Portland’s Aviation Gin Just Got Sold Off to New York—Here’s Why

Portland distiller House Spirits has sold Aviation Gin to a New York marketing firm called Davos Brands.

House Spirits will still make Aviation Gin, but now it will be as a contracted distiller, not as its owner.

“The main event is they acquired all the intellectual property including trademarks,” says House Spirits co-owner Tom Mooney. “Now we’re producing it at much closer to production cost.”

Aviation—the lavender-forward gin hailed nationwide as the original American dry and one of the hallmarks of the craft-distilling movement in this country—was up to now the flagship brand for the Portland distillery, which last year became the largest craft distillery in the Pacific Northwest. Aviation has risen to become the top-selling craft gin in the country.

The official line—the one in the press release—is that the sale will help the Aviation brand grow much bigger than it has already.

“We did quite a feat getting it from zero to 20,000 cases,” says Mooney. “Getting from 20,000 to 100 [thousand] is another feat. They’ve got the sales team, they’ve got the clout with distributors. Aviation will be a much bigger brand than it would have been if we hadn’t sold.”

But saying the brand will grow more under Davos’ ownership is only part of the story behind the sale. Davos has been Aviation’s sales team and marketer since December 2014, meaning Aviation already had access to Davos’ connections and resources while owning the brand.

The other side of the story is that the money from the sale will go toward making whiskey—lots and lots of whiskey. This will effectively transform House Spirits into a single-malt whiskey distillery, alongside more niche brands like Krogstad aquavit and a forthcoming Guatamalan rum.

House Spirits already sells whiskey, but only in small batches. They plan to sell whiskey in such large quantities it will overtake Aviation as their largest production brand.

Westward, their single-malt whiskey, is currently a five-year-old whiskey distilled from wash made by local brewers such as Breakside Brewing. But for the past year in their new $6 million distillery on Southeast Washington Avenue, House Spirits has also been brewing the mash they use for their whiskey using a 30-barrel brew system—ranking them among the larger brewers in Portland.

“[Aviation] definitely was our flagship brand, and the thing people knew us most for—equal parts because it’s a fantastic product, but also because that’s how we behaved,” Mooney says. “We needed to make sure most of our resources went into growing that brand.”

But currently, Mooney says, they’re producing more whiskey than gin.

But because whiskey needs to be aged before it can be sold—a minimum of three years in House Spirits’ case—the sale of the Aviation brand is essentially funding House Spirits’ ability to make a vast quantity of whiskey that can’t turn a profit for years.

“We’re producing whiskey in greater quantities than we’ve ever sold Aviation,” says Mooney. “But not by a lot. It’s pretty close. This year our production of Westward is pretty similar. Westward is around 50 percent, Aviation is 40 percent, and the other 10 percent belongs to our other brands.”

House Spirits still has a long-term contract to still distill Aviation for Davos, Mooney says, although he didn’t disclose the exact terms of the agreement, nor the amount Davos paid for the trademark and recipe.

“In the past we’d been approached by potential buyers who didn’t want us to continue producing it, and we turned them down,” says Mooney. “I would say for many years it will be there—whether many is 5 or 10 or 50 years, time will tell.”

But Aviation gin will no longer be offered at House Spirits’ tasting room—including the new tasting room they plan to open at the Portland Airport this Monday, November 21.

“In the near term it’s about focusing on building our American single malt program,” says  spokesperson Alexandra Sklansky, “and working behind the scenes on a rum program.”

House Sprits will also be introducing a Guatemala-made rum called Magdalena in spring of 2017—distilled as cane liquor in Guatemala, and aged at House Spirits. Magdalena is the name of the sugar mill that makes the liquor, and also  minority investor in House Spirits.

Between the whiskey and rum, House Spirits will essentially become a different company, without Aviation as their best known product..

“It’ll feel very weird,” Mooney says.

