Stir Things Up at the Labrewatory

Tucked away on NE Russell Street is a small, relatively young brewery and taproom.  It’s in the same area as some favorite past watering holes on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – the historic White Eagle Saloon, Prost and The Rambler are just a few. (Click on the links to see the reviews)

Although the Labrewatory is typical of many small breweries – a large garage door that can be opened in good weather – the venue is more than a cool, fifty-seat taproom.  t’s actually a brewing experiment – an idea generated in late 2015 by its head brewer, Charlie Johnson.  And it gets some good reviews including being selected by Travel Portland as one of “Portland’s Best New Breweries in 2015:”

“A new project by Portland Kettle Works (a company that crafts equipment for many local breweries), this cutting-edge brew lab is the first of its kind in the city. Rather than employing its own brewers, The Labrewatory serves as a testing ground for sudsy new experiments from creative minds all over the country.”

Laura, Ryan and friend Kenzie Larson at 2014 Stamtisch Beerchasing

The idea to visit The Labrewatory (hereafter LB) was my son-in-law’s, Ryan Keene.  He and wife, Laura, are veteran Beerchasers, having been on several expeditions before their recent September marriage last year.  These included Stamtisch, Quimby’s and MadSon’s Pub.  (To see Thebeerchaser reviews of these watering holes, click on the link over their names.)

Ryan and Laura debating on the LB beer choice

 

 

 

It was a nice Father’s Day gift to me and Ryan’s dad, Ron, who along with Janet Williams, my wonderful Beerchasing spouse joined our group.  The five of us enjoyed both the beer and the venue.

This was the first Beerchasing expedition for Ron who grew up in Spokane and has been in Portland close to 35 years.  He works for XPO Logistics as a business analyst in IT working on pricing projects. Ryan, who is a an expert runner and excellent athlete, inherited much of his athletic talent from his dad although Ron asserts that “I owned Ryan on the Ping Pong table until he was 12.”

Charlie Johnson, the aforementioned head brewer, has both a masters degree in microbiology and a doctorate in chemical engineering and perhaps considerably more vision in his high school chemistry class than I did.

Dmitri wore a funny hat and drank vodka rather than beer……

Most of us just tried to understand the logic as to why Iron was abbreviated Fe (Atomic # 26) while Iridium was Ir (Atomic #77) on the Periodic Table of Elements and what Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was trying to prove when he created it.

The LB has a very upscale and attractive interior:

“The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom.”  Willamette Week Bar Review (12/30/15)

The LB is a great place to taste beers from smaller breweries with the four guest taps hosting Freemont, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Lakes breweries when we were there.  But you can also experiment with BL’s own innovative beers with ten on tap.

Ryan and Ron try a $12 sampler with six different beers.

We tried two of their samplers and were able, with the six beers on each tray, to try most of the options.

And the samplers are reasonably priced at $12 for six four-ounce pours.  Our two favorites were the BL Falcon IPA and the Cascade Lakes Brewing’s Salted Caramel Porter.   BL’s Yuzu Mimosa (Kettle Soured Golden Ale) and Gose in Your Mouth both had plenty of pucker power!

Given their business model, it’s understandable while LB chose not to provide food service – at least not right away – but that does not seem to be a problem.  Multiple parties were ordering food from Tamale Boy, right next door and the offerings (which they will deliver to the Labrewatory when ready) looked very good i.e. reasonable prices and expansive menu – while also getting stellar review in social media.  For example, this 6/21/17 review on Yelp.  

Tamale Boy provides great food options

The quality of tamale goes beyond just authentic. A single tamale is $5 but is almost double the size of tamales I’ve eaten in the past. It is plump and avoids being dry. Wrapped in a freshly steamed leaf, you can tell care went into its production…..The salsa that accompanied the had a great tang, on the spicy side with fresh chunks of cilantro and tomato- excellent!

Delicious, made to order, fresh and full of flavor! Qué fantastico. Super fun eating experience. You can sit (if w/kids), in between the store and the brewery, and they will serve you on your wine barrel.   (Yelp 1/8/17)

Where the innovative brewing takes place….

And the LB deserves credit for their enteprenaurial spirit and innovativeness.  For example, in January of 2016, they released a crowd-sourced beer brew – the @PDXBottleshare IPA...

