Taproom Experience: Ground Breaker Brewing
Ground Breaker Brewing Taproom Tour
I made it back to Ground Breaker Brewing! It’s been almost a year since the first time I set foot in this brewhouse. Ground Breaker has an intimate 42-person taproom with lots of natural light and additional patio seating. There’s a door off the restaurant floor that brings you straight into the brewery. The bar sits about 8 or so, and the draft beers are listed on a chalkboard above the kitchen doorway.
If you sit on the patio, you’ll notice fresh hops climbing up the corner of their building, which is well-located in central Portland. They open at noon 6 days a week (closed Mondays), so you can enjoy lunch or dinner in their brewpub. They have 9 taps, all gluten free, and often host guest taps featuring other local GF breweries or ciders.
The Pub Menu
Gluten Free Fried Chicken
Visiting Ground Breaker Brewing is always a special treat for me. Why? because I never have to worry about going to the hospital just because I ate lunch. Because of this rare degree of trust…I decided to ask Ground Breaker’s master chef Neil Davidson, to choose my lunch for me! I told him I was gluten free and dairy free. From there…I simply placed my trust in him.
He ended up bringing me one of their staple comfort food dishes: their Fried Chicken with rice, greens, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and homemade beer-infused honey mustard. It came beautifully presented and I paired it with the chefs recommendation, which was with an IPA or pale ale. I chose the Route 20 IPA to accompany my lunch.
The best part of this meal is that I know the chicken was “happy chicken”. Well cared for, locally-sourced meat. I appreciate the fact that Ground Breaker’s team considers all aspects of quality when sourcing their ingredients. Gluten free is important, but for me, so is humanely-sourced food.
The fried chicken is delicious. It’s crunchy and light, and the batter coating the chicken is a little bit spicy and oh-so delicious. The chicken melts in your mouth (the true difference with sustainably-sourced protein) and doesn’t have any toughness or stringiness. It’s probably the best piece of fried chicken I’ve had…ever. That includes the days before I went gluten free.
The pickled vegetables provide just a touch of sweetness and the kimchi is salty and absolutely flavor-packed, the perfect compliment to the homemade mustard and crispy chicken. Kimchi always does it for me. (And fermented vegetables are so good for you!) If I had to choose one side though, I would opt for the kimchi, as I prefer heat to sweet.
If you’re going to eat fried food in Portland, I’m guessing this is one of the healthiest versions of it. It’s worth noting that their honey mustard is made in-house by repurposing their spent beer ingredients and…you can tell. I don’t remember the last time I got to eat “beer mustard”, but I don’t want to stop.
The flavor of this dish is so strong, I almost wish I had opted for a more pungent IPA, as I almost feel like the Route 20 is a bit too mild to hold its own next to the kimchi and honey mustard. (We all know by now that I am a bitter-loving hophead. Ha!) Next time I would choose the IPA No. 5 to compliment this meal. I will definitely give the Route 20 another chance though after I finish eating.
Before I left, Neil also whipped up what can only be described as gluten free, dairy free heaven. If you don’t believe me, see photos above. This was by far the richest thing I’ve eaten in a long time. The presentation was beautiful, right down to the drizzled dark chocolate and flower petals. I got a chance to sit down with Neil and discuss his creations a bit. You’ll find those in-depth interviews in the full brewery video features…coming soon!
Gluten Free Beers On Tap
(on tap in July)
These beers are available in bottles and distributed across 8 states (plus Canada!). Therefore, many of them have been reviewed on this blog before. I will provide a brief description of each, as well as the link to our more detailed reviews for each respective ale.
4.5% – 30 IBU
Olallie is brewed with blackberries and rose hips and then finished with Crystal hops for classic Northwest aromatics. Olallie has been kept light and dry with only a hint of bitterness. I don’t usually like beers that aren’t bitter, but this has become a go-to of mine for evening dog walks, or trips down to the river. It is sold in 12 ounce cans, which is perfect for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Here’s the full review if you want to know more!
Route 20 IPA
6% ABV – 50 IBU
A gluten free American style IPA, single-hopped with Santiam hops. This is a unique IPA, designed to get all of it’s bettering, flavor, and aroma from late additions. This is one of Ground Breaker’s many seasonal IPA offerings. If you haven’t tried it yet and want to know more, check out our review of last year’s Route 20 release.
