Popularity of Great Notion beers with Portland locals

Discussion in 'US - West' started by John_M, Jan 18, 2020.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    This was something I've been thinking and wondering about for a while, after a recent out of town visitor expressed his surprise that the Upright brewing tasting room seemed to be more popular with visitors from out of town than locals. It made me wonder if that's also the case with Great Notion.

    My impression is that Great Notion is probably the number one beer/brewery destination for out of town visitors. Most out of town visitors posting in the "Visiting Portland" thread mention Great Notion as one of the places that's at the top of their list of places they feel they need go. I've even seen posts where it sounds like that's really the only place some visitors want to check out when they come here.

    On the other hand, I rarely see much of any discussion about GN among the local Portland BA crowd, and I can't remember the last time I saw someone mention a GN beer in the WBAYDN thread. Just speaking for myself, I probably visit GN less often now than I did the first year they were open. I think this past year I've visited the new location on the west side once, and the old Alberta street location once. Granted, I think most of their pastry stouts are way too sweet, and I've never been a huge sour fan, but I've liked some of the adjunct IPA's they've put out. I still think their beers are a bit overpriced, but not so much that that's really a deterrent to my visiting their pub (I like the vibe at the Alberta street spot, and I think their food is quite good). Nevertheless, I just don't find myself thinking about heading over there vey often. I think about what I know they're going to have on tap over there, and I'm just not ever moved to run over there.

    Just wondering if my experience is fairly typical, or if anyone else on here might be a regular and stops by pretty frequently. Really just curious...
  2. JasonJYoung

    JasonJYoung Jan 7, 2015 Washington

    Well, I used to drive up from Seattle once or twice a month for Great Notion. During 2019, I found myself detouring to other brewery locations, in addition to a few beer retailers. Heck, the craze seems to have calmed down here in Seattle with Great Notion drops at Chucks Hop Shop.

    The upcoming GN opening in Ballard (Seattle) will probably be crazy for a while. BUT, I now wonder how long this will last. My money is on Reuben's Brews maintaining their status as Kings of Ballard.

    I agree, some of their beers are too damn sweet! Finishing a single can of Double Stack has become a chore. IMO, the IPA's seem a little different than before. Likely, this is simply a personal taste change on my part. Then again, tons of people love their stuff.
    66jzmstr and vurt like this.
  3. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Sep 3, 2008 California
    Society Trader

    @John_M while I'm not local, I do get to PDX and Bend a couple times per year. My opinion mirrors yours. I do enjoy their beers that I find as somewhat unique (e.g. Orange Creamsicle), and find Double Stack good but at my limits of sweetness. Recently I've become perplexed to find 4pks of Mandala at $23 and single cans of some (likely hyper sweet to me) double fudge brownie concoction for $8 at my local posh grocery markets and craft bottle shops, as I didn't think the Sac market was one they'd target. Personally I'd be FAR more elated to find Fremont stuff IMBY.

    My wife and I do love their food, but my interest in their beer offerings wanes as they seem focused on the sweeter, and less bitter, profiles currently popular with many. I wish them nothing but success, but unless I happen to be in the neighborhood and hungry, I don't see them as a purposeful destination while in PDX in the future. I'd rather seek out a spot with something from Fremont or pFriem that I can't easily find packaged, than give more $ to GN. My (non-local) $0.02.
  4. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Jan 18, 2007 Oregon
    Society Trader

    The only recent beer from Great Notion that had me interested was their pilsner. I still haven't tried it, though.

