Find Your Way to Wayfinder….

Since I started my Beerchasing exploits in 2011, I’ve reviewed slightly over 400 bars and breweries of which 119 were in Portland, Oregon.  This blog is not a technical journal on beer or the science of brewing itself, but primarily about the history and character of the watering holes themselves.

Other than a few such as Bridgeport (closed in 2018), Blitz Weinhard (closed in 1999), Widmer Brothers and McMenamins, most Portland breweries don’t have the history or character of a bar – the focus, understandably, is more on the beer itself.  (# External photo attribution at the end of the post. (#1)

They are typically more expansive than the stereotyped hole-in-the-wall dive bar such as the Mock Crest Tavern in the St. John’s area or the Yamhill Pub – a landmark right in Portland’s Central Business District.

The Yamhill, as I explained in my 2015 review, is actually one step below a dive – I classified it as a “grunge bar.” As described in a Portland Mercury review, “The Yamhill Pub is a glorious sh*t crater. It’s a hole, a mess, a f*ing dive.”

The breweries are often in former industrial or warehouse-type buildings with large garage doors that can open during summer months and accommodate crowds on adjourning patios – crowds that are often much younger than the typical demographic of a dive or a neighborhood watering hole.

That said, I’ve rarely “met” a brewery or brew pub that I didn’t enjoy.   One such example is Wayfinder Brewery – one block off the Willamette River on SE Second near the Morrison Bridge.  

Our experience in mid-November was the second time I had good beer and great food there while enjoying the ambiance, the friendly staff and impressive layout. 

My first visit was about five years ago – shortly after it opened – with friends Charlie Rose and David Dickson. I was pleased that nothing much had changed.  After our dinner, we caught an impressive jazz show at the Doug Fir Lounge (see below).

In November, 2022, on a Monday afternoon, I hit the brewery with four other retired friends (David and Kate Dickson, Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell and my wife, Janet).   We had a brisk walk along the River and then lunch. That’s right – David Dickson was on both visits – he’s a Beerchasing regular….)

Three of our group of seven participants in our walking group were gone, but our routine is to do about a 45-minute to an hour walk and finish with a beer and lunch/dinner at a brewery or bar. (There’s less guilt after some exercise.)

Most in the group have been participated since 2014 and we have hoisted mugs at great watering holes including Saraveza, Crackerjacks Pub, Hair of the Dog Brewery, Produce Row and many others.  (Click on the links above to see the reviews.)

Entrepreneurial Endeavor

A very positive element in the Wayfinder story is the complementary skills and experience of the three partners – brewing, food and business.  This was probably a primary factor in the Brewery’s success even during a global pandemic:

Way finder found its roots in Charlie Devereux’s search for his next beer project after departing Double Mountain Brewing in Hood River. He quickly teamed up with Sizzle Pie’s Matt Jacobson, who he describes as a ‘serial entrepreneur.’ The third partner is Podnah’s Pit’s Rodney Muirhead. Yes, the menu calls for amazingly prepared meats, including house-ground sausage”  (#2-3)

The Space

Besides the wonderful expansive heated wood-slat patio (with firepit) which can seat about 120, the 10-barrel brewery and pub occupy about 9,000 square feet.  The brick walls are very attractive and skylights provide plenty of light. 

Walking in, you face a very long and attractive bar with some booths on the opposing wall.  A separate room houses numerous tables of different sizes and large glass panels show the brewing hardware – a nice touch.

While having no expertise (and according to others, no taste in art), I loved the posters and paintings displayed throughout and their classy merchandise is displayed in an attractive case. 

Wayfinder was also named on the 2021 Oregon Beer Awards as having the best beer labels.) You can see Charlie and David arguing about various Euclidian principles in the photo below. (#4)

And the manner in which they differentiated the restrooms was also creative and funny and could generate more debate on usage……

The Food!

Often breweries will focus on brewing quality – food is an ancillary concern – patrons will choose from a limited pub menu or use nearby food carts. 

Not only has Wayfinder been recognized with numerous awards for its beers (see below), but it distinguishes itself with the variety of its culinary offerings – many cooked on its wood-fired grill.  The quality, as the following reviews attest, is quite good.

