Growler's Taproom isn't exactly what you might call a nightlife hot spot. Though it's grown considerably more welcoming since new ownership took over in 2017, the utilitarian refilling station on Southeast Hawthorne has always functioned best as a well-scrubbed showcase for a 40-strong tap list appealing to high-level beer connoisseurs.
But head down a rickety back staircase late some weekend night and you'll find an equally well-curated selection of genre-spanning local artists performing amid academia-themed bric-a-brac.
The beer bar's subterranean music venue, The Library (3343 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503- 234-6996), is a ramshackle bohemian clubhouse that feels diametrically opposite to the upstairs craft beer emporium in just about every way—especially since the makeshift bar sells only Olympia, Rainier and Hamm's pounders. But co-owner Joe Rodgers had long dreamed of incorporating a concert hall under the taproom, and set about transforming the acupuncture clinic below the bar into a proper venue with a state-of-the-art sound system. The 55-capacity club boasts a PA meant for a room holding 10 times as many, while 3,500 square feet of soundproofing effectively muffles bands amped up to 140 decibels.
Technically, the Library hosted its first shows last winter before shutting down for further renovations required by the city's fire code, but that extra year of tinkering allowed management to fully develop a distinctive aesthetic. The bibliophile theme developed as an off-handed lark inspired by an old community college library chair furnished by manager Ruby Fusaro, and the bar instituted an exchange program with patrons—an ounce of beer for every pound of books—to help fill the bookshelves ringing the bottom floor.
Even in this brave new world, where libraries borrow books and bars never see their customers drink, there's not yet a replacement for live music served loud, late and communally. Given the dearth of area venues open to smaller acts of every genre, it wouldn't be surprising to soon find the space operating beyond its current Friday and Saturday night schedule.
Hopefully it happens soon, because the cozily art-strewn room deserves a clientele lingering over drinks regardless of the night's entertainment. Rodgers hopes to extend the upstairs' draft bounty to concert patrons as soon as business justifies additional tap lines. (Should a partnership be arranged with one of the neighboring food carts, full bar options are also under consideration.) Weirdly, the Library hews too closely to its namesake—at current volume, talking's absolutely prohibited.