By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The harvest this year at Mecca Grade Estate Malt was more about the future than the present.
After harvesting a full 300 acres of Full Pint barley and overproducing in 2016 to fill up its storage, the farm and malthouse outside of Madras grew by just 40 acres this year.
But in that same field were 30 different selections for The Next Pint Project, a partnership with Oregon State University for breeding a new variety of barley that will eventually be used by Mecca Grade. (The Full Pint variety was also bred by OSU.)
It was the second of a three-year program. Last year, there were 130 crosses planted at the farm, whittled down to 30 this season based on a variety of factors, eliminating strains that didn’t work out.
After this year’s harvest, the field is down to eight, with the goal of selecting one variety that the farm will produce moving forward, according to co-founder Seth Klann.
“The selection criteria will be based on finished beer for that variety,” said Klann. “We’re looking for something bred exclusively for our conditions in Central Oregon, our irrigation, and hopefully we find some sort of unique flavor, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Barley is often an afterthought for breweries, but Mecca Grade — which raises its own barley and also malts it on the premises — is trying to change that. Most malt for brewing in North America comes from a few large producers. But by farming its own unique barley and malting it, the business is creating a niche for itself in the craft brew industry.
“Because we’re an estate malt house, people ask us ‘Well does all your stuff come from your own farm?’ And I answer ‘Yes,’” said Klann, who runs the farm with his father. “And I think it surprises a lot of people, because even other craft malt houses are having to source from all over the place.
“So everything comes off of our own family farm. And I know that it limits production, but on the other hand the only people that are invested in it are me and my dad,” Klann continued. “We’re not set up to have explosive growth and become this huge thing, and I know the brewers we work with don’t want that either. So as long as we can keep things slow and steady and putting out really rare reserved malt, that’s what we are going to do.”
The list of brewers and beers using Mecca Grade’s malts is constantly growing. (You can see a full lineup on the website.) The Ale Apothecary in Bend now makes all its beer with Mecca Grade malt. Yachats Brewing on the coast uses it for about 95 percent of its beer, according to Klann.
This fall, you’ll see beers using this year’s harvest at Hood River’s pFriem Family Brewers and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Klann said. Deschutes Brewery, which has produced several beers using Mecca Grade’s product, has another beer in the making that will feature the farm’s crop.
“We’re going through the process of getting all of our barley certified Salmon-Safe, and that’s been big for Deschutes, and it’s been big for Crux [Fermentation Project],” Klann said.
But Oregon craft breweries are not the only destination for Mecca Grade’s malt. About half of it goes to California; its pilsner-style malts are being used in hazy IPAs.
“Our malt is definitely not cheap, and I think in Oregon the price is going up, but it kind of prohibits people from experimenting with better and more local ingredients,” Klann said. “But down there the price has already gone up, so people are just kind of chasing after the next secret ingredient for making better beer.”
Beer makers as far away as Allagash Brewing Company in Maine have also used Mecca Grade.
If you’re looking for Mecca Grade malt for your homebrew, you can find it at retailers in Portland (F.H. Steinbart Co.), Bend (The Brew Shop) and Corvallis (Corvallis Brewing Supply).
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The idea seems as obvious as Mount Hood on a clear, spring day: Beer, bicycles and tours celebrating both.
But the obvious sometimes takes time to get rolling. In this case, it took a trip to Belgium seven years ago by an IT guy looking to reboot his work life.
It’s a sunny Memorial Day in Hood River. As a light breeze comes off the Columbia River, Claire Cohan is setting up bottles of beer and the makings for sandwiches on picnic tables in Port Marina Park. Soon, a group of riders with tour company Beercycling will arrive and devour the spread.
Claire says this tour began in Portland, where the group met and test rode bikes rented from The Bike Concierge in Oregon City. “We stayed at the Jupiter Hotel, and from there we rode across the Tilikum and Steel bridges to get warmed up. That was the first day. Then we got a tour at Hair of the Dog, which, of course, is amazing.”
During the five-day tour, riders pedal 20-32 miles per day. The route from Portland east to Hood River is mostly flat with the 900-foot climb to Vista House overlooking the Columbia River Gorge being the most breathtaking — both in terms of the view and the oxygen-sucking effort.
On day two, the group rides to Troutdale where they’ll spend the night at McMenamins Edgefield. Day three has the big climb and a stop at Thunder Island Brewing Co. in Cascade Locks. On day four, the group pedals the finished part of the Historic Columbia River Highway, then loads into a van to hop the gap along the unfinished section. A picnic lunch in Hood River is followed by visits to Full Sail Brewing Company and pFriem Family Brewers.
As Claire is running down the itinerary, 12 riders and Evan Cohan coast into the park; the riders are quickly off their bikes and moving toward the beer and food.
Evan comes over for the interview. But he first asks, “Can I have a beer while I answer questions? I’ll answer better that way.”
So, why did Beercycling start in Europe? Taking a sip from a special, non-breakable tasting glass Evan explains, “I’d been there once with friends. Flanders has a dedicated bike infrastructure that goes that entire part of the country and into Holland. You can get between points pretty much traffic free. The whole country is the size of Maryland, and when you focus on a couple of provinces you can really get anywhere really quickly.”
Evan likes beer, likes cycling, but what he wasn’t so happy with back then was his job. “I was having my, kind of, ‘I’m-done-with-my-day-job crisis’ in my mid-20s. Earlier than most. I thought, ‘What would the dream job be?’”
He found the answer on the road through Flanders. “It was a magical trip when you get into Belgian beer and you hear the stories about the Trappist monasteries. We just went for fun on a spontaneous trip, but I learned a lot.”
And he wanted to share what he learned — not as some sort of elaborate pub crawl, but as a lesson about the cultures surrounding beer. “You go along these canals and through farms, and it was amazing. And we got a couple of tours there. The Flemish people are really generous. And I thought this would be the ideal place for a bike tour. It has all the ingredients for logistics to make it happen safely. It would be like doing bike tours in Belgium visiting breweries.”
Stan Bashaw came from North Carolina for the debut Oregon tour. With a beer in one hand and a sizable sandwich in the other, he says he’s participated in a Beercycling event before. “I happened to see a Facebook post Evan put up about Beercycling and from day one I said, ‘Someday I’m doing that.’”
Stan then convinced friends to go with him. “We had the best time. Cycling in Belgium, the Belgians are used to bikes being everywhere. At least back in North Carolina, folks are used to bikes being annoyances. It’s been really great here [Oregon].”
The Beercycling European tours include mini-seminars on brewing, rides through hop fields and visits to ancient breweries. But Stan has one particularly fond memory: “The part of the tour that is really appealing in Belgium is all the food. Oh my gosh, we had such great food. The picnics we had alongside a bike path, Belgian bread — fresh made that day. Oh my God, it is just amazing.”
The food was especially welcome when “we biked out to the North Sea on a really cold day. I think that was really one of our favorite days. We were cold. We were wet. We found a coffee shop because we were so cold. We got warmed up, then rode past World War II artillery fortifications that go on for miles. We had a 20-knot wind behind us, and we barely had to pedal.”
Bashaw and his friends liked Oregon’s attitude toward cyclists but are anxious to do another European tour next year.
It took Evan and Claire about two years to work out the Oregon tour logistics, but they’ll hold three this year and perhaps more next year.
In Europe, Beercycling has grown to six tours: three in Flanders in northern Belgium, one in the Ardennes in southeastern Belgium, another around Milan in northwest Italy and a loop around Amsterdam in Holland.
The tours run from five to ten days with prices ranging from $1,475 in Oregon to $2,850 for one of the Flanders tours. Visit beercycling.com for dates, itineraries and bios of the guides.
When audiences first heard the words “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” uttered on the big screen in 1975, the summer blockbuster was born. The line was delivered by actor Roy Scheider after he had just laid eyes on cinema’s most notorious great white shark. But in a way, it also announced the future movie boom during June, July and August — months where ticket sales traditionally lagged. But when “Jaws” captivated the country and made a record profit, studio directors and theater owners alike realized their bigger boat would come in the form of budget-busting action films that would draw a ravenous crowd.
The season of peak heat has since become inextricably linked with high intensity at the box office. We duck into theaters that might as well double as a darkened refrigerator for a few hours’ relief. Lucky for us, a growing number of movie houses now sell beer to enhance our experience. Moreover, many of the independent theaters are living history with a backstory that might rival the plots of tired sequels that appear on their screens.
The following guide offers information about all of that and more to help you navigate your way through the array of cinema pubs this summer, whether you’re in the mood for one of those traditional blockbusters or need a night out with a low-budget, sci-fi horror flick from the 1950s — we’ve got you covered. And, best of all, every listing offers local beer.
7818 SE Stark St., Portland, 503-252-0500, academytheaterpdx.com
Academy Theater originally opened in 1948 and became a popular Montavilla destination until its closure in the 1970s. The years were not kind to the building and it fell into disrepair. Fortunately, in 2006 a full renovation was completed, restoring the once-popular theater with a vibrant marquee to its original charm.
Catch a second-run, classic or independent flick in one of the building’s three theaters. You can find popular releases that have just been bumped from most major movie chains’ lineups along with cult classics like “Clueless” and “The Big Lebowski” and even documentaries. Need a break from the kids? Academy has you covered with a babysitting service for the length of the movie that costs $9.50, per child, for kids ages 2-8.
Unlike other theater pubs, Academy has one of the most eclectic food offerings in Portland through their partnerships with neighborhood restaurants. Enjoy a slice from Flying Pie Pizzeria, cookies from Bipartisan Cafe or even sushi from Minamoto Restaurant. The beer selection also shines at Academy with 10 taps featuring eight beers and two ciders for $5. When available, get a pour of Montavilla Bipartisan Porter — the neighborhood brewery.
