Beer Sherpa Recommends: West Coast Grocery Co.

West Coast Grocery Company
1403 SE Stark
A limited but full menu, street parking, kids welcome

The square mile of real estate in Portland’s inner Southeast, running from Water Avenue to 20th east-west, and Burnside to Hawthorne north-south (it’s actually smaller than a square mile) contains eleven breweries, two cideries, and the McMenamins’ first pub. I would guess it’s one of the most-breweried stretches of real estate in the world. (There’s at least a half dozen more just beyond this cluster.) The newest is the unusually-named West Coast Grocery Company, five blocks from Burnside Brewing, Base Camp, Mt Tabor, and eight blocks from Cascade Brewing. It opened a couple months back and lodged its first medal at the Oregon Beer Awards this weekend with a gold for its fresh hop saison.

About the Name
Charlie Hyde's family started in the grocery business in Tacoma way back in 1891. The business survived four generations but the family sold it in 1985. Hyde decided to revivie the name and use "grocery" as the theme for the pub, which features grocery-style shelves behind the bar and a grocery-cart sculpture in the dining room. It is definitely an offbeat choice, but it works in the context of the pub.

It was founded by Charlie Hyde, a business-educated guy who looks to be on the fair side of 30. His original brewing partner departed for Hawaii and he had the great fortune of finding Owen Woods, who was the head brewer at Deschutes’ Portland outpost. It’s in a great location, just across from Revolution Hall, nestled into the dense Buckman neighborhood. It’s in a block of new construction, and the inside has a stairstep arrangement. The brewery and dining room are on the ground floor, but the bar seating is perched in a mezzanine above, offering a great view of the brewery and the bustle of the town on the streets outside.

If the brewery breaks through in this extremely competitive neighborhood, it will be because of the beer. West Coast Grocery doesn’t have a standard lineup, yet, though I think it’s going to be hard to pull some of these beers off the menu. The best beer pouring right now is a 4.5% pilsner called (unfortunately) Peck Chillzner, which is absolutely spot-on. It’s not actually Czech—a German pils with, presumably, Saaz hops. Still, it immediately joins the ranks of a number of excellent pilsners pouring in town—what I think of as Portland’s secret weapon.

There are actually two other lagers pouring—a dry, somewhat hoppy (for style) dunkel, and a crackery Oktoberfest. They also have a Brut IPA, the only IPA currently pouring (though many more are on the way) and a wonderful pale ale called Colonel Summers, which locals recognize as a reference to the park a few blocks away. Finally, that fresh-hop saison is highly reminiscent of Urban Farmhouse. Every beer save one was 6% ABV or lower, which encourages sessions.

I have long since given up on trying to do reviews of every new brewery that opens in Portland—there are just too many. But West Coast Grocery is a brewery to put on your short list. In a few months I’m going to do another edition of Portland’s Best Breweries, and new entrants like West Coast (and perhaps Ruse, which I still need to visit) aren’t going to make that any easier. Make sure to give it a look.