Oct 29 2013

The very first McMenamins batch o’ beer ever brewed, ever, was just over 28 years ago.

Here it is.

First Beer Recipe at Hillsdale Brewery & PubThe original brewsheet, dated October 25, 1985, twenty-eight years ago last week. If it is true that our company is built on beer, then this document is our version of the Magna Carta. The U.S. Constitution. The [insert some other historical document of your choice here]. You get the idea.

By now, you have probably heard the story of how Oregon brewpubs came to be: Until 1985, it was illegal to sell and brew beer on the same premise. To that point, McMenamins, with its handful of young pubs, was serving lots of British and European imports, mostly on draft: good beer, but not our own creations.

So, Mike and Brian McMenamin joined Portland’s other pioneering craft brewers – Dick and Nancy Ponzi of Columbia River Brewing (now BridgePort Brewing); Art Larrance and Fred Bowman of Portland Brewing; and Kurt and Rob Widmer of Widmer Brothers Brewing – in an unscripted effort to persuade Oregon legislators to pass a new law allowing the combination of brewing and retail sales, a critical piece of legislation that revolutionized the industry. Their bill was not surprisingly shot down several times. But finally the so-called brewpub bill passed into law in July 1985, though not without a hefty dose of irony: it was to another bill permitting western brewing giant Coors to enter the Oregon market and begin selling its beer here.

Within weeks, our first brewer (Ron Wolf, with help from Mike and Brian) at the Hillsdale Public House & Brewery was jotting down the steps and ingredients for their first brew, unaware that the scribbled, stained, accordion-folded scrap would be saved and displayed on the wall of the Hillsdale three decades later as a historic testament to the company’s beginnings.

Thirsty yet? Good.

This coming Saturday, November 2, is the first-ever Boone’s Ferry Autumn Ale Brewfest at McMenamins Old Church & Pub (Wilsonville, Ore.). Head thataway to try such brews as Lord of the Wood Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Crystal Brewery), Vicar’s Knickers ESB (CPR Brewery), Barrel-Aged Chocolate Covered Cherry Brown (Fulton Brewery) and many others. The winning brewer will be awarded the Boone’s Ferryman Oar as a trophy to display in his or her brewery for the year.

And maybe thirty years from now, that oar will be displayed on a wall somewhere as “the first-ever Autumn Ale Brewfest trophy, ever.”


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