Part three of my adventure in the gorge brought me to one of the hottest names in Oregon craft brewing: pFriem Family Brewers. Founded in 2012, this predominantly Belgian and German style craft brewery has grown its operations into four states and Vancouver, BC since then, to the delight of everyone who has tried their beers. So, grab one, sit down with the family, and read on as I review a brewery sure to make the top 10 list of this year.
- Beer – Where to start? Despite their strong roots in Belgian and Germanic styled beers, they do not limit themselves to those categories when creating incredible brews. They list 84 different beers on their website, from seasonals, limited releases, and year rounds, encompassing one of the widest variety of styles I have come across to date. What I find even more exciting is that the brew master takes typical beer styles and give them a twist, such as a cognac barrel aged Belgian dark ale or a Japanese lager made with rice to lighten the color and provide a dry mouth feel. Lastly, the flavors and quality are excellent. I have yet to find one of their beers I have given less than a 3.25/5 on Untappd, and many of them I rated 4 or above. These are incredibly well crafted and tasty brews that show a love of beer and beer making down to the smallest detail. Score: 5/5
- Brewery – While the building itself is quite large, most of the interior space is devoted to a massive array of brew kettles and fermentation vats. The tasting room is elegant yet understated, styled with simple wood accent and industrial design, creating an intimate space for drinking with friends and family. About a dozen tables of different sizes, a modest bar, and a small children’s play area comprise the main seating area downstairs, with another handful of tables located in a small room up a short flight of stairs. Outside, tables and benches are clustered around a spacious fire pit, providing an outdoor area for fair weather afternoon and evenings. There is even a small area out front where one can sit with your four-legged family members away from areas that serve food. A bottle shop next door, easily accessible from the tap room, offers a large variety of their brews to take home. They do offer food, pub style with a German flair of course, and reasonable prices for the area. As for the beer, a flight will run you about $12 for six tall pours. Open every day from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm gives one plenty of opportunities to stop in. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – While it may not have been the design goal, the tap room exudes minimalism, and it carries over to this category. There are no televisions to be found and only a few board games upstairs. Most of the events they attend are not at the brewery itself, though occasional special events, meet the brewers nights, and anniversary shindigs do appear on their schedule. While I typically like to see live events and other ways to keep customers both in place having more drinks as well as coming back for more, I think this approach certainly lines up with the word family in their name, encouraging you to enjoy the time spent with friends and loved ones while drinking great beer. Score: 2/5
- Location – Not only is the brewery lovely, they also picked a great spot to put it. Right across the street from a gorgeous waterfront park that fronts the Columbia River with views up and down the gorge makes for nice scenery to enjoy while having a beer. Ample street parking, a bike and walking friendly area, and several other nearby breweries and restaurants give one lots of options for exploring the area. Score: 4.5/5
- Customer Service – From the greeting at the door to the excellent service from the bar tenders, my experience here was wonderful. They offer table service if you are not at the bar, the staff is well trained in the nuances of their beer (and beer in general), and everyone was pleasant to talk to. The bartender made some great recommendations, so if you are wondering what to try, do not be afraid to ask for suggestions or to try one or two beers first. Score: 4.5/5
Total Score: 20/25
Favorite Beer: Coffee Oatmeal Stout – 5.5% Stout
Final Thoughts: The year is young but pFriem Family Brewers is a strong contender for top ten breweries of 2019 already. Excellent beers combined with a lovely brewery make this a must visit for all craft beer lovers and a standout in a field already crowded with excellent craft beer.