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Inside the 'World's First Dog Tap House'

September 14, 2018

By Ellen Freeman, September 14, 2018

“The bell curves for beer drinkers and dog people really overlap,” says Scott Porter, owner of Fido’s, which bills itself as “The World’s First Dog Tap House.” “People think we’re a doggy day care. They walk in, like, ‘Where do I leave my dog?’ or ‘Can I buy beer for my dog?’” There are plenty of dog-friendly bars, he says—even a London pub that trained German shepherds to deliver bottles of beer to the patrons—but Fido’s is the first tap house where customers can not only play with but also adopt rescue dogs while enjoying a cold one.

“My son and I went to a cat cafe, and we saw all these negative Yelp comments: ‘They charged me to go into the cat room but the stupid cats don’t want to play with me!’” says Porter. “My son thought, ‘If they just had dogs, this wouldn’t be a problem.’” And so in February of this year, Fido’s opened in a leafy strip mall across from a Walmart in Tigard, a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

Inside Fido's. All photos by Henry Cromett.

In the playroom, we’re mobbed by three current Fido’s residents, all some kind of Chihuahua mix, who wag their whole bodies and vie for our lap space. Porter gently separates Alfons, a.k.a. Alfie—a humper—from Dora, an independent woman who is still wearing diapers after getting fixed. She sets to giving my forearms a thorough tongue bath, and startles herself every time she sneezes. Meanwhile, Sammy, whose pattern baldness from a reaction to his flea medication does not detract from his adorableness, rolls over and waits expectantly for a tummy rub. “We think he came from a puppy mill or a hoarder’s house, because when we got him he was terrified of people,” says Porter. “Look at him now.”

Oregon is a no-kill state, but Alfie, Dora and Sammy came from a shelter in Merced, California with just a 24 percent survival rate. (Fido’s fosters dogs through a partnership with Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals, and donates a portion of its revenue to other dog-focused nonprofits.)

A mother and daughter come in to take over belly-rub duty, though they’re not looking to adopt today. “Lots of people come in and love ‘em to death. It’s the next best thing to being in their own home,” says Porter, kissing Alfie on the head. And maybe it’s the 11.5% ABV Boneyard Notorious Triple IPA on tap (which Porter calls “smooth and dangerous”) but Fido’s is pretty good at convincing its clientele to go home with a good boy; in the seven months since opening, it’s found homes for 41 dogs.

Back at the bar, hands sanitized, we dig into a bone-shaped pretzel served with grainy mustard. A retired Air Force pilot, Porter named Fido’s after a World War II-era Italian dog who faithfully met his master at the bus station every evening, and waited for him even 14 years after his death. “Fido’s is dedicated to dogs like him. I wanted to create something that would expand people’s minds about what dogs do for us, and be a world-class craft beer taproom,” he says.

“In college I drank all the college beer—PBR, Hamm’s, whatever was on sale. Then I got stationed in Frankfurt, and that’s where I fell in love with German beer.” That evolution comes through with his 30-tap craft beer list, which he mostly sources from the Pacific Northwest and California. “Some of these brewers around here follow the German brewing purity laws,” he says, like one of his favorites, an altbier by local brewery Rosenstadt (“Rose City,” Portland’s nickname, in German). “I told Tobias [Hahn, one of the brewers], ‘You gotta knock my socks off.’ Then I saw on his card that he has a PhD in microbiology, so I tried their altbier—holy crap, it is so good. You get two flavors for the price of one because the aftertaste is so incredible.”

The rest of Fido’s taps are 25 percent IPAs (“because they’re really popular”), 25 percent pales, 25 percent that rotates between sours, goses, farmhouse ales and hefeweizens, and six taps that Porter reserves for dark beers. The tap house also serves 10 taps of cider and wine.

Scott Porter, owner of Fido’s.

“I love barrel-aged beers. Pelican’s Father of All Tsunamis, it’s just…” Porter’s grin finishes the sentence. Then he pours me a glass of chocolate brown porter from Three Mugs Brewing in Hillsboro, Oregon and tells me to taste “notes of Sumatran coffee and salted caramel”—and with the first sip I’m convinced that the flavor profile isn’t just beer snobbery. “They made this for us. It’s called The Most Interesting Porter in the World,” he says. “Here I thought I was the most interesting Porter in the world.”

One of the most interesting Porters in the world, let’s say, reaches down to pat a passing four-legged customer, a German shepherd named Benz with a beer mug print bandana around his neck (proof that Portland hipsters are moving to the suburbs along with the taprooms). “I love beer and I love dogs—I don’t know which I love more. Luckily, I don’t have to choose.”

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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