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.
The taproom at SE 7th and Belmont is dark once again. San Diego-based Modern Times Beer has closed its nearly two-year-old Portland taproom space and moved it next door into the building behind them at 630 SE Belmont. No more piñata Macho Man Randy Savage hovering above the bar threatening to body slam patrons; instead his face is decoratively adorning the wall in the new space.
The Commons Brewery opened its brewery and taproom on Belmont in March 2015, and closed it in November 2017. Commons owner Michael Wright leased it to San Diego-based Modern Times Beer, which reopened it as its Belmont Fermentorium in January 2018. Initial plans were to eventually open a coffee roaster and cafe on-site. Modern Times purchased the building behind the brewery and began expanding production into it a year ago. Plans to expand the taproom through the wall and into the adjacent building fell through. Instead, there is a whole new taproom in the adjacent space; the original is closed.
Though there is no cafe or coffee roaster, they are now serving weekend brunch and have a much expanded kitchen with a full vegan menu. Where before you could enjoy lovingly crafted vegan small plates, now you have a menu full of apps, entrees and desserts. The chef has peppered this menu with gluttonous takes on bar food, plus a variety of popular ethnic favorites (choyrizo burrito, Burmese salad, schnitzel, curry.) It’s all counter ordered and served through a fake food truck window (see image above.)
The new Belmont Fermentorium is open with high ceilings just like the former space. The windows are even larger for natural light, and the bar is much bigger. The same aesthetic of retro-turned-modern comic books, cartoons and 80’s-90’s pop culture glitz is intact. But this does feel like an even more modern space than the last, clearly a new construction with more fresh coats of paint and structures. Modern Times’ art department has done an admirable job as usual; vintage couches and love seats bring in more kitschy worn warmth like a favorite childhood sweater.
The bar at the new Belmont Fermentorium has been upgraded to 16 seats and 34 taps. Two of those are nitro, one is cold brew coffee, and another may soon be a kombucha. That’s about ten more taps than the previous location. The tiles behind the faucets are the same tile pattern as before, but the bottom bar is now laser printed in the Modern Times art department style in baby blue and white.
People will be very excited about the creation of a previously promised rooftop bar called the Sky Lounge. Portland has few rooftop drinking spots and most of them are upscale hotel bars, so this will be a very welcome addition to town. Bonus: the rooftop lounge has its own taps, restrooms, elevator and the requisite gas fire pit and heaters. As of now, it will be open on nice days, weather permitting.
The new space comes with the “Mini Mart” in its own alcove near the taproom entrance. The same or similar collection of coffee, shirts, cups, glasses, coasters, patches, doo-dads, and trinkets (and of course bottles and cans to-go) are intact.
The MT Belmont Fermentorium is all-ages friendly, has a selection of wine, a housemade hard seltzer and coffee, and juice for breakfast for those who want something non-alcoholic.
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.