James Redford (left) and Shaun Yasaki
Things are coming together quickly at Noble Beast Brewery
, the craft brewery and taproom from Shaun Yasaki. In just a handful of years, Yasaki has moved from wedding photographer to cellar rat at Fat Head's, to opening brewer at Platform Beer, where he worked for a year and a half. He left that post to open up a place of his own.
That place turned out to be a 4,800-square-foot craft brewery at 1470 Lakeside, on the northeastern edge of downtown. The rectangular brick warehouse is open and uncluttered, with high ceilings and an industrial disposition that comes with age and purpose. Most recently the space was used as a storage facility and mechanics garage.
Soon, the space will feature a custom designed 10-barrel brewhouse from Portland Kettle Works. Both it and a battalion of stainless fermenters will be visible from any seat in the house. Behind the bar, a large walk-in cooler will hold the bright tanks, from which fresh beer will flow directly through the taps and into glasses.
“A direct draw system gives you the best quality with less loss and it's easier to clean,” Yasaki explains.
Yasaki says that he was on the hunt for the perfect space for more than a year until he found this building. Though it is just blocks from the heart of downtown, its location on Lakeside feels like an entirely different neighborhood, where views of the lake and sturdy brick warehouses dominate the landscape. A pair of glass-paneled garage were added to the front and rear of the building, bringing in some much needed daylight.
“I think the industrial building speaks for itself in a lot of ways,” Yasaki notes. “Apart from the shiny brewhouse, it’s really the centerpiece. That and the bar and lighting.”
The lengthy bartop will be fabricated from a single stretch of cold-rolled sheet steel, with a waterfall edge that brings the top right down to the floor at the end of the bar. The front will be constructed from perforated steel, which will be back lit. Above, Yasaki has designed a light feature that will consist of Edison bulbs on vintage wires that all emanate from a single junction box above and drop down at different heights and positions.
“It will be like this firefly look with a canopy of wires over the bar,” Yasaki says.
Yasaki plans to open in May with a lineup of five beers and grow from there. The name Noble Beast, he explains, is an allusion to the style of beers he intends to brew.
“It will be a split between noble, classic beers like traditional German and Belgian styles and the crazy American styles.”
Noble Beast will operate almost exclusively as a 100-seat taproom with little to no distribution.
“The idea is to sell as much as possible right here,” he says. “One of the biggest struggles of the so-called bubble is distribution – getting shelf space. Opening up a $3-, $4- or $5-million dollar brewery when you don’t have a brand and you’re trying to find shelf space. You’re competing with the rest of the country – the rest of the world – on that scale.”
Chef James Redford, who has spent the last four years working for Ben Bebenroth and Spice Catering, will preside over the 300-square-foot kitchen. The setup will be casual counter service, with guests ordering food at the bar.
“It will be locally sourced pub fare,” the chef says. “In my career I’ve been working so closely with local farmers, I don’t think there’s any going back at this point.”
He’ll utilize not just local produce, dairy and meats, but also locally produced food products and condiments. And, he’ll use what’s produced in the brewery itself. He might make vinegar from beer, or turn spent grain into a corndog batter.
Don’t expect a straight roster of heavy pub food, Redford says. To cater to the lunchtime crowd that exists all around them, there will be lighter fare like salads and sandwiches.
“This is going to be a pretty simple operation,” Yasaki adds. “I don’t feel like I’m opening a brewpub. This is a taproom with a kitchen.”
As for the location, Yasaki could not be more pleased with the building and its address.
“It’s super-easy to get to from anywhere, and you’re downtown without having any of the hassles of being downtown,” he says, adding that the building sits next to a massive parking lot. “I look at this as a more of a neighborhood pub. There are a lot of people who live downtown and not all of them want to hang out on East Fourth every night. Plus, you have a lot of residential pushing this way and it’s only going to grow. It’s the easiest way to build. Where else are you going to go?”
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to stay up to date on construction. If all goes well, we'll be celebrating with fresh beer in May.