Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hopworks Urban Brewery

After we got down from the Munra Point hike on Saturday, we descended on Hopworks Urban Brewery for eats and beer.
This restaurant had a very nice decor going for it, with bike frames forming an interesting "awning" over one of the bars and a very industrial setting. They were fairly crowded, with lots of families, which isn't really a great thing but we'll let that go. We passed up what would probably have been a decent booth indoors for the chance to catch the evening sun on their patio. The people who run this place decided to go for powerful if slightly hard to read fonts and color schemes that really grab your retinas and shake 'em.
5 out of 5 for decor.

Oh, and we also got to share the various stupid, rude, and obnoxious conversation points from the group of ex-frat-boys and their girlfriends (wanna-be wives, I'm sure) parked at the table next to ours. I think if you can positively identify an ex-frat-boy you are allowed to shoot on sight. The season on vermin is always open, right? Obviously this particular cup of vitriol doesn't apply to the academic frats, but then they probably only drink top-shelf liquor and wine now anyway. I really liked that they played some decent music on their slightly worn-out outdoor speakers. It really brings new life to music to increase the distortion levels. Seriously, this is one of my favorite sounds, and believe it or not it's even better when the speakers are almost completely blown or operating at the very limits of their power and are just starting to come apart - just amazing sound! Because of the frat people, I still have to say 0 out of 5 for ambiance (on this visit, anyway).

So the beer at this place was all organic. Good for them. It wasn't really all that distinctive in any direction. Their double alt (secret seasonal special) was toasty. Their hefeweizen had a nose of unripe oranges gone slightly moldy, but finished nice and crisp despite all the cloudy body. The remainder of the beers were fairly tasty and drinkable, but you can pull that just about anywhere in Portland. Seriously, pick up a rock and throw it. Odds are good you just hit either a brewpub or someone who's going to open one tomorrow. I went back for a pint of their Deluxe Organic Ale, Loni had their Organic Survival "Seven-Grain" Stout. Their sampler is a good deal if you want to try out what they have to offer. 9 three ounce pours for $6.50 sounds about right for an appetizer... I'd give them 3 out of five for the beer, which is harsher than you might think. They need to do more to stand out than just be "organic". Really, to make merely drinkable beer and advertise it as "organic" doesn't help an already diluted term - you must create EXCELLENT beer, which should make people think that it tastes better BECAUSE it's organic.

The food was excellent. I had a cup of minestrone for starters, and it was slightly spicy with large (LARGE) chunks of vegetables. It was not overcooked, and bore no relations that I could detect to anything that previously had a home in a can.
We had the "Gatherer" pizza, and it was EXCELLENT! I had to restrain myself, else I'd have gorged my way through the whole pie. Thin, crispy, slightly buttery crust. Sweetish mixed with savory for the sauce. The cheese was fresh, mostly mozzarella and something else with a little more character. The toppings were plentiful and blended well with the rest of the pie. None of this, however, blended well with the beer. Overall, I give them 5 out of 5 for brewpub food. For the pizza alone, it was up there with A Pizza Scholls. Except without the fucking hordes of people.

Service was good, helpful, friendly, but we missed our waiter for a while in the middle. The frat pack kept him running, so I don't blame him for taking a break. I'd give them a 4 out of 5 for service, and I left some props for him on their comment card. Kick down, HUB - he's a good server and you should give him a raise! Maybe only a nickle an hour or something, we don't want it to go to his head, right?

I think this place would be better for groups. For a regular two person dinner it seemed a little busy and maybe just slightly rushed. Also somewhat noisy. Difficult to appreciate a beer when there are so many distractions. Prices were fair. No great values (except maybe the sampler) but nothing was too expensive, either. Lots of vegetarian options, which is always good. Overall, by all the brewpub standards held dear in my stone heart, I give them 4 out of a possible 5. I expect I'd like to go again, after I've tried all of the other brewpubs here in Portland.

No comments: