Portland, Freshly Tapped
Our Love for Suds Frotheth Over
By Carolyn White
Photos by Kelli Pennington
The relationship has gotten serious: Portland’s giddy infatuation with craft beer has blossomed into an enduring love affair. Portland now has more operating breweries than any other city in the world. So read on, thirsty ones! Here’s a roundup of how to Keep Portland Beered.
The Growlers are Barking
All across town Portlanders are skipping home from their local brewpub, arms wrapped tightly around half-gallon jugs brimming with small-batch suds. There’s plenty to like about the dependable 64-ounce growler: Participating bars fill and refill your empties endlessly with beer not available by the bottle, and it costs less per ounce than pints consumed in house. You can buy the ubiquitous clear or amber glass vessel from most breweries, but if you’re looking for something more unique, the Portland Growler Company fires a handmade version sculpted with locally-sourced clay—a medium that keeps the sunlight out. (Sunlight, along with oxygen, degrades the flavor of beer after only a few hours.)
Plenty of local breweries offer fill-ups, including favorites like Coalition, Gigantic, Upright, Alameda and Hopworks. Most recommend consuming the contents within two to three days, which may or may not be a challenge. If you’re looking for an option with a bit more longevity, the folks at Tin Bucket have you covered. In addition to copious tap offerings at their North Williams Avenue location, their high-end sealers replace oxygen with CO2 before filling, letting you enjoy that fresh-from-the-tap flavor weeks after the pour.
If your basement looks like an episode of Mr. Wizard, you’re a great candidate for Oregon State University’s summer short courses on brewing. Course topics include proper yeast handling, beer characteristic measurement and sensory testing. Along with learning the microbiology of fermentation, you’ll refine brewing technical skills, which is often the missing piece needed to consistently produce a quality product. Although the courses are designed for pre-professional brewers, beginners are welcome.
Once brewing techniques are in the bag, it’s time to get down to business. Portland State University has unveiled a Craft Beer Business Certificate—the first of its kind in the nation. The program’s comprehensive focus on business aims to bridge the gap between talented home brewers and a flourishing market. Two of the certificate’s creators and instructors, Mellie Pullman and Alan Reskin, bring decades of industry experience to the table—Pullman started Utah’s first craft brewery in the 1980s, and Reskin was the vice-president of marketing at Widmer. Regarding saturation of the local market, Pullman isn’t concerned: “Many neighborhoods don’t have a brewpub yet.”
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Have an adventurous palate? Local masters are brewing up micro-batch beers with notes of spruce, huckleberry, wild ginger, salmonberry and stinging nettles, thanks to Portland-based program Beers Made By Walking. The program leads brewers on guided hikes where native plants serve as inspiration for creating beers that are later unveiled at community tapping events, often hosted by Belmont Station.
“My hope is always to get people who are interested in beer and people interested in the outdoors to see the world through each other’s eyes. I like to think that both types of people have a greater appreciation for their home town after experiencing either the hike or the beer,” says BMBW founder Eric Steen.
A portion of sales brought in at tapping events raise funds for local environmental organizations. You don’t have to be a brewer to join the hikes; Steen encourages beer enthusiasts and nature lovers alike to participate and add to the experience.
There is perhaps no greater measure of Oregon’s love for craft beer than the recent designation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—a species of yeast used to brew ales, porters, and stouts—as Oregon’s State Microbe. We can thank this humble fungus for a $2.4 billion craft brewing industry.
If grain is the body of beer and hops are the personality, yeast is undoubtedly the soul. From the conversion of sugar to alcohol during fermentation to the formation of flavor-inducing byproducts, almost every craft beer on the planet is under the influence of this mighty microbe.
While most brewers use fastidiously cultivated strains of yeast, others prefer to throw caution to the wind— literally. Lambics, native to Belgium, are produced by exposing the fresh brew to wild yeast and fermenting it in oak barrels. Portland is seeing a rise in wild ale festivals, and a few daring brewers are experimenting with unconventional yeast blends and barrel aging. To stay on the up and up, visit Cascade Brewing Barrel House and don’t miss Portland’s annual Puckerfest, where weird and wild bacteria are showcased in a celebration of sour beer.
Carolyn White is an intern for Edible Portland and thinks great ideas are born while drinking hoppy beer on a sunny patio.