Pro Tip: Two for Tuesday – Enjoy a movie with a friend on Tuesday with the buy-one-get-one free ticket offer. KERRY FINSAND
616 NW 21st Ave., Portland, 503-223-4515, cinema21.com
A fixture of Northwest 21st Avenue since 1926 and a treasured landmark for Portland’s film industry — “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Wild” both had their Oregon premieres here — Cinema 21 joined the ranks of the city’s suds-serving pubs relatively recently. Tom Ranieri, who has run the business since 1980, began a major remodel three years ago — adding two small screening rooms for intimate viewings, new chairs in the 500-seat auditorium and, most importantly, beer sales as part of expanded concessions.
From the street, the theater appears unchanged. The marquee still features a reliable mix of international and independent films, ambitious Hollywood fare and buzzy documentaries, alongside quirky events like “Grease” sing-alongs and interactive screenings of the unintentionally hilarious cult romance “The Room.”
Cinema 21 offers seven taps, including one cider, one seasonal rotator and “Cinema 21 Lager.” Beers are served in a 16-ounce clear plastic cup with lid. They run $5.50 except for the lager, which is $3.75. (“Full disclosure,” said the guy behind the counter when asked who makes the lager, “It’s just Rolling Rock.”) A slice from Cinema 21 neighbor Escape From New York Pizza is a nearly mandatory accompaniment.
Pro tip: Don’t miss the odd little Beatles-themed diorama under the counter. BEN WATERHOUSE
The CineMagic Theater
2023 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, 503-231-7919, thecinemagictheater.com
Originally opened in 1914 as Palm Theatre and changing names numerous times, CineMagic has been in its current form since 1991. This small, single-screen theater primarily plays first-run movies. The no-frills space doesn’t have much room in the lobby, so no need to linger outside the auditorium. The 1950s-era bathrooms appear to be the smallest in town, but during our recent visit there weren’t any lines. Although food selection is limited (popcorn and candy), grab a slice at BlackBird Pizza across the street and bring it back to your seat.
CineMagic’s 10 taps offer eight beers and two ciders. The thoughtful tap list rivals some of Portland’s solid craft beer-oriented bars with selections from the likes of pFriem Family Brewers, The Commons and Sunriver Brewing Company. Sixteen-ouncers come in plastic cups and cost $4-6. Occasionally, beer buyer Nick Kuechler is able to snag unique brews like Great Divide Brewing Company’s Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti, which will surely satisfy beer geeks.
Pro Tip: All day Tuesdays enjoy a movie for only $5. KERRY FINSAND
The Empirical Theater
1945 SE Water Ave., Portland, 503-797-4000, omsi.edu/theater
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Empirical Theater is without a doubt among the finest movie-going experiences in the Portland area. It is also one of the most frustrating. The former OMNIMAX theater has the biggest screen and loudest sound system around and offers relatively cheap tickets and real food concessions from the museum’s Theory cafe, but the schedule is often set only a few days in advance and private events can leave the concession counter cut off from the restaurant and unable to serve alcohol.
These quirks may explain why the theater feels like Portland’s best-kept secret. Though the place fills up for festivals and other special events, if you go to a weeknight screening you’ll likely find yourself alone in your row. The space is vertigo-inducing — the screen is four stories high and the rows are narrow — and low attendance can make the place feel spooky.
It’s too bad the Empirical hasn’t become more popular. It’s easy to get to by transit or bicycle, and evening tickets include parking. There isn’t a better-looking screen or better-sounding audio in the city, and tickets actually get cheaper in the evening: the second-run blockbusters are $7, while the daytime nature and space documentaries are $8.50. The theater is also home to ingenious events like Reel Science, where classics like “The Matrix” and “The Silence of the Lambs” are paired with lectures by local researchers, and Edible Cinema, where they’re partnered with a tasting menu.
If you care more about the beer than the flicks, there are better options. Here you’re limited —when you can get them — to a small selection of bottled flagship brews from Ninkasi and Widmer.
Pro tip: The best view is from way, way up near the top row. It’s also the quickest exit. BEN WATERHOUSE
4122 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, 503-493-1128, hollywoodtheatre.org
A truly show-stopping landmark, this modern-historic theatre has been entertaining the public since 1926. It was actually such an attraction that Portland's Hollywood District based its name on the movie house. Now owned by a nonprofit, the 384-seat main auditorium and two smaller theaters upstairs have gone through many restorations throughout the years, allowing the space to continue to showcase the art of filmmaking with features ranging from independent to foreign and classic. Today, $9 gets you into most screenings ($6 if you’re a member).
Putting the “modern” in modern-historic, inside the theatre you’ll find six rotating tap selections for only $4 each — which is a steal for a beer anywhere, let alone a theatre. But if drinking out of a plastic cup isn’t your thing, you can upgrade to a limited-edition Hollywood Theatre pint glass designed by Leila del Duca. It’s $6 empty or $9 full of beer — an even better value, plus a you get a souvenir to add to your pint glass collection! You can pair your beer with a slice of Atomic Pizza, Salt & Straw ice cream or some house-made popcorn (voted best in Portland). If you’re feeling extra ravenous, order all of the above. With such reasonable prices, you can afford to sit back, relax and indulge — to an extent. Although there’s no in-theatre service, concessions are within steps of the main auditorium.
