McMenamins’ well-deserved reputation for artistic surprise in their 55 different properties often involves historic restoration. While their newest property, the Kalama Harbor Lodge, is also the first all-new structure hotel, its art and architecture connect it to the city’s history.
Opened in April at the Port of Kalama, the lodge resembles the historic Pioneer Inn in Lahaina, Maui, a favorite getaway of the McMenamin family. The four-story, 40-room hotel with its green siding, red roof and white balcony railings looks like an island retreat.
The town’s namesake, John Kalama, was a native Hawaiian who came to the area in the early 1800s to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He stayed and his descendants are members of the Nisqually and Warm Springs Tribes.
Located on the banks of the Columbia River, the hotel was a project initiated by the Port of Kalama as part of its waterfront revitalization. A 2-mile long greenbelt extends along the river, allowing access to several beaches. Down the boardwalk south about a half-mile from the hotel is its Ahles Point Cabin, a cozy pub. Four landmark totem poles, created by Don Lelooska in 1962 and intended for the Seattle World’s Fair, stand guard near the hotel and amphitheater. The tallest pole was carved from a 700-year-old Western red cedar, and at 140-feet is the largest one-piece totem in the world. Its condition, however, is unstable and it will be taken down this fall for evaluation and repair.
The hotel was a joint project more than 10 years in the making. In 2016, the port started constructing the building shell and McMenamins’ contractors completed interior work. McMenamins has leased it for 50 years with three 10-year option periods, and after that time a new lease will be negotiated, said Liz Newman, marketing and communication manager for the port. The final price tag, according to The Columbian, was projected to be between $9 and $10 million.
The hotel rooms, with private baths and individual lanais, are on the second and third floors. The main pub and bar with both inside and outside seating is on the ground floor along with the cozy Harbor Lounge. The Cloud Bar on the fourth floor has fantastic views of the river and passing ships. You can spot the brewery from large picture windows in the lobby. Jeff Cooley, district brewery manager for McMenamins, designed and supervised the system’s installation.
Jeremy Meadows, who shares brewing time at Kalama with Zach Cate, said, “This is an excellent layout for a brewery. Jeff was working with a new blank space, not trying to retrofit a brewhouse into an existing space and it worked out well.”
Meadows has a Hawaiian background, having brewed for Kona in Kailua-Kona for nearly 10 years. He was hired as a bartender at the Kalama site, but quickly moved to brewing when it was clear Cate couldn’t handle the ever-increasing demand by himself. “We’re going through 16-25 kegs a week here,” said Meadows. “Our 7-barrel tank doesn’t sit empty. Sometimes we just have time to clean it before we restart another brew.”
The Kalama brewery makes 95 percent of their own product, including the three flagship beers — Hammerhead, Terminator Stout and Ruby Ale. The property-specific brew, called Pau Hana Gold, was developed by Cate and Meadows named it. In Hawaiian it means “done with work” or “the time after work.”
“It’s a light session that has been a great introduction to this community of Bud Light drinkers,” Meadows said.
The Ahles Point Cabin has its own beer called Short Trail. The oatmeal pale ale features a single hop that rotates monthly. Currently, it’s Mt. Hood; before that it was El Dorado.
“Business at the Kalama Harbor Lodge has exceeded all expectations as far as booking, sales and community enthusiasm,” said Cooley. The occupancy rate has been 82 percent or higher since opening and the beer production is around 140 kegs a month. Once two new fermenters are installed, Cooley expects production to ramp up by 30 percent. •