These excerpts are from one of my most reliable sources for objective assessments during the last eleven years – Willamette Week in its ongoing reviews and annual guides to Portland’s best bars, beers and food.  Since the pandemic, these have either been pretty much discontinued, but see the consistency of comments from 2017-2020.

2017 Review by Martin Czimar – In this review shortly after Wayfinder opened, Cizmar advised patrons to avoid the fish, mashed potatoes and beer nuts (this was the only negative media review I could find on the food.)  But he praised the nachos, sausage and burgers – “The dinner burger with blue cheese, might be the best brewpub burger in town..”

Since I had the mashed potatoes in my dinner in the 2018 visit and thought they were delicious, perhaps he just needed some menu items to criticize.

2018 Beer Guide – “The wonderful menu ranges from a delicious prime rib sandwich to a mountainous niçoise salad but the thing I find myself ordering most often is the brewery’s nachos….”

2019 – 20 Guide to Food and Drink – Whenever asked which brewery in town also has good food – not just passable-for-a-pub food, but an honest-to-goodness recommendable menu, I almost always steer that person to Wayfinder.”

Our group on both visits concurred with the positive reviews.  Most of us in 2022 had the burger special which runs all day Monday and on Tues – Thurs. from 8:00 PM to closing.  

Where else can you can a burger with chips and a pint of beer for $14 ($1 extra to substitute fries)? The Chicken Schnitzel and the entre’ salads were delicious and nicely presented.

The Service

As was the case five years ago, our server, Jessica, was friendly, helpful and competent.  She also gave a comprehensive and knowledgeable rundown of their draft beers which helped us make our selection.

Award Winning Beer

The number of medals received are too numerous to cite, but take a look at the listing of some of the accolades as listed on their website: 

  • “Best New Brewers in the World” – Rate Beer, 2018
  • “Best Brewery”, “Best Brewer”, “Best Oregon Brewpub” – New School Awards, 2018
  • “Top 11 Best Beers in America” (Terrifico) – Bloomberg News, 2018
  • “Oregon Beer of the Year” (Hell Lagerbier) – New School Awards 2019
  • “Best Brewpub Experience” – Oregon Beer Awards, 2018-2019

You won’t find a lot of IPA’s at Wayfinder – a mainstay of a lot of contemporary craft breweries.  Wayfinder’s specialty is lagers:

“(We are) a lager-centric brewery that combines old and new school lager techniques to push the envelope of what lager can be. The founders of Wayfinder, lager fanatics themselves and proselytizers of cool fermentation, installed a dedicated decoction vessel to achieve malt complexities otherwise unattainable.

The beers are a mix of tradition and science, a blending of ancient brewing tactics, newer Narziß-style German precision, and the swagger of American Craft. Although we are rewriting the definition of lager for the next generation of craft beer enthusiasts, we are bringing with it the traditions of Europe and America’s favorite beer.”

And let’s just take a quick look at one excerpt from the Willamette Week Guide to Portland Bars and Happy Hours:

“…….Wayfinder Helles is one of the few in America to ever match that deep bready malt and balancing light sulfur aroma that characterizes a freshly cracked bottle of Augustiner in Munich.  It’s a portal to Bavaria where they drink beer-flavored beer.”

And the excellence in brewing has continued.  In the 2021 Oregon Beer Awards, Wafinder garnered one gold, two silvers and two bronze medals for their brews in addition to being named as the Oregon brewery with the best beer labels.  You can see why below: (#5-10)

Before finishing my comments on the Brewery, I want to mention our (David, Charlie and I) post dinner outing in 2018.   It was to the Doug Fir Lounge – only eight blocks away in the Jupiter Hotel

We were fortunate to see one of the Portland shows of acclaimed jazz saxophonist,  Hailey Niswanger

Hailey attended West Linn High School with our three daughters, but then went on to the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship.  The Berklee publication on distinguished alums states, in part:

Hailey Niswanger’s trajectory as a jazz saxophonist resembles that of a shooting star. The young musician graduated in 2011 after studying jazz performance on a full scholarship. But by that time, she had already released the album, Confeddie, that prompted jazz critic Nat Hentoff to proclaim the 19 year old as part of the future of jazz.