Fun Fact: Next time you’re traveling through PDX, be sure to check out Hollywood Theatre’s new micro-cinema, located past security at Concourse C. If you’re a ticketed passenger, you can drop by to watch a variety of shorts by Oregon filmmakers — free of charge. ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
Joy Cinema & Pub
11959 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard, 971-245-6467, thejoycinema.com
It may come as no surprise that a movie theater is one of Tigard’s oldest remaining businesses. Joy Cinema & Pub probably looks a bit unconventional on the inside these days than compared to its opening in 1939 when the movie house was screening “Gone With the Wind” for audiences — but its mission to entertain the masses remains and keeps drawing a crowd.
Situated along a traffic-choked section of 99W next to a falafel shop, the delightful distraction of clutter in the Joy’s lobby makes it easy to forget about the bustle beyond its doors. A zebra trim pops alongside walls painted purple and a leopard-print carpet accompanies you to the theater. The only decor louder than the walls and floors are the vintage movie posters advertising a mid-20th century smattering of the bad, the ugly and the smutty. Damsels in distress are splayed seductively below crazed monsters in some — others promise plenty of cinematic action in the form of boogieing on roller skates or punching with palms of steel.
While there’s plenty of space to stretch out in front of the 29-foot screen on one of 400 upholstered chairs, the comparatively compact lobby means there’s not a lot of room for bulky kegs. That’s why you’ll only find three taps at the Joy that are typically occupied by Ninkasi, Widmer and a cider — all for $4. However, there are bottled and canned options starting at three bucks. Fans of popcorn dripping in butter will be pleased that the joy is heavy on the oil. Pizza and nachos are also available if you’ve got a bigger appetite, though some of the slices looked a little ragged on the edges due to display-case fatigue. And while there aren’t fancy cup holders or trays, the best perks are found in the regulars’ enthusiasm for this neighborhood spot and the owner’s passion for movies of all stripes.
Pro tip: If you think $1 movie Monday sounds like a steal, don’t miss Weird Wednesday showings, which are always free. This is where you can practice your best “Mystery Science Theater 3000” jabs to flicks that are corny, tawdry and just plain fun. ANDI PREWITT
10350 N. Vancouver Way, Portland, 503-345-0300, jubitz.com/dining-entertainment/jubitz-cinema
More people should really be hanging out at truck stops. While the Jubitz near Jantzen Beach has no shortage of men in oversized jeans and flannel taking a break from long, lonely stretches on the road, experience operating an 18-wheeler is not a requirement for entry. There are a number of amenities at this particular pause for road warriors, but the best deal has to be the cinema. For a mere $5, you get the same experience as a Regal would offer — just in a more intimate setting. Two movies are shown four times daily in front of the 78 stadium-style seats.
The marquee and auditorium entrance is sandwiched between a bar displaying bottles of motor oil like they were top-shelf liquor and Moe’s Deli where you can buy tickets and concessions — from sandwiches to ice cream to candy. The one craft keg blew during our visit, but fortunately there’s a stock of random cans and bottles in a cooler under the counter. Beers range from $3.50-4.50, already a great deal that gets even better if you opt for the $10 combo pack of beer, popcorn and movie ticket.
Pro tip: Moe’s Deli is slammed minutes before show time, so arrive early and stroll through the little village crafted for the enjoyment of truckers that’s kind of like a low-rent casino. In addition to the cinema, you can play arcade games, get your hair done, eat at a buffet and tour the small Jubitz museum. Or you could simply chat up the friendly truckers lounging around in the lobby. ANDI PREWITT
Lake Theater & Cafe
106 N. State St., Lake Oswego, 503-482-2135, laketheatercafe.com
This is a movie house with touches of Lake Oswego bourgeoisie balanced by a quirky character that keeps the experience enjoyable and grounded. Lake Theater & Cafe also has the distinction of sitting on the shore of Lakewood Bay, so before you retreat to the auditorium grab a table on the dock for a view of rich people on boats and standup paddleboards. Films began screening here in 1940 for just a quarter and the business in its current form launched three years ago.
Even if you don’t catch a flick while you’re here, the view, impressive bar and made-from-scratch menu are reason enough to pay old town LO a visit. Eight wildly different beers were on tap recently ($6 each) and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. This is also one of the only theaters that allows customers to drink from actual glass pints in the theater. A chalkboard near the kitchen window proudly displays the 19 Oregon and Washington farms that help supply Lake Cafe’s food — underscoring the business’s commitment to quality and sustainability.
With a full bar, restaurant, patio and cinema — you might have assumed there was already a lot going on here. Well, Lake Theater also hosts performances on Monday evenings in a separate event space along with Wednesday trivia, which won third place in last year’s Willamette Week Best of Portland Readers’ Poll. The only downside to the theater’s location is that neighboring live music can sometimes creep into the background during a hushed moment in a movie.
