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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Papazian Asks: Where is Beertown, USA?

Charlie Papazian goes there:
There are many great beer cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston. You’ll even find incidences among beer enthusiasts in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and Denver, Colorado often battling over bragging rights as “Top Beer City, USA.” They’re all out of contention for top honors when it comes to actually calculating the number of breweries per capita in America’s towns.
Guess what? He concludes that based on a per capita basis, Colorado towns finish 1-2 as best Beertowns. Portland finishes fifth. We're going to be having this argument 'til the cows home for their spent grain, but I don't think anyone is really going to buy Durango, Colorado as the best beer town in the country.

First, the factual errors. According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are 38 brewing facilities in Portland--for a ratio of 1 in 14,484, moving us up to 4th place. He also misses Bend, with 7 breweries and a ratio of 1 in 10,270 (it'll be 1/9000 in the spring when Brewtal opens). That's good enough to edge Boulder for number 2. The real problem is that small towns have a huge advantage over larger ones. It's no wonder that there's only one actual city in Charlie's top five. (And no wonder that it's Portland, either.)

Looking at cities through a single data point doesn't hardly begin to answer the question. Portland drinks more craft beer than any other city (not per capita--total) and we have the most breweries of any city in the world (not per capita-total). If you're running the stats, you gotta run these, too.

Personally, I think there are far more convincing reasons why Portland's the best beer city in the country:
  1. Horse Brass Pub/Bailey's Taproom
  2. Ducks games at the Mission
  3. Organic beer
  4. Meet the brewers at local pubs
  5. Oregon Brewers Festival
  6. Fred Eckhardt
  7. Lucky Lab porch on a summer afternoon
  8. Fresh hop ales
  9. Six winter ales at the Lompoc
  10. Cheers to Belgian beers competition
I could come up with another ten--and I'm sure I missed some critical reasons--but you get the point. Durango, Colorado?--come on. We rock.


  1. I'd add Steinbarts and Belmont Station to your list. I also think that any argument should begin and end with an average grocery store's beer isle. Have you ever been to the QFC on 55thish and E. Burnside?

  2. Hood River pwns Durango... check it out

  3. The link didn't work for me, but what about Sisters? One brewery for somewhere around 1,800 people is pretty good.

  4. All right, the link sort of works now--it links to the blog. (Why the other link doesn't work is inexplicable--that Examiner network sort of sux.) Charlie's arbitrary criteria required 3 breweries for a city to qualify. Why not 5 or 10? Why not indeed.

  5. Charlie Papazian rights for Draft right? I'm into that magazine a lot and I have a subscription, but I feel like they consistently neglect Portland. Why hasn't their been a Beer Town USA in Portland?

  6. "...the QFC on 55thish and E. Burnside"

    that's the one nearest to my house and it rocks. they recently remodeled and now their micro section is much bigger than the macro.

  7. You know, it's really just good that we can have this discussion at all. I'm all for little breweries springing up everywhere, which gives real flavor to different towns, even different neighborhoods. My greatest dream is that someday the US will be like Germany. Every burg with it's own brewery. Now THAT would make a full tour of the US worthwhile.

  8. just a is the Beavers at Mission as the Brothers are OSU alum.

  9. So the expanded list includes:

    Great beer stores (Belmont Station/John's Market/New Seasons/QFC, etc)
    Blazers/Beavers/Ducks at the Mission (I've seen 'em all)

  10. How about Portland's abilitiy to continuously offer pints of craft beer at reasonable prices. There are not many city's in the US were you can buy a pint of quality IPA or Stout from anywhere in between $3.75 to $4.50. Being a New Yorker, I was used to paying $6.50 for my craft beer in bars.

    Also, Portland's continuing dedication to offer some of the most amazing festivals and education to public.

    I moved to Portland because of the city itself, I've stayed here because of the beer.

  11. Breweries per capita is a ridiculous way top decide where Beertwon, USA is (and the phrase Beertwon, USA is equally ridiculous).

    Why not factor in a few other things? How about percentage of local beer that's consumed locally. I don't care how many breweries a city has. If they don't drink the local beer, how can they qualify? A beer mecca needs a beer culture to support it. Portland has all of that.

    We have the breweries, we drink most of the beers locally (look how many aren't actually bottled or distributed), and we probably have the best educated beer drinking public. That gives us a beer culture like no other city. When every hole in the wall restaurant and quickie mart sells locally produced craft beers, you know you've got serious beer culture, and that, coupled with a huge amouont of breweries put Porltand over the top.

  12. Don't slag Durango until you've drank our beer. Try Ska's Pinstripe or True Blonde, Steamworks Brewing's Backside Stout or Colorado Kolsch, Durango Brewing's Derail Ale and Carver Brewing's Imperial Stout. All very fine beers. Three of the four breweries offer beers on cask, and all four brew impressive seasonal or limited-release beers. Granted, Durango does not have the size or variety of Portland. But our little town doesn't do bad by its beer drinkers.