In this quiet Portland neighborhood only the large hop cone over the entrance of Alameda Brewhouse gives away the attractions inside. One large open room hosts everything necessary for this popular brewpub. Red brick walls surround the patrons, with a 30-foot ceiling overhead and a concrete floor underneath. Streetside windows bring in natural light while electric lamps illuminate the painted burlap banners hanging from the walls. The open seven-barrel brewhouse stands to the left, a dozen tables to the center, booths along the right wall, and a long light wood bar with its black and chrome bar stools toward the rear. The sheet metal enclosed Cold Room stands directly behind the full bar, the serving tanks clearly visible. Two silent TVs sit atop this large cold metal box, the closed captioning messages conveying the details of any unfolding dramas to anyone bored enough to be watching. A plywood case supports 20 tap handles that pour the house beers as well as favorites such as Guinness Stout, Pikes IPA, Deschuttes Black Butte Porter, and Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Most beers are pushed by a gas blend of 70% nitrogen - 30% CO2. Some bottled ales, lagers and Lambics are also available.
Most beers run $2 for 10 ounces, $3.25 a pint, and $9.75 for a 60-ounce pitcher, but specialty beers are priced at $3.25 for a 12-ounce glass. Four-ounce tasters are a reasonable 50¢. The seasonal Summer Wheat is a hazy dark amber with a full mouthfeel and spicy character. The 6.1% WASCO Indian Summer Ale is a hazy amber with a light hop aroma and pronounced hop flavor (80 IBUs) that lingers well into the finish. The 5.3% Irvington Juniper Porter is a clear brown with a very light body, and slight dark malt flavor. The oak-conditioned Pale Ale is clear amber in color, offers a smooth mouthfeel, light body, hint of oakiness, and overall great flavor combination between the oak and the malts. The nitro-based Craft-an-Righ Wee Heavy (200 Shilling), at 9.3%, is a dark brown color with a rich malty/alcoholic aroma, light smoky character, and very smooth malty flavor. The 6.7% Black Bear Double Stout features a very creamy mouthfeel with a smooth dark malt flavor, slight alcohol character, and overall nice even flavor balance. The Klickitat Pale Ale is a hazy amber with a thick head, smooth malt flavor, Munich malt?, and ample hop bitterness - nice! The award-winning Burghead Pict Heather Ale is copper color with a medium body, light honey flavor with subtle caramel malt and an interesting floral character from the heather flowers. The Spring Rose Dopple Bock is a light brown with a great malty sweetness that is matched to a novel "rose petal" character. The House Root Beer has an early spicy flavor before mellowing into an evenly-balanced sweet/dry synergy.
Head brewer Craig Nicholls clearly enjoys providing his customers a full range of sensory experiences. It seems the chef does as well, with specials such as Chile Relleno with crab and shrimp. In addition to merchandise, one-liter swing-top bottles are available "to go." Open in August 1996, the place still has that "unfinished" look to the interior, but there's no need to dwell on the overhead wooden trusses or the silver insulation. The place is friendly and accommodating, it's fully wheelchair accessible. The Happy Hour bar menu offers Poppers, Egg Rolls, and Mozzarella Sticks for $2.99. The Alameda Brewhouse offers exactly what people look for in a neighborhood brewpub. Now if we could only get city zoning codes to require one in every neighborhood.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri -