Horse Brass Pub
Taps: 74 / Bottles: 26
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 120 | Reviews: 98 | Display Reviews Only:
4.01/5 rDev -6.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | $$$
This was my last stop of a long day of testing, so I might go back and give it a full shot. When I do it will be in the afternoon so as to avoid the thick smoke, though it was only 8 pm. I know I'm often in the minority here with my beer drinking bretheren, but but I don't get the point of paying $5 a pint or $7 for a 10oz glass of great beer when I can't even smell it over the smoke. Decided not to rate either beer from the bar because I'm not sure what was there.
With that said, the selection is awesome, and pretty much everyone I asked along my week long trip said to hit the Horse Brass for the best beer. Between the guest beers, regs, and the rotating casks, it is beer heaven. What I drank, was well served and well cared for. Food looked good, even some vegetarian options which was unexpected from the look and attitude of the place.
HB web says they are a smoke friendly pub and that adults should have a choice, which a choice would be nice. I think it's a much more sensical choice if smoker's can choose to smoke outside so that the rest of us actually can actually choose to not drink or dine in smoke. But, with so many good bars in Portland, maybe nonsmokers and those allergic to it like myself shouldn't waste the time or money here.
11-12-2006 16:03:56 | More by FightingEntropy
4.5/5 rDev +4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$
The horse brass is a regular stop for me since moving to Portland. The place has a lot of character, tons of beer decor on the walls from American Craft to Belgian to British. Lots of older tables with benches that really add a lot to the feel of the place. There is an area over to the far side of the bar where the cask beers are on for darts, there are also some other traditional english pub games on a few tables throughout the place. Semi dark, usually with a lot of cigar/cigerette smoke throughout.
Theres always a great selection of beers to choose from. They have a strong connection of the local brewers in the area and always have deschutes, rogue, full sail, hair of the dog, walking man, and other local beers on tap. The guest taps are always pretty good along with their cask selection. The service has for the most part been friendly and helpful, and the day time bartender Dennis is a gem of a guy.
The horse brass is definatley a must for anyone visiting Portland who enjoys interesting places with a great selection of quality craft beer. The only thing I would warn against is its not for those who are easily bothered by smoke.
11-12-2006 09:30:10 | More by Matthew
4.64/5 rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
Jon's driving, I'm pretending to navigate. I don't have a map, and I have no idea where we are. I'm pretty sure everyone's on to me. We're in Oregon, I've never been here before and everybody knows it, but as I'm the only one here with wheels and am always driving, I'm most often paying attention when no one else will, so me riding shotgun is a good fit. And besides, I get to choose the new discs and take in the sights as we head to, where are we going exactly? Horse Brass...
I've never seen anything like this before. It's a beerflyer's nightmare, there's shit everywhere. Towers, pairs, single taps; it's a clusterfuck of someone's organization.
The bar is a wraparound and seats a dozen and a half. Intricately carved wood posts and crossbeams, covered with beer signs and a stained glass "Publick House" panel above, and heavily pasted with coasters, dangling Grolsch top necklaces, Xmas lighting and horse brass medallions which Phil described as being "kind of like bling". Spots to the front and center and strung Guinness mini-pint lighting. There's a large arched mirrored bar back with taps everywhere, booze with serving counters suspended, and glassware above. Ceiling fans, lanterns, glass chandeliers, mounted lamps; the walls decorated with beer & whiskey mirrors, and an entire wall done with Guinness mirrors, the John Gilroy prints and posters, and a great "The gentle art of making Guinness" 12 print set. The "side" side of the bar is open, by that I mean that there isn't a framed wood section overhead. Mirrored back, with shelves of booze, a dozen tables running to the rear, a duel dart area, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, beer prints, whiskey prints. Lots of dark wood and some leather, and a suspended Trekkie model of the USS Voyager (NCC-74656).
The adjacent tabled areas are madness. Raised elevated seating areas to both sides of the front entranceway with a railing separating them from the bar ahead. 8 long tables in the larger room to one side and 8 various sized and shaped tables on the other side with a forward darts area. To the rear there, more darts, Horse Brass soccer team photos, English flags, soccer pennants and ribbons. A heavy, heavy WWII theme throughout; war photos, English recruiting posters and a whole lotta Churchill goin' on. Tons of well worn wood here, you'd think the place was considerably older than it is.
I counted, I don't know, something like 52 taps and 5 casks. At least half the taps are local and regional micros mostly from Oregon (Deschutes, Roots, Alameda, Golden Valley, Bend, Caldera, Laurelwood, Rogue, Full Sail, Bridgeport, Hair of the Dog, Terminal Gravity), and a bunch from Washington and California (Walking Man, Anchor, Bear Republic, Lagunitas, Stone, North Coast, Anderson Valley, Sierra Nevada). The rest of the taps are imports, standards like Bass, Guinness, Newcastle, Boddingtons, Pilsner Urquell, Stella, Lindemans Framboise and some not so usual (Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock, Young's Double Chocolate Stout, Bombardier Ale, Greene King Abbot Ale, DuPont Avec Les Bons Voeux). The 5 casks were also local and regional selections from Deschutes, Hales, Rogue, Mt. Hood.
