Brian's Photo Blog — Article 549
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McMenamins Kennedy School Pub Crawl
Monday 9 May 2016   —   Category: Dining Out
After my ill-fated vacation in California last October during which I broke my toe, I was no longer in any condition to continue the many (twenty-one!) pho­to­graph­ic walking tours of Portland which I had been enjoying for the previous six months. However, I was (and still am) so passionate about Portland that I wasn’t going to let a broken toe keep me away, even if I couldn’t go for my usual urban photo-hike.

Therefore I set my sights on a less pe­des­tri­an, more sedate outing to McMen­a­mins Kennedy School, which I had first heard about in one of the Portland pub crawl articles I mentioned in Breweries and Pubs in Portland and Beyond.

Kennedy School is a hundred-year-old building which became part of the Mc­Men­a­mins empire in 1997. It now hous­es six restaurants and bars, a 57-room hotel, a movie theater, a soaking pool, and a brewery — with everything main­tain­ing a school theme. The entire com­plex is chock-​full of original artwork which illustrate the history and char­ac­ter of the school.

So one rainy Sunday near the end of October 2015 I drove to the Kennedy School, in the northeast Portland Con­cor­dia neighborhood, and went on a multi-​hour, multi-​stop McMenamins pub crawl without ever leaving the building!
After arriving around 11:00 the first or­der of business was brunch in the Court­yard Restaurant. I had their biscuits and gravy — it was a pretty good meal. The biscuits were soft and flaky and the sau­sage gravy was nicely spiced. But for the $10 price, I wish they would have ladled on more gravy be­cause there was not enough to go with all the biscuit.
The “Greyhound” cocktail I had with my brunch consisted of fresh-​squeezed grapefruit and vodka. Nothing fancy, and nothing to com­plain about — just simple, delicious refreshment.

After limping (remember my broken toe) around for a while and tak­ing pictures of some of the abundant artwork on the hallway walls, I headed to my next pub-crawl stop.
McMenamins’ own description says it quite well:

“Behind an unassuming, seemingly ordinary hallway door at the Kennedy School hides a huge, multi-level bar (for­merly the school’s boiler room)! And it’s called — you guessed it — the Boiler Room Bar.

“Guests can gather for McMenamins ales, wines and spir­its, a round of pool, music from a jukebox, games of shuf­fle­board and a menu that includes pizza, calzones, panini sandwiches and more. And, of course, the place is covered in McMenamins artwork galore.”

“The Boiler Room has a Gothic feel about it, bulging with a wonderfully monstrous, antiquated heating apparatus (was Brazil filmed in here?).”

Considering the actual look of the place, and their ref­er­ence to the Brazil film, I would say that it feels more steampunk than Gothic. Whatever you want to call the style, it is very cool and unique!
In was in the Boiler Room that I had the first hard cider in my half-​century life. It was McMenamins’ own Edgefield Cider, and I liked it so much that I forgot to take a picture of the glass full of cider until it was almost finished.
After leaving the Boiler Room Bar, the next destination on my pub crawl was a much-​needed stop at the men’s room.

Inspired by the quirky The Best Places To Pee: A Guide To The Funky & Fab­u­lous Bathrooms of Portland book which I had read not long before, I decided to try my own restroom shot.

For the best results, you need a perfect aim!
My first visit to Kennedy School also happened to be the very day of the 30th anniversary of McMenamins’ first beer, Hillsdale Ale. What perfect timing!

None of the other four bars in the build­ing, which I had not yet visited, were pouring this beer. The Courtyard Res­tau­rant where I had brunch also has a bar, so I went back there and that is where I found a pint.
They were offering this beer for one day only, so I decided to give it a try. According to the brewer:

“In celebration of three decades of small-batch brewing, a 30th An­niver­sa­ry commemorative batch of Hillsdale Ale will be poured at every McMenamins location across the land for one day only. This revisited brew is based on careful studies of the original brewing records from Hillsdale and Cornelius Pass Roadhouse as it evolved during its 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 the aim of the orig­i­nal concept of that first company standard can now be poured into your pint on this special date.” Meas­ure­ments: 4.5% ABV • 38 IBU

My notes from that day read: “Very nice ... a light, blonde ale ... very good!” Too bad it was only for one day!
The final stop on my Kennedy School pub crawl was the Honors Bar. It was tiny — what you see in the photo to the right is pretty much the whole thing, as I was standing in the doorway when I took this shot.

With classical music playing in the background, cold air was streaming through the open window while heat was radiating from the wood-burning cast-iron potbelly stove — a combination I find especially appealing!

For my last libation, I decided to give their popular Ruby Ale a try. According to the brewer:

“One of our most popular standards, we still make Ruby with the same aims we had when brewing the first batch back in March of 1986: To create an ale light, crisp and refreshingly fruity. Great Western Premium 2-Row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry purée is used to craft every colorful batch. Simple but delicious.” Meas­ure­ments: 4.0% ABV • N/A IBU
My notes from that day read: “OK beer, but not great ... one time only. Classical opera music, windows open, toasty free-​standing wood-burning stove. It’s won­der­ful when a breeze blows through the window!”

After visiting only half of the bars at Kennedy School over a three-and-a-quarter-hour period, I was done for the day and ready to head home. My poor broken toe was not used to that much activity. I needed to get back to my recliner and give my foot a rest.

I took a total of 43 pictures while I was there. The best 33 can be viewed in the new McMenamins Kennedy School 2015 album, including quite a few shots of the wonderful artwork. As usual, I have put a lot of time and effort into researching detailed captions for each photo.

But in the end, these photos don’t do the Kennedy School justice. McMenamins has done an amazing job ren­o­vat­ing and restoring a historic building — the whole place is like a living museum.

And there was so much of it I didn’t get to see. If you are ever in the Portland area, don’t pass by the opportunity to spend some quality hours here. It would be a great place to spend the night!

McMenamins has restored quite a few historic buildings, and a handful of them are quite large and extensive like Kennedy School. I have my eye on their 74-acre Edgefield complex, located on the far-eastern edge of the Port­land metro area. Stay tuned!
For more tales about other locations, see My McMenamins Passport Adventure.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 549
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