You know what's great? Our Music Residency Series at Al's Den. I'm not just saying this because it's my job to photograph them -- I have seen some of my favorite acoustic, live music in Portland there (and it's only been open since May ‘11). I knew this tiny room had a hold on me during the Crystal Hotel's opening when Lewi Longmire, Evan Way, and Mike Midlow started singing Neil Young covers -- swoon.
Our 20-page seasonal newsletter was discontinued a couple years back - so we'll be periodically pulling old stories from this, as well as from the way-way back newsletter called Resonance of the Festival. First up, here's a story published in our Winter 2006 newsletter about our staff's favorite McMenamins artwork...
These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things...
We asked McMenamins staff and employees to name their favorite pieces of artwork within the Kingdom. Suggestions came pouring in from our pubs, breweries and hotels, so we could only include a very few of those picks here. Keep an eye out for these masterpieces and others the next time you visit your local McMenamins. Let us know what your favorite artwork is!Read More
Introducing the latest in the Concordia Barrel Series – Whiskey Widow began as our special Halloween ale Black Widow, a porter made for the first time 20 years ago at the Thompson Brewery in Salem, Ore., and made annually in house ever since. Black Widow is a strong, black, roast-flavored porter with subliminal notes of anise and chocolate in the finish, mostly due the licorice root added at the end of the kettle boil.Read More
On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, as the mist rose from the fields and the sun broke through the clouds over Mount Hood, a group of early-rising brewfolk gathered at a farm in Silverton, Ore., in pursuit of one goal:
To complete "The Running of the Brewers" in record time...
At the end of last summer, we represented McMenamins coffee roasters at the Hawthorne Street Fair in SE Portland by providing samples of our iced coffee at the Bagdad Pub. Although everybody we met that day was very pleased with the smooth, strong taste and the refreshing qualities of the product, they were often unfamiliar with it. So here's the story...
Three factors lead to success in making an extraordinary iced coffee: 1) bean quality, 2) coarseness of the grind, and 3) extraction method.
With all coffee products, the first step is to select and roast the beans. For our iced coffee we use McMenamins house blend, a mix of Sumatran Mandehling and El Salvadoran Santa Rita beans that are brought to a medium roast in small batches using our L25 Probat roaster. The result is a blend that possesses a smooth taste with hints of chocolate and hazelnut. Once our beans are roasted and blended, we have the base needed to achieve the desired result. The next thing to do is grind the beans coarsely. Since coffee begins to oxidize and lose flavor immediately after grinding, this is done directly prior to brewing.Read More
One hundred years ago, a special train traveled east from Portland, filled with passengers of remarkably diverse backgrounds, all bound for the same destination: the poor farm. They had been "rescued" from conditions deemed deplorable at Multnomah County's original poor farm, located where the Oregon Zoo is today. Now they were being placed in the just-completed, comparably plush accommodations of the county's new facility in Troutdale, accommodations that were in fact a far cry better than what could be found in most homes elsewhere in Troutdale at that time.
That's how the first residents of McMenamins Edgefield arrived in 1911. As mothers have warned us over the years, though, there were many ways one could end up at the poor farm.
Our beloved red table wine is celebrating its 16th birthday this Wednesday, May 18 – and we're throwing a company-wide party, to which you're cordially invited!
But first, a little background.Read More
It's finally happening! We're open - our first historic hotel in downtown Portland. The true gem in this crown is the Zeus Café, open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a late-night menu.
So what's it look like? Like the pub down the street? Well... yes and no.
The first thing you might notice about the look of the place is the light flooding in through the windows. Bordered on one side by bustling Burnside St. and Stark on the other, the huge windows lend an open airiness to the place, perhaps a little different than your favorite dark-and-cozy neighborhood joint.
Less than 24 hours to go 'til the Crystal Hotel and its first-floor Zeus Café opens its doors! Whoooo-hoooooo!
True to McMenamins' form, we'll be serving drinks, and lots of 'em - McMenamins handcrafted ales, wines and spirits, of course... but what about the cocktails? We're glad you asked.Read More
This is pretty magical.
