Review: Spints Alehouse

Spints Alehouse recently opened on the new “3 Corners of Beer”, just off NE 28th and Glisan in an old leather shop. That may sound bad, but the space is great, and you would never know it was ever anything but a restaurant/bar. The decor is very warm and inviting – dimly lit with candles and beautiful mahogany tables and bar. I am going to attempt a review of Spints, keeping in mind I am no food critic or Cooking Asshole.

From their website, owner Alyssa Gregg writes:

Spints is an alehouse featuring Northern European cuisine and eclectic blend of local and regional beers. In addition, our cocktail menu focuses on local distillers along with in-house craftsmanship. I will be acting as both owner and executive chef.

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The cuisine’s main focus is on traditional German food, but has some influence from Belgium and Northern France to add some lighter fare. Overseeing the management of the bar is Ted Charak, formerly of Teardrop Lounge.


Grub:
True to the description, Spints offeres a weekly ‘Dirty Pretzel’ special. On my most recent trip, the pretzel was topped with chili, cheese, sour cream and cilantro. Previous Dirty Pretzels have been wrapped in house-made bacon and filled with egg. I wish I had tried that one! The chili pretzel was not bad at all, but I didnt feel was really stand-out. It was odd eating chili with a knife and fork.
I paired an Grand Teton Bitch Ceek ESB with it. Not an ideal pairing, but the breadiness of the beer went well enough with the pretzel and a little bitterness lingered to balance out the creaminess of the dish. Next time I might try it with the dry, spicy and tart Upright Six on tap ($5 a pint).

Chicken puff pot pie $7

This is very tasty and hearty. It’s cooked very well, with a perfect, rising, soft and crispy crust. It tends towards letting the bread and chicken provide the flavor without leaning on spices. Very English-esque and well done.
I was in a hoppy beer mood, so I paired a Double Mountain IRA with it ($5 a pint).

Not pictured is their excellent beef stew that is served with a honey biscuit for $7 (or $4 on the happy hour menu). I really enjoyed it, and it was quite filling for a modest portion. I loved the biscuit pairing.

But the best thing I have had so far at Spints was their Octopus Shrimp and Steelhead mixed grill three ways, which was $17. By far the most well-seasoned of the dishes I have tried, it was served with some baked crusty bread, cilantro and a well-spiced cream sauce. The shrimp and octopus were cooked perfectly to be crispy, but not dry. Pairing a slice of the bread soaked in the sauce with seafood was an excellent combo, and this is saying a lot coming from me as I am not usually much of a seafood fan.

The dishes at Spints are also constantly changing. On my most recent visit the Octopus and Shrimp was accompanied by Pepper Coulis and Chips instead of the steelhead.

Desserts:
I have not had a chance to try any yet, but they sound very promising.

TheBlood Orange Creme Brulee ($5) has me the most interested, as I love me some creme brulee, and blood orange sounds like a pretty unique twist.

Pear Bread Pudding $5
Citrus Tart $5
Chocolate Cognac Tartlet $5
Cranberry Orange Upsidedown Cake $5
Apple Tart Tatin $5

The Beer:

At last count they had 14 taps pouring a variety of beers, a mix of English, Belgian, German and West Coast selections. Though they have a good variety, I think they could be better chosen. For example, many of their European-style beers are actually American interpretations, like Bayern Schwarz (blah), Heater-Allen Dunkel (solid) and Fearless Scottish (weak). The local selections are Double Mountain IRA (can’t go wrong with this), Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (solid but common), Oakshire Espresso Stout (strong up and comer) and very expensive Belgians like the Duchesse de Bourgogne and Nostradamus (both $11 a pint!!).
Beers are offered in various sizes, most in 12, 16 and 20oz pours. They are a bit spendy, which has been the major complaint I’ve heard on Spints. Local beers are going for $5 a pint on average. That might fly downtown or on NW 23rd, but in this locale we are used to our $4-4.50 pints, especially for commonly-available beers like Ninkasi and Double Mountain.
If these selections don’t seem promising, Spints is slowly rotating the taps. There were about 3 new beers on my last visit.
There is also an extensive bottle list that has more imported selections like Aecht Schlenkerla Helles $8, Ommegang Hennepin, Val-Dieu Grand Cru, De Ranke XX Bitter, and more West Coast beers such as Ninkasi Believer, Lompoc C-Note, Green Flash Le Freak and Great Divide Samurai.
Most of these are overpriced as well. I don’t have something to compare the prices to in front of me, but I would say many of these are 75%-85% marked up over retail.You should expect bottles in a restaurant or bar to be at least a few bucks more then retail price, but these are going beyond that.

Happy Hour and Bar Specials:
To offset a bit higher prices Spints does have a pretty good happy hour. They offer a select beer for $3 a pint. Last time I had a Laurelwood Workhorse IPA.

