Last year, the number of breweries that opened and closed was about the same. Jeff Alworth has written about this several times demonstrating how this is actually a good thing, sort of. Of course it’s sad for the places that closed, but it shows the beer market in Portland is beginning to mature. Instead of a new place opening every 6 months (which still happens) and some places closing after a year or less (which still happens) you have places that have been around for a while and have stabilized and usually the places closing have been around for a long while as well and for whatever reason are throwing in the towel.
The last few weeks have seen an onslaught of bad news for the Portland area, this week in particular, within a 24 hour time span.
A few weeks ago Lompoc announced they were closing their location on NW 23rd Avenue, a new up and coming part of town. This was the original Lompoc location, opened in 1993 and renovated in 2013. Lompoc will still operate their North Portland location and brewery as well as the Oaks Bottom Public House in Sellwood (SE). This comes on the heels of another satellite location of theirs, the Hedge House, closing last year and becoming the pub location for Little Beast Brewing. Lompoc is still alive, but they seem to be struggling. What’s interesting is I found out the same day that the Abbey Bar’s second location, right next door to Lompoc, was also closing. That leads me to speculate that they are getting priced out of that building. An article from Eater website (READ HERE) mentions the Lompoc location will be replaced by another taproom.
This week, places started dropping like flies. On Tuesday, it was announced that NE Portland stalwart Alameda was closing it’s doors and putting it’s production brewery up for sale. A 22 year vet of the Portland beer scene this was an established player, not a flash in the pan. Sadly, reading the articles it sounds like it came down to money, with an investor who jumped in a few years ago and then pulled the plug a few years later. But, one thing that also stands out with Alameda, as Jeff Alworth mentions in his post about it on Beervana, Alameda’s beer line up hadn’t changed in many years. In this city, and in the current “try the new thing, tick the box” beer culture, that’s a death sentence. You don’t have to chase every trend and release something new every 3 days, but you to have to revamp every now and then. Amber, malty IPAs aren’t in style anymore.
Then yesterday (Wednesday), it was announced that Seven Brides brewing was closing its taproom and restaurant. It appears as though they will continue brewing for off premise sales (kegs and bottles) but how sustainable that is is unknown. I have to confess, I only visited Seven Brides once. Down in Silverton, it’s not that easy to get to from Portland and I’m sure that hurts them as well. Included in the post about Seven Brides was a note that Two Kilts in Sherwood had also closed, and apparently had been closed for a few months, but nothing had been said or announced. Again, in a way off location and very small volume, even a handful of GABF medals can’t save you if no one can find your products.
What this means for the Portland beer scene is probably unknown and I’ll leave it to the experts to suss out, but it is troubling nonetheless. The last few years people have been asking when will the beer bubble burst, and maybe this isn’t a burst, but it’s not the rocket growth we’ve seen the past few years either. Things are slowing down for sure. As sales continue to drop industry-wide, smaller operations will feel the pinch, including speculation about increases in ingredient costs. If you’re barely hanging on, you likely won’t be able to hang on much longer.