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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Deschutes Pearl First Look

A couple of months ago, I received my regular copy of Deschutes' newsletter The Bitter Truth, and in it was a story expressing anxiety about heading to Portland:
Portland here we come! We’ll be opening our new Pub in the Pearl District in early May. The Rose City. Stumptown. Puddletown. We feel a little like the Clampett family.
I guess I always saw Deschutes through the inverse lens; they have for years been the state's top dog, the big brewery who wins all the awards. But consciousness is local, and coming from a town of 78,000 in the middle of a remote stretch of the state--well, I guess I can see how it may have felt like a country cousin crashing the big city. Especially since Gary Fish and Co. chose the urbane Pearl District--Portland's most un-Bend-like neighborhood.

I mention all of this because when I walked in yesterday, I was instantly reminded that this is a Bend company, and they're putting Bend front and center. It is not particularly evident from the outside, where the building, just next to the Armory/Gerding Theater, fits right in with the neighborhood. With it's brick facade and industrial picture windows, it also recalls the history of this patch of hallowed brewery land, where within a few square blocks Weinhard's, BridgePort, Widmer, and Portland Brewing all got their start.

In this picture to the left, you can see what I mean. Unlike so many of the buildings in the downtown core, Deschutes has not gone for an austere use of space. Although the building has soaring ceilings that stretch up 20-25 feet, they have have done two things to offset the feel of a warehouse. As you can see, they've created a series of low rafters that look and feel like pergolas. So while you can look over them and see the ceiling above, it creates a cozier atmosphere. Second, they used heavy wooden beams for the effect, which gives the feeling of a lodge.

The use of wood is a major architectural feature. Framing each row, like a trellis, are these carved arches that seem very central Oregon. They feature the kind of art I am familiar with, having grown up east of the Cascades (way east--in Boise)--rough-hewn sculptures of outdoor scenes. These are by J.Chester Armstrong, and they start with a chainsaw. In the picture below you can see owls, and eagle, and cougers. Very manly touches befitting a lodge--and quite distinct from the current Portland style. For contrast, see Hopworks' approach.

In the picture below, you can see the bar--a thick slab salvaged from a building that had been demolished for condos. Not in these pictures, but at the far end of the bar, is a stone fireplace, which adds further texture to the lodgey feel of architect Stuart Emmons' design.

Light is another major feature of the building, and in the picture below, you can see how it creates warmth on the 11th Avenue side of the building. (The network of lowered beams is just to the left of the picture, on the other side of a wall at the building's inner core.)

The brewhouse is visible when you walk in the building through a huge glass window. In the picture below, light reflects off the window, showing the street to the left. Beyond are the tanks housing Brewer Cam O'Connor's fresh beer.

In the dining room area, the copper kettles are literally framed by windows over the bar. Of all the touches in the new building, this was my favorite. Beer's art, and Deschutes is making sure you get the point. Try the cask ale, and you won't need further convincing. I began with one of my favorite beers in the world, Bachelor Bitter on cask. The peppery notes of the hops were more vivid than I recall. I moved on to cask Black Butte and was amazed at how so much of the subtlety of flavor is lost to bottles and kegs. How many Black Buttes have you had? Try a pint on cask and see if you recognize it.

Of course, two pints later, and you'll find yourself here, in front of what must be the finest pair of urinals since the salvaged tanks at BridgePort.

Dave Selden happened to make his first foray to the pub last night, too. He's got his take up, and has photos of some things I missed. Incidentally, I didn't stay for food, but the menu looks like standard pub fare--sandwiches, burgers, pizza, plus a few specialty items. Like lobster ravioli, which I'd love a report on. Have you been? What'd you think?

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