Americano Closes Three Months after Being Named the Oregonian’s Bar of the Year

Maybe this is why the Oregonian is so loath to endorse: The local semi-daily paper’s Bar of the Year did not quite last a year.

After being named the O‘s standout bar of 2016 in August, the bar—from Hale Pele’s Blair Reynolds and Coco Donuts’ Ian Christopher—unceremoniously closed eight months into its tenure, Eater reports. Reynolds cited insufficient sales as the reason.

In visits since our initial review in April, it seemed the bar had a hard time building clientele in a transitional East Burnside neighborhood, next to a seemingly forever vacant Chopsticks building.

Related: The Past and Future Chopsticks

As a high-concept, high-profile coffee cocktail and vermouth and press-pot bar in the somewhat unpopular Burnside 26 building, Americano faced more than a few uphill battles in garnering a steady crowd, compounded by the near-immediate departure of their head chef and steady losses among barstaff with impressive resumes.

As we noted in our initial review, however, it offered quite a few pleasures despite its sterile decor:

“Within, the cafe and bar looks like a cross between a hair salon and a Duran Duran album—sterile white-on-white, with a massive ornate mirror, marble horseshoe bar and ’80s-style pop-deco coffee art spanning an entire wall. Such an apparent ode to false luxury shouldn’t be any good, nor fun. But then you notice the sparkling gamay on the menu—a delightful quaff that might as well be Champagne jam—and the preponderance of wine bottles served for under $30.”

Anyway, here’s the goodbye message from the bar.

To our friends and regulars at Americano,

Thank you for the months of joy you brought through our doors, as we discovered, together, a world of coffee, vermouth, and joyous conversation. Unfortunately, due to difficult circumstances, we are announcing our official closure. Thank you again for the opportunity to entertain you.

– The owners and staff of Americano 

Note: For those in need of a terrific coffee and vermouth bar, we very much like Locale: Expect coffee cocktails and a full liquor license in the next couple months, according to owners.

Following Trump Victory, Double Mountain Taproom Closes Temporarily in Apparent Despair

Judging from the shellshocked ghost town that greeted many early morning commuters today, a good number of Portlanders delayed their trip to work this morning following the election of Donald Trump.

At least one business in Portland made that response official.

Hood River brewery Double Mountain’s new Portland taproom and pizza pub on Woodstock Boulevard will be closed all day.

Visitors who stopped in were greeted by a sign on the door saying that “We’ll be closed all day to take time to absorb the election results. See you on Thursday.”

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 12.14.39 PM

This does not mean no one will be drinking at Double Mountain today, but there’s a password for entry.

On Facebook, Double Mountain brewmaster and co-owner Matt Swihart posted a picture of himself with the very first tanks he ever got as a brewer, and then invited anyone who knows his middle name to come down for a beer today.

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 12.21.16 PM

He then closed with the somewhat ominous note: “I’m closing shop on this post election day and deciding on our next move.” We’ve reached out for comment, but have not yet received a response.

The brewery did reassure commenters, however, that the closure is just for today.

Starting in December, Servers and Bartenders Can Legally Drink on the Job

In other states, you can buy bartenders a shot for a job well done, or just because you’re drunk and lonely.

But not in Oregon. Here, a bartender at isn’t even legally allowed to sip a beer that a customer says went bad. (It didn’t go “bad,” by the way. Drink your beer and be quiet.)

Well, starting in December, employees at OLCC-licensed shops will be allowed to drink beer while they’re working.

Just… not very much.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission made the decision to allow minimal tastings of beer, wine or cider for employees of liquor-licensed businesses. The rule change is intended to allow servers to make sure drinks are not flawed, and to facilitate server education and wine tastings.

Tastings are limited to a maximum of one ounce per serving and a maximum of six ounces total—a bit under half a beer—between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. for employees over 21.

“It’s something the industry has been asking for for a while and we’ve been trying to look for solutions,” says OLCC spokesperson Christie Scott. “Before, it was easier to enforce it. It was easier to say, ‘you’re drinking or you’re not. But this way, it is not as black and white—but that’s the point, to carve out some exceptions that make sense.”

