Portland will no longer have a Fat Head's brewery.
Fat Head's in Ohio announced late last night that they would close their mammoth Portland brewpub in the Pearl, effective the first quarter of 2018. The announcement was first noted locally by beer blogger Jeff Alworth on Twitter.
"Despite best efforts from both sides," wrote Ohio Fat Head's Glenn Benigni, "We were unable to agree upon a vision for the future. As a result, we've mutually decided to close the Fat head's Brewery location in 2018, pouring our last beer in 2018."
However, that release from Fat Head's tells less than half the story.
Fat Head's was never quite a chain operation in Portland, but rather a local spin-off owned by Portlander Tom Cook.
The Pearl District brewpub will not close. Rather it's severing ties with Fat Head's in Ohio and embarking on a new life as a wholly independent brewery called Von Ebert. Cook says he's inviting every single employee to stay on in Portland, including head brewer Eric van Tassel and former Commons brewer Sean Burke.
WW had been a fan of Fat Head's beer in Portland almost from the start, especially the beers that diverged from the Ohio originals with ingredients like barrels used for Oregon-made walnut liquor. Former brewer Mike Hunsaker's Semper FiPA, judged the best IPA in Portland in a blind tasting, was also a wholly Portland creation.
The quality of local beer will stay. But when it transitions to Von Ebert, the massive Pearl brewery will be able to shed the incongruous-in-Portland Fat Head’s decor that we described in our pages as being “like an outlet-mall version of T.G.I. Friday’s. Every surface of this crowded pretzel-and-burger barn is branded with a cartoon of what appears to be a morbidly obese Charlie Chaplin.”
"The oafish branding," we wrote in another post, "couldn't be more at odds with the Portland aesthetic."
The new pub will have an "industrial-loft" feel and will serve elevated pub fare from stone-baked pub pizzas to German-style pretzels. Cook also promises a more adventurous beer list spanning American, German, Belgian and barrel-aged beers.
Cook says the transition will be as seamless as possible, and that hopes the brewpub will not have to close for more than a few days as it transitions away from Fat Head's licensing and brand early next year.
Here's Von Ebert's full announcement:
Von Ebert Brewing Announces Grand Opening In Early 2018 Portland, Oregon – Von Ebert Brewing, a locally owned, Portland-based brewing company is excited to announce its grand opening in the Pearl District. Opening in the first quarter of 2018, the brewery will feature an array of expertly crafted beers, a refined pub-inspired menu, and inviting décor. The brewery will specialize in hoppy craft brews from Head Brewer, Eric Van Tassel. Sean Burke, former Head Brewer at The Commons Brewery, is also joining the Von Ebert Brewing team. Burke is renowned for brewing a wide range of beers such as, “Maybelle,” “Petit Classique” and “Myrtle.” Von Ebert plans to release up to 100 unique brews per year, including a variety of American, German, Belgian and barrel-aged beers. “Von Ebert Brewing is a new concept, where northwest family traditions meet bold new ideas in craft brewing,” said Tom Cook, Owner of Von Ebert Brewing. “We’re excited to unveil a completely new experience for customers, blending our brewing expertise with the adventurous flavors Portland has come to love.” Von Ebert’s pub, led by Dom Iaderaia, will feature a variety distinct local flavors that can best be described as “elevated American pub food.” From traditional German pretzels with rich, house-made beer cheese to stone-oven-baked pizzas, every delicious dish is thoughtfully designed to pair perfectly with their wide assortment of craft beer. This includes cheeseburgers stacked high with locally sourced meats, decadent sandwiches, and smoked wings guaranteed to impress. “True to our character, our menu combines classic pub fares with the kind of top-tier quality, local ingredients you can only find in Portland,” says Cook. Located at 131 NW 13th Ave., Von Ebert Brewing opens its doors with reimagined industrial loft-style décor. The building’s expansive arched ceiling, heavy beams and abundance of natural light, echo the historic charm of Portland’s Pearl District. The large bar and dining space will seat just under 300, with both booth and table seating options to accommodate parties of all sizes. Von Ebert Brewing will open to the public during the first quarter of 2018.
And for reference, here's the one from Fat Head's in Ohio: