The Perfectly Weird Recipe for Portland’s Craft Brew Revolution

Posted on: April 27th 2016

Mention Portland these days, and there are few things more likely to be invoked in the mind than beer, beards, and birds on things. We’re as proud of our craft brews as we are of our villainously-curled, silent-film-era mustaches and naked bike rides — and for good reason! Oregon boasts nearly 200 breweries — and around half of those are in our funky little Rip City alone. With the ever expanding selection of local brews available at just about every corner drug store (by the bottle, growler, or mason jar fill), it’s easy to take for granted the embarrassment of beer riches in our hipster enclave city.

But have you ever given much thought to why Portland has ascended so quickly to the top of the artisan beer stratosphere? The answer is surprisingly simple, and knowing it will make you the most knowledgeable person at the party (not that you weren’t already).

Water, malt, yeast, and hops… an historic quadfecta. This magic mingling of ingredients creates the delicious elixir that a much wiser society once donned “liquid bread.” (Let’s bring this phrase back! Who’s with me?) As with anything, the quality of the final product is contingent on the quality of the ingredients used — and that’s where Portland hit the geographic jackpot…

• Our city’s water is soft and clean, essentially a blank canvas upon which our brewmasters can mimic historic water profiles without first spending time and money neutralizing it.

• Having both malt and yeast distributors just outside of town means that we Portlanders have quick access to a variety of high-quality ingredients right at our fingertips.

• And finally, the most high-profile ingredient in beer (for which Oregon has become famous) — the hop. A cousin of cannabis (yes, otherwise known as weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane, etc), the leafy cone-shaped hop flower is what gives beer it’s fruity, floral, piney, earthy notes. Similar to the pinot noir grape, hop vines are notoriously fickle; only producing quality flowers in very particular climates such as ours. Portland’s proximity to a plethora of hop farms means that, every fall, Deschutes’ brewers only have to drive an hour out of town to load up on fresh hops to throw into their brews right off the vine.

All of this lays the groundwork, of course, but ultimately, pride in our local brewing industry has grown out of the perception that it defines what it means to be a Portlander: artisan, independent, and a little weird. At Deschutes, we take great pride in the fact that our Portland Pub mirrors the eccentricities of our unique community. From the exquisite chainsaw art of J. Chester Armstrong effectively putting birds on things all over our dining room, to the close-knit, diverse, sometimes kooky crowd of co-owners that clock-in every day — we think our pub reflects a wide range of what makes Portland great (read: weird)! And if you catch us on a good day, you might end up sitting next to a parkour T-Rex or being served by Marty McFly (don’t ask, just go with it). So whether you’re a long-time local or a first-time tourist, we at Deschutes welcome you (in all your weirdness) to saddle up to our bar, grab yourself a tall pint of Black Butte Porter, and taste the best of what our oddball city has to offer!

-By Doug Reynolds, Portland Pub Server Extraordinaire