Widmer Shutters Its Pub

Well this was unexpected.

We are sad to announce that the Widmer Brothers pub will close its doors to the public today. This was a very hard decision to make, especially as we reflect on the pub’s past and plan an exciting future for the brewery, where our team will continue to brew your favorite Widmer Brothers beers.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to evolve the pub concept over the years, our pub has experienced profitability challenges. When the pub first opened in 1996, there were only a handful of breweries in the city. Today, there are over 115 breweries in the Portland Metro area. With that increased competition, we have struggled to make the pub financially sustainable.

I consider myself somewhat looped into the Widmer, err, ways, and this comes as a total surprise to me. It’s a fairly transparent statement, and there’s not a lot to add. Last summer the brewery experimented with an outdoor “biergarten,” and until recently there was talk of not just reprising that, but making it more formal. I’ve been to the taproom more than once in the past few months, and it has always seemed to have a fairly robust crowd—certainly enough to support the modest staff. Beyond that, this was the brand’s public face and the platform for the innovation brewery beers. Although the brewery says it plans to can some of those and move others out into the marketplace, this is going to severely hamper the “innovation” aspect. (There will be fewer beers produced and there won’t be a venue for feedback.)

Beyond that, comments from the brewery add these details:

  • Seven employees are getting pink slips, though CBA says they’re offering severance.

  • “Widmer Brothers is working on canning more small-batch beers, and their goal is to get more draft beer from the innovation system into the market at Portland restaurants and bars.”

  • The pub is already closed, so don’t race down there for a last pint.

  • Gift cards can only be redeemed at the retail shop, which will remain open.

  • CBA plans to revamp public tours.

It was just over a year ago that CBA switched from a brewpub to taproom model, and the idea there was to bring in young people and highlight the innovation brewery. Both seemed to be working. The beers coming out of Tom Bleigh’s 10-barrel brewhouse were interesting and excellent, and the median age of the customers dropped twenty years.

Honestly, this just doesn’t make sense. There must be a story behind the story, and if I figure it out I’ll let you know.