By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Buyouts. Closures. Startups. The roller coaster of Oregon’s brewing industry has seen more twists and turns than ever lately. As we start 2018, it’s time to take a good hard look at what this year and the next few might look like for craft beer in this state. And there’s no better person to talk with than Patrick Emerson. The Oregon State University economist also produces and co-hosts the “Beervana” podcast with Jeff Alworth, and his research focuses on development, labor economics, industrial organization and applied microeconomics. He offered his thoughts on where the industry is going — and whether or not there’s cause for alarm.
What is your outlook for 2018 through 2020, especially for Oregon’s craft beer industry?
The future is still very bright, but markets are now maturing — particularly Oregon — and in these markets competition is increasing and the pressure that this creates is starting to result in exits from the market. I expect this dynamic to increase in the next few years. There are still a lot of new breweries opening up, but not all will be successful and some more established breweries will exit as well. A good example is The Commons Brewery in Portland, an established brewery with an excellent reputation recently called it quits.
Why are new Oregon craft breweries growing more than more established ones?
In most industries, smaller businesses tend to have faster growth than bigger, more established ones. In craft beer there is definitely a novelty effect where new breweries have a certain buzz, which helps propel sales and growth. What we are seeing more and more nationally is the larger legacy craft brewers like Sierra Nevada, Widmer and Boston Beer Company are finding it harder to sustain sales, let alone continue to grow as they face intense local competition from newer brewers. The old model of growing through the focus on a flagship beer is starting to fade as the industry becomes more and more fad-driven.
What is driving craft beer’s current growth?
Innovation and novelty is a big part, but the artisanal nature of craft beer plays a big role, too. Consumers want some kind of personal connection to the beer. They want to know about who makes it, are proud of local beer and are interested in new and unique experiences. Macro brewers cannot offer any of that.
What does the merger-and-acquisition trend of the past few years portend?
The hurricane has subsided as the overall growth has slowed a little and as the macro brewers have grown fairly large portfolios of regional craft breweries. There is less of an incentive for venture capital and less of a need for companies like AB InBev to find more breweries to acquire.
How much do people care about who owns a brewery?
It has less to do with ownership and more to do with beer. Yes, there is a small percentage of consumers who really care a lot (and know enough about the industry to know who owns whom), but I don’t think this is very significant. More significant is great beer at a good price. If breweries with large corporate owners can maintain quality while leveraging the scale and distribution that corporate ownership can provide to keep prices low, I think the consumers will be there.
Are we reaching a point where there will be a brewery shakeout? What factors do you think will cause craft breweries to close up shop in the next couple of years?
I would not characterize it as a shakeout, but there will be a lot more breweries going out of business simply due to the maturation of the market. The breweries that are more likely to close are those with inconsistent quality, poor business acumen, are overly leveraged and/or fail to gain traction with their brand. All pretty standard factors, but the window for really gaining traction with a brand is becoming smaller and smaller as so many brands proliferate. It is going to become more and more important that brewers do the job of telling their stories and helping consumers connect with their brands.
How is increased shelf space competition forcing breweries to rethink distribution?
When there is a distributor in the middle, many breweries are relying on these folks to tell their stories and try to get shelf space and tap handles. But distributors represent many brands now. Breweries are really going to need to do more personal outreach to retailers and pubs. Distribution is tricky, but many breweries are doing self-distribution for this reason.
Should Oregon expect to see more growth in urban markets, such as Portland or Eugene/Springfield, or are we going to see more breweries opening in rural areas and small towns?
We will see both. Smaller towns have relatively untapped markets (pun intended). Bigger cities have established markets and are exciting places for brewers to be — not to mention all of the brewers currently getting on-the-job training whose dream is to have their own brewery someday.
How much attention will Oregon craft breweries give international markets?
This will continue to be a very minor market for most craft brewers, especially as transport costs are high and local craft beer is growing in those markets as well.
Is the industry healthy, and how should breweries steer the ship?
