Van Havig ’92 takes on a Gigantic brewing operation at the corner of SE 26th and Steele.
Photo by Tom Humphrey
Van Havig ’92 can’t wait to start experimenting with yeast.
That’s a funny thing for one of Portland’s most accomplished brewmasters to say, given his expertise in Belgian-style, barrel-aged, and sour beers—all of which rely heavily on the moldy microbe.
Portland beer drinkers are hoisting their steins for Van’s latest venture—the Gigantic Brewing Company, slated to open in January on SE 26th and Steele, a short hop from the Reed rugby fields.
Gigantic is the phoenix rising from the ashes of Van’s abrupt departure after 16 years as brewmaster at Rock Bottom Brewery. Excitement is bubbling among local hopheads because Van is teaming up with another renowned Portland brewer, Ben Love, formerly of Hopworks.
Van doesn’t want Gigantic Brewing to be gigantic. The tasting room will be warm and intimate, and he expects to make only one beer year round. All other beers will be seasonal brews made in small batches. “Ben and I are working brewers, and we want to stay involved in the actual brewing,” Van says. “We are trying to create a sense that our brewery is a creative nexus.”
In the meantime, the pair have a lot of work to do. The interior needs to be gutted and reconstructed to support brewing operations. “Unless you’re moving into a slaughter house, almost nothing has sloped floors and trench drains,” he says.
Don’t expect the Pacific Northwest’s most common beer—India Pale Ales that Van says typically aren’t “usefully creative” because of their heavy reliance on hops. Instead, look for a thoughtful focus on beer’s least gigantic ingredient: the humble yeast.
“Yeast, to me, is by far the most interesting [ingredient],” Van says. “You can . . . generate flavors with yeast that are enormously wide ranging.”