    As for the lack of discussion among us locals, I think it has to do with the fact that the most active of us have been on the site for 10years, give or take. While we're a diverse bunch, almost all of us (seem to) prefer clearer, bitter IPAs in the NW or San Diego styles, and our decadent stouts still balanced and drinkable. I think that has a part to play.
  5. sharpski

    sharpski Oct 11, 2010 Oregon
    Society Trader

    Please hit me up next time you’re in Bend, this post makes me all the more convinced we’d enjoy a pint together.
  6. beefandbean22

    beefandbean22 Oct 15, 2008 Oregon

    Same here! I’m always happy to get together for a beer or 2
    jakecattleco likes this.
  7. SeaAle

    SeaAle Jun 24, 2012 Oregon

    I probably go to GN more often than any other Portland brewery. I highly doubt they would be doing as well as they are if they were mainly relying on out of town visitors. Portland isn't exactly a hot spot for tourism.
    Upright is another story. I like their beer, but the location is just not a pleasant environment to spend much time at. It's like you're drinking in someones depressing basement. I would much prefer to buy bottles of their beer at a bottle shop and drink at home or find on draft elsewhere.
  8. vurt

    vurt Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    Actually hard to describe how thoroughly I disagree.
  9. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    When I was going more often, I would definitely see some regulars there. On the other hand, I would also see quite a few out of town visitors. I honestly have no idea what GN relies on in terms of a customer base. With all their recent expansion, I certainly agree that they seem to be doing very well.

    I actually was under the impression that PDX was a pretty popular beer destination.
  10. SeaAle

    SeaAle Jun 24, 2012 Oregon

    Sure PDX is a popular beer destination, but they still need way more local business to stay open and profitable. I know the Alberta location has always been heavily frequented by the neighborhood around it. Basing your opinion on the talk of maybe 5 regular local posters here is absurd.
    Naikoon and 7thSeal like this.
  11. NWer

    NWer Mar 10, 2009 Washington

    Not to be the turd in the punch bowl here but I hope they don't over-expand and end up imploding. Mystique is part of the allure and I would hate to see them lose it. That said, it's not one of my primary destinations whenever I'm in PDX.
  12. SeaAle

    SeaAle Jun 24, 2012 Oregon

    I agree with you there. At least they're not doing full breweries in Seattle and Beaverton. Opening just a taproom/restaurant is a lot less risky, and much easier to close if needed.
    sharpski, kemoarps and NWer like this.
  13. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Jan 18, 2007 Oregon
    Society Trader

    They definitely are doing well. When I check out the locally tending beers on Untappd, more than half are Great Notion beers. So clearly, locals are drinking and excited about them, just not us pretentious old farts.

    As for Upright, man, I wish I had a basement like that. To me, they exude the PNW ethos of unpretentious, unexcitable, quality, as opposed to several of the newer breweries that feel like they need a whimsical or funny angle. As for it being a dark basement? It just mirrors the outside 9 months of the year :-)
  14. weaverr

    weaverr Jun 10, 2008 California

    I would respectfully disagree with the tourism comment. Tourism and beer tourism is constant here. Breweries like Deschutes are constantly packed full out out-of-town tourists, and that's one that locals actually like!

    My experience with Great Notion has been that they do get a steady stream of tourists, but they're getting a lot of local foot traffic as well. For awhile they offered something unique and I still think they're probably the best place in the city if you want the NEIPA or pastry stout styles. It's more likely their primary local clientele aren't BA users.
  15. MaximumYuks

    MaximumYuks Nov 30, 2013 Oregon

    FWIW, I used to visit the Alberta location with some frequency when they first opened. Probably at least once a month. I live in the general area, so popping in for a few tasters or a couple of pints was pretty easy. Over the last couple of years, though, I've only found myself in there maybe once or twice a year at most. Usually to check out a special release (I think the last time I visited was when they tapped the BBA version of Double Stack earlier last year (or was it late '18...it's all kind of a blur anymore)). I have yet to check out the NW location, but have been meaning to get over there if only to check a box.

    My lack of visiting isn't really meant to be a comment on GN. I think they do what they do very well, and they are definitely one of the few places in Portland really leaning into hazy IPAs (ok, yes, this style is very ubiquitous these days, but they were one of the firsts in town doing it), milkshake IPAs, and pastry stouts. I also enjoy the atmosphere at the Alberta location, but I just don't find myself craving any of the aforementioned styles very often.

