First Look at Assembly Brewing, Opening in Portland’s Foster-Powell Neighborhood

Assembly Brewing, one of our most anticipated new breweries of 2019, will finally soft open to the public this Saturday, March 23rd, with a grand opening next Friday, March 29th. The New School was granted an exclusive early release preview of the new SE Portland brewery that calls the under-served Foster-Powell (FoPo) neighborhood home. A brewpub first and foremost, Assembly Brewing pays homage to co-owner/brewer George Johnson’s Detroit roots in both food and the beautiful four piece mural inside the pub located at 6112 SE Foster Road, Portland, OR 97206.

Co-owner Adam Dixon first met George Johnson in the neighborhood that Assembly Brewing calls home, and immediately fell in love with Johnson’s homebrew. The goal with Assembly Brewing is to create a locals brewpub with approachable pizza and ales, first and foremost. Dixon and Johnson have made the controversial choice to make Assembly Brewing a 21+ only spot with cocktails, pizza, sandwiches, salads, and other grilled and skewered meat dishes to go with their working-class beers.

George Johnson (left) and Adam Dixon (right) owners of Assembly Brewing

Johnson has been in Portland for 20 years just this past Wednesday and has become a local fixture, bartending and running the door at the nearby Devil’s Point strip club. Johnson has spent time in various aspects of the industry, from booking bands at Boulder Beer Co. and learned about pizza making from one of Detroit’s most well known and award-winning Detroit-style pizza makers, Shawn Randazzo. Johnson is responsible for both the beer and the pizza, where he has developed his own proprietary dough and technique for the thick, square, airy, incredibly cheesy signature pies that are really gaining in popularity right now (see Ex Novo Brewing’s new Detroit Pizza pub in Beaverton). In addition to the signature shape and size of these pizzas, the sauce is added on top of the cheese and the cheese melts and turns crispy around the edges of the crust. While most places use a standard premade bread for their Detroit pies, Johnson is adamant on handmade dough and fresh ingredients made daily. Though Johnson is somewhat mum on his pizza making technique, he is vocal about what makes true Detroit-style pizza and the beers he makes that go with it.

Detroit-style Pizza at Assembly Brewing

Dixon had been friends with Johnson before he discovered his homebrew and knew that he wanted to be in business together. “It’s beer-flavored beer,” says Dixon. “It’s just good.”

Johnson’s beer isn’t the kind that’s particularly eye catching or make you go “wow,” but that’s all part of the plan. Johnson decries the “Hop Wars” that ruined craft beer for a lot of people, but still acknowledges those beers have a huge following. Johnson is all about making approachable, drinkable beers, primarily ales and classic pub styles. The opening lineup is a SMASH Pale, Amber, Stout, Porter, Pale, and two different IPAs (so hopheads shouldn’t have anything to complain about).

“I want something you can put down a few pints of,” says Johnson.

He has achieved it; the beers remind me somewhat of the classic Portland brewpub beers of Amnesia when it was still on N Mississippi Ave. Dixon is excited and hopeful for a day when Johnson can try his hand at lagers, but for now he is all about that stout, Johnson’s bread and butter.

“It doesn’t have to come in a goblet,” says Johnson, marking Assembly Brewing as a locals hangout that’s not trying to be a beer geek destination. His philosophy on beers is simple, they should be flavorful, balanced and drinkable over anything. To achieve that, Johnson took a brewing course, interned at Hopworks, and shadowed at Gigantic Brewing and Ex Novo, though he has never worked as a professional brewer.

Assembly Brewing is a great 7,500 sq. ft. space in a standalone building in the up and coming Foster-Powell neighborhood, just a block away from beer bar NWIPA. The Assembly building is in the shape of a triangle, like a door stop with the top point being the pub and a cordoned off back area with a side entrance to the brewery. It’s one of the few pubs where the brewery (a 15bbl brewhouse from Portland Kettle Works) is not visible from the public side of the operations. The taproom itself gets a lot of natural light, has characteristic old growth beams and a salvaged wood bar with a semi-enclosed outdoor patio with great views of the neighborhood.  Inside it’s spacious and welcoming, the dark cool grays and warm orange-red colors of the brand transition to dimly lit warm glows in the evening.