5.5% ABV – 30 IBU
This was Ground Breaker’s first creation. The classic Pale Ale. It’s gently infused with Cascade and Meridian hops to give it a pleasant aroma without pushing the bitterness into IPA territory. This beer has won multiple beer medals in gluten free categories. I’ve reviewed it in-depth on the blog before. Check out the full review here.
Dark Ale (on Nitro!)
5.5% – 35 IBU
This ale utilizes extremely dark roasted chestnuts and lentils along with dark Belgian style candy for a roasty flavor and chocolatey dark fruit aromatics. A gold metal winner in the gluten free beer category. This particular style is offered on nitro…a special treat! Read the full (bottled) Dark Ale review here.
IPA No. 5
6% ABV – 70 IBU
A classic favorite, and easily Ground Breaker’s best seller. It’s dry-hopped with Crystal and Santiam hops, a west coast india pale ale that’s won the hearts of many gluten free-ers in the PNW. It’s also sold in cans, which makes it ideal for outdoor shenanigans and summertime outings. You can read my full take on the IPA No. 5 here.
I always get so excited when I visit these gluten free breweries in person because I actually get to try all the experimental ales that are designated taproom-only. Today’s taproom exclusives include an extra special bitter, a spruce, and a dark ale. Read on to find out what I thought of them.
5% ABV – 35 IBU
This beer has a very dark opaque reddish-brown color and smells of coffee and earthy bitterness. (It’s actually darker than the Vanilla Dark down the list!) It pours with a beautiful creamy-looking head, tiny little micro bubbles hugging the rim of a glass everytime I take a sip. Like a “milk mustache” for your glass.
Its medium bodied, which is actually lighter than it looks in the glass. It has a bright and earthy roasted coffee taste, and is a bit more bitter (in my opinion) than the IBU suggests. I like that. This ale utilizes ESB yeast for that classic British style.
6% ABV – 50 IBU
This ale is named after a native PNW tree Brewer’s Spruce (Picea breweriana), which is a weeping Spruce variety. This beer sat behind the Gaston the entire time I was reviewing the last beer, and despite that, it still has a lingering head which I find impressive. I’ve never smelled a beer like this one before. It smells like candy, or a sweet tea. Sweet, lemony, and pine heavy. It doesn’t taste as sweet as it smells, but the aroma really adds to the tasting experience in my opinion.
To be honest, I don’t have the best sense of smell. I often struggle to detect aromas, particularly ones that are floral heavy. But pine, I can smell! This is a truly unique ale, and I recommend giving it a taste if you’re in the Ground Breaker Brewing taproom. Let me know what you think of it!
5.4% – 35 IBU
I’ve been really enjoying Ground Breaker’s use of vanilla in their darker beers. It provides such a warm comforting taste. Combine that with the earthy tones imparted by the lentils and chestnuts, and you have yourself a very cozy ale. The aroma of the beer reminds me of the Imperial Darkness Ground Breaker brewed last year. (I’m already looking forward to this year’s!) Heavy notes of coffee and vanilla, with a dark reddish-brown color and a nice head.
Wow! The taste of this dark is so smooth! Much more so than I expected. There’s nothing offensive about the taste of this ale. It’s very well balanced. I wouldn’t say it’s light–but it is easy-drinking. This dark ale is perfect for the summer season. Great for providing the roasted taste without a heavy texture on a hot summer day. I want more. :)
Marion Rose Julep
Today’s cider tap is home to an Oregon cider made by Wildcraft Cider Company, based in Eugene. I am admittedly not a big cider person. They are often too sweet for me and I usually don’t feel very well after drinking an entire pint. This one is refreshing and crisp, but still sweet. I really enjoy the rose though, it’s much more palatable for me than the fruity-flavored ciders.
Wildcraft definitely comes up with some unique and innovative flavors for their ciders. They’re worth a try if you’re seeking a change to the typical cider pour. This one has a slightly medicinal aftertaste to it, which doesn’t bother me, but may not appeal to all.
Stand by for a teaser video of the full Ground Breaker Brewing tour, recorded by yours truly. The full feature will include a tour of the facilities, interviews with the owners and brewmaster, AND a full behind-the-scenes look at Ground Breaker’s unique brewing process, which will be led by their brewmaster Tyler Kueber.
I released the first brew tour teaser video a couple weeks ago. First up was Moonshrimp Brewing. Check it out if you haven’t already!