First look at West Coast Grocery Company – Brewery Opens Tuesday

The long awaited West Coast Grocery Company brewery will finally open on SE 14th and Stark in Portland, Oregon this Tuesday, July 24th 2018. Owner Charlie Hyde VI wrote two guest articles for The New School (part 1 and part 2) chronicling the breweries long journey of a startup Portland brewery and earned them a spot on our 2017 Most Anticipated Breweries list and the 2018 list as well.

West Coast Grocery Company is named after the now defunct family-owned company that owner Charlie Hyde hails from. West Coast Grocery was a mainstay of the pacific northwest delivering wholesale goods around the area for a hundred year. Hyde originally named the brewery Bodega Beer but that was fraught with controversy so now it’s the apt but confusing West Coast Grocery. Hyde wants West Coast Grocery to be “Your neighborhood corner brewery” much like the neighborhood corner grocery stores once were. His family has been in the wholesale grocery business since 1891 and he is the fifth generation to use the name.

Nods to the family business are everywhere from the vintage coffee and produce boxes above the bar to a sculpture display of shopping carts and an image of the family founder on a new piece of old art hanging from the lower dining area. I enjoyed the small design and branding touches like a small porcelain flower vase shaped like a milk carton or the cant miss wall sized mural of pop art inspired by beer and groceries that also adorns 16oz can shaped glassware. Coolest of all is the glass display cooler in the center of the bar displaying drinks, crowlers and soon some snacks and sandwiches as a to-go option.

Not only is the branding well realized but so is the space. It’s in a new mixed use building that used to be the home of Po’ Boy Art. West Coast Grocery is the anchor tenant of the corner with an entrance on SE Stark directly across the street from Meat Cheese Bread and Beer. The two floor glass windows bring in a lot of natural light and a lot of curious visitors. The space is basically three whole levels, when you come in on the ground level you have a small beer hall type of space with great views to the neighborhood and the brewery. The brewhouse is on a lower level in the corner with the tanks rising up through an open floor adjacent to the entry area. The brewhouse deck actually is on the same level as the public seating.

From the lower level you walk up a short flight of stairs to a main level with the bar and kitchen and exits out to the buildings hallway and other suites. This allows the bar area to sort of float above the brewery and lower beer hall area for a view of both and still captures a little natural light from the wall sized windows. The upper area has standing tables and a corner of comfy lounging area for groups and a shuffleboard table.

West Coast Grocery does have a full kitchen and they are really putting it to use well despite it’s size and limited menu, the food isn’t adventurous but it is excellent. Knowing what people expect at a brewery, Goman didn’t want to surprise his customers but did want to deliver especially tasty versions of bar staples like the asian inspired cpicy wings with pickled daikon radish. The Jalapeno Nacho Cheese has been a big hit on those lucky enough to try them out, it’s made with pork cracklings and wonton chips.  Just about everything is made in house, salted, cured, fermented, aged or otherwise marinated and seasoned with top notch ingredients.They even have their own house cured Bodega Jerky and  then big sandwiches like a Buckman Cheese Burger, a Pork Gyro, Fried Chicken Sandwich or Pork Belly Sandwich. Yes there are also veggie and vegan options including salads, an Impossible vegan Burger and many gluten free options as well.

The brewery side of the business has been a whirlwind. From burst piping, bad glycol setups to a long permitting process, the brewery has taken much longer to begin operations than they thought. But last week they brewed their first beer (Calibration Pale Ale) and today plan to brew their second, a Cream Ale on the shiny new 15 barrel brewhouse from Pioneer Tanks. On opening day West Coast Grocery will have a selection of past collaboration beers and guest taps. Thinking ahead, West Coast founding brewer Steve Balzer (formerly head brewer at Laurelwood Brewing) set up a number of collaborations. Unfortunately, in the biggest hurdle yet for the startup brewery, Balzer was recently offered a high paying head brewing job in Hawaii where he has family. It was an offer he could not turn down. Luckily, there was many noteworthy brewers lined up to take his spot and Owen Woods got the job. Woods has quickly stepped into the role as he is already experienced with a busy brewpub/production space as the head brewer at Deschutes Brewery’s Portland Pub until recently. Woods will have fourteen draft lines to fill at West Coast Grocery and they currently have guest taps: Matchless Brewing Porter, Portland Cider Kinda Dry and Logsdon Wilde Appel Cider. There is no liquor at this point but they do have wines and non-alcoholic beverages by the can!

West Coast Grocery Company house beers:

Shoulder Tap Pilsner (collab with Baerlic Brewing)
Bready character from the German Pilsner malt followed by some slight earthy tones and some juicy hop notes and a slight alcohol finish. 6.12% ABV 25 IBU

Fuzzy Balls Hazy IPA (collab with Victor 23)
Dank and tropical hop aroma popping out of the glass. Notes of grapefruit, pineapple, and tangerine. 6.3% ABV 50 IBU

Norwegian Grisette (collab with Level Beer)
This is a type of Belgian-style low alcohol ale. The malt and hop character takes a back seat to the yeast character. Traditionally Grisettes were low alcohol versions of a Saison for the miners around the area. This version mimics the classic style but with a Norwegian twist. We used Imperial’s Loki yeast, which is derived from Norway and lends some different characteristics from the traditional French/Belgian Saison Yeast. We partnered with Level Beer to make a beer appropriate for the upcoming spring. This easy drinking, quenching Grisette is perfect for a warm sunny day. 4.3% ABV 18 IBU

Bodega IPA (collab with Breakside)
We wanted to mimic some of the characteristics of NE IPAs but with our NW bright clarity. The classic NW IPA malt bill adds a light bodied backbone to the juicy hop character we wanted to accentuate. Predominantly using southern hemisphere hops helps the aroma jump out of the glass with some NW varieties to balance it out. 7% ABV 75 IBU

West Coast Grocery Company is all-ages until about 8pm and will be open regular hours as of Tuesday they will be open 1130am – 10pm Sun – Thurs. and 1130am-11pm Fri and Sat. at 1403 SE Stark Portland, Oregon 97214

Website: westcoastgrocerycompany.com

Instagram: westcoastgrocerycompany

Facebook: WestCoastGroceryCompany

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

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