It takes a lot to stick out in the beer scene in Portland. The metro area has 100 breweries and counting at this point, from old standbys like Bridgeport and Lompoc to Grixsen Brewing, which began slinging brew from its SE Portland garage just two weeks ago. But Great Notion Brewing, which opened in December, has succeeded in capturing drinkers' attention with Juice Box, an India Pale Ale (or IPA) that borrows its inspiration from the breweries of faraway Vermont.
First brewed at the Vermont Pub & Brewery back in the 1990s, the so-called "New England IPA" is a double IPA-strength ale known for average bitterness, fairly intense citrus hop flavor and aroma, and—most characteristically—an unfiltered, cloudy-looking appearance. The genre's been popularized across the Northeast over the past few years after well-known beers like The Alchemist's Heady Topper (whose house yeast gives the ale its hazy look) and Lawson's Sip of Sunshine began shipping out in cans. While it's not exactly its own style of beer per se, it's unique enough that it's now a staple at many eastern craft breweries.
Great Notion, located in the former Mash Tun Brew Pub building in northeast Portland, debuted the fruity, refreshing, and 8 percent Juice Box soon after its opening. Since then, it's quickly become one of the city's biggest beer stories. Stop over for lunch, and you'll see a steady stream of visitors coming in for a Cuban sandwich, some waffle fries, and a growler of Juice Box. Some of Great Notion's other beers can be polarizing—their stout with coffee and maple syrup, called Double Stack, is either amazing or a total mess depending on who's discussing it—but there's no doubt that they put out some killer food and IPA.
The trend in home brewing New England IPAs is spreading, too. Homebrew shops across Portland now sell yeast and hops catered for NEIPAs, and Whitney Burnside—head brewer at 10 Barrel's Portland pub—has released her own variety, a six-percenter called Maine Squeeze that almost outclasses Juice Box in juiciness. Could the rest of the state be far behind?