In a city famous for Naked Bike Rides and flamethrowing, unicycle-riding bagpipers, it takes a lot to turn heads riding a bicycle.
But Ross Putnam has become a rolling spectacle these days. The general manager of Base Camp Brewing in Southeast Portland tends to stand out on the largely deserted streets as he pilots a custom-built cargo bike carting a 30-inch-wide cooler between him and the front wheel. Inside the ice chest are six-packs of beer—and yes, he makes house calls.
"It's still so new for everyone, it almost feels like it's wrong," Putnam says of the newly launched service. "I was out riding yesterday, and people are just like, 'Wait, you're just delivering beer?'"
The 150-pound contraption was purchased several years ago for an epic 100-mile ride to a hop farm. At the time, it was a novel way to transport fresh cones back from ha
rvest. Since then, the steed has largely stood idle.
Once Base Camp's business came grinding to a near-halt last week, the brewery saw the opportunity to dust off the saddle. With a little guidance from the Oregon Brewers Guild, management was able to quickly file paperwork with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to fast-track off-premises sales.
"I mean, it's not getting us all of the business we had, but every little bit helps," he says. "And it keeps us out riding around, and on days like today, you can't really beat it."
Base Camp had at least a half-dozen orders to fulfill on a recent Friday. Putnam's first drop brings him to an apartment complex about six blocks away on Southeast Belmont Street.
Minutes after easing his bike onto the sidewalk in front of the building, a woman bounds through the door with a wide grin.
"Whaaaaat?!" she squeals when she spots the two sixers of IPA. "This is the coolest thing ever! I have everything I need—I have my coffee, I have my beer."
"We kind of see this as the beginning of a long program for us," Putnam says. "The best thing we can do is work directly with our consumer, and what better way to show up to somebody's house than with beer on a bicycle?"
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