They've got a small bottle list with everyone's favorite Belgians and some Germans and English, that I never needed to know about as the taps were more than enough to keep me busy 'til the Spring. Also, some wines, port, single malt scotch, etc.
I had a pint of the Walking Man Black Cherry Stout which was just sublime. Chewed the fat with the bartender for a bit. "Here, try this. Here, try this". I asked about the lack of beers from Yakima Brewing/Bert Grant's Ales, and he told me the sad tale about the decline of the brewery. Out back on the bulletin board, a cartoon depicting fermenters at Yakima Brewing being packed up and moved. One character says "Those fermenters sure make a lot of noise on the forklifts", and the other character says "That's Bert rolling over in his grave". True, true.
This place is outstanding.
09-08-2006 04:29:02 | More by slander
4.28/5 rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
On the last day of my third visit to Portland, someone pointed out that if I hadnt been to the Horse Brass, Id truly missed out on something spectacular. So my friend and hostess obliged my sad puppy eyed request, fired up the ol Taurus again and took me on over to the Brass so I could tick off another great Portland Beer Establishment on my list.
The place was nearly empty when we got there, which was late in the afternoon. Still the traditional English Pub atmosphere was authentic and well captured without the appearance of trying too hard.
They have an impressive list of beers on draught over 50 but we only had time for one before I had to head over to PDX to catch my flight back to Burbank, CA. The gentleman behind the bar was gracious, made us feel welcome, and after asking a few questions about our favorite styles, he made a few suggestions and poured us a few samples as well. Feeling brave, we settled upon the Rogue Brutal Bitter, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
I didnt have enough time to sample the food on this quick visit, but you can bet Ill be going back to the Horse Brass the next time Im in Portland!
08-17-2006 04:45:50 | More by TheLiterati
4.1/5 rDev -4.7%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3 | $$
Holy English pub meets chain restaurant! Makes me think of Super Troopers every time. "Hey Farva what's that place you like with all the shit on the walls?" My answer would have to be the Horse Brass. I am willing to bet Sir Winston didn't know so many photos were taken of him. Also weekend nights are so smoky it hurts.
Be it at a table or at the bar, the service is very good. As attentive as reasonable depending on the day. Friendly and knowledgeable.
Tons of taps and 5 engines. Rogue, Walking man, Lagunitas, Deschutes, Stone and more.
The food is a mix of standard English and American pub fare with veggie options. I enjoyed my steak and kidney pie.
Prices are pretty standard for Portland bars. Imperials are around $4.50 to $5 depending.
Overall: Great place if you love beer and smoke. I once had to leave because of the smoke and I was a smoker at the time. Amazing place when it isn't busy.
06-13-2006 00:13:16 | More by krberg
4.1/5 rDev -4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$$
Had heard so much about this bar both from friends and this site, that I decided I finally needed to make the trip.
Man was I ever glad I did.
Walked in, and was immediately greeted by a definite British Pub feel. The beer list is very tantalizing, and the food was well prepared (I had the chipotle burger, and loved it). Had a pint of Walking Man's Black Cherry Stout (unearthly smooth!), and Blue Dot IPA (holy cow, it's opaque! looks like cider gone bad, tastes amazing).
Our initial server was fantastic, and handily held up conversations about beer, food, and the bar, and checked on us twice in 20 minutes. Sadly, she was replaced soon after, when her shift ended, by a sullen woman who visited us only to pick up our check. Makes me wish we had been able to leave a tip solely for our first server.
The beer selection is an admirable list of regional brews, but not astonishingly large (there's a restaurant in Bremerton specializing in beer with a menu twice as large, but none are on-tap as they are at Horse Brass).
Definitely returning here next time I'm in town!
05-26-2006 09:04:03 | More by waldowin
4.53/5 rDev +5.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3 | $$
7/08 Update. One of the few problems I have had at the Horsebrass involved the service (or should I say lack of service) I typically received from one certain gentleman. As near as I can tell, that individual has now semi-retired, or at least no longer works very often at the Brass. Hence, it's high time I upgraded my service score, as over the past year I have consistently received outstanding, attentive service. Might need to update my atmosphere score as well when Portland goes smokefree in 2009.
