Changing Beer Life in Oregon

Portland Beer City

Portland, Oregon might be the beer capital in our country today, but it wasn’t always this way. Did you know that before 1985, brewpubs were illegal in Oregon?! What? Breweries illegal in Oregon??? So hard to believe today since now you cannot turn a corner in the city without seeing a brewery, but it’s true. Before 1985, prohibition laws in Oregon stated that alcohol manufacturers and retailers could not co-exist on the same premises.

So how did breweries thrive?

Before the law changed, breweries would have to reach out to local bars and restaurants themselves and try to convince them to sell their brew. The brew ‘industry’ didn’t officially take off until after 1985.

Then beginning in late 1984, a group of new local brewers decided to take a risk to change the way breweries were allowed to operate. They teamed up with well-known brewers like the McMenamins and Bridgeport Brewing in hopes to legalize brewpubs. They dreamed of a place where brewers could make and sell their own beer, and were determined to make it happen. They started with state Rep. Tom Mason at the Multnomah Athletic Club and pleaded their case, then followed the same tactic by going to state reps until they got what they wanted. Surprisingly this tactic worked and in early 1985, the House passed the original “Brewpub Bill,” HB 2284.

A Bump in the Road

Everything seemed to be going in their favor until a senator suddenly moved to table the bill. Wholesale beer suppliers feared the newly created brewpubs would cut into their business. When this happened, the brewing partners knew they had to quickly shift their approach. A few months later, the legislature managed to add brewpub language to two existing bills: one to legalize the sale of packaged unpasteurized beers, and another to allow liquor licenses for bed and breakfasts. The bill failed at first attempt, but the second bill passed both houses and only needed approval from a Senate committee to be approved. On July 13, 1985 Gov. Vic Atiyeh signed the bill into law.

The Brewery Revolution

Happy with their long awaited win, the McMenamin brothers converted their Hillsdale facility into the state’s first modern brewpub. They opened their first brewery in the Pearl District, and the rest is history. Since then, the craft beer revolution has taken over Portland, and we have definitely earned our nickname ‘Beer City.’ For more information on how a process chiller from Legacy can help improve your brewery, visit us at


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