Portland U-Brew
Portland U-Brew 6237 SE Milwaukie Ave Website | Twitter

The title says it all. But I'll elaborate on the subject. Many many moons ago, or however many moons showed up in the last nine months ago, a homebrewpub opened in the Westmoreland area. It is called Portland U-Brew... and it is awesome.

After a long and arduous day at work in northeast Portland, I started my car and pointed it south. I picked up a friend along the way who was interested in learning how to homebrew. I figured this would be the best introduction to homebrewing one could possibly have and I was right (like always.) We parked in a one hour parking spot which I do not recommend if you visit this pub, because there's no way in hell you'll spend less than an hour there... Unless Aaron Gillham's practical joking and his sick and twisted sense of humor drive you off.  Aaron is the head brewer at U-Brew, along with a dark and mysterious brewer named Jason Webb that Aaron snatched from Max's Fanno Creek Brewpub. Together they brew and help u-brew too. We stepped inside and were immediately greeted by the pleasant and familiar smell of heated water meeting malted barley turning into sweet wort that becomes the beer we all adore. The pub is a quaint room with a bar that has eight chalkboard tap handles which have the names of the ever rotating beers jotted down on them, which keeps things always fresh and new. To the right is a room you can rent for special occasions, a kitchen, dartboard, giant Jenga and a big hole in the floor where you can look down on people brewing. Walk through a doorway to the left of the bar and you are in a homebrew supply store that is well spread out and very nicely organized. Grains of all sorts wait in containers along the wall  for someone with the right recipe to show up. Extract barrels sit at the end of the room ready to dispense gooey goodness at the flick of a switch with the help of a co2 system. Books, equipment, hops, yeast. All just waiting to become part of something bigger. Which can either happen in your garage, kitchen, or downstairs in the brewery.

Portland U-Brew

The brewery is capable of brewing three fifteen gallon batches of beer at a time, making it Oregon's smallest nano-brewery. The brewery is so small that they even use carboys to ferment the beer that is served on tap in the upstairs bar, along with three larger Blichmann fermenters. For the part that involves you, the homebrewer, they have six twenty gallon steam jacket kettles along with kegs that have been converted into mash tuns with a capacity of fifteen and a half gallons, which equals out to about forty five pounds of grain (no extract brewing here!) along with heated sparge water on demand that can be set to any temperature you want. To start a 15 gallon batch of brew here, you tell them what you want your beer to be or be like and they input some data into a computer program called Beersmith. This will then show you stats on your beer like estimated OG, FG, ABV, IBU's and what color. A good way to start your beer brewing adventure here is to begin it before you set foot in the door. Have an idea of a beer style, what ABV you want it to be, how bitter ect. Or you can just think of a beer you like and you can try and clone it... just don't expect to be able to clone a Nogne 0 Dark Horizon or a Pliny the Elder. There are some beers out there that are very difficult to recreate with a homebrewing system because they took brewers years to perfect. So just remember to keep your head out of the clouds when it comes to thinking of what beer you want to brew. After you brew, your beer with sit in carboys in a temperature controlled fermentation room where it will be transferred to a secondary fermenter after about a week to a week and a half, where it will sit in the secondary for about the same amount of time. After that it is moved to a cold room to settle and clarify. After your beer is ready you can come in and bottle or keg your beer with their bottle filling system that includes forced c02 carbonation. You can supply your own bottles (make sure they're clean!) or you can buy bottles from U-Brew as well. Brewing at U-Brew begins at $150 and goes up depending on the beer you want to brew (what and how many ingredients it requires).

Portland U-Brew

I was so impressed with U-Brew that I made the trip a few days later from Beaverton, passing up a few closer homebrew stores on my way to get ingredients for me and my friends Imperial Irish Red Ale. We arrived and began collecting things that were on the ingredients list when after a bit I realized something amazing... I wasn't having to substitute anything due to the fact that they didn't have it. This had never happened before. After 13 pounds of grain were ground and everything was in our possession we decided to sit down for a beer in the pub. Just because we could!

U-Brew has even created a local cult called the "Brewers Collective" which meets on the middle Thursday of every month in the evening. It is a group of brewers that ranges from those that are professionals to those who are newbies who are just getting started. They share beers, stories and if you're cunning enough they may even share a recipe. On the nights Brewers Collective meets, U-Brew donates ingredients for the group to brew a batch of beer which will then be put on tap at the pub. Brewers Collective started about four months ago, currently has about 45 people who participateand there is no membership required.

U-Brew sets itself apart in a crowded beer market from other pubs, homebrew stores and breweries because it became all three. They have the knowledge, the equipment and the ingredients. All that is missing is you!