Roots Organic Brewery
Ratings: 17 | Reviews: 17 | Display Reviews Only:
2.53/5 rDev -30.7%
Roots is a popular brewpub just off of Hawthorne Avenue in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood of SE Portland. That is, it's got a prime location as part of Portland beer crawl. It's about a two minute walk from Lucky Lab on Hawthorne, and it's only a few minutes more to the Green Dragon. House Spirits Distillery is just down the street, and Produce Row Cafe--Portland's original and now underrated beer bar--is nearby as well. On a nice day and an eye to walking, you could easily cross the river and be at Full Sail Riverplace in twenty minutes. Though a little further out, Clinton Street "Brewing" is within striking distance as well.
Perfect, you say? Well, the only problem with this is that, after numerous visits, I'm not sure that there is any reason whatsoever to visit Roots. The beer ranges from passable (NeverMined Pale Ale, Heather ale) to flavorless (amber ale). I should interrupt myself here and point out that their summer seasonal 'gruit kolsch' is a very noteworthy exception to this. It is worth seeking out. (So I qualify initial statement, I'm not sure that there is any reason to visit Roots between October and mid-June).
The problem with much of the beer seems to be some kind of 'woodiness' that both my friends and I have noticed. I've heard some people argue that this has to do with using organic malt, but HUB, Laurelwood, and Hair of the Dog don't have this issue. The body, especially on their 'bigger' beers, comes off as thin. And their seasonals--chocolate habanero stout, pumpkin ale, coconut porter--have huge potential, but the payoff is watery and underflavored.
Worse is the service. When it is not crowded, say on a regular weekday happy hour, the service is sluggish. When it is busy, say during last fall's VP debate, it is the most rude and inattentive service I have ever seen at a bar--and I didn't even bear the brunt of it. There seems to be a company policy that forbids employees from multi-tasking. No matter how busy they are, the bartenders will only handle one customer at a time--they will literally sit for 45 seconds to a minute chatting it up with other servers while waiting for the credit card machine to process while 30 plus people wait without any kind of service. I've also seen them ignore a line of people at one end of the bar for over 15 minutes. You might argue that they are understaffed or that my example focuses on a particularly difficult time, but there are plenty of busy bars that handle their customers efficiently and courteously. Whether you call it rude or inefficient, bad service is bad service.
I also take issue with some of the layout, but I've griped enough. Roots was a brewery that impressed me upon my first visit and has only disappointed since. There are many, many excellent beer sites in Portland where you're better off spending your scrillaz.
12-22-2008 02:22:00 | More by benito
2.85/5 rDev -21.9%
Located in a warehouse/garage space, this brewpub has a bright feel. As you enter, youre visually directed toward the brewery and brewing system, and guided down a ramp way which strangely goes right in front of the brewing equipment and behind the bar. This would have a nice showboating appeal if the brewing system was more posh, which it is not. The ramp dumps you right in front of a cooler, which is cold sterile feeling with the exception of huge dent in the cooler and cheesy misfit architecture. After you make a big left U turn you come upon the bar and pub area. A wooden bar, tall enough for the Jolly Green Giant, appears to be well made by a crafter who has no idea of what the regulation height of bar should be Table and chairs surround the bar. The theme seems to be, an Island Palm trees meets artsy tendiness and then run over by haphazard low cost construction feel. Not horrible, but not very visual comfortable.
After being dwarfed by the Incredible Hulk bar, youll notice that the back bar is packed with stuff and looks disheveled.
Theres a chalkboard with beers listed and the bartender was attentive and dismissive at the same time. Not very knowledgeable about the beers Always a bad sign. Noted, he hasnt tried some of the beers, so tell him what I think. OK.
The food board is off to one side and is limited.
After going through the sampler, I realized there really wasnt a beer I would want to drink in any volume. All beers were unstructured, poorly concepted and not up to Portland quality.
Update: I've returned now at least 3 more times.... I find beers STILL to be loosely formulated with oddball ingredients. The odd ingredients are fine, but they're not intagrated into the beers very well. Either heavy handed and choying or underhanded and unnoticed. Some of the BASE beer flavors are a little gritty, grainy and astringent.
I jacked up my rating a little, due to a better selection of beers and better service staff...
I wish I could report better news because I do like the pub abd the energy of the brewers....
11-24-2005 18:59:24 | More by mashmstr2
3.44/5 rDev -5.8%
I'd been meaning to check this place out for a while now and I finally made it on a rainy Monday afternoon.
The atmosphere is a bit dreary and dingy, though I understand they're going for that shabby-chic "cool" vibe. It just felt a bit contrived and disorganized. Though, as a homebrewer, it is kind of nifty to basically sit IN the brewery!
The tap-handles are pretty funky and their beers have "cute" names. I wasn't that impressed with what came out of the taps though. The Heather Ale was pretty good, but the hit of my session was a guest beer! It's hard to put a finger on it, but their beers just seemed a bit flat. Not in a carbonation sense, but in a flavor/zest sense.
