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Monday, March 09, 2015

Dive Bar Challenge: Montavilla Station

Today we have the latest entry in our ongoing Dive Bar Challenge: Montavilla Station.  Recap: this series is a barometer to determine just how far good beer has seeped into the crevices of supposedly good beer cities.  I'm testing the waters here in Portland, but if enterprising bloggers elsewhere felt their cities stacked up against Beervana, we could have a friendly competition.  Either way, the idea is that good beer towns should be measured by the places you are least likely to find good beer, not the best.  (Read more here.)

Montavilla Station, 417 SE 80th Ave
Throughout this experiment, it has been my intention to continue to work from Portland's inner beer geek core to the outer fringes of the city.  I held a vague hypothesis that the further out you went, the less likely you were to encounter local craft beer.  For the latest installment, I ventured to Montavilla, a neighborhood snuggling up against the great dividing line of 82nd Avenue.  (In Portland, 82nd has long divided the two halves of the east side in the way the Cascades divide the two halves of Oregon.  You go from Portlandia to lower-middle class suburbia in cultural terms when you cross that line.)

Montavilla Station is just a block away from Roscoe's, the good-beer bar that helped lead the renaissance of the neighborhood's tiny commercial district.  From the building's exterior, you might expect a seedy, old-Montavilla interior.  Not so.  It's a large, airy, well-lighted space with a couple of pool tables, a stage, and a well-stocked, full bar.  It also has an amazing tap list.  When I visited last Wednesday, they were pouring Barley Brown's Pallet Jack, Boneyard RPM, Double Mountain Hop Lava, and Alameda Black Bear Stout, among other, more predictable craft offerings.  And the amazing thing: on Wednesday, all craft beers ("microbrews," as the bartender styled them) are three bucks.  "Tell all your craft beer buddies, boss," he said.  We continued to chat, and someone tried to order Busch.  (He had four mass market lagers, but no Busch.)  Afterward, he told me, "This is a working class pub, boss. But we got 14 taps and they're a lot cheaper than Roscoe's." The he struck up a little tune and said, "I'm here to kick Roscoe's in the balls."

A couple regulars who were not impressed by the $3 Pallet Jack.

This is decidedly not in a hipster neighborhood, but it goes to show where the gravity is.  As Roscoe's moved into the neighborhood, their insistence on a giant taplist of obscure, strong craft beers looked like madness, but a few years later, a pub like Montavilla Station is feeling the need to get with the program.  And it means that if my thesis is correct, Montavilla is nowhere near far enough out. To Lents!

The Stats*
Breweries in ZIP code: 0 (soon to be one)
Distance from the heart of downtown: 7.2 miles
Neighborhood hipness factor (1-5): 2.5
Seediness factor (1-5): 2.5, sort of seedy
Beers on tap:  12
Mass market beers: 4
Craft beers: 8 (four IPAs, a lager, a pale, a wheat, and a stout)
Imports:  0
Ciders: 1 (Spire Mountain)
Verdict: Super crafty

*I may tune these up over time, but this seems like a good start.  Breweries in ZIP code determined by the Oregon Brewers Guild listing.  I selected Pioneer Courthouse Square, "Portland's living room" as the heart of downtown.


  1. Look like a good place, I would enjoy a beer there. I like the bluff attitude of the barman, too.

    Certain places in the west have a look that hearkens back to the frontier, this is an example. It's a combination of the always proximate wilderness and way they are built. I felt even the current version of the Mendocino Brewing Company (the bar I mean) is an example.


  2. I was down at the Yukon Sunday night, on Milwaukee Ave, and that was dive bar by any stretch - they had a half dozen locals on tap and the usual domestics, plus stupid - cheap late happy our. $3 pints of crafts, omg. I'd be glad to assist you with this project upon my return in May.