Salem, Oregon-based Vagabond Brewing has officially opened its long-awaited Portland location in The Dairy Building. Vagabond is known for being founded by Marine veterans who turned a non-descript commercial space in Salem into a popular spacious hangout spot and parlayed that into opening a Salem-centric beer bar called Victory Club, and more recently the Vagabond Brewing Outpost in Albany. Until now, we rarely saw Vagabond Brewing’s beers in the Portland-metro area, but it’s clear they have come along way since I first visited them in Salem in 2014.
Vagabond Brewing PDX is a bright, full service restaurant that uses a salvaged 1958 Cessna 310B plane as both the centerpiece of the pub and the new locations distinct logo. As we wrote about in December, Vagabond’s team traveled to Canada to get the plane and bring it back to Portland, where they hoisted into the rafters on a second floor mezzanine, half hanging over the wall as if it’s about to land on the main floor.
The long bar runs almost the entire space with with a finished wood beam bar, partial white kitchen tiling on the back wall, yellow, orange and red horizontal racing stripes separate the tile from a blue wall with a small curated selection of liquor, a television, and taplist. The whole space mishmash of horizontal and triangular lines, and bright warm colors looks like where the cast of 80’s era Reading Rainbow would go to burn off steam after filming. That’s not an insult, just an observation; the multi-level, roll-up doors and shared parking lot could certainly make it a destination in this quickly redeveloping urban industrial area.
Vagabond PDX pours from 19 taps with 2 of them being hard cider, but eventually all draft lines will be filled with Vagabond beers and cider will be available by the bottle or can. The bar is 21+, as is a section to the right of the mezzanine, but the pub is all-ages for the entire open hours. Bar Manager David Belcher and Assistant Manager Mark Kujat have put some work into developing the house cocktails, some plays off of classics that they have slightly redeveloped or freshened up. I am a sucker for a Pisco Sour, so I enjoyed the Nomad a cocktail with simple syrup, egg white, bitters, lime juice, and Macchu pisco. Check out the beer cocktail Punch Drunk, this punch uses a bowl full of spirits and mixers: tequila, gin, vodka, triple sec, orange juice, house grenadine, simple syrup, and Victory Pilsner.
Speaking of the beers, Victory Pilsner is a flagship lager from Vagabond Brewing that is not to be confused with perhaps my favorite pilsner, Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils. Vagabond’s pilsner is pretty good, and I wasn’t let down even though I was expecting Victory’s world-class interpretation. Attack Owl IPA is Vagabond Brewing’s most popular offering; it uses new school hops Mosaic and Ekuanot with classic NW Centennial hops with a strong 7.5% ABV. My favorite was probably Vagabond’s Level Beer collaboration It’s Dangerous To Go Alone. This hoppy Belgian pale ale uses fruity and dank Strata hops and another variety called Moutere I am not familiar with. Apparent but restrained fruity esters and just a hint of yeast go well with the balanced hopping on this one. Also on drat is Outpost Pale, Mo Bretta Saison, NW Passage Stout, and a seasonal.
Vagabond Brewing is not slacking in the food department; Chef Victor Deras is from Olympia Provisions and it shows. Sure, you will find staples like a house burger, veggie melt, steak with blue cheese, etc., but obviously don’t ignore the charcuterie plate, pickled deviled eggs and fresh oysters on the half shell. The Pulled Smoked Turkey sandwich is a slightly drier, take on a pulled pork sandwich and has shredded cabbage, fried onions and dijon served on a ciabatta and is very good. I personally fell in love with the roast chicken, you get a leg and a thigh served with roasted cabbage, parsnips, turnips, garlic and chili. For all the main course hearty meats on the menu, there are lots of roasted, fresh and pickled veggies to back them up. Yeah, vegetarians should dig the gnocchi, veggie melt, and roasted beer and barley salads.
Pulled Smoked Turkey
The Portland brewpub will soon be outfitted with a 7bbl brewhouse from Practical Fusion that hopefully will be operational by late spring. In the meantime all the beer comes from Salem with a new brewhouse coming online there and a noticeable jump in their quality since we last visited some years ago. It should be interesting to see how Vagabond Brewing integrates into the competitive Portland marketplace.
Vagabond Brewing opens today and has its own parking lot that charges $1 per hour; Vagabond will reimburse you for 2 hours parking with a receipt. You can also find street parking and a nearby MAX stop. Hours are Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm and Friday-Saturday 11am-11pm. Hours of operation are subject to change, depending on weather and/or remaining construction projects.
Vagabond Brewing Portland
2715 SE 8th Ave, Suite 175
Portland, OR 97202