She has appeared with Demi Lovato on Saturday Night Live and on other late-night TV shows. Niswanger was also the alto saxophonist in the Either/Orchestra, touring with Ethiopian stars and playing African, Latin, and jazz music in Europe and the United States. DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll cited her as a rising alto and soprano saxophonist for 2013–2016.

A versatile artist, she also played flute on Terri Lyne Carrington’s The Mosiac Project, which won a Grammy.”

Now living in Brooklyn, New York, Niswanger is active teaching at seminars as well as continuing to tour with musicians such as pianist Mike Wolff and drummer Mike Clark in the Woolf and Clark Expedition. She also started a new band of her own, MAE.SUN, a contemporary, mixed-genre project.” (#11-16)

It was a marvelous performance and her range was incredible – she also vocalized.   Before the show we had a chance to say “hello” to this musical prodigy, we’re proud to say, had her roots in our community.  She is personable and humble.

2018-08-06 20.38.39

Surprisingly, there are numerous Portland breweries that have sprung up during the pandemic that Thebeerchaser has not visited at this point.  That said, since both times I’ve been to Wayfinder, I ate inside and given the overall experience, I will be going back this Spring.

I’ll sit on the fabulous deck, drink a Hell – Lagerbier Helles (“Crisp, light, refreshing, brilliantly effervescent with a floral, noble hop aroma – ABV 4.7%”) or one of the other ten beers on tap. Did I also mention that they are known for their creative cocktails, for example the Midnight Trilogy?  

Blended Scotch, Laird’s apple brandy, Averna, Allspice Dram, Orange Bitters, Demerara.”

I have a feeling that it would pair very well with one of the large Bavarian pretzels with mustard which are only $6. (#17)

Perfektion!

Cheers!

External Photo Attribution

#1. Wikimedia Commons (File:Blitzweinhard brewery.jpg – Wikipedia)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: 
w:User:Ajbenj
  6 January 2002.

#2 -10.  Wayfinder Beer Facebook Pages (Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/wayfinderbeer/photos/pb.100063601343176.-2207520000./2816).

#11 – 16 Hailey Niswanger Facebook Pages ( Hailey Niswanger | Facebook).

#17.  Wayfinder Beer Facebook Page (Wayfinder Beer | Portland OR | Facebook)

Bridgeport – Good Brewery “Infrastructure”…….

photo-oct-26-5-08-19-pm

Our “Walking Group” which has been present at other venues reviewed by Thebeerchaser such as Produce Row, SaravezaBazi Bierbrasserie, Hair of the Dog Brewing and Ecliptic Brewing (click on the name to see the prior Beerchaser post) hit Bridgeport Brewing Company on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in October.

photo-oct-26-5-09-08-pmBeing of sound collective minds, we abandoned plans to walk that day – understandable given that this tenth month was the third wettest October in recorded Oregon weather history.  (we are not wimps and have often walked in the rain…..)   We met at the Bridgeport Brew Pub in NW Portland.

photo-oct-26-5-43-23-pmAnd while Bridgeport did not have the idiosyncratic charm of a dive bar or the intimacy of one of the smaller brewpubs such as Sasquatch or Tugboat, it proved to be a great selection based on the beer, the food and the service.  In addition, the Cubs won the second World Series game  (5 to 1) as we watched while talking and drinking beer.

Bridgeport, originally founded by the Ponzi’s of Oregon winemaking fame, as Columbia River Brewing, has an interesting history, claiming to be Oregon’s first craft brewery. It was established in 1984 – one of 94 US breweries – and has grown from a small operation (600 barrels annually at inception ) to a thriving enterprise with annual production over 100,000 barrels and now one of 4,269 (2015) breweries according to national Brewers Association statistics.  In the early 2000’s it was listed as one of the top fifty breweries in the US, but is not currently in that category although Oregon has four of which the largest is Deschutes in Bend.

The mezzanine

The mezzanine

Our group of eight, found a good table on the second floor or mezzanine level – smaller and more ambiance than the expansive main level – immediately adjacent to the bar and served by a wonderful young woman named Kelsey.  And as you will see below, our experience was very positive – beer, food and service.

