The craft beer industry has a diversity problem, which should be obvious to anyone who has ever seen the overwhelming amount of burly bearded white dudes (full disclosure: I am one of those dudes) roaming tap rooms or spraying down tanks in the brewery.
Mikkeller Brewing brings their unique look and feel to the Portland space, with not-yet-finished murals, minimalist but bright design, and a lot of European flair. While other Mikkeller U.S. locations (like their taproom in San Francisco) focus on European/German food, Chefstable has brought out famed Momofuku Las Vegas chef Shaun King to do a Japanese-inspired menu. King will be serving up a limited menu for the soft opening of Mikkeller PDX focusing on small plates, some of which I was able to preview. The Japanese touch, translates into small beer hall wood tables and stools, straight wide drinking vessels and other design touches that you would expect in an izakaya.
If you are familiar with the Burnside Brewing Co. brewpub that existed here just a few short months ago, the remodel/rebrand won’t make you forget. Though they have torn out the bar top and replaced it with more of an unpolished sandalwood, slightly tweaked the kitchen and pulled out the booths, the space is more or less the same. It’s like revisiting your old apartment after a new family has moved in. But if the design and layout don’t feel like a completely new space but more of a redecoration, the menu is more of a drastic overhaul.
With ten Mikkeller beers on draft, there will certainly be something new to try. All beers are being shipped in from Mikkeller’s west coast brewery in San Diego. It takes approximately 10 days to get here from ordering to delivery which means they are pretty fresh, unlike the bottled Mikkeller beers from Europe found in bottleshops. The beers are very modern; examples include Passion Pool Sour (Gose-style with passionfruit), Chill Pils (Pilsner with Yuzu citrus), and multiple hazy IPAs like Windy Hill Hazy IPA and Staff Magician Hazy Pale. And, yes, breakfast beers/pastry beers like Sticky Times Cinnamon Maple Hazy IPA and Beer Geek Breakfast Oatmeal Stout. Really strangely, Burnside’s Couch Lager is a guest beer, as well as a CBD soda they were playing with near the end times.
The 15bbl Metalcraft Fabrication brewery now sits unused next door to the pub. Some of the tanks are still full of beer, and pallets of new Burnside cans sit unrefrigerated. It’s still unclear what will happen to all that product, or if Mikkeller will be able to use the brewery anytime soon. Instead, there is a full bar and some Japanese-style cocktails like Shochu & Aquavit (w/ nori komi furikake, lime, yuzu, meringue, celery bitters), Shishito Reposado (agave nectar, cucumber, green apple, lemon, celery bitters) and a tasty citrusy/spicy Shiso + Pea Infused Gin (chareau, rose city tonic, lime bitters, garnish of watermelon radish, lemon, wasabi peas, pink peppercorn and cucumber.) The cocktails run $10-$12. Coopers Hall Red and White Wine is $10 on draft and Wildcraft Plum Cider is also available.
The food at Mikkeller Brewing Portland Pop-Up may take center stage over the beers, and without a doubt it’s the most unique brewery food experience in town. The short menu of ten small plates and five larger noodle and rice items is enough to satisfy and would be best enjoyed by sharing a handful of items with a group. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of the larger plates, but will be back to have those spicy beef noodles with short ribs for sure. Seafood wary eaters need not apply for the smaller plates.
Mikkeller Brewing Bar Pop-Up Portland opens to the general public for regular service on Monday, June 10th and will be open 4pm – midnight on weekdays and 4pm – 1am on Friday and Saturday. 701 E. Burnside St., Portland, OR.
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.