Back in the day (as in, 50 years ago), three talented men anchored the hoppin' downtown jazz scene, whose epicenter happened to be clubs that stood where the Crystal Hotel is today: Charlie Gabriel, Mel Brown and Carl Smith.
Each man eventually left Portland to make his way in the music world. All three went on to great success in the New Orleans and Motown scenes; all three left an enduring mark on Stumptown's musical history.
And now, each man is returning to their old stomping grounds -what is now the Crystal Hotel & Ballroom.Read More
This is the second installment in a series of blogs about our new Zeus Café at the Crystal Hotel, opening on May 3 in downtown Portland. Here, we take a look at what's on the menus.
Just four more days ‘til Zeus Café is officially open to the public. As of this coming Tuesday, May 3, you can stroll in any time after 7 a.m. for a quick bite to eat or a leisurely multi-course meal. You can choose a booth by the window or sit at our open showcase kitchen to watch our kitchen staff at work. No need for reservations - just roll on by whenever you're hungry or thirsty.
So, what will we be serving, you ask? Executive Chef Barry Rumsay and Chef de Cuisine Paul Arnold have put together a set of menus slightly different than what you expect from our pubs. For example, there's nary a tater tot on the menu. Nor will you find a Captain Neon burger. But not to worry - we've got you covered.Read More
We're just days away from flinging open the Crystal Hotel doors and letting the party out into the streets of Portland! Because a party it is, as evidenced by the sneak-peek preview bashes happening this week. Zeus Café has been bubbling over with happy guests sampling food, wine, cocktails and ales while a team of efficient servers tend to their every need.Read More
Okkervil River's hotly anticipated new album I Am Very Far isn't due out 'til May 10, but tonight the band will be streaming a live performance of the album in its entirety! Wish we could take credit for this one, but the Pitchfork website has the scoop on where you can catch the live webcast tonight at 4 p.m. PST.Read More
As Deftones fans most likely -and sadly-already know, the band's longtime bassist Chi Cheng suffered serious brain damage as the result of a 2008 car accident.
Cheng has never recovered; he remains in a semi-conscious state.
As of May, 2010, Cheng began to show signs of significant improvement. He can track people with his eyes and slightly move his hands. But, obviously, he has a long way to go.
This is where the Deftone's second show at the Crystal Ballroom, slated for Saturday, April 16, comes in...Read More
Anti-folk, neo-folk modern folk...whatever you call it, Paleface's upbeat, addictive songs sure ain't your grandpappy's music (although, it certainly owes plenty to Grampa Guthrie). Let's face it, any group that garners the praise of the Avett Brothers and Beck - who cites Paleface as an early influence - has more going for him than just a ratty old acoustic guitar and a harmonica. What sets Paleface apart is his ability to stretch folk to its ultimate boundaries, with a beautiful voice that suddenly dips into a punkish snarl and a drummer who doesn't seem to know that this band is supposed to be folk, dang it (in a good way)!Read More
During the 1960s, Charlie Gabriel made a name for himself at the helm of the house band at the Desert Room, a nightclub on the very site of what is now the Crystal Hotel.
Now, forty years later, Gabriel is returning to his old stomping grounds, as a member of New Orleans' famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who take the stage at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, April 7.
Gabriel will return again for the grand three-day celebration of the opening of the Crystal Hotel. The jazzman will join the Mel Brown Band on May 3-5 in Al's Den, another historic venue located in the Hotel.
Gabriel's return isn't just a reunion; it's the bookend of a long and fascinating tale, a snapshot of history. Here's the story, courtesy of McMenamins historian Tim Hills:Read More
The stars of our current McMenamins Small Batch Tour, Christabel & the Jons may play an old-timey style, but the group is not anachronism. Rather, the quartet manages to coax jazzy genres from the past out of the mothballs and into the future. The result is simply gorgeous: A mélange of countrified folky jazz swing and, lately, a sultry bossa nova groove, above which floats the voice of Christa DeCicco. DeCicco's voice is tailor-made for jazz; her lyrics -sharp and clever-and melodies are more catchy than any pop song. Despite the bands penchant for thrift-store finds and acoustic instruments, it all feels very much grounded in the now, thanks to smart musical twists and turns, seemingly effortless blending of genres, and a sparkling energy.
