Friday, January 28, 2011

McMenamins Sister Pub Layout

For a while now, I've been intrigued by McMenamins' "sister pub" arrangement. Since not every pub in the chain has a brewery on site, those without have to be supplied by those that do. There's not a central warehouse that takes care of distribution: instead, each non-brewing pub gets its beer from a particular brewery. That system first came to my attention when our friend Corey was the hotshot at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. Getting me out to Hillsboro is like pulling teeth, but I was much happier when Corey's seasonals made it to CPR's sister pub at 15th and Broadway. At some point I asked at the Barley Mill where their beer came from, and found that they are supplied by the Hillsdale pub, which seems to me to be a stroke of luck, since Hillsdale's position as the first McM's brewery means it gets a lot of love from within the company.

Say you stumble upon a tasty seasonal at one of the pubs. If you know the sister pub(s), you might be able to find it closer to home, or at one of the other establishments you'd been intending to check out. Since the only connections I knew about were the ones I mentioned above, I emailed Kevin Tillotson, the brewing/distilling/winemaking director at McMenamins, to ask him what the current setup is. Kevin was kind enough to send me this list for Oregon:

  • Edgefield Brewery to Bagdad and White Eagle
  • Crystal Brewery to Grand Lodge
  • Hillsdale Brewery to Barley Mill, Greenway, and Riverwood
  • CPR Brewery to Broadway and Rock Creek Tavern
  • West Linn Brewery to Oregon City, Sunnyside, and 205 Pub
  • Kennedy School Brewery to St. Johns and Chapel Pub
  • Fulton Brewery to Market St., Mission, and Blue Moon
  • Lighthouse Brewery to Hotel Oregon
  • Roseburg Brewery to East 19th
  • High Street Brewery to North Bank
  • Monroe Brewery to Corvallis 3rd Street
  • Thompson Brewery to Boons Treasury
  • John Barleycorns Brewery to Sherwood and Raleigh Hills
  • Highland Brewery to Ram’s Head, Tavern and Pool, and Rock Creek Tavern

In Washington, the Columbia Brewery supplies the East Vancouver pub, and the other Washington breweries -- Spar, Olympic Club, Six Arms, Queen Anne, Dad Watson’s and Mill Creek -- all share kegs among themselves. Interestingly, beer from the Washington breweries can be sold in Oregon, but the Oregon beer is not approved for Washington. And Kevin points out that within Oregon, McMenamins could distribute beer from any brewery to any of the other pubs. It's just that the list above describes their current distribution. I had assumed there was some OLCC regulation that guided the arrangement, but that's not the case. I also thought each brewery supplied just one other pub, but that turned out to be wrong also. Many thanks to Kevin to clearing up these little mysteries for me.

The scenario I mentioned was wanting to locate a special seasonal at another pub, but in all honesty it might work the other way -- if you found that one particular McMenamins had a problem with its beers, you could also use the list to decide which other pub to avoid. In any case, I'm glad to finally be able to visualize the distribution of a ubiquitous player in the Oregon pub game.


  1. That's news to me that a single brewery can supply more than one other sister pub. If I recall correctly the origin of the sister pub arrangement was based some sort of Oregon law that limited distribution from a brewpub to one, and only one, other location. I guess that has expanded over the years to allow more than one sister.

  2. Edgefield is the big daddy as well. Supplies more than a couple sisters.

  3. @Lindsey: I thought the same thing, but probably because I heard it from you. But haven't Lompoc and Laurelwood have more than two outlets per brewery for a few years?

    @Dann: Can you be more specific?