Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pearl Specialty Market and Spirits

Pearl Specialty's Beer and Cigar Selection
Since I realized the other day that Bridgeport ESB had been discontinued by the brewery, I've been on a mission to find a few remaining bottles on sale somewhere. One of the bottle shops that I scoured -- to no avail -- was Pearl Specialty Market at 9th and NW Lovejoy. Even though the Pearl Market couldn't fulfill my ESB quest, I realized that the place is a hidden gem that a lot of people might not be aware of, offering a classy selection of micros and imports. It has flown under the radar to become the best bottle shop in NW Portland or downtown -- the only other competition in that part of town are the big grocery stores.

I'd been aware of Pearl Specialty for a while.  It created quite a splash when it opened, because the OLCC granted it one of the few licenses in Oregon to sell beer and wine alongside stronger spirits. More to the point, I realized it was one of the few liquor stores in town to be open until 10 PM -- most of them close at 7.
The liquor selection
I've saved a couple of neighborhood parties with that knowledge.  [As an aside, click here for my trick for scoring bottles of gin and rum even later into the night.] And for a while it was one of the few liquor stores in Portland that opened on Sunday, though the Republican Recession has made that a more commonplace occurrence in the last couple of years.

So I was aware of it as a liquor store, and I knew they sold beer, but I was surprised to see how much the beer selection has improved since my last visit a couple years ago.  According to the owner, Pearl Specialty started adding more beers when the store expanded in September of last year.  They are working towards a goal of stocking 1000 beers.  The picture at the top shows most of the beer section, and there is also another bank of coolers full of bombers and 12-packs outside the frame to the left.  They carry the Oregon standards, plus a high-end selection from beyond our fair borders:  off the top of my head, they seemed to carry pretty complete lineups from places like The Bruery, Dogfish Head, and Trappist breweries like Westmalle, St. Bernardus, and Rochefort.  You won't have a problem finding something to suit your mood if you go in there.

The beer prices are pretty normal -- not Beermongers cheap, but not predatory like you'd expect from a shop in the Pearl District.  I was mighty pleased to snag a bomber of Caldera's Rose Petal Imperial Golden for about $4.50, and stalwarts like Ninkasi and Lompoc ring in at the usual Portland price of $4.  Plus, there is a 5% discount if you buy 3 bottles of beer or wine, and a 10% discount if you buy 6 bottles -- that brings the Ninkasi down to $3.60, which actually is about as cheap as you'll find.

You've got to appreciate Pearl Specialty's motto:  Purveyor to those seeking the finer things in life.  To my mind that starts with good beer and high-end booze, but they also have a decent selection of wine and sake, and a cigar humidor.  Apparently designer bottled water was part of the original plan, but it isn't conspicuously on display there anymore and doesn't show up on the website.  Tough sell in a town were the tap water is as good as it is here.

Bottle shops have been springing up all over Portland in the last couple of years.  Following Belmont Station's lead, the latest fashion is to attach a bar to a bottle shop (Beermongers, Bottles) or vice versa (Saraveza, Hop and Vine [bottle shop opening Saturday]).  Pearl Specialty's angle of bottle shop plus liquor store is another interesting business model.  You could think of it as one-stop shopping for beer cocktails.  Anyway, cool place.  If you need a bottle of booze after the other liquor stores are closed, or if you're in the Pearl and you need to pick up a good bottle of beer, Pearl Specialty is the place to go.


  1. I work down the street and was tired of going to Whole Foods for my lunch time bottle of beer. I gave Pearl Specialty Market & Spirits a try and was amazed by their selection. And nice people, too. It's going to be my go-to bottle shop for the near future.

    And, even though I drive by Beermongers on the way home, I still think that I'd rather make the short walk to Pearl Specialty. I'm just not very happy with Beermongers' selection. I don't know what it is, but I've never really been comfortable in that space and have never really taken a shine to their beer selection.

  2. Shawn: you're right about the selection at Beermongers: it has always been a little bit demented, for various good and bad reasons. But I part ways with you on the space -- I really like it since they put the bar in. It attracts a friendly crowd, and it's got much better hangout ambiance than Belmont Station.

  3. Maybe I haven't given the space a chance, but if I'm going out for a beer (I live in Division/Clinton), it's definitely not my first choice, even though they always seem to have an excellent selection of local beers.

  4. Great post Bill. I had no idea they had expanded their beer selection. I stopped in yesterday to check it out and it was impressive. Definitely best selection in NW Portland.

  5. Shawn you definatly make me miss Portland. My last visit there my gf was running the Portland Marathon and I was running the Portland's supportive right? Awesome Blog!!!

  6. Republican recession? lmao.. a very sad understanding of todays economy my friend. No one party is to blame. Though, a lot can be said about todays mishandling of it w/ the current failure of the current administration. Nice try though.