Yesterday the new Zoiglhaus Brewing opened in the Lents neighborhood of southeast Portland to a welcoming crowd of locals. Brewmaster/Co-owner Alan Taylor was on hand putting on the finishing touches, welcoming customers, and even assisting the chefs in the authentic German cuisine based on his time in and love for the country and its beer. Zoiglhaus wants to be a center for the community and a hub for the neighborhood that has been underdeveloped for some time. Lents has a few new things going for it–a MAX transit line stop, a Boys & Girls Club, and now the Zoiglhaus, with more brand new affordable housing coming soon.
Taylor’s other major partner in Zoiglhaus is Chad Rennaker, owner of Pints Brewing in Northwest Portland where Alan is the brewmaster. Zoiglhaus marks a new collaboration together as a separate but intimately connected business that will share brews but have their own breweries operated by separate LLCs and different ownership stakes and visions. Zoiglhaus is a project that Alan originated with Nick Roberts, who is still an investor. Rather than lose Alan and his sizable contribution to Pints Brewing and its spinoff, Ponderosa Brewing in Albuquerque, NM, Chad Rennaker got on board as an investor in Zoiglhaus and also will invest heavily in the neighborhood by developing new affordable housing in Lents in the open field nearby and at the site of the troubled New Copper Penny Nightclub. Neighbors in this slightly grungy hood have been awaiting Zoiglhaus like the 2nd coming.
Taking over the failed Ararat bakery and nightclub on SE 92nd and Ramona Street, just off Foster Boulevard, Zoiglhaus embodies the obscure tradition of the German zoigl breweries from where the brewery gets its name. Sometimes referred to as a style of beer, “zoigl” is more about the beers that come from a small community called Neuhaus. The name Zoigl is Franconian for “sign” and was a six pointed blue star important in homebrewing. In the 13th and 14th century where everyone had the right to legally homebrew, homes in this community would hang the zoigl sign as an indication beer was available and their neighbors were welcome to come in for beer and food. It’s still a practice that goes on in the region and the Zoiglbier produced–sometimes communally in larger (but still small) breweries–is similar to Keller or Zwickelbier, aka unfiltered and young, fresh kolsch and lagers. Portland’s new Zoiglhaus nods to that tradition both in the sense that it hopes to be a welcome hub for the community for events and gatherings, but also allow other small and up and coming brewers to produce ales in its brewhouse. This tradition will start off with the upcoming Aletruism Brewing brand from the Oregon Public House, but the Zoiglhaus 10-barrel brewery will not be delivered until the end of October.
For now, Zoiglhaus is pouring 9 ales and 1 lager from Pints Brewing in a German to Pacific Northwest theme and renamed for the Lents brewpub. It’s a good time to refresh yourself and/or try the new beers that tend to hew to classic style interpretations. For me, the highlights are the Lents Lager (5% ABV, 22 IBU), brewed light and crisp with a bit of German hop flavor and brewed unfiltered, and the Kicker Kolsch (which Alan admits is not lagered as traditional), but still is appropriately light and easy drinking with a larger hop kick and spiciness. There is also not too sweet Radler, brown Schwarzbier, and more Pacific Northwest stylings like an IPA, single-hop experimental IPA, and a red, among others.
Zoiglhaus is a full brewpub with a pretty complete menu of mostly German fare, and the pub itself is large, open, and bright with some intimate warmer corners. It’s build around a big centerpiece of a “U” shaped bar under a 2 story giant skylight that bathes the whole room in warmth and puts a bright glowing halo over the bar during the day. Finished wood floors accompany warmer wood accents with classic German color scheme choices like blue and green walls over an Oktoberfest orangish-yellow. The 200 seat main floor is split half between all-ages family friendly and half adults-only seating, both with large group tables and more intimate booths. The booths at the front of the building offer a view of the neighborhood, while an intimate back corner has couches and beery reading material with a view into the forthcoming brewery. A smallish event room has its own sitting and standing spaces, through a quiet glass windowed private room. There are TVs sparsely spread out and well chosen spots so that you’re not bombarded with them and can easily find both a good seat to watch or alternatively to not have one in your line of sight at all.
Families and those with small kids will love this new option for food and drinks. Not only do they have a lot of room for parties and groups, but a corner partially closed in kids play area easily visible from some tables and a corner group booth. Which brings us to the size of Zoiglhaus, which is impressive. The main floor is 10,500 square feet with seating for 210-220 but an occupancy of 270. There are downstairs and upstairs floors that may or not be used for gatherings in the future. The upstairs seems a likely expansion if Zoiglhaus is as popular as its potential. There are lots more views of the neighborhood upstairs, a service elevator, and another 7,500 square feet for seating or parties. Even the basement with its cool old historic furnaces seems like an ideal party space or speakeasy.
The food menu at Zoiglhaus runs deeply between German fare that you may not have ever heard of and classic pub food like burgers, fish & chips, and a reuben. Right at the top of the menu there is a big section for “Flammkuchen” which is an Alsatian dish reminiscent of a flatbread pizza in a suitable personal size or sliced up and shared with a table. There are four different types of Flammkuchen like the “Alanation” with onion, thick cut bacon, and crème fraîche, or the “Hanz and Franz” with double smoked German sausage, roasted red peppers, red onion, garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil for $11 to more veggie types with zucchini and mushrooms.
I ordered two of the main dishes on recommendation from Alan Taylor, the Jagerschnitzel of hand pounded pork cutlets with rich mushroom gravy, served with spätzle and a side salad. The sauce was rich and savory, not too salty or buttery, and the pork was cooked medium-rare, more juicy than most. Alan was even busy in the back directing the cooks on how to make a proper spätzle, I tried it two ways, one in the more round buttom shaped cheesy pasta and how Alan preferred it in a more thick stringy shape with a little crispiness. Both were good.
I also got the Zoigl-Bab, an interpretation of the Döner kebab made with marinated steak or chicken and wrapped in a fresh flatbread filled with cabbage, tomato, onion and a lemon-garlic sauce. I loved this sandwich served in a wrap style that reminded me of a gyro but with better tasting meat and sauce, cabbage slices thinly and crunchy with a zesty bite from the sauce. Served with fries, this is a great lunch option. A side salad was ultra fresh and had a great creamy dill sauce but was served on a tiny plate that leaves no room spillover.
I am really looking forward to returning and trying the sausage platter with housemade sauerkraut and warm potato salad (my favorite) as well as the currywurst with fries and definitely the Zoiglhaus German take on a burger with the “A to Z” sauerkraut, smoked gouda, and bacon. They also have a more traditional burger and kid friendly items like a Tuna Melt. The food is also pretty inexpensive with starters averaging at about $8 and main dishes in the $9 to $14 range.
Zoiglhaus Brewing is now Open
Sunday – Wednesday: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Thursday – Saturday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
5716 SE 92nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97266
Phone: (971) 339-2374
See the full menu at http://www.zoiglhaus.com/ follow on twitter at @zhaus_lents and like on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/zoiglhaus