The rule doesn’t apply to liquor.

“It’s very limited.,” she says. “it’s not that they can drink on duty. They can taste on duty and only under certain circumstances.” 

For example, if a restaurant is doing a wine tasting, this rule allows employees to taste along with the customers. Or if a server uncorks a bottle of wine, they can taste it for quality control.

“The industry, from what we’ve heard through advisory committee meetings, is pleased. It’s something they’ve been asking for for a long time,” she says. “The administration now has been really open to change.”

But the new rule only goes so far. There’s a specific reminder that marijuana consumption is still not allowed on the premises of liquor-licensed businesses, and that it doesn’t matter if a bartender is on their lunch break.

Dean Pottle, Founder of Portland’s Legendary Homebrew Speakeasy, Has Died

The Portland beer community has lost one of its most unique and lovable personalities.

Dean Pottle passed away Thursday morning at age 65 from heart failure. Pottle ran Dean’s Scene, a speakeasy in the basement of Pottle’s plumbing shop where drinkers served themselves home-brewed beer made on a system in the corner of the basement.

The affable Dean presided over a an ongoing house party, where the curious and a collection of regulars congregated around a double-sided bar in a haze of smoke—cannabis and tobacco alike. Dean was the DJ—Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa were his favorites—and always eager to talk about beer. He attended dozens of beer festivals every year, did plumbing for a number of local breweries and was an active member of his homebrew club.

(Hilary Sander)
(Hilary Sander)

Sammy Sklover—Dean’s close friend who has been the brewmaster at Dean’s for the last few year’s and serves as de facto GM—wrote about Dean’s final moments on his Facebook.

“His last wish was to enjoy and share his favorite beer: Samichlaus Classic Beir from 1988, Which we served him from a snifter glass using a small sponge. After the second taste when I pulled away to saturate the sponge, he moved his head forward for more beer, which was the first voluntary action he had done in 12 hours. When his breathing stopped we poured the rest of the snifter down his throat. His final moment in life was him enjoying his favorite thing; drinking beer with friends.

Originally from Connecticut, Pottle moved to Portland 15 years ago this month. As he told me for a profile published in WW in 2013, he didn’t have his first craft beer until the early 1990s, when he was already 41. He moved to Portland in 1998 after a magical stay at Edgefield.

“I’d heard Portland had good beer, but we had no idea because we didn’t have the Internet back in those days,” he told us then. “I was from the East Coast, and I was like, ‘This is it!”’

“Out here they really cared about shit, and that got to me,” said Pottle. “That’s why people move here from all over the country, because they’re too good for where they’re from. And I feel bad, because they really needed me back there.”

There’s no place that doesn’t need a man like Dean Pottle, and Portland was lucky to have him. He was a quintessential Portlander, too—beyond loving beer, music and cannabis, he was also a committed pacifist and vegetarian.

Once in Portland, Pottle bought a house across from Alameda Brewing on Northeast Fremont where he lived and operated his plumbing shop. He was soon joined by his ex-wife Misty, who he’d been married to back in Connecticut. She moved out to Portland and they remarried. They split up again three years ago.

(Jake Southard)
(Jake Southard)

Pottle built up a scene in the basement of his shop. My 2013 story led to some notoriety—and to a visit from the OLCC, who convinced Pottle to fill out paperwork giving them the right to inspect his premises. They later warned him about some of his practices, such as the donation box by the door, and sent a letter that led to the spot’s temporary closure. There was some blame spread around over the whole thing but Dean’s Scene quietly reopened, and has been going strong since.

We’re pouring a collaboration beer at tomorrow’s Portland Pro-Am Beer Festival. The beer that Sklover made, with a little help from Dean and me, is a hazy New England-style IPA infused with CBD, a terpene found in cannabis that promotes relaxation.

