It graces the cover of the new and exciting Neighborhood Map. It will forever live in the hearts of Portland beer enthusiasts. It is a personal favorite of the Forbes Family and staff of the Portland Visitor’s Map- This month we feature the Horse Brass Pub.
Since before craft beer was even a thing the Horse Brass has been the go-to neighborhood pub in Southeast Portland. In 1976 the first Microbrewery in the America was founded in Sonoma, California. The west coast, in the wake of the great wine movement of the 1950s and 1960s was ripe for a great beer movement. In that same auspicious year the legendary Don Younger accidentally purchased the Horse Brass Pub after a night of drinking there with the previous owners. He soon began using it as a platform to discover what America had lost circa 1920- great ales.
The 19th Century was a time of expansion, and most American towns had a brewery in it as a matter of course. The beer landscape then was about as diverse and the number of towns! Then in 1920 America began the experiment of prohibition (actually 1914 in Oregon). We are still suffering from a hangover from that era- with a wide variety of laws concerning the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcohol.
In Oregon, for example, until the mid 1980s it was illegal to brew beer and sell it at the same location. Because of laws like that, most of the beer we made was an American-style lager, and they were mostly made by a small handful of large brewing companies. When Don Younger purchased the Horse Brass, he started to explore imports- primarily British, since it went with the theme of the bar. This was a good starting point to try to find what we had lost. Cask beers, bitter beers, dark beers, complex and flavorful beers. Many British breweries have been brewing the same delicious brews since the 18th century!
From there it was an easy jump- why couldn’t people in Portland make their own beer? There was already a homebrew scene- but it took until 1979 before a Portland Company formed- former winemakers started Cartwright Brewing. Within 5 years we had a full on movement going. Pioneers like the Mcmenamins, Bridgeport Brewing, and the Widmer Brothers got not only a chance to get on tap at the Horse Brass, they were promoted with gusto by Younger. Anyone who was anyone in the beer world in Portland and beyond would come to the ol’ Horse Brass looking for ideas on how they could produce the next Hefeweizen or wildly popular IPA.
Now we are on the forefront of beer. Portland holds big beer festivals, we have countless award-winning breweries, and we feel comfortable being listed with Denver, Seattle, and San Diego for havens of the hop. Most of the ones who built that foundation say that much of it started at the Horse Brass.
Not to be overshadowed by the beer, the food there is classic British style pub food. It says right on the menu that for a more authentic British experience, you need a passport! The fish and chips are their signature dish, and they have daily specials that will always please the palate.