One of the great things about our new Crystal Hotel is how the entire space blurs the lines between art and music. As you probably know, all of our properties feature intriguing, mind-bending art; in the hands of our artists, wall panels, doors, even pipes transform from the mundane to the visually fascinating. Throw rock 'n' roll in the mix, and you've got an opportunity to do something really special. For instance, every room (all 51 of 'em) here is named after a song that actually has been played on the Crystal Ballroom stage.Read More
To celebrate '80s Video Dance Attack's sixth anniversary party, I had planned on writing several glowing paragraphs about how much un this weekly event is. After all, every single Friday, hundreds and hundreds of people -many clad in glowing plastic bangles, pegged jeans and Pretty In Pink-esque prom dresses-crowd the Crystal's dance floor and straight up get into the groove. This isn't one of those parties where patrons stand around watching a couple people dance; this is a fun, sweaty, fully interactive blowout that pulls in an age range between those just old enough to drink legally and those who purchased Madonna's first album...on vinyl. The day it came out.
Should a band that's been playing since 1958 have a MySpace page? In a musical world full of pop stars whose blip of fame barely registers long enough to produce a ring tone, The Ventures may be the only 53-year-old band to be able to pull it off.Read More
Put your birthday party hats on, because it's time to paint the town red -Ruby red, in honor of Ruby Ale's 25th Birthday.
That's right, the popular ol' gal was first brewed on March 21, 1986, at the Hillsdale Brewery, and with its light taste buoyed by, of all things, raspberry puree. The original recipe (seen below) was more bitter than today's incarnation of the beer. McMenamins brewer John Richen explains, "This version was very heavily hopped among other things: six pounds of hops for a 110-gallon batch versus [today's] half-pound of hops for a 210 gallon batch."
Of course, Ruby's signature is the light streak of raspberry flavor that infuses the beer with a beautiful red glow. Ruby gets her fruity zing from 42 pounds of raspberry puree added to every 210-gallon batch. No wonder she blushes so much!
Bearded and bespectacled, David Mayfield doesn't initially look like the type of performer who could whip a crowd into a frenzy. But with his swiveling hips, sexy moves (ironic, or not?) and loopy charm, Mayfield exudes an awkward charisma that elicits hoots 'n' hollers.Read More
Once a year, in honor of ye auld St. Pat, our distillers handcraft a special whiskey, available exclusively at Edgefield and Old St. Francis School and on just one day a year - that's right, on St. Patrick's Day.
A Little History...
So why "the Devils Bit"? It was named after a mountain in North Tipperary, Ireland. Legend has it that a small gap in the mountain is where the devil took a bite and spit out the rock. That spit-out piece became the Rock of Cashel, which was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster in Ireland for several hundred years; most of the buildings that remain on the site date from the 1100s and 1200s. According to legend, Cashel is also the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.
You don't have to be a jazz fan to dig the coolest cat around, King Perkoff. The dude is to saxophones what LeBron James is to basketball – a master of his art, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.Read More
The Spar Café: It's been a saloon, a rooming house for rowdy sailors, a billiard hall, a bowling alley and even a haven for gambling. It's been a meeting place for longshoremen and politicians, students and native Olympians. And now, while maybe less raucous than it used to be, the Spar is re-instating a staple of its past: Live music.Read More
In a town like Portland, blessedly overflowing with indie rock bands, sometimes jazz gets overlooked. Portland actually has quite a strong jazz scene, and, as befitting our unconventional little burg, that scene is home to a creative substratum that likes to push the boundaries of the genre.Read More
We told you that all our McMenamins Music Tours were about to kick it into high gear, and we weren't kidding. Tonight, the Wiyos kick off their Small Batch Tour (which will hit three properties in two days!) at the Kennedy School.
There's old-school, and there's way old-school, and the Wiyos definitely fit the latter. This crew of modern Tin Pan Alley crooners seems to hail from an era when newsboys crowed from street corners and a fedora topped every head. These anachronists somehow manage to infuse their songbook -clearly taken from the popular music of the 1920s and '30s, with an almost imperceptible modern-ness. The result is both a nostalgic look at the past and an eye on the future.