Pro tip: Get to your seat at least 15 minutes early for some pre-feature schlock — recently the theater played a segment of 1980’s “Flash Gordon.” ANDI PREWITT
2735 E. Burnside St., Portland, 503-232-5511, laurelhursttheater.com
It is hard to miss the Laurelhurst Theater with its large iconic sign and art deco design on Northeast Burnside in Portland. The theater was built in 1923 by Walter Tebbetts, who owned, managed or constructed a number of Portland theaters, including the Hollywood. Originally the Laurelhurst had one screen in an auditorium that could hold 650. Over the years, expansions brought four theaters to the building where you can catch second-run, art and independent films. Also expect cult classics like “Donnie Darko” and Hollywood darlings like “La La Land.”
Enjoy food from Laurelhurst’s sister restaurant New Deal Cafe in one of the lobby’s booths before the movie or in the auditorium on much-appreciated shelves. The theater offers nine taps for seven beers and two ciders. A 16-ounce beer costs $5 and for those who don’t want to get out of their seat for a refill during the film, take advantage of 48-ounce pitchers for $14. The beer selection is balanced with beers that will appeal to most palates.
Pro Tip: Check out the nostalgic movie theater posters for a trip back in time. KERRY FINSAND
Living Room Theaters
341 SW 10th Ave., Portland, 971-222-2010, pdx.livingroomtheaters.com
When you plan on heading downtown, making a stop at a movie theater probably isn’t first on your agenda with all the great breweries, restaurants and shops nearby. But after you discover Living Room Theaters, perhaps that idea will sneak its way a little higher up on your to-do list.
Upon entry, beautiful cedar walls and plenty of windows contribute to a sunny vibe in the lounge area. There’s even a roll-up garage door that allows for open air and outdoor seating during warmer months. It’s somewhere you’d want to unwind even if you weren’t planning on watching a movie — although you really should. Being the first all-digital and only-digital theater in the country allows for easier distribution of independent films — even those from first-time filmmakers. The six cozy auditoriums feature a nice mix of indie and foreign films like these along with popular first-run movies.
To get the most bang for your buck, go on a Monday or Tuesday when the movies are only $5 and use the extra cash to splurge on some tapas — like the Chicken Prosciutto Skewers or the Veggie Sushi Hand Roll — and, of course, some local craft beer from one of the nine rotating taps (one recently poured kombucha). Be sure to arrive about 30 minutes before the show to place your order for in-theater food and drink service — and prepare to have your senses dazzled! ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
McMenamins Bagdad Theater & Pub
3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, 503-249-7474, mcmenamins.com/bagdad-theater-pub
Opened in 1927, the Bagdad originally hosted silent films, live stage shows, vaudeville acts and more. Its large neon marquee was a beacon for area residents. In the early days, the theater was drenched in Middle-Eastern decor and ushers wore uniforms meant to evoke an Arabian-theme. Since being restored by the McMenamins in 1991, the Bagdad has become a Hawthorne District icon. They show first run movies. The beer list is comprised primarily of McMenamins beers, along with some rotating guest taps. Nothing super-exciting, but decent enough. Wine can also be had. Theater concessions include pizza and snacks. Patrons can also order from the pub menu.
Pro tip: If you decide to order food to be delivered, you’ll have to sit on the balcony. Nothing at all wrong with that because the balcony has comfortable seating and great views. Keep in mind food service can be a little slow. You might wind up getting your meal well into your movie. PETE DUNLOP
McMenamins Kennedy School Theater
5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland, 503-249-3983, mcmenamins.com/kennedy-school
The McMenamins have mastered the art of establishing a canvas upon which local culture can flourish. The Kennedy School may be the best example of what they do in their empire. The movie theater here is makeshift — a former grade school auditorium. Seating isn’t laid out like a typical theater and the screen is relatively small. The sound system is adequate, but won’t blast you out of your seat. Like the rest of the McMenamins theaters, Kennedy School shows first-run movies. Choose from one of several McMenamins beers on your way in. No guest taps on a recent visit, though PBR and Coors Light were in the house. Grab a snack or something more — they’ve got pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads. Neither the food nor the beer are going to blow you away, but the overall experience is comfortable enough. If the movie doesn’t turn your crank, bail the theater and wander the halls. Take a gander at the photos and promotional posters that dot the walls. Soak up the latent history. Grab a drink in one of the countless bars and niche spaces. You might even find music. In the end, you’ll realize the place has more personality and charm than anywhere you’ve been in years. PETE DUNLOP
McMenamins Mission Theater & Pub
1624 NW Glisan St., Portland, 503-223-4527, mcmenamins.com/mission-theater
Mission Theater is the neighborhood event darling of the McMenamins auditoriums. They play old movies and big sporting events along with hosting trivia, readings, concerts and even drag queen bingo. If a celebrity dies, expect a heartstring-tugging tribute to show up on the screen at the Mission. Located on the west side of I-405, parking can be a nightmare, so take transit if possible. Mission offers a slim menu of pizza, salads and theater snacks like popcorn and candy. An average of five regular McMenamins beers are on tap along with a couple of ciders and wines. Sometimes a guest beer makes an appearance. Buying a ticket online is suggested for convenience, but not always necessary. It’s first come, first serve, so if you think there might be a lot of buzz about a certain showing, get there a little early to snag a balcony seat for the best view in the house. If you don’t see well in the dark though, stick to the lower level. It can be a logistical nightmare to navigate for anyone besides spritely millennials.