Happily, nothing else about this outstanding beer bar has changed one wit, and hence I make it a point to stop by the pub whenever I happen to be in town (frequently, though no where near often enough). Last time I visited, there was a wedding group in attendance, who apparently had made some arrangement with the bar to pour a keg of beer called "wedding cake," solely for the wedding guests (free at the bar for them). I thought that a great idea, something I don't believe I have ever seen elsewhere. As I left the bar a bit later, a couple of young ladies from the group were having a lightsaber duel in the middle of the street.. It was all I could do to keep the grin off my face and not stare.
This place truly is the crown jewel in the nearly endless array of outstanding Portland beer bars. (end of update)
After reading over the reviews about this place, I find myself in agreement with both the pros and cons. I've been coming here for many years myself, even more often now that I live only a few miles away. The criticisms are all warranted I'm afraid. The food here is no better then average for the most part (though the fish and chips always look pretty good), and service uneven to say the least. I've walked out on a couple of occasions after sitting at the bar for what seemed an interminable period of time waiting for service.
All that being said, I'm not sure I agree with Mashmstr2's assertion that the HB's time has come and gone. Most nights I've visited the place it's been absolutely packed. The beer selection remains one of the best in town; where else can you find the awesome Blue Dot Double IPA from Hair of the Dog on tap as a regular? So I come here at least once a week for one reason and one reason only. The HB continues to offer local beers that I seldom, if ever, see any place else. As long as they continue to do that, and Don Younger (may he live forever) seems to be committed to doing just that, I'll continue to stop by whenever I have the chance.
01-20-2006 00:11:44 | More by John_M
United Kingdom (Scotland)
4.1/5 rDev -4.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5 | $$
This cavernous English style pub does a decent job of recreating blighty except that there is far too much nationalistic junk on the walls, the beer is simply much too good and one doesn't have to go to the bar or sit down for a meal to order a drink.
The beer selection is the best of anywhere I have ever been (although I have to admit I haven't been to many places which pass BA's beer bar criteria despite being ale friendly Portland) with an accent on strong local brews. They seem to a very good job of picking out the cream of the local crop with some beers which are tricky to find on tap (Hair of the Dog, Terminal Gravity and Walking Man all have beers here).
The service is rather English with more of an accent on substance than style or manner. I had chips (um, fries) on my latest visit (an unusual venture into bar food for me) and they were good, served with the all important malt vinegar at the table, but I haven't even brought it upon myself to peruse the menu so you'll have to take my food rating with a pinch of salt.
It is definitely worth the 3.8 mile walk once in a while.
12-15-2005 07:26:44 | More by charlatan
2.33/5 rDev -45.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3 | service: 1 | selection: 2.5 | food: 2 | $$
The Horse Brass is legendary in Portland, but I think its time has come and gone. With new pubs increasing the BAR of pubs, food, beer and service quality; Horse Brass is being left in the dust
On my last visit, I found the place a 1/8 full with dirty tables full of left over plates and glasses. Our server was rude and dismissive. We were told she was busy and we needed to hurry with our order. There was no one there! After spilling beer on the table, the floor and a friends coat with no apology, I really have very little good to say about service.
The beer menus where out dated and most items on the beer menu where not available.
The food has been hit and miss for some time. This visit solidified the downhill slide. The fish and chips were awful. The fish cold inside barely cooked. The fries were the end chips and scrapes of other batches. It appeared little effort was put into preparation or concern for quality.
While I have enjoyed the Horse Brass many times in the past with consistent quality in food, service and selection; I feel this establishment is missing their original mark.
11-20-2005 23:04:20 | More by mashmstr2
4.13/5 rDev -4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
The Horse Brass Pub, something of a legend in the Portland area, has the looks only a mother... or a BA would love. The Horse Brass is actually quite spacious inside, with a large number of tap handles and cask setups peaking out from behind a large L-shaped bar. The woodwork is the sort that has seen better days, and couldn't look better for it. It's the kind of bar I would have killed for in college because of its size, beer selection, atmosphere (dark with breweriana hiding about), and overall vibe. The quality of the brew on tap is superb: both local and high quality imports are represented very well. The service the Sunday I visited was only a contankerous, older bartender from Yorkshire, England a single waittress. The bartender didn't offer opinions or descriptions of a single beer when I asked about a few, and only once even offered the descriptor "I don't like that one." Overall, I was dissapointed by the service while sitting at the bar.
The selection of the beer was superb, and the beer was all fresh and was not served overly cold. Our food arrived quickly, which we ordered from a simple menu of traditional British style items. They are said to have some of the best fish and chips though.
The price for the beer and food was extremely reasonable, and - when compared to places like Henry's - are cheap for the other Portland pubs I have been too. The Horse Brass, and the bottle shop next door, are places to see when in Portland. The only limiting factor had been the service, but I will just have to use this as an excuse to return there a number of times to see if it is consistently this way.
10-31-2005 19:36:54 | More by edmundfitzoil
Horse Brass Pub in Portland, OR
95 out of 100 based on 120 ratings.