Philadelphia's Steaks and Hoagies in the Sellwood/Eastmoreland neighborhood has for a longtime existed on the outskirts of craft beer drinkers' minds. Many may even forget the brewery's existence until its annual appearances at the Portland Fresh Hop Festival and Cheers to Belgian Beers. It's an unlikely brewery, and an even more unlikely space in what may be the most cramped quarters in town and what was (until recently) the self proclaimed "Oregon's smallest licensed microbrewery." Philadelphia's is also one of Oregon's oldest continually-operating breweries (14th?) and it's finally getting a major and much deserved upgrade.
The new construction directly behind the current Philadelphia's is a multi-story building with some room to grow. It's a big step up from the current closet-sized 3 BBL brewhouse that Head Brewer David Vohden has been working on for the past year. Looking at the mash tun, it doesn't look any bigger than some homebrewer's setups, and the space is so tight that when it's not in use, other office, kitchen, and back of the house supplies are set on top of the covered vessels.
In the past Philadelphia's has been perhaps unfairly maligned by the beer geek community. True, past brewers have turned out some skunky infected beer and owner Steve Moore is not denying it. When he first opened Philadelphia's in 1987 it was a few blocks away from its current location at 6410 SE Milwaukie. When he made the move to the current building in '91 and installed the brewery in '94, he had intended to make incremental growth. 10 years later, after a series of brewers making varying degrees of product, Mr. Moore, a longtime active member of the Oregon Brewers Guild, realized it was time to do something about the limitations of the brewery. Because of the small size of the brewery and limited output of 100 barrels or less a year, the brewing gig was only ever a part-time job and thus had limited appeal to any serious brewers.
|Philly's tiny current walk-in cooler in their basement|
When the new expansion of Philadelphia's is open it will be as a separate but attached business with its own name - 13 Virtues Brewing Co. Among the features of the new space include its own elevated bar that will look down upon the new brewery, which increases fermentation capacity from 9 BBLs to 36 barrels. It will have its own entrance along the side of the building and have a balcony event room. A roll-up garage will house the Philadelphia's food truck, which will open soon for cheap sandwiches. While the current Philadelphia's restaurant is more of a family-friendly lunch spot, the new brewery and tasting room will cater more towards a bar crowd and gathering place. Where the current brewery exists in the back of the building bridges a walkway between the new construction, and in the future it will become a whole new kitchen offering a totally different menu and able to cater for special events.
Below the elevated new tasting room is a barrel room soon to be filled with all sorts of spirits barrels. One example of this is Philadelphia's annual beer for Cheers To Belgian Beer,s a sour Belgian Brown Ale that was spontaneously fermented in barrels. The new space will allow for a lot more playing around and new styles. First among new beers on David Vohden's list to add to the lineup include a proper lager like a Pils and a Schwarzbier to augment the popular Cream Ale, IPA, and habanero pepper ale that use the classic 1056 American Ale yeast.
|owner Steve Moore and Brewer David Vohden|
With construction scheduled for completion in March, it may take a bit longer to install tanks, pipe glycol, and put the finishing touches on the tasting room, but we are very close to adding Philadelphia's back on the Portland brew tour map.
UPDATED Tuesday 7/23/2013 with the previously unknown name of Philadelphia's new brewery: 13 Virtues