In the midst of the chaos of so-close-to-complete Slab Sicilian Street Food, Emily Kingsbury is explaining the layout of her bar. Chalkboard slats above the 20 taps will display the rotating draft list. The only two TVs in the restaurant will be to either side of these. The slats hide cupboards, one of many hidden storage areas in the place; extra booze will likely be kept in here. Looking at Emily, it's clear she won't be able to reach this on her own: She's not a tall woman. She laughs, "I'm going to store a step stool in here somewhere."
Along with Stephen Lanzalotta, Jason Loring, Tobey Moulton, and Matt Moran, Kingsbury is one of the co-owners of the highly anticipated pizza restaurant, which has fascinated Portland since its announcement last year. Most of the staff is already hired, some of which have been together since the word "Binga's" was still followed by "Wingas," which is where Kingsbury, Loring, and Moulton first worked together.
Kingsbury, who has worked in restaurants and bars since she was the take-out girl at her grandparent's restaurant, loves beer. She and Loring helped open Novare Res before she headed to the west coast for a few years, where she worked for (now-defunct) Beer West Magazine as well as the tasting room at Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Oregon. When Slab was being discussed, Kingsbury was a natural fit for the team: "They wanted beer to be a focus. I like beer, they like me, we all get along - so they asked me to handle the bar. We all have the same vision, the same business thought process."
In case its massive beer garden and 20 draft lines weren't impressive enough, Slab collaborated with seven local breweries on special one-off brews, some of which should pour at the restaurant's opening. The idea was sparked by Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing Company, which is currently serving its "CoSLABoration Ale" in its tasting room. "Heather was so excited, it made me want to start asking around. I'm into brewing, and I have a lot of great friends in the brewing community, so this concept is a little bit selfish."
Kingsbury says there are no official plans to brew these collaborations again, but she'd love to keep the possibility open. Read on to learn more about each of the beers in the order they were brewed, as well as their likely availability.
Banded Horn Brewing Company: A maple rauchbier, very limited quantities, not yet available. "We all love rauchbiers [German-style lager made with smoked malt], and they were making maple syrup in their backyard."
In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation: A light corn lager called El White Camino, already tapped at In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation. "[Owner] Eric [Michaud] really wanted to do an adjunct lager. It's like a Modela clone, crushable, with corn. Nothing better than crushing beer while eating pizza!"
Gneiss Brewing Company: A version of Gneiss Weiss with semolina involved, limited quantities, not yet available. "We did a German-style wheat beer, obviously, since that's what they do. Stephen makes dough with semolina, so we brewed a beer with semolina as an homage."
Rising Tide Brewing Company: An American-style wheat beer with oranges and fried sage called CoSLABoration, already tapped at Rising Tide's tasting room. "We took sage, deep-fried it in friers at Nosh. This was actually a take on the hummus that's on Slab's menu!"
Bissell Brothers Brewing Company: An extremely low alcohol IPA, very limited quantities, not yet available. "I'm incredibly impressed by [co-owner/head brewer] Noah Bissell, just in general. He's really, really smart, and so into what he's doing. I love what they're up to. This was an idea Noah had been playing with. It's summer, let's do it."
Bunker Brewing Company: An IPA with Szechuan peppers, chile peppers, lemongrass, and tons of dank, fresh hops, limited quantities, not yet available. "I don't even know what to call that one. We got inspiration by walking around the Asian market. [Co-owner/head brewer] Chresten [Sorenson] and I wanted to do a Szechuan IPA, pepperoni pizza style. [Brewer Joe] Watts burst our bubble: It can't just be face numbing, it needs flavors too! So we balanced it out."
Foundation Brewing Company: A low alcohol saison. "[Co-Owner/head brewer] Joel [Mahaffey] wanted to play with some stuff. So we did! I think we'll open before this one is ready to pour but we'll tap it as soon as we can."
Facebook is the best bet for keeping track of Slab's steady progress; it seems unlikely the public will get inside this week.
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