    I definitely always got the sense that there were a lot of tourists/out-of-towners there (maybe even the majority of people there?), but a good number of locals as well -- especially locals with kids it seemed like. This is purely speculative, but they're probably very popular locally, but maybe with a younger/more "casual" beer drinking crowd (I think someone else alluded to this above)?
  16. 7thSeal

    7thSeal Jan 21, 2020 Oregon

    It may be worth noting that, love or hate the current trends, Great Notion has captured the craft beer zeitgeist especially well. The hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, and adjunct-heavy sours which are their stock-in-trade are the exact same styles a vocal demographic on social media or a site like this is most likely to covet and ask about.

    It's a sampling error. Present company of ornery old resident farts excluded, as @DefenCorps keenly observed.

    But clearly this small, independent brewery is doing very well among locals and visitors alike, or else they couldn't have grown as they have the past few years. I'd rather applaud their hard-earned success than be continually mystified by it just because I don't personally love everything they do. That "notion" gets pretty old pretty quick.
    Naikoon, kemoarps, sharpski and 5 others like this.
  17. vurt

    vurt Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    I don't go to Great Notion because I live in Beaverton*, and if I'm going to make the trek across the river there are other places which usually exert a heavier gravitational pull on me. (The SE Portland Growler Guys was a supermassive black hole in that respect, but I digress.)

    I don't dislike their beers, although I don't generally care for their hallmark styles, which means I direct my beer dollars to the places which make the styles I prefer. I do regret not making a better effort to try their rauchbier. That is a style that I always try to encourage and support.

    * I do look forward to their upcoming Beaverton location, and will undoubtedly pay a visit at some point. When the weather gets better it will be a good bike ride for me. Assuming, of course, that other local gravity wells don't pull me in first.
  18. stairway2heavn

    stairway2heavn Aug 17, 2017 New Jersey

    Just noticed this post as I was looking into planning an eventual trip out to Portland or Seattle. The sentiments expressed about the age and nature of BA users is spot on I think, if the mid Atlantic is an indication. Other half's thread is popular, as are a couple NJ breweries (Kane, twin elephant)... But there are plenty of busy breweries with tons of local support that get little posting like equilibrium or Hudson valley. Now, they get tourists/travellers as well, but apparently they have very active Facebook groups I believe that do include plenty of locals. To perhaps bore you, Icarus in NJ makes solid though not "renown" NEIPAs and in 3 years has made a huge self distribution footprint in NJ and their cans fly off shelves, but there's hardly a peep on the BA forum. I think you have to get in the muck of Facebook groups and Instagram to parse better whether a place has more local vs. visitor traffic. Or better yet just avoid the cesspools and informally poll visitors on a Saturday afternoon. It'll be less painful if my limited exposure to these types of online groups is an indication, and I grew up with these platforms.
  19. shelby415

    shelby415 Oct 10, 2011 Oregon

    I only get to Great Notion a couple times a year and honestly am not sure how good I'd be at telling a local from a tourist these days, but it's always busy there when I've been. I'd also argue that a brewery with good food, that's family friendly in an area that is both upscale-residential and has massive foot traffic would have to be making pretty bad beer to not be a hit with locals. I'm not saying they aren't a hit with tourists too. I think they're pretty much just popular.

    It was interesting that this thread almost took a turn toward comparing GN and Upright. I like them both quite a lot, but I think they and the experience of visiting them are about as opposite as two Portland breweries could be.
  20. derftron

    derftron Feb 8, 2012 Oregon

    I probably go by 2-3 times per year. I generally like pastry stouts, but a little goes a long way and i usually dont find it worth it to drive across town for a 6oz pour. I also usually like their IPAs, but after 1 glass im usually in the mood for something different.

    so i guess to sum it up, i usually dont like to venture across town for a single beer, even if that beer is very good
    BBThunderbolt and MaximumYuks like this.
  21. Canada_Dan

    Canada_Dan Jun 14, 2013 Colorado

    Not local, but I visit Portland a few times a year. GN and Upright have both been on the regular rotation due to high quality, consistent brews, regardless of style. And perhaps bc they're totally opposite in what they specialize in, visiting those 2 I can get my funky, hazy, lager, pastry fixes in just 2 stops. Dig the food at GN too, perfect for a work trip dinner.

