bahn mi sandwich as well (next time). My wife had the plum chicken and the kids enjoyed a cheeseburger (standard kid fare) and (if I remember correctly though I may be way off here)
some sort of curry shrimp the soup of the day (updated: I did not remember correctly!). Our service was also good, the waiter was attentive and helpful.
The other observation I had is the pricing: Stickmen is definitely on the more expensive side for many brewpubs I’ve been to (comparable to, say, Deschutes and Worthy here in Bend) so keep that in mind if you’re planning a visit. Although considering that Lake O is, as I understand it, one of the more upscale of Portland-area ‘burbs, I suppose that makes sense that you’d see the more premium pricing.
All in all, a good visit and one I’d like to repeat again for sure, both to explore more of their beer menu and to relax on the patio overlooking the lake. I would definitely recommend making the trip over to check them out when you get the chance.
Finally, a last couple of images to share: they are barrel aging some beers in the back end of the dining room, presumably at least some containing the Imperial Porter I tried:
I like how they have the airlock plugged right in there, but I wonder if they ever have problems with people knocking or pulling it out?
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery
40 N. State Street
Lake Oswego, OR 97034