Brian Koch is the owner of North Portland’s Lombard House pub, and like many others he is grappling with a pandemic, a pivot to delivery, and worldwide protests of an unjust system that have implications far more important than beer and bars.
There have been whispers and rumors swirling around a new brewery on Vancouver’s new waterfront development. All of those rumors are about to be confirmed or denied right now.
Brian and Alicia Rummer moved to Vancouver just over 2 years ago to be near family here. They relocated from Texas and Louisiana, respectively, shortly after getting married. Their first foray into the industry was investing in Ghost Runners Brewery with plans for growth and an eventual waterfront location. That venture didn’t work out, so they parted ways to build their own dream. That dream was to match their Southwestern roots to their Northwestern home by opening a brewery and public house to provide forward-thinking beer, great homestyle food and an epic whiskey selection.
Barlow’s takes its name from Sam Barlow – a pioneer best known for forging a path from the Hood River, Oregon area to what is present day Vancouver, Washington. The aesthetic inside Barlow’s Public House incorporates Sam Barlow’s southern roots and his journey to Washington. Similarly, Brian & Alicia followed their own trail from America’s Southwest to Southwest Washington
Barlow’s Public House will open its doors to the public for the first time on Wednesday at 11AM and launch over what’s expected to be a busy weekend on the Vancouver Waterfront.
Barlow’s Public House will be the flagship restaurant of Barlow’s Brewery. The brewery just took delivery of tanks on Monday and will supply the public house with beer along with a small tap room at the brewery just off Mill Plain and Parkcrest in Vancouver. There’s seating for 180 inside the public house with restaurant full-service seating, bar seating and a private room available for events or overflow seating. An additional 95 guests can enjoy the sprawling patio overlooking the Grant Street Pier, the Columbia River and passersby below. However the most exciting, if not controversial, feature of Barlow’s Public House is the new self-serve Tap Wall – the first of its kind in the Portland Metro Area.
The Self-Serve Tap Wall
In this writer’s humble opinion, the Tap Wall is easier and more fun than the skeptics would have you believe. Facebook groups and Instagram comments have shunned the idea of this wall. Many of the concerns or pre-complaints stem from the idea that the wall is in lieu of good service or a bartender’s expertise (not the case). Or that the cleanliness of the draft system would be suspect (not the case). Others have claimed that a fool-proof pouring system doesn’t exist and patrons are bound to pour a bad beer (once again, not the case).
Here’s how it works: Load a card for 2 full pours (a total of 32oz for most beers) at a time at the host stand upon entering. Find the beer you’d like and walk up to pour it. A digital gauge shows you how much you’ve poured and what you’ve spent in real time. Pour a taster, a pint or an ‘imperial pint’ of most beers (some high ABV beers are limited). 23 taps include collabs by Barlow’s Brewery and guest taps. You can sit at the bar or order from your table at the restaurant, like any brewpub. But if you’d like to stand-up, wander around the bar or walk outside on the patio with a beer in-hand – grab it yourself and close out at the bar or with the host stand when you’re ready. A beer tender is on-hand to talk beer and assist at the Tap Wall any time. It also pours 2 ciders, 2 draft wines and 1 nitro handle among the 23 taps.
Bryan Hochrine, a brewer for Barlow’s Brewery and formerly of Von Ebert Brewing and Fat Heads Brewery, was the point man for the installation and function of the Tap Wall. In his own words, “This is the most high-tech and capable draft system I’ve ever seen.” The lines pull direct from the cooler that the Tap Wall is installed on. A limiter is located very close to where the beer is poured to reduce foam and measure out a precise pour. There is little to no waste. Self-pouring patrons need not worry about an empty keg blasting CO2 and beer in the typical end-of-the-keg spray. The limiter knows when the keg is empty and cuts off the pour before the beer is completely gone.
All in all, the Tap Wall is an entertaining feature of an incredible venue for enjoying a beer. It’s not the focal point of the space and shouldn’t take away from the great food available and the amazing beer Barlow’s is already pouring on day one!
Hochrine is joining head brewer Eric Van Tassel – an experienced veteran who relocated from the midwest with Fat Heads Brewery and currently owns Caps N’ Taps in Camas with his wife Michelle. Van Tassel and Hochrine are the first to tell you that they’re best friends and the fun they’re having building a brewery shows in the initial collaboration brews they’ve helped create with friends around the industry. We enjoyed all five of the available collaboration beers on tap for the opening. Here’s a quick rundown of those offerings:
54-40 Beer & Barlow’s Brewery “Dreaming From The Hip“ A “super hazed” New England-style IPA with a touch of added guava. Boldly tropical, yet light and easy drinkin’. In this week’s heat – a perfect summer sipper.
Allegory Brewing & Barlow’s Brewery “Scenic Route“ This light and summery saison is dry, spritzy and balanced. Citrus notes from Sonoma County Meyers Lemons dance over a light and bubbly backbone. Just a touch of spice from Szechuan peppers.
Fortside Brewing Co. & Barlow’s Brewery “Float Your Boat“ An American light lager and nothing more. A perfectly perfect boat beer, but also just right for watching sail boats, motor boats, barges or even the Sternwheeler Riverboat float by just below Barlow’s Public House.
Level Beer & Barlow’s Brewery “A Van Tassel In Your Cap“ An ode to Barlow’s head brewer, Eric Van Tassel, this Belgian-style Golden Ale has a heapin’ helpin’ of apricot. It may have been this writer’s favorite of the initial collabs as I enjoyed a full pint of it with my Louisiana Seafood Boil meal.
Trap Door Brewing & Barlow’s Brewery “Stay Frothy“ Of the five collabs, this one pushed the envelope the furthest, as one might expect from Trap Door. A piña colada hazy IPA conditioned on a mountain of hand toasted coconut, Madagascar vanilla beans and pineapple puree. It was dry hopped with Citra, Vic Secret, Sultana and Cashmere. While on the thicker side, it’s a fruity cocktail-like sipper that’s very enjoyable.
Enjoy a few more photos from the first look at Barlow’s Public House.
Barlows Public House is located at 801 Waterfront Way, Suite 203, Vancouver, WA 98682.
Michael Perozzo is a life-long resident of Southwest Washington and father of 4. At his day job, he leads a digital marketing and graphic design team supporting food/beverage clients at ZZEPPELIN. Michael helped start Brewcouver – the passport to Vancouver’s breweries – and co-founded NorthBank Beer Week. He also manages beer buying for the Vancouver Brewfests and helped create Brewing Bridges Collaboration Fest. Portland Trail Blazers fans may remember him as DarthBlazer circa 2008-2012.