Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apex Bar, Portland

Yesterday afternoon I rode my bike down to Apex for my first chance to check out the newly opened bar.

It's still a little unfinished and rough around the edges at this point, but I see a lot of potential in this place.

The bar is split up into four distinct areas:

  • Front Patio/Beer Garden - Behind the super long bike rack that separates the patio from Division, there's a large open area with a few long rows of wooden picnic tables as outdoor seating. The view from out front is of the busy 12th/division intersection, and makes for good people watching. I imagine when the mercury inches up a few more degrees, and the clouds start retreating for the season, both the bike rack and the patio will be in high demand.
  • Front Bar - The first section of the building that you enter into is open and airy with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. There are two large overhead doors that open to the patio, which do a nice job of bringing the outside in. There's a large flat screen behind the bar for entertainment (clips of bike crashes yesterday), and another one on the back wall that displays the current tap list. This is one of the little details that Apex has focused on that starts to separate them from the Portland beer bar pack. The nicely organized tap list is easy to read and promises to always be up to date. No messy chalkboards or confusing printed lists with scribble all over them. The monitor lists the beer, brewery, glass size (apex serves in many sizes beyond pint/glass) and price. On top of this, the list is live on their website. No more outdated lists and question about which kegs might have blown, or which of the "soon to pour" or "on deck" beers might have taken their place. In a place that will be turning over beers frequently, a website tap list that's updated once a week or less is insufficient, and sorting through tweets to find revisions is annoying. The system that Apex has in place is really nice, and it appears exactly as it does at the bar on your computer screen. Other than the two monitors, a few tables, and a row of stools at the bar, the only other stand out feature of the front bar are the shelves that have been installed along the back wall and in between the front overhead doors which are provided as a place for customers to store their bike helmets upon entering. Otherwise, the space is pretty bare bones and industrial in feel, with painted cinder block walls, exposed conduit, and sparse decor.
  • Pinball Room - Along side the front bar is a dark side room containing pinball machines, as well as the bar's ATM and change vending machines. Apex is cash only, and the on site ATM charges $3 per transaction, but the bar will refund $2 off your first drink if you show them your receipt. Neat features of the pinball room include mirrors suspended over the machines so can watch the action on the machines other people are playing, as well as lit tables between the machines to hold your beer.
  • Back Bar - The long bar that starts in the front room of Apex continues past the tap list monitor and into a narrow back area, which contains another large flat screen panel, a wall of taps, and a few coolers which will eventually fill up with bottles. At the moment, the selection is relatively high end, but limited, which I'm sure will change over the next couple of weeks or so. On the long wall opposite the bar, there is a full length shelf, wide enough to put your beer on, that's held up with rows of hook shaped supports for hanging bags. The back wall is adorned with a mural of a forest scene which helps to warm up the space and make it less claustrophobic.
This is a small bar that becomes large when it's opened to the patio out front. The patio is going to be money for sun worshipers this summer; the back bar is a nice cozy space to retreat to from the sun or the rain; and the front bar is a nice hybrid space that does a good job of transitioning one space into the other. I wont get any use out of the pinball room, but I know there will be a lot of people in this town that will.

The tap list was limited to about 30 beers to start, but I've heard claims that the list will be bumped up to 50 soon. I enjoyed a new belgium Eric's Ale, and a Hopworks Galactic Imperial Red. The rest of the list was pretty solid, and can be viewed here.

Apex does not have a kitchen, which opens up your food options to anything you can bring in or have delivered, and it will allow Apex to devote all their attention to the beer. Los Gorditos is right next door and delicious, so I'm sure it will become a popular option. It would be nice if they could work out an arrangement like Bailey's has with the mexican place across the street from them, which would include delivery service to the bar. We'll see.

Overall, I'm happy about the addition of Apex to the neighborhood. It feels a bit unfinished and rough around the edges right now, but that's to be expected so early in the game. It's a nice space, in a good location, with plenty of potential. Once they work out the kinks, finish a few projects here and there, and maybe add a bit more decor to warm up the place, I could see Apex going from good to great.


  1. Very cool. Can't wait to visit. Did you happen to notice if they are dog friendly?

  2. Unfortunately, they have specifically mentioned that no animals are allowed anywhere in the business, at any time of the day.

    It's a shame, other than the rule, the big patio out front seems perfect for dogs. It's right off the street, so you don't have to go through the building to get to it, etc...

    Another rule is no kids on the property at any time, including the patio. This one I agree with. They don't serve food, so the only reason to go to this place is to drink beer, and you don't need to bring your kid with you to do that.

    I imagine the biggest complaints they're going to get at Apex are about credit cards, then dogs.

  3. Hmmm... Odd. In Seattle, we actually seek out the places that don't serve food because they are the most likely to be dog friendly! I would think that it being Portland and all (often more enlightened than Seattle), this would be a no-brainer.

    I'll have to look into this more. They must have a particular reason for their policy. I'm down with the no kids policy, though. Amen and Hallelujah!