Today before work, I read a post on beer advocate saying that The Beermongers had opened on 12th and Division. I stopped in on my commute to check it out.
There was one of those signs in the window that looks like a clock; the kind where you turn the hands to indicate when the business will open, that says "we'll return at". Confused, because the time indicated they should be open, I decided to take a peak through the glass. Turns out they were open, but hadn't flipped the sign to the "open" side. Ouch.
Inside, the space feels a bit cavernous with high ceilings and sparse fixtures. Coolers line sections of two walls. The selection is pretty limited, but there's some really good stuff mixed in. I noticed a kegerator by the front counter, and have since read they plan on putting in a small bar and seating in the future.
I grabbed a bottle of rodenbach grand cru, 2006 pannepot, 2008 panil barrique, and an oud beersel kriek, all at very attractive price points.
This place just opened, and it's obvious they have some kinks to work out inside if they're going to want to compete. I don't think the pricing alone is going to cut it for them. To make it as a bar, they're going to need to invest in creating a more inviting atmosphere. Even if "warehouse" (like green dragon) was what they were going for, it's only about half way there. To make it as a bottle shop, they're going to need to fill the coolers they currently have, and probably add some additional shelf space. As is, I'll stop in when I'm already down there, but if I'm at home and trying to decide which direction to drive; I'm more apt to spend a little extra money at belmont station for their selection, expertise, super friendly service, and bier cafe.
Despite feeling like this place opened up before they were ready, I'm glad to have another inner SE option for craft beer. I hope they last long enough to make the improvements they're going to need to make it in the long run. I would love to see this place evolve into another note worthy portland craft beer location.
Currently, the atmosphere gets an F. If they plan on being a craft beer warehouse, where you can go in, get anything you want at a good price, and get out, it works. If they plan on opening a bar inside, having tasting events, etc... it needs a lot of work.
The selection gets a C. They're a few blocks from new seasons, and in the same quadrant as fred meyer and belmont station, to name a few others. All three stores have significantly more beer to choose from than the beermongers. While there was some pretty run of the mill stuff in there, they also had some higher end favorites as well as higher end beers I have yet to try. So a good mix of beers, but not as much to choose from as they'll probably need to be competitive.
The location is pretty good for me. It's a newly remodeled building, and it has a parking lot, which is a huge plus if you need to drive. It's also on a pretty major bus line, which stops right out front. Neighbors include Genie's, which I'm known to visist occasionally for breakfast. I could see myself stopping in here after a late breakfast/brunch to grab some beers for the day. The rest of the building looks like it's either still for lease, or undergoing tenant improvements. It will be interesting to see how the building itself develops. I'll give location a B.
As for service, I'm going to hold off on passing judgement at this point. The service was friendly enough, but their computer system hasn't been installed yet, so check out was slow. I also didn't have much of an opportunity to gauge the clerk's (owner's?) beer knowledge on this trip either.
Pricing is where the beermongers shine. If they can move enough volume to make up for the mark-up they're losing by undercutting the competition, it will be a decent competitive edge. I'm just not sure that it's a financially sound strategy. It seems that with as much competition as there already is in this town, that the prices I'm currently used to paying would already have been worked down as low as they feasably could go. I wouldn't be surprised if prices at this place slowly started creeping up to their competitors levels after they start crunching some numbers. We'll see. For now though, pricing gets an A.