1624 N.W. Glisan
Mike and Brian McMenamin have traveled quite a distance since their formative years tending bar at Produce Row in the 1970s. Part of the contingent that pitched the state Legislature on the idea of brewers selling their beers to the public, the brothers McMenamin have sired pubs, hotels, movie theaters and restaurants, and their appetite for expansion shows no signs of waning.
Currently on tap are plans to move the company offices into the Little Chapel of the Chimes on N Killingsworth St (see p. 30) and to put in a bar behind bars at a former jail site adjacent to the McMenamins Edgefield spread in Troutdale.
With all the fuss over the company’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm (53 locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington), the beer that put it on the map tends to get overlooked. And while McMenamins’ signature brews bear intimidating handles like Terminator and Hammerhead, it’s the more demurely designated Ruby that’s become a regional summer-beer staple.
“It started with a patch of blackberries in the parking lot,” Mike McMenamin recalls, referring to the Hillsdale Pub, the first of the company’s locations with a brewery on the premises. “We did a test brew to see what would happen–and we found there were some possibilities. Blackberries were first, and when we eventually tried raspberries it became immediately apparent that they were a key component. It was a great berry to work with.”
“And we tried ’em all,” adds head brewer Kevin Tillotson. “But there was something special about raspberries. It’s got a nice tartness to balance the sweetness from the malt. It’s a nicely balanced beer.”
McMenamin notes that Ruby was among the first 50 batches of beer produced by his fledgling operation–and one that flew in the face of conventional wisdom. There were no other fruit ales on the local front. “A lot of it was a reaction to what you should do, and how you should make beer,” he says, “and just throwing it out the window and saying, ’Let’s just go nuts here.’”
This coming from a brew gang that once threw candy bars into the kettle, and once cooked up a beer called Afterburner–which had garlic in the mix.
“Ruby was a reaction against classic stuff,” McMenamin says. “But it definitely became kind of a classic.”