Portland hospitality group Chefstable is teaming with Culmination Brewing founder Tomas Sluiter to open a new brewery and taproom called Craft Beer Collective (CBC) in the former Burnside Brewing and Mikkeller space at 701 E Burnside St. The Craft Beer Collective quietly opens as a wood-fired pizza pop-up called Dimo’s Apizza on Thursday July 16th, with guest taps from local breweries and Neapolitan-style pizza from chef Doug Miriello.
“What we want to do is create a community based harbor that offers local craft beers and wood fired pizza in an environment as safe as possible with ample outdoor seating and diligent social distancing,” says Sluiter.
The Craft Beer Collective marks a shift in Chefstable’s craft brewing enterprises that included Dirty Pretty beer and partnerships with Ross Island Brewing, KEX Brewing and Mikkeller Brewing. Chefstable purchased a majority share of Ross Island Brewing and re-launched it as an in-house brand called Dirty Pretty in 2018, but in 2019 scuttled the Dirty Pretty brand in favor of a KEX Hostel brewing partnership and the return of Ross Island. To make the whole thing even more confusing, Chefstable put KEX Brewing on-hold with the temporary closure of the Portland KEX Hostel along with most other Chefstable properties such as the Loyal Legion beer hall as they await a Phase 2 reopening for Multnomah County.
With an uncertain future for draft-only productions like Ross Island Brewing and KEX, Chefstable has officially closed the book on the former brewery and is hoping to refresh KEX beers at Craft Beer Collective.
“Ross Island Brewing is for sale as a turn key entity,” says Chefstable owner Kurt Huffman, who holds the lease and brewing equipment but leaves the brand name with it’s original founder/brewer Carston Haney. The 7bbl brewhouse and shuttered taproom at 730 SE Powell Blvd. is being shopped around for new owners by Haney.
“We are willing to let someone step in there, take over the lease and a part of the debt, and start brewing. I think it will be an amazing opportunity for someone that wants to start up an operation with almost no up front money,” says Huffman.
Danish brewing company Mikkeller partnered with Chefstable last year to open a pop-up taproom in the former Burnside Brewing space, the successful pub operated through 2019 before shutting down for a proposed rehabilitation of the building. A 2020 return was promised for Mikkeller PDX, a new permanent outpost ran by Chefstable that would activate the on-site 15bbl brewhouse for locally made beers. But delays on building construction and cash flow issues may have now permanently killed the local Mikkeller Brewing partnership. Craft Beer Collective will be born in the wake of previous misfires.
“Mikkeller (like all of us) is dealing with a lot of chaos back home and we are now looking at a very long timeline of knowing when it can come back to Portland,” says Huffman.
Mikkeller is known to partner with local publicans and restauranteurs on their U.S. pubs, and over the last six months both the Mikkeller locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles have closed. There is still hope for a Mikkeller to return to Portland, or their beers to be brewed at CBC.
With the Craft Beer Collective, Chefstable’s brewing projects can be coalesced into one diverse space. Under the guidance of international brewery consultant and owner/operator of Culmination Brewing, Tomas Sluiter is planning to bring the mothballed on-site brewhouse back online after more than a year as a sort of hub for emerging brewers near and far.
“The brewery in the location will be rebooted as a ‘craft beer consortium‘, sort of an incubation space,” says Sluiter. “More will be coming clear in the coming weeks and months, but we have already started developing some new brands, with a goal of some proceeds supporting worthy causes, as well as offer a chance for aspiring new entrepreneurs to debut and grow their brands.”
One of those brands is Juliett, a taproom/restaurant with an associated beer brand targeted to open in the Portland Airport in 2021. Sluiter and Huffman are developing a brand identity inspired by female icons of the aviation industry and beers devoted to drinkability and classic styles. The first two trial beers from Juliett are in the tanks at Culmination Brewing right now: a hoppy wheat and a low abv hazy IPA, and will debut at Craft Beer Collective in the coming weeks.
To head up the brewing program at Craft Beer Collective, Sluiter is bringing an American brewer in from Vietnam. Darren Provenzano lead 7 Bridges Brewing in Danang to a Champion Midsize Brewery in Asia award in 2019 and had teamed with Sluiter on a new Vietnam brewing project that has since fallen through. Provenzano heads back to the U.S. this week to begin the process of reopening on-site brewing operations on Burnside.
On July 16th the Craft Beer Collective soft opens for outdoor seating only with the Dimo’s Apizza wood-fired pizza menu from Chefstable Catering’s Executive Chef Doug Miriello. Cocktails and local beers will be flowing with a selection of local favorites curated by Sluiter until on-site brewing operations can start up later this summer or fall.
“This new covid reality is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to evaluate who we are as business people and what our responsibility is to each other and to our community,” says Sluiter. “The general idea is we survive this together and emerge stronger than before. And along the way have a chance to enjoy a good slice and cold beer.”
Craft Beer Collective will be open Thursday July 16, with regular days thereafter Thursday and Friday 4-10pm and Saturday and Sunday noon-10pm. If Multnomah County ever enters Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening plans, those hours will expand and indoor dining will be available.
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.