The former Labrewatory space in North Portland has a new tenant: Second Profession Brewing, the Sandy Boulevard brewery that will use the satellite location as a small-batch brewery and to open its own taproom, version two.
Founder and head brewer Charlie Goman “soft opened” the North Russell Street spot this week, welcoming customers with little fanfare or attention as he gets the operation and staffing up to speed. He is working towards a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 8.
“We opened the taproom officially at the other location on Oct. 7, five years ago,” he said during a recent interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive. “So it kind of makes sense to aim for something around then. … assuming I can find even a single bartender in the entire city.”
Labrewatory, a taproom and experimental/teaching brewery, closed during the first year of the pandemic. Another tenant in the building, Jaime Soltero Jr., who founded the adjacent Tamale Boy restaurant, had operated the taproom for the past year, but Goman and Second Profession have now taken over the space, this week serving and brewing there for the first time. .
He survived the pandemic like many breweries — by ramping up canning and selling through retail customers — but he recognizes the value and increased profit margins of serving customers in his own establishment.
“That’s why this place,” he said. “It’s a pure volume game. Every day there’s a new brewery (opening in town), and we have plenty of distributors that are bringing in products from out of state. It’s crowded.
“New Seasons is an account that really accelerated my growth,” he said. “But it’s no longer a guarantee that they even stock my product since they have so many people vying for that shelf space.”
Goman credits his persistent legwork for getting Second Profession’s beers into New Seasons, the first large retailer to carry the brand.
“I just worked my (butt) off,” he said. “I just slowly but surely chipped away at the buyers in the individual stores and brought them samples and just asked nicely. I still feel really grateful that they took a chance on a brewery that most people had never even heard of before.
“They were like, ‘Oh, do you have a taproom?’ Well, no, I don’t really have a taproom,” he said. “Then, ‘Oh, it’s a garage outfit.’ No, not really. … I’m in this weird tweener route between the two.”
The new taproom is Second Profession’s second attempt at one. When Goman, a copier salesman who homebrewed as a hobby, decided in 2017 to ditch the former profession in favor of the latter, he opened his own brewpub in the former BTU Brasserie & Brewery space in Northeast Portland.
The career switch — which resulted in the Second Profession Brewing name — proved challenging, and he eventually unloaded the restaurant operation and focused on the brewery. Goman recognizes he’s stepping back into that dual responsibility but feels he’s now in a much better position to handle a taproom.
For starters, he has helped with production after hiring brewer Aaron Wichler, who most recently was at Sasquatch Brewing. And he still won’t have to deal with food, having not only Tamale Boy, which serves traditional Mexican fare, but also Smokin Fire Fish, which serves Hawaiian-Korean fusion, as food options next door for taproom customers.
Goman partially credits his own improvement as a brewer for setting Second Profession up for expansion.
“I know now that I knew absolutely nothing when I started,” he said. “For the first two years, the restaurant really inhibited my ability to accelerate my own growth, because I spent time flipping burgers, not like listening to master brewers podcasts or researching or doing collabs with other brewers and learning best practices.”
Goman said the pandemic allowed him to put in the “legwork and what is necessary to become a true professional. … that’s where I feel my game is right now, that I can produce beer on a relatively high level.”
As his beers improved, they made their way into more stores, a development that caught the eye of Running Man, a nearly decade-old Portland distributor whose portfolio includes Ex Novo Brewing, Culmination Brewing and Public Coast Brewing.
“Almost every New Seasons I walked into, he had three placements, which is pretty good for a self-distributed guy,” said Adam Metzger, who oversees Running Man operations. “Then I saw, you’re not just a self-distributed guy, you’re a self-made guy doing pretty much everything.”
Metzger said he’s been sold on Second Profession’s beers, citing Space Flamingo Hazy IPA as “about as good an example of the style as you can get.” He also praised Goman’s lagers and kettle sours in addition to his hoppy beers.
“I try to pick brands that have a bright future and have a story to tell, but it’s also about helping people and the smaller guys, and Charlie fits that mold perfectly,” Metzger said.
Signing with Running Man over a year ago allowed Goman to leave the sales to someone else and focus on the business and the second location.
There, he has further enhanced the modern rustic decor with a creative living moss wall he and his fiancée, Amanda Kamm, spent hours making. He tucked petrified tree branches to create a canopy into the rafter beams, sprinkled living greenery throughout, and added tree crosscut-round patterns as wall accents.
Goman recognizes the location is slightly off-the-beaten path, but he hopes the food options next door draw taproom customers initially, and he also plans event nights. For example, he is providing beer for nearby music venue North Warehouse and anticipates shared performance nights.
“They’re really on board with that idea and working together to kind of boost both our exposures,” he said. “We’ll be looking heavily at that kind of an idea of trying to partner with other entities that have something to offer. We’re trying to just think creatively to bring people in the door.”
Metzger has full confidence in Second Profession and the new spot.
“The taproom is going to do huge things for him,” he said. “Being a one-man show is inspiring and endearing, but you just don’t have the time to do everything. … If you don’t have a sales rep in the market or a taproom, there’s no showcase for the brewery.
“Now people have something beyond what can be seen to associate with the brewery,” Metzger said. “And you couldn’t have a better example of being the face of something than that taproom. It’s gorgeous.”
If You Go
- What: Second Profession Brewing taproom
- Where: Taproom: 670 N. Russell St.; Brewery: 5846 NE Sandy Blvd.
- When: Currently “soft” opened with flexible hours; Permanent hours to be determined, with plans to be open seven days a week.
- What to drink: A wide range of beer styles, including West Coast IPAs and hazies, such as the flagship Space Flamingo Hazy IPA, and a number of farmhouse/saisons plus lagers, sours, pub styles and wild ales.
— André Meunier; sign up for my weekly newsletter Oregon Brews and Newsand follow me on Instagram, where I’m @oregonianbeerguy.
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