For nearly 10 years, Portland’s Oregon Public House serves craft beer with a side of altruism
Portland, Oregon, is home to the Oregon Public House, the nation’s first philanthropub. As the name suggests, it’s both a watering hole for thirsty members in the community and a proponent of a number of key charities. The slogan pretty much explains it all: “Have a pint, change the world.”
The unique business model started in 2013 and marries two things the Rose City knows well: nonprofits and craft beer. At the time, Portland had the most of each per capita. Today, the city is practically obsessed with a well-made pint and giving back.
While most charitable organizations simply shave off some of their profits and devote it to a specific cause or causes, Oregon Public House does things a bit differently. When you walk into the convivial pub, located near the Dekum Triangle in northeast Portland, you’re greeted by not only a solid tap list and food menu, but your choice of charities to sponsor during your visit. As sign your bill, you get to choose from a rotating handful of partner organizations that will receive a portion of your night’s purchase.
The pub has its own beer label, fittingly dubbed Aletruism. Several of the pub’s 12 taps are reserved for the house brand, including beers like the Do Gooder IPA and Autobahn Lager. The rest are devoted primarily to a rotating slate of Pacific Northwest breweries and cider houses. Patrons are likely to find something from esteemed local producers like pFriem, Barley Brown’s, Schilling Hard Cider and more. One does not leave thirsty here, nor hungry, given solid options like a house-made pickle plate, vegan burgers, cheese steaks and dirty fries.
Present charity partners include Bark, an organization working to preserve Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon Energy Fund and OPAL Environmental Justice. Another partner, Eviction Representation for All, is an especially timely connection given the current state of the economy and high cost of living in urban areas.
Partnerships last five months and are selected by the board of directors at Oregon Public House. Each philanthropic organization is included in charity-of-the-day events, and they also have the opportunity to use the venue for meetings and events that support their mission. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the entirety of the pub’s profits are donated. So far, that’s equated to a considerable amount of dough. In the first six years of the pub’s existence, folks turned out — more than $200,000 was raised in the name of charity.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, as the pandemic was quick to point out. Oregon Public House had to close down briefly starting in November of 2020, joining an alarming number of area restaurants, breweries and community spaces that simply could not weather quarantine culture. Presently, the pub is back on the good foot, hosting patrons four days a week as well as offering a takeout menu.
Nearly 10 years on, the Oregon Public House model hardly seems unique. It’s easy to forget that the place started the trend, fusing a classic interpretation of the convivial and communal watering hole with a humane urge to give back. It’s a model we hope continues to gain traction all over the region and beyond, for the benefit of craft drinks enthusiasts and noble causes alike.