It took months, if not years, for Portlanders to believe that the Pearl District franchise of Ohio's Fat Head's was an excellent brewpub and not an Applebee's with a fat Chaplin fetish.
But once licensing contracts expire, such crises of branding can be swiftly dealt with. After taking a week off to apply a fresh coat of paint and place a new neon sign on the corner, brewery owner Tom Cook reopened the former Fat Head's with most of the staffers intact, a simpler look and a new name: Von Ebert Brewing.
Gray-blue paint and a Timbers banner replace big-headed branding on the walls of the hanger-style pub, with the effect of focusing more attention on the 10 barrel tank-to-tap brewery behind the ceiling-height interior windows.
As far as branding, Von Ebert has pretty much traded one gaudy decapitated noggin for another: A stuffed boar head named Ricardo now points the way to the restroom, and serves double duty as the company's mascot.
The opening-day beer pours are every bit as good as in the rust belt era, brewed by new head brewer Sean Burke—formerly of now-closed brewery the Commons—with the help of departing brewer Eric Van Tassel. A Battlestations! IPA offered the same tropical oomph that won the brewery the top two slots in WW's first-ever all-Portland IPA tasting—and uses the same hops as the winning beer, Semper FiPA.
But Burke has also slipped in a few eye-poppingly good German recipes in place of the previous, gaudy Midwestern counterparts: Goodbye cloying blueberry ale, hello clovey German hefeweizen. Von Ebert is also pouring numerous special barrel projects like "Annabeth," a silky blond oatmeal stout that resided in a Burnside Bourbon barrel.
The food hasn't dropped in calories, but it has a less laminated aesthetic on its new metal platters. Massive smoked wings (six for $15.50) and a giant pretzel ($10.50) remain rightfully unchanged, but homy new cuts like a Gouda-stuffed Adult Grilled Cheese ($12) make a good thing better.