Portland beer scene, 1983

Wow. We’ve come a long way baby, or, I’m actually going somewhere with this post.

Recent score I picked up: The Greater Portland Guide to Greater Beers.

Published in 1983, the booklet listed a total of 15 restaurants and pubs in the greater Portland area [including one in Vancouver] serving beers on tap that didn’t exclusively serve the usual American swill [Bud, Miller, etc.] of the day. Most served German and UK beers, Canadian [Molson Golden – bleccchh], Red Hook, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and River City Gold straight out of Sacramento. Flipping through the guide I didn’t see many Portland breweries represented because, well, there weren’t that many. One exception was Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve which was listed under the Special Brews from the New World section. So was Michelob. Of course McMenamin’s was formulating its juggernaut brew biz off the ground with its pub in Hillsboro.

As of last count, there were a dozen new breweries/pubs/brewpubs opening in Portland just within a few months. And our airport? Many cities would kill for a beer scene as good as the selection at our airport.

Beer is very important to Oregon’s economy. According to a piece last April by The Oregonian’s John Foyston, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) claims the industry’s economic impact in Oregon includes 25,696 jobs – paying $761,652,866 in wages – as well as $53,236,572 in federal, state, and local taxes.

There are many excellent local beer blogs doing a fantastic job covering the beer scene, whether it’s introducing new establishments, reviewing beers, interviewing brewers or announcing what’s on tap and where. I read them all religiously. They never fail in pointing me to a new beer to try, new establishment or important information needed in the beer-buying process, such as Portland Growler Prices.

Which leads me to that fact that I’ve occasionally been reviewing beer for Food Dude’s epic Portland Food and Drink, although my last post was last December, giving me a total of, oh, four posts in the last 18 months. Which is to say I haven’t been doing a very good job of it.

Reviewing beer is very subjective. It’s all based on personal taste and the ability to throw out phrases such as “the flavors danced on my tongue” and had “an aggressive malty aftertaste.”

I like some styles [IPAs, stouts, sours] and don’t get others [Lager? It all tastes like Bud to me.] It’s also difficult to pan yet another local but boring body-less ale, especially one made by long established Portland breweries that if it weren’t for them we might not have a beer scene. Or the startup, god bless the startup that has sweat and toiled and breathed beer recipes 24/7 for their new business, who sends a beer that can only be best described as jesusfuckingawful. I don’t have it in me to say- in a public forum- sorry, I know everyone loves brewery X but that latest release? It’s crap, boring, and flavorless and they can do better. Then again, it goes back to personal taste. Someone else might love it.

Maybe I’m just a wuss; a copout. I’ll still privately bitch about beers I hate, why I love others and I guess I’ll keep it to myself…for now.

One idea I’ve been floating around is writing about the buildings that house some our local breweries. I bet there’s some fantastic stories that came with building. Of course, beer will be consumed as posts are being written.

Anyhow, now that you’ve suffered through that self-indulgent claptrap, how about some scans from the guide?

The booklet, by the way, is lovingly crafted, sprinkled with cool, old pub clip art and some spot color. It has a nice heavy-stock 4-color cover and I can imagine it sold pretty well in 1983.

Here we go! Click on the imagery for the big version and details. You’ll also notice a couple of familiar names.


This post written under the influence of a Eugene-based Oakshire Watershed IPA. Fresh, not too hoppy with a nice, clean aftertaste. In fact, Eugene has kind of been kicking Portland’s ass in the beer scene.  Ninkasi’s Spring Reign and its Total Domination IPA rule.

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6 thoughts on “Portland beer scene, 1983

    1. I did a double-check on Hillsboro vs. Hillsdale. The ad actually says 2020 NE Cornell Road, Hillsboro, “located in the commercial airport center.”

  1. Yeah I remember those days well. Back when the idea of a good beer was grabbing a Heineken or a St. Pauly’s Girl from the fridge at Plaid Pantry. That was really living large back then. Anyone remember “Bohemian” beer? I think it was like $2.00 for a 12-pack. “When you are low on the dough, go for the Bo”!

  2. was this the start of the micro beer revolution ?

    Indeed. Oregon’s first breweries were BridgePort and Widmer. BridgePort managed to start selling beer by the end of 1984, but Widmer not until ’85 (though the company was incorporated in ’84). Portland Brewing and McMenamin’s started in ’85. The first two breweries in the region were Grant’s and Redhook. Grant’s beat Redhook by a nose and was the first to sell microbrewed beer in the Northwest (in ’82). Redhook followed the same year, and Hale’s kicked in in ’83.

    Oregon can claim the first micro, though–Cartwright in 1980. The beer was not good, though, and it didn’t last long.

    Cool post–thanks for the blast from the past!

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