For two years, Ruse Brewing has been tucked away inside Culmination Brewing. A few of Culmination’s brewers had decided to start their own project, but without a space of their own, they were hanging out with their old crew and brewing on the margins of their previous brewery’s space. Now Ruse’s founders are stretching their wings and opening their own brewpub, right on the Orange MAX line in Southeast Portland.
Housed in the old (and recently remodeled) Iron Fireman Collective building, Ruse now has nearly 6,000 square feet of space with five times the brewing capacity it used to. They’ve already earned a solid reputation among beer drinkers: They collaborated with Culmination to make the first triple IPA I’ve ever been able to drink—the Backseat Freestyle. I’m not generally one for such hoppy beers, but this was well-balanced and not too bitter on the finish. Their Architect Saison, on the other hand, is dry and citrusy, with an oddly peppery finish. It’s light, bubbly, and a little sour, but easy-drinking and probably great for a game night.
While operating out of Culmination, Ruse tended to focus on hop-forward pale ales and wine-barrel-aged farmhouses with fruit. But I can’t wait to see what they can do with the new facility. Brewer and co-founder Devin Benware says they plan to start working on more lagers with the expanded space.
But perhaps more exciting is what Ruse may represent for the art community and for the neighborhood it’s moving into. Ruse already has a strange and artsy aesthetic with its trippy labels, designed by New School Beer writer Ezra Johnson-Greenough. And co-founder Shaun Kalis says Ruse is all about the arts, so they’ve hired two different artists to create some incredible work for the walls inside the brewpub’s public space. One of them, by Jason Dil, pairs ancient Egyptian gods with spaceship vibes—“We kind of like that Stargate aesthetic,” Kalis says. Another wall will be covered with interwoven glasswork by Ghost Pig Glass.
And the founders strive to take good care of their employees—they want to pay their people well instead of expanding as rapidly as possible. That’s reflected in the size of the bar, which has a lot of open space to make sure the bartenders are comfortable.
There’s a lot of natural light coming through some of those original barn doors, and the place has an industrial vibe, situated next to the train tracks and inside an old manufacturing building. “They made coal fire burners in here in the ’20s and ’30s, I think,” says Kalis. Bike parking is located in the building’s old metal bank vault, and there are cool chunks of machinery sitting like statues in the building’s lobby areas.
Though Ruse has no immediate plans to provide food at the new establishment, the founders are excited by the prospect of a food cart pod in the parking lot. Benware says he can envision a beer garden with outdoor seating where folks can eat while enjoying Ruse’s beers.
In the meantime, the Ruse crew is getting everything ready for the facility to open in mid-July. “It’s really exciting and it’s kind of surreal,” Kalis says. Ruse’s grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, July 14, and they’ll be open from noon to 11 pm that day.