In a city whose beer scene grows more competitive each day, it’s still possible to find a fun, easygoing place that feels like it’s off the radar—a place without distraction where you can hoist a freshly made pint, chew on a good bratwurst, and sit outside on the sidewalk under an emerging spring sun. Such is the case with Second Profession Brewing, a newish spot that I was able to wander into without any preconceived notions or expectations. By reading this review I guess you won’t have the same luxury, but I’m confident Second Profession can live up to the modest amount of praise I’m about to bestow upon it.
Second Profession Brewing opened in the former BTU Brasserie space in October 2017, and since that time it has settled into its role as a welcoming hangout in the Rose City Park neighborhood. You can see the seven-barrel brewing system from the street—owner/brewer Charlie Goman bought it complete from BTU, but the recipes are all Second Profession’s own. The name comes from Goman’s career change, but also refers to a saying that brewing is the world’s second oldest profession (we all know what the first one is).
The bright main room is painted in basic black and white. There’s a small private room off to the left, and a hallway that passes the kitchen to access the outdoor seating. There’s a clean, slightly industrial feel to the place—more like a modern coffee shop than a wood-beamed brewpub—and you order all of your food and drink, coffee-shop style, from the central bar that dominates the room. (Although the efficient staff may come around and ask how you’re doing as they clear off your empties.) Loud conversation has a tendency to bounce off the hard surfaces, but the room is designed in a way that allows for a few nooks and crannies. If things get too boisterous inside—as they did on a recent visit, when the screeching of a post-work group in the smaller private room carried out into the main room—the outdoor seating, along Northeast 59th, is spacious and calm in good weather.
Second Profession’s beer list is usually seven or eight beers long, and I recommend going for their hazy IPAs, even if you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t like IPA. I saw a total of three different ones on my two separate visits, and they were each easily among the best beers on offer. Devil’s in the Details had a full, smooth flavor with muted hops that added crispness to the heavy, yeasty body. And Friends and Neighbors Guava Milkshake IPA—brewed in collaboration with HUB and nearby Laurelwood—seemed more akin to a fruit smoothie than a creamy milkshake, but its outgoing fruit-juice and creamsicle flavors made it a very drinkable, almost ingratiating, beer. These were fine examples of the trendy hazy-IPA style, and much juicier and friendlier than the bitter hop monsters of yore.
I was less impressed with Second Profession’s lighter beers, including the Professional Pale Ale, a cream-ale-style Portland Farmhouse Ale, and a SPBTID Saison. All were interchangeably light, with sugary malt sweetness and slightly metallic hop flavors that failed to integrate, resulting in beers that, paradoxically, were more abrasive than the bigger, more characterful hazy IPAs. The solid Mocha Porter is well worth trying, though, with a thin body, an almost minty undercurrent, a terrific aroma, and a pleasing, toasty flavor that opens up over the course of a pint.
Most 20-ounce pints run $5.50, although some of the specialty beers are a dollar more, and you can get half pours and samplers as well. Also on the menu are a variety of beer cocktails, which are not my thing at all, but help yourself if they are yours.
The food options are dominated by a selection of sausages, including a very good Wisconsin bratwurst ($11) braised in their house porter, and an equally solid currywurst ($12), both served on a brown, pretzel-like bun. The farmhouse sausage ($12) comes topped with avocado and a fried egg, and if that sounds like it’s a little difficult to eat, it is. Sides include a warm potato salad with whole mustard grains, but I liked their regular french fries better.
For now, Second Profession’s charms remain simple: a low-key hangout spot that’s good for groups or flying solo; a beer list that changes frequently; and a reminder that not all Portland breweries need to be the vast, corporate, faceless warehouses that sometimes distract us from our local beer scene’s smaller pleasures.