People should not view brewery closings as a sign of a market in trouble, but the sign that the market has matured. This is good for consumers: it will result in higher average quality and consistency and lower prices. For breweries, however, the market is going to demand a high degree of discipline: good and consistent beer, good brand management, good business acumen and tighter margins.
By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There will be another "new" brewery in Portland early next year. Fat Head’s Brewery, launched in 2014, is slated to close in January. Look for it to be replaced sometime in the first quarter of 2018 by Von Ebert Brewing, which will be operated by current Fat Head’s franchisee, Tom Cook.
News of Fat Head’s closure initially caused a stir in beer circles and on social media. A lot of fans wondered why the apparently successful brewpub would close. In fact, the closure has nothing at all to do with the wellbeing of the business here.
What's actually at work is that corporate Fat Head’s, based in Ohio, has a lot going on in its home market. Rather than continue to focus on the remote Portland outpost, the company and Cook mutually decided to end the franchise arrangement.
“We were unable to agree on a vision for the future,” said Fat Head’s founder Glenn Benigni, “As a result, we’ve mutually decided to close the Fat Head’s location in Portland, pouring our last beer in early 2018. We’d like to say thanks to the beautiful city of Portland and all of the customers who joined us there over the years. It has been a pleasure serving you.”
Cook offered similar thoughts.
“I know it sounds like spin," he said via email. "But this is exactly what happened. They wanted to focus their energies on the Midwest, where they have a lot going on with a new production brewery and the new Canton brewpub. I wanted to focus on Portland. We decided it's probably best for them to pursue their plans in the Midwest and for me to do my own thing out there."
He admits it wasn't an easy decision. The franchise has been highly successful here. Indeed, the success of Fat Head’s surprised more than a few in the beer geek crowd. Many thought an out-of-state chain would quickly collapse in beer-wacky Beervana. It didn't happen.
"I think we succeeded here because we built a talented team and gave it the right tools," wrote Cook, who added current employees will have the opportunity to continue on. "There's no way I would be doing what I'm doing with Von Ebert if my team here wasn’t staying and fully behind me. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it's the right decision for everyone."
Von Ebert, when it opens, will specialize in hoppy brews from head brewer, Eric Van Tassel. Sean Burke, formerly of The Commons, is also part of the Von Ebert Brewing team. Burke's talent for making uniquely interesting beers is well known. Cook expects the team to release 100 or so unique beers a year, including American, German, Belgian and barrel-aged varieties.
"Von Ebert Brewing is a new concept, where Northwest family traditions meet innovative ideas in craft brewing,” said Cook in a press release. "We’re excited to unveil a completely new experience for customers, blending our brewing expertise with the adventurous flavors Portland has come to love."
The pub will feature what he refers to as "elevated American pub food." That includes items like traditional German pretzels with beer cheese, stone oven-baked pizzas, cheeseburgers stacked high with locally sourced meats, decadent sandwiches and smoked wings.
"True to our character, our menu will combine classic pub fares with the kind of top-tier quality local ingredients you can only find in Portland," Cook said.
Many in and around the craft beer industry are aware that Cook had quietly planned to open a brewpub in the vacated RingSide Grill space adjacent to Glendoveer Golf Course in Northeast Portland. Evidently, those plans will be more or less on hold until he clears some regulatory hurdles.
"There's more to come on this," he wrote. "I don’t want to comment or give a timeline until I finish with the City of Portland. I would hate to promise something and then learn we can’t do it."
Many wonder about the Von Ebert name and logo. It’s obviously a strong departure from Fat Heads and has no apparent connection to Portland. What’s it all about?
"My great grandmother came to the United States from Germany and her last name was Ebert," Cook wrote. "She gave up quite a bit in Germany to bring my family here, so I wanted to pay some respect to my immigrant family. ‘Eber’ in German means boar, thus the boar in the logo."
Von Ebert Brewing will open sometime in early 2018. Watch for updates on social media or check the company website at vonebertbrewing.com.