What’s that?  Well read the description from their website:

“The beer was brewed during the December 2015 @PDXBottleShare event held in our taproom. Participants brought in a bottle of beer to share…and a bag of hops to contribute to the brew.

Nearly 40 people showed up to the event at Labrewatory, bringing in 50 bottles of beer and 23 different hops for the event brew!… For the IPA, Charlie used all of the hop additions in the mash and during fermentation- none in in the boil. He used a very low mash temperature and used traditional German mashing schedule to keep the beer dry, and then the beer was fermented with our house yeast strain from Imperial Organic.”

And the creativity is also reflected in their activities.  In six years of Beerchasing, I have not seen another combination of yoga and beer similar to what goes on once each month:

Monday nights are Yoga + Beer nights in Portland! The last Monday of each month is our class at Labrewatory…..After class we roll up our mats, spread out the tables and enjoy pints of their most recent (and tasty!) concoctions. This detox + retox class, led by Yoga + Beer instructor, Jana Bedard, is an all-levels flow yoga class. After class, yogis are invited to stay to enjoy a delicious beer!  

Yoga and Beer on the last Monday night of each month.

The cost is $20 for the yoga class and a pint or $15 just for the yoga.  (They didn’t offer a beer-only option for somebody who wanted to come and observe the class and just drink while they were inspired by those more motivated to stay in shape.)

There are other interesting stories and perhaps Charlie’s imagination got a little overzealous for one of his first creations.

Loligo vulgaris = squid. Supplied the ink for one of Charlie’s first beers

“…..It’s not too often that a brewer gets so much creative freedom to make beer. Then you get to ask yourself, ‘how far can you push the limits’?”   A cherry Gose brined with squid ink. Yes, squid ink. The ink will act as the salty agent in the beer and give an enticing dark color.”   11 November http://labrewatory.com/meet-our-first-brewer/  

Then there was another one based on an idea by a fellow brewer as documented in New School Beer.com: http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2015/12/the-labrewatory-is-now-brewing-up-strange-brews.html

“This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.”

No need to follow the steps of Pierre and Marie Curie when brewing….

Perhaps those experiments go beyond the cutting edge and maybe it’s a good thing Charlie got his PhD in chemical and not nuclear engineering.  (He might decide to do some brewing with Radium – that’s Ra and atomic number 88 in the Periodic Table.)  While I have no problem with brewing creativity, I don’t want to have to use a Geiger counter when having a brewski…..

Check out the Labrewatory.  You will enjoy it and there are a lot of other good bars nearby if you want to make it an evening.

Labrewatory        

670 N. Russell Street

 

 

 

You’ll Want a Fork at the Hop N Cork – also a Mug!

Lake Oswego's Newest Brew Pub

Lake Oswego’s Newest Brew Pub

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).

Support from the neighbors

Support from the neighbors

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.

Cozy niches for good conversation

Cozy niches for good conversation

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 Ecliptic - good beer but no ambiance....

The Ecliptic – good beer but no ambiance….

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.

Hop N Cork co-owner and manager, Michelle Faubion

Hop N Cork co-owner and manager, Michelle Faubion

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.

Sunil and ichelle

Sunil and Michelle

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.  IMG_4315

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.

The impressive tap list is displayed digitally

The impressive tap list is displayed digitally

 

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 AleSantiam 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.”

Beerchaser regulars, Dan Swift and Mike Jones with Michelle and Thebeerchaser logo

Beerchaser regulars, Dan Swift and Mike Jones with Michelle and Thebeerchaser logo

 

Locally sourced and this guy is good at his craft!

Locally sourced and this guy is good at his craft!

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.   cheese and food

 

“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.

P1030982

Specials for the day…….

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.

Not too difficult to understand.

Not too difficult to understand.

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.

P1030990So they had a pig roast last summer and several times a month hosts a “Tap Takeover” with several breweries, with specific food pairings and swag brought in by the breweries.

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.

Another amazing St. Marys Academy grad besides Thebeerchasers daughter....!

Another amazing St. Marys Academy grad – besides Thebeerchaser’s daughter….!

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”).

Nifty chandelier...

Nifty chandelier…

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.”

The Hop N Cork

 17450 Lower Boones Ferry Rd.  Lake Oswego, OR 97035.

503-305-5903

P1030991