Downtown Portland’s Old Town neighborhood nightlife is not usually a good place to find craft beer or brew pubs but a strange and interesting new concept is on the way soon. Splash Bar Hawaiian Grill is set to become Squealer’s Brewing come mid to late 2015. That will mean the bar won’t be full of neon lights, DJ grooves, a shot bus, and writhing gold-chained bodies from the suburb,s but instead it will dispense craft beers featuring imported hops from New Zealand, barrel-aged beers in a family friendly atmosphere.
Owner Chris Lenahan of Splash Bar is transitioning from dance club to brewpub inspired by his time in New Zealand and consulting on small breweries in the states. Along with Pints Brewing and Old Town Pizza’s original location, the grungy inner Northwest part of downtown isn’t all just bozos drunk on cheap liquor, but also is increasingly full of beer snobs buzzed on expensive microbrews.
Chris Lenahan is both a business entrepreneur as well as a bar consultant behind numerous successful businesses and author of The Little Black Bar Book and Opening A Bar. Consulting for Blasted Barley in Tempe, AZ, he connected with Brian Watson from DME Brewing Solutions in adding a nano brewery. Brian Watson is from New Zealand, where he owns Good George Brewery and Good Neighbor Brewing in Hamilton, NZ, and is a big piece of the puzzle.
Brian and Chris are busy guys; in addition to Splash Bar and his consulting gig, Lenahan is a family man who also owns club Dirty in the same neighborhood as Splash Bar. Watson currently heads up the Far East Division of DME and has built breweries in China and NZ. Chris Lenahan followed Brian to New Zealand, where he discovered the name Squealers Brewing as well as the “stellar” hops from that country that are beginning to become desired world wide. Talking to Lenahan, it seems much of his inspiration to start a brewery comes directly from Watson and his visits to New Zealand. “Brian also brings a whole new level of taste profiles from around the world.”
From New Zealand Brian has helped source a new 5 bbl and 4-vessel brewery fabricated in Canada that will go into place at Splash Bar as it becomes Squealers Brewing. From his home in Hamilton, Brian will train a prospective brewer to take over the reigns at Squealers. Yes this means a 2 week + paid training vacation in New Zealand, and likely some additional time at Kirin Brewery in Japan.
If you’re wondering where the name “Squealers” comes from, so was I. It’s apparently the term they use in New Zealand for half sized growlers, or as they are often called around here, growlettes. The brewing program and theme of Squealers Brewing, like the name, is inspired by New Zealand. Brian Watson has already mapped out a plan for the beers with an emphasis on barrel-aging and on fresh beers with New Zealand hops that have been increasing in popularity in the states.
Chris and Brian are currently waiting for TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) licensing to come through before closing Splash Bar to begin the big restart. The remodel and refresh includes the brewing tanks on display against the windows on NW 9th and a walk-in cooler with brite tanks and direct draw system to the bar. For food, Chris is talking to Brian Gurney of the award-winning competitive BBQ team of Bad Bones BBQ to bring his famous pulled pork and more to the in-house menu.
Squealers Brewing (currently Splash Bar: Hawaiian Grill)
904 NW Couch St
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