Yesterday we got an exclusive first look preview of Wayfinder Beer, sure to be Portland’s most ambitious and highly anticipated new brewery of 2016. Wayfinder Beer is the previously secretive new brewery project of Charlie Devereux (Former Double Mountain Brewery owner/founder) who will be collaborating with Matt Jacobson (Sizzle Pie, White Owl Social Club, Relapse Records) and Rodney Muirhead (Podnah’s Pit, La Taq). Enlisting the help of GABF gold medal winning brewer Kevin Davey as Brewmaster, Wayfinder Beer will be located in Portland’s historical inner southeast industrial district near the likes of Produce Row, Hair of the Dog and Bunk Bar at 304 SE 2nd Avenue.
The project began as a collaboration between Charlie Devereux and Matt Jacobson. Charlie had left Double Mountain Brewery (which he helped found) to pursue other ventures and was a fan of Sizzle Pie’s branding and marketing. Jacobson was a big fan of Double Mountain, and the two were both business owners and entrepreneurs. They began looking for spaces, with a few options falling through. Six months later, Charlie was having lunch with Rodney Muirhead (whose acclaimed restaurant, Podnah’s Pit, is known as one of the best BBQ joints in the country) who was looking for his next project after the success of La Taq and Podnah’s, and he asked to come aboard. The answer was a quick and resounding yes. Rodney was also a beer fan already and had collaborated with Charlie on some of the best beer dinners I have ever attended with Double Mountain and Podnah’s.
Fresh off his trip to Germany, Charlie was inspired by that country’s lager beers and drinking culture. Wayfinder Brewmaster Kevin Davey was a clear choice to head up brewing for his passionate love of traditional brewing techniques and as a maker of world class lagers. Davey won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 for the Helles he brewed as head of Seattle’s Gordon Biersch. Before that he spent time at Firestone Walker Brewing and was the head brewer at world-famous lager brewery Chuckanut in Bellingham, Washington. You will know his approach to beer if you are familiar with those of Chuckanut and those of the head brewer that preceded him there–Josh Pfriem, who went on to found pFriem Family Brewers.
You can expect clean classy and refined lagers from Kevin and Wayfinder, which plans to keep two lagers on tap at all times, a Czech-style and a German-style along with a house IPA. I think Helles and Vienna-style lagers–and perhaps a rauchbier–will not be far behind. The beer will be something like a 50/50 lager to ale ratio, and the brewery even has a cereal mash mixer to recreate classic lager mashing techniques that are rarely used in America. The brewhouse is a 4 vessel, 10 barrel brewhouse from JVNW that will produce many styles without adhering to any rules. Beers will be available at the pub as well as self-distribution to begin with, and possibly 22oz bottles coming not too far down the line.
The team has been busy permitting, branding, building out, and clearing other timely hurdles that come with renovating a 100-year-old brick warehouse into a 100+ seat brewery, beer hall, and restaurant with a large beer garden. The parking lot space that serves as a walk-up to the Wayfinder Beer bar area shares a wall with the industrial club Branx and was home of the failed food cart pod The Row. That lot will be built over to have a beautiful 2,200 square-foot wood planked raised deck with trees or bamboo and a fire pit and will take you directly up into the centerpiece bar area.
Off to the left there is a separate entrance that first brings you into the restaurant side, where there is seating along the windows looking out to the patio and an open kitchen. Here Rodney Muirhead and his team will work their magic on a wood oak fired grill similar to the ones at OX and Ava Gene’s. Rodney is bringing Ryan Day and Jeff Rain (both of Podnah’s Pit and La Taq) on as kitchen manager and general manager, respectively. The menu will not be “Podnah’s does brewpub,” but will instead be its own take on American comfort food and pub grub done well. There is no set stylistic influence–you will find housemade sausages and pretzels and in-house baking, along witgh a lunch menu made up of fresh sandwiches. The kitchen will have its own smoker and hearty American items like prime rib and a smoked prime rib cheese steak (my mouth is watering). Rodney is also working on a duck confit banh mi! Rodney is also careful to note that people may expect meat and more meat from his reputation with Podnah’s, but at Wayfinder he plans to grill as many veggies as he does carcasses. Vegetarians may now rejoice.
Wayfinder Beer has basically 4 seating areas for dining and drinking, in small intimate groups or large communal space. The medium-sized centerpiece bar with wood top will have a handful of seats with cozy booths on each side. The patio will feature wood-paneled walls and wooden tables, while the dining room will have large beer hall-style communal tables and the entryway/kitchen space will be more intimate, with 2 and 3 tops. There is a whole lot of wood and brick here to throwback to Americana, but the space will keep enough industrial chic to feel slightly more modern and dark. Perhaps here is where co-owner Matt Jacobson and his in-house art/design team come in with the punk rock aesthetic made so famous at Relapse Records, Sizzle Pie and White Owl, only toned down here to be neither metal nor punk, but to have some of the same edges that those might have. That includes big pieces of pop art hanging around the bar by in-house artist Orion Landau. The space was designed by Portland-based Works Partnership Architecture, which also injected its own sensibilities like new skylights, a steel paneled back bar, and glassware-filled overhang above the bar. Expect 5 or 6 different styles of glassware, including 1 liter mugs.
Speaking of that centerpiece of a bar–It will be managed by veteran Jonathan Carmean, who has spent time at a litany of well known beer bars: Oaks Bottom Public House, The Green Dragon, Saraveza, La Taq, and most recently as manager of Belmont Station’s Bier Cafe. Helping design a cocktail and spirits program is acclaimed local mixologist and writer Jacob Grier, who along with myself spearheaded the beer cocktail revolution and is a noted bartender and spirits rep. Jacob will be designing the cocktail menu and perhaps even clocking a couple of shifts behind the bar.
With an all-star team of acclaimed industry veterans and an ambitious brewery and restaurant program, Wayfinder Beer is undoubtedly the most anticipated and major brewing project in Portland and perhaps the state. Hopefully we will be able to try for ourselves this Spring of 2016.
Follow the Wayfinder Beer progress at https://www.facebook.com/wayfinderbeer/?fref=ts