On one of the many nights that a blizzard covered Portland with snow, I slowly maneuvered my car – down a mostly unplowed road – to Foundation Brewing Company on Industrial Way. I saw a bright glow from the door to the brewery as I slid into what would have been a parking spot if the lines were visible. Inside, I found Joel Mahaffey, brewer and co-owner, taking some gravity measurements. Friendly, but serious, he walked me around the brewery space and told me the story of how he and his co-founder John Bonney conceived of the brewery while homebrewing. With many years of homebrewing experience between them, they eventually outgrew the ambitions that they developed in their local homebrewing club – and the idea for Foundation was born.
As I walked around and talked to Joel, I felt like I was somewhere I had never been before. While I’ve visited many breweries, I was struck by the cleanliness and brightness. Nowhere was there wetness, wear, rust, tarnish or a speck of dirt. The space the brewery occupies is large and meticulously outfitted, lit by clean, white light. Shiny stainless steel vessels and spotless controls line the right side of the space, with large fermentation tanks evenly spaced against the other wall. Not having to inherit remnants of previously-installed equipment Foundation was able to plan every inch of the space – down to the energy-saving wrapped steam pipes and protective wall coverings.
The scale of the brewery – a fifteen barrel brewhouse – is a departure from many of the other nanobrewries recently opened (recall that Austin Street, for example, brews 1 barrel batches) and is also a long way from Joel and co-founder John’s homebrewing roots. With any new brewery, jumping up in scale can present some significant challenges – so that big of a jump at first made me nervous on their behalf. The beer, however, doesn’t seem to be suffering at all from the change of scale.
The first beer I got a chance to try in their newly-constructed tasting room was Eddy. It’s a saision and is named not after a person, but the babbling eddies in a stream – representing the element of water. The easy drinking beer comes in at 5% ABV, and carries with it a great yeasty and farmhouse aroma. The flavor is very approachable, and should be a nice entry point for people unfamiliar with the style. It seems to glow when poured into the tasting room’s beautifully simple tasting glasses.
Blaze, on the other hand, is hoppier and more assertive than Eddy, though it does use the same saison yeast. This time named after the element of fire, there is a distinctively redder hue emanating from the glass when it is poured. Its 6.5% ABV also makes this a manageable choice – especially for when you can’t decide between having a yeast-forward Belgian style or a hoppier pale ale. The yeast makes this brew’s hoppiness less intimidating, and if you are paying attention it can yield some very subtle flavors.
Since my visit to the brewery, both beers have made their way into Portland and outside of the city to many beer drinking venues since their relatively low-key entry into town. Recently, I have found it easy to get Eddy on tap at Sonny’s, Little Tap House, Novare Res and, if memory serves, LFK.
If you prefer to drink the beer at home, you can get growlers filled at the brewery. The brewery’s tasting room is typically open on Fridays and Saturdays (check out their website for the most up-to-date tasting room hours) and offers the staples in addition to the occasional experiment – including, recently, some dry-hopped versions of Eddy.
If they are able to continue their steady and focused efforts to brew high-quality beer, these first steps should be more than enough of a solid foundation for the brewery to be around for quite some time.