I challenge anyone to really describe Y La Bamba (currently on the Great Northwest Music Tour) accurately. This band is so original, so genre-bending, so strange (in a good way), they defy the usual modus operandi of lazy music writers everywhere: comparison. Comparing this Portland group to any other band is simply impossible.
So we'll have to do the best we can, with snippets of aural imagery and forays into the band's personality. So let's try: Moody, melodic, multi-cultural post-folk (that is, folk with a bit of a backbeat -which in this case feels like a melancholy heartbeat) centered on singer Luzelena Mendoza's swirl of a voice. No, "swirl" is too weak of a word. It's strong and feminine, like a Frida Kahlo painting, this voice. No, not like a painting -- like Frida herself.Read More
Spring is, if not exactly around the corner, at least within a few flips of the calendar page. What does that mean for us? Well now's the time of year we really ratchet up our McMenamins Music Tours. But you may be wondering: WHAT ARE THESE MCMENAMINS TOURS, ANYWAY?
Well, we'll tell ya:
We here at McMenamins music have a special affection for the Avett Brothers. After all, we have quite a history with these fellas: They've traveled our properties as a Great Northwest Music Tour headliner, played four Crystal Ballroom shows, and absolutely tore it UP at last summer's Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn (side note: Avett fans are very good tippers. Thanks, y'all!).
So we couldn't be more pleased to spread the word that our favorite heartfelt stomp-rock-country-roots band will be playing at the Grammys this year! The Avetts will be sharing the stage with Bob Dylan, no less (another Edgefield Concert star from last summer, by the way) and Mumford and Sons, who of course took over the airwaves this past year.
Click through and see some awesome exclusive pics!Read More
Our McMenamins artists having been painting new historically based panels for the Crystal Hotel (opening in May 2011) for months now. Below, artist Lyle Hehn gives a slightly mysterious explanation of one of his latest pieces...Read More
The word "opera" doesn't usually conjure up the words "light-hearted comedy," "kids fare" or even "fun." The art form, succumbing to the slow change in taste over the centuries, is nowadays often seen as a stodgy old art form, reserved for stodgy old people, to be performed in ornate (but still stodgy!) old opera houses.Read More
When my esteemed music marketing overlords asked me to write a blog entry giving you the lowdown on the Crystal Ballroom's 97th Birthday Free-for-All, my first thought was, "Uh, sure guys, that's all fine and dandy in theory, but how could I possibly describe the ultimate awesomeness that this party entails? It will take 25 pages, and our readers have lives, ya know!"
So I figured I'd narrow it down. Give you a real feel for what this affair is, not just some fluffy words. To wit:
Tucked away in a corner of SW Portland, the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House is the birthplace of a VIP - er, make that a VIB. A Very Important Beer that goes by the name... HAMMERHEAD. Join us on Tuesday, January 25, at the Hillsdale and McMenamins' pubs across the land to celebrate this stalwart ale and the folks who love it. We'll have birthday pricing, food specials, Facebook giveaways and more.Read More
Sometimes, you just get on a roll. And, not to toot our own vuvuzelas, but, brutha, the Mission is on a roll. Or, perhaps it's better to say the Mission is, uh, on a mission to drop some serious live entertainment on PDX.
What, you thought the Mission was only for movies? OK, we'll grant you that it's called the Mission Theater, but if you know McMenamins you know we love to think outside the box. We've been lining up a seriously cool, wondrously varied lineup for the upcoming weeks, and, while there's plenty of screen-oriented goodness to check out, we'd like to point out some of the other goodies on their way to the Mission's live stage:
For years, James Mercer has been known as many things.
He is, for one, a Shin. In fact, he founded the Shins, one of the most lauded bands of the decade.Read More
OK...as a professional, I know am supposed to maintain a cool, detached demeanor. I mean, yeah we have fun here at McMenamins Music and all, but still, there's a certain comportment one is supposed to bear while at work. You know, no tank tops at your desk. No throwing flip-flops at the brewers as they pass by. No excited "Woo hoo"'s should be emanating from behind my cubicle wall.Read More