Craft Beer Issue 2018
For a long time, Von Ebert Brewing owner Tom Cook didn’t consider himself a creative person. He was mainly a numbers guy with a long career in financing fast-casual and fast-food restaurants.
He liked his job, but missed working with and mentoring people, so when a mutual friend introduced him to the folks behind Fat Head’s Brewery, Cook says he decided to plunge back into the daily operation side of things by partnering with the Ohio-based brand as a franchisee with the goal of introducing Ohio craft beer to the Portland market.
The thing is, the splash it made in the Pearl District—near a part of town historically known as the Brewery Blocks for being the original site of the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery—wasn’t substantial enough, especially in a city in which its citizens will grant their loyalty to corporations, so long as they’re local. After just a couple of years, Fat Head’s pulled the plug on its Oregon operations and packed itself back to the Midwest.
That move left Cook with an empty building and a bunch of out-of-work employees, which is why he wasted little time in getting things back up and running under a new brand, Von Ebert Brewing.
“I’d spent five years with Fat Head’s and realized I’d learned a lot, and now I had this confidence to be creative,” Cooks says. “So I went out and hired smart creative people and leaned on them to get Von Ebert dialed in.”
Those hires included Sean Burke, a former brewer at one of Portland’s favorite and now-shuttered breweries, the Commons, as well as Sam Pecoraro, who also did time at Commons in addition to Burnside Brewing.
Despite Von Ebert’s cavernous size, the Pearl District brewpub isn’t a large operation. It brews on a 10-barrel system, which allows it to serve a rotating crop of small-batch beers—like Sector 7, a New England-style IPA; or Baja Breeze, a refreshing lawnmower beer inspired by Mexican lagers and brewed with a whole bunch of lime zest.
Von Ebert’s updated food menu is straight-down-the-middle pub food—think pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers—but Cook says the wings, which come sauced in eight flavors, have been designed to pair with pretty much any beer on the menu at any given time. Well, at least if you’re a carnivore. If you’re not, Von Ebert is one of the few places in town where you can order an Impossible Burger, which features a plant-based patty infused with hemoproteins that give the vegan burgers a beefy flavor.
Right now, Von Ebert’s only been open a few short months—since March—but it’s already expaning: Cook announced in May that a second brewery was in the works by the 10th hole of Northeast Portland’s Glendoveer Golf Course, where an outpost of RingSide Steakhouse used to be.
That operation, which is proposed to open in July, will be substantially bigger in size than its barely older brother in the Pearl—it’ll seat a total of 280, indoors and on two outdoor patios—but it’ll produce fewer barrels of beer, operating on a seven-barrel system to be overseen by Pecoraro.
Still, Cook says, between the two breweries, Von Ebert will be able to produce enough beer to feed an additional pair of new Von Ebert tap houses, which are the next cards he’s hoping to play sometime in the not-too-distant future.