Oregon brewing pioneer John Harris is back. His new North Portland brewpub Ecliptic Brewing opened on Monday, October 21, and pays homage to Harris’ love of astronomy—with constellations drilled into the walls and light fixtures representing the planets and the paths of stars in the sky. Harris may be an amateur astronomer, but his professional brewing credentials are not in question: he’s an alum of McMenamin's, Full Sail, and Deschutes, where he developed the recipes for celebrated beers like Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter.
The brewery itself, located in the same massive building just of N. Mississippi Avenue, is equally spacious as the pub, and primed for expansion. Harris acquired all the equipment used from other breweries, including towering aging tanks into which he moves the beer after about a week in fermentation. It’s a two-stage process that is both cost effective, as fermenters are more expensive than aging tanks, and allows Harris for more flexibility in his brewing schedule. He has plenty of square footage to work with, as well: there are plans afoot to build a heated room in some of the unused space for barrel-aging under controlled temperatures.
At the moment there are four beers available in Ecliptic’s taps: an IPA, a pale ale, a sour wit brewed in collaboration with Gigantic, and a pale brewed in collaboration with Widmer. The standout of the bunch—you’ll never guess—is the IPA. It’s a lovely, medium-bodied take on the style that offers all of the floral and citrus notes of many of the new class of Northwest IPAs without any of the cloying sweetness.
There are plenty more beers to come. When I visited, there was a porter, a pilsner, and a fruit beer brewed with riesling juice all in the fermenting or aging process. Harris also revealed plans to bottle a holiday beer the day after Thanksgiving, though he remained coy about the beer itself. One thing is clear: expect a regularly rotating cast of styles and recipes at Ecliptic. Harris was sure to point out on Sunday that nothing we tasted was a “house” beer. “We’re going to find our house beers; we’re not going to tell people what the house beers are [right when we open].”
Harris plans to match this bevy of brews with truly stellar dining options. “There are so many brewpubs with mediocre food,” he laments. “In this town, where beer is king and food is king, no one has really brought the two together.” Harris wants to change that: “Beer is going to bring you in, but food is going to bring you back.”
If all this sounds like the business venture of a lifetime, or like an experienced and decorated brewer going all in, Harris plays it pretty low-key. “Someone asked me if I was building a dream brewery. I said, ‘No, I’m just building a brewery!’”
Ecliptic Brewing is located at 825 N. Cook Sreet. Open Monday–Thursday 11 AM to 11 PM, Friday–Sunday 11 AM to 12 AM.