In addition to its rare location, Occidental also occupies a rare space in the Portland brewing world: German beers. At the moment, that mainly means German ales (a kolsch, alt, weizen and a kind of cheater dunkel), but I was super impressed with the kellerbier they served at the Oregon Brewers Festival--the best beer I tasted at the fest. Eventually, with expanded capacity, I hope to see more lagers. And I do wonder if a kellerbier might be exactly the crossover IPA fans need. It's cloudy and a bit rustic but bright with--in this case--tangy Tettnanger hops. It had the crispness you want in a lager, but there's something familiar in those hazy depths.
It's a production brewery with a taproom, and as with so much in St John's, the place really isn't geared toward tourist traffic. It's off Willamette, in that stretch beyond the bridge where it's a leafy neighborhood street. You dive down Baltimore toward the river and find it in a little industrial block. The interior looks like what it is--a brewery--but it's the homey kind of place regulars haunt. I enjoyed myself talking to guys who'd just gotten off work. When you're standing outside the building, you look up and see the graceful lines of the city's prettiest bridge.
The beer is impressive--though Engler's working in a muted palate of styles. The alt is bready and a bit chewier than some examples, and more balanced. (For a contrast, try the Widmer's very sharp, light-bodied example.) The kolsch is delicate and balanced--a traditional take and an excellent one. I took a growler of it to go. I can't speak to the weizen or dunkles, but since I have a friend whose recently moved (back) to the Johns, I plan to check those out soon. Go give them a look.
|The pints are honest (.5 L) and the bar is covered with caps|