Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery

We got an email from one of our readers on Saturday about the Deschutes Brewery and some gluten-free options they have there. We had already heard that they have gluten-free beer, but there was some new interesting information:

Hey, we went to Deschutes Brewery today and found that not only do they have a fantastic gluten-free beer on tap all the time, and it’s not always the same, but they have gluten-free items marked on their menu, and the head chef even hired a baker to make gluten-free buns for their burgers! They have dedicated fryers, and the bartender even knew to tell us that even if we are ordering something that would normally be gluten-free, to let them know we needed it to be gluten-free and they prepare it in a safe area. these folks really seem to know what they’re doing. I haven’t had the burger + gluten-free bun yet, (was full when I went in today!) but we’re going back soon to try it. Just thought you might want to know and put it on your list!

This looked to us like something that called for immediate attention on our part, so we sprang into action. I can’t tell you the last time I had a burger at a restaurant. I’ve been to the Deschutes Brewery before. It’s a nice place in the Pearl, a block away from Powell’s Books. The atmosphere is relaxed. Like many other Portland brew pubs, people take their kids to eat. It’s amazingly clean, and has a Northwest brew pub kind of menu. It’s the kind of place that’s almost always 98% full, so the place is hopping but there’s still somewhere to sit.

The menu has helpful markings for vegetarian options and gluten-free items. The gluten-free goods are not on the menus that can be found on their website unfortunately. Hopefully they fix that soon. What I remember is:

  • Appetizers: Chicken Wings and Oysters
  • Salads: One or two
  • Burgers: Most of them
  • Pizzas: Nope, sorry.
  • Brewery Specialties: One or two items
  • Sandwiches: A couple, including the Chicken BLT
  • Desserts: Some kind of chocolate pudding with cookies?

Gluten Free Beer - Hefeweizen
The beer they had available was the Gluten-Free Krystal Weiss. Here is their description:

100% Gluten-Free Ale! This beer is made with Sorghum and brown rice syrup for a smooth gluten-free experience. We used German noble hops, Perle for bittering and Spalter and Hersbruckens hops for aroma. IBU’s: 63 Alcohol by Vol. 4.8%

Our waitress described it as a “Hefeweizen, but filtered.” I’m used to drinking this kind of beer with a generous slice of lemon. Mmmmm. It was good, and it passed the Sienna taste test as well.

Gluten-free Burger with Sesame Bun

There was no question that I had to sample the burger and it was awesome! Our waitress told us that they had been working hard on the gluten-free bun. She said this was the fourth variety they’ve come up with. It wasn’t exactly like a regular hamburger bun, but it was the closest thing to a real hamburger bun that I’ve had yet. They’ve even got New Cascadia Traditional Bakery beat (sorry guys). One really nice thing was that it wasn’t too thick. It was literally like having a normal burger. Woo Hoo!

Sienna had the Falafel Salad, which we were told could be made to be gluten-free by omitting the flat bread. The salad was good, and the falafel were very flavorful and not greasy.

We questioned the waitress a bit about cross contamination and how they prepare food. She said that although most of their dishes are prepared in the same area as the gluten-free ones, they were careful to not get wheat or gluten into the gluten-free items. She also said that they keep the gluten-free brewing area extremely clean to make sure there’s no chance of cross-contamination. That was very reassuring.

This is a later note. We have eaten here a number of times now and with one exception were very happy with the quality of the bun. They now have their gluten-free items on a separate menu and the food is good.

The food came out hot in a reasonable amount of time and our waitress was very helpful and seemed hip to the gluten-free thing. It was very cool and we were very happy. Thanks to Gaile (and all the other helpful folks who send us tips too) for the head’s up!

We want to know: Have you had the gluten-free beer at Deschutes Brewery? Have you had something other than the Krystal Weiss? What did you think? Have you had a perfect gluten-free hamburger bun? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 5+ (So we feel pretty good about our scores.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Gluten-free Bun Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Deschutes Brewery
210 NW 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97209 / 503.296.4906
www.deschutesbrewery.com

Comments

  1. I had the golden ale a few months back, and I have to say that my husband and his beer junkie friends liked the gluten free BETTER than the regular golden ale! I enjoyed the Krystal Weiss too, but most of all, enjoyed drinking a beer and in a restaurant again!:)
    I will have to try the hamburger bun soon!

  2. Wow y’all are fast on the draw! Now I really want one of those burgers. thanks for doing this difficult and obviously unrewarding research. :) and for getting clarification on the whole food prep area thing.

  3. We went to Deschutes a few days ago – our third time since finding out about their GF menu. I asked them specifically about the fries and their fryers. They said that they put meat in one fryer and non-meat items in another…. so the french fries which are gf, go into the SAME fryer as the onion rings…which of course makes the fries not gluten-free. I was totally disappointed. Our server also came back and told me she checked with the manager and they manager told her to tell me that they cannot say things are truly gluten-free. Personally, I don’t think they should put the gf thing on their menu unless they can guarantee it. If you find out more about this, or have additional information, I would love it. Thanks for all you do for us with your blog!

  4. A – We’re glad you wrote in. We checked in with their head chef, Jeff. He said that they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer, and he wasn’t sure what happened that your server would tell you that they would use the same fryer.

    He did verify that they are changing the language on their menu. He said that as they have become more aware of the issues surrounding food allergies and gluten intolerance, they’ve realized that it’s more complicated than they thought at first. (Boy does that sound familiar.) So they’re changing the menu to reflect that. It sounds to me like they’re wrestling with the realities of not being a dedicated gluten-free facility and trying to figure out a balance between being friendly to the gluten-free community and recognizing that no matter how careful they are, they aren’t going to be 100% gluten free.

