Ambacht Brewery, located just outside the IPA-crazed city of Portland, is not ashamed to tell people they do not make an IPA. In fact, they consider it one of their main selling points.
Ambacht, which translates to “craft” in Flemish and Dutch, is a Belgian-inspired brewery that produces beers that are sweeter than the hoppy IPAs Portlanders are accustomed to. Partners Tom Kramer and Brandy Grobart decided, “We’re going to have to drink all of this beer, so we might as well make stuff we like.”
Tom laughs as he explains how he and Brandy bought the brewing equipment before they decided to open a brewery. Tom used to volunteer at Tuck’s Brewery, and when the space was turned into a synagogue, he bought the equipment from them. This was a bold move, considering neither partner had been in the business before.
This transaction took place about five years ago, and the partners have been busy ever since. The equipment now resides in Ambacht’s cozy 1200 square foot brewery in Hillsboro, where the owners brew every three weeks (not everyday like larger operations).
The small brewery is dedicated to sourcing organic ingredients from local farmers. They use organic malts, buy honey directly from a local beekeeper, and drive down to Goschie Farms to pick up their hops. Goschie, like many other hops farmers in the region, used to sell to Budweiser. But after a Belgian company purchased the beer giant, “a lot of hops farmers had to tear out their vines,” Tom explains.
In supporting these local farmers by using their ingredients, Ambacht crafts dry beers that get a hint of sweetness from honey. Tom explains that their process “leaves flavors that make you think sweet—I call it virtual sweeteners.” This occurs because honey is 100% fermentable. At the end of the brewing process, there is not a lot of sugar that has not become alcohol. Hence, it makes you “think sweet” without actually containing an overwhelming amount of sugar.
The brewer tells us that most beers “would be sweeter than Coca-Cola without hops.” At Ambacht, they strive to achieve balanced beers without relying too heavily on the hops. Tom claims that people can suffer from “beer burnout” if they saturate their tastebuds by drinking hoppy IPAs all the time. He wants Ambacht to be the beer people turn to when they need to give their tastebuds a break. “That way, they don’t have to resort to Coors,” Tom jokes.
Currently, the Honey Triple is brewing, and it is scheduled to be ready next spring or summer. When I asked Tom if investing this kind of time (and money) into a process with uncertain results makes him nervous, he replied, “It’s not nerves, it’s more like, ‘How do I schedule this beer?’ and ‘I need more space!’” With the growth Tom and Brandy have experienced in the past year alone, more space might not be out of the question. Previously, their brews were only available at farmers markets, but this year you’ll be able to find them in New Seasons Market.
Whether you’re an IPA fanatic looking to give your tastebuds a break, or you simply like a sweeter, more balanced beer, Ambacht is crafting the beverage for you.
Portland Fall Food Warrior