Craft Beer Issue 2018
Four years after opening their first brewpub on North Mississippi, StormBreaker Brewing owners Dan Malech and Rob Lutz expanded in May to a second location in the St. Johns neighborhood.
While I sip a hazy Jurassic Juice IPA (which I’m told was not named to coincide with the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Malech explains that watching the build-up around their rented outpost on Mississippi made them realize it was time to seek more permanent roots elsewhere.
“My main reason was, looking at our current location and our current space, which we love, it could be bought or torn down or turned into a condo,” he says.
After a yearlong process, the duo’s search for stability finally paid off, and they purchased the building on North Lombard that formerly housed Plew’s Brews and the St. Johns Dentist Office.
With the wall separating the two previous businesses torn down, the space is flooded with natural light, and features lumber-heavy décor with high ceilings, booths, old photos of the neighborhood, decorative saws, and rustic woodwork salvaged from the building’s original rafters and walls. Outside, there’s a covered, dog-friendly patio with a mural of the St. Johns Bridge painted by local artist Chris Bigalke.
The new space presents plenty of new opportunities for StormBreaker: There’s a full bar and kitchen, allowing the team to expand their non-sudsy offerings. The menu features slightly more adventurous pub fare, and it’s worth noting that on a recent visit the “Jucy Lucy” cheeseburger—despite being stuffed with Fontina and smothered in bacon jam—was a lowbrow paragon of greasy goodness, adorned with the unholiest of all toppings: bread-and-butter pickles.
The new spot also has a gigantic back room where they’re in the process of setting up a small brewing system, though 95 percent of production will remain at the original location for the foreseeable future. For now, Lutz says they’re doing their best to keep up with demand and maintain variety at both locations throughout the busy summer season.
That back room will also contain something less expected: axe-throwing lanes. When asked to elaborate on precisely what the sport entails, Malech explains, “It’s basically like darts with a giant wood target.”
It’s not exactly uncharted territory: Last month, local collective Portland Axe Throwing—which will oversee the flying blades at StormBreaker—found a permanent home at Feckin Brewery in Oregon City.
Though drinking alcohol and flinging hatchets might seem like a risky combination, Malech insists it’s not actually as dangerous as it sounds: “The way it’s set up, the blades are pretty dull. It’s in cages. It’s super-safe; it’s monitored. Nobody’s gonna come murder anyone,” he adds, knocking on one of the new pub’s reclaimed-wood tables.