Assembly Brewing does become a real bar in the evenings, with hours that see it open until 2am and a cocktail list, pinball machines and live music stage. The opening 7 housemade beers are complemented with Cider Riot! hard cider on tap, wines, cocktail menu and curated selection of spirits. Pints of beer are a refreshing $5. The pub seats 120 inside, 60 on the heated patio.

The key feature of the taproom is the impressive mural composed by five artists that depicts a sort of brewery fantasy of an assembly line of dozens of workers making the beer, firing pizzas, doing the dirty work, and the enjoying the fruits of their labor. Both Johnson and Dixon are depicted in the mural, which also showcases men and women of distinctly different cultures, heritages and colors, all happily working to produce a great product for the people. It’s a piece inspired by the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s series, Detroit Industry Murals. While the original inspiration takes its own inspiration from the auto manufacturing plants of Detroit, you start to see how Assembly Brewing got its name. Both the loving homage to Detroit and the blue collar workers of the Assembly line that take so much pride in their work, are honored with the Assembly Brewing brand.

With spring just beginning, and summer not far off, Assembly Brewing plans to add pizza delivery and crowler service.

While Assembly Brewing does open this Saturday, next Friday the 29th is the Grand Opening with an all-day celebration.

  • 11 AM – Opening ceremony led by Johnson and Dixon. Also expected to attend are members of the The Foster Area Business Association (FABA), a group of business owners and representatives from Foster Road between Powell Blvd. and 82nd Ave. in Portland, Oregon.

  • 11 AM – 2 AM – Assembly Brewing officially opens, welcoming patrons 21 and older. Johnson’s balanced American craft ales and his signature Detroit-style pizza, along with salads, appetizers, and sandwiches, will be served throughout the day and night until closing at 2 AM. The tap list will include seven beers at opening (two pale ales, two IPAs, an amber, stout and porter) with more to come. Local Cider Riot cider on tap, wines, and a selection of hand made cocktails and spirits are also available.
    • NOTE: In celebration of the grand opening, all customers will receive a coupon for $5 off a future visit, good towards the purchase of large pizza.
  • 5-7 PM – Several local artists provided special touches to the interior and exterior of the space, and many of them will be available to answer questions about their work. The artists include:
  • Evening entertainment from 6 PM – midnight – DJ Adam 13 and Sknny Mrcls

About Assembly Brewing

Built on a neighborhood craft-brewery dream and authentic Detroit style-pizza expertise, Portland friends and SE residents, George Johnson and Adam Dixon established Assembly Brewing in March 2019. One of the most highly-anticipated craft breweries in the Portland metro, it offers patrons 21 and older a wide selection of balanced American Ales that can be enjoyed with its signature pizza offerings, until 2 am daily. Visit us online at  https://assemblybrewingco.com. 6112 SE Foster Road, Portland, OR 97206

  • 5-7 PM – Several local artists provided special touches to the interior and exterior of the space, and many of them will be available to answer questions about their work. The artists include:

  • Evening entertainment from 6 PM – midnight – DJ Adam 13 and Sknny Mrcls

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

Discussion

  • Frank Rizzo
    Frank Rizzo
    Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:00 AM

    Good luck being unfriendly to families in a neighborhood full of them. Better change that plan if you want to survive.

    • ElGordo
      ElGordo
      Sun Mar 24, 2019 5:03 PM

      The opening night crowd would indicate otherwise…

      • Sol Rosenburg
        Sol Rosenburg
        Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:51 PM

        Can’t judge how a business will do by the grand opening. That’s just hype.

        • Samurai Artist
          Samurai Artist
          Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:57 PM

          how about by all the other places in the neighborhood that are 21+ ?

    • Connie
      Connie
      Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:33 PM

      Very unfriendly to neighbors. The customers are parking on Holgate Blvd and blocking driveways – taking up all parking; therefore no parking available for homeowners or their visitors. No notice to neighbors of opening – just lots of cars everywhere. Poor planning on the part of the owners.

      • ElGordo
        ElGordo
        Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:14 PM

        You live in a city, near a commercial district. You don’t own the parking spot on the street in front of your house. Also, call the cops if someone blocks your driveway, that’s ridiculous and illegal.