Blast from the Past

While we were rearranging the lab offices at work and preparing to move into new offices, I came across this gem on the bookshelf with our technical manuals.

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The Great Beer Trek by Stephen Morris.  Published in 1984, this “Revised and Updated” version was published in 1990. For reference, in 1990 I was 10 years old. Still well away from my drinking years.

Eventually, I’d like to flip through the whole thing, but of course I turned immediately to the section on Oregon to see what was represented there.  The book lists 12 breweries for Oregon.  I’m not sure if this is every brewery that was in business in 1990, but California has 4 pages worth, so there doesn’t seem to be a numerical limit to the lists.  Surprisingly, all but one of them are still in business.  If you’re curious who were the beginning of the craft beer revolution in Oregon, this is them.

Ashland Ale’s Brewery and Public House, Ashland OR: Brewers of Ashland Ale and Rogue Golden Ale.  This was the first location for what is now known as Rogue Brewing Company.  Expanded first to Newport, OR and then Portland, Rogue now has several breweries and pubs scattered across the state as well as a distillery, a cooperage and a farm.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House, Bend OR: The first pub for Deschutes in Bend is still there, in it’s original location.  There is now a huge production brewery across town that I highly recommend visiting, as well as a pub and small pilot brewery in Portland.  Deschutes is one of the biggest breweries in the state now.

Oregon Trail Brewery, Corvallis OR: I honestly don’t know a lot about this brewery, but it’s still around.  Opened in 1987, with an ownership change in 1993, but it’s still kicking.

Eugene City Brewing Co., Eugene OR: This brewery closed in the early 90’s, and a new brewery opened in 1996 with the rights to this name but otherwise unaffiliated with the original.  This is the only one presented in the book that no longer exists. The new Eugene City Brewery eventually became a Rogue pub, but closed in 2014.

McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro), Lighthouse Pub (Lincoln City) and Hillsdale Pub and Brewery (Portland): Hillsdale was the very first McMenamins property.  Apparently, they had expanded to three at the time of publication.  The McMenamins “empire” as they jokingly refer to it, now stretches from Bothell, Washington (north of Seattle) down to Roseburg, Oregon (damn near the California state line) and now includes concert venues, movie theaters, golf courses, a winery and two distilleries. They are more known for quirky decorations and tater tots than they are beer, but their Ruby Raspberry Wheat Ale is a “gateway” beer for a lot of people.

Hood River Brewing Co, Hood River, OR: Brewers of Full Sale Golden Ale.  I haven’t found the reasoning for the “sale” spelling in the Golden Ale name, but this brewery is still around and still in Hood River.  Although, now they go by the name Full SAIL.  They fashioned themselves as an “adventure” brewery, with all the wind surfing and kite boarding that happens in the gorge.  Their Session brand of light quaffable beers is quite popular.

Blitz-Weinhard Brewing, Portland, OR: While this brewery technically still exists, it does so in name only and is no longer in Portland.  First owned by Stroh’s and then eventually Miller Coors, the Portland brewery shut down in 1999.  The name exists still in the Miller Portfolio as Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve and the line of Henry’s Hard Sodas. At first, I thought Mr. Weinhard must be spinning in his grave to have his name on neon orange and grape alco-pops, but reading The Beer Bible I discovered that Weinhard actually kept his brewery in business selling sodas during Prohibition, so maybe it’s actually fitting.

Bridgeport Brewing Co, Portland, OR: One of the “big three” in Portland, it’s still around, although the last couple of years it’s fallen on hard times.  Bought and then seemingly ignored by the Gambrinus Co (Shiner Bock in Texas), they started to fade away.  A recent brand refresh and new product offerings has given some life to the old brewery and hopefully it can make a comeback.  I’d hate to lose one of the originals.

Portland Brewing Co, Portland OR: The brewery that I work for, although no longer on NW Flanders Street as indicated in the book.  Moved into a larger facility in the NW Industrial area and in 2004 merged with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle (more below). Now part of a conglomerate that includes Magic Hat in Vermont and Genessee in New York.  Started in 1986, so between the first publication of the book and the update.

Widmer Brewing Co, Portland OR: The last of the big three (including Bridgeport and Portland Brewing) makers of the ubiquitous Widmer Hefewiezen.  The classic example of American Style Hefe.  Distributed mostly nationally thanks to a 30% partial ownership from AB-InBev, Widmer also formed a small craft conglomerate called the Craft Brewers Alliance that includes Redhook Brewing in Seattle and Kona Brewing in Hawai’i.

Other notes:

On the page facing the Oregon page, one of the Washington listings is Hart Brewing in Kalama, Washington.  Makers of Pyramid Pale Ale and Pyramid Snow Cap Ale.  This brewery would later move to Seattle and become Pyramid Breweries, which would then merge with Portland Brewing Co.

Under the section called “Kindred Spirits” following the brewery listing is a list of three homebrew clubs.  Heart of the Valley in Corvallis, which still exists, Cascade Brewers Society in Eugene, which is also still around, and the Oregon Brew Crew in Portland, of which I am a member.

North Carolina is listed in the section called “The Wastelands” and only lists 4 breweries.  One of which is a branch plant for Stroh’s in Winston Salem, which as far as I know has been closed for a long time, and one is a Miller plant in Eden, which closed about 10 years ago.  It’s still sitting vacant to this day because it’s much too large for anyone other than Bud/Miller/Coors to use.  Even larger breweries that have since opened in North Carolina like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium would struggle to fill that capacity.  The other two breweries listed I have never heard of; Dilworth Brewing Co in Charlotte, which apparently closed in 1998 and Weeping Radish Brewing in Manteo, a German style brewery that still exists and still strictly adheres to the Reinheitsgebot purity law from 1516.

