Welcome to another installment of the Oregon Brewery Running Series Podcast; Inspiring Oregonians to Get Active, Have Fun, and Give Back. We host family-friendly, 5K fun runs that start and end at some of Oregon’s best breweries.
Today on the podcast, we’re learning a little bit about one of the most iconic craft beverage, hotel and music venue institutions in Oregon, McMenamins. We’re running at the historic Kennedy School on October 27, and rather than just tell you about that location and brewery, today’s episode is going to be a sort of brief overview of the company, from the perspective of Conners McMenamin, son of Brian McMenamin, one of the two McMenamin brothers who founded the company back in the early 80’s.
Conners and I will talk a bit about his memories of growing up while this great company was being built, as well as the role McMenamins has played in shaping the craft beer world. We’ll also give you a very brief history of the company and talk about just a few McMenamins properties, and some fun tidbits about the company, so keep listening.
We’re running at the McMenamins Kennedy School on October 27. It’s our Halloween run, so we’re encouraging everyone to dress up! It’s very family friendly with some games, lots of candy, and a costume contest for kids and adults. Register and join us for this incredible opportunity to get active, have fun, and give back!
A Very Brief History of McMenamins
1974, Mike McMenamin, Conners uncle and the elder of the two McMenamin brothers, opened Produce Row Cafe, one of the original craft beer bars in Portland. In the end, that didn’t work out, but Mike and brother Brian, Conners dad, who at this point, still wasn’t 21, kept trying different things, some more successful than others.
In 1985, the McMenamins, along with other craft beverage pioneers such as Dick and Nancy Ponzi, The Widmer Brothers, and the founders of Portland Brewing and BridgePort Brewing, changed the state law so you could make and sell alcoholic beverages in the same place. Heavily inspired by the Europea pub culture, the McMenamins wanted local gathering places where the whole family could go.
In 1985: The McMenamin brothers open their first microbrewery, the Hillsdale Brewery, and Public House. This was the first brewpub in Oregon since Prohibition. In 1986, The Cornelius Pass Roadhouse opened in Hillsboro.
In 1987, one of those bigger things was the opening of The Mission Theater and Pub, and in 1991, The Baghdad Theatre also opened in Portland. These were significant as it ushered in a new way to watch movies with beer and food in hand. Also in 1991, came perhaps one of the most significant properties for McMenamins; Edgefield. A sprawling 74-acre site of an abandoned poor farm 25 minutes east of Portland in Troutdale.
In 1997, the year I graduated from high school, McMenamins purchased and rehabbed the Crystal Ballroom, a fantastic music and dance venue in Portland. Also in 1997, Kennedy School opened, where our 5k fun runs start and ends on October 27, 2018. Closed in the 70’s,
Skipping around a bit… in 1999, Hotel Oregon in McMinnville opened, and in 2000 the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. In 2001, the Olympic Club Hotel opened in Centralia Oregon and in 2003, The Rock Creek Tavern in Hillsboro opened. This is one of Conners favorite places. In 2006, the Backstage Bar opened, which is an amazing location right behind the Bagdad Theater. This is where Conners and I met for the interview.
In 2016, the Anderson School in Bothell, Washington opened. McMenamins saved this former school from demolition. Conners was part of the opening of this property, and so naturally it has a special place in his heart.
In April of 2018, McMenamins opened their latest project, the Kalama Harbor Lodge in Kalama Washington. This is a new construction project that still took into account the history of the area. As of this writing, McMenamins has 55 properties spread out all over Oregon and Washington. We couldn’t possibly do justice to all of them, but here are a few of the big ones, what they represented at the time, and a few memories Conners has of those places.
About McMenamins Beer
McMenamins has anywhere from two to four hundred beers on tap at any given moment across all 55 of their properties. Conners and I didn’t spend a ton of time talking about specific beer, but he did reflect on how, like other things in the company, they sort of just stumbled their way into brewing their own beer.
McMenamins has three core beers: The Terminator Stout, Ruby which is a Raspberry Ale, and HammerHead which is a classic Northwest Pale Ale. These three beers, with only a few exceptions, are made by all 26 of the various McMenamins breweries. But after that, it’s pretty much the wild west when it comes to what kind of beer they each make.
The Oregon Brewery Running Series is about inspiring Oregonians to Get Active, Have Fun, and Give Back. We host family-friendly, 5K fun runs that start and end at some of Oregon’s best breweries. Register for our next run here! If you’d like to join us at one of our next runs, register with promo code KennedySchool5, all one word, and you’ll get $5 off your entry. Our theme music, the Oregon Song, is written and performed by James Hoffman.