Though things are still up in the air, Sklover tells me his intention is to keep Dean’s open in something close to its current form.

“Dean really wanted to have a place where people could come and talk about beer,” he says. “And drink craft beer, even if they don’t have money.”

To me, that was the most endearing part of Dean’s whole operation. It was very much a clubhouse, a little gang of beer-loving Lost Boys who’d drink, smoke, debate politics and drink some more. When I came over to brew the Pro-Am beer, one of Dean’s friends was asleep on the couch in his basement pub, and another was sleeping in a hammock in the back yard.

I asked Dean a few times why he wouldn’t go commercial and he told me that he would not get an OLCC license until they allowed cannabis use in bars. He foresaw a day where that’d happen, too.

There will be a memorial in Dean’s neighborhood announced very soon, Sklover says. Already, there is a GoFundMe to cover his final expenses. At the memorial, expect to hear a lot of funny stories about a kind, creative and loyal man.

Here’s my own favorite Dean story:

Back in the summer of 2012, Wilco played a show down in Jacksonville, Oregon, the quaint little town in Southern Oregon. I happened to stop into Dean’s three or four times in the months leading up to the show, and every time I came in Dean was playing Wilco on the stereo. He managed the stereo himself, and was very deliberate about creating the right vibe with music. Wilco is my favorite band, so I loved this. But you could tell Dean wasn’t into it. Finally, I nodded at him from around the bend in his little double-sided bar, and asked him what the deal was.

“I’m really trying to get into them,” he says through the thick haze of smoke. “My buddy and I are going down to the show next month and I wanna like them by then.”

Dean never did come to like Wilco.

But the fact that he tried so hard to get into the band struck me. This was a man in his 60s, not a teenager. And yet, that’s how he lived his life—with the spirit of a kid who wanted to get excited about the band his friends were excited about. And that’s why Pottle had so many friends that are missing him right now.

Saraveza, Beloved Wisconsin-Themed Beer Bar, To Close for Renovations

Saraveza, North Killingsworth’s popular Wisconsin-themed beer bar, will close after the Packers’ game this Sunday.

But it’ll only be for a week. The bar will be expanding its kitchen for the first time since it opened in 2008.

In addition to the physical changes in the kitchen, the bar will also have a change of staff. Chef Dustin Gettman, Saraveza’s original crafter of food, will return to the popular alehouse after time spent working at the New York City’s Pok Pok location, Meriwethers in the Northwest  Industrial district, and pFriem in Hood River.

“Dustin’s talent in the kitchen was part of our immediate success,” said owner Sarah Pederson to Willamette Week, “We’re all pumped to watch him have fun with all the new toys in our kitchen.”

Gettman says he is particularly excited to expand the pub’s house-made charcuterie options, and to host a Friday night fish fry.

In addition to kitchen upgrades, the bar will have a cleaner look when the doors re-open, says Pederson.

“Upping our food game is my number one priority with the remodel, but after that, I want to breathe some fresh life into our space. I’ll add a new coat of paint, move a cooler, change the back of the bar,” she says. “It will feel more like a museum and not so much like a garage in here!”

No official re-open date has been announced, though Pederson says they plan to host a grand re-opening party (and 8th Anniversary bash) on Saturday, October 15.

In the interim, The Bad Habit Room—a speakeasy themed-companion restaurant to Saraveza located next door—will open its bar and kitchen from 4-10 pm, offering would-be patrons a place to sate their appetites for hops and food during renovations.

Another Nearly-Century-Old Downtown Bar Will Soon Be Closed

The Rialto will soon be no more. Jack London Bar, one of Portland’s only literary holdouts in downtown, will soon be no more. The Kentucky Derby in Portland will never quite be the same.

The off-track betting parlor and pool hall and deeply unashamed den of iniquity, open 96 years in the heart of downtown Portland and spiritual home to every would-be Hunter S. Thompson or hard-luck soul in town, will hold its final farewell Sunday, December 25, according to a Facebook post by the bar today.

