When Great Notion opened in Portland in January 2016, co-founder Paul Reiter wasn’t sure if the brewery would be able to sell enough beer to keep the lights on. Lucky for him, things worked out as Great Notion became one of the hottest breweries of 2016, taking home a number of accolades, including a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival, as well as three medals at the recent RateBeer Best Festival.
Reiter, along with co-founders Andy Miller and James Dugan are looking to ride their wave of momentum into 2017 as they open a new 20,000 square-foot location in Portland this summer. While the old location will still be used, the new space will allow the trio to start their barrel program and add a new canning line.
I sat down with Paul, Andy, and James to try some of their offerings and chat about the inspiration behind several of their fan favorite beers. Here, we take a look at four of their signature beers.
American Imperial Stout (10%)
One of the beers Great Notion has become known for is their imperial stout with coffee and maple, Double Stack. The inspiration behind this beer actually came from one of my favorites, Tree House’s Good Morning. The guys from Great Notion first tried Good Morning a few years back at Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Festival and were completely blown away.
Right from the crack of the crowler, an aroma of chocolate maple pancakes takes over the room. The beer pours jet black with a thick head that dissipates fairly quick, leaving a thin creamy amber film around the edge of the glass. The mouthfeel is a little thin, and drinks well below the 10% ABV, which could be dangerous if you’re not sharing your crowler with a friend.
The taste provides an upfront maple sweetness you expect to be cloying, however suddenly the coffee kicks in to cut that sweetness. The backend leaves an enjoyable maple flavor that lingers on the palate. While the taste isn’t as in-your-face as the nose, the maple and coffee are still quite present.
I think if I were to nitpick about anything, it would be the mouthfeel, which is a tad bit thin for 10%, but for those that are looking for a smooth offering that’s dangerously drinkable, this is your beer. In terms of a year-round offering, you won’t find many adjunct stouts that could compete with this.
Imperial Milk Stout (10%)
With this beer, Great Notion was inspired by their love for the combination of milk chocolate and peanut butter when they were kids. Therefore, it felt fitting to embrace that love and attempt an Imperial Milk Stout with cocoa nibs and peanut butter.
The beer pours black with a frothy tan head that slowly dissipates, leaving a latte swirl at the top of the glass. The nose once again is Trump HUGE, as it takes you back to your childhood with aromas of powdered Nesquik or Ovaltine, and notes of raw peanuts poking its way through. The mouthfeel is a tad thicker than Double Stack as you get waves of milk chocolate coating your palate with very faint carbonation. On the backend, that milk chocolate transitions to raw peanuts for one the best, if not the best peanut butter beers I’ve ever had.
Berliner Weisse (5%)
First off, I was a bit surprised myself when I found out this beer was a sour. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking a blueberry muffin beer would be a stout, or even a wheat beer. Great Notion was inspired by the blueberry muffins their moms used to make when they created this variant of their Berliner Weisse.
Once again, sounding like a broken record, the nose on these beers right when you crack the crowler is just insane, but this beer in particular left me doing a double take, as Great Notion manages to perfectly capture the aroma of a blueberry muffin. As I swirl the hazy golden sour around my glass, I’m able to get the dough, fresh blueberries, even the crumbs on the top of the muffin with faint notes of tartness.
The mouthfeel is light and fluffy, with almost a cream-like character. The blueberry taste is not as overpowering as I expected from the nose. You get a bit of a lemon tartness on the front end that quickly mellows out on the backend, for a crisp finish.
India Pale Ale (6%)
The plan for Great Notion’s Ripe IPA was originally to experiment with different hop combinations. While they settled on using strictly Citra hops for Ripe, they continued to experiment with different combos, eventually landing on Motueka and Azacca for Over Ripe IPA.
The beer pours like a typical Northeastern style—hazy and golden. The aroma, similar to their other offerings, is insane and fitting for its name. Over Ripe smells like those mini tropical fruit hard candies you had as a kid, and bubble gum. The taste is very fruit forward and juicy, with a very slight bitterness towards the back end of the beer to provide some balance.
Overall, Great Notion is killing it, especially for a brewery that has been opened just a year, hitting on an array of styles. We look forward to seeing how their beers evolve as they dial-in to their new facility this summer.
Jason Stein is a New York-based beer nerd. You can find more of his writing on NYC Beer Society.