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The State of Suds

Tons of Beer

Exploring the beer fountains of 16 Tons

by John Locanthi

Photo by Trask Bedortha

Approaching the bar at Sixteen Tons and scanning the list of 18 beers on tap, you’ll see $5 pints, $3 glasses and $2 “Cheater Pints.” 

“A cheater pint is actually the same glass that every other bar serves pints in,” says Mike Coplin, co-owner of Sixteen Tons. Eager to give a demonstration, Coplin pulls out a familiar, conical glass and begins to fill it with a stout. This glass holds exactly 16 ounces. A half-inch of head floats atop the fully filled “pint.”

“Instead of serving ambiguous amounts of beer, we like to be precise with our pints,” Coplin says as he holds up a larger glass with clear markings for both a pint and half-pint and plenty of room for beer’s foamy companion. The bar is littered with different kinds of glassware aimed at getting the most out of a beer. “It may not be cost-effective to have all these different types of branded glassware,” admits Coplin, “but it sure is a lot of fun.”

That’s the general vibe at Sixteen Tons on 13th Avenue. There is a cornucopia of ways to brew beer and a multitude of ways to serve it, and this beer emporium has embraced all of them with an adventurous attitude. From ales brewed with black chai tea to dark ales aged in wine barrels to ales flavored with jalape"o and serrano peppers " if brewers are trying it, chances are you’ll find it among the roughly 350 beers offered by Sixteen Tons. The establishment also has a varied selection of wines, sakes and ciders.

Much has been said about the beer culture here in Oregon, but the home-brewing culture is what appeals most to Coplin. “Little breweries and home brewers are doing the most exciting things with beer,” he says. “These kind of guys don’t limit themselves with just making IPAs, stouts or lager; they have a sense of adventure.”

Beer aficionados make up the majority of the clientele, and quite a few of them are home brewers themselves. Coplin offers handy tips on where to get ingredients cheap, on which customers are looking to brew or share equipment, and other bits of advice to these kindred spirits. He and co-owner Jeff Moores don’t claim to be beer experts, but they do “have 20 years of experience drinking beer.”

Sixteen Tons is a place to enjoy a good beer and a good beer conversation. It is a place where people gather to talk, chill, maybe play some board games and eat some food " you can even bring in food from outside. “We want to be the place in the neighborhood where everyone goes to hang out, relax and unwind,” Coplin says. “It’s not just a ‘set up a line of shots and get fucked up’ place.” 





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