131 NW 13th Ave., 820-7721, fatheadsportland.com. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm Sunday.
Fat Head's is a humbling experience for a Portlander. Its massive Pearl District brewhouse looks 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. Worse, the brewery was founded in suburban Ohio. But damned if brewer Mike Hunsaker hasn't fashioned Fat Head's into one of our city's truly great breweries, whether for its shotgun blast of experimental seasonals, its beast of an Alpenglow weizenbock that makes 8.7 percent ABV taste like clove and bubblegum, or Hunsaker's absolute mastery of IPAs. Fat Head's flagship Head Hunter is serviceable, and the fashionably citric IBUsive is far better than that. But Hunsaker's Semper FiPA, dedicated to his Marine veteran father, is explosively good—a hop garden of Simcoe, Centennial and Columbus that bursts brightly across the palate and into the upper stratosphere of Oregon beers. But what's worst for Portland natives? Fat Head's has managed to take a muddled beer style the Northwest renamed after itself—the Cascadian dark ale—and master it, winning and deserving a gold medal for its citrus-and-chocolate Moonlight Midnight. Luckily, we can console our free-range, organic egos by drinking the fine beer.
Drink This: Is it winter? Bask in the Alpenglow. Otherwise, it's hard not to go for that Semper FiPA.