Oh, if only the walls could speak!
Hello from the History Department. And have you liked McMenamins History on Facebook yet? You never know, we may give away free pizza or cars or money someday. Don't miss out.
A show of hands – who's been to a county fair this summer? Who's ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl, gotten sick from cotton candy or won a prize at the bottle ring game?
America's first and oldest fair was held in 1765, in York, PA. Oregon's Washington County Fair (home to our Grand Lodge) has only been running for 158 years, since 1855. However, some of the fair's longstanding traditions include pie bake-offs, sewing contests and... livestock competitions.
McMenamins First Batch o’ Beer
The very first McMenamins batch o’ beer ever brewed, ever, was just over 28 years ago.
Here it is.
The original brewsheet, dated October 25, 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 The [insert some other historical document of your choice here].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.”
For lists of upcoming history events see:
History Pub Mondays at Kennedy School
Race Talks at Kennedy School
Oregon Encyclopedia History Night at Edgefield
Oregon Encyclopedia Night at Old St. Francis
Oregon Encyclopedia Night at the Mission Theater
Wilsonville History Night
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Watch recorded History Pub and Race Talks presentations in full