Remember when the taproom wasn't yet an established genre of bar? Just a few years ago, the only spartan, snob-friendly pubs were destinations like Bailey's. Now it feels like every neighborhood has a place that bought its bartop from a metaphorical IKEA and uses the TVs primarily to broadcast the beer list. A well-connected beer buyer makes the place; everything else is an afterthought.
Now, even the West End has a cookie-cutter taproom, the brand-new Beer Belly (1205 SW Washington St., beerbellypdx.com). Lardo owner Rick Gencarelli has turned the former Ración space next to his sandwich shop into a minimalist taproom with a few group-friendly booths and a couple of large screens displaying the Taplister feed on the wall.
The selection leans hard on established classics like Boneyard Notorious and Upright Engelberg Pilsner, and the closest thing to a whale was a keg of Block 15's Figgy Pudding aged in brandy barrels. The one notable twist is an artisanal vending machine, stocked with Olympia Provisions pepperoni sticks ($7) and Woodblock chocolate bars ($4). The other nice touch was a malfunctioning sales system, which insisted on giving us happy-hour pricing for 10 minutes after the bartender declared it over. Once he made peace with the powerlessness of existence in the digimodernist postindustrial milieu, and once I had my $3 pint of Fremont IPA, all was good.