These days everyone is getting into the brewing game. The latest wave of new openings is by restaurateurs and bar owners of well-established businesses that are not necessarily known for craft beer. Take, for instance, Kells Brew Pub, the latest in the growing line of Kells Irish pubs that are currently known mostly for ice cold Guinness, frat boys, and St. Patrick’s Day blowouts. It does make a certain amount of sense to brew your own beer in house, even if you are never going to be able to replicate Guinness for authenticity.
Kells Brew Pub has already opened on Portland’s NW 21st Avenue, a strip full of bars, restaurants, and lots of shopping, so there is a hell of a lot of both street and foot traffic. Kells Brew Pub is a more comfortable, casual feeling place than their downtown location. It feels more family friendly and akin to a Gustav’s.
The brewery in the back of the restaurant/pub is behind two big old wooden and glass barn doors. It’s a brand new 10 barrel brewhouse made locally by Metalcraft Fabrication, with 6 fermenters but only 1 bright tank. Kells has sprung to go the extra mile with this shiny new brew setup, including plates with the new Kells Brewery coat of arms. As of press time the brewhouse was not yet operational and was still waiting on a key brewhouse tank that could not be brought in through the doors and has to have a slab cut out of the wall for it to fit through. Luckily, the big hole in the wall that will be left behind will be useful as a walkway to a new outdoor patio that will be constructed and is sure to be popular in this neighborhood.
You’re probably wondering what kind of beers they are going to make. An Irish stout or Irish red seems obvious, perhaps overly so, so instead you can look forward to an Irish-style lager as the main house beer, and likely a steam beer/amber ale hybrid, according to supervisor and future brewing assistant Garrett McAleese. Being partial to the Smithwick’s English Ale and Amber style, you may see a hybrid of these made with East Kent Goldings and Oregon-grown hops. “Timber” Joey Webber, mascot of the Portland Timbers soccer team and friend of Kells, has also expressed plans to brew a beer here. As of now I believe Rogue Ales produces the special Kells Irish Lager, so I assume this is to help them ween off that beer and proudly proclaim it their own. The plan is to serve the Irish Lager at all of their locations and continue to produce other year rounds or seasonals strictly for the Brew Pub.
Based on the casual crowd that has already begun frequenting Kells Brewpub without any promotion or advertising on their part, they should not have any trouble filling the place with families. The menu revealed a casual nod towards English/Irish food, with Cod & Fish, Shepherd’s Pie, and Dublin Chicken Curry. They are clearly aiming to be a crowd pleaser, though, with very American entries like Irish Nachos, BLTs, and Reubens. For those missing the old Laurelwood NW location, this may be the next best alternative, though perhaps without the variety of NW style brews, at least for the time being.