F. H. Steinbart owner John DeBenedetti as a toddler

F. H. Steinbart used to see a very different kind of customer. The SE 12th Avenue homebrew supply store, which toasts a century of operation this year—the owner claims it’s the country’s oldest such shop—today serves a steady stream of amateur chemists looking to perfect citrus-blasted IPAs or malty Belgian dubbels.

But back in the ’70s, flavor often wasn’t the first concern.

“It was guys, mostly, who wanted to make beer cheaply,” recalls owner John DeBenedetti, who came on in 1975. (His father bought the shop in 1934.)

Mike Moscarelli, recently retired after close to 30 years at Steinbart, interjects: “A lot of the guys just wanted to get as much alcohol out of it as they could. It would be like Colt 45. It may not have had the smoothness of Colt 45. They consumed it pretty fast.” (He adds that this was not every customer.)

But just as Steinbart weathered Prohibition decades earlier—by selling supplies for sacramental wine, soda, and near-beer—it rode out that age of questionable taste. And by the mid-’80s, thanks to new legislation, Oregon’s craft beer boom was under way, pioneered by the likes of the Widmer and McMenamins brothers: themselves Steinbart regulars, of course.

F. H. Steinbart celebrates its 100th birthday on October 27 with a beer festival at District East (2305 SE Ninth Ave).

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