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The well-loved and highly acclaimed Portland brewery The Commons will close at the end of the year to become an outpost for San Diego-based Modern Times Beer. The Commons’ owner Mike Wright approached Modern Times founder Jacob McKean about taking over the building’s lease following financial problems that will keep the brewery on Southeast Belmont Street from continuing in its current form. Beer fans both locally and abroad were saddened to hear the news, as The Commons taproom had become a popular destination to visit as well as a business that produced award-winning beer.
Wright made the announcement: “After two years of lagging sales and battling cash flow, I have had to make some very uncomfortable decisions. At the end of this year we will shut down operations on Southeast Belmont and vacate the building.”
For many, news of the closure was met with shock given that The Commons had won numerous awards at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. It’s hard to imagine how a seemingly successful 7-year-old brewery could shutter so suddenly. And the arrival of Modern Times, a well-respected brewery that will be new to the Portland market, may be met with mixed emotions.
The Commons began in a different space — Wright’s garage — under a different name — Beetje — with a nano system in 2010. Earning early fans and buzz, the brewery expanded to 7 barrels and found space with a tasting room, which is when it was rebranded. At that time, Wright brought on experienced industry personality Josh Grgas and new head brewer Sean Burke. The new team and fan base carried The Commons to its third and current location, a repurposed large brick-and-wood warehouse.
Both brewery owners are adamant in pointing out that The Commons has not been sold or forced out and Modern Times taking over the lease was, in some ways, a favor to the owners. But what went wrong for The Commons?
“Unfortunately, this is a classic small business cash flow story,” Wright said. “Sure, there is plenty of industry nuance and hindsight that can be evaluated, but this boiled down to simple debits and credits.”
Modern Times had previously collaborated with The Commons on beer releases and McKean shared his fondness for the Rose City: “I’ve loved the city of Portland for a long, long time. I’ve been visiting regularly for well over a decade, and I gave serious consideration to starting Modern Times in PDX.” So when it came time to expand, McKean had his eyes on Portland before Wright approached him about taking over the lease.
Modern Times is a 30-barrel production brewery and tasting room located in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood. Founded by former Stone Brewing Co. brewer Jacob McKean and a team of consultants in 2013, the business has become known for its aroma-forward tropical IPAs, fruit sours and coffee beer. And the San Diego culture that comes with Modern Times should actually fit in quite easily in Portland. It’s an all-vegan company that has also sourced and roasted its own coffee ingredients since day one. “We make beer and coffee for people who are deeply passionate and very nerdy about those things,” said McKean.
The transition from The Commons to Modern Times will happen after the beginning of the New Year. Expect a taproom with full restaurant and eventually a coffee roaster and cafe. Unfortunately, the Cheese Annex will vacate as well to make room for Modern Times’ kitchen. The new project will be called “The Belmont Fermentorium” with the capacity to produce up to 20,000 barrels a year. Modern Times has also leased the neighboring 10,000-square-foot building and plans to use it as a packaging hall and tank farm.
Don’t count out The Commons just yet though. After all, they have already had three different iterations, so an even more successful fourth life is not out of the question. Wright still owns the building on Southeast Belmont Street, so paying the mortgage should be easy now as he keeps the 7-barrel brewhouse as well as several 15-barrel tanks and leaves the newer 20-barrel vessels for Modern Times.
The Commons will continue to operate and release new beer until closing on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a final party. After the business of vacating and transitioning to Modern Times, Wright hopes to focus more on the next step for The Commons.
“I am motivated to find a pathway forward for The Commons, but that’s not yet clear and I don’t want to make any claims that I cannot follow through on,” said Wright. “I hope to offer another chapter sometime in the future.”
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 Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Belmont Station, Portland’s original bottle shop and beer bar, is hitting the ripe old age of 20. They’re celebrating with a 20/20 theme — 20 days of events for 20 years.