Pro Tip: The main bathrooms are in the basement, which can be quite the trek after a beer or two. Plan accordingly. HOLLY AMLIN
McMenamins Power Station Theater
2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale, 503-492-4686, mcmenamins.com/edgefield/power-station-theater
Spending time at Edgefield is easy, and there to help prolong your visit is the Power Station Theater & Pub. It’s a bustling little area of the campus where you might get clotheslined by a server if you’re not careful. Adhere to a few guidelines for an optimal experience. First, buy your ticket online in advance. The movies are brand new and there’s assigned seating on the main floor, plus a balcony. It pays to plan ahead — unless you like getting stuck next to that person who pops her shoes off and gets comfortable using the table in front of you as a footrest. Second, arrive 45 minutes early for table service and bypass the ridiculously long line formed at the bar by using the side entrance.
The tables in the theater are awkwardly far from the seats, so eat before the movie starts to avoid any distractions. Ordering late inevitably requires a server to yell your order from the end of the aisle in the middle of the movie. Don’t be that person. If punctuality isn’t your thing, or you need another libation, wait 30 minutes into the movie and a bartender will help you, lickety-split. Lastly, drink beer for goodness’ sake. With all the chaos outside, you’ll need something to calm you down. Edgefield has their own beer, cider, and wine. Go for the Tropic Tart Sour. HOLLY AMLIN
McMenamins St. Johns Theater & Pub
8203 N. Ivanhoe St., Portland, 503-283-8520, mcmenamins.com/st-johns-theater-pub
Before attending a movie at this renovated World’s Fair building, it’s recommended you buy an assigned-seat ticket online, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Check the website to see how booked it is and make a decision from there. The movies are first run, but there may not be a stampede as the films have been out for about a month. Locating the St. Johns Theater & Pub is easy — just look for a large, golden dome at the corner of North Ivanhoe Street and Richmond Avenue. The entrance is just past a lush, outdoor patio, which you’ll want to visit later. Once inside, check in or reserve a seat at the ticketing kiosk to the right. Buy some beer and food from the full menu at the bar -- but be careful, the tables here are also a bit of a stretch from the chairs (not unlike the Power Station Theater).
All of the McMenamins’ staple beers are available, as well as ciders, a few seasonals and a guest tap. The beers are light on ABV, which you’ll find refreshing once you start to cook inside the poorly air-conditioned room.
Pro Tip: The pub features ample decor and the most interesting feature is the ceiling. Check out the dome’s underbelly in the theater, but don’t forget to appreciate the murals and chandeliers near the bar. HOLLY AMLIN
6712 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland, 503-236-5257, morelandtheater.com
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect neighborhood theater than the Moreland. Nestled in the middle of the Westmoreland commercial strip on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue, the 91-year-old former vaudeville theater is cozy, clean and cheap — and, since 2015, the concessions counter serves beer.
Though large by contemporary standards, the Moreland’s single, 675-seat auditorium is dinky compared to the movie palaces that inspired it, but it was built with ambition. The ornate interior — think Venetian-revival-meets-Moorish-revival, with florid light fixtures and winged creatures crawling along the crown molding — is run-down, but charming. The seats are threadbare and you can still see the gaps where the pre-talkie-era organ used to reside, but the screen is bright and the sound system is plenty loud. Families mob the place on weekends for $5 screenings of first-run blockbusters.
A chalkboard just past the ticket counter advertises four taps plus two wines. Beers are $5.50 apiece, served in a 16-ounce plastic cup without a lid. The lines are clean, but the Breakside keg seemed to be on the older side during a recent visit. A huge, “medium” popcorn is just $3. Dig in.
Pro tip: There’s no bad seat in the house, so go ahead and grab one of the less worn-out seats in the side rows. BEN WATERHOUSE
Valley Cinema Pub
9360 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Beaverton, 503-296-6843, valleycinemapub.com
This Beaverton venue isn’t much to look at on the outside. The same can be said of the inside, really. But the humble small-box theater is the only one from the 1960s still welcoming moviegoers and it doesn’t need any frills to screen a feature and serve a cold beer.
