It is difficult starting, building, and maintaining a small business, let alone a craft brewery for over a decade. However, that is precisely the story of Vertigo Brewing in Hillsboro, Oregon.
The tale of homebrewers turned commercial brewers is nearly as old as the beer industry itself, but that does not make the story any less interesting. Mike Kinion and Mike Hanes worked together in the tech industry for nearly 30 years and brewed beer together for several years before entering competitions for feedback on their brews. The pair honed their brewing skills through trial and error with feedback from these competitions over ten years before opening Vertigo Brewing in 2008. Four years later, the brewery expanded and added a taproom. In 2016, the brewery re-branded with its current logo featuring a spinning hop.
Story behind the name
Kinion recounts that there were multiple names under consideration before the team chose Vertigo Brewing. Notably, the name did not come about because Kinion or Hanes were fans of the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
Visiting the brewery
Vertigo Brewing is in the Orenco Station neighborhood of Hillsboro, but is a 30-minute walk from the MAX station. Additionally, due to the brewery’s location in an industrial park the closest bus stops are a 15-minute walk. Despite being in an industrial park there are several signs along NE Nichols Court to point visitors to the taproom.
In the back of the taproom is a large corner bar that seats about eight guests. There are multiple tables distributed throughout the taproom. Additionally, there are six picnic tables outside the taproom that are ideal for enjoying the outdoors. Although the brewery does not serve food, it hosts different food trucks on Friday evenings for Food Truck Friday. The brewery posts about the upcoming food truck on its Facebook page.
Vertigo Brewing has three flagship beers: Apricot Cream Ale, Uno Mas (a Northwest IPA), and Raspberry Wheat (a.k.a. Razz Wheat). The Apricot Cream Ale won a bronze medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival for American-style fruit beer. Northwest IPAs focus on a blast of citrus notes from Northwest-grown hops, but are maltier and sweeter than the typical West Coast IPAs. Uno Mas (a.k.a. Vertigo IPA) is an excellent representation of the style that includes Amarillo, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops to balance the heavy malt character of the beer.
Although the brewery has limited distribution, the brewery’s primary focus is on the taproom experience. For example, the brewery maintains a dedicated tap line for pepper/spiced beer. Tropical Heatwave builds from a blonde ale base, but has a healthy dose of habanero peppers. Additionally, the taproom often features barrel-aged beers. I enjoyed a taster of The Dude, which is a Russian imperial stout that was smooth and sweet with a hint of vanilla. There is no doubt that Jeff Bridges would imbibe this brew. The most unique taproom beer is The Closer Pale Ale, which pays tribute to the Hillsboro Hops, which is the local Minor League baseball team that plays less than 10 minutes away from the brewery.
Touring the brewery
Currently Vertigo Brewing does not offer public tours of its production facility. However, co-owner Michael Kinion gave me a tour of the facility. The brewery started with a one-barrel brewhouse, but quickly advanced to its current seven-barrel system.
Getting to the brewery
Vertigo Brewing is in Rock Creek Industrial Center off Cornelius Pass Road. The brewery is in the last building after turning onto NE Nichols Court at the end of the cul-de-sac. It is a 25 to 30-minute walk from Orenco Station or Quatama Station, which are both on the TriMet MAX Blue Line. Although there are no bus stops on Cornelius Pass Road, the TriMet #48 bus has two stops on Cornell Road that are about a 15-minute walk from the brewery. It is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland via U.S. 26 and a 15-minute drive from downtown Hillsboro.
Address: 8130 NE Nichols Court, Suites D6-7, Hillsboro, OR 97124
Hours: Monday to Friday 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 1 to 9 p.m.
Note: The global pandemic may affect hours and services. Check the brewery’s social media accounts for the most up-to-date information.
Accessibility: There are no steps or stairs in the publicly accessible areas of the brewery.