Beginning My McMenamins Passport Adventure
Friday 27 May 2016 — Category: Dining Out
During the last third of 2015, when I was starting to explore breweries and pubs in Portland and beyond, I stopped at a few of the 116 venues in McMenamins’ Pacific Northwest brewpub empire. In addition, while on my 24 walks around Portland that year, I passed by and photographed a handful of McMenamins locations without actually entering them.
It was during my second and longest visit to a McMenamins — at their northeast Portland Kennedy School in October 2015 — that I started to get an inkling of what McMenamins is all about.
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.
I love history. For me, it wasn’t the good food and drink at Kennedy School that was the main attraction, but the great and loving effort that the McMenamins team put into preserving and restoring that historic building. I wandered the halls and visited rooms for a few hours, and was continually astonished at what I was seeing.
During my meandering, I noticed that many of the patrons had something called a McMenamins Passport, and they were very eager to have it stamped at various locations in the Kennedy School complex. I read about it later at home, but at that time I didn’t feel much interest in it. But a seed had been planted.
Through the long Oregon winter that seed lay dormant, but recently it has begun to germinate and sprout. I realized that I would probably be visiting many historic McMenamins locations during 2016. As long as I was going to go there anyway, it started to make sense that I should take advantage of the benefits a Passport offers.
Last week I made my first stop of the year at a McMenamins — their Cornelius Pass Roadhouse location in Hillsboro, in the western Portland metro area. Then and there I took the plunge and paid $25 to begin my own McMenamins Passport adventure!
A couple of excerpts from their Passport FAQs page may answer some of the questions you might be having right now. You can always click over to that page for answers to additional questions that might be burning in your brain.
Furthermore, there are 16 optional “experiences” stamps you can collect, and each time you get four you receive a $20 McMenamins gift card. For $5 you can buy an insert containing 8 additional “experiences” you can get stamps for.
In my case, while I was at the Cornelius Pass Road property I got my first stamp (of 100) at the Imbrie Hall restaurant where I bought my Passport and had lunch. Shortly thereafter I was able to take tours of both the brewery and the distillery, and thus get two “experiences” stamps. Only two more “experiences” stamps and I’ll get my first $20 gift card.
Some “experiences” will not be hard to experience — like enjoying a beer, wine, or spirits flight, or attending a McMenamins Brewfest, or even going to see a movie in one of their theater-pubs.
On the other hand there are some “experiences” which I will never experience, like playing golf at one of their two courses, or getting a spa treatment, or riding a bike to one of their pubs, or bringing a pet dog with me (if they only knew how much I hate dogs!). But in the end, it’s OK that I won’t collect stamps for all 24 “experiences” — there’s no pressure to achieve or perform!
The funny thing is that it’s not McMenamins’ liquor or food — fine though they are — which makes me want to visit their nearly 60 locations. I’m longing to see and photograph the beautiful historic buildings they have restored. The food and drink are extra benefits along the way. And I absolutely love the fascinating work of their history department!
Although I plan on sampling the epicurean offerings of each location, it’s nice to know that I’m usually not required to make any purchases in order to get a Passport stamp at most locations. In the end, the whole point of collecting stamps is to enjoy myself and have great new experiences. I can definitely toast to that!
In order to avoid having to dig out my driver’s license each time I get a stamp in my Passport, I needed to add a photo of myself to the first page. No sweat, I thought, I’m an accomplished photographer! In my next article I will share the details of the difficulties I had in making myself look presentable! In the article after that I will be explaining how I am using computer technology to organize my McMenamins Passport adventure.