Proper Pint Taproom opened on SE 52nd and Woodstock in Portland on Saturday, a slick new beer bar from Sean Hiatt, the former manager of The Civic Taproom and his fiance Sean Mulligan of Salt & Straw. One of the first businesses in a small new commercial building that is already home to a yoga studio and will soon house a new Heart Coffee Roasters, Proper Pint Taproom is a modern, cool, and refined beer bar with an emphasis on craft and quality over quantity.
New taprooms and growler fill stops seem to be opening every week, but most have settled into the generic growler fill station aesthetic of digital tapboards, uncomfortable and cheap tall metal tables, no bar stools, and way too many branded growlers and walls of merchandise leaving an uncreative, unwelcoming, and overly cookie-cutter space. NOT SO with Proper Pint Taproom, which takes a new commercial space and gives it a mix of wood paneled and polished texture and unpolished metal and metallic surfaces with just the right amount of warm glowing light. It falls somewhere between casual and textured, bright but not overly lit and modern but refined. It turns out co-owner Sean Hiatt is a bit of a craftsman and built much of the space by hand; from the bar tops and tap wall to the wood and leather seats, it’s a subtle difference but you can feel that these materials weren’t just found at the local Home Depot. The handmade details feel new and hip, but eschew generic, cold, digital elements, all the way down to the tap list made of printed vinyl, hand cut out and slid into a backlit light wall for the beer display. Proper Pint has an atmosphere that nearly makes me feel like I should be sipping sake and whole leaf tea rather than a proper honest pint of Loowit Brewing’s unapologetically cosmopolitan “Cloudier Than Love” hazy NE-style IPA kegged for nitro. That’s partly because of the cool, shaded patio that feels more like a tea garden than a beer hall, and that is a compliment. Perhaps it’s the red Japanese maples and interesting groomed garden shrubs, or the large sliding glass doors, but I found the space to have a vague Izakaya vibe.
The bar does have three TV screens and fresh Portugal, the Man tunes playing so you won’t forget you are in a millenial bar, but Hiatt has a great idea to keep the screen display interesting but not just TV for TV’s sake. Avoiding the non-stop ESPN score crawl, Proper Pint Taproom will of course show Timbers games, but Hiatt plans to film an in-house time lapse of local breweries to keep things interesting. The idea is setting up a camera in a brewery’s production space to caputre the day-to-day but interesting work of a brewer, then play it without sound on the screens as if it’s a NatGeo wildlife documentary or Baraka from Behind a Brew Kettle.
A top feature of the twenty-four draft line taproom is the sliding glass back wall that opens to a small but really charming back patio/garden. That entire back wall across from the bar is basically just a full paneled back wall with rollup sections and doors that bring a ton of indirect light into the space, with that Japanese tea garden feel I mentioned previously. Not only is the patio squeezed between the taproom and a house next door that gives an intimate and shaded feel, but a large looming fruit tree in the yard to the west casts an almost complete shadow over the patio, with diffused light streaming through the leaves on an early summer afternoon.
Proper Pint Taproom owner Sean Hiatt demonstrates a proper pour.
Now about that name. Proper Pint Taproom is naturally named after an honest 20oz pint, or at least a 16oz pint glass with room for head. The typical American nonic pint glass is exactly 16oz, leaving no room for head. An English Imperial pint glass fits 20oz of beer with 3-4oz for head space. Proper Pint features both options for nearly every beer, plus a 10oz goblet size and 5oz sampler and sampler trays, all with proper pint lines for 16 or 10oz clearly marked.
Proper Pint does not have food at the moment, but will have snacks and soon the option to order food, like Chicago-style thin crust from the nearby Bridge City Pizza to be delivered to you at the taproom. It’s also kid friendly in the day and will have a selection of special bottles available for here or to-go. Of the twenty-four taps, expect 2-4 dedicated to cider and two nitro taps. The selection skews Pacific Northwest, but Sean and Casey will put on anything they like.
Proper Pint Taproom
no posted hours yet but opening at noon and staying open to around midnight
5965 SE 52nd ave