(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.