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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Who Will Open Portland's First Food Cart Brewery?

I sense this isn't the final word on the matter, but apparently the OLCC says it's cool to sell beer from a food cart:
Whether food carts can serve Hefeweizen with their hot dogs first came up two years ago, when carts asked the OLCC about regularly selling beer and wine. Temporary licenses, say for festivals, are available under separate rules. The OLCC said it would look into logistics, including asking the attorney general's office for an opinion. Then around last fall -- the OLCC wouldn't give a date -- the office said the OLCC can't deny an annual license to a food vendor just because it's a cart....

Carts are eligible for licenses as long as they stay in one spot and owners show they can control the area where alcohol is consumed. Carts along sidewalks could be limited to closed containers. Though Cartlandia seeks permission to sell only beer and wine, carts could also seek full liquor licenses.
This raises all kinds of questions, many of them economic and social (purview of different sorts of bloggers). But what it raised in my mind was this: for once, I can envision a viable nanobrewing business model. It's possible to buy a brand-new one-barrel brewery for about three grand (right here in Portland, as it turns out), and it looks like you could probably cobble together a decent food cart for another ten.

Fifteen thousand dollars is super rock bottom cheap to get a brewery off the ground. It wouldn't get you very far off the ground, either. You'd be working like a dog all the time and you would have a pretty low growth ceiling. On the other hand, there's no reason to think you couldn't sell a couple hundred barrels or more from the cart, and maybe even a few more barrels to area pubs.

If it turns out that the city and state will allow food carts to sell beer, I can't imagine some enterprising young brewer wouldn't take a gamble. Who will be the first?
Crudely photoshopped picture modified from an original by Yelp user Athena T.


  1. Too many food carts already!

    Portland's beginning to look like a refugee camp with numerous squatter kitchen camps. Once again, a fun simple idea has been taken too far. Does Portlandia have a nice mocking episode on all the Food Carts? If not, they should.

    What's next? Religion Carts?! Tailor made Religion and tailor made food might go together in this town.

  2. LOL "What's next? Religion Carts?!" sounds like the evangelicals argument against gay marriage "What's next? Humans marrying animals?!"


  3. Well, since the Oregonian article was long on alarmism and short on factual content, it's not too surprising if you didn't know about the beer carts that already exist in town: Buckman's at 42nd and Belmont, and Captured by Porches' at 33rd and Division.

  4. Bill, I have been following Captured By Porch's experiment (though I didn't know about Buckman), but it's a different situation. I'm talking about a business model where the cart is the brewery, not just an outlet for selling a brewery's beer.

  5. You guys are both uninformed! Did you know about the Lompoc one at 52nd and Foster??

  6. I may have to start a new trend. I'm renting a U-Haul and preaching out of the back. I'll sell people the Religion they request! God, Jebus, Buddha, Allah, Zeus, Apollo, Dr Suess, Dr Phil, Dr Ruth, Ozzy, Manson, Moonie, Hindi, Disney, NASCAR...

    "Don't like what ya see? That's OK, we'll make ya one up for ya. Everybody's doing it!"

    BTW, over there is the Hair of Dog Cart. We have a discount coupon. Have a nice day!

  7. I am woefully uninformed about the happenings in 21st century Portland, Oregon. However, if you want to know what was going on in the second half of the 19th century in Lille, France, I am your man.

  8. I think the best way to handle this would be through a beer garden approach that serves several carts at once without forcing licenses on all of them. Prost works as a brick and mortar version of this concept; after you get your food at one of the Mississippi carts you can take it onto Prost's deck and order a beer to go with it. Watching Council yesterday, the folks who own Cartlandia are proposing something similar, and because they operate in an enclosed area it seems like they'd be a good test case. Cart owners would reimburse part of the cost of the licensing to the liquor vendor, and could share in a portion of the profits (or they could just be independent of each other, synergistically enhancing the other's business).

    Randy, Amanda and Sam seem unenthusiastic at best. Randy was VERY NIMBY about it, saying that's the last thing the Springwater area around 82nd needs, is beer. He won't even let his wife go pick up a package at the nearby post office, he's so freaked! Sigh.

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  10. This just shows the extremes of saturation around town. I hate to say it, but many will be closing their doors in the next 4 or so years. A brewing cart? I think the mobile brewery seen at OBF will be the one and only. I at least hope so, because someone will waste a lot of time an money if they try otherwise.

    Get a spot, brew some killer beer, and let me buy some. I'll continue to buy it if I like it. I prefer my beer to be brewed in a clean, well rounded establishment kthx.

    All other discussion beyond this is pointless. Just sayin' lol.. ;)

  11. So out of curiosity, how are the few examples of beer carts that commenters cited here allowed to operate if this system isn't in place yet?

  12. I believe Captured by Porches was operating on a temporary license. Don't know about the others.

  13. Also, in a sort of beer cart, Coalition has a cart set up in their "back yard" where a couple of other food carts are set up. I think this model (an existing brewery sets up a station) is much more likely for the food carts. Breweries like CBP, Vertigo, Occidental, The Commons, Natian, etc. can widen their market without eating into their own pub trade, since they don't have pubs.

  14. They have only been around for a couple months and may move around, check their social media page to know where they will be.
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