John Harris Mashes In at Ecliptic Brewing
The New School was there for Ecliptic Brewing's first brew day yesterday with owner/brewmaster John Harris. Ecliptic is probably the most anticipated new brewery to open since Gigantic, with a brewmaster who has already made a name for himself at McMenamins, Deschutes, and Full Sail. John Harris is known as one of the true all-stars in the industry, a man who has done it all.
The first brew day was for a modest but sure to be tasty pale ale, a calibration brew to help work out the kinks in any brand new plumbed system, and mutual friends Charlie Devereux (previously of Double Mountain) and Charles Culp were there to help. With only a couple of very minor issues, the first beer went off without a hitch. It was great to see John back in action after over a year of being between gigs, though he has kept busy with collaboration brews while Ecliptic was being built out.
The photo above is from my first visit to the Ecliptic Brewing space (825 N. Cook street on Mississippi), which at the time was nearly empty. How far they have come with building out the space in only 4 or so months is astounding.
This photo is taken from about the same place and shows the brewery off to the left, which is near the roll-up doors and front of the building. It also gives you an idea how big this building is. There is still plenty of space to expand, and unpictured behind the camera is a huge walk-in cooler for keg storage, as well as the entire kitchen and restaurant/bar.
John isn't content to have the restaurant and bar be merely a vehicle for his beer, but instead wants it to stand on its own feet as terrific eatery that will also pair well with craft beer. The modest mid-sized restaurant space at 3,000 sq. ft. in the corner of the building takes up an "L" shape, with an interesting bowtie-shaped bar on the north side.
Pictured above is the west side of the brewpub that features the bar and an entrance on the south side. Around the corner at the end of the bar and to the right is the rest of the brewpub with restaurant seating.
Pictured here is the front area of the brewpub as seen through a glass window into the brewery. The kitchen will be through that doorway and window, near the center in gray. On the other side of it to the left is the bar area pictured in the previous photo. Notice the wood railings being constructed above the kitchen area on a balcony level, which could become a nice event space that looks down upon the whole brewpub.
A stack of used kegs with the Ecliptic "E" painted boldly in red sit in a back corner along with a piece of brewing history--an original fermentation vessel from McMenamins ,complete with wood paneling.
John Harris has been pretty mum about what he plans to brew at Ecliptic Brewing, but I know that in addition to being a master of the classic styles like pale ales and other English-style beers he has a keen interest in brewing more Belgian styles. He spent the last 20 years brewing at Full Sail, which did not allow for there to be either fruit beers or "wild" ales with brettanamyoces or lactobacillus in the brewhouse, and I am pretty sure we will eventually see some of both from Ecliptic. As proof, John's never-officially-released experimental fruit and wild beer from Full Sail called "The Manhattan Project" has been sampled out at special events over the years.
John looked right at home in the new brewery, moving from one piece of equipment to the next. Though serious about his work, I could tell from the hop in his step he was excited to be back to doing what he does best. I doubt it's far from his mind, though, that everyone everywhere wants to know when they will be able to try one of his brews where it is made, and while no opening is set, I heard the date October 21st tossed around in a rumor. John says if everything goes as quickly as it has been the last couple weeks, then 3 weeks from now might be a good time to come looking for a beer and a bite at Portland's newest brewpub.