HOWEVER, I will be back because: it's close to where I work; they have OK prices and a good happy hour; and I'd like to support "the little guy". I do like that they do a bit more experimenting with their beers (you don't usually see heather ales and Belgian sour reds in brewpubs, for example).
05-09-2009 00:15:06 | More by GreenCard
3.54/5 rDev -3%
Its probably not completely fair to review Roots yet since they're just getting a foot under them, but I figure a preliminary may help someone.
The place is just off Hawthorne and has a great presence on the street. The brewing equipment takes up roughly half of the floor space, including some lagering tanks in a cold room.
The place has a very Caribbean feel to it with red, green and yellow favored heavily (though tastefully) in the decoration. The bar and woodwork are excellent recreations from salvaged building materials and do wonders for the place's karma. A good set of speakers delivers a great variety of reggae. Overall there is still a feeling that there is more coming.
Service was great even despite the bartender's marathon pouring. He was out of quarters so he charged us $4 per imperial pint instead of $4.25. That's really kind of him, but since there were 4 of us, he could have just lumped that dollar. Oh well, thanks for the quarter.
There were eight taps, each pull was unique and interesting. A few didn't match what was underneath, but that's fair because two of the kegs died while we were there. More than half the taps are guests from around town at this point with three brewed in house. The beers were alright, the red on nitro was quite good, but like many of the details of the building, it seemed like there was still some work to do.
The neighborhood seems to be responding well to the new addition and plenty of folks were enjoying the spot. I'll certainly stop back in, both of the brewers are skilled and have some great beers under their belts. Naturally, I'll update my review a little later.
04-02-2005 17:54:25 | More by freed
3.54/5 rDev -3%
The Reggae, Rasta, Caribbean vibe is cool, and certainly unique for a microbrewery. The service was friendly as they offered us samples. Though we were nearly the only people in the place and they didn't not have enough glasses for the actual sampler. The organic selection is adequate and the Burghead Heather offers an unique choice, as it is brewed sans hops. I thought the best of the lot was the Island Red.
The overall quality of the beers seemed rather underwhelming. Nothing really jumped out. I can't seem to find a reason to choose Roots out of the huge selection in PDX--unless you really dig the music.
11-21-2008 21:52:33 | More by Osiris9588
3.6/5 rDev -1.4%
Roots opened in early 2005 as Portlands first all-organic brewery. Located just two blocks from The Lucky Labrador, Roots enjoys easy accessibility, public transit, and parking. Their motif is island tropical with as many references to palm trees as to hop vines, plenty of surfing iconography, and reggae rhythms in the air. The house features four or five regular beers and numerous rotating seasonals. They trend towards casual potency, strong bittering and unfiltered rawness. All are brewed with organic malts and several are entirely hopless utilizing traditional brewing herbs such as heather, chamomile, and lavender.
The brewpub is split down the middle by a wheels-friendly ramp. To the right is the sizable brewing operation with a 10 bbl capacity and enough room for a rumored expansion into a bottling line. To the left is the bar and seating area with unfinished park benches, dim lighting, and strange angular lines painted in solid colors reminiscent of an Ethiopian flag. The food menu is not very extensive with only light offerings along the lines of sandwiches, salads, a hummus plate and snacks. Personal sized Hot Lips pizza is also available. As you might imagine, much of the fare is made of organic ingredients including an organic peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids.
Things I like: the very friendly folks behind the bar, the funky bohemian vibe, inventive beer recipes alive with organic ingredients, the very cool chessboard table.
Things I dont like: the exceedingly tall bar that makes me feel like a small child, the harsh acoustics, Costco salsa. Also, the plastic disposable forks are highly inorganic.
Roots youthful, artistic sensibilities and color remind me of Portlands other new eastside brewery, Amnesia. Perhaps its not surprising then that Roots one guest tap is frequently occupied by an Amnesia beer. Tucks beers have also made appearances here along with other equally thoughtful choices. Beer quality can be hampered by harsh, unrefined recipes and techniques though Im hopeful for improvement as the brewers gain greater authority over their system. Roots sells growlers and insulated growler totes. Cheap beer pours on Tuesday at $2.50 an imperial pint.
08-19-2005 04:39:19 | More by RedDiamond
3.63/5 rDev -0.5%
With a couple months under their belt, things are shaping up nicely for Roots. As you may have surmised, all their brews are organic, and they show potential for creating unorthodox styles; their heather ale (no hops) is already on tap. This progressive attitude is mixed in with a vacation-y, spring break-y beach ambience (the tap handles are mini surfboards) to provide a stilted but inviting atmosphere. The space is bisected by an overly dramatic ramp which suggests they are hoping to move a lot of product out the front door. To the right is the spacious brewing area and some large holding tanks. On the other side is the small pub, with a very tall bar made of recycled floorboards, a few picnic tables and some smaller cafe-style tables.
