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Monday, March 14, 2016

Belmont Station's 19th Anniversary Bash Thursday

Thursday is St. Patty's Day, the universal opportunity to drink too much while celebrating Irish history. Or something like that. Coincidentally, it's also Belmont Station's birthday. And they're having a party featuring some pretty great beers to mark the day. More on that in a bit.

In case you don't know, Belmont Station is the oldest beer bar in Portland. Like the original Bridgeport Brewpub, which set the standard by which all brewpubs here were measured, Belmont Station set the standard for beer bars. Though it wasn't always that.

When it opened in a small space next to the Horse Brass in 1997, Belmont Station was sort of a clearinghouse for novelty items from the UK. They had beer, too, but no bar.

"From what I remember, the Horse Brass used to import eclectic English food items and sell them to customers, in addition to using them in the bar," says Chris Ormand, who joined the Belmont Station crew in 2005 and is currently the beer buyer.

"At some point, the bartenders got tired of taking time away from serving beer to run into the supply room and grab stuff for customers. Someone suggested to Don [Younger] that they take over the empty spot across the hall and use it as a retail outlet. That was the beginning."

I have to admit that I did not frequent that location. I stopped in a few times and found an odd mix of merchandise: pint glasses, tin signs, English candy bars, bar towels, VHS tapes of classic British comedies, etc.. They carried a few hundred bottles of beer. Nothing like now.

"We displayed a bottle of each beer on the shelf with a price tag," Ormand recalls. "The actual beer was stored in giant walk-ins. Customers would make a list of what they wanted and hand it to the cashier, who would retrieve the beer. It wasn't efficient, but the storage conditions were ideal."

New look shelves
By 2006, the old space was getting cramped. The opportunity to move to a larger space a few blocks away presented itself when a gent who owned a convenience store on Stark announced that he wished to retire. That space would become Belmont Station's new home.

"We packed up and moved to Stark in early 2007," Ormand says. "We closed the old location on the last day of 2006 and opened on Stark several days later. The bar needed extra work and didn't actually open until April 2007."

In fact, the biercafe was operated in a haphazard way for several years. They had a limited number of taps and offered a menu of sandwiches made behind the bar. It was wildly inefficient and the place wasn't all that inviting. The biercafe was definitely a work in progress.

I give Lisa Morrison a lot of credit for smoothing things out and shifting things into high gear. She acquired a controlling interest in 2013 and almost immediately dumped the sandwich-making gig. Then she added a food cart and installed additional taps.

Also available
"When I started, my focus was the biercafe, which I always felt was a sort of afterthought," she recalls. "Adding the food cart made it easier for us to focus on what we do best...beer! I like to think our recent "best beer bar" accolades are the result of that sharpening in focus."

Of course, Morrison refuses to accept all the credit. She reminded me that co-owner Carl Singmaster had a role in the decisions and that the staff at the Station contributes a lot to the success it is today. Pretty typical response from someone who is always willing to share kudos.

Anyway, to celebrate 19 years of ecstasy and great beer, each member of the staff picked a beer to share with the public during the party. The beer list, although not quite finalized, is pretty damned stellar and something no self-respecting beer fan will want to miss. It includes:
  • Schlenkerla Helles
  • de Garde Vin Lee
  • Upright Heart's Beat
  • pFriem Flanders Red
  • Piraat Triple Hop
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA
  • Block 15 Intergalactic Hop Shop Imperial IPA
  • Deschutes The Abyss 2015
  • Ecliptic Deimos Imperial Red
  • Ruse Multibeast Brandy Barrel-aged Brett Saison
  • Hair of the Dog Flanders Fred
  • Lagunitas One Hitter Imperial Stout 
  • Fremont BBomb
  • 3 Magnets Hoppy Porter
  • De Garre Tripel
  • Ecliptic/Belmont Station 19th Anniversary Barrel-aged Barleywine
The birthday bash gets underway at 3 p.m. and runs to 11:00. There's a pretty good chance some, perhaps many, of these beers are going to be limited and won't last long. St Patty's Day luck of the Irish isn't going to keep the complete list pouring forever. Arrive early for best results.

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