The long awaited, highly delayed, Ross Island Brewing opens its taproom today, Thursday, January 26th, with a handful of collaboration beers and guest taps. Brewer Carston Haney, an Alameda Brewing alumnus, and partner Maude Haney have done an excellent job turning an inconspicuous garage space on lower SE Powell in Portland into a welcoming little taproom with some Oregon outdoorsy kitsch.
Located at 730 SE Powell directly across the street from Blue Sky Portland Marijuana Store which is also right by Lucky Devil Lounge strip club, a nexus that along with Ross Island Brewing we dubbed “Portland as Fuck” when we previewed it way back in July of 2015. The beer lineup so far points towards 90’s brewpub classic styles, with a lack of hop heavy and sour beers, and actually a broad range of styles.
Behind the bar, you will likely find taproom manager “Mike the Kiwi” (not the same as Portland’s other NZ beer expat, “John the Kiwi”) presiding over eight beers on tap and one hard cider. There are more faucets, though, and installation of a nitro tap and real cask beer engine that will be coming online soon.
You might want to start with Ross Island’s best of three collaboration beers, “Bad Precedent Vienna Lager” made with Burnside Brewing. Lightly malty and nutty, full bodied yet crisp and not very hoppy. Move on to the required “TNT IPA” brewed with Alameda Brewing, then you might have a real beer flashback. I did, to beers I was enjoying circa 2008, like Roots Organic Woody IPA. It’s a sturdy, bold, almost woody IPA without the ton of citrus and tropical fruit of most of the IPAs being brewed these days. Finish with Ross Island’s “Strong Ale” collaboration with Culmination Brewing, a robust but not over-the-top mix of caramel malts and hops. Or, if you prefer to venture out of Ross Island’s collaborations, you certainly can’t go wrong with an Upright Engelberg Pils or other guest taps from Baerlic, Montavilla Brew Works, Culmination, Alameda, and neighbors Bushwhacker Cidery.
The tiny taproom has a handful of bar seats, a couple of high top and low tables, and drinking rails. The decor is straight out of “Jeremiah Johnson,” or for you younger readers, “The Revenant.” The big feature is a large wood canoe from 1912 hanging over the bar, just like the one that Leonardo DiCaprio used to escape a Native American war party in The Revenant. Decor includes a full mounted bull’s head, old skis, snowshoes, old horse brass and tack, and even the classic mounted bass fish. The only thing missing is the carcass of that bear who had his way with DiCaprio. Reminding us we are not out in a hunting cabin, local art and photography accompany hanging plants in a warmly lit green and brown glow, all of which are reminiscent of your bookish outdoorsy friends living room.
A window alongside the bar next to the taps offers a peek inside the back room where the brewing will hopefully getting done in the coming weeks. Along the wall a copper workhorse of a JVNW 7bbl brewhouse that came from Golden Valley in McMinnville is nearly finished being piped, and a row of four conical fermenters sit at the ready.
Ross Island Brewing has no kitchen, but that issue is happily solved by building neighbors The Local Grind, a purveyor of island-style BBQ that operates a number of food carts and has its kitchen headquarters next door. When fully up and running you should be able to order from The Local Grind at the taproom and have it brought over (though that service is not up and running yet). Also, you will be able to bring in outside food (The Hotcake House is only a block away!).
Opening hours are 3pm – 12am today, Thursday, Jan. 26th, Friday and Saturday Noon – midnight, Sunday noon – 11pm.
Starting next week the regular hours will be Tues – Thurs. Noon – 11pm, Fri. – Sat. Noon to Midnight, Sun. Noon – 11pm.
Ross Island Brewing
730 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202