The Labrewatory opened last October 2015 on N. Russell ve. a few blocks between Widmer Bros. and Ex-Novo Brewing and is now brewing on its 3.5bbl experimental brewhouse from Portland Kettle Works. By the time this is published, the brewery should have 4 or more of its own beers on tap and a few more in the pipeline. For fans of experimental and crazy conceptual beers, this is the place; most of the early beers are pretty off-the-wall and are collaborations with local and visiting brewers, homebrewers, business owners, and other industry folk.
Among the new brews made under the command of The Labrewatory’s new Head Brewer, Charlie Johnson, start with the standard IPA called Hulk S.M.A.S.H. It’s a single malt, single hop beer using only Cascade hops added in the mash and finishing, with none used in the boil. It’s a good example of how much hop flavor and bitterness you can get out of first wort hopping and a showcase of how dank Cascades can taste.
A Cherry Porter full of roast that needs more cherry, a dark Belgian Abbey Ale and a Scotch Ale with a touch of Peaty smoked malt are the less experimental of the lineup.
The beers get much weirder from there–a saison using French saison yeast from Imperial Organic Yeast is full fruit, berry and some banana, but there is a stranger cocoa nibbed version. Don’t think I have ever had a chocolate saison, and because it’s cocoa, that color mostly drops out. It still pours an orange-amber, but has soft milk chocolate notes from the addition of lactose. It still mostly tastes like a saison, or a really fruity and phenolic cold cocoa.
I must admit to being a little scared to drink the Thai soup-inspired beer, based on an idea by Jess of Imperial Yeast and Everybody’s Brewing. This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.
My favorite of the current lineup is a Cherry Gose, which does not sound so strange these days except for the addition of squid ink. Though the guys gave up on trying to make the gose black from the ink, it definitely darkened it up and provides the subtle saltiness. It’s not really very fishy like I worried, but adds a nice background dimension to the pleasant cherry tartness.
None of these beers is likely to be around for too long. At this point The Labrewatory has no house beers or recipes. They are all collaborations or tests and there are plenty of brewers coming in who are ordering equipment from The Labrewatory’s parent company, Portland Kettle Works. Think of The Labewatory as a testing ground for recipes, ingredients, and indeed the equipment itself. Rather than list the rotating and guest tap list on digital tapboards behind the bar as is common these days, The Labrewatory shows the beers fermenting in tanks on a digital tapboard over the brewery instead, while the actual beers on tap are on chalkboards. This sort of thing perfectly encapsulates the focus on what’s happening next in the brewhouse–who is coming in, what do they want to do, etc.
Taplister digital board shows what’s fermenting now
The Labrewatory tasting room is also a cool modern space of steel and salvaged wood and a metalworker’s sense of design and sculpture. It’s a good place to hold a meeting or gathering, and there is even a digital projector installed and roll-down screen for screenings or presentations. For food there are currently tamales served from behind the bar ahead of the opening of Tamale Boy, which is coming soon in the same building.
670 N Russell St.
Portland, Oregon 97227
Thursday 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday – Saturday 3:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm