In 1983, Mike and Brian McMenamin opened their first pub in Portland, Oregon, followed by their first brewery and first hotel in 1985 and 1990, respectively. Today, they own and operate more than fifty properties throughout Oregon and Washington and are one of the largest producers of micro brewed beer in a region that has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere in the world.
McMenamins have carefully built their brand and their customers’ loyalty around a fairly straightforward business plan. They offer casual, unpretentious settings that serve quality food and beverages at very fair prices. Their plan has been executed consistently and brilliantly for over thirty years with the addition of a pioneering spirit and some very unique features that truly set them apart.
For example, in 1985, McMenamins opened the Hillsdale Brew pub, Oregon’s first post-Prohibition brew pub where beer that was brewed on the premises could also be served to the public. During that same year, they became the first brewery in the country to legally use fruit in the brewing of ales which led to the creation of one of their most popular standards, Ruby Ale. They’ve also created a serious demand for Ruby and their other ales. Despite only being able to purchase McMenamins ales, wine and hard ciders exclusively at their 53 properties, they still rank amongst the top producers of craft beer in the state.
However, the most notable signature of McMenamins is that the majority of their establishments are housed in renovated historic buildings. The moment you enter one of these pubs or hotels, you are immediately drawn to the structure itself and the artwork that adorns not only the walls, but also the pipes, windows, and anything else that can possibly act as a canvas. The McMenamins signature is very distinct: old institutional buildings that have been renovated into hotels, restaurants and pubs, simply but comfortably decorated, and adorned with paintings and decorations that evoke an eerie but still friendly nether-world feel. There is something mystical-looking about the two-dimensional characters painted onto walls, ceilings, pipes and what-have-you. They are weird, but not creepy; they take you back to the turn of the century, a time when most of these structures were built. Ultimately they just add a lot of whimsy and a lot of charm, and make each converted schoolhouse, former Masonic Hall or Poor Farm a uniquely McMenamins experience.
Just a twenty minute drive from downtown Portland in Troutdale you’ll find Edgefield, the very first McMenamin hotel and their flagship property. Originally built in 1911, the former Multnomah Poor Farm sits on more than 70 acres of land housing just over one hundred guest rooms which are marketed as ‘European-style’ and ‘hostel accommodations’. In other words, they are simply furnished rooms and in some cases no bathroom in suite (there are common bathrooms on each floor which are still relatively private with four small bathrooms in each that are separated within the lounge). The pricing reflects the simplicity with the most expensive rooms being offered in the range of USD$130 for a room with a King bed and a bathroom.
In true McMenamin’s fashion, every free-standing building at Edgefield that’s not accommodation or a restaurant is…a pub. This includes the Little Red Shed that seats up to 8 people and the Black Rabbit House which seats all of 3. You won’t find televisions or telephones in your guest room but again with all the options available on site, we can’t imagine anyone foregoing a walk through the grounds with a pint or glass of wine in hand to stay in their room and watch TV.
The only TV on the property resides in … that’s right, a pub. The former ice storage room has been converted into Jerry’s Ice House. The name is an homage to former Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. The TV in Jerry’s Ice House plays non-stop Grateful Dead videos. Inside it is small and very cozy with a pot-belly wood burning stove to keep you warm. It is decorated with framed original posters advertising Grateful Dead concerts of the ’60s and ’70s. The posters were donated to the pub by one of the bartenders. Very, very McMenamins. That is another signature of McMenamins: young, friendly, well-trained staff. Being old, historic buildings, you will hear the creaks and groans of the floorboards as people walk by. But it’s not overly noisy and the live music and events are stopped at a reasonable hour so as not to disturb guests staying overnight. With 10 pubs in total, an excellent restaurant, a winery, a first-run movie theatre, a par 3 golf course and live music every night, you could easily enjoy an entire weekend there without ever leaving the property.
Edgefield also has a summer concert series that takes place on their front lawn. It is a great venue to relax with a McMenamins ale, some of their delicious casual food and enjoy some top flight musicians. This summer, names like Cheryl Crow, Steve Miller, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson and the Doobie Brothers will grace the McMenamins stage. When the big names are not on the lawn, you can always catch a folk or blues singer in the Winery Bar or out on the patio next to the Theatre. Or, if relaxation is more of your thing, there is a beautiful hot pool in a garden setting or else you can take advantage of a number of treatments in the adjoining Black Rabbit Spa. Music, movies, relaxation, good food and hand-crafted ales and wines are what you will find at McMenamins Edgefield, all delivered in a totally unique style and at very fair prices.