Christa Burch, brewer Michael LaCharite, muralist Jared Goulette and owners Charlene and Joe Doherty. Photos by Evan Olmsted

This month, Brewery Extrava will celebrate its grand opening and join Portland’s “Yeast Bayside” neighborhood as its first Belgian-focused brewery. Extrava has managed to go from signing a contract to opening in just under eight months – both ambitious and impressive considering many other brewery opening timelines I’ve seen.

Brewery Extrava’s grand opening will take place over the weekend of July 19 (from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday). The first of its Art in the Alley events will be held that Saturday with a live mural painting, and food trucks will be on site each day of the grand opening.

The opening lineup of beer will embody traditional Belgian styles and also push the boundaries of that style to offer something new. I managed to get an on-site preview of the lineup, and I’m here to tell you that they’re worth paying attention to.

Brewer Michael LaCharite inspects a beer at Brewery Extrava, opening this month.

Saisons are a complex Belgian style and often have a signature taste that indicates where they come from. Their tastes are buoyed mostly by the yeast and, in some cases, the spices added (though Extrava’s version does not contain spices). The saison from Extrava comes across as extremely balanced and surprisingly thirst-quenching. It is a beer that can really be enjoyed by anyone, and I hope it becomes a staple for the brewery.

Don’t let the term “IPA” skew your expectations when you try Extrava’s Belgian IPA. The fruitiness from the yeast meets a kind and gentle hop flavor that permeates the whole beer. It has a pleasant bitterness from the hops and really rides that little note through, especially in the aftertaste. Interestingly, after downing a few sips, the taste that lingers is all hops, but the first sips are soft and approachable. This beer is unusual in that it uses only whole cone hops (a very labor-intensive endeavor) and the varieties that were chosen were picked for their lower amounts of bitterness.

Extrava’s ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, was a treat. For those not familiar with the style, a traditional ESB is not actually all that bitter (at least not compared to the harsher hops from more modern beers) but is an English style that balances a caramel-like flavor from malts and an earthy, herbal hop character. Extrava’s ESB has definitely been “Belgianized” and is a little off the beaten path.

On the slightly darker end of the spectrum is Something Dark, which is a dark mild ale brewed with Belgian yeasts and is a lovely ruby-tinged brown. Though it contains no fruits of any kind, it presents a lot of raisin and plum flavors. This is likely due to an added ingredient (I won’t spoil it for you, you’ll have to try it) that brings a hint of sweetness and earthiness to the palate.

The opening day lineup will be rounded out with Single, essentially a Belgian table beer, meant for everyday consumption. It will be low in alcohol and, at least from my first sips of the unfinished beer, is likely be as just as crowd-pleasing as the saison and Belgian IPA.

The inside of Brewery Extrava in “Yeast Bayside” has a different feel than the industrial tasting rooms.

In terms of the Cove Street space itself, there are three distinct areas of the brewery – the production space, the tasting room and the exterior space. The interior of the tasting room has a comfortable, enveloping feel, with abundant use of wood and leather and even some decorative plants. The craftsmanship of the space is enhanced by contributions from local artists and businesses, and the brewery itself has everything from custom tap handles to the stunning live-edge tables – all with interesting backstories and creators. This type of atmosphere is clearly a different style than the more minimalist or industrial-themed tasting rooms, and it will probably help to identify that its beers are a little different too.

Probably the most surprising and delightful part of the design is the exterior of the building, which has been brought to life by  a mural of a serene barley field at sunset, with hops framing the building’s front entrance. Formerly an uninspiring beige, Jared Goulette, a local muralist and graduate from the Maine College of Art, managed to completely transform the building over several weeks with sprayed paint, some stenciling and lots of creativity. You’ll never have to guess if you’ve arrived in the wrong place if you show up at Extrava’s doorstep.

If you can’t wait for the grand opening, I have it on good authority that there will be a soft opening the previous weekend. So if you find yourself wandering toward a barley field mural, don’t be shy about stopping in.

Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at:

Twitter: beerbabe

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