Zoiglhaus Means Good Beer

Zoiglhaus, Portland, OR

Cool brewpubs are as common as rainy days in Portland, Oregon. Think Deschutes, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Ex Novo and on and on. Think cool, hip, trendy neighborhoods.

Then there’s Zoiglhaus, which opened last fall in Lents, an older neighborhood 5 miles or so southeast of downtown. The brewpub sits on a corner and shares a parking lot with its neighbor, a carpet warehouse. There’s a cannabis dispensary across the street and a freeway a block behind it all. Inside, the kiddie play area and children’s menu create a vibe that’s more family-friendly than urban hip (at least, at a Saturday lunch). The overall appearance is much like their house lager: clean and crisp.

Zoiglhaus kids' play area

Kids’ play area at Zoiglhaus

I discovered Zoiglhaus through eater.com. Given that it’s off the beaten trendy path and they’d only been brewing at the site for the last month when I visited, there were plenty of available tables at 1:00 on a Saturday when I checked out the brewpub.

And that was so cool. You see, I’ll be able to say I first went to Zoiglhaus back in the day before it was really popular. Fame and followers are only a matter of time, assuming the quality stays as consistent as it was in the 5 beers I sampled.

My 4 starter samples

My 4 starter samples

Not having been to Germany, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the beers or the food, but I can say I went through plate full of goulash and spätzle pretty darn fast. As for the beer, I wish all pubs offered taster sizes like this one does, as it’s a great way to get acquainted with more of their brews. And Zoiglhaus doesn’t impose rules about flights including a certain number or some beers costing more than others. The waiter/bartender puts your list on the table and lines up the 4.5-ounce glasses, left to right. Period.

I started with the Lents Lager, a style that makes it hard to disguise or hide mistakes. This beer was spot on, full of malty and bread-like flavor with the anticipated clean, crisp finish. Next up was the Hefe-Weissbier. Here the expected banana and clove flavors of the wheat beer yeast came through but not to the point of overwhelming the malt bill. The Kölsch surprised me a bit with a slight sweetness and tartness that I hadn’t expected. The house description mentioned that they use a yeast strain brought from Germany. In any case, it was a nice little twist on the Kölsches I’m used to here in the U.S. I saved the seasonal Berliner Weisse for last, knowing this tart beer would be the strongest in flavor among the set. I’m not a huge fan of mouth-puckering beers fermented with Brettanomyces yeast which produces acetic acid (as in vinegar). The tartness in this one, though, was low-level and actual quite pleasing.

Zoiglhaus bartender Ben Hurraw

Zoiglhaus bartender Ben Hurraw

The ABVs of all four beers were low compared to a lot of U.S. craft beer—2.8% to 5.2%. So far, I’d ingested about as much alcohol as in a bottle of Bud. I was having such a good time that, I ordered the Haus IPA to check out this brewery’s take on the most popular of American craft beer styles. Here on the West Coast, we like our IPAs seriously hopped and, preferably, with their ABVs amped up. Zoiglhaus’ was a nice mix of the two brewing styles: German and Pacific Northwest. In one word, it was awesome. There was a great balance of piney, floral, citrus, fruity.

These days, any newcomer to Portland’s craft beer scene faces plenty of established competition. Attempting to sale German-style beers in a hardcore IPA town could be a great niche or a recipe for failure. So far, Zoiglhaus appears to be on the road to success. Prost!

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