Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tugboat Brewing, R.I.P.

The year was 2007.  That was the first time I visited Tugboat Brewing Company.  I had traveled to the city of Portland, Oregon for work.  That work guaranteed that I would be in Portland for a few days.  After I finished my work, I would return to my hotel, the Benson, and take some time to think about what I would do for dinner and a drink.  The drink was almost always a pint of craft beer.  

I knew of Rogue Ales and I visited its Portland taproom.  I learned about Deschutes Brewing and ate at its brewpub.  I enjoyed both of those breweries,  their food, and their beers.  But, if one were to ask which Portland brewery was the most memorable, my response would have been Tugboat Brewing Company, with its slogan: Small. Powerful. Hardworking. 

The brewery opened in 1989 in a small hole in the wall on S. Ankeny Street.  One block up, turn left.  I remember the little storefront, with the neon sign.  I opened the door and was greeted by cigarette smoke.  It was thick.  It hung in the air, just as naturally as the books that lined the shelves on the wall.  Straight ahead was the bar, with the handles.  There were about half a dozen Tugboat handles, which was quite a feat for a brewery that had enough equipment to brew only one beer at a time.  The rest of the handles were "guest beers" from other breweries, both local and distant.  I was not there for the guest beers.  I was there for the beers that embodied the brewery.  Small.  Powerful.  Hardworking.  

I walked up to the bar, where there would be one or two other people sitting.  I ordered a Tugboat beer and tried to relax. I spent the time trying to forget about the work that brought me to Portland, while thinking about what I could do with my free time.  And, in between all of that, I kept thinking about how this small brewery kept going.  Pint after pint.  Day after day.  Year after year.  Until the end of August 2017.  

I'll be honest.  I don't remember the names of any of Tugboat beers.  I cannot describe any of the beers for you as I write this post. After all, it has been several years since I have been to Portland, Oregon. However, I can say that the beers were very good.  How do I know that?  The answer is simple: every time that I visited the City of Roses (Portland), I made a visit to Tugboat Brewing, sat down at the bar, and had a couple of beers.   

Recently, my parents were traveling through Portland.  I asked them to stop by Tugboat to buy me a new hat.  (The hat I bought on one of my trips was getting old.)  That's when I learned of the news.  Tugboat Brewing had closed its doors.  The issues had nothing to do with the brewery itself, but with the other tenants in the building.  Still, it is sad to lose a little spot where I gained some memories. I hope that the owners of Tugboat Brewing decide to revive their little brewery.  If they do, I'll make my way back to Portland.


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