The owner, Arthur McFadden, is retiring, staff says. However, on their Facebook page announcement, the bar had a more succinct and suggestive reason for its closure: “Inflation.” We’ve reached out to the bar’s management for more details, and will report them as they become available.

The Rialto, as a nearly century-old gambling hall and home to the both the down and out and a host of courthouse lawyers, makes up a historic gambling-hall double-whammy alongside former card hall the Lotus Room, which closed this month after over 90 years. The Lotus’ ancient cherrywood bartop being preserved by the McMenamin brothers. That building will become a 21-story boutique hotel.

This is not the first time the Rialto has closed since opening in 1920; its current incarnation has been around since 2004, and reopened a decade ago as home to better-than-decent bar food.

Upstairs at the Rialto is a vast array of pool tables, while downstairs is a white-bright off-track gambling hall, whose card tables were swathed in a hilariously toxic density of cigarette smoke until laws made that illegal. The bar’s downstairs event space, the Jack London Room, has been home to both literary readings and dance parties.

During Triple Crown racing, the Rialto fills to the brim with mint julep seekers in Hawaiian shirts and three-piece-suits, placing trifecta wagers at the bar’s windows and betting machines.

But it looks like the Derby has had its last run at the Rialto, at least for now.

In rosier Rialto-related bar news, Rialto’s general manager, Michael Ackerman, will reopen North Lombard’s Foggy Notion as the Lombard Pub, set to have its grand opening party October 15.

Portland’s Strip Club Haunted House Will Return

Last year, Portland got its first-ever strip club haunted house, from Portland strip club and adult entertainment mainstay DJ Dick Hennessy. As far as we know, it was the first strip club haunted house anywhere.

This year, the Strip Club Haunted House is coming back. Instead of three nights, it will be up for five, including Friday, Saturday and actual Halloween night in Chinatown’s Spyce Gentleman’s Club.

Related: Portland’s Is Getting A Strip Club Haunted House

Last year’s theme was Seven Deadly Sins. This year, it’s time travel. We talked with DJ Dick to hear about what that exactly means.


WW: I understand you have a theme this year.

DJ Dick: It’s Dick and Matt’s Haunted Strip Club Time Machine, that’s the technical time machine.

What’s that going to look like?

The premise is that me and Matt love strip clubs to death, so we decide to go in a time machine and experience what they were like in the past, but things take a turn for the worse. Guests will get to experience the different time periods of strip clubs, like Medieval times or the 1970s or maybe even a strip club in the future—all of which will have a horrific twist, being that it is a haunted house. I’ve been living in Portland my whole life and loving Portland to death I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of what people in Portland are interested in and I thought time travel and strip clubs would be a good mix.

What about time travel do you think interests people in Portland?

I know I love Back to the Future, growing up in the ’80s, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I feel like anyone who grew up in that time would be fascinated with time travel. Even just in day-to-day life, my favorite movies are ones that take place in a different time period. I thought people in this region would enjoy it.

What other time periods will be featured?

We’re going to go back to Jack the Ripper time period, the Salem Witch Trials, the Vietnam War, and I don’t want to give the rest away. There will be a bar with the ghost bartender from The Shining serving up drinks and shots.

Was there a bar last year?

Yeah, but that was the only part that didn’t have live actors. We just had a skeleton with a bunch of hotel key cards, but honestly having that kind of space could be utilized for something way cool because there’s actors in every other aspect.

What kind of feedback did you get last year?

We only had two negative comments last year. It was kind of shocking how good everything went. The only negative feedback was that it went by too fast, but that’s because it was a lot of fun, too. And the area with the bar, people didn’t know if someone was going to pop out or not. Other than that, there was no negative feedback. We only had it on weekdays last year because Spyce already did so well on the weekends. To take up Friday and Saturday, it shows how confident we are.

