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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ten Years Blogging: The Modern Age of Brewing

I have always had a bit of trouble dating this blog precisely. By the time I started it, I had already been blogging for a few years in the political sphere.* The first post, really just a placeholder, consisted of four words and went live on January 20, 2006. Things sat idle for more than a month. I did occasional beer blogging at BlueOregon, one of the sites I co-founded, and I started moving those posts over here in February. The first actual post came on Feb 26, a review of a now long-forgotten BridgePort experiment called Supris.

My better-looking, younger doppelganger, Bolt Minister.
His career is a study in change. When I took this photo
in 2009, he was at Astoria Brewing. He went on to work
at three (?) more breweries before founding 54-40
late last year.

In the life of a blogger, ten years counts as a significant amount of time. In the life of beer, it's so short you can't even see it. In the life of American beer, it's more than you'd imagine. At the end of 2005, there were fewer than 1500 breweries in the US, which was actually fewer than there were in 1999. Craft breweries made just 7 million barrels then (when "craft beer" was actually a pretty discrete category). They brewed 22 million in 2014 and will probably be over 25 million when we look at the numbers at the end of this year.

Ninkasi is now sells the third-largest amount of beer in Oregon; it didn't exist when I started. Breakside, the Commons, Block 15, Upright, Oakshire, Fort George, Double Mountain, Upright, Boneyard, 10 Barrel--none existed when I started this blog. (You can play this game with a lot of breweries. I just got off the phone with Sam Richardson of Other Half Brewing in NYC, a brewery most big apple beer geeks agree is setting the standard now; they will have their second anniversary later this month.) Back in 2006, only historians had heard the term "gose." No one had heard "session IPA." The concept of kettle souring may have existed, but basically no one knew about it. I certainly didn't. Mosaic and Citra hops didn't exist.

I could go on and on, but I think you see the point. This blog's life corresponds pretty closely to what we might call American brewing's "modern age." When breweries first started opening in the late 1970s, there wasn't any "American brewing tradition." It took at least half a generation before anything really started to change. (Beer in 1982 and beer in 1995 looked a lot alike.) It took another decade for breweries to understand what that change would be and begin to refine it. And it was about the middle 2000s that it came into focus.

Instead of a traditional look back at what I did on this blog over the last decade, I plan to look back at beer over the past decade. It was the pivotal time in American brewing, both as an industry and as a craft. It will be fun and I hope edifying and illuminating to pore over those years and see what we've learned.

* The Oregon Blog and Notes on the Atrocities had already been born and died, but Low on the Hog was still going strong and BlueOregon was in its heyday and actually affecting the trajectory of Beaver State politics.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, and more to the point: thank you for your writing!