Over a Pint: Ian McGuinness of Natian Brewery

I interview brewers all the time and frequently socialize with them, too, but typically at some type of beerfest or event. Of my own work, I’ve frequently said I’m a beer writer who really writes about people. So here’s the idea, the goal, and not only am I going to keep this going, but I’m putting it out there that everyone with some type of beer blog should participate.

“Over a pint.” Sort of in the vein of The Session kicked off by Stan Hiernymous exactly 8 years ago in 2007 and still going strong. The Session entails a different blogger each month conceiving a disparate topic related to beer wherein everyone aims for that target and then said blogger hosts the discussion on his or her web-log. Since The Session claims First Friday of the month, how’s about Last Monday for Over a Pint?! I’ll link to everyone’s “OaP” left in the comments or tagged on Twitter. I’m envisioning just two instructions.

  1. Head out with someone who brews for a living and talk to them over a pint (or more) without recording it or taking any notes. Just chat. About stuff.
  2. Don’t do it at the brewery’s pub or tasting room.

This is what I did the other night. Here goes. Oh, and maybe each installment of Over a Pint can start with the most basic of templates like this:

I neglected to pull out my iPhone and take a pic so here's Ian's Facebook profile

I neglected to pull out my iPhone and take a pic so here’s Ian’s Facebook profile

Name: Ian McGuinness

Brewery: Natian

Professional brewing experience: Since 2009 (I’d list every brewery Ian has brewed at but it

At some point a few years ago, Ian and his then girlfriend Natalia suggested getting together for a beer at one of his favorite watering holes, Laurelthirst on NE Glisan. It’s not hip but it’s not a dive. It’s primarily a live music venue with two bands nightly and there’s tchotchkes everywhere like an old toboggan, a rocking chair, and I think a mandolin on the wall above the bar. I’d say there’s about 20 taps if that.

Over the years, whenever I’d talk to Ian, the idea of going there would come up but it just never happened. So we made it happen. At this point, Natalia’s long out of the picture but I don’t feel badly bringing her up. She’s the first half of the brewery’s namesake. Oh yes. It was Nat and Ian’s one barrel nanobrewery. Nat + Ian. Natian (pronounced “Nation”). He’s now working on a 10-barrel system and the guy who I gather is Natian’s sole but lofty employee, Dave, also joined us. When I got there they’d grabbed a table because it fills up by 6 for the music and they were drinking pints of stout. He pleaded that I go get a pitcher of the stout and, not that I’m getting paid for this so no need for any “full disclosure” but he said to put it on his tab. I did. And I simply ordered “a pint of the stout” from the bartender. She came back with a pitcher of Pelican Tsunami Stout.

Neither Ian nor Dave noticed. Noticed what? That it was Pelican’s 7% export-style stout (winner of seven GABF medals since 1998) and not Natian McGuinness Imperial Milk Stout at over 9% ABV. Then again, the folks at Diageo haven’t noticed the McGuinness Stout either.

As the band kicked in, we naturally had to shout to try to hear each other. Being a regular, he pointed to a tall, lanky, middle-aged guy with a button down shirt tucked into his slacks and warned us that he’d soon start dancing like Elaine from that famous Seinfeld episode. He was dead right. The whole night.

I know Ian is from Pennsylvania and has lived in Austin, Texas—a state he’d previously sworn never to live in but really Austin’s Texas’s anti-matter—so I’m not really sure how the subject of Florida came up, but I know he lived there, too. It’s one of three states I’ve never visited and am afraid to ever go. The weirdest stuff happens there. But he was saying how his bosses at the company he worked for all really liked it (since their offices overlooked the beach). That company, I thought I heard him say, was Slim Jim. Loud music. Turned out to be Slim Fast, which is almost as bizarre, but for a good minute I had visions of Ian shoveling Godknowswhat animal parts and some cayenne pepper into a grinder.

Another topic of conversation was the breaking news of Portland’s latest next brewery, One Nation Brewing. They’re building out on SE Division, a direct 1.5 mile walk down from Natian Brewery. It’s fair to say Ian’s a bit perturbed especially since he contacted them and they confirmed they were aware of Natian. I highly doubt anyone would try to open a brewery by adding a number and changing one vowel to an ‘O.” One Widmor anyone? Funnily enough, there was a recent news story about a brewery set to open in Missoula, Montana called One Nation (but they’ve since opened as Imagine Nation.) Given the other –ation/-ition breweries in Portland—Migration, Coalition, and now Culmination, you’d think One Nation could’ve made a smarter naming decision. If they’re into the whole “Under God” thing from the Pledge of Allegiance,” might I suggest IntOneNation (like how we use our voice). Time will tell how this pans out, but I loved the idea that Dave chimed in with: calling Natian’s next beer “One Notion” since in some universe changing an ‘A’ to an ‘O’ or vice versa is sufficient differentiation.

It didn’t dominate the night’s conversation quite the way Mr. Dancing Pants did. Which got me thinking how it’s too bad Ian hadn’t been dating someone named Elaine (who preferably doesn’t dance like that iconic character). He could’ve called his brewery Elatian. Everyone wants to be elated as they drink beer. Then again, his new lady friend joined us by the time our second pitcher, this time a proper McGuinness Stout, and her name is Mary. If One Nation sues Ian after operating successfully for five years and wins, maybe he can check to see how John Harris over at the galactic-themed Ecliptic would feel if he changed the name to Martian.

1 thought on “Over a Pint: Ian McGuinness of Natian Brewery

  1. Pingback: Oregon Beer Life – Over a Pint: Pat “Patio” Shea of GoodLife Brewing

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