Raising a pint to Mac MacTarnahan

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

MactarnahanOn Tuesday, local legend Mac MacTarnahan passed away. He was a brewer, a champion athlete (well past his 80th birthday), a gentleman, and a raconteur. [Obits: KGW, Oregonian]

As a kid, I'd attend the Portland Highland Games summer after summer, and each year, he'd embarass some 20-something in a goofy event called the Kilted Mile - basically a one-mile running race wearing six pounds of wool around your waist. You get beat by an 80-year-old, and you can't go back to the Beer Tent without some explaining to do.

As much as we all loved Mac though, my brother Jori is the one who really saw the crazy side of the octogenarian. Four years ago, on the first St. Patrick's Day of the new millenium, my brother was his personal bagpiper. In Jori's words:

March 17 is the busiest day of the year for the professional bagpiper. St. Patrick's Day 2000 was no exception. Several months before I was contacted by Portland Brewing who asked if I could accompany Mac MacTarnahan on his annual St. Paddy's Day Pub Crawl.
The drill was simple. We'd go travel by van to all the major pubs and bars that served MacTarnahan beers on tap. I would lead the way through the crowd, making space for Mac and the rest of the entourage, which was made up of a few friends and brewery staff who handed out MacTarnahans' stickers and tossed t-shirts into the crowd. "MacTarnahan's for everyone!"
Every place we went they greeted Mac like he was a movie star. Crowds cheered, men rushed to shake his hand, women kissed his cheeks -- everybody wanted to rub up to this living legend. This was the sort of gig that pipers dream about. I can't remember how many places we visited that day, but spending time with Mac in the van (and a keg of his beer) revealed a kind gentleman who enjoyed the spotlight but didn't take his iconic persona all that seriously.

Portland's always had its share of goofy personalities. But Mac MacTarnahan was more than that - he was a gentleman and a self-made man. And he will be missed.

Here's to Mac. MacTarnahan's for everyone!

  • Anthony (unverified)

    I'll gladly raise a glass in memory of this benefactor of mankind.

    I'm reminded of a Scottish toast: Here's tae us! Wha's like us? Damn few and they're a' deid!"

    (Here's to us! Who's like us? Damned few and they're all dead.)

    A life well lived. R.I.P.

  • Toni (unverified)

    Mac was a sweet old guy and will be missed greatly. Bottom's up.

  • (Show?)

    Good job, Kari. I used to write about beer, and I can tell you that although Mac wasn't especially a beer guy (that's a technical term--you know it or you don't), he was the heart of what we used to call PBCo (before we called it MacTarnahan's and, god forbid, Pyramid).

    Cheers to a life well-lived!

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