Old Town Brewing is Mushrooming—Figuratively and Literally

The Northeast Portland brewery grows into a major distribution deal and unveils an experimental funghi ale.

By Marty Patail August 5, 2015

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Bottling at Old Town Brewing

Is Old Town Brewing ready to blow? This spring, four-year-old Old Town Brewing signed a new distribution deal with Maletis to bring its beer to more bars and began bottling its beers. That means you’re probably going to see their beers like the Sun-Dazed Kölsch (OTB’s biggest seller) in a lot more places.

Since its founding in 2011, the brewery has mostly flown just below the radar, quietly cranking out solid craft beers and pizzas and winning over a stable of loyal fans. Last year, OTB hired a new headbrewer in Andrew Lamont, who has tweaked the beer recipes into a very solid taplist (the ever-changing Revolver Single Hop Pale is my personal favorite). But beyond solidifying OTB's core lineup, Lamont's degree in polymer science, stint as an engineer at Ford, and experience in the R&D department at Boston Brewing, seems to give him a scientist's love of experimentation as well. 

To wit: Lamont's 1-Up Mushroom Alt, made with 2oz of candy caps per barrel, which OTB poured at Oregon Brewer's Festival this year. The beer is golden in color, and caramel, syrupy sweet, not earthy like you might expect. Reviews of the beer have been mixed, but I found it to be well-balanced, not cloying, and more refreshing than many alts, a style typically associated with cold weather. The one-off 1-Up is already sold out at OTB's Northeast brewery, but if you hurry, you can still try it at the original (and supposedly haunted) Old Town Pizza taproom. 

OTB traces its history back to that 1974 pizza parlor. Owner Adam Milne says he fondly remembers visiting Old Town pizza as a child growing up in Eugene back when the owners enjoyed a mini-chain of OTPs. So when the opportunity to buy the struggling franchise appeared in 2003, Milne barely hesitated. 

“I read in the Oregonian that they were selling it,” he says, adding that he has the rare distinction of having spent both his ninth and his 30th birthdays at Old Town Pizza. “It was right after 9/11, the worst time to get into restaurant business.” 

Still, Old Town and Milne held on, especially as the Pearl District began to develop as a neighborhood in its own rite. Milne added bike delivery, and after televised visits from Rachael Ray and Jay Leno, business began picking up in earnest.

That momentum allowed Milne to expand into his venture: beer. In December 2011, he converted Old Town's second location on NE MLK into a 6,000 square foot taproom and brewery. Designed to feel like “it’s been here forever," the brewery has the same tavern-like feel as the downtown location, with reclaimed wood and antique furniture from floor to ceiling. 

If you've tried the mushroom ale, let us know what you think in the comments below.

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