First Look at "Beer": A New Taphouse From the Owner of Meat Cheese Bread

"Beer" and "Meat Cheese Bread" owner John Stewart behind the bar
Popular sandwich lover haven Meat Cheese Bread in inner SE Portland has opened a beer bar next door to its space to accompany its killer sandwiches. The aptly named "Beer" opened without notice Tuesday after passing inspection. The new bar features 10 taps and 100 bottles in its narrow and wooden confines on SE Stark and 14th and will be open 11am to 11pm. Despite the fact that SEO experts heads' exploded upon hearing the new taproom's un-google-able name, at least patrons wont likely confuse "Beer" with the next door Enso Winery. After chatting with owner John Stewart over a beer at "Beer," I have no doubt this passion project of his will have great success.

The first thing I noticed approaching "Beer" was the pretty stained glass hanging in the window that features the pub's logo like a monastic crest, except it faces inward so the words appear backwards from the outside. This seemed odd until I brought it up to owner John Stewart, who gave the best possible answer--the sign was not there to attract customers, but for those who had already found it.

Indeed, anyone trying to look "Beer" up on a map is going to get lost, but if you're familiar with cult favorite Meat Cheese Bread, you will find the warmly lit windows of "Beer" just to its left. This is great news for the lunchtime crowd. Meat Cheese Bread has always had 2 good beers on tap, but it's so tiny and has such limited seating that you never want to hang out there. With "Beer" next door, you can grab a sandwich and head next door to a decent-sized bar with a very extensive beer selection.

Though rushed open before its projected opening date of January 1, the space feels finished, warm, and cozy, unlike many of the other recent new bottleshops and taprooms that opened this year. Stopping in for a late lunch yesterday, I washed down a fucking tasty Muffuletta sandwich with a pickle and salt & vinegar chips and a Double Mountain Kolsch that paired perfectly.

"Beer"'s 10 rotating taps include a cider and may not qualify as a huge variety, but a varied selection covers all bases. Some might even describe it as more of a bottleshop, with 100 well-chosen varieties covering the bases of local brewers, regional craft brewers, Belgians and imports, and a couple of cheap offerings like MGD. Prices are fair, with a standard in-house pricing and a cheaper to-go bottle price. The warm wood paneled interior and bar are dim but warmly lit from working vintage bar signs and old lamps. At first glance the bar is quite small with 10 or so bar seats and 1 booth in the front window, but down a narrow hall the space opens up into a larger charming room with extra seating.

back room with expanded seating
It's a bit trendy these days to fill your bar with vintage beer signs and memorabilia, but it really fits in well with this space. I also think this is one of the best collections of working signs I have seen; most of them light up and there are some truly unique ones that were catching my companion's and my gaze. Who needs a TV when the twinkly stars in that Hamm's sign change to reveal the big dipper and cute glassware! Even the bathroom is decorated with character, featuring tons of wood paneled art and signs with cute kittens and other oddball but adorable images that you may find in an estate sale. It's impossible not to notice the giant silver bull's head as a centerpiece above the bar. Apparently it was junkyard salvaged and is another ode to John Stewart's personal hobbies, just like the tap towers hand fashioned of car parts like hubcaps.

The intimate feel of the bar that doesn't serve any of its own food reminds me of some of the great holes in the wall in San Francisco, but apparently is even closer to Brooklyn, NY. Specifically,  the owner realized that he could actually pull off his vision in such a tiny place after he visited a place called Spuyten Duyvil. In the future "Beer" hopes to host meet-the-brewer events, perhaps even a Double Mountain brewers dinner, and cheese pairing events with Steve Jones. For now, there is nowhere to find info about "Beer," but a website and facebook page are in the works. To find it just look for Meat Cheese Bread. You won't be disappointed.

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