On Wednesday May 9, 2012 Gigantic Brewing officially opened its doors to the public. The industrial brewpub at 5224 SE 26th Avenue in Portland, Oregon’s reputation of esteemed brewers Van Havig and Ben Love preceded the first tastes of beer by most, and with good reason. Havig and Love have both asserted themselves at two of the state’s most esteemed brewers by creating some of the region’s most beloved craft beers. In addition, both have been avid members of the brewing community in a myriad of capacities.
Upon arriving at the squeaky clean new brewhouse off SE Steele Street, it was evident that our anticipation was paralleled by that of many of those around town. Inside the cozy pub side of the operation, it was standing room only with an ever-growing line of zealously thirsty patrons queued up to signify their support. Two new house brewed ales awaited the palates of the faithful on hand. Gigantic’s lone year round offering, their IPA poured continually next to an equally as anticipated Black Saison named “The City Never Sleeps.” In addition to this pair, two collaborative beers, “Hoppy Hoppy Nano Brew”, a brightly zestful IPA brewed at Breakside Brewery with head brewer Ben Edmunds; and “Collabo Wabo”, a red ale brewed with agave nectar at Oakshire Brewing with brewmaster Matt Van Wyk, graced the taps. Also, Upright Brewing’s tart fruit infused barrel-aged “Blend Love”, a beer for whose namesake reflected fellow brewer Alex Ganum’s respect for co-founder Love, was being served.
The IPA was a bold and richly hopped, hazy 7.3% ABV amber-colored ale with a fluffy whitish head and a distinctly assertive floral and resinous lupulin aroma. It was a solid first attempt at their house India Pale Ale that only seemed a tad young and perhaps could have benefited from a touch more conditioning. The Black Saison was simply spot on and easily a shining example of how skillfully crafted such an obscure style could be. The overall consensus of this day’s audience was overwhelmingly positive. The humble seasoned veteran brewers were on hand to work the room, and Havig was enlisted to man the front door to ensure a safe and reasonably comfortable capacity was upheld.
“(The turnout is) fantastic,” said Love with his signature laugh. “It’s great. I’m in a loss for words; it’s awesome.” For Love, a former Pelican and Hopworks brewer this was the realization of a lifelong dream. “It’s great to see so many people from the beer industry and the local neighborhood,” he confessed. From the first pitch about four weeks prior, the steady flow of new faces was a testament to the afternoon’s success.
“Van and I have a good relationship,” Love divulged. “Everything is collaborative, recipes. He’ll stay late. I’ll stay late. Neither of us are the type of guys who have to take care of everything. According to Love, the first steps toward getting the ball rolling with Gigantic began in 2010. “(Havig) was talking with a different guy about starting a production brewery,” Love attests. “I talked about leasing time on the system prior to our partnership. When van left Rock Bottom (in 2010 after 16 years brewing with the company), it was obvious that that brewery wasn’t a right fit for him. We get along so well, it was a good fit.” And now, Love couldn’t be more pleased. “Everything’s going great.” As I spoke with Love, one congratulatory patron ribbed “It looks like you outgrew yourself before the first day is out.”
So how did the founders of Gigantic, a 15-barrel brewery, decide on such an exaggerated name? “Early on” Love explained “we decided that the most beer we were going to make would be 4,000 barrels (annually). We wanted to be involved in every aspect from events and brewing and keep quality really high, not just pushing for more growth.” Love smiled and revealed “I said ‘We’re not going to be just some gigantic brewery.’ Van was like ‘That’s what we’re going to call it.'” Love let us know that Gigantic looks to shoot for “more than sizes scope.” The brewery anticipates on unique label art done with different artists and tie-ins with various musicians talking about beer. “We want to make it interesting beyond just making interesting beer,” he said.
“It feels good” Havig said of the grand opening, admitting, “I’m tired. It’s been a lot of work.” When we finally caught up with Havig about an hour after the doors opened, he made the analogy: “Shit just got Studio 54, except for the fact that it’s Portland, so I’m egalitarian about letting people in and out.” by 5:30 p.m., the pub was utterly packed. Havig referenced the cult classic Strange Brew, stating “It’s good to get out of the brewery, take a little drive.”
Gigantic Brewing will be open to the public Wednesday through Sunday 3-9 p.m. On their second day of business, they will release the season brew named St. Tennenholz, a Golden Ale featuring Great Western pale and C-15 malt as well as Mt. Hood and Simcoe hops and dry hopped with more Simcoes. Soon the brewery also plans to produce “Axes of Evil”, a still to be decided recipe to be developed with Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana., in early June. Also, next month, folks will see the first bottles of the IPA, Black Saison, and “Axes.” For more information, visit Gigantic Brewing’s website, www.giganticbrewing.com.
Angelo grew up in Maine and is proud to call New England his original home. Cascadia is now his home. He fell in love with great beer in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.
He has been a correspondent for the Portland Tribune's Guest on Tap column, LivePDX.com, and has been featured in publications such as Beer Northwest and PDX Magazine. Angelo also has a great interest in independent music, and has been a booker and organizer for shows around the Portland under the name Pop Tomorrow! Angelo garnered much knowledge regarding beer from his experiences homebrewing, working at Belmont Station, Pyramid Brewing, Upright Brewing, By the Bottle, Beer Revolution, Olde Depot Public House, Falling Sky Brewing, Cascade Brewing, and from many many knowledgeable, passionate, and loving people along the way. It is Angelo's mission to bring "infotainment" and "edumation" to the readers of this website. If you have any questions or comments, or would like to contribute, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org