Before the pandemic, Portlanders had long embraced the hygge lifestyle. The Danish concept of finding comfort in all things cozy is practically knitted into our DNA—see our obsession with wrapping even street signs in crocheted scarves.
But after spending months cooped up inside, now is not the time to burrow into a woolen blanket. Our pandemic winter demands that we abandon hygge in favor of a different European approach to these dark days: friluftsliv.
The Scandinavian term roughly translates to "open-air living," and GlüBar makes it easy to whip yourself into a state of outdoor bliss. Inspired by the outdoor Christmas markets in Northern and Western Europe, Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom's new curbside pop-up makes patio drinking in the dead of winter not only feasible but downright jolly, pouring hot beverages such as mulled wine and beer.
In the weeks after the Dec. 16 launch, GlüBar has drawn nostalgic German expats sipping mugs of glühwine to skiers defrosting following a day on Mount Hood. The scene itself causes sidewalk traffic to pause—behind the shop's rolled-up garage-style window is a row of coffee urns holding the mulled drinks—though it's difficult to snag a seat as a walkup now that most are reserved online.
"Our tables have been mostly filled," says owner Alex Kurnellas. "Sales pretty much rose 500% from the previous month."
The lineup of mulled drinks changes about once a week. That's because Kurnellas is dipping into his reserve of cellar beers to use as the base—pricier barrel-aged styles like stouts, sours and barleywines that simply don't sell as well as they used to five-plus years ago. Though the infusion of nutmeg or anise steamrolls many of the nuances the brewers would've wanted you to appreciate, these beers' high ABV and robust flavors make them well suited for mulling.
"It is a little bit of a tragedy in the same way I would never make a bloody mary with really expensive vodka. You're putting a ton of spices and tomato juice on top of it," Kurnellas says. "While it is a tragedy, the drinks we've been making are really delicious and very unique."
Whatever options are available, always spring for something that can be set on fire. For us, that was the Yule Log, which came with the added flair of a tableside preparation. Kurnellas topped off the cup of Founders KBS chocolate coffee oatmeal stout with a load of mini-marshmallows, doused them in a peppermint tincture, lit the blaze, then finished it with a cinnamon stick.
The result was a warming slap of bourbon followed by a wisp of sweet clove and a candy cane bite. It was a drink that was part holiday cookie, part Dad's nip of stiff booze to get him through Christmas morning—precisely the right blend to fortify your stay on a patio during a bone-chilling evening.
Number of tables: Six to eight.
Space between tables: At least 6 feet.
Additional safety measures: Sidewalk placemarkers near the ordering window to space guests apart; hand sanitizer pumps; surfaces sanitized after every guest leaves; displayed menu; contactless payment available.
Peak hours: 4-6 pm Fridays, 4-6 pm and 8-9 pm Saturdays.
GO: GlüBar at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom, 2006 NE Alberta St., 503-954-2021, imperialbottleshop.com/glubar. 4-10 pm Wednesday-Friday, noon-10 pm