A Hoosier's First Musings on Portland Beer
When visiting a new city, a person is going to almost instantly compare that city with their own. From gas prices to the climate to whether it's called Carl's Jr. or Hardee's. It is inevitable. I do it, you do it, everyone does it. Remember every vacation you have ever taken, ever. I was in a Denny's in Chicago and heard a woman exclaim "Boy these Chicago Denny's sure is diff'rent!" Please note that this woman was wrong and that the only differences between Denny's are the names of the surly, pissed off women serving you coffee--and the degrees of tackiness of the art on the wall. But I digress. The point is that comparing these places can lead us in many directions. When I compared my hometown of South Bend, Indiana to Portland, the direction I was lead was west. That means I moved. West. To Portland.
The visit that led to my decision to move to Portland was a pretty great trip. I liked the fact that there were art galleries and quality food everywhere. I liked the surrounding pockets of nature, and I got a kick out of the thought of seeing a mountain daily. In addition, the people were amazingly friendly. Downtown alone, I had at least eight people with clipboards ask me how my day was going or if I wanted to save the Earth. They were mad when I answered that I didn't want to save the Earth and then got into my H2 and hit that tree for kicks, but it was still nice to be asked. The job market wasn't too hot but I was an Art History major in college so it wasn't like I would be getting a job anyway. However, it was only after the move that I discovered the part of Portland that would become my main point of interest: Beer.
Now, before I get into this let me preface it with an example of what beer is like in Indiana. When one goes to a restaurant they usually have 4 or 5 choices. Two of those contain the term "Bud" and the others are usually a cheaper version of a "bud" beer and one of the following: Sam Adams, Killian's, Honey Brown or Blue Moon. In Portland's Fred Meyer, where you see Deschutes and BridgePort, the Kroger's of South Bend would have those four I just listed and maybe Goose Island or something similar. Craft breweries existed but were few and far between. Basically, you could get a quality beer, it just was not as convenient. And if you compared the cultures surrounding beer in Indiana to the culture surrounding beer in Portland, it would be like comparing the New York Yankees with a slow pitch softball team that has a lot of hustle but lacks teamwork, respectively.
So with that being said, when I first settled in town I didn’t think too much about the beer since beer was just a drink, not a hobby. It was nice getting a good 22oz. bottle of IPA from a gas station or a quality six pack every week but that was about the extent of it. Then, week by week, things began to change. Having the amount of selection Portland offered led to wanting to try everything, which led to trips to Belmont Station with friends, which in turn led to many philosophical and critical talks about beer. Restaurant choices depended on what they had on tap not just the quality of food. I started to wonder why and how this happened. During my time here I have heard Portland called "the microbrewery capital of the world" on several occasions. I have seen people spit venom over the idea of drinking Hamm's (seriously, like a snake.) I have been to tappings that seem more like rock concerts. I have seen the term "Snob" be applied in a (mostly) positive manner. I have seen heated arguments over the merits of one beer vs. another. I have never seen a city take so much pride in its beer. I have asked several people why it came to be that Portland has this thriving beer culture and it seems like everyone has a different answer. I have also written a lot of sentences that begin with "I have".
Maybe I am thinking too much about it. In fact, I know am. Maybe I am just looking a gift horse in the mouth. Either way I am going to continue to ask and question, and answer questions, and write about the answers to the questions that I asked. Oh, and drink.
Thanks for reading this introduction. Next time I will write something more substantial. Cheers!
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