Great Notions Brewing offers an assortment of surprising flavors

Illustration by Miceal Munroe-Allsup

By Samuel Woods

I have been mashing muffins into pints of Pabst for years, but Great Notion Brewing’s Blueberry Muffin Sour means people might stop looking at me weird in bars. They are not only leading the craft industry trend towards more food-inspired beers, but are about to do it from a new (and more accessible from campus) location at 2444 NW 28th Ave. I had the opportunity to tour their upcoming facility and hope it becomes a new spot frequented by students. As always, the Pioneer Log does not support underage or unsafe drinking.

Beer enthusiasts at Lewis & Clark should consider trying this brewery because they are always ahead of the next “big thing” in the industry. Great Notion was started by three friends who lived on the same block and were initially known for “hazy” Northeastern style IPAs, which are cloudy with yeast and much fruiter than their Northwestern counterpart due partially to the use of different varieties of hops. Northwestern IPAs primarily use Cascade, Chinook and other hops with pine and juniper flavor profiles whereas Northeastern IPAs use Mosaic, Citra and hops with citrus and floral notes. I think this trend towards fruitier IPAs is going to become more popular across the country and hope other Portland brewers do not hesitate to experiment away from their historically lucrative piney IPAs.

Recently Great Notion has been working with Brut style IPAs. Their Bubbly O2 beer contains local Riesling and Viognier grapes, giving it a sweeter, drier finish than a traditional IPA. Owner Paul Reiter described it to me as almost a “wine/beer hybrid,” as the grape juice is added prior to fermentation (unlike a radler); some of their Brut IPAs turn pink due to the inclusion of grapes and gets marketed as a “rosé” IPA. I attended a seminar at Feast Portland this year that covered rosé beer and cider, and have mixed feelings about their current popularity. Ryan Burk, the head brewer for Angry Orchard, was on the panel of speakers and claimed that there is not much, if any, taste difference between their rosé cider and their crisp apple cider. It is essentially just a marketing ploy, one they are using to obtain a huge market share with a bland and gimmicky product. On the other hand, breweries use of the popularity of pink drinks to experiment with products that would not otherwise be commercially viable is resulting in some really interesting drinks.

Their Lychee Mochi also stood out to me. It is a vaguely Japanese-inspired play on milkshake IPAs. Milkshake IPAs use lactose sugar as a sweetener during the fermentation process and end up tasting (unsurprisingly) like milkshakes. Their Lychee Mochi uses toasted rice as a base for the mash instead of the more traditional barley, which adds a subtle nuttiness that underlies the malted lychee head. Not all food inspired beers land, however, as I felt their Double Stack breakfast stout was dominated by the taste of maple and was overly sweet. However they are aging some of this stout in used Bull Run Whisky barrels, which would likely mellow out some of the maple notes. These unique beers provide us with the opportunity to explore more complex flavor profiles and branch out from the usual beers we settle for at Tryon Creek Bar and Grill.

Although Great Notion has been around for a few years, they have been limited by the production capabilities of their Northeast Alberta location. This, combined with the huge demand for their beer, has pushed them to use a Supreme-esque release strategy: they sell a very limited amount of crowlers (32 oz. cans) from their Alberta brewpub and do a larger can release every Saturday at their northwest facility. They publicize the styles available the Friday before the drop through their Instagram, @greatnotionpdx.

The northwest brewpub location is expected to fully open around February, but they will be doing drops every Saturday until they open, luring in about a hundred people who line up outside looking to cop some elusive brews. If students cannot make it downtown, major breweries are making hazy IPAs such as Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing and pFriem’s Hazy IPA.

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