One lesson learned in the fifty-three months of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs is “Don’t judge a bar by its external appearance. ‘Tap’ what’s inside.” (My high school literature teacher would have been pleased if I had alternatively used novelist George Elliot’s purported hypothesis “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”; however, she probably would not approve of the mission of this blog).
So it is with a new establishment in Lake Grove right off SW Boones Ferry Road on the east side of I-5 near Bridgeport Village.
Established in September of 2015 in what used to be the Franz Bakery’s store in which bread slightly over the freshness guidelines was sold to many people including my wife and me, the Hop N Cork (hereafter the “HNC”) looks a bit stark on the outside.
That was also true of the Ecliptic Brewery in North Portland reviewed on this blog in May 2015. Unlike the Ecliptic, however, the character and warmth emanating when you enter the HNC is totally contrary to the former.
Ecliptic may have good beer and a cool name, but lacks any atmosphere (inside and outside) that would motivate Thebeerchaser to return as evidenced by the picture below.
The warmth of the HNC is a direct extension of co-owner, Michelle Faubion, based on my three visits to this cool neighborhood gathering place. Michelle, has a charisma and enthusiasm that once you hear her story, makes you want this endeavor to succeed and gives confidence that it will do just that.
Partnerships can often be on delicate footing, but it appears that the partnership between Sunil Kumar and Michelle in the HNC is very complementary. They met when Michelle worked at the Growlerie in Portland and started talking about a joint venture in 2014.
After a lot of planning and some real land-use issues with the City of Lake Oswego which took perseverance to resolve, the HNC became a reality in September, 2015 with the two as co-owners and leasing the building that Kumar owns adjacent to his Prestige Cleaners.
Prestige goes back to 1979 when it was founded by Sunil’s parents and he bought the business from them in 2002. He is a U of O graduate who used the time after college graduation in retail management to hone his business skills.
Sunil stated that the capital investment in HNC is not intended to be a “one time deal” and don’t be surprised if you see similar brewpubs in the future based on the early success of HNC. Michelle handles the day-to-day operations of the bar while Sunil takes care of the business end – accounting and logistics. The pair works well together as evidenced by the picture below.
The HNC has an impressive rotating tap list of 27 beers – their consumption is about 10 to 12 kegs per week. One of the beer taps is their own brew and one is a gluten-free option, a dark nitro tap. They also have four Kombuca (fermented tea) options, two ciders an adult root beer and a non-alcoholic root beer. They do a lively growler business.
And the tap list is displayed digitally behind the bar similar to bigger and more established bars such as Bailey’s Tap House and Apex. You can also review and order on one of the i-Pads in the bar or on your i-Phone.
Adding to the draft beer choices are eighteen wine taps and even prosecco on tap – “It’s a big seller.”
I was accompanied by Beerchaser regulars, Dan Swift and Mike Jones. We were each pleased with the micro-brews we downed: a Pelican Brewery’s McPelican Scottish Ale, Santiam Brewing’s Bramble On (honey wheat ale) and I liked Hop N Cork’s own White Belgian Ale.
But I have to tell you about the alcoholic root beer (Not Your Father’s Root Beer with an alcohol content of 5.9%). After downing a sample, I am enthusiastically waiting for the time I can add ice cream as does the individual on this 8/2015 Beer Advocate review: “It is hard to review this as a beer, since it smells, tastes, and feels just like root beer. I enjoyed it. Pours like a dark root beer, and has the carmel smell. Tastes like root beer. I might try to make a float out of it. Skol.”
The food is a strength of the pub and a reflection of Michelle’s standards and future goals. The menu is slightly limited, but they have a nice selection of appetizers and nine choices of sandwiches.
We had two good appetizers (the spinach dip and the charcutrie platter – locally sourced meats and cheeses) and on my return visit, I sampled the smoked steel head which will be the first item I order on my next trip to the HNC.
Michelle talks with passion about their menu notwithstanding a very small kitchen which is planned to expand in March as will be the case with their patio. In fact, 50% of the pub’s sales are from food – higher than the average for similar venues.
“Our food is all ‘farm to table’ and it comes in fresh every day.” The traeger, as evidenced in the photo, is used extensively and the food is also infused with their beers for added taste.
The HNC reviews on social media to this point are virtually all positive – there were two that mildly complained about confusion on how to order food.
You can see from the sign in the photo, however, that it is pretty clear – you go to the bar to order, although in my three visits, a waiter took my order twice.
Michelle said that as she grows, she will hire additional people so bar ordering isn’t necessary, but when things are not hopping, waiters circulate among the tables – a plan typical of most new pubs or bars.
The Hop N Cork is a family-type venue – striving for a living room environment and children are welcome. Michelle appreciated the support of the community when she went through the ponderous zoning process with the City of Lake Oswego and a big part of her clientele is neighborhood people.
In January there was a pinewood derby contest with the proceeds donated to Golden Bond Rescue of Oregon, and the Ovarian Cancer Fund. You’ll see cornhole tournaments this summer and there is also music on many weekends by local groups.
And the environment is warm and friendly – keyed by this entrepreneurial woman’s charisma. The vendors don’t leave before receiving a hug and she responds to people with “Certainly, honey..” without pretense. She’s an Oregon girl, having graduated from St. Mary’s Academy and then attending University of Washington in nursing. After graduation, she followed family tradition getting involved in the hospitality industry.
She worked for two years at Portland Brewing until “they let everyone go.” She used her severance to travel to Mexico and worked as a diving instructor before returning to the Northwest and pharmaceutical sales (“a tough business”).
The Hop N Cork is one establishment which will see future visits by Thebeerchaser and I expect to see Michelle Faubion’s dream continue to grow and prosper. The following excerpt from the November, 2015 Newschoolbeer.com entitled, “The Eleven Best New Oregon Tap Rooms and Beer Bars” is typical and why you should check it out. And be sure to say “hello” to Michelle:
“Recently opened in a tiny unassuming business park, Hop n’ Cork is a little bit of downtown Portland’s Pearl District in quiet Lake O. One of Hop n’ Cork’s founders spent time at Portland Brewing and The Growlerie in Progress Ridge, and brings business knowledge and a craft beer acumen to the tap list and extensive bottle selection……With 75 seats and a full farm-to-table menu that keeps it simple with soups and sandwiches, live music on Saturday’s, Hop n’ Cork has already become a very popular destination. Pop in and check it out for yourself.”
17450 Lower Boones Ferry Rd. Lake Oswego, OR 97035.