A couple weeks ago, I was invited to visit the Kells Brew Pub at 210 NW 21st Ave here in Portland (they also have an outpost in Seattle and San Francisco). Until that visit, I was familiar with the Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub downtown at 112 SW Second,. This is particularly thanks to Kells, if you haven’t heard of it by now, hosting of the joyous St. Patrick’s Day festival here in March, as well as year round offering of live music, fun for watching sport games, the magnetized ceiling where money up there is matched by Kells and donated to the Providence Child Center annually… I even know someone who met the woman who is now their wife and mother of their lovely children at Kells!
Recently, Kells has made some big steps forward in continuing to expand. First, a little history. After founding the first Kells Irish Pub in 1983 at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, this was followed then by in 1990 of the SW Second downtown Portland location here that I have mentioned. This is when they also helped found the now annual and famous St. Patrick’s Day festival with a double decker bus that has transported happy fans to games. After opening another branch of Kells in 1996 in San Francisco, it was then in 2012 that the Kells BrewPub on NW 21st, essentially the Nob Hill neighborhood but also so conveniently close to Providence Park, was opened.
You can read between the lines from the timeline here that the owners, Gerard McAleese and wife Lucille, have taken great care and thought with every step they take to expand while still maintaining their personality and quality. No wonder that Kells is rated the number one Irish restaurant and pub in the nation.
This year, Kells is taking a new step by opening the Kells Taproom at the Moda Center on the 3rd floor. I’m happy to see more and more local options at the Moda Center, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with a greater variety of good beer options at a location. One of the things I learned at my Kells visit was that they have expanded their lineup of beers to include a smooth Irish Stout on nitro, which I found to be very smooth chocolate, and we also had a chance to try their seasonal / last keg of a Crystal Fresh Hop.
Also, did you know that the Kells Brew Pub on NW 21st has a parking lot? What a hidden perk, and particularly important I’m sure if you are bringing the family. Unlike a lot of Irish bars that are dark and a little sticky, Kells is very family friendly.
Kells would work for a date as well- they have some comfy leather couches by a roaring fire for you to warm up while having an Irish Coffee. I should also mention they have a cocktail called the Cowboy Coffee with coffee bean infused whiskey with coffee if you really need the pick me up… Or stick to innocent hot chocolate or spiced apple cider. Kells is ready to comfort you.
In mid October of this year, Kells Brew Pub added Travis Star as the new head chef. As part of my visit, I was able to check out some of the classics as well as new items that have been added to the menu. Vegetarian F joined me in testing out how accommodating the menu is to many diets.
We started off with a first course of the Kale Salad with organic kale and greens, avocado, tomato, red onions and almonds. The garlicky dressing was quieted by the pairing of the Kells Irish Pale Ale had a dry minerality that cleansed the palate.
For our second course, we were able to try a few items from the Wee Plates section of the menu. For the omnivore, the plate included a bacon wrapped fig stuffed with goat cheese, a sample of the salmon cakes that is served with a tasty chipotle remoulade and house made pickles (I was wiping up that plate clean of the sauce with those pickles), and sample Irish Stout Meatball with Kells Irish Stout Sauce. I thought the vegetarian sampler was even better with its steamed leek wrapped fig stuffed with goat cheese, a polenta cake with the chipotle remoulade and house made pickles, and a dense and moist housemade falafal fritter with tzatziki. These were all paired with the Kells Irish Lager that is tastier than any other lager I’ve had, maybe partially because of the complexity of the Weihenstephan yeast they use that also adds a creamy quality.
For our main courses, it was nice to see there were some traditional Irish dishes as well as just good entrees that would fit in with any restaurant in case you don’t want to necessarily eat traditional Irish food but have the Irish beer. Irish food isn’t one that uses a lot of sauce, but the addition of it here – for instance the Veggie Pasty with seasonal vegetables baked into a puff pastry, was really upgraded by serving it over polenta with a kale coulis and tomato coulis to layer on additional flavors and textures. I liked it even better than the meat dish of the sample of the cast iron Wagyu top sirloin steak with heirloom baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, and bordelaise sauce. Seriously, we were really impressed with how vegetarian friendly Kells is.
Thank you to Kells for letting me check out the menu and sample your beers… we will definitely be back for more! Thank you to Head chef Travis Stark Pub Manager Garrett McAleese, and Head Brewer Dave Fleming as well as owners Gerard and Lucille McAleese.
You may have heard that Kells brewer Dave Fleming (in the flat cap above) did a collaboration beer with homebrewer Natalie Baldwin and that Boom Roaster Coffee Milk Stout won both the People’s Choice AND Judge’s Choice award at the Willamette Week Beer Pro/Am. Well, that beer is going to be served at the upcoming Holiday Ale Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square Dec 3-7, so make sure you stop by and try it!
Have you ever been to Kells, either the NW 21st Brew Pub or the downtown Restaurant & Pub? Are you an Irish beer fan and will you try their beer at the Moda Center? Are you aware or going to the Holiday Ale Festival (one of my favorite beer festivals of the year because I love most of the beers they offer) and the special release beers like the winning Boom Roaster Coffee Milk Stout just for the festival, and even more limited release beers (but unlike other beer festivals, with actual times and days of release so you can plan ahead and accordingly) that are all part of the lineup?
Disclosure: This meal was complimentary, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.