    The quality of beer in Portland in general is higher than in most cities whether visiting a brewery, a restaurant or beer bar. If I were local, it would depend more on where I lived. I live in CO, but an hour from Denver. When I'm in the city, it's much the same. I have a regular rotation. When I've lived in a city, I tended to stick closer to home and become a regular at one spot with a solid, rotating selection.
    SaintBrigid, kemoarps, vurt and 2 others like this.
  22. ppilot

    ppilot Jul 17, 2009 Oregon

    Just talked to one of the people at Great Notion NW and he said that at that location, it's basically a 50/50 split between locals out of town visitors
  23. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    This is almost identical to my experience and reaction as well. I usually just get samplers of their pastry stouts, as that's all I can take. I do find them interesting though, so I almost always will order one or two. The IPA's I tend to like a lot more, but... yeah, after a glass or two I find myself wanting something else. This routine has played out enough times that I just don't tend to want to drive over there very much any more.
  24. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    I’ve been to the NW location a lot more in the past year or so. Being on the west side it’s a little harder to get over to Alberta even though I like the vibe there better. NW is just a weird location and a bit sterile inside although I’ve found the tap selection and food to be consistently better. I think the 50/50 split is spot on for NW. I feel like I see more tourists at the bar or buying cans at that location. More locals at Alberta due to the neighborhood.

    The nice part about NW is they seem to have cans available well after release now. Ripe is a fantastic IPA even if some batches have been better than others. Not my go to beer spot, but I generally like what they do and make more of an effort to get there than most breweries in town. The Beaverton location will make it even easier.
  25. jason_nwx

    jason_nwx Sep 12, 2012 Oregon

    I think Jeff Alworth did a pretty good job encapsulating the debate around GN in his latest post. I'm probably in the 80% he references and have never been to GN (only tried one or two at fests). Maybe I'll go when they open in Beaverton, because I'm old and hate looking for parking. I probably would have tried them earlier but I prefer to bring packaged beer home and I'm not willing to buy a 4-pack of something I'm on the fence about. They don't sell single cans, do they?
  26. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Thanks for the link to the article. I always enjoy reading Jeff's articles, even if I don't always entirely agree with his position. I'm actually in the other 20% he references I think, as I actively enjoy trying and seeking out new things. For example, I don't completely object to the idea of a pastry stout (I've tasted some really good ones over the past few years), but just find Great Notions to be, on average, way too sweet for my palate. That being said, they do seem to sell pretty well, so clearly there is a fairly sizeable customer base who have more of a sweet tooth than I do.
    jakecattleco and jason_nwx like this.
  27. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    To flip the coin a bit; would any of us consider a muffin that tasted like beer to a good muffin? A lot of breweries and bakeries use the spent grain from brewing to make bread, dog treats, and animal feed. Do the breads taste like beer? Nope. Does the meat from the cow taste like beer? Nope.

    I don't understand why creating a beer that tastes like a muffin is considered some awesome achievement. As of my reading of the linked article above, there were 2 comments, both of which, IMHO, carried more weight than the article itself.
    afrokaze, VashonGuy, vurt and 2 others like this.
  28. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I'm glad I read your post, as I hadn't bothered to read the comments. I see what you mean. Very well thought out and well articulated observations. The first guy probably best encapsulates my feelings about some GN beers.
    vurt, jakecattleco and BBThunderbolt like this.
  29. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Sorta related to Grape Lotion, my FB feed is pretty full of posts from Strangebrew over in PT this weekend. I just saw a picture of a Fruity Pebbles beer, with actual Fruity Pebbles in it. When what was once a selection of random novelty beers, once a year, could be beers that GL puts out in cans on a random Saturday, the shark has been well and truly jumped.
    kemoarps likes this.
  30. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Jan 18, 2007 Oregon
    Society Trader

