There’s a world-class brewery tucked away in a quiet industrial building in Southeast Portland. You have to know it’s there, just a few blocks away from Cartopia (A popular cluster of food carts), marked only by a simple sign hung inside the window. There are a few barrels set upright as tables, but it’s more likely you’ll spend your time standing at the bar swapping beer stories with the bartender, Travis, or one of the other pilgrims who have found their way to this Mecca of ales.
The Commons is different from the breweries producing loud, hoppy beers across the West Coast. All of its beers are rooted in European brewing traditions that have been refined over hundreds of years. the beer of Belgium is among their inspiration, renowned for expertly crafted farmhouse ales, brewed out of necessity, to drink and refuel at the end of a hard day’s work.
From humble beginnings brewing out of a garage in SE Portland, founder Michael Wright has been committed to their motto, “gather around beer.” The challenge is creating a beer that packs a lot of flavor into a light, refreshing body — and they don’t disappoint. When Wright’s system could no longer fill the demand for his farmhouse ales, he moved the process into the new space, beginning full production in December 2011. In May 2012, the brewery’s urban farmhouse ale earned a bronze medal in the World Beer Cup. Since then, its beers have won numerous awards at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Brewfest.
It’s two flagship beers, Urban Farmhouse and Flemish Kiss, embody a modern perspective on an age-old process. Urban Farmhouse takes the guesswork out of the beers brewed with whatever was excess on the grounds. Focusing on a few distinct flavors, this farmhouse ale is floral with just a dash of hops. The finish is bright, crisp, and exceedingly refreshing. Flemish Kiss is a live beer, bottled with yeast and sugar, so it continues to ferment and change even years after bottling. What starts as an American Pale Ale turns dark, dry, and fruity with the addition of Brett, a unique type of yeast that creates spicy notes.
The Commons’ beer is available in the brewery’s tasting room, as well as at specialty bottle shops, grocery stores, and bars in the Portland area. Outside of Oregon, their beers can be found at bars and bottle shops in Seattle, Boise, Vancouver BC, New York, California, and Japan.
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