    Jeff added that they have processes in place to make sure that there isn’t cross-contamination and that they have an entirely stainless steel kitchen that they scrub to make it so when they prepare their gluten-free items.

    Finally, I think it’s good that we all continue to ask questions and not assume that everything is safe just because the restaurant is gluten-free “friendly.”

    Regards – Dave

  5. The first time I asked about the fryer situation my server said that they sometimes have a dedicated fryer for the french fries, and that she would double-check for me. The servers there are really good about this in general. thanks for checking into the food prep situation – I’ve always forgotten to ask. I would have to assume that anything made in their kitchen would not be 100% free of cross-contamination – but perhaps they are working on an improved system.

    I like their Krystal Weiss, but I wish I’d tried the ESB a few more times before it was gone. I’m looking forward to their next one!

  6. ps The GF dessert they have is a chocolate pot de creme. It’s huge! It could be a meal in itself. I have a picture of it in my review:

    http://glutenfreegourmand.blogspot.com/2009/06/deschutes-brewery-introduces-gluten.html

  7. Holy cow! Everybody should go look at that dessert now!

  8. Next time I’m in Portland I’m going to have to make a point of eating at Deschutes. I don’t eat red meat any more, but to be able to have a hamburger on a bun with a beer—I just might break down and cry!!!!!!

    Thank you so much for this website and the great reviews.

  9. Rebecca Schacker says:

    I just found your blog, so I’m not sure if this is the correct place to leave a comment. Thanks for the resources. One restaurant that should be added to the list is Bob’s Red Mill. They are able to switch out ingredients for the meals for GF (like bread, toast, pancake mix, etc.). However, these foods would be cooked on the same surface as gluten-containing foods. I am not super-sensitive so it is a great option for me, and a good value as well. Plus I can get my GF shopping done at the same time.

    Thanks again,
    Rebecca Schacker, DC

  10. They now have a copy of their gluten-free menu on their website!

  11. I loved the GF Wit that they had there the other day. That and the Salsa and Chips were all I could risk eating.
    I am very sensitive to contamination. The menu they gave me indicated that the fryer was shared with gluten, plus the waiter thought the buns were baked in a gluten containing facility. My waiter suggested against my eating them due to my very sensitive condition.
    I appreciate that they have made a great start, but also feel that the GF label on teh menu is premature if they do not put in place further precautions.
    -Otmar

  12. Sorry to bring up the fried again, but my waitress also told me the fries were cooked in the same oil as gluten items, it actually now says this on the menu:

    “Our wings and fries are prepared in oil which is also used to cook products containing gluten”

    It’s in really tiny print right above the salad section.

    Allison

  13. Ken Southerland says:

    I finally went there last Friday and was amazed! I had a GF ESB. Oh, how long it has been since i’ve been able to enjoy an ESB! Quite good. But the best part was experiencing as you all have that they have GF burgers! And the bun this time around was foccacia bread and it was amazing. I had the elk! I am so going back!

  14. I wasn’t as impressed with the Deschutes Brewery in the Pearl as I was with the one in Bend. The menu is bigger, more options, less crowded environment = better service. I’m super thankful we have one here in PDX, and I’m still a regular, I just had to give props to their original Bend location; it will blow you away!!!

  15. I’ve been a couple times to the Pearl location and would have to rate the food as mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised with the beer (I think it was ESB), the taste was great and honestly I could not tell a difference between that and a non-GF type. I also was craving a burger and was ecstactic that they had a handful of options with a GF buns. While the taste was ok (not too flavorful unfortunately), the bun was more like a couple thin slices of cornbread. The texture and flavor left a lot to be desired. I’m sure I’ll go back, but I would really love a better bun!

  16. I had a gluten-free “Northwest Pale Ale” on my first visit to Deschutes on Sunday. It was the first gluten-free beer I’ve had that tasted like the beer I remember drinking before my GF days. It was very very good. I wish they’d bottle it and send me a case.

  17. I’m back home visiting family and I’ve been to Deschutes 3 times this week! The pale ale is the first decent beer (other than New Grist…which is pretty light) I’ve had since having to go GF. They put a little band on the bottom of the glass, and that reassured me that I was drinking the correct beer.. the taste is so good I wouldn’t be able to tell without the band. I’ve had the elk burger and the grilled cheese…twice. The grilled cheese is awesome!!! The bread is incredible!! It’s thick and spongy, kind of like a great biscuit. I’ve had the fries as well and haven’t had any reaction. I will never get tired of going in to this place and ordering a beer and burger just like anybody else. :)

  18. I liked this place a lot. We travel a lot with some friends whose day doesn’t end properly without a good beer, and it can be difficult to find a location they’ll enjoy where I can eat safely. Needless to say, this place was a gold mine for us all. I had the gluten free Northwest Pale Ale and it was tasty with a bright hoppy orangey flavor. I had a Bacon Blue Burger and sweet potato fries from their gluten free menu. http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/pub-menus/portland/gluten The burger was tasty and they will downsize it from the half pound monstrosity upon request. The fries were soggy like they had been sitting in a warmer for a while, but they had good flavor and I didn’t get sick from the meal. I wouldn’t hesitate to come here again, but I’d ask for fresh fries.

    • We’ve had the same reaction to their fries as well. There has also been a troubling back-and-forth about whether or not their fryer is shared with gluten-containing products, so we tend to skip them. Good to hear about the burger option. Sometimes you don’t want a huge burger. We love their gluten free beer.

  19. I ate at The Deschutes Brewery today for the first time and had tuna melt on their house-made GF bread. It was amazing. The fries were great too. I was so happy to hear that the bread was something special and not the horribly disappointing Udi’s bread.

    The server was great and food was prepared really quickly. I will definitely go back.

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