The cheapest Pabst tallboy in town might just be at a McMenamins.
At the 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop that opened this past November next to the the Bros.' 32-year-old Tavern & Pool, tallboys are $1.10 all day, and they don't charge corkage on their more than 800 bottles of beer and wine. Their quaint little box of a bottle shop and bar boasts eight or 10 tables in the front—they'll bring out more tables for tap takeovers—a standing bar with a charming bartender who told us on our last visit she'd rather get pizza than flowers for Valentine's Day, and patio seats looking out onto the sidewalk.
The 16 taps host well-chosen guest beers like Pfriem or Germany's Friegeist alongside house brews, and every Thursday one of them sells for $10 a growler, whether Eliot IPA from Ex Novo or Double Stack stout from Great Notion, each one cheaper at 23rd Avenue that day than it is at the brewery. Breakside seasonals and bottles of sparkling wine uncork at New Seasons prices—we know, because we checked. Not only that, the bar serves a $5 cocktail of the day.
It's a wonderland of comfortable cheapness—although our favorite item might be the Pot Still Peach drink made with honey, peach bitters and McMenamins' lovely 9-year pot still brandy. And because it's their own liquor—and because the Bros. lobbied to change liquor laws to allow it—they can sell their whiskey, gin and rum to go.
But this shop is not as unlikely as it sounds. Look back 40 years, and a bottle shop was the very first thing the McMenamin brothers opened.
"We started with bottle shops," says co-founder Brian McMenamin. "We didn't call them bottle shops; we called them delis. Produce Row in 1974 [Mike McMenamin's first bar], we tried to sell every beer that was available by the bottle. At that point, it was 100 different beers."
Brian and his brother Mike used to drive all over Oregon and across state lines looking for new beer. "I remember finding Foster's in the big, blue can—how exciting that was," Brian says.
The location of 23rd Avenue's humble shop and bar has long been a Slabtown fixture—for 50 years, it was 23rd Avenue Market, run by Homer Medica until his death in 2014 at age 78.
Since 1984, Medica had been not just the McMenamins' neighbor next to Tavern & Pool, but their friend and landlord—a relationship that went back a year before the brothers had even brewed their first beer. A tree planted in front of the bottle shop stands as a memorial for Medica's mother Rose.
"Rose was a great lady," Brian says. "We knew Homer really well, knew the family. They've always been good to us. Through the years, we said to Homer, 'If the store ever comes up, we'd be happy to do something there.'"