I haven’t posted on here in a long while and it’s a little bit sad that this is the post that I come back to.
It’s been a rough couple weeks, nay, months in Beervana.
It started in September, when Cider Riot announced that it was up for sale due to some upcoming debt payments and investors getting antsy about losing money. They have now announced that they’ve run out of time and will close Nov 9th. Cider Riot was known for being a stickler for “real” cider. Dry, English and Irish style ciders made with European apple varieties that opposed the sweet fruit ciders of things like Angry Orchard and others. Unfortunately, being to tight in a niche can be very risky. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Abram and he’s a stand-up dude and it’s only fitting that he was going to stay true to his vision to the bitter end and not try to make products for the sole purpose of making money. He didn’t “sell out” so to speak.
This was followed by the closures of two (or more) meaderies. Nectar Creek closed it’s pub and production facility on Oct 5th. It’s an unfortunate reality that mead is a very expensive product to make. Honey is not cheap. It’s also unfortunate that they had just recently moved into a larger facility. I’ve seen this trend happen too many times to count, hot sales, maxed out production, expand and then die. Whether it’s from taking on debt, or sales suddenly dry up or any other multitude of reasons it seems to happen fairly often that right as a brewery takes that next big step the reward for that is a big fall. I was very fond of their “Nectarade”, a lemon-lime mead that was super refreshing.
I had heard a rumor that Honeywood Winery, which makes traditional high alcohol mead/honey wine, had closed but now I can’t find anything about it. So maybe the rumors of their death has been greatly exaggerated.
I found out through a Facebook post (as these things happen these days) that Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wine was closing. They are having a Funeral Party, appropriately tomorrow on Diá de los Muertos, to celebrate the end and serve up as much as they have left before they close on November 9th. They made light sessionable cider like “wine” from citrus juice. Very unique product and will be missed.
Then some of the big names started dropping. 23 year old Portland stalwart Lompoc announced it was closing. Sadly, in this case, this was a “not surprised, just disappointed” kind of announcement. They closed the Hedge House 2 years ago (which reopened as Little Beast) and then a year ago they got pushed out of their NW 23rd location in favor of apartments. This seemed like an “only a matter of time” situation but they tried to tough it out. Another one of the Portland “legacy” breweries that’s struggling following the closing of Bridgeport Brewing. The Oaks Bottom Pub in Sellwood will remain open and sell out the rest of what is left of the Lompoc beer and then transition to a neighborhood pub selling local beer from other places. I’ve been to Oaks Bottom three times, the first two times were great and the third was unfortunately awful. I’d be willing to go back but I don’t live on that side of town anymore. I won’t rule it out if I’m in the neighborhood.
Speaking of Sellwood, Laurelwood brewing got bought by the company known as Legacy Breweries (which is partially owned by, or whose first brewery purchase was Ninkasi) and they are closing the Sellwood Taproom. Laurelwood brewery will still exist, just not in Southeast anymore. That neighborhood is taking a beating as far as breweries go.
Within a few days of the Lompoc announcement, Rock Bottom announced that is was closing it’s Portland pub in Downtown. Rock Bottom is a national chain, and so for some people this might not be a “big loss”, but it can still act as the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. The back and forth story goes that Rock Bottom claimed the building owner “didn’t renew the lease” while the building owner claims that Rock Bottom “chose not to renew” and honestly both of those can be true. If the rent got jacked way up (double or more) which seems to be happening a lot here recently, certainly Rock Bottom could have “choosen” to not renew the lease, but also feel like they weren’t given a choice and are being forced out. It’s a both/and kind of situation. Whether people “miss” it or not, it’s still a dark portent for the Portland beer scene as a whole.
And then just yesterday, of all days, Coalition Brewing went off into the dark night with just a whisper. Coalition was one of the first, if not THE first, to get approved for adding non-pyschoactive CBD to beer. Dubbed “two flowers” in reference to hops and hemp/marijuana, they’ve been selling it for years while others were trying to figure out to enter the space. They were CBD before CBD was cool. They were also known for their super hoppy IPA, Space Dust. The Coalition location will re-open as Gorges Brewing, so it’s not all quite doom and gloom.
You’ll have to forgive me if later tonight there’s a tear in my beer as I go through my “Breweries Visited” list marking several more with the *Now Closed marker.