GO: DJ Dick Hennessy’s Strip Club Haunted House at Spyce Gentleman’s Club, Wed, Oct. 26–Sunday, Oct. 31. 9 pm, 33 NW 2nd Ave., $15 admission with free gift.

The Dandy Warhols Are Opening a Bar in Slabtown

It’s easy to forget, but back in 2002, flush on the success of Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, the Dandy Warhols—Portland’s original psych-rock stars—bought an entire city block, a 10,000-square-foot former warehouse parked on industrial, low-rent Slabtown.

Related: The Dandy Warhols Share Memories of Touring with David Bowie

Since then it’s been their rec room, party hall, recording studio, private performance space and home base—and now, at least part of it is going to be a bar.

It’ll be called the Old Portland. And according to sources close to frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor, it’ll be a wine bar.

It’ll also be the first time any part of the Odditorium—whose interior could be characterized as falling somewhere between antique overstock warehouse and burlesque hall—has been open to the public.

Wine bar or no, a Dandy Warhols bar may be the only little piece of old Portland left in Slabtown aside from Radio Cab dispatch, Yur’s and Joe’s Cellar, in a zone currently dominated by mixed-use housing, New Seasons and New Besaw’s.

Taylor-Taylor’s wine cellars are notoriously well-stocked, and his love of wine is well-documented—we reviewed a 2010 vintage of now-defunct Chateau Taylor-Taylor’s Bocca D’Avolo back in 2012, finding it a bit “disembodied from its nose.”

Related: Bocca D’Avolo 2010 (Chateau Taylor-Taylor)

But this won’t, we presume, be a revival of the Chateau. We’ll post more details about the Warholian wine bar as they emerge.

In the meantime, we suggest you brush up on your Dandyisms by re-watching one of the world’s greatest rock documentaries.

Related: The Dandy Warhols and Dig!, a Decade Later.”

Massive Two-Story Karaoke Bar Opening on Northeast Broadway

Northeast Broadway, probably Portland’s most consistently awful street for nightlife, is about to get a massive new two-story bar called Capitol Bar—from the people behind Bye and Bye, Century Bar and the ChefStable restaurant group that includes Ox, Lardo and St. Jack.

Related: Century Bar is the Ambitious Sports Bar We’ve Been Waiting For

Capitol Bar is expected to open by the end of the year on 14th and Broadway—previously home to Sugar Laboratories salon—according to co-owner Christopher Cook, who made the menu at DJ-happy Church bar on Sandy Boulevard after a stint at the Woodsman Tavern. The upstairs will have karaoke made by sound engineer and composer Phillip Kraft, best known for his work on the tEEth collaborative dance project.

Related: Teeth: Ten Million Channels and Nothing but Noise

Other partners include John Janulis and Liam Duffy of Lightning Bar Collective (Bye and Bye, Jackknife, Century Bar), and Kurt Huffman of ChefStable.

According to Cook, large corporations had both made offers on the bar space, but those offers didn’t interest the building’s owner, renowned kitsch-pop photographer and music video director David LaChapelle—responsible for a whole host of MTV fare including lots of Elton John, Christina Aguilera’s very dirty “Dirrty” video and, of course, the Dandy Warhols’ “Not if You Were the last Junkie on Earth.”

“David LaChapelle is owner of the building,” Cook says. “He loves John [Janulis]’s bars, karaoke and vegan and vegetarian options. He was getting offers from Kaiser and Starbucks. It was a really awesome—he wanted to maintain some artistic integrity.”

Cook says they’ll be maintaining some small parts of the aesthetic from the salon—keeping a few of the mirrors and using the private upstairs rooms as private karaoke rooms in addition to the main karaoke floor.

But they’re jettisioning about “95 percent” of what the salon looked like, he says, and will be running with a “subtly nautical theme.”

“The building lends itself to a lighthouse style,” says Cook. “with a big octagonal skylight. We’re kind of of running with what complements the beautiful space we’re moving into.”

The bar will have vegan options, he says, but most of the menu is still to be determined.