Great Notion's new NW expansion

Image: Ryan Ashby

In the “Boom or Bust” cycles of America's still-young craft beer industry, Great Notion Brewing seems happily on the “boom” side of things. On Monday, March 4th, the brewery opened its new, long-awaited, 20,000-foot expansion in NW Portland (2444 NW 28th Ave) after roughly two years of delays and setbacks. (The new location was originally announced in January 2017.)

The new locale will enable four times the brewing capacity of Great Notion's original NE Alberta location, facilitating an expanded line-up of new beers. It'll also offer an early morning coffee bar–opening at 7:00 a.m.–to simultaneously get your caffeine fix and beer to go.

We got our own custom blend Great Notion coffee," says Paul Reiter, Great Notion's co-founder and business head. "We’re going to have pastries and breakfast burritos to go. We’re [even] gonna have Double Stack lattes.”

Reiter's referring to the brewery’s maple syrup and coffee breakfast stout, which has won several awards in the past few years, including a gold medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup.

The brewery's original spot on 2204 NE Alberta Street opened on New Year’s Day 2016; since then, the brewery has experienced meteoric growth even as some old guard Portland brewer like Bridgeport and Portland Brewing have recently shuttered doors. A bit of history: throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, so-called "West Coast-style" IPAs—boozy hop bombs that used clarifying agents for greater translucency—were dominating tap lists west of the Rockies. Meanwhile, some Midwest and Northeast breweries—like Goose Island, the Alchemist, and Trillium—were exploring different flavors: full bodied, syrupy, high-octane stouts; pungent, puckery sours; and hazy, juicy, New England-style IPAs.

Great Notion co-founders James Dugan, Andy Miller, and Paul Reiter—all three North Portland neighbors—were early adopters of these styles at their Kickstarter-funded flagship location. And they were a hit, resulting in a consistently jam-packed brewpub; can releases that sold out in hours; and fans across the county offering beer trades for Great Notion's limited supply. Soon, the trio realized that they needed to expand. Rapidly.

That planned rapid expansion got checked, however, by the learning curve involved in building out a brewery and restaurant in a strictly industrial zone of Portland. Hopefully, for customers, the wait will have been worth it.

At the just-opened new location, the main entrance is decorated in shades of shou sugi ban—beautifully blackened wood, sent to Japan to be burnt the proper way. The space is walled in weathered steel and mammoth sheets of cross-laminated timber. And running almost the entire length of the space is a massive 24-tap bar. Add in a ton of natural light and Great Notion murals (compliments of longtime collaborator, Chad Eaton).

A giant panel of glass separates the bar from the brewhouse floor, piled high with bourbon barrels housing a variety of maturing stouts. A menu offers East Coast items like a Philly cheesesteak with homemade “GNB whiz” and a wild boar collar stroganoff with peppery arugula, along with lighter fare: a bright zucchini noodle salad, with fried chickpeas and green goddess dressing.

Industrial zoning so far will limit how many people can legally be seated in Great Notion's new restaurant—75 in the dining room, another 15 at the bar, and potentially more in a warm-weather patio. Will that be enough space? Time will tell. 

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