Sunday, January 22, 2012

McMenamin's Hammerhead 26th Birthday!

Hammerhead tap at McMenamin's
This Wednesday, January 25, 2012, McMenamin's will be celebrating Hammerhead Ale's 26th B'day ($2.50 pints all locations, all day) Here is the current list of special Hammers/locations pouring that day:

Old St. Francis:  Dry-hopped Firkin (Cask) Hammerhead (O'kanes: 'Curly's Firkin' Special Release)
High Street:  Cask-style Hammerhog (whiskey-oak aged Hammerhead) poured via beer engine.
Roadhouse Bar:  Cask-style Hammerhog (whiskey-oak aged Hammerhead) served from bar top.
Imbrie Hall:  Bar Top Cask-style dry-hopped Hammerhead
White Shed:  Dry-hopped Hammerhead
McMenamins on Broadway: Dry-hopped Hammerhead
Rock Creek:   Dry-hopped Hammerhead
Wilsonville:  Oak-aged Hammerhead (medium toasted oak spiral. The beer has hints of vanilla and caramel)

As an artist and lifetime resident of Portland, one of the things I appreciate the most about McMenamin's is the way in which the old buildings are brought back to life. The art is rooted into breathing new energy into spaces previously abandoned or forgotten about. While the artists for McMenamin's are notoriously gifted, the way in which their talent pairs with an Arts & Crafts / Art Nouveau sensibility of ornamentation within functionality brings a decidedly green and Pacific Northwest flavor to the family of breweries. Indeed, McMenamin's was a trailblazer in "brew pub as art" style of interior design - a creative way of thinking that is often not attributed as well as it should be. As described on the company's own website, "Originally, the artwork served a practical purpose -- as Mike McMenamin puts it, 'We had good-sized walls to cover.' But over the course of twenty-plus years, the art evolved into an expression of the building's history, the company's mission and of McMenamins itself."

This sketch is from February 1st, 1992 by Lyle Hehn
The logos and caricatures for the beers themselves are no exception! As Lyle Hehn, an artist with McMenamin's since 1988 describes,  "After the usual false starts and frustrated erasures, the local radio station began to play some rousing music, and it all fell together. The ideas popped in one after another and I couldn't draw it fast enough. An unusually large amount of the sketch survived into the final version.

The idea of a character with a hammer for a head is hardly original, but the beer had already received a name that practically demanded some kind of bold, expansive and yet deliberately ridiculous image."

McMenamin's features information about their artists on their blog, describing the introduction of the artist who created the Hammerhead logo into the McMenamin's family. "In 1980, Hehn graduated from Linfield College with a bachelor's degree in art. Since 1988, Hehn has been employed by McMenamins. His brother Paul was one of the company's managers, and Hehn was hired to paint a sign on a door at the Fulton Pub. Other McMenamins projects gradually followed. At first he did just decorative wall painting in the pubs, but as the company expanded, Hehn also began to design logos and labels and signs for their various locations, along with murals and illustrations."

McMenamin's has given new life to many buildings in Oregon who would have otherwise fallen to ruin. While the tater tots at all the facilities are delicious (and the Sunday breakfasts at Edgefield's Black Rabbit Restaurant are one of Portland's best kept secrets), a big part of the joy I feel at visiting these buildings comes from the integral research and honoring of history that is imbued in everything McMenamin's does. 

Hammerhead's birthday is a perfect time to experience McMenamin's anew. Visit one of the twenty four facilities around the Portland-Metro and surrounding areas for a pint - and take a moment to admire the details with which these buildings are lovingly adorned.