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First Look at Hopworks’ New Vancouver Brewpub

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Matt "Speck" Speckenbach heads up the new 8bbl Brewpub in Vancouver

Matt “Speck” Speckenbach heads up the new 8bbl Brewpub in Vancouver

Hopworks Urban Brewery, affectionately known as HUB, opens TODAY at 17707 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd in Vancouver, Washington. It’s no secret that Vancouver’s ever-expanding beer scene has transformed the north bank of the Columbia River from a beerless wasteland into a beer destination in its own right. But today, Hopworks raises that bar by bringing its brand of brews and bicycles to The ‘Couve.

 

Mt. Hood looms large in the distance as seen from HUB's mezzanine space.

Mt. Hood looms large in the distance as seen from HUB’s mezzanine space.

 

Last night, Hopworks owner Christian Ettinger invited industry folks like SW Washington brewers, Portland brewers, and taproom owners to join the families of HUB staff and contractors who worked to build the facility for a special night of food, fun and beer! It was a lot to take in, so I’ll simply share with you my own personal experience.

 

Hopworks Vancouver

 

The Space

Right off the bat, Hopworks in Vancouver is awe-inspiring. The design of the building complements the new construction around East Mill Plain that has developed the area between 164th and 192nd into a tech hub and shopping center on what was mostly cow pasture and barns a mere decade ago. [Insert snarky quip about Vancouver shedding its ‘Vantucky’ moniker here.]

Walk through the door and you’re met with a greeting station. Pick up some cans to go here, or let them know how many there are in your party to be seated. Or, bypass it to the left and head for the bar.

The bar pays homage to Hopworks’ two other Portland facilities with a rack of intermittent bicycle frames stretching from one end to the other. Pull up a stool and you’re facing the 8-barrel brewhouse that was only recently trucked in from Rock Bottom Brewery in Washington, D.C. The brewery itself is still about a month away from Matthew “Speck” Speckenbach being able to play freely on the new-to-HUB system. He spent the evening touring folks through the brewery with the joy of a child shaking presents under the Christmas tree. You could tell he knows what’s in store and just can’t wait to tear open the box to start playing with his toys.

One other noteworthy interior item, and then we’ll get into the food and beer. There are not one but TWO children’s play areas set up, one on the main floor and one on the mezzanine. It is very apparent that HUB wants moms and dads in the sprawling family-centric suburb to relax, grab a beer and let the kiddos play nearby.

 

Hopworks Vancouver

 

The Food

On this preview night, there were no menus to order from. Rather, a buffet of what I can only assume will be menu staples was spread out near the bar. I didn’t eat one of everything, but I probably could have. My doctor told me that same morning that I needed to cut back on the carbs (but what the hell does he know anyway?).

The first thing in my mouth were the ranch dry-rub chicken wings. I could stop there, but I won’t. They were delicious. Next were these short, dense finger-length breadsticks served with a creamy cheese-based sauce. Also, delicious. Finally, I tried two of what must have been 7 or 8 different pizzas I saw throughout the night. One was a Pizza Margherita-style and the other was described on sight by someone at my table like this: “That looks like what my rabbit at home eats.” This pizza had a lot of vinaigrette-soaked leafy-ness on top with nuts and feta cheese. I’m no food critic and won’t even attempt to play that role. I’ll use this word again: Delicious. All of it.

 

HUB Vancouver view from 2nd level

HUB Vancouver view from 2nd level

The Beer

Enough about buildings and food, dammit. You came here to read about beer.

First, a quick update on the Fortside and Hopworks collab you probably already read about here. It’s not quite ready for opening day as anticipated. You’ll have to come back January 2nd for Bale Out IPA.

Here’s what I drank and what I thank, er, thought…

VIPA

V is for Vancouver. IPA is for IPA. This is the first beer HUB has brewed exclusively for Vancouver. A little Munich malt jams with the 2-row backed up by a hop bill that includes Amarillo and a little Cascade hops. It goes down as easy as a session, but carries a 7.2% ABV. Please, sir. May I have another?

Ferocious Citrus

New England-style haze haters to the left. This IPA is cloudy AF. There’s wheat in the malt bill and grapefruit added to this Ruby Red-lookin’ offering. I’m a sucker for citrus and this one checks all the boxes for me.

IPX Mosaic

The latest in HUB’s series of experimental single-hop IPAs features the Mosaic hop. The daughter of Simcoe hops, Mosaics are named for the artistic assortment of aromas and flavors they’re capable of presenting. That bouquet of tangerine, rose blossoms, earth and grass is a wonderful thing to smell and taste.

Velvet ESB

I had to have a pint of one of the first ESBs I’d ever had back when Hopworks first opened on SE Powell in Portland. This ESB is everything an ESB should be. Let me just say this: The world needs more ESB!! It’s an old-school style, but remains one of my personal favorites. I understand that it’s a difficult style to describe and challenging to market as the letters stand for ‘Extra Special Bitter’. Keystone Light taught us that “bitter” is bad thing in the early-90s. But the letters ESB have always stood for ‘Empire Strikes Back‘ in my world. Therefore, it is time for this style to take it’s rightful place at Darth Vader’s side and rule the galaxy as father and son. End sci-fi/beer geek rant. #RIPCarrie

 

HUB Vancouver view from 2nd level

HUB Vancouver view from 2nd level

If you’re still reading this, I’m impressed. I would have stopped just after that pic of Mt. Hood and to Hopworks at 17707 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, Washington. They’re open Fridays & Saturdays from 11am to Midnight and Sundays through Thursdays from 11am ’til 11pm.

 

Hopworks owner Christian Ettinger with fellow Vancouver area brewers

Hopworks owner Christian Ettinger with fellow Vancouver area brewers

Michael Perozzo is a life-long resident of Southwest Washington and a beer-loving father of 4. At his day job, he leads a digital marketing team supporting food/beverage clients at ZZoom Media. Michael helped start Brewcouver – the passport to Vancouver’s breweries – and co-founded North Bank Beer Week. Portland Trail Blazers fans may remember him as DarthBlazer.

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