    We be jumping megalodons these days, not sharks, m8
  31. dphi

    dphi Apr 14, 2013 Oregon

    Parking at the Beaverton location isn't great either for what it's worth. While GN doesn't sell single cans, I've seen single cans for sale occasionally at bottle shops.
    jason_nwx likes this.
  32. Naikoon

    Naikoon May 25, 2018 Washington

    I can understand your not liking a beer like Blueberry Muffin (I don't much care for it either), but clearly many do like it, and I think there should still be space for us all to consider it an achievement. Unlike those other examples you gave, making a beer smell and taste this way is an intentional and creative act. It required vision, experimentation, and expertise to pull it off—just like all good brewing does. And it was probably meant for a particular audience, which it found.

    As the article mentioned, the long history of beer has shown us brewers pushing the envelope in a thousand different directions to create new products. Not all of these efforts were successful. But many were, which is why we have hundreds of styles to choose from. It's why the beer landscape is so wonderfully diverse and why it continues to expand into fresh territory today.

    Innovation is what the craftsmen and artisans in this industry should be doing. That brings more people in and widens the horizon. Perhaps resisting parochialism is our part?
  33. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Sure, and I fundamentally agree with you. But, just because one CAN do something doesn't mean one SHOULD do that thing.

    History is full of bad ideas that were temporarily popular.
    kemoarps likes this.
  34. kemoarps

    kemoarps Apr 30, 2008 Washington
    Society Trader

    While I completely agree with @Naikoon 's general point about appreciating the craftsmanship and passion that goes into some of these more... let's call them creative brews, they still don't really impress me as much.
    For me one big delineating line is HOW they achieve those creative flavours. To me there's a huge difference (and resultant difference in my level of interest) between a beer where they've managed to coax out flavours reminiscient of X by means of creative application of grains and hops and yeast vs a beer that is made to taste like X by means of just dumping a bunch of X into the wort (or fermentation [or wherever]). One is much more impressive (and appealing) to me. Personally, one of the other reasons these beers hold less appeal for me is that the food item their aping doesn't really match my own personal tastes anyway, so I'm really not their target audience. For example, pancakes and syrup for me are not the Mrs. Butterworths continental breakfast bar that many seem to be trying to mimic, etc. I don't know where I'm going with all this other than to share my rambling thoughts on the matter.
    I'm not advocating for some sort of reinheitsgebot or whatever, just that it's a lot easier to make something taste like something else when you dump a bunch of that something else into it than to find those flavours in other ways. It's also not meant to be a specific response to Blueberry Muffin (or whatever other adjunct stout or IPA or whatever), just kind of a summation of thoughts I've had on the current zeitgeist of beer in general.
  35. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    GL's next release?

  36. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Jan 18, 2007 Oregon
    Society Trader

    Didn't a responsible adult ever tell you not to use words/phrases you can't properly explain?
    BuckeyeOne and BBThunderbolt like this.
  37. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Wut? Milkshake IPAs are thing. And, a Rubiks Cube? That's new edge marketing to a niche clientele bruh.
    BuckeyeOne and DefenCorps like this.
  38. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Jan 18, 2007 Oregon
    Society Trader

    I'm pretty sure I don't understand the context in which the words woke, gliding and taint are used here.
  39. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Don't mean it ain't funny. Regardless of context. It's absolutely absurd, regardless of context, thus, hi-damn-larry-us, in my worldview.

    Plus, I have no fucking idea wut that base meme means either.
    kemoarps likes this.
  40. BuckeyeOne

    BuckeyeOne Mar 9, 2008 Washington

    Irony: Only people who like milkshake IPAs understand the meme.
    kemoarps and BBThunderbolt like this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.