Iceland’s KEX Brewing this fall plans to become the latest European craft brewery to set up shop in Portland in 2019, joining Denmark’s Mikkeller, which opened earlier this month in the central east side.
The Reykjavik-based brewery’s beers will be featured at KEX, a hotel and restaurant under construction on NE Martin Luther King Boulevard just north of Couch Street. The partners behind the project — ChefStable and KEX Brewing’s sister company, KEX Iceland in Reykjavik — expect KEX to open in late fall.
“Portland is a great fit for our brand,” said Olafur Agustsson, 36, who co-owns KEX Brewing with business partner Kristinn Vilbergsson, 47. “We want to be a part of this great community, be a part of what this scene is.”
ChefStable also partnered with Mikkeller to open food and bar pop-ups in the former Burnside Brewing space. The pop-ups, which feature Mikkeller beers and food by chef Shaun King, will operate through December as the partners pursue plans for a permanent home that would include a Mikkeller brewery.
Kurt Huffman, ChefStable owner, said it was a “total accident” that he became involved in bringing the two breweries to Portland. He met Mikkeller owner Mikkel Borg Bjergso through Agustsson and Vilbergsson, whom he has worked with for seven years to bring KEX to Portland.
Mikkeller and KEX have a “similar quirky approach” to beer, Huffman said, and bring different flavor profiles, different uses of hops and nontraditional styles to Portland. “On top of it, (KEX’s) branding is hilarious. It’s just another healthy contribution to the Portland beer scene.”
Offbeat imagery and marketing approach are hallmarks of KEX, captured in its website Manifesto promoting the decline of craftsmanship and the rise of conformity.
KEX coming to Portland marks changes for Dirty Pretty Brewing, the year-old southeast Portland brewery Carston Haney founded in 2016 as Ross Island Brewing. In 2018, ChefStable bought a stake in Ross Island Brewing and rebranded it as Dirty Pretty, but Huffman on Monday said Dirty Pretty will itself be rebranded and produce only KEX beers.
The hotel will occupy three stories and a basement, with the lobby, bar and restaurant comprising an open ground floor. The hotel will be on the upper floors, along with a rooftop bar, and the site will include a venue for events and live music.
“It’s going to be alive, dynamic, energetic,” said Agustsson, who plans to book Icelandic and American music acts. “A lot of things happening. It’s going to be an experience.”