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I love drinkin’ in the city: Portland’s best places to imbibe — that aren’t bars

I love drinkin’ in the city: Portland’s best places to imbibe — that aren’t bars (photo)

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(Photo courtesy of Pouregon)

One of Portland’s 800 nicknames is Beervana, and it’s not just because there are more breweries in this city than churches. Boozing is as much a part of the culture here as bicycling, urban chickens and hating Californians. And we don’t just drink at bars, either. In Portland, just about every activity young folks enjoy is infused with alcohol; seriously, at Bishops Barbershops, you can sip a Miller High Life while getting your haircut. It’s really only a matter of time before the reservoirs get replaced with Pabst Blue Ribbon. Until that happens, here are a few ways in which the city has already made it possible to not walk two feet without having a microbrew shoved into your hand.

Theater Pubs

Second-run movie houses that also serve alcohol is such an ideal concept it’s strange that, to my knowledge, it isn’t a widespread phenomenon in all major cities. An oft-heard refrain among my friends and I, usually when scanning through upcoming movie trailers on OnDemand, is, “Oh, man, that’ll be awesome to see at the beer theaters!” If there were a separate box office chart measuring only the grosses from Portland’s multiple theater pubs, certain flicks–mostly of the broadly humorous, stupidly violent or, strangely enough, sweetly innocent variety–would find a whole other life. Granted, “Tree of Life” doesn’t really lend itself to pitchers of IPA, but “Horrible Bosses”? “The Expendables”? Shoot, even “The Muppets”? Basically, any movie that causes involuntarily high-fiving and/or silent, joyful weeping is perfect for a theater pub viewing. Even classics you’ve seen a million times–“Robocop,” “Back to the Future,” “Jurassic Park,” etc.–are enhanced by the surroundings. (Be forewarned: Mixing beer with nostalgia leads to audience members yelling lines of dialogue at the screen. It’s just the nature of the beast.) And if you’re worried that, say, “Follow That Bird” won’t hold up to your childhood memories at age 21-plus, trust me: Everything from your childhood holds up after a few pints of Ninkasi Total Domination.

There are almost too many theater pubs in Portland to list, but among the most notable: the Bagdad and Kennedy School, both repurposed McMenamins properties, the former a gorgeous, well-preserved , 1920s cinema with a towering screen, the latter part of an old elementary school-turned-hotel whose theater is outfitted with couch seating; the Academy, which has the distinction of serving up the best pub pizza, courtesy of Flying Pie Pizzeria; and the Hollywood Theatre, which only recently started selling beer, a startling fact considering its programming–obscure martial arts flicks, schlocky B-movies and grindhouse trailer reels, along with current art-house fare–is the most booze-friendly of all.

Record Bars

Admittedly, combining a bar with a record store doesn’t seem like a great idea on paper. Think downing a few glasses of wine then cruising eBay is dangerous? Imagine tossing back a couple porters as you flip through racks of vinyl. All of a sudden, those Kajagoogoo and New Radicals records might start looking and sounding worth a space in your collection. Beer goggles (or should that be beer-phones? Beer-buds?) aside, it’s surprising the record bar trend–which in the last year has spawned two such establishments on opposite ends of town–took so long to hit Portland. This is one of the last great record-shopping cities left in the country (just ask ?uestlove) and maybe the reigning drinking capital of the United States. Why didn’t someone think to put the two together sooner? Probably because that someone was too busy homebrewing their own Imperial stout while scouring the Internet for Merzbow bootlegs.

Although it would seem like overkill to have a pair of record bars open so close in relative succession, the two existing boutiques serve distinct clienteles: Southeast Portland’s Hall of Records focuses on soul, funk and jazz records, and as such is geared toward the cocktail crowd, with such offerings as the Motown Mojito and the Soul Sister Peach Tea; the Record Room in North Portland is more rock’n’roll, with a layout more akin to a coffee shop than a bar and a streamlined selection of quality microbrews, wine and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Ground Kontrol

Even if you’ve never been to Portland, chances are you’ve heard of Ground Kontrol. Along with Powell’s Books, Kennedy School and the shrine to Colin Meloy’s glasses (one of these things is made up), it’s a standard tourist destination. And with good reason: Nothing exemplifies Portland’s celebration of suspended adolescence better than an arcade that starts carding at 5 p.m. It’s sort of a cruel joke on actual adolescents, who get ejected from the building as soon as the booze begins to flow. Y’know what, though? It ain’t about them. Stocked with 60-plus classic games from the ’80s and ’90s, with an entire floor dedicated to pinball, Ground Kontrol is for the 30-year-old investment banker who just can’t move on with his life until he finally beats “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Back when that guy was dropping every quarter he could scrape up into the machine at the back of his local pizza parlor, a combination of Mr. Pibb and Now & Laters kept him going. Today, it’s cans of Rainier. That’s the only difference, though. In addition to last year’s snazzy remodel, the bar just recently began serving mixed drinks. Few things say “I live in Portland” more than holding a rum-and-Coke in one hand while playing “Centipede” with the other.

OMSI After Dark

“Who wants to get ripped and learn stuff?!” Not sure if that phrase has ever actually been shouted by anyone before, but that hasn’t stopped the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s monthly late-night soiree (well, it ends at 10 p.m., but that’s pretty late for science geeks) from being a consistently well-attended affair. Each month offers a new theme that typically revolves around the science of getting hammered–i.e., how beers are made, why cheese and wine go together so well–with samples (free with admission) from local breweries and wineries. All of OMSI’s usual hands-on exhibits are open as well. I don’t know if it’s scientifically accurate to say that messing around with a Van der Graaf Generator enhances your buzz, but it sure seems like it. Pro-tip: Go upstairs and watch a bunch of tipsy people struggle with the logic games. And you thought drunk Jenga was fun.

Zoo Brew

Again, file this under ideas with potential for disaster. An ale festival at a zoo just seems like a setup for a tiger mauling, but in the five years the Oregon Zoo has hosted Zoo Brew nobody has yet to pick an inebriated fight with any of the animals. As you might expect, Portland has a ton of beer festivals throughout the year. Needless to say, few of them offer the opportunity to chug a microbrew in the presence of a ring-tailed lemur. Just remember to behave yourself as you would in any bar: Don’t poke the bears, don’t insult the elephants, and if you think that hippo is trying to step to you, bro, believe me, it will destroy you.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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