30 years of McMenamins beer

McMenamins Hillsdale 30th anniversary brew

This Sunday, October 25th, is the 30th anniversary of the first brew that took place at McMenamins’ Hillsdale Public House—not just the first beer brewed by McMenamins, in fact it was the first beer brewed at the first modern, post-Prohibition brewpub in Oregon. That original beer had humble—very humble—beginnings, brewed with liquid malt extract (which McMenamins purchased in 50-gallon barrels from California) on a small, cobbled-together system stuffed into the back of the Hillsdale kitchen.

On October 25, 1985, McMenamins’ first beer was brewed in a small copper kettle at Hillsdale Brewery. It was a liquid malt extract brew, highly hopped for the era, brewed by the Hillsdale’s first brewer Ron Wolf and dubbed “Hillsdale Ale.” Falling loosely in the ‘Special Bitter’ classification of beer styles, Hillsdale Ale became McMenamins first bona-fide company standard beer, pre-dating Terminator, Hammerhead and Ruby.

You might recall this past August, McMenamins produced their one millionth keg—an amazing milestone that traces its roots back to this first batch of Hillsdale Ale.

So on Sunday the 25th, for one day only, Hillsdale Ale will be pouring at every McMenamins pub to celebrate this 30th anniversary. McMenamins’ John Richen sent along a bit of detail about this resurrected brew:

This re-boot is based on careful studies of the original brewing records from Hillsdale and Cornelius Pass Roadhouse as it evolved during its short 13 month run. It has been parsed and adjusted with enough poetic license to translate what was historically a malt extract brew to a modern all-grain interpretation. We believe that what the original concept of that first company standard was hoped to be can now be poured into your pint on this special release date.

Hillsdale Ale will be $4 per pint and $8 per growler fill all day long on Sunday, and if you have the McMenamins Passport you can get a special stamp for it. Make sure to try the modern interpretation of this McMenamins Ur-Ale.

Some other “fun factoids” sent along:

  • Hillsdale Ale was brewed 29 times at the Hillsdale and 14 times at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse between 10/25/1985 and 11/28/1986.
  • Both locations brewed their final batches of Hillsdale Ale on November 28th,  1986.  The last batch at CPR was brewed by John Harris and the last batch at Hillsdale was brewed by McMenamins 1st female brewer, Alex Farnham.
  • The brewers of the Hillsdale Ale were:  Ron Wolf, Conrad Santos, Mike McMenamin, Brian McMenamin, John Harris, Scott Barrow and Alex Farnham.
  • In addition to the 31 “Head” brewers, there have been at least 22 other folks who’ve put in brews, or multiple brews at the famous location.
  • In addition all of McMenamins brewing, distilling and winemaking operations, the diminutive Hillsdale has connections via its legion of brewers to Deschutes, Full Sail, Ecliptic, Star, Trumer, Skagit River, Orchard Street, Iron Springs, Southern Oregon Brewing, Burnside, Double Mountain, Fish & Game, Big Island, Blueball (UK), Max’s Fanno Creek,  Mad River, House Spirits, Bull Run Spirits among others.