Monday, March 4th
10:45 AM - The drums are playing
10:58 AM - A sasquatch sporting a flannel is thanking everybody for coming, and cutting a big red ribbon
11:00 AM - Great Notion Brewing's Northwest Portland location is officially open!
I was actually at the grand opening of Great Notion's original location, on NE Alberta Street, back in 2016. Things were different then. I was less inclined to venture out and about, in search of exciting new beers in exciting new places. But Great Notion was taking over the Mash Tun, which had been our neighborhood pub for years, and we were determined to investigate the newcomer. I remember being astonished at how packed the place was, but that didn't surprise me as much as the crazy beer that tasted like blueberry muffins. I'd never had anything like that before! I had never had a stout made with maple syrup! I'd never had a hazy IPA!
I was less experienced a drinker, to be sure, but Great Notion was about to change the beer scene in a huge way, introducing us to flavors, textures, and hops we'd never imagined. The cozy, uncrowded place that had been our local pub was suddenly a nationally recognized beer destination. People flew here from New England to sample Great Notion's famed New England IPAs. And not just those! The fruited sours! The big, big stouts, brewed with milk sugar! Such big flavors! Such experimentation! And such great branding!
Indeed, Great Notion has always known how to push the envelope with the beers it makes, but it has also known how to catch the attention of its adoring public with colorful graphics and the ability to steer the hype train. Is it warranted? That's a debate that continues in the beer community. But indisputably, Great Notion knows how to make people turn out in droves.
Here we are in 2019, on a Monday, at 11:00 AM. I was there fifteen minutes before it opened, and I still almost didn't get a seat. If this morning was any indication, this new spot will be busy at all hours, just like the location in NE. And it will serve the beers that it is famous for, and keep making new ones that draw drinkers out of the woodwork.
I'm just happy that they still serve the dirty quinoa salad. Those are fried sweet potato crisps on top.
I'm also happy that they serve THIS STUFF. This flight included the flagship Juice Jr. and its big brother, Juice Box (I like to keep things quasi-classic). The server informed me that the difference between them, besides the ABV, was the wildflower honey in the latter. I've had these side by side before, but I never knew. If honey sounds decadent to you, don't even consider the Unbalanced Breakfast, which is a sour with blueberries, coffee and syrup. And in the back there, that's the Double Fudge Brownie. Yes, there are actual brownies in the mash when they make that one. They also add extra chocolate.
My favorite of this round, though, was probably I Love it When You Call Me Big Papaya. I'd heard tell of this beer, and how great it was, but I'd never actually gotten the chance to taste it. It was superb. Sometimes, I find Great Notion's fruited sours to be just a little too sweet, and other times, too tart for me to really enjoy the fruit. But this hit a nice balance between intense and delicate.
As I was finishing, the server informed me that they had a rare beer from Bottle Logic on tap, and that it would not last. Fundamental Observation, a bourbon barrel-aged vanilla stout, became dessert (I know, I know...), and it really blew me away. But what makes me smile, more than the fact that I got to try it, is that my server went out of his way, in the chaos of opening day, to give me that heads up. I can only assume he let every table know. All of the staff was warm and attentive, which has always been my experience at Great Notion up in NE. I have always found them to have that perfect combination of friendliness and focus, during both the madness of big events and the everyday.
So keep it cutting edge, Great Notion, with the newest hops in your hazies and zaniest additions to your sours and stouts. But also keep being awesome, excited people.