Outstanding server, Kelsey and bartender, Leah

Outstanding server, Kelsey and bartender, Leah

 

In researching on social media sites, I was curious about some of the negative comments.   One always expects some about food or service in any venue with a lot of customers, but a number of the disparaging remarks were very old and, as expected, based on changes when one grows comfortable with a favorite watering hole.

For example, this one from Yelp clear back in March of 2006 after a major remodel – they are still in their original structure, an historic building on the west edge of the Pearl District:

What a letdown!  They made it more upscale and fancy…….No game room anymore.  Gone was that cool pub feel.  And you could no longer see the brewery behind the taps and kitchen, they walled it all off.  It’s just a fancy looking place now.  The only good thing was the beer, and the people were friendly and nice.

photo-oct-26-5-17-40-pmAnd as expected, Portlanders were upset when the founders, sold to the Gambrinus Company a large beer distributor and brewer in San Antonio in 1995, whose founder, Carlos Alvarez’s, original beer operation was in Acapulco, Mexico – creating all kinds of ominous predictions about the future of Bridgeport.

However, as with most brewers, Bridgeport has been a model citizen, showing growth, community involvement and impressive sustainability practices as set forth in great detail on their website.  It’s also a great place to have a beer and a meal with friends.

photo-oct-26-6-06-00-pmTwo of our group (including Thebeerchaser) had what we considered outstanding pulled-pork sandwiches and everyone (ranging from blackened salmon salad to the chicken sandwich to vegan bowl to the quesadilla) with one exception, thought the food was great and reasonably priced.

The happy-hour “boulevard burger” with cheese was a disappointment although it only sets one back $6.  I also thought the old-fashioned dumbwaiter they used to move food from the kitchen on the first floor to the mezzanine was cool.

Moving food the old-fashioned way....

Moving food the old-fashioned way….

We were all pleased with their beer and since there were nine on tap plus a barley wine, Kelsey was wonderful about letting us have multiple tastes to hone in on a favorite.

The mezzanine bar - nice bar selection

The mezzanine bar –

 

 

We tried the Stumptown ORA (oatmeal red ale – my favorite), the Hop Harvest Red IPA, the Cream Ale and the Porter.   And at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint, the price-point was a winner.  Happy-hour is 3:00 to 5:00 for food and 3:00 to 6:00 for beer on Tuesday through Friday and 10:00 to 11:00 PM on weekends.)

Good beer at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint....

Good beer at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint….

Given the number of good beers on tap, when we go back, we’ll try the sampler of eight beers for a tidy $9.

Now in looking at all the reviews – both positive and negative, Bridgeport does very well and as is the case with many of the social media sites, one gets a few with a myopic perspective (some might call them idiots…).

The beer sampler (courtesy of Don V Yelp reviewer)

The beer sampler (courtesy of Don V – Yelp reviewer)

Such is the case of the Yelp reviewer in September, 2016 who I would suggest rather than go out, should just stay in his pajamas and get a six-pack to consume in the basement of his parents’ house while he watches the game:

Bridgeport hasn’t sold its soul completely. But they might be losing their way a little. Case in point: I went there last during the kick-off weekend of college football, and had to ask them to change to channel to the Oregon Ducks game. They had the bar television on the Esquire channel, which I never knew existed. I am sorry, but beer goes with sports. Period. End of story.

If you have televisions, they should be featuring whatever major sporting event is occurring. If not that, then shows what lively fan bases like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones…….I don’t know that they are there yet. Just having the television on the Esquire channel and not on the duck game is forcing me to dock them a star. Sorry. Not really. (emphasis supplied and I will restrain myself from pointing out that this guy probably went to school in Eugene and not Corvallis…..!)

photo-oct-26-5-18-31-pmAnd as a final note, I would add that the week after our visit to the Bridgeport Ale House, we went with some friends visiting from New York to the nearby Deschutes Public House – also in the Pearl District.

While the beers were comparable in quality, Deschutes is a much larger operation and is more like a large restaurant than the brewpub environment of Bridgeport especially if you eat on the nice second level in the latter.  And although it appears that they have a few more beers on tap, Deschutes does not have a happy-hour and pints are about $5 to $6.  The parking is much easier at Bridgeport as well.

Besides, it would be difficult to get a server better than Kelsey!

Bridgeport Brewing and Brew Pub         1313 NW Marshall