Valley Cinema Pub (or Valley Theater or Theatre, in its various names online) is owned by a Scappoose native who also operates CineMagic and Moreland. Tucked away in the ‘burbs next to a concrete business park and aging strip mall, the theater might seem like a hidden gem. But the secret is out as illustrated by a line of people past the door during $1 Monday. That deal repeats on Tuesday where you have the choice of seeing one of eight movies in the building’s four auditoriums. Whiteboards display listings in dry-erase marker, but they’re not always updated — so check the website for correct times.
The tap list is varied but safe — there are six handles for beer and one pouring cider, but there’s nothing unique worth bragging about on Untappd. However, slices from Pizza Schmizza for sale are an upgrade from most theater pub pies. There are tables and chairs in the austere wood-grain lobby, so you could eat there while counting the number of children who point and stare at the payphone on the wall, asking their parents what that mysterious thing is. Otherwise, might as well grab your seat in the auditorium and settle in.
Pro tip: Rumor has it, Valley Cinema is haunted by a man clad in flannel. Several overnight cleaners have even left their gig after spotting the ghost. Best keep an eye out for anyone in a plaid button down who has the ability to walk through walls. ANDI PREWITT
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In March, Portland’s Metalcraft Fabrication shut down after facing a federal lien, causing the company’s bank funds to be emptied, according to industry insiders. Owner Charlie Frye acknowledged the bank had closed accounts, but did not address this specifically when asked for comment.
The closure came as somewhat of a shock since Metalcraft was one of the greater success stories in Oregon’s craft beer industry. Co-owner Charlie Frye came from well-established manufacturer JV Northwest to found an innovative brewery-centric fabricator. Metalcraft reportedly made more than 1,000 tanks for businesses in 30 states and three countries in the last 10 years, including equipment for some of our state’s best breweries like Breakside Brewery and pFriem Family Brewers.
Many are left wondering how a company that was once praised by beer makers and business journals alike can suddenly close and see some of its relationships with clients go sour.
Charlie Frye and his then-wife Jen Baque opened Metalcraft in 2007, starting off welding furniture and building facade components before picking up work fixing tanks and equipment for breweries. By 2015, the business expanded by moving into a huge new warehouse to become one of the few U.S. fabricators that could make larger equipment — tanks more than a couple hundred barrels and brewhouses beyond 30 barrels. And just last year, Metalcraft teamed with Pelican Brewing Company to develop a new dry-hopping method. The resulting “Hopinator” received a rave review from brewmaster Darron Welch, who said Metalcraft “perfected a design that was exactly what we wanted. Not every fabricator would have been that patient.”
However, it wasn’t long after that when Metalcraft began scrambling to keep the doors open long enough to finish millions of dollars’ worth of projects.
“A number of factors contributed to Metalcraft’s demise,” said Frye in my original article breaking the closure for newschoolbeer.com, “the greatest one being several unforeseen challenges associated with our expansion.”
Metalcraft entered the brewery fabrication business at just the right time — before the big boom that would become the industry’s largest period of growth, post-2010. Growth was quick and used equipment became scarce, which led to longer lead times and down payments. Industry sources familiar with the matter indicated these upfront down payments ranged from 15-40 percent.
“The company got themselves into a cash crunch,” said Thad Fisco of Portland Kettle Works, another local fabricator that has offered to help finish Metalcraft’s work for clients. “[Metalcraft] ignored some basic fundamentals to maintain cash to finish deals. You begin to burn those deposits to finish projects that were contracted previously.” There are no rules against operating this way.
According to Fisco, this is “unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence in the manufacturing industry.”
The practice of taking on new jobs and even discounting them in a mad dash to use that money to finish past work that may not have even gotten underway “unintentionally turns into a Ponzi scheme.” Fisco says this is a critical issue for the industry overall and one that he expects could cause a few more fabricators to go bankrupt.
You might be wondering if this has anything to do with the unsustainable growth of the craft beer industry. Yes, a little. As brewers get bigger, and some more desperate to compete, they may plop down huge sums of money upfront without checking a fabricator’s creditworthiness.
Meanwhile there is mounting competition from China where fabricators routinely offer a cheaper but lower-quality product. Some American companies have even stooped to selling Chinese equipment and marketing it as U.S. made, according to Fisco. However, the larger the tanks, the higher the shipping costs, and that can decrease margins and any competitive advantage.
According to comments Frye made to me in March, he laid off 35 employees, which would’ve been a significant cut to the 50-60 people he reported would be hired by 2015. He also hinted at some financial mismanagement, saying “a business owner should always be aware that their finances are in order and those trusted to manage them are qualified to do so.”
Frye declined to answer additional questions, stating “I'm not prepared to give any more interviews at this time.” For now, then, it’s impossible to know the full story of what happened to Metalcraft. But its failure is bad for both the brewery fabrication business as well as brewers and should serve as a wakeup call to each.
When fabricators go bust, some brewers who have sunk large sums of money into equipment will have invested too much to recover. That may include some of Metalcraft’s clients. Bill Baburek of Infusion Brewing Company in Benson, Neb. is one of those affected by the closure. “They took $45,000 dollars in deposit money from us in late December,” Baburek said, “for a $60,000 tank order, and now we get nothing for it!”
