Brewing a Portland Staple

by Danielle Kane | Oct 10, 2019 9:12:49 AM

Picture this: You enter a bar and sit down to order a beer.
The server presents a list of draft offerings, and on it are about four options
– a couple of cheap lagers, one IPA and a standard ale. Odds are, you’re
largely underwhelmed. Why? Because today we live in a world of craft beer and
high expectations, where city’s cultures are defined by the flavors pouring out
of them. And make no mistake, if a bar doesn’t have a mix of sours, stouts,
saisons and, of course, several IPAs, then it missed the memo.

Arguably, there is no U.S. city that appreciates craft beer
more than Portland, Oregon. That’s not to say there aren’t a dozen or more
major craft-beer destinations throughout the country. Denver and San Diego are
two prime examples – and Seattle is worthy of an honorable mention – but
Portland is a standout among these bastions of brewers.

Speaking of beer, let’s talk about Kells Brewery, which has
several kinds of its beer canned and available for purchase. Kells rooted in
Irish traditions and culture. Ever been to Ireland? If not, no worries, because
stepping into Kells transports you there. 

“My father moved from Ireland and opened Kells Irish Pub and
Restaurant in Downtown Portland when I was two,” said Garrett McAleese, owner
of Kells Brewery.

There is an important distinction to be made here: Kells Pub
has been around since 1983 and is a Portland favorite. Kells Brewery is newer,
and yes, operates its own restaurant, but this is where the beer is actually

“Over the years, we imported many different Irish-brewed
beers [to the pub], but by the time they got to the West Coast of America, they
were six months old at times,” McAleese said. “The quality and flavors were
never quite like what you could get in Ireland. Something had to be done.”

And so began the journey that would eventually lead to Kells
Brewery as it is now. The space is mostly wood cladding; it’s warm and
inviting. In fact, while sitting down with McAleese recently, one of his
customers came in as she was considering having her wedding rehearsal dinner
there – an undeniable nod to the comfort found here.

What’s particularly stellar about Kells is how involved the
McAleese family is in the community. Over the past 30 years, Kells has given
back over half a million dollars to charities and has donated to more than 30
local schools.

Their locations serve as a meeting place for those of Irish
heritage, socially and culturally, offering live music, Irish dance, Kells’
bagpipers, Gaelic football viewings, poetry readings, AOH (Ancient Order of
Hibernians) meetings and, of course, a huge festival held over St. Patrick’s

“Also, Kells acts as a pseudo Irish Consulate,” McAleese
explained. “If you lose your Irish passport while in Portland, we have the
paperwork. The only other option is to fly to San Francisco.”

Get a new passport and great beer while you wait? Not a bad
deal. While Kells brings a lot to the Portland craft-beer scene, there are
still hurdles to overcome, especially as craft-beer has become a buzz word with
more players in the game every day. The craft-beer industry contributed just
over $2 billion to the Oregon economy in 2017, according to data from the
Brewer’s Association published in Central Oregon newspaper, The Bulletin. The
growth has slowed from previous years, but industry experts say this is because
the arena is maturing.

So, if you’re ever in Portland and looking for a place to
grab a cold one, consider one of these BBB accredited breweries. McAleese says
shoot for whatever is newest on the menu because it’s bound to be the most

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