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Microbrews and kids make a heady mix

Restaurant of the Week: Hopworks Urban Brewery
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Already a magnet for families, the Hopworks Urban Brewery draws all ages to Southeast Powell Boulevard for all manner of attractions, from gourmet pizza to pinball, and beer samplers to organic baby food.

Beer is the new formula. And I mean the kind babies drink from bottles as well as the kind that augurs success.

It doesn't seem obvious that microbrews and micropeople make for a winning combination. But as the success of the Laurelwood brewpubs proved, Portlanders lap it up like toddlers with apple juice.

The Hopworks Urban Brewery (aka HUB) brewmaster and owner Christian Ettinger long crafted microbrews for Laurelwood, and clearly he learned his lesson well.

Better still in Greenvana, not only has Ettinger painstakingly crafted a brewpub where all ages feel welcome and taken care of, HUB has sustainability cred foaming down its sides. 'This project has taught me that every decision has a green alternative and that the only right answer is a thoughtful one,' Ettinger writes on the menu.

The gorgeous, airy, open space (Southeast Powell Boulevard has a view! Who knew?) boasts a stunning reclaimed, recycled, energy-efficient design - be prepared to feel a wee bit guilty if you didn't bike or burn biodiesel to get here.

Whatever your environmental or familial sensitivity, the new HUB clearly fills an aching need in the neighborhood. Last Sunday night, there was a line at 5 p.m., and the well-stocked kids play area was packed (cleverly, there's a pizza-baking theme to the toys).

A balcony area has a few pinball and arcade games for older kids; it's a nice touch since the few restaurants catering to families often forget that school-age kids need distractions, too.

Parents will appreciate many things about Hopworks. The kids' menu offers healthy twists - the chicken fingers are grilled and free-range; the wiener wrap is a natural, local beef dog with organic tomato sauce. The pub even sells jars of organic baby food for the littlest customers.

A cement floor diminishes concerns about spills, and the generally cheerful, rowdy, noisy atmosphere means no worries if baby has developed an unfortunate, rumbling growl.

For grown-ups the draw is the beer, and it stands out, even in Portland, which is famously soaked with world-class beer. The $6.50 sampler tray of eight 3-ounce tastes, including four diverse seasonals, provides a tasty primer.

Hefty, gourmet pizzas dominate the menu, though there are sandwiches and big salads, too. Traditionalists will balk at some of the toppings (they should choose the Cleveland with sausage, mushroom and olive or the dense deep-dish pepperoni and mushroom).

The Cascade Mountain Range pie has fresh chives, Washington pears, Rogue River blue cheese, Cascade natural tri-tip steak and a fire-roasted chipotle pepper sauce.

The Backyard BBQ comes with sweet red onions, bacon, Draper Valley free-range chicken, barbecue ale sauce and a shower of fresh cilantro. It's a little weird but tasty, especially with the caramelly organic Velvet ESB (naturally, all the beer is organic, too).

And if the idea of kids in the brewpub makes your skin crawl, you're in luck. You can take advantage of the lounge area's happy-hour menu, available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. For $1.75 slices and chicken Caesars for $3.75, you can overlook a few Burleys clogging up the bike racks.

- Audrey Van Buskirk

2944 S.E. Powell Blvd., 503-232-4677, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, pizzas $15.75-$27.75, sandwiches $8.75-$10.75