For home brewers the thought of one day going pro is a constant siren song tugging at the imagination. Visions of a taproom with hand crafted beers satisfying the thirst of paying customers dance in home brewer’s dreams at night. For most, this might be a farfetched fantasy, but for others, it’s an inescapable destiny. For Mike Wright, The Commons Brewery in Southeast Portland is the realization of such a dream.
I found my way to The Commons Brewery after reading several articles regarding nanobrewing. You will of course have heard of numerous microbreweries, but what is a nanobrewery? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive number to describe today’s nanobreweries. Generally speaking it’s any liquesced, professional brewery operating on a 4 barrel system or smaller. For the sake of perspective, that’s scarcely more than an ambitious homebrewer. Most small brew pubs are between a 7 to 10 barrels capacity. So what about the Commons Brewery? Well in the beginning, Mike Wright was able to get federally licensed on a 1 barrel brew system, in his garage. When I read about his brewery the wheels started turning. Hmmm, I have an unattached garage…
At any rate, the brewery was originally called Beetje (pronounced Be-Cha), which means “little bit” in Flemish. It was not long before Wright out grew his little bit of garage and moved into a larger commercial place with a 7 barrel system. Brewing commenced in 2011 and he has been pumping out delicious brews ever since. I recently had the opportunity to visit and taste some of the fine beers being brewed at The Commons. Before tasting the beer though I had to know why the name change? I was informed by the gentleman tending the bar it was because no one could pronounce Beetje. Fair enough.
Now for the important stuff: the beer. The Commons specializes in farmhouse ales. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition considering their urban location. The tasting room is cool, casual and right in the brewery. For anyone interested in brewing science, it’s a great opportunity to drink the beers in the middle of where the action is. You can see water in buckets bubbling from submerged blow off tubes at the feet of gleaming stainless steel fermentation vessels. It’s the perfect place for the beer aficionado to geek out.
There are several beers in their year round line up as well as a number of seasonal offerings. I tried a sampler of 4 beers, all of which were delicious. The 2 that stood out to me were Flemish Kiss and their Pilsner. Flemish Kiss is a Belgian pale ale dosed with Bretanamomyces in secondary fermentation. The result is a very drinkable beer with floral and fruity flavors married with a pleasant earthiness. I could drink a lot of this beer. The Pilsner was also tasty. Made in the German style, it had lots of bread and biscuit flavor with a firm hop bitterness which led to a crisp dry finish.
If you are looking to try some unique and fantastic beers you need to go to The Commons Brewery. It has already garnered many accolades for the beers being brewed there from Willamette Weekly’s Beer of the Year (for Urban Farmhouse), to a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Flemish Kiss. It is a unique place that offers the opportunity to relax and drink where the beer is crafted. In addition, it has a social atmosphere conducive to meeting new people. The Commons has proven to be a welcome addition to the vibrant Portland beer scene.