There are also many small plates from their usual menu, like a cheese plate, charcuterie plate, beef stew and the Dirty Pretzel, all for about $3 less than their regular price.
I believe HH runs from 4-7, but I can’t find it posted on their website or facebook page.



Conclusion:
I hear a lot of complaints about the lack of good dining in Portland’s good beer spots. It is true that there are not a lot of options here beyond your typical pub food in most places you find good beer, the notable exception being Higgins (I am a fan of the Widmer Gasthaus as well).

Along comes Spints with great food and a respectable beer list that I think will continue to improve. Let’s keep in mind that they have only been open a short while.

If your not prepared to drop a little coin for a great meal and excellent beer, then Spints might not be the spot for you. I would certainly frequent it more often if it was a bit cheaper on the wallet.Sometimes you do have to pay a little more for quality.

On my rating scale of 0-5 I give them a 4.0 Slightly less if we took into account affordability.
If you would like to check out Spints for yourself, they have a couple cool events coming up that I would recommend checking out.

Upcoming Spints Events:
Thursday, February 11th
Weiberfastnacht “Women’s Carnival”
Spints will be letting the ladies run loose on this night with cocktail and dessert specials for the female persuasion. Men are welcome to come and try to tame the shrews.

Sunday February 14
Spints Alehouse will be hosting a 3-course prix fixe dinner on Valentine’s Day.
The dinner menu will be finalized the week prior to Valentine’s to ensure product availability. The cost is $45 per person for the food, and for an additional $25 per person each dish will be paired with a choice between a beer, wine or cocktail.
We will be reserving the seats in the dining room for the event and leave the bar open to the public for the evening.
For reservations or questions please call 503-847-2534
Menu below:
Quark Mousseline flamed oysters with a celery root bisque
——
Smoked Poussin, stuffed with ham, anchovies, olives and brioche, topped with cured lemon gremolata

or

Dungeness crab, blood orange and chickpea egg nudels with meyer lemon butter

——–
dessert duet & digestif duet

http://spintspdx.com/

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=121021&id=150458869085#!/pages/Portland-OR/Spints-Alehouse/150458869085

http://twitter.com/spintsalehouse

(I have no idea what this dish was. Looks good, though.)

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

Discussion

  • pdxbrit
    pdxbrit
    Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:31 PM

    We went in a couple of weeks ago and the both the food and service was excellent. It was a little on the spendy side, so it wont be a regular stop. That said we loved the atmosphere and will definitely make a return visit.

    • jim_goodbyeohio
      jim_goodbyeohio
      Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:00 AM

      don’t forget saraveza when speaking of good beer bars with great food.. and reasonably priced too.

      the import beer prices at spints really chap my ass. first off, what the fuck is a spint? secondly, why are you selling belgians by the pint? (and even larger, too, IIRC). i’ll tell you why- they’re catering to the yippie with loads of expendable income who view beer-centric gastropubs as the chic trend of the week.

      beer is the drink of the common people, not something you should drink from overpriced frou-frou restaurants OR airport lounges. pricing beer high for the sake of maintaining a false image of high quality is total bullshit.

      i visited spints once, and i will certainly not return for beer. keep your eye out for me.. i’ll be the one trying some small plates of food, sipping on my free water….

      • Bill Night
        Bill Night
        Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:00 AM

        Ezra, you left out the most vital piece of information. How are we supposed to pronounce “Spints” — rhymes with “pints” or rhymes with “mints”?

        [I was going to make that comment yesterday, but forgot until Jim’s comment reminded me.]

        • Samurai Artist
          Samurai Artist
          Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:54 AM

          I think its pronounced like ‘spin’ with a ‘ts’ that is just what I have heard though. Not sure.

          Jim,
          after going there 4 times and talking with the manager and cook they clearly really care about the beer. They arent as geeky or no as much as you or I about it, that is true but they are definitely into it and not just for the image.
          Yeah it is too expensive but they are also new to running a restaurant and are still figuring things out. And the food is excellent.
          People that like good food and like creating dishes always can appreciate craft beer. These things go hand in hand.
          You should give them another shot later on. I know when you went they had only been open a couple of days. Plus they do cool events all the time that are a bargain.

          I went there once for a buffet where they had laid out fresh salmon, fine cheeses, salads, charcuterie, hand-made sausages, desserts and more and it was all you can eat for $10.

          • pedXer
            pedXer
            Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:53 AM

            The pronounciation has been bothering me as well, should have asked when I was there.

            Anyway, I went to spints once to eat a drink with family that were visiting around christmas. We went on the day that they were doing the buffet instead of the regular menu (day after christmas?), and we were very disappointed.

            The beer list was good enough. Not beer geek good, but it was easy enough to find something to enjoy.

            The buffet was just… bad. The offerings were sparse, and the tastiest thing available ended up being the ceasar salad.

