Sessionable, a new beer bar replacing the former Gestalt Haus and Eugenio’s space at 3588 and SE Division in Portland, celebrated its grand opening for Portland Beer Week last Friday. This intimate, familiar-feeling taproom feels fresh and new, yet also similar to many of the newer wave of taprooms with large flatscreens using DigitalPour to identify dozens of rotating taps and growler fill prices.
This corner brick space has some nice shaded outdoor seating and is just a block away from Victory Bar and a few from Hedge House, which could make for a great craft beer pub crawl with Imperial Bottleshop a bit further down the street and of course Apex and The Beermongers further down.
How Sessionable separates itself is right there in the name, as the bar features an emphasis on session beers. Contrary to what was first reported in Willamette Week, though, Sessionable might be less dedicated to low-alcohol beers known as “session beer” than first thought. To start off, there is a limited liquor selection that sure ain’t sessionable. Co-owner Keith Madras explains, “Our liquor selection consists of 6 locally made spirits: all of our spirits are from Oregon and have been selected for their quality, as well as being able to stand on their own or with a back.”
Indeed, that selection includes Ram Rye 5-year Stein Distillery, Bull Run Bourbon, McCarthy’s Single Malt, Portland Potato Vodka, Land Legs Rum, and Banker’s Gin.
The definition of “session beer” has been a moving target, originally pegged for topping off at the 4% or 4.5% ABV mark, though with the ever increasing alcohol percentages of American beers, the new standard seems to be 5% ABV or below. Madras agrees, “For the purposes of our handles, we define session beer by an ABV under 5%.”
Too often higher alcohol beer is considered higher quality, or at least yielding more bang for your buck. The commenters on the original story about Sessionable opening on WW’s website show that even some educated beer drinkers equate lower ABV beer with being “watered down.” Of course, that is not the truth, and the rise of lower ABV beers is a welcome new trend in the industry, as far as we here at New School are concerned. Still, there are a lot of great beers that do not fall below 5%, and it seems a challenge to keep Sessionable’s thirty taps in that range. It turns out that the bar won’t really be living by that difficult standard, according to Madras.
“During the cold and wet times of the year, we will allow for up to 50% of our handles to fall outside of the 5% range, yet we will not cross that 50% threshold. During the warmer months we will have upwards of 80% of our lineup at or under 5%.”
Those guidelines roughly coincide with the general public’s taste for lighter beers depending on the weather and is probably a smart move, though if you are going in looking to be blown away by the selection of low ABV beers, you are probably going to be disappointed. Sessionable is working on launching a small but tight menu and a collaborative beer with local gypsy nano Brewed by Gnomes.
The small plates food menu consists of a Caprese Salad Sandwich, Italian Sandwich, Charcuterie Plate, Hummus Plate, Half Dozen Oysters, Cheese Plate, Hearts of Palm Dip, Melange of Olives, House-seasoned Spicy Pretzel Sticks, Fried Marcona Almonds, and some simple Little T’s Bakery bread.
Sessionable is a gray and wood space with a loungey dark environment, despite some beautiful big windows. You can sit right up at the bar or over the kitchen and there is an intimate back corner booth and one TV. The signature feature, though, has to be the floating live malt bar top. Sessionable have not set regular hours yet but Sessionable plans to open at 3pm on weekdays and 11am on weekdays and wants to stay open until the later hours. The near future will also see the addition of a bottle selection.
3588 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon 97202