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Beervana 1994 - a look at Portland's beer scene 19 years ago

Discussion in 'Northwest' started by msubulldog25, Apr 16, 2013.

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  1. msubulldog25

    msubulldog25 Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2005 Oregon

    I missed this a couple weeks ago, but Willamette Week finally added the digital/PDF version of their 1994 Beer Guide.

    It offers a pretty fascinating time capsule of how much has changed in the past two decades... lots of quaint-sounding quotes and references to places that are either forgotten now or are long gone... but a few that are still around.

    guajolote, flexabull and flagmantho like this.
  2. flagmantho

    flagmantho Poo-Bah (5,126) Feb 19, 2009 Washington
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Great find! I just made my first beer pilgrimage to Portland last weekend, so it seems timely.

    The ads are great. Remember when Thomas Kemper made beer, and not just root beer?
  3. Kopfschuss

    Kopfschuss Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2009 Oregon

    Awesome read! Thanks for sharing. I am sure Jesskidden would have a bit of appreciation for this too.

    Being that you are in Washington, I recommend that you venture to Bellingham and try beer made by Will Kemper (of the Kemper family) over at the Chuckanut Brewery. Amazing lagers!
    flagmantho likes this.
  4. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,633) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    1994 was actually right around the time I first drove up to visit PDX from Sacramento. Seen through today's eyes, it's almost unimagineable how much things have changed. Saxer and Nor'wester were a huge presence back then, and I think there was a fantastic downtown Widmer pub back then as well. Nor'wester was really a big deal back then; I used to buy their stuff all the time at the local Trader Joe's. I remember Saxer's lemon lager was extremely popular back then as well.

    Back in 1994, I remember trying to locate different breweries and beer bars using a map. I didn't know the area at all, and I remember hopping onto SE Halsey around 33rd avenue, figuring I could just drive on out to Edgefield in Troutdale from there. I can't tell you often I used to get lost back in those days. I think it was right around that time that the Celebrator Brewspaper ran an article about Don Younger (who I had never heard of), and I still remember meeting him for the first time at the Horse Brass. There was no internet to rely on for information back then, so I know I tended to rely on whatever information I could glean from papers like the NW Brews News and the Celebrator. Back then, those papers were considered extremely "cutting edge."
  5. Sarlacc83

    Sarlacc83 Crusader (752) Mar 2, 2008 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    McMenamins properties dominate the list. It really shows the staying power of the elements outside the food and beer that they've lasted as long as they have through the use of 'historic' properties. I imagine they also elicit a feeling of great comfort in visiting on of their locations - my co-workers continually go to the 23rd street tavern. (We can all keep the snark about the actual taste of the beer to ourselves, though.)
  6. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,036) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Man- that really brings me back, too. I would visit friends from the early to mid-90s, who lived there and worked in some of the breweries in town; it was nice to get to know the scene from the inside-out, in a way. They were on NW Raleigh, near 21st, so walking to the 23rd St McMenamins was a piece of cake, but I also regularly hoofed it to BridgePort and the original Portland Brewing Brewpub mentioned in the piece, sometimes even Kell's (and stumbled back home on numerous occasions). I wonder if I'd even recognize the area today.

    That was (and probably still is) The Gasthaus- they featured an awesome Altbier that was usually my first pint upon hitting town. Too bad that one didn't become their signature beer.

    I bet he'd get a kick out of the ad for the Blitz-Weinhart brewery tour, and maybe even chuckle at the Oregon beers ad (the Jim Koch 'Oregon' beers:wink:)- I pretty much did.
    Kopfschuss likes this.
  7. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,633) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Maybe it's because I was around back then, but I've never had the heart to bash McM beers. Back in the early 90's, if you went to a craft brewery or brewpub, most places were making no more than 5 or 6 beers. There was the inevitable blond, amber, pale ale and porter, and sometimes there might be a stout or wheat. Some places might have an IPA as well, but back then, it was still a bit unusual to see that. In that kind of environment, just imagine what it was like to walk into a brewpub that would have no less than 10 different beers on tap. The first McM I ever wen to (the Lighthouse up in Lincoln City), I was flat out convinced it was the best brewpub I'd ever been to.

    Granted, it seems as if the McM's have essentially continued to treat water from a quality and variety standpoint (at least in comparison to a much of the beer scene in PDX now), and I still think they get something of a bad rap, just because they're not doing something more innovative.
    vurt likes this.
  8. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Aspirant (293) Aug 17, 2005 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    For a long, long time Sam Adams was almost impossible to sell in this city because the shitty quality of those beers combined with the fact that they weren't actually "Oregonian" pissed off a lot of people. Now that this city is increasingly populated with 20-somethings (who were too young to remember) and east coast transplants who grew up on SA things have started moving, but their brand was basically dead in the water 10 years ago. People obviously have long memories though, because I still run into people in the 40+ range who refuse to drink any SA products.
  9. flexabull

    flexabull Poo-Bah (2,289) Mar 9, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    Thanks for sharing, brings back some good old memories for me. My first trip up to Portland was in 1997. I remember vising Portland Brewing and Bridgeport. I still kick myself for not checking out the old Weinhard's brewery...
  10. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,036) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Oh, I definitely remember the blowback- my buddy who lived there was pretty passionate about the subject. I just thought it was odd for their ad to be found in that Beervana Beer Guide of all places, considering what was going on.