“If another company the size of Metalcraft or bigger goes down, it’s going to be a big deal,” warned Fisco. “It starts to tear the fabric of the system that is in place ... people that are looking to buy right now should take a moment to check the credit of the people they are looking at doing business with. Find out what’s going on with the business before jumping in with both feet.”
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The pilgrimage was long and winding, but the pastor of pilsner has found his church. It’s in a former hummus factory on the backside of an old neighborhood, down a hill butted up against the railroad tracks in Northeast Portland.
Inside the brewery, Mike Weksler wants to get to the work of cleaning barrels, but takes time to sermonize about what he is making at Royale Brewing Co. “There are not a lot of people who make a year-round pilsner here. Upright makes one, Heater Allen makes an amazing Pilsner and pFriem makes one.” He continues, “It is my favorite style. I like a crisp, clean beer.”
That is all well and good, but — and this may seem sacrilege — Royale does not make an IPA (gasp). “I think by not doing an IPA you set yourself apart,” Weksler says. “We’ve done two IPAs, but we’ve done them as one and done. Don’t look for us to do it again.” In fact, he says he’ll fire his salesman if the heathen breaks that commandment.
But, tempting fate, I push back — No IPA???
“Think about this,” Weksler says patiently, “you throw a handful of tacks over there and they’re all IPAs. Can you find my tack real fast? But throw a handful of tacks with all the pilsner makers here and there’s only five or six of us. So I’m easier to find.” He elaborates, “I think you need to find the style you like best, and I really like Belgian ales and I really like pilsners, I like European beers. The Northwest style is amazing — I mean we’re fortunate to live up here, but the best way to differentiate yourself is to not do what everyone else in your neighborhood does.”
It’s not likely Weksler’s done much the way others have. Start with his college job. He was 19 and working as a busboy in a Louisiana bar. The owner required all employees to be ordained ministers. So, Weksler became a mail-order minister and has done three weddings. (There’s more on the weddings later.)
Before finishing college, Weksler left the Bayou State for Oregon and did not immediately fall in love. He thought the place was too gray and too damp. But he was too stubborn to tell his family he wanted to come home.
Eventually, Weksler turned to the bottle; not to drink from it, but to put beer in it. He is part owner of Green Bottling of Portland. The company has mobile bottling lines that can be trucked to small breweries that can’t afford their own.
The job gave Weksler a look inside a lot of breweries. “I’ve seen some really good breweries. I knew I could take the best of everything I’ve seen and make a very awesome brewery.” The pastor of pilsner began his crusade to be the best by contracting with Portland’s Alameda Brewing Co. The deal lasted a couple of years. All the while, Weksler had, as he still does, an eye on growing. “I would like to see myself be a regional brewery” he says without hubris, before adding, “I think the world is hungry for what comes from here. There’s a couple of epicenters in the universe for beer; fortunately we live in one of them.”
Royale Brewing is in an ancient brick building under a yoga studio. The old freight car parked on the tracks outside, with blue-and-white graffiti spelling out “Boosy” looks newer and in better shape than the dusty Royale delivery van tattooed with the brewery’s pig logo. Inside, the Royale (pronounced Roy-al) office is cluttered with barrels, posters and mismatched desks, chairs and tables.
The brewery has a 15-barrel system and six tanks with room for six more. There are three cold rooms, a new barrel washer and wooden barrels. Some of those are used bourbon barrels. One is a tequila barrel that has to be primed before it will hold an experimental batch of beer.
The man leading the experiments will be Paul Rey. The Siebel Institute-educated brewer moved to Portland just this year after spending time at Telegraph Brewery and Libertine Brewing Company in California. He immediately fell under Weksler’s pilsner spell. “It’s a glorious beer. Operations-wise, it is a nightmare because it takes so long because lager yeast ferments at a lower temperature and very slowly and typically creates a lot of sulfur compounds that take a long time to clean up. It’s just much slower in secondary fermentation, but the end product is a much more delicate, clean-tasting beer.”
There is integrity in the traditionalist approach Rey takes toward pilsners. He points out that American IPAs have moved a long way from what the British originally did. But, he insists with pilsners “you can’t stray from what the Germans and Czechs came up with. People do, but it ceases to be a pilsner once it’s a super bitter pilsner or a sweet pilsner. Once you start adding things to it, it’s not really a pilsner anymore.”
The Royale Pilsner — they also make ales, a porter and a wonderful coffee saison — is a clear golden color and has a floral aroma followed by a crisp, clean taste that makes you wonder what you ever saw in hoppy IPAs.
I’m converted to the church of pils. Amen.
One of the weddings Pastor Weksler officiated was that of Carston Haney, owner of Ross Island Brewing and former brewmaster at Alameda Brewing who was featured in the April issue of Oregon Beer Growler.
Royale Brewing recently opened a taproom, “The Garrison” at 8773 N. Lombard in Portland.
OBG Blog Archives