It’s no secret that Foster provides ample opportunity for boozing. Booze to trivia; booze while you craft; booze to live music, strippers and karaoke. Booze with good food, and not so good. Booze, booze, booze. We like it just as much as the next, but not all booze is created equal. Case in point: N.W.I.P.A., Foster’s own champion and curator of beer. But not just any beer—good beer….rare, award-winning, and running the gamut from sours and Saisons, to Double IPAs, stouts and ciders. Our neighborhood bottle shop provides it all, by the pint or to-go. And they’ve paired it all with just the right combination of food, regular tastings and tap-takeovers, a nice selection of records, and the occasional event that brings even more beer and food and music to the masses…or, at least, you Foster-ites. Let’s take a look at the guys behind it all, Dan and Jackson.
Everyone knows about NWIPA the bottle shop. But tell us a little about the faces behind the name.
Jackson- I’m from So Cal and I moved to Portland to go to culinary school after leaving the Air Force. I was always drawn to the Pacific Northwest for beer and the weather. I guess I always wanted to own my own business, like a coffee shop, since my High School Kerouac days. I met Dan when he was the chef at Bridgeport, and we’ve been friends since.
Dan- I’m originally from Arizona. I had friends who lived in Portland during the early 90’s and always loved the small town feel it had. I was finally able to move here in 2001 and participate in the less glamorous food scene than what we have today. My wife, Jackson and I wanted to open a bottle shop in SE Portland and lucked into this space.
Three years doesn’t seem like a long time, but so much has changed on Foster in that span. What first attracted you to the neighborhood, and how have you seen it change (for better or for worse)?
J- We got to Foster at the right time. It was underserved for our concept. That, plus the space nailed it with the best view on the street. Noticed small changes, but all positive, like such new businesses as SMART Collective, Henry Higgins, the Green Noise/Nayar area. Whoa, don’t want to forget about Foster Buds, too!
D- Yeah, we only found this space after I had my broker search for spaces that were previously coffee shops. Bad for Guano, but platinum for us. I mostly notice new people coming into our shop, and it has increased every year. A lot of change and business-turnover ahead, with street remodel coming soon. Going to be a sought-after neighborhood in the next two years, no doubt.
Foster has more than its fair share of places to drink. But there’s a surprising lack of redundancy because each has its own niche (i.e. somewhere for the bikers, the family, those looking for live music or a place to watch the Blazers, etc). Combined, they’ve given the neighborhood a pretty active evening/social/street scene. NWIPA plays no small role in that, and since you opened more than three years ago, folks now have a place to savor over quality beers and ciders they might not find elsewhere on Foster (plus a place to sit outside and watch the madness unfold). Is there a certain vibe you initially set out to create, or have you let it evolve into what it is?
J- We had a concept in mind, then let our guests help guide it to what it is today to a certain extent.
D- The space is larger than what we wanted, and somewhat limited as far as city codes will allow. Wanted a bright spot with tasty beers and no bullshit. I would say Foster has a lot to do with how our shop looks and runs. We get plenty of great free advice from our neighbors and patrons as to what they want from us…and we try to deliver on that.
Part of that vibe and niche you’ve created has a lot to do with your patrons, yeah? In my experience, you have a pretty strong core of regular customers—almost a loyal following. How have you been able to foster this?
J- We are going to be biased, obviously, but our regulars are some of the best out there. Most of our hardcore regulars are friends now.
D- I agree. I think we opened a business that was needed or wanted here. Not only are we the finest bottle shop on Foster Road, but we enjoy the interaction with people who come here. There are definitely great people living in this area.
I’ll just get this out of the way: you won us over long ago when you printed the “Straight Outta FoPo” shirts with the iconic Ice Cube image. (Well, it’s actually a toss-up with when you threw Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers album on the record player, but I digress). In addition to shirts and, of course beer, what else can folks get at NWIPA?
J- Nice Cider selection in bottles, awesome wines selected by our friend Jeff Welton, Salt and Straw pints, and Extracto coffee every Friday. Monday’s our burger night (now through the summer) and it’s extremely popular right now.
D- We’re not just a pretty face only. We have depth as well. Just saying.
I know you don’t have the most extensive of cooking facilities, and it’s not always widely promoted, but y’all are on point with the food you do provide. In addition to the meat and cheese plates, sandwiches, and occasional oysters, you also sneak some other culinary delights in that folks might not know about. (For example, burgers on Mondays and pop-up events with both aspiring and established chefs and restauranteurs.) So what’s your current menu and set-up for future food offerings (pop-ups, guest food carts, house-made burgers, etc)?
J- We are always looking to pair great beer with great food. We have two regular pop ups: Stealth and American Cochina, usually once a month or so. Food carts normally grace our larger events, like the Triple IPA Fest on 2/27, which will feature favorites Chicken and Guns and Bunk Sandwiches.
D- Our regular menu only has six items, but they are all solid. Good for snacking!
Ok, back to the beer. You guys do way, way more than just IPAs. Sours, stouts, ciders, you name it. I imagine there’s a pride in how you curate your selection, whether on tap or to-go? Can you speak on that?
J- We definitely take pride in our taps! Basically, it’s about buying the best available, as well as pursuing new items not currently available. As an example, we brought in the Brewkettle and Columbus brewing, which have never been distributed out here.
D- We keep a small tap list so we don’t need to stockpile beer. Keeps it fresh as possible.
In addition to you two, can we get a quick shout-out to the rest of the team manning the bar?
J- Taylor, Jeff and Charlie all have shifts with Magz and Kiwi (Mike) helping out from time to time.
D- All cool people for sure and most are pros from the restaurant scene. Taylor has especially been a big reason for our success, so give him some love if your a fan of NWIPA!
With more than three years on the books, what can folks look forward to in the next few? For example, events, tap takeovers and collaborations, expansion, etc?
J- Lots of events, as always, coming soon. Check Facebook out or our website for more info.
D- No plans for expansion in our future. Working on some air conditioning, hopefully, and upgrading our retail cooler situation. We are constantly adding events, tastings, and pop ups all the time, so look us up. Also, want to thank Fosterpowellpdx for keeping it real and informative. You we’re a big part of us renting here btw.
Much thanks to Dan and Jackson for making themselves accessible, giving the masses good beer, and providing a solid hang for folks in the neighborhood. Their contribution to Foster’s emergence as a destination, its quirky vibrancy, and solid bar scene cannot go unnoticed. Keep doing what you do, y’all!