On last visit, they had 5 beers (pale, red, IPA, nitro stout, heather) and 3 guests (Amnesia, Lucky Lab, Hair of the Dog). The red and heather ales were the most interesting. The music was Caribbean in flavor but not really reggae; it was pretty lousy but fortunately it wasn't obtrusive. The acoustics were also not too great but this is only a problem if a table gets really rowdy. All their brews were solid with the sole detriment of being a bit too yeasty. In some cases, like the full-bodied red ale, it suits the beer but I would have liked a lighter, filtered pale ale for instance. Food was unambitious but fine, with Hot Lips personal pizzas and sandwiches like what you would make for yourself at home. The bartender was outgoing; she let those sitting at the tables know they should come up to the bar to order, and she was graciously apologetic when a keg blew on someone's growler fill. On the way home I realized she overcharged me but it's my fault for not saying anything. Pints are imperial, $4.25 except on Tuesdays and happy hour when they are $2.50. They are also open for lunch, despite what their website says.
With two creative, skilled brewers, a devotion to organic and herbal beers, and a murmur about bottling in the future, I'd say at this point the most exciting thing about Roots is its potential. Let's hope we can look forward to Nicholls' kolsch, McAdam's pilsner, and a bunch of unusual beers that haven't been imagined yet.
06-10-2005 03:50:22 | More by Thrasher
3.63/5 rDev -0.5%
Roots Organic Brewery is located in a small storefront in a light-industrial part of SE Portland, a half block south of Hawthorne Blvd. Painted an adobe brown with a colorful sign above the door. A few picnic benches line the sidewalk; lots of afternoon sun - as the building faces west towards SE 7th, a fairly busy street.
Inside, there is a bar area to the left and the brewing operations behind a partial height wall to the right. The floor level of both is actually 2 or 3 feet below street level, so you choose between a long wide ramp which leads more or less to the brewery or a set of steps directly to the "pub". The decor is generally island themed, with walls painted in shades of yellow, olive green and amber. Some miscellaneous bits of artwork and paraphernalia hang from the walls and are tasteful, not too kitschy. There are about 10 barstools around the (tall!) bar area, 5 simple picnic tables and some various chairs and small tables. The one where I sat had an inlaid glass chessboard which was pretty cool looking. There's also a single flat screen TV on the far wall and a single dartboard around the corner near the brewery & restrooms. Nice relaxing music (a Jack Johnson CD) played in the background.
Service was easy enough; a friendly young woman in a yellow Roots t-shirt tended bar and offered me samples to try. Visited on a Tuesday, which offers $2.50 imperial pints all day...a good time to go it seems. There were 6 "regular" house beers on tap and two seasonals (Kolsch & Wit). I got a pint of the Burghead Heather and a bowl of peppery potato chips. The beer was good, interesting flavors since it was brewed without hops; also tried the Kolsch, which is brewed with lavender & chamomile instead of hops and found it to be an excellent summer refresher. At other occasions I've tried their Stout, Red and Wit beers; all are good, though the Wit seems to be overly hopped for its style. Browsed the menu, a small but decent assortment of sandwiches (organic ingredients), pizzas from Hot Lips (Portland), a couple salads, bar snacks and a few kid-friendly items too.
Overall, a likable place - very laid back. Bare concrete floors and simple decor give it sort of an "unfinished garage/basement" feel. Lighting in the bar half is mostly spot & indirect lighting or daylight from the windows. The brewery half has harsh fluorescent lighting; there's also a sort of industrial hum from cooling fans that was audible over the converstaions and music. For someone interested in the brewing operations, Roots' setup is so visible and approachable. Though I didn't ask, I'll bet the brewer(s) would give a quick tour or talk about what's in the tanks, coolers, etc. I'll ask more next time I'm back...
08-10-2006 19:38:27 | More by msubulldog25
3.76/5 rDev +3%
Atmosphere here is cool without being overdone. Small brewpub with one guy behind the bar; walk-up bar service only. Most of the seating is picnic tables. There was a live band on the small stage in this (small) place and while the music wasn't bad it prevented any conversation except between songs. The beer was okay, most were solid brews but just didn't find anything I really liked. The Pale Ale was nice and so was the IPA, but just didn't stand out in this town. The "Heather" was quite nice and drinkable despite having no hops. Festivus Winter ale was a great big malty winter warmer with a generous dose of hops, the best of the beers I tried here. There was an Imperial Stout on nitro that was pretty thin and really not good. Also a special Golden ale that had nice Belgian yeastiness with crisp carbonation and an odd tannic mouthfeel was noteworthy. Did not try the food. The bartender was friendly and knowledgeable.
03-24-2008 01:12:07 | More by BeerZack
3.8/5 rDev +4.1%
The inside of the Roots establishment is that of a local watering hole. There is good ambiance and you are not far away from the stills. There is a nice size tv and some board games to use you time and enjoy the food and beer.
I enjoyed the four styles I had while I was there. The quality of the brews was good. The service is the only thing that isn't great about this joint. There was only 1 guy pouring and taking orders and the other was making the food for over 40 people. So you had to go to the bar. Woe is me.
The selection of brews and food was varied and food was prepared well with fresh ingredients. I had the quesadilla and italian sandwich which were tasty. Overall it is a place I think you should visit if you are on the eastside.
02-03-2008 07:45:13 | More by cswhitehorse
Roots Organic Brewery in Portland, OR
86 out of 100 based on 17 ratings.