A year ago, business and life partners Stephen Guarino and Cambrie Burns founded a service that evolved out of their own need – finding Portland-area breweries that are open and friendly to the couple bringing along another partner, their dog Riley, when they go out for a beer.
Now, Pup Passport has expanded to the Puget Sound, offering the same service for Seattleites looking for a place to have a pint and bring their pooch without having to scour the web only to get conflicting information about pet friendliness.
“We frequent the brewery scene, so we wanted to find cool places where we could take him,” Guarino said. “We didn’t want to leave him in his crate. But we had to call places to see, and websites weren’t always right.”
The service is pretty straightforward: The digital Pup Passport resides on your phone and guides you to confirmed dog-friendly spots. You show it to participating breweries to get discounts on beer and other perks.
So far in their first year, Guarino and Burns have about 50 Portland-area breweries on the passport, and about 20 in Seattle.
“The first year has been pretty cool,” Guarino said. “We did quite a bit of outreach at first, and after that we stopped trying to reach out to additional breweries – they just found us. That’s been cool making a name for ourselves and being recognized.”
Pup Passport donates 5% of Portland sales to the Oregon Humane Society, Guarino said. They haven’t worked out a similar deal in Seattle yet, but plan on doing the same – and also retroactively donating from previous sales once they connect with a Puget Sound humane society.
Some big-name breweries have signed on, including Breakside Brewery, Great Notion Brewing, Grains of Wrath Brewing, Level Beer, Migration Brewing and StormBreaker Brewing. And while the passport calls itself Portland, it’s generous with that boundary, pulling in further afield breweries such as Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg.
The couple even collaborated on a beer with Southeast Portland’s Threshold Brewing & Blending in April, releasing Good Dog Guava, a tart gose-style ale with guava, passion fruit and a touch of Jacobsen’s seasalt.
“They’ve been awesome to us,” Guarino said about Threshold’s founders, Jarek and Sara Szymanski. “And the beer has been flying off the shelves.”
Sary Szymanski said Pup Passport was a positive thing to come out of COVID-19 – and timed to a surge of pet adoptions plus the addition of outside seating. The brewery signed shortly after Pup Passport launched and did a fundraiser together for the Oregon Humane Society.
“They happened to like our beer and something like nine months later, Good Dog Guava was born,” she said. “Probably one of the most fun collabs we’ve done out here to date, and we were also able to raise some great funds for the OHS through it.”
Guarino said he and Burns had been approached by a winery interested in Pup Passport, so more expansion could be on the horizon at some point.
“We had talked about not turning down wineries, but we’re not going to rebrand,” he said. “We talked about sometime in the future a wine-centric passport. And even eventually that could open us to do a distillery passport, any sort of alcohol industry. We won’t rule out any of those.”
But for now, after getting the Seattle service launched then passing this Saturday’s one-year anniversary mark, a more important thing demands Guarino and Burns’ time: their wedding.
“We were happy to get the Seattle passport out and usable before we have all the wedding stuff going on and the honeymoon, then once we come back from that then we’ll talk about what to do next,” Guarino said.
The pandemic and the winter slowed the initial growth surge a bit, but Guarino said it’s starting to pick up again.
“People are still discovering it and are now more than ever talking about it as a way to find things to do,” he said. “People haven’t been going out as much because of COVID, so now they’re buying the passport as a way of figuring out where to go.
“Word of mouth is better than ever,” he said. “And sales are growing now that the sun is coming out.”
— André Meunier; email@example.com; sign up for my weekly newsletter Oregon Brews and Newsand follow me on Instagram, where I’m @oregonianbeerguy