The Return of Portland Brewing

Posted on January 23rd, by lisam in News. 2 comments

The Return of Portland Brewing

New Mac's LabelIn what could be craft beer’s most circuitous move, the venerable Portland Brewing is slated to return Feb. 1 after being shut in the dark for the majority of a decade since Pyramid took over Portland Brewing in 2004.

I got two emails from MacTarnahan’s Brewing‘s (Pyramid’s) PR people yesterday. They both essentially said this:

An exciting change for Portland’s beer scene is quickly taking shape. The company that brews the beloved MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale and other craft beers is going back to its original name and will once again operate as Portland Brewing Company, beginning in February 2013.

The main change for consumers will be that the company, its beers and packaging will once again proudly carry the Portland Brewing Company name. Beer drinkers will still see the company’s flagship brew – MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale – continue, along with many new offerings.

Head brewer Ryan Pappe talks about his excitement around going back to Portland Brewing. “We’re excited to take a new direction that celebrates our past and sets the stage for our future as Portland Brewing Company,” Pappe said. “We brewed our first beer back in 1986 and our commitment to brewing great beer has never changed. Our consumers can expect their favorite beers to continue, and will love and be surprised by some of the new brews Portland Brewing has in store for them.”

Portland Brewing was one of the city’s original breweries, started by Fred Bowman and Art Larrance (of Cascade and Oregon Brewers Festival notoriety) in 1986. In the end, it suffered from a lack of brand distinction. The beers were always great but the brand got monkeyed around with a lot. When Mac MacTarnahan stepped in with money to help save the brewery, it became a mishmash of part German-, part Scottish-themed branding. It was confusing to the customer. That seems to continue today. After Pyramid took over in ’04, they ditched the Portland Brewing moniker for those beers and went with the Mac’s personae. Now they are going back. It will be interesting to see what happens with the brand now.

The news release said customers can expect to still see Mac’s Amber; that won’t change. The taproom will stay the same. New packaging will reflect the brewery’s new (old) name and include Portland Brewing on it. And it appears there are plans for some new brews to enter the market under the Portland Brewing name:

  • Portland Brewing IPA: a new year-round beer. With a darker golden color and some of the most popular citrusy IPA hops, as well as Sterling for a bit of spiciness in the finish, this IPA is hoppy like a Northwest IPA should be. Five different hops and a soft malt backing make for one great, easy-drinking ale. Available in six-pack, 12-pack, 22 oz. bottles and on draft.
  • Rose Hip Gold: a new spring seasonal that is a Belgian-style ale with notes of fruit and spice and a little citrusy bite from a generous addition of rose hips in the kettle. Available in six-pack, 22 oz. bottles and on draft.
  • Oyster Stout: the company’s first brew in a new small batch draft program that is exclusive to the state of Oregon. It will feature locally sourced oysters from Yaquina Bay.

While I am excited to see Beervana get its own Portland Brewing moniker back, I am holding my enthusiasm a bit. I hope this isn’t another move by marketing people unconnected to the craft beer industry to reposition the brewery (again) into something they hope will bolster flagging sales.

We will be watching!

2 thoughts on “The Return of Portland Brewing

  1. Back before Pyramid bought them, Portland Brewing made some inspired seasonal or special brews. I fondly recall Millennium Ale, Bourbon Barrel Blackwatch, and a tangy Belgian tripel which I believe was called Deluxe. If they’re going to go back to the old brewery name, I hope they will go back to some of these old brewery recipes, too.

  2. Dropping the Portland Brand was the biggest mistake they ever could have made. I hear that Weinhards is doing well in parts of the nation, playing on it’s Portland roots. Given Pyramid/Magic Hat/ etc.’s national presence, it seems like they could have been doing something with that for awhile now.
    Hopefully the parent company will give the local brewers (a group of capable, talented individuals) the opportunity to develop new beers that live up to the name.
    Apparently the trademark(?) on Portland Ale lapsed in early 2011 and Art snapped that up for The Barrel House/Raccoon Lodge.

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