South Carolina lists zero breweries.

2016 Beer in Review

2016 was a very good year for beer travel and beer education, so I thought I’d take a look back.

My wife and I rang in New Years 2016 in Savannah Georgia, which included a trip to Moon River Brewing.  Right on the main drag, the building is reportedly haunted in typical Old South fashion.  The third floor is vacant which otherwise would be primo Savannah real estate so even if you don’t believe, enough people do that they refuse to go up there.  This concluded an East coast trip that included trips to several breweries in North Carolina and Georgia.  The original post is HERE is you want to revisit it.

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After we returned from vacation I jumped into my role on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Brew Crew, our homebrew club.  I served as Festival Coordinator, which involved recruiting volunteers to work the OBC info booth at beer festivals, coordinating with festival organizers about when and where we could set up, actually setting up the booth and making sure it stayed occupied (which included myself at the booth for an entire day at one festival).  It was fun and rewarding, but also very taxing.  It took me well out of my comfort zone as far as being a leader and working with large groups of people.  I learned a lot about myself and about group leadership and while it was very healthy for me to push and expand my boundaries, I’m very excited to step away and rejoin the club as just an average member.

In March was a very exciting event, the first annual Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference (PNWHC).  Held in Vancouver Washington the conference was meant to emulate the National Homebrewer Conference, but focusing in on the PacNW.  This years NHC was out on the East coast and a lot of us couldn’t make the trip, so perfect timing for something local.  The conference was set up pretty much exactly the same as the national one.  There were lots of seminars on every imaginable topic, an expo with equipment and ingredient vendors, a lot of whom are already based in this area anyway, a pro night banquet of all the local breweries and a club night banquet for all the local homebrew clubs.  Members and clubs came mostly from Oregon and Washington, but there were representatives from Montana, Idaho, Northern California and even Canada.  My wife volunteered to help run the conference since (at the time) she wasn’t brewing and not as interested in the seminars as I was and now is helping plan the 2017 PNWHC which should be even better!

In April, my wife graduated with her Masters degree and we went to Disneyland to celebrate.  We only visited one brewery while we were there, but it was a pretty cool one.  The Anaheim Brewery was in the Anaheim Packing District which is full of old citrus warehouses close to the historic downtown area.  It was neat to walk around a quieter section of Anaheim, even though it wasn’t really that far from Disney and the Convention Center area.

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June brought about perhaps the most exciting beer related event of the year as I started my new job as a Quality Analyst at Portland Brewing! One of the original Portland microbreweries along with Widmer and Bridgeport, PBCo has grown and partnered with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle into a fairly large regional brewery.  I’ve learned a lot in the last 6 months and continue to learn daily, but the coolest thing is I get to make beer for a living! I don’t do any of the actual brewing, but I work daily with the brewers and monitor the fermentations from brew day to bottling day to make sure everything turns out as it should.  It’s amazing to see the difference between homebrewing and commercial brewing, especially large scale commercial brewing.

In July we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a trip out to Bend, which is a great beer town if you haven’t been.  We visited two breweries while we were out there, one small and one very large.  The small one was Cascade Lakes brewing, which we discovered by accident while we were out riding bikes, the large one was Deschutes.  We took the tour at Deschutes which was really cool and left there with a super nice growler full of beer, compliments of a friend who works there as a birthday present for my wife.

In September I had the opportunity to meet Jamil Zainasheff, who came to speak at one of our homebrew club meetings.  Jamil is pretty much a rockstar in the homebrew community.  Long time homebrewer with many gold medals in the National Homebrew Competition and several homebrewer of the year awards, went on to found Heretic Brewing, where true to the name he pretty much does whatever the Hell he wants.  I got two of Jamil’s books (and had him sign them) and got to speak to him briefly.  I hope to learn from him and it was a super cool experience.

In October we traveled to San Francisco on a very non-beer related trip (friends wedding) but I managed to sneak a couple places in.  While a large group went off of to be pampered at the spa, I took a stroll through the SoMa neighborhood headed towards AT&T Park.  I stopped at 21st Amendment on the way, which was much smaller than I was predicting it to be.  They obviously have a production brewery somewhere else for all those cans that make it as far as the East coast because the SanFran pub was small.  Not a bad thing, just a little shocked when I got there.  They didn’t have Back in Black on draft, although my coaster said otherwise.  I got the Brew Free or Die! IPA and it was quite nice.  As we were leaving San Fran (since it was near the airport) we stopped at Armstrong Brewing Co in South San Francisco, which is a brewery run by an NC State classmate of mine.  We took several of our food science and bioprocessing classes together.  I didn’t get a chance to see him, but it was super cool to stop by his place.

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Also in October, my wife brewed her first batch of homebrew and joined the American Homebrewers Association, so that was exciting.  She just brewed her second batch and is slowly dialing in a recipe for a Chocolate Orange Stout.  It’s already good and just going to get better.

In November, I started a small beer cellar and taking some detailed tasting notes on beers that I want to drink now, and then drink again a few years from now and see how they evolve.  This is a pretty drawn out, long term project, but the results will eventually make their way here on the blog.

2017 already has some pretty epic stuff lined up, so stay tuned!