A new brewery behemoth has taken hold of Portland's Central Eastside and we're proud to say that with it comes a stunning space decked out in Schoolhouse lighting. Our latest trade space highlight, Wayfinder Beer is the brainchild of some of Oregon's culinary and brewing bigwigs. Charlie Devereux (co-founder of Double Mountain Brewery), Matthew Jacobson (co-founder/owner of Sizzle Pie, Quality Bar, and Relapse Records) and Rodney Muirhead (co-founder/owner of Podnah's Pit and La Taq) have planted some significant roots with this new project, transforming an 8,900 square-foot century-old brick warehouse into a laidback 110-seat tap hall with an enticing 2000 square-foot patio decked out with a fire pit and plenty of lounge space.
We chatted with Wayfinder's Charlie Devereux about the vision and virtues behind the space, his passion for lager, and what it takes to create a truly great beer experience.
Name: Wayfinder Beer
Date opened: October 1, 2016
Neighborhood: Central Eastside, Portland, Oregon
Tell us about Wayfinder! What was the inspiration behind the concept and execution?
"The inspiration for our concept started with three guys, each with food, beverage, and beer experience, each with different chops, coming together to see what we could create as a team. We wanted a place that felt both current and classic, that fit the neighborhood, and that provided a little something extra. And we knew we wanted to elevate lager beer, to make it a centerpiece of the business. Once we figured out the location, everything kind of flowed from there."
Where does the name come from and how does this space embody that?
"Naming a brewery these days can be challenging... there are over 5,000 breweries in the US at last count. The word "Wayfinder" popped up during one of our bull sessions and it grew on us over time. We like that it's somewhat of a made-up word that can mean different things to different people. It's basically about navigation... or it can be about someone who's seeking something, or someone who's leading the way. It seems to fit our location well; we're in the geographic center of the city but our corner of the Central Eastside is not all that well known yet. There's a sense of discovery when you find us."
Was there a specific design vision from the beginning or did it come together organically?
"I think our space itself set the tone for the whole project. It has so much character, and so much exposed brick and old wood, brick arches... we knew from early on that we wanted to preserve and celebrate that heritage. Our design vision was to expose and clean up the solid bones of the space, then add some more current elements while maintaining the existing warmth. And add a really great outdoor space."
How did you work together to create the unique look and feel of the space?
"Carrie Strickland and Works Progress Architecture did a ton of great work in creating unique designs like our backbar and bar overhang, our lighted skylights and our huge outdoor deck. We basically gave them a few ideas and they ran with the ball. Andy Leritz and the folks at Deform oversaw every aspect of the construction and handled most of our metalwork. Justin Rideout built the bar and most all of the furniture, from old Oregon lumber. We had a great team."
What are some of your favorite elements about the overall design or branding of Wayfinder?
"Our art director Orion Landau is a fountain of creativity; we get more comments on the giant discs he created for our walls than anything else. I love the way our skylights intersect the roof with a modern flair - it energizes the space. And in the end I really love all the bricks and beams. I feel like they tie us to history."
What drew you to the Schoolhouse light fixtures you chose for the space in particular?
"We wanted factory pendants that could look both classic and current, like the rest of the space. There are a seemingly endless number of lighting choices out there, but very few that combine the right lines, the right level of finish and the kind of handmade quality we were hoping for. Plus we love the Schoolhouse brand in general and are proud to be here in Portland with them."
Can you tell us your philosophy behind beer and food and how that plays out in the menu and presentation?
"Our main goal with Wayfinder is to take things that are classic and make them to the best of our abilities. We want the beer list to reflect our appreciation of all styles of beer, but with a real emphasis on drinkability and balance. Our food menu is designed to be super beer-friendly and, like the beer, handmade. Pretty much everything is made from scratch. We like to joke that we're "Slightly Refined". It's a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think it applies.
What sets Wayfinder apart from other PDX breweries?
"In a word: Lager. We've invested in a brewhouse that was designed with lager brewing in mind, and our brewmaster Kevin Davey is an award-winning lager brewer. Our plan is to have at least half of our 16 taps pouring lager at all times."
What’s your #1 recommended beer and what would you pair it with?
Beers are like kids to a brewer, so it's kind of unfair! But at the moment I would highly recommend our Landbier, a 'country-style' lager, paired with our house-made sausages and sauerkraut. Or a pretzel, if you're less hungry. Or all of the above.
What do you like best about Portland and your neighborhood?
"I moved here in 1992 and I'm still amazed by how comfortable the city feels to me, and by how lucky I feel to have such a nice group of people to enjoy it with. As for the neighborhood, I like the energy, how it's changing seemingly every day. Change can be fun!"
Photography by Ellie Lillstrom