About The Barley Mill Pub

The Barley Mill is a touchstone for McMenamins because of its "first" status among our current pubs. However, in history's eye, it's one in a succession of notable watering holes to roost at the corner of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and 17th Avenue. The place is flush with great characters and stories dating back to 1934, when Billy Hahn opened the original beer parlor on this spot. It was a year after Prohibition ended and Portlanders were demonstrating a definite thirst for frosty mugs of brew. Hahn called his joint The Scuttlebutt, an old seafaring term for a drinking fountain. "Red" Dorrigan, a Scuttlebutt bartender in the 1950s, epitomized the Scuttlebutt's atmosphere in those early years. A big, tough Irishman, "Red" had auburn hair and a scarlet face, which, one patron remarked, "he didn't get from falling into a strawberry patch." By the middle 1970s, the 'Butt was ending its 30-year run with the time-honored practice of exotic dancers: They danced... and stripped right on the bar. 

In 1977, new owners reinvented the place with a little more attitude, more surliness, and a new name — Fat Little Rooster. Fifty-five cent Rainiers and pool were definite attractions for the place, but the Rooster's bread and butter was music — loud music! While much of the rest of city's clubs and taverns were featuring glitter and synthesizers, the Rooster strutted gut-bucket blues and other earthy, roots-based music. Some of the Northwest's best bands took their turn tearing the roof off the place, including the Robert Cray Band, Paul deLay's Brown Sugar, Steve Bradley's Sleazy Pieces, the Holy Modal Rounders, and the fabulous Clamtones.

After six years of crowing, the Fat Little Rooster flew the coop and area residents took a simultaneous sigh of relief. In 1983, Mike and Brian McMenamin came and scoured the place inside and out and gave the 50-year-old haunt new life as the decidedly more family-oriented Barley Mill Pub. The place was decked out with exuberant neon lights and imaginative murals painted by Norm Forsberg and Joe Cotter. Also, the pub's namesake, a very heavy barley mill (a kitty litter grinder originally) was set up with great effort in the front bay. It's a prized relic rescued from Oregon's first microbrewery, the Cartwright Brewery (1979-1982).

Word of mouth brought more people and fun to the place, making the Barley Mill, with its laid-back feel, a comfortable gathering spot for folks of all walks and ages. In particular, the pub's rousing summer anniversary party, with its performers, contests, and specially crafted anniversary ale, continues to be a day of family fun and revelry.

Read more Barley Mill History.


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