October 21, 2013

Farewell Beervana, Hello Biervana

This is my last week as a Portland resident. For just a couple of years, give or take. I basically love everything about living in Portland, not the least of which is the dynamic beer culture. And what I've discovered firsthand is that it isn't relegated to just the city nicknamed Beervana but the entire Beaver State, given that in the last year I've visited literally every single brewery big and small near and far for my forthcoming guidebook, Oregon Breweries (Stackpole, 2014).
John Harris had a lot to juggle to open Ecliptic on time. Photo: B Yaeger
Having said that, there are a few I've missed. Not missed so much as not been able to return to every corner of the state since production breweries, nanobreweries, and brewpubs are opening at a gut-busting rate. Forty this year so far, and it's only mid-October. Yesterday I attended the soft opening of Ecliptic Brewing from one of the most vaunted veterans in Oregon brewing, John Harris (Starting with McMenamins in 1985, then launching Deschutes in 1988, and brewed at Full Sail for the last 20 years.) Given that some of Oregon's best-known brands--Hammerhead Pale, Mirror Pond Pale, Black Butte Porter, Top Sail Imperial Porter--have his signature all over them I can't wait to see what he'll concoct at his brand new brewpub. Whether or not his Procyon Pale and Arcturus IPA, the first two beers from Ecliptic, enter the Oregon canon of ales is anybody's guess, but unlike those halcyon days, the canon is also open to anybody (and seemingly everybody).

Which brings me to Biervana. My family leaves Friday for Amsterdam, where of course The Netherlands borders two of the greatest beer cultures the world has ever produced: Germany and Belgium, Reinheitsgebot and anti-Reinheitsgebot, respectively. I cannot wait to start exploring regions where centuries-old brewing heritage is starting to meet 21st century innovation. I'm not huge in K├Âlsch, but I still can't wait to experience stange after stange of them in Cologne. Similarly, I've become a Lambic lover, and will be in celestial sour celebration in Brussels.
IPYae's favorite part of visiting breweries! You think he hits a lot stateside, wait 'til
"Irresponsible" pics of him start posting across Europe. Photo: B Yaeger
But that will have to wait until I finish the aforementioned guidebook. It's gonna be weird, bittersweet, writing about Oregon beers and breweries from overseas. Though doing such will help alleviate one of my greatest challenges, which is including chapters on every single brewery in Oregon. The first of my Achilles heels was Tandem Brewing out in Ontario, Idaho, er, Oregon. It's the dangling participle of Oregon's state line since it's the only town on Mountain time, not Pacific. And even though I schlepped out there for Beer Valley Brewing, it's now home to a 10-gallon (yes, ten Gallon, not barrel) brewery tucked inside a juice bar crammed inside a coffee shop. And like I said, there are a small handful of other Tandems on my list now.

Moreover, while it was a treat to visit Ecliptic that opened in Portland right before I blow this bacon-wrapped, barrel-aged popsicle stand, I'll miss the grand openings of Portland's next newest breweries. In Sellwood there will be Arbella Brewing, delayed due to an auto accident involving one of the founders. Goose Hollow is possibly going to be receiving Culmination Brewing from Tomas Sluiter who recently left Old Market Pub to launch this high-tech nano pub. A pair of nonprofit breweries are coming for altruistic beer lovers: Ex Novo (I met the founder, Joel, at a crawfish boil and he happened to mention that soon his homebrew wasn't going to be just homemade beer) and of course the brewing arm of the Oregon Public House. Speaking of ten-gallon breweries, Late Addition Brewing is looking forward to outgrowing theirs and up to a two-barreler, meaning six-times the batch sizes. But there are so many more, too: Moonshrimp from the guy who sees the success Harvester and its brand new pub expansion are having in the world of gluten-free beers, Royale from the guys behind Green Bottling, the Crooked Bottle from the team behind the Homebrew Exchange, and in the same vein, the homebrew shop/taproom Uptown Market on the Portland/Beaverton border is scratching and clawing to get their brewery going. And let's not forget our friends from Ohio, Fat Head's, who are headscratchingly leapfrogging over the Midwest and Rockies to open a pub in "a pretty hip area" we call the Pearl.

And those are just the ones around Portland from the list of FIFTY new breweries-in-planning...that I happen to know of. Bifrost in Corvallis. Awesome Ales in Silverton (well, contracting out of there for starters, but aiming for Portland). From Bend to North Bend (which is actually Coos Bay on the coast), and from Roseburg to Rhododendron (take that, Bunsenbrewers in Sandy!), the beer culture of Oregon knows no bounds. And that means I'll be extremely busy visiting them all once we're back in late 2015 for Oregon Breweries, 2nd Ed.
Since we can't take liquids with us and besides, bringing beer to Amsterdam is like
bringing coals to Newcastle (or, y'know, Heineken)
Until then, I'll miss all the IPAs and fresh hops and NW Sour ales and braggots and organic Brett'ed cider hybrid ales that will be tapped around here in the near future, but they're not going away so long as y'all promise to not drink it all before our return. And considering Portland already enjoys the most breweries, highest consumption of craft beer per capita, and other impressive stats, may just happen. But I'm keeping my frites dipped in mayo crossed, just in case.