When Old Town Pizza opened a second rather impressive location in 2008, proprietor Adam Milne was already thinking about installing a craft brewery.Now that thought has become a reality.
You may have noticed, if passing by the restaurant and pub at 5201 NE Martin Luther King, JR Blvd, that his goal is now coming to fruition. On the east side of the building, Old Town has allotted a cozy 20 x 17 foot to housemade craft beer. A 7-barrel combi-unit system features a hot liquor tank below a mash tun. “It is the nicest, most compact brewery” Milne says.
Milne has been using all of the resources at his disposal to get the brewery running like a well-oiled machine. He has enlisted head brewer Scott Guckel, a seasoned Rock Bottom brewer originally form Milwaukee, Wisconsin, spent time brewing at various locations for the brewpub chain including Cleveland (one of the company’s first locations, as well as their Chophouse brewpub), San Jose, and San Diego before landing in back in Beervana. Guckel (who says his name has been described as “halfway between a “giggle” and a “chuckle”; I’m using that for the rest of my life”) cut his teeth in the brewing industry washing kegs at McMenamins Edgefield brewery. At his last job, brewing in San Diego’s Rock Bottom, Guckel says “It was the second or third busiest Rock Bottom when I left. It was a good feeling being in a very very busy spot.” According to the brewer, the location produced about 2,200 barrels that year.
Milne is thrilled to have his new brewer and excited to turn what was dining space into brewing space. And why wouldn’t he be? His beautiful 6,100 square foot pub that has made use of, according to Milne “more reclaimed wood than anywhere in Oregon”, now feels complete. “I thought about doing this for about five years” Milne says. “I didn’t want to bite off more than I can chew. But I don’t just want to be a restaurant that has beer. I want people to want the beer alone.”
As well as enlisting the work of Gickel, Milne hired former Roots Organic Brewing co-founder Craig Nicholls for the purposes of consulting. Nicholls, a former head brewer at the now defunct Port Halling Brewery as well as with Alameda Brewhouse and others has been working with breweries across the country in much the same manor to advise in anything from equipment decisions to growth capacity. His new enterprise – Turnkey Brewery Consulting Group is a subsidiary of Roots Organic Brewing. One main hurdle to clear is working with increasing barrage in this small neighborhood brewhouse. But with the ambiance and food and beverage quality at Old Town being some of the city’s best, the sky appears to be the limit. “The Old Town theme opens a lot of barriers”, Nicholls says. Milne agrees. “We want to maintain a feel of the 1890’s” he says. “I have this vision of delivering beer like milk. Two cargo pedal bicycles parked out front of the establishment appear to be a means.”That’s going back to the 1890’s” he says. “Get your weekly drop-off.”
For now, the beers are fermenting away. We were happy to enjoy the first finished batch of porter available at the pub. A very well built beer, there seems little doubt that this brewery team is prepared to prevail in their corner of Beervana. Also sampled from the brite tanks was a pale ale, an IPA, an unfiltered wheat, and an Irish red. “We are still fairly limited on the hops available to us” Guckel says, using a majority of Cascades. However, the dynamic flavors that the brewmaster is able to conjure from what he has at his disposal is uncanny.
Old Town Pizza will debut their spectrum of finished brews on March 16, 2012. Check out their website at www.oldtownpizza.com and visit their original location at 226 NW Davis Street (between 2nd and 3rd Ave) in downtown Portland. Thanks to these kind folks and to John Foyston of The Beer Here for cluing us in on this righteous new brew spot.