A team of Portland, Oregon, entrepreneurs announced their plans Wayfinder Beer, a new brewery/restaurant coming to Portland's Central Eastside neighborhood. Founders Charlie Devereux (Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom), Matthew Jacobson (Sizzle Pie, Quality Bar, Relapse Records), and Rodney Muirhead (Podnah's Pit, La Taq) are busy converting a 100-year-old brick warehouse into a classic craft brewery, with a 100-plus-seat beer hall and an equally large outdoor seating area. Current plans call for opening in spring 2016.
A 10-barrel capacity, four-vessel lager brewhouse built by local fabricator JV Northwest, will sit adjacent to the main dining area, giving patrons an up-close look at the brewing process. A custom-built wood-fired grill will anchor the open kitchen at the other end of the space. In the center of everything is a 2,200-square-foot wood-planked deck with fire pit, providing an elevated sanctuary from the neighborhood's industrial bustle.
The three founders envision a space that's warm, comfortable and filled with character, with a touch of a modern edge. Design work by Portland-based Works Partnership Architecture injects energy into the brick-walled edifice, with new skylights and a steel-paneled back bar and glassware-filled bar overhang. "We told WPA that we wanted our bar to be a 'temple to glassware' and they came back with some very cool ideas," Devereux says.
The project began as a collaboration between Devereux and Jacobson, who bonded over shared experiences as entrepreneurs and beer lovers. "Matt was a big Double Mountain fan," says Devereux, who left the company in 2013 with an idea for a new Portland venture. "And I was really impressed with Sizzle Pie's terrific branding and marketing. But we really didn't know each other. A mutual friend made the connection for us and we were off to the races. … I was having lunch with Rodney about six months later and he expressed interest in joining the team as a partner," Devereux continues. "It took me about two seconds to say, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ I think Matt's reaction was even quicker."
Muirhead, who won Willamette Week's Restaurant of the Year in 2011 for Podnah's Pit, is designing a beer-friendly menu with his signature style: inventive yet gimmick-free, and executed to the highest standards. Sandwiches (think smoked prime rib cheesesteak, duck confit bahn mi), house-made sausages, pretzels, and snacks will dominate the all-day menu. The grill will take precedence in the evening, delivering steaks, chops, coal-roasted vegetables, and much more. The menu boasts vegan and vegetarian options as well.
Muirhead's management team from Podnah's and La Taq will run daily operations. Wayfinder will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
In its quest for world-class lagers, Wayfinder has hired award-winning brewmaster Kevin Davey, recently of Gordon Biersch in Seattle, to lead the brewing effort. Davey has won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival for his lagers, after getting his start in brewing at German-inspired Chuckanut Brewing Company in Bellingham and a pit stop at Firestone Walker Brewery in California.
Pilsners and other lagers will star, but they won't be alone: Wayfinder plans to brew a wide variety of beers, including American and Belgian-inspired ales. "I think we'll be about 50/50 lager vs. ales," Devereux notes. "We'll see what our customers are digging, and brew accordingly. But we all love how perfectly a great lager can complement great food." A full bar is planned as well, with custom drinks designed by local mixologist Jacob Grier, author of "Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer.” Long-time Portland craft beer icon Jonathan Carmean will serve as bar manager.
The brewery will be located at 304 SE 2nd Avenue in the City Sign Building, just around the corner from Produce Row Cafe. With a footprint of around 8,900 square feet, Wayfinder has expansion room to meet wholesale demand. Devereux estimates the facility can ultimately support up to 7,500 barrels per year of production.