By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Finally, a craft brewery has arrived in the Lents neighborhood of Portland. Zoiglhaus Brewing Company, at Southeast 92nd Avenue and Ramona Street, is an oasis in a desert of family-friendly gathering places. The spacious, German-inspired pub opened September 2015, after more than four years of planning.
Of the many stories behind the brewery project, the one about its name seems the place to start. Zoigl is a variety of beer made in eastern Bavaria, which dates back to ancient times. The tradition is still practiced in the small towns of the Oberpfalz region. Locals share a communal brewery where they mash before taking them home to ferment. When the homebrewers of Oberpfalz put the Zoigl sign outside their house, it’s an invitation to come enjoy their beer. The sign is a six-pointed, blue-and-white star shaped from two triangles. The first symbolizes the brewing elements of fire, water and air. The second symbolizes the ingredients of malt, hops and water.
For co-owner and brewmaster Alan Taylor, the name Zoiglhaus was perfect. He said that when he and the other two owners met with the marketing representative to hammer out the concept of the brewery, they had three different ideas.
“We all came together behind the idea of the Zoigl and the name Zoiglhaus just followed. We liked the idea of a community brewery, of supporting the neighborhood, of sharing our brewhouse with other breweries, and of the traditional German heritage style of brewing.” The red-and-white logo features the traditional star.
Taylor’s interest in and love of Germany is deep and wide. As an undergraduate at Linfield College, he studied German and math and found time for homebrewing. He traveled to Germany numerous times for study and work, eventually combining his education and passion into German beermaking.
Taylor secured a brewing internship in Berlin at the Luisen-Brau in May of 1997. Competition for internships was fierce then, since there was only one main brewery, a handful of pubs and at least a dozen people vying for the spots. “I showed up week after week at the pub and finally wore the owner down,” he said.
In the fall, he began attending the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt fur Brauerei in Berlin, a brewing institute for professionals started in 1883 by the German brewing and malting industry. He successfully completed the intensive 10-month course and received his degree in 1998. After that, Taylor jumped back and forth between the states and Germany, finding plenty of work at breweries, including Widmer Brothers Brewing until 2011 when he started planning his own brewery.
“The first hurdle was finding a location,” Taylor said. With backing from investor Nick Roberts, he looked at 50 or 60 different locations around town — on the west side, in St. Johns, in Southeast. It took two years to locate the building in Lents, which was owned by the Portland Development Commission. It was a good match. The PDC had been looking for a tenant for the 28,000-square-foot building, close to the Lents Town Center/Foster Road MAX Station, after a failed bakery left them with unpaid loans and a gaping hole in services for the proposed Lents Town Center.
From Taylor’s view, the building was perfect for a brewery, with nearly 7,000 square feet for a restaurant and 3,000-plus for the onsite brewery with a loading dock in back, a freight elevator to take the grain and other supplies to the full basement and the possibility of developing event space on the second floor.
But the brewery project slowed, and at that point Taylor “told Nick to stop paying me for a while.” He went looking for an in-between job — one that would keep him financially solvent while he moved his brewery project forward. That’s how he ended up as head brewer at PINTS Brewing Company in Old Town Portland. Taylor increased the beer production and business at PINTS almost overnight. “We went from 13 barrels a month when I first started to 106 in July,” he said.
In time, PINTS owner Chad Rennaker saw the opportunity in Lents and joined forces with Taylor and Roberts. He also bought nearby property, including the New Copper Penny nightclub, and plans to build a mix of affordable housing and retail on that site. Other property in the immediate area is also slated for development.
In another twist to a complicated business relationship, Taylor agreed to assist Rennaker with his brewery in Albuquerque, N. M. — the Ponderosa Brewing Company. Taylor trained the brewer there and oversees production, making monthly visits to the brewery. Until recently, he was back and forth between PINTS and Zoiglhaus. All the brewing was happening at PINTS because the 10-barrel brewhouse expected in September was delayed. Now that it’s arrived, Taylor is excited about its big brewing capabilities.
“The PINTS brewhouse, built in 1997, is not made to handle ‘big’ beers,” said Taylor. “The 3.5-barrel system works best for ESBs and lagers.”
The new equipment is from Newlands Systems in British Columbia, Canada, and custom designed to Taylor’s specifications. By the time this goes to print, the brewhouse will be operational. Even with all the shiny tanks and three extra fermenters for other operations, the brewhouse has room to grow. When it’s at capacity, they can produce 10,000 barrels annually. Of the extra fermenters onsite, one belongs to a founding member of The Oregon Public House, a nonprofit brewpub in North Portland, and the other two are for a startup brewery soon to find its home in Hood River.
Taylor plans to brew three or four days a week at Zoiglhaus, one or two days at PINTS and travel to Albuquerque, N.M. once a month. At Zoiglhaus, two other brewers will assist him. The tap list at Zoiglhaus currently has 10 beers, including a couple of IPAs and a red. The German beers include dunkelweizen, schwarzbier, hefeweissbier and a crisp kolsch. There aren’t plans for guest taps.
Even though Taylor has embraced modern conveniences in his brewing practices, choosing electricity instead of wood fires, and kettle whirlpools for cooling instead of coolships, he wants to brew in accordance with the German purity laws that says brewers can only use water, hops, malted barley and yeast — unless its top fermented and then they can use anything that’s maltable. “The whole idea here was to have German beer done right.”
The menu features several traditional German dishes, such as homemade sauerkraut and sausage, kaesespaetzle with layers of Swiss cheese and caramelized onion and jagerschnitzel, along with more traditional pub fare.
Zoiglhaus Brewing Company
[a] 5716 SE 92nd Ave., Portland
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.