            We were informed, half way through our dinner, that they were also serving sausages, so we each ordered one, and after they finally came out, they were greasy to the point of making them a bit of chore to get down.

            Having said that, the food you have pictured, and the descriptions on their regular menu look good, and I’ll probably give them a second chance. They weren’t open long, and it was the day after christmas, and it wasn’t a normal menu (something they had practice at), so it might have just been the wrong night to go.

            Still, with “alehouse” in the name, I expected a slightly better beer list.

            The beers were all over-priced. In another city, I wouldn’t mind paying the premium, but in a place where the same (or better) beers are available within a block or two, for significantly less, it’s a big let down.

            If the regular menu is as good as it looks; with a slightly more dialed in beer list, and more realistic pricing, this could be a place I’d regularly frequent.

            I love the design and feel. Dark and rustic, but still hip.

            For beer selection, food quality, and price right now, there are better options. Hopefully Spints makes the necessary adjustments. This place has a lot of “untapped” potential.

            • Samurai Artist
              Samurai Artist
              Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:14 AM

              pedXer,
              sounds like we mostly felt the same but I liked it a bit more. When I was there for the buffet they were constantly changing the foods. It was not the same stuff they just kept on making. So maybe the selections werent as good when you werent there. Or maybe we just have different taste.
              I would suggest you try the stew and the Octopus Shrimp plate.

              I also am curious if anyone has any suggestions for places that have good beer and good food? Not pub food but something a little beyond.

              What are peoples options who want a good beer and fine food but not a burger?
              And I think we all know Higgins so we can leave that off.

              • pedXer
                pedXer
                Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:05 PM

                It’s not my favorite place to grab a beer, but if we’re talking about food options that are at least as good as Spints, with a better beer list, there’s always Henry’s. I know there are much better places to eat in town, but so far, I don’t think Spints has set the bar too high when you’re looking for comparisons.

                You’re right though, there aren’t really many places that have a beer geek approved beer list and foodie approved menu. Generally you have to make a little bit of a compromise on one or the other.

                Wild Abandon always has something I’m happy to drink, but nothing that I’d get excited about.

                When eating at Le Pigeon, you can have a saison dupont or Traquair Jacobite with your meal.

                The Farm is another one that always has something on their list I’m happy to drink.

                • pedXer
                  pedXer
                  Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:31 PM

                  Oh, and it might not be exactly what you’re looking for here, but Apizza Scholls always has a really good beer list. It IS pizza, but the level they take their pizza to certainly bumps them above the “pub grub” level. If you haven’t already, get whatever type of pizza you like there, but have them add the black truffle oil.

                  http://www.apizzascholls.com/beerwine.htm

                  • Bill Night
                    Bill Night
                    Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:46 PM

                    @pedXer: Man, I’ve got to get over to the Farm, it’s been years. I heard they expanded their beer list — can you give more details? Oh yeah, and Henry’s? You can’t be serious.

                    Couple foodie places with about 4 good beers on tap: Accanto, Beaker and Flask. In the past few weeks at Accanto I’ve had Tricerahops, Sleigh’r, and Upright Seven.

                    • pedXer
                      pedXer
                      Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:05 PM

                      Hey Bill, as I stated above, I don’t think Henry’s is a foodie destination by any account, but given my experience at Spints, it’s a better option. Also, their taplist is definitely better.

                      • Jason
                        Jason
                        Sat Feb 13, 2010 11:12 AM

                        The food is really good and continuing to evolve, especially now that Martha’s on board, at the Hop and Vine. Not an over-the-top gastropub experience, but a lot better than the typical pub-grub.

                        Disclosure: I work there.

                        Honestly though–I wouldn’t post if I was just shilling for the place. The food really is good.

                        • Brian msubulldog25
                          Brian msubulldog25
                          Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:20 PM

                          Ezra:
                          I’ll add ‘Fats’ on NE 30th/Killingsworth to the good food/good beer list. Usually 8-10 taps & about 40 bottles…a higher level of ‘British Pub Fare’. Someday I’ll get around to a BA review (we’ve been probably a dozen times for brunch or dinner)…
                          We helped them fine tune the beer list before they opened last fall…
                          Brian

                          • Samurai Artist
                            Samurai Artist
                            Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:56 AM

                            Thanks for the suggestions everybody.
                            PedXer, I really dont think Henry’s is anywhere near as good of food as Spints. Maybe you should try it again now that they have been open awhile and from their regular dishes.

                            I have not been to Accanto or Fats yet so I will have to check them out.

                            A Pizza Scholls is a good suggestion. Anyone tried Dove Vi Vi? Not a big beer selection but well chosen and has the best pizza in town I think. Very unique.

                            I also forgot to mention Ned Ludd as a great restaurant and beer spot.

                            Ezra

                            • pedXer
                              pedXer
                              Thu Mar 4, 2010 7:25 PM