Portland’s 8-year old Migration Brewing is the latest new wave brewery to ride a slow recipe to self-made success rather than instant hype and buzz. Following the brewpub model and building a reliable, solid, self-distribution model, the brewery has now expanded beyond its small brewpub into a second, spacious production facility and pub in Gresham, OR. Not only has the company slowly and carefully grown by not signing on to a distributor until 2017, it used that capital to open the Gresham facility and has smartly attached a family-friendly pizza pub to it and moved to the underserved suburbs.
It’s hard to believe that it’s taken until now for breweries to expand with their own retail/commercial establishments rather than fighting for taps and shelf space. It is even harder to believe that breweries hadn’t been opening pubs in the increasingly more populated and affordable outskirts of Portland. Hopworks got smart to this and opened its Vancouver Pub a couple of years ago. Stormbreaker Brewing just opened a second pub in N. Portland’s St. John’s neighborhood, and Ex Novo Brewing is set to open a Beaverton pub in the near future.
There is little doubt that Migration Brewing will kill it at their new spot; it reminds me a bit of when Breakside Brewery opened its production facility in a Milwaukie industrial park amidst little housing and mostly offices and warehouses. It won’t take long for Migration to tap into the local workers who are starved for a beer and a bite after a long day on the job, with scarcely better than fast food and divey sports bars in the area. Gresham also has a lot bigger population and is perhaps even more starved for craft beer than any other major Oregon city.
Migration Brewing Gresham is just off I-84 at the 181st street Exit 13, just a few blocks north of Halsey in an industrial park. Migration has plenty of space out here to expand production and lots of customer parking as well. The public facing side of the business has large windows and a clean and cool feel to it, with subdued design flourishes from the wood logo sign hung imposingly above the taps to the mural of Mt. Hood, an homage to the great view of the mountain you get from just behind the brewery. The space is simple, minimalist, and welcoming ,with counter service and a menu that differs from the Glisan brewpub and instead goes to a Philly-style menu of bubbly, toasty pizzas and sandwiches, subs and salads.
Currently, Migration Gresham has eleven house beers on tap and a Reverend Nat’s Cider. If you haven’t had a Migration beer in a while, give them another, shot as the brewery has been steadily getting better and better. A “Proper Pilsner” makes for a solid stab at the style and excellent refresher, and it also likely precedes a series of regularly brewed lagers–mostly Pilsners–that Migration can now afford to do once the new production facility comes online. The taplist is also pretty varied, with a standard emphasis on hops like two hazy IPAs, one made with guava, more west coast- style crushable pales are welcome for summertime. Check out the Petite Pale, a collaboration with Upright with its distinct twinge of Belgian spicy yeast. Manhattan Transfer is the cocktail-inspired beer made for the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, and HiLi Brut IPA is a collaboration with Baerlic Brewing and the best Brut IPA interpretation I have had so far.
The pizza at Migration Gresham is very impressive–straight out the gate, it’s solid. Some local pizza pros who were sitting with me were even impressed by the bubbly crust with just enough of slightly charred edges and an extra cheesy slice, gooey but not too oily. The house chili oil is also a welcome touch. The pub service and food are not without their problems, though; all should probably be forgiven, since this was the soft opening and the pub was slammed, but it took half an hour to get a beer and the staffer running our line seemed to have no idea how to run the POS. Later our pizza was skipped over, lost, and eventually came out an hour late, and when we asked to get a box they didn’t return with one, either. I imagine all of this will be worked out and despite the hiccups the quality of beer and food was good and I am betting if you come back in a few weeks these kinks will be worked out.
Behind the bar is 2,500 sq. ft of production space and a new Practical Fusion 20bbl brewhouse. With it there are three 40bbl fermenters and three 20bbl fermenters, all of which barely make a mark on the space, so there is a ton of room to grow. Plans are laid out for a canning line in the corner, so look for 12oz cans and 6-packs of Patio Pale and Straight Out Of Portland IPA to hit in September through Columbia Distributing. Future plans include an event space and an outdoor patio, while the brewery hopes to go from about 1,500 barrels of production to 4K this year and 5K the next. The production space frees up a ton of room for fun beers and experiments at the original Glisan pub, and there is room for around 100 oak barrels to age beer in Gresham. So look forward to more variety, as if the Grisette, Brut IPA, and cocktail beers are not variety enough.
Migration Brewing Gresham is now open Sun – Thurs 11am to 9pm and Fri & Sat 11am to 10pm.
18188 NE Wilkes Rd, Gresham, OR 97230