Portland’s Food Truck Scene Welcomes the Captured Beer Bus

Portlands Captured Beer Bus

In the wide cast of Portland craft brewery characters, Captured By Porches stands out as something like the great white whale. Delivering a hard to find and unimpeachable product, the elusive St. Helens operation’s arrival on the scene serves as a tantalizing prospect for the palette.

Captured By Porches epitomizes a chance taking spirit that has fueled the local craft-brewing boom. Started as a home brew club, their evolution into a small-scale cottage industry operation over the last ten years is a seldom-told story. Their beer offerings aren’t often available in mainstream grocery stores or in many restaurants, meaning that locating one can be something of a challenge.

More than two years ago, brewery employee, Brian White branched off from Captured by Porches and opened a new concept: the Captured Beer Bus, a mobile distribution venture that continues to thrive today. While White is no longer directly affiliated with the mercurial brewer, he carries on their spirit, frequently offering a few of their beers along side a host of locals. As I approach his cart, I’m wowed by the presence of Astoria’s Buoy Brewing, a hot newcomer whose word of mouth buzz has been tremendous over the last few months.

Even in the eclectic food cart haven that is Portland Oregon however, opening a beer bus has not exactly been an easy project – especially considering his role as a trailblazer. White’s first step was bureaucratic wrangling with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, finessing their permit process for many months, at least twice as long as he would have were he planning to open a traditional, brick and mortar housed tap selection.

The bus itself started out like a homemade keg fridge – only, as White describes, without the fridge part. In the beginning, the crafty entrepreneur simply placed his taps through the exterior bus walls, running lines inside where the kegs sat on ice in garbage buckets a process that was labor intensive as well as tough on the body. “Every day,” White says. “We would get forty pounds of ice for each keg and haul it up onto the back of the bus.” His operation has become considerably more sophisticated since those primitive early days. When I spoke with White, he had just recently added another row of top shelf taps and described how he engineered a walk in refrigerator into the back of the bus, a process he’s now working on with other local distributors.

Open Tuesday through Sunday from noon until 8pm, a relatively early hour when the thriving local bar and restaurant scene is just picking up, White sees his bus as an ideal compliment to the assortment of other food carts in his pod. “We get a lot of people coming over and grabbing a beer with their lunch,” he says. The OLCC controls his hours of operation, cautious of the kind of rowdy foot traffic that can quickly turn a fun cart pod setting into neighborhood annoyance.

As much as bringing the Captured Beer Bus to life was a process of trial and error, White seems optimistic about opening another cart, as well as the future of mobile beer distribution in general. While we talked, a few customers ambled over from the Mexican cart and grilled cheese stand to sample and grab a pint of beer to have with their meals. In the rapidly growing city, the mobile food phenomenon seems to be changing in step. It’s only naturally then that beer follows too.

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