Friday, May 2, 2008


The stealthy opening of Deschutes' Portland brewpub -- it's been open all week -- means I got scooped by several Beervana commentators. Better late than never, Carla and I went over there for lunch today on the official Grand Opening. At least we got some commemorative pint glasses for our effort.

It was probably a good strategic move to open a few days early, to take some of the pressure off, considering Hopworks' fire-code-busting opening day six weeks ago. Maybe it's a different story tonight, but the lunch crowd was manageable. The restaurant tables didn't really fill up until about noon, and as far as I could tell there was never a wait.

The Deschutes Pearl District pub is a great addition to the Portland scene, especially since they're actually brewing there. Their first Portland brew is on tap right now, the Armory XPA, named after the garrison-turned-theater across the street. It's a well-done Northwestern Pale Ale, with very floral hops.

I suppose the "X" in XPA is for "extra", though of course these extra pale ales turn out darker than the pales. On the other hand, there's a code-switching pun here: "ex-pee-ay" is how you pronounce the French verb "expier" -- to do penance or to make reparation. I can't help it, I loved the headline on the Champagne of Blogs' review -- "Deschutes: French for 'Watch out, Bridgeport'" -- and now I can't get the French connection out of my brain. So if there's something troubling you, some sin you have to make up for, go XPA it with a couple of pints.

John Foyston says there are 16 tap handles, but I think some of them just pour root beer, because I can only come up with 12 beers served. I forgot to take home the seasonal beer menu, but between the Deschutes website and my memory, here are the beers that were on tap today:
  • Mirror Pond Pale Ale
  • Black Butte Porter
  • Obsidian Stout
  • Bachelor Bitter
  • Cascade Ale
  • Inversion IPA
  • Cinder Cone Red
  • Armory XPA
  • Hop Henge IIPA
  • 2005 Mirror Mirror Barleywine
  • The Abyss
  • Green Lake Organic Ale
There were also two cask engines; today they had Black Butte and Bachelor Bitter. The cask Bitter was served too cold, but maybe they'll get that straightened out as they get settled in. As usual, Mirror Mirror was a thing of beauty. The 20 oz. pints were $4.25, served in a Guinness-shaped glass -- I assume it's really 20 oz. -- or 10 oz. for $2.50. Big brews like Abyss and Mirror Mirror are served 10 oz. at a time in a snifter for $3.50. They'll fill a half-gallon growler to go for $10 (more for the heavyweights).

The decor is Northwest lodge through and through: big wood rafters, a stone fireplace, and chainsaw sculptures. The food seemed pretty good to us -- we each had burgers from the $9.50-11.50 burger menu. My french fries were drab and greasy, but the salads were decent. We were intrigued enough to try the hop cheesecake, but we didn't really pick up any hop flavor. Maybe the Mirror Mirror was to blame for that.

Let's talk about what might have been.... Two or three years ago, I noticed a banner on the side of the building on the northeast corner of 34th and Belmont. It said "Future home of Deschutes Public House". That was exciting -- one of Oregon's best breweries opening a pub in our neighborhood. But the banner was soon down, apparently because Deschutes made the deal for the current location in the Pearl, and the low-key Side Street Tavern opened on SE 34th instead. It's hard to imagine getting a pub and a brewery into the Side Street space, so although Southeast lost a pub, Portland gained a brewery. Whatever the case, welcome to Portland, Deschutes!


  1. I visited the new pub this past Friday for lunch with a couple of friends. The wait was about 20 minutes, which didn't seem *too* bad as we went right at the peak of the lunch rush. The beer was what you would expect from Deschutes; if you're a fan, then you'll be a happy camper indeed. My friends and I had high hopes for the food, hyped as a cut above the standard pub fare. In that regard we were disappointed. It was by no means awful, just mediocre. The pulled pork sandwich was pretty tasty. The Cuban sandwich, not so much: the bread was burnt, the filling surprisingly bland given the description. The fries were dreadful. The ones that came with the sandwiches were lukewarm, limp and greasy, and on one plate consisted mostly of small rubble that appeared to have been forcibly dislodged from the bottom of the fryer basket. And the ones our waiter replaced them with when we complained, though piping hot, crisp and golden were badly over-seasoned. There's certainly a lot of potential, though, and it is a fine place to enjoy the full spectrum of Deschutes' brew.

  2. Thanks for the food review! I had a similar french-fry experience, though I wasn't smart enough to send them back.