By Nancy Tannler
304 SE 2nd Ave
Hidden away in the Central Eastside Industrial District, Wayfinder Beer, is a great place to find. Look for the sign on the large wooden wall and follow the stairways into a delightful tap room/restaurant scene.
On the sunny afternoon of The Southeast Examiner’s visit, the outside seating was filled with people enjoying the drinks, food and scenery. Wayfinder is above street level so the view is of the Portland skyline and trees–not delivery trucks, loading docks and other elements that aren’t that aesthetic,
Chef Ryan Day, one of the partners, shared the story behind Wayfinder’s journey from its inception to what is now a 200 seat capacity full service bar, restaurant and brewery. Ryan is also manager of Podnah’s Pit BBQ in northeast with chef/entrepreneur Rodney Muirhead. It began when Charlie Devereux (Double Mountain Brewery) left the popular brewery five years ago with the idea of brewing a mix of ales and lagers, the slower-fermenting style he fell in love with on a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic.
Deveraux found partners in Matthew Jacobson (Sizzle Pie, Quality Bar, and Relapse Records), Rodney Muirhead and Ryan Day and they started laying down the ground work for a brewery that specialized in lagers, pilsners and ales with a restaurant that supported the brews.
The first thing they needed for this to succeed was a head brewer. In 2014 they hired Kevin Davey a seasoned brew meister who had experience at Washington’s Chuckanut Brewery, California’s Firestone Walker and Seattle’s Gordon Biersch, where he took home a 2014 Great American Beer Festival gold medal for his Munich-style Helles. Brewing lagers is a little more difficult because it takes more time but the end result is a brew people really like.
When they started they had three brewing tanks for preparing the beer, by the middle of May 2018 they added three more just to keep up with the rising demand of their products. At this time they sell at the brewery or to go in crowlers and growlers.
The house specialties are: Hell–lager, crisp, light, refreshing, effervescent with a floral aroma; Flower in the kettle–hazy IPA–no flour added (as in some hazy beers plus a few others plus they keep a rotating series of guest beers on tap.
In support of their good beer, chef Ryan has prepared a menu with a delicious sounding selection of starters, sides, plates sandwiches, salads and desserts with the specialty being an individualized “Stoned Oregon” (baked Alaska) dessert. “I chose some of my favorite dishes from my home state of Maryland and modified them for the west coast,” Ryan said. Dungeness crab cakes replace the famous blue crab cakes and the Black lodge, smoked prime rib, beer cheese, peppers and onions on a French roll substitute for the Philly sandwich.
The kitchen is meticulous with an in-the-cooler area where the butcher, Nathan Heller, makes their sausages and prepares all their meat. Nikki Pinnow, the on site baker makes their pretzels and other bread needs and a bustling staff keep the food preparation timely and fresh.
To create Wayfinder they joined three buildings together with a central room. During the remodel the sandblasting revealed the beautiful old bricks, wooden cross beams and fir floor that add a nice old world layer to a more a modern design. Everything about the place sparkles, in a good way. You can look over at the brewing beer that happens around the clock. Everything from the bags of grain to the hops grinder, distilling and bottling takes place onsite. “Kevin insists that everything be very neat and clean,” Ryan said, and it is.
Along with beer and food, Wayfinder has an extensive bar selection with specialty cocktails made with quality liquor and wine that is a reflection of Rodney Muirhead’s extensive knowledge on the subject. The Wayfinder is a comfortable oasis in the sometimes frenetic CEID.