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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Drinking Local in Washington

Kendall Jones has a very nice post at the Washington Beer Blog. It illustrates at least one of the key differences between the two states of the Pacific Northwest. We drink local. Washington, ever more worldly and cosmopolitan, less so.
Here is a depressing fact that many people don’t know. In Washington, Washington-brewed craft beer is fourth in terms of sales. According to Heather McClung (President of the Washington Brewers Guild), California, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska all sell more beer in Washington than our local producers. (I admit, I’m not sure of the order.) How, you may ask, can that be? Instead of thinking of it as four states, think of it as four beers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, New Belgium Fat Tire, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and Alaskan Amber. We certainly are not as provincial as Oregon, where 11% of all beer consumed is produced in Oregon, but it is sad that Washington beer is in fourth place.
I have been thinking about Northwest beer as I complete this book proposal. One of the great virtues of our state is that we are so parochial. I tend not to make a distinction between Oregon and Washington so much--as a region, our beers are pretty much of a piece--but I might feel differently if I lived north of the river and had to confront these stats. On the other hand, if you treated the two states as a single entity, I wonder if we wouldn't collectively drink mostly local beer?

In any case, Washingtonians should get on the stick and head down to the local brewpub. And you should head over and read the full post.


  1. Oregonians may be provincial (which is a very fair claim) but even with our poorer educational system, we can count. If 4 states account for more beer sold in your state, then you wouldn't be fourth.

  2. This is surprising considering that WA has two large regional/national breweries (Redhook and Pyramid) that should pull in a larger number of average beer drinkers. Maybe the problem is that these two breweries seem to do little to establish a local connection?

  3. It would be nice if more Washington breweries extended their distribution to the Vancouver/Portland metro area. I would love to have beer from Boundary Bay, Chuckanut, and the like on a regular basis. The lack of local consumption is not for want of good beer.

  4. Drinking local verses drinking non-local beer may have more to do with personal preference and/or sense of enrichment. Some people may be satisfied with the local products while others may be looking for more of an "enriched latitude."

    Couldn't it be the difference between a person who 'drinks beer' verses a person who searches for a bigger latitude of beer?

    Kendall may say it best with this statement,"I must admit, my personal beer drinking life is much richer because of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and 21st Amendment’s Monk’s Blood."

    He's obviously gaining beer enlightenment that he can't find in his local market.

    As a person who buys and searches for beers that will enhance personal enjoyment and enrichment, I don't see a problem with buying for personal pleasure and adventure. Isn't that what enjoying quality beverages is all about?

    OTOH, it could all be about convenience, trends and marketing.

  5. I hate when outsiders call us provencial. Even though it's true.

    Anyway, the "big" Washington craft brewers don't compare to ours. We have Deschutes and Bridgeport. They have Pyramid and Redhook. Pyramid in particular has lost a lot of quality in my opinion.

    That said, they have a lot of smaller brewpubs now making great beer.

  6. To defend Washington breweries a moment, I can think off-hand of a half dozen that I would be content with for the rest of my life: Elysian, Walking Man, Boundary Bay, Fish, Elliot Bay, and Pike. And that excludes a number I've heard things about but--echoing Anon #1--haven't had the chance to try.

  7. There's a small chain of markets here in Seattle that has a decent beer selection. The other day I was standing outside trying to sell some crack I found on the playground (times are tough, eh?) and I saw a guy walk out with a sixer of Full Sail Amber.

    I like Full Sail Amber, but this market is within mere STEPS of several good breweries like Hales, Pike, Maritime, and Elysian.

    Was I wrong to jump him and take his Land Rover?

  8. Anon,

    Guess what? We have Pyramid/Magic Hat and Wid-Hook too. We not only compare, we're practically the same. Bridgeport; aka Gambrinus Brewing of Texas? Who wants to claim fame or ownership? What do I smell in the air? Hmmm, smells like corporate cash from corporate cows.

  9. I keep hearing people list Pike as qualtiy. I'm hoping this isn't Pikes Place Brewery. I've always thought that place was a little over rated. Then again I've only had their bottled releases. Those were enough to keep me out of the brewery every time I've been in Seattle

  10. Late to the conversation; but,
    Baron Brewing Co, Seattle, and Leavenworth Biers Brewery, Seattle, produce very good pilsner. Three Skulls Ales, Seattle, and Diamond Knot Brewery, Mukilteo, produce very good 2X IPA.

  11. So here's what I'm hearing from some of the commenters. The fact that Washington doesn't drink as locally could simply be because they don't have as great of beer? Or could it be because they don't rabidly adhere to the idea that beer is better just because it's local like Oregons drinkers?

    Looking at Jeffs list of Washington breweries I see some I like, but none whose beer I'd drink daily. Then there is the argument that their big breweries aren't great quality. We have Widmer which is part of the Craft Brewers Alliance that includes Redhook. We also have MacTarnahans. Anyone wanna defend MacTarnahans as great quality beer? And as much as Portlanders love Bridgeport are they shelling out beer whose quality is on par with Deschutes or (for a less local comparison) New Belgium?

    I'd contend Oregon has as much mediocre beer as Washington. We judt take pride in the fact we drink it.