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Friday, November 06, 2009

Salt and Pepper

I finally got back to the interview I did with Gary Fish a couple weeks back. I did manage to post some of the "breaking news" tidbits, but none of the interesting historical anecdotes. The most interesting was this following story, where Gary relates how Black Butte Porter became the first beer they distributed in Portland. I had just asked Gary why he thought a dark beer would be a hit--when every other brewery in the state was trying to sell lighter beers.
“Honestly, I give all the credit for Black Butte Porter to Jim Kennedy. He was the one who tried the beers and said, ‘Look, everybody’s coming out with light-colored beers, but this is a beer that’s different, and this is a beer that can capture the consumer. And be different. The dark-beer pie is not as big, but you could own the whole thing. We probably would have tried to go with Cascade Golden Ale or Bachelor Bitter. Full Sail Golden Ale was their lead brand, Portland Ale was their lead brand. Everybody was really on the ultra-light side of the color spectrum.

“At the time, Admiralty Beverage represented Widmer as well as us. They had a sales pitch that they would sell Widmer Hefeweizen and Black Butte Porter together. ‘ Every restaurant has salt and pepper on the table; this is your salt and pepper in your beer line-up.’”
Who knows how significant this decision turned out to be. Maybe if Gary had gone with the Golden Deschutes would now be a modest-sized brewery. We only know the history as it was--Deschutes got off to a great start with Black Butte, was partly responsible for popularizing dark beers in Oregon, and launched itself on a trajectory to make it one of America's largest craft breweries by 2009. History is a capricious lady.

By the way, Jim Kennedy played a major role in helping popularize craft beer in Oregon, too. (He's also the namesake for Hair of the Dog's legendary "Jim.") John Foyston re-printed a couple columns about Jim last month, and they're well worth a read if you're unfamiliar with this piece of Oregon's brewing history.


  1. I had my first Black Butte Porter 21 years ago and am still loyal. It and Pyramid's SnoCap seduced me (thankful)to the dark side of Beer. I even have a BBP sweatshirt that, sadly, is too small to wear but.....

  2. I just finished blending this years Jim. I used 11 different Beers from 4 countries to produce a hoppy Beer with a complex malty backbone.

  3. I had the great honor of working with Jim Kennedy for a few short years, I'm glad to see his name still out there.

  4. Just spent 3 weeks in San Diego and Palm Springs...the only beer I brought back to StL, MO--Black Butte Baby!!!!!

    Damn Good Shit!!