The Portland beer scene has been written about so many times, it almost seems tedious to write about it again. But write about it we shall because the newest addition to the beer hall scene is so unique and exceptional, it would be a disservice to not mention it at all.
Zoiglhaus, a new German gastropub in the up-and-coming Lents neighborhood of SE Portland, has opened its doors and its kegs to a round of foamy applause. Crafted in the minds of Chad Rennaker of Pints and master brewer Alan Taylor, Zoiglhaus has done what other beer halls in Portland have failed to do: lured serious beer aficionados from across the city while retaining a decidedly neighborhood vibe on its quaffs alone.
“We hired a lot of local people and we always wanted to be a community brewpub where the community comes and it feels like home,” Taylor says.
The 7,500-square-foot space is open and airy, inviting one to grab a seat at the bar or at one of the many reclaimed-wood high tops scattered throughout the expansive space, which was formerly a Russian bakery-cum-disco-cum-grocery store. Taylor has been perfecting his beer recipes in friends’ garages and basements since 1997, using local ingredients to simulate German beers one may enjoy in Munich.
“There are 10 beers on tap. Our five standards are a German pilsner, a Hefeweizen, a Kolsch, an IPA and a red ale. And then five rotating beers for the seasons,” he says. “They go with everything, especially our food. We wanted to pair German-American beers with German-American comfort food and I think we did a great job.”
Taylor honed his beer-making skills in Germany and is considered by many in the Portland area to be the preeminent brewer of German-style beer. Humble and modest to a fault, he plays down his expertise, instead giving his co-owners and workers all the accolades.
So why the name Zoiglhaus? Zoigl is derived from an old German word meaning sign and is represented by a star similar in look to the star of David. The six points of the star represent six key beer ingredients such as barley, hops and water. Zoigl houses are scattered throughout eastern Bavaria, near the Czech border, and are community spots to enjoy a locally made brew.
So what’s our take on this new hotspot? The food is hearty and savory, perfectly matched with the stellar brews. While IPAs dominate the Portland beer scene, we much prefer the Schwarzbier, a dark brew with a light sweetness and hop flavor with hints of coffee on the palate. It goes great with the Zoigl-bab, a doner kabob-like dish of marinated steak, flatbread and cabbage.