The Labrewatory: Bar Review

Beer equipment maker Portland Kettle Works bills its brand-new brewpub The Labrewatory (670 N Russell St., 971-271-8151) as a "test lab" for beer, a spot where brewers can make crazy ales on the house equipment.

The first experiment was almost a very costly failure. Back in April, the science-themed bar and brewery held a party before it got a liquor license, handing out free drinks to beer-making clients during the Craft Brewers Conference. The state of Oregon thought the brewery had perhaps illegally charged money, holding up the licensing while the owners stood trial. The test came back negative, and the Labrewatory was allowed to open this November.

The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom. Rather than build a stock of beers, the Labrewatory will host a series of goofy one-offs and collaborations, with an ever-changing cast of resident brewers.

But for now, most of the Lab's taps pour brews from other local beermakers, and the first two brews made in-house—by inaugural brewer-in-residence Charlie Johnson of Reno, Nev.—aren't all that crazy. One's a dully old-school malty IPA called HULK S.M.A.S.H., while the other is a really lovely French-yeast "sans nibs" saison so floral you'd swear it was still summer.

But the menu promises to get much weirder, judging from the Lab's board of in-the-tank beers: chocolate-nibs saison (tapped last weekend) made from the same stock as the "sans nibs," a Thai-soup beer brewed with the folks from Everybody's Brewing, and a squid-ink cherry gose called Billy the Squid. We await the strange future, where we will all drink beer made of wasabi, and have jetpacks.

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