    Out here on the East Coast it was just a budget beer ($4.50-$5 a sixer), so I can see how the actual Oregon brewers would see it as an affront to their quality products. IIRC- The Oregon Brewers Guild was formed in main part to create a sort of 'seal of approval' in opposition to Koch's use of the name.

    Anyway- seeing that ad just made me think to myself, "man, that guy had balls:wink:".
  11. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Aspirant (293) Aug 17, 2005 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    They catch a lot of flak from beer geeks, and their beer can often be somewhere between lackluster and infected, but they fill a niche, and they do it well. I look at the like an Applebee's or Shari's; you can take the family to any McM's pub and know that there will be something on the menu for everyone, and their offerings are familiar and comfortable.

    I'll always have a soft spot for them because the very first "beer place" I visited on my first trip out here (1998) was Edgefield, and the fact that our trip overlapped with their annual celebration of Jerry Garcia's birthday (which was a much larger event back then) firmly cemented them in my mind as an awesome place. Fast forward 6 years to when I moved here, and the first place we went was the McPub on Market because my friend was working there.

    Admittedly I rarely go to any of their spots anymore other than Mall 205 (the GF works there), but I do give them a lot of credit for the part they played in turning this into one of the most brewery-dense cities in the world.
  12. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,633) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    As someone living in California at the time, I was just puzzled when I learned those beers were made by SA. The beers were pretty inexpensive down in California as well ($3.99 a sixpack comes to mind), but I remember the first time I tried them, my thought was "not bad, but they sure taste an awful lot like the stuff I've had from SA" (mostly the boston lager). I was actually a fan of SA stuff at the time, and had a fairly high impression of SA. So it didn't make sense to me that the beers would be marketed under a different name from the parent company. Also, once I did learn that they were made by SA, my next thought was "why are these beers so much cheaper than the price I'm paying for the regular SA products?" It started to make me question the quality of the entire line-up after that, not to mention SA's mark-up on the parent beer line-up.
  13. blackcloud

    blackcloud Disciple (335) Apr 28, 2012 Alaska
    Beer Trader

    wow. this is awesome.
  14. OregonHopmonster

    OregonHopmonster Aspirant (234) Jan 15, 2011 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    The downtown Widmer pub you are talking about is the B. Moloch Bakery and Pub, owned and run as part of the Heathman group. Widmer had a small brewhouse next door. Here's an old review:


    It is now the location of Southpark.
  15. OregonHopmonster

    OregonHopmonster Aspirant (234) Jan 15, 2011 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Also, regarding McMenamin's and the staying power of their historic property business model-

    McMenamin's circa 1994 was dominated by small, stand alone pubs, many of which were in suburban strip mall locations (Oak Hills, Mall 205, Jenkins Rd., Highland, West Linn, Beaverton). They hadn't fully embraced the historic property angle yet, though Edgefield was open. I know some will point to the Mission and Bagdad, but to me they were more part of their theatre-pub model than a full on embrace of historic properties that would come later.
  16. mmciz

    mmciz Initiate (0) May 4, 2010 Oregon

  17. msubulldog25

    msubulldog25 Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2005 Oregon

    mmciz likes this.
  18. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,633) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Thanks. The pub was the hilight of my first trip to PDX (at least from a beer standpoint). I loved the vibe of the place, and the combination of fresh, great food with a huge (for then) tap list was something I'll always remember. Like Tongo Red, I was a huge fan of the altbier, and it always surprised me that it, rather than the hefeweizen, didn't become Widmer's flagship beer. Ah well...
  19. mmciz

    mmciz Initiate (0) May 4, 2010 Oregon

  20. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,036) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    You're right- I was mistaken about that Widmer location but now the name does ring a bell.

    I'm going to forward the Beervana pdf to my friends, who now live in Seattle, just to see what they think of it all.

    Another cool thing about the McMennamin's pubs was how they were willing to have guest taps. My first Black Butte and Mirror Pond were at McMennamin's places, before I even had a chance to head down to Bend.
  21. mporter13

    mporter13 Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Oregon

    Having just moved into Portland this last year, it's so hard to imagine this picture from 1994. So different now.
  22. PDXHops

    PDXHops Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2008 South Carolina

    Cool read. Lots of good memories in there.

    IPA_OR_NOTHING Initiate (0) Aug 17, 2013 Nebraska

    We would get out of the office, which was off crew admin building for the SSBNs at the sub base at NSB Bangor, Washington, and head over to the Kemper Brewery in Poulsbo for horse shoes, food, and great beer. My crew was the first to ever sample the Wiezenberry Lager (blackberry lager) it was so good we went through three kegs of it in one Saturday afternoon. The good thing about Kemper was that if you were the designated driver their rootbeer was absolutely killer, made with honey, yum.
    sharpski likes this.
  24. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (2,773) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon

    Interesting stuff. I only arrived in Oregon in 2000 from Scotland via Atlanta.
    Saxer,Nor'wester,Kemper, even the old Blitz beer in the boxes.
    I also feel McMenamins get a bad deal from "beer geeks"..i still enjoy my Sunday early evening beer at my local McMens ( Thompsons in Salem). Not all McMens are the same and the brewers do get a chance to brew more adventurous stuff.
    vurt likes this.
  25. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (2,773) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon

    Also i beg to differ over the SA "Oregon" beers.
    The Oregon IPA was actually very nice for the era before many Oregon breweries were making the style.
    I never had any freshness problems with it..very enjoyable around 2000..remember buying it every week from Fred Meyer!
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