When visiting Portland there are so many places to go and so many choices for how to spend your time that it can be overwhelming. You could head out to explore nature’s mountains and waterfalls, or hit all the touristy spots like VooDoo Donut, Powell’s Books and the International Test Rose Garden, or what any sensible beer lover would do, hit every brewery you can by utilizing mass transit, bikes or your own feet.
Then there’s the BrewGroup who wraps that latter option up into one adventurous bow.
Originally founded in 2013 as BrewStop, a 24 tap restaurant and bar that acted as the launching point of BrewCycle, it’s founder Andrea Lins describes their business as a “pub crawl,” navigating the NW Portland streets, 15 pedalers at a time.
I stopped in to witness this phenomenon earlier this week with a fellow local beer writer, Holly of pdxbeergirl.com, to learn more about Back Pedal Brewing itself. Within a half-hour of our arrival, the first batch of folks were on their way, rolling out of this boutique sized space, one third of which houses their 3 custom BrewCycle contraptions. Like something out of a scene in Willy Wonka, these wonderful machines navigate traffic like any other vehicle, taking libation seekers on one of three routes: Northwest (three of the most established breweries in the city), Old Town (three of the youngest breweries) and the Dive Bar (two “classic bars” and a brewpub).
What drew us to the location though was their reputation for tasty and sessionable nano-sized beers. In 2015, Andrea’s brother Christopher Lins took the initiative to remove the BrewStop’s small kitchen and insert a custom made, 3.5 Barrel nano-brewery fabricated by Portland Kettle Works. Not long after, their current head brewer, Greg Passmore, joined the fold and Back Pedal Brewing became the complete package you’ll find today.
When they first began brewing, only 3 beers were on tap: 1st Gear IPA, L1 Blonde and Pump Head Pale. Today they readily have six of their in-house creations flowing, with an additional eight guest taps of cider and local craft beer available. Regular taps that have found popularity lately are their BMX Session IPA (Citra, Simcoe & Cascade – 5%), a hazy IPA called Flockahops (Mosaic & Citra – 6.9%), Prism, a dry-hopped American/Belgian hybrid-style Saison (Mosaic & Centennial – 5.9%), not to mention their Summer Breeze, an English Summer Ale that acts as a base for a number of fruited variants.
Working with 3 fermenters, each at a capacity of 3.5 barrels – from which kegs are directly filled for conditioning and serving, means that there’s no space for brite tanks or a filtration system. As a result, brewing may only happen 1 or 2 days a week and annual production puts them around 250 barrels. More importantly though, at least from what we learned on our visit, is that much consideration and craftsmanship is put into each precious batch of Back Pedal’s delicious nectar.
As word has grown and awards have been earned, including a Silver for the Summer Breeze at this year’s Oregon Beer Awards, word’s getting out that this isn’t simply the BrewCycle place, it might just be the best nano-brewery in Portland. Based on our time spent there, I wish I lived closer so it could be my go-to local pub. For it was my first time reveling in all they had to offer and I was truly floored by the quality of the unique and tasty artisanal options available. I could only imagine what someone visiting the city for the first time would think…
Be sure to check out pdxbeergirl’s coverage of Portland’s beer scene on Instagram, as well as the author’s.
Photos by the author; video courtesy of BrewGroup.