The party gets underway on Saturday, April 1 at the Horse Brass, where Belmont Station got its start in 1997. The Brass will have a collection of special beers on tap when it opens at 11 a.m. Some of those beers will have been made with help from Belmont Station staff.
At 1 p.m., guests will march up Southeast 45th Avenue to the current home of Belmont Station, where they will feature several bottle releases and more special beers on tap. The parade will include noisemakers, bubbles, signage and typical parade fare — though no floats.
“Twenty years is a nice milestone,” said Lisa Morrison, majority owner of Belmont Station. “Besides being a celebration for patrons, we’re honoring the contributions of people who made and continue to make Belmont Station what it is today. People like Joy Campbell, Don Younger and Carl Singmaster, not to mention our awesome staff, past and present.”
Another featured event, mini-Puckerfest, is set for April 7-9. They’ll be pouring at least eight sour beers at all times during the weekend. A number of special beers from well-known breweries will be released, including one from de Garde Brewing called, “The Station.”
“As part of Mini-Puckerfest, we’ll be doing another Battle of the Blends competition,” Morrison said. “Two teams made up of Belmont staff produced blends with Cascade Brewing. Patrons will vote on their favorite for the insufferable bragging rights.”
The weekend of April 14-16 will feature Bigger, Badder, Blacker drafts, featuring a Deschutes night with an Abyss variant, Black Butte 25-28 and a vintage bottle sale, plus other offerings through the weekend from Ninkasi, Fort George and more.
On Monday, April 17, the Besties celebration will bring together the folks behind the recent Oregon Beer Awards Small, Medium and Large Breweries of the Year: Baerlic Brewing Company, The Commons and Breakside Brewery.
Next up is the annual Samuel Smith's Salute on Tuesday, April 18. Tom Bowers of Merchant du Vin will showcase the iconic brewery and its place in modern craft beer culture. There will be bottles pouring at the bar and Bowers will lead the annual salute during the course of the evening.
The party finishes up on April 20, with Lagunitas tapping The Waldos’ Special Ale at 4:19 p.m. (so it can be in your glass at 4:20 p.m.). Sixpoint will contribute their Puff to the party (including Puff rolling papers) and Laurelwood will have a special 4/20-themed IPA.
Old-timers will recall that Belmont Station was the only place of its kind when it opened next to the Horse Brass. Campbell and Younger launched the small store because Horse Brass patrons were asking to purchase imported beers and other specialty items.
“We were just slightly more than an afterthought next to the Horse Brass,” said Chris Ormand, who spent a decade at Belmont before joining General Distributors last year. “We sold novelties, specialty food and offbeat videos, most of it imported from the U.K. And beer.”
The place stocked some 400 bottles in those days. It’s hard to fathom given present circumstances, but each bottle was displayed with a price tag. The actual beer was stored in walk-in coolers. Customers would make a list of what they wanted and give it to the clerk, who would round up the beers.
The beer selection has exploded, obviously. Modern Belmont Station carries some 1,500 beers, ciders and meads in bottles and cans, and also features 23 rotating taps pouring some of the best beer in the city. It’s a Cheers bar for many locals, as well as a destination for tourists.
“There truly was nothing like Belmont Station when Joy and Don launched it 20 years ago,” Morrison said. “It was a big deal when my business partner, Carl Singmaster, joined as co-owner, moved it to the current location and added the beer bar.”
Belmont Station is generally regarded as Portland’s premier bottleshop and beer bar. They were again recognized at the Oregon Beer Awards for just that: Best Beer Bar and Bottle Shop. But Morrison refuses to brag.
“I guess we are looked at as setting the standard for what a bottle shop and beer bar should be,” she said. “That’s something we strive for. I like to think we’re respected for our knowledgeable service, our friendly and cozy atmosphere and the fact that we've been consistent through the years.”
Stay tuned for information on next year’s big bash, when Belmont Station reaches drinking age.
Note: Many of the events happening during the 20/20 festival were still being finalized as this story went to press. Check the Belmont Station website for updated details.
4500 SE Stark St., Portland
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