With over 50 establishments in the food, beverage and hospitality industries, McMenamins is arguably one of the most multifaceted names in the Northwest, offering a touch of everything to their visitors. If you’re looking for beer, choose from over 20 brewpubs throughout Oregon and Washington. Wine lover? The historic Edgefield Winery in Troutdale, Oregon, is the place to go – and they make cider, too, longer than most other cideries in the state.
If spirits are more your style, you’ve come to the right place: McMenamins Edgefield Distillery is celebrating 20 years of production this year. Clark McCool, general manager of production, provides a closer look at what it means to enjoy a McMenamin-made spirit, and how the differing properties are more interconnected than you might think.
Launching off of a successful foundation in the wine and beer fields, McMenamins began distilling in 1998 with a single still installed in an old potato shed on the Edgefield property. Eventually, they added Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, their second distillery, in 2012.
“We were one of the first distillers in Oregon who made our own spirits,” says McCool, who explains that keeping things local is a priority not just of the distilling sector, but of each McMenamins branch. Most of the time, this means utilizing their own resources from the various properties. The distillery’s Longshot brandy, for example, is made with Syrah grapes harvested from Edgefield’s two-acre vineyard, and the spirit is aged in used Syrah barrels. Another favorite, the Monkey Puzzle whiskey, is sweetened with blackberry honey harvested from the Edgefield estate’s very own hives.
How does the production team stay on their toes amid cranking out a vast variety of beverages? According to McCool, staying present is key. “We constantly ask ourselves: ‘Are we staying true to our mission and also staying current?’” he asks, adding they are constantly evolving and trying out new recipes. While some spirits are unchanging classics, others undergo recipe tweaks, like Joe Penney’s Gin, which is now potato based, as opposed to its previous traditional grain base.
Regardless, McCool says,the spirit must be able to stand alone. Once it can stand alone, its potential in a cocktail is even more exciting – and McMenamins pubs and bars love their cocktails. Befittingly, the extended anniversary celebration for the distillery is very much cocktail-centric. Drink specials began in March with the Hogshead Whiskey Poor Farm Sour – featuring Hogshead whiskey, one of McCool’s personal favorites – and continue through the end of December with the Hot Buttered Three Rocks Rum. Yes, the entire year.
“You gotta celebrate the whole year,” McCool says with a laugh. Coming from a dynasty like McMenamins where going big seems to be the only option, this definitely doesn’t come as a surprise.
If you guessed that McCool is a busy man with production and parties left and right, you would be correct. But in his 20-plus years with McMenamins, he keeps having fun a priority. “The best parts of my days are when we get down to taste wine and spirits. You gotta have the quality control, tasting is mandatory,” he points out. We couldn’t agree more.