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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Review - Old Lompoc Fifth Quadrant

3901-B North Williams
Portland, Oregon

Hours: variable, call first if you're going odd hours; open all days
Prices: 10 oz glass - $2, 14oz - $3.75, Pitchers: $12
Other info: Seasonal outdoor seating; kids allowed; No smoking
Beers: A range of English ales plus seasonals.

Back in 1998, the Old Lompoc was a very modest new brewpub which I gave low odds to succeed. Down at the seedy end of NW 23rd (when there was still a seedy end), it had a new brewery, but still had the ambiance of a working-class 50s tavern. Of course, I liked it. When it re-opened as the New Old Lompoc, under the management of Don Younger and Jerry Fechter, it was still modest, but growing. None other than Bud Clark pulled the first pint (somewhere in a box in the basement I have a picture), but I still didn't give it great odds to thrive. (I still liked it.)

But my, how the Lompoc has grown. Now a mini-chain, it has a Southeast and Northerly outpost. And the Fifth Quadrant, which opened last year on Williams Ave (in what must be known city-wide as "the new Pix Building)", is the most haute of all--I can't imagine it began in that offbeat little tavern. The name is a nod to North Portland, which is mostly beyond the pub, and perhaps a nod to the rising fortunes of that portion of the city. So I guess everything has changed.

The Fifth Quadrant (5Q) is housed in a new building in the popular nouveau industrial style, with high ceilings and exposed duct work, cement floors, and metal floor-to-ceiling windows. It is spacious and airy, but also quite loud. The roof extends off one end of the building to make for attractive outdoor seating, and the booths at the center of the restaurant have sliding dividers that expand to seat two tables (ten people?). It was packed with families, including kids, when we went, the sure sign of a thriving neighborhood pub.

When the Lompoc was just getting started, Fechter had a tendency toward excessive tannins (generally a problem with too much crystal malt). For years I wanted to like Lompoc beers as much as I liked the pub, but they were just too grainy. So it was with some prejudice that I approached my Condor Pale at the Fifth Quadrant. Maybe it's 5Q brewer Derek Clark (there's a brewery on-site), but this ain't your father's (okay, older brother's) New Old Lompoc. Two of the three beers I tried were exceptional--a helluva batting average for any brewpub.
  • Condor Pale - Sweet, carmelly nose, a warm golden color. Both this beer and the Stout had noticeably fresh aromas--as if they had been kegged and tapped minutes earlier. This was a classic NW-style pale, but what really caught my attention was the silky, creamy mouthfeel. It was thicker than most pales, but not at all heavy or cloyingly sweet. The malt and hops were in wonderful harmony. It finished dry--even more surprising, given the rich mouthfeel. Fantastic.
  • Sockeye Cream Stout - Jet black, dense nitro head that lasted to the end. Roast and chocolate aroma, and something of English yeast (which may have been contributed by the taster, who was getting carried away) came through in the nose. Much of the strengths of the pale were evident here--silky mouthfeel, and a nice balance between a very chocolaty-sweet first note and a subsequent drying dark malts (could be both roasted and black). Perhaps the best sweet stout I've tasted.
  • Centennial IPA - Although this is probably a crowd-pleaser, to me it was the one dud in the batch. It's got the hallmarks loved in Beervana--cloudy golden, frothy head, and intense bitterness. But the bitterness wasn't pleasant; it tasted like the hops had been strained for all their alpha-acid might; it tasted stressed, like over-boiled coffee. If you're going to do strongly bitter beers, better to include hops at all stages of the boil so that the bitterness is complemented by hop flavor and aroma. This one wasn't--even the aroma was nearly absent. I assume the name comes from Centennial hops, among the most aromatic, so this is a special injustice. But what the hay--have the Condor, instead.
Brewpubs have learned that a good menu is good business, and 5Q has one. They feature a nice array of starters (nice if you're just out for beers), hearty sandwiches, pasta, and a few (mostly meaty) entrees. But there's also a decent selection for vegetarians, too--somewhat rare for brewpubs. Sally tried the fish and chips (her fave) and I went for a chorizo penne dish. I hate to report that the fish was slightly over-cooked; otherwise, with halibut and crispy shoestrings, it was very nice. I'd try it again. The pasta was tasty but slightly understated--still, pretty good for a pub. Portland Food and Drink, whom you should trust more than me, calls it "some of the best pub food in Portland." I'm inclined to agree. (And of course, Pix Patisserie, purveyors of the best dessert in town, is just around the corner.) We had a poor waitress, but consulting other reviews, this appears to be anomalous.

All in all, a great place. I give it a strong recommendation.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff,

    Please note: I have out of state beer visitors who religously come to Portland and HAVE to have a Pastry and Belgian Beer pairing at Pix Pasterie. It's incredible and most servers at Pix will give suggestions on Beer and pastry pairing... I would have to recommend the ST. Honore paired with either a Triple Karmaliet or a Westmalle Tripe... A true beer drinkers experience.

    Lompoc? Maybe go there for lunch and some LSD before Pix.

    I'm a little more fond of Hedge House over 5Q. Both are small and feel cramped, but they have two different feels... 5Q feels more stuffy and lofty. HH feels more inviting and relaxed.... Kind of like the other Lompoc Pubs.