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Friday, February 26, 2016

Tenth Anniversary Blogging: All Beer is Local

Ten years ago, when I started this blog, the world of beer was largely local.  Five years later, it had exploded, and "craft beer" was starting to pierce the national consciousness. That was the moment I had started traipsing around the country and world, and my own experience was one of an expanding beer consciousness. The world of beer was vast and international!

But it was in the midst of all that expanding that I stumbled across a basic truth about beer. No matter how industrial and macro and global beer appears to be, it is and will always be local.

I'm not really sure how I ever missed this. Even in the pre-craft days, living in the Northwest meant breathing Blitz, Rainier, and Oly air. As late as 1977--the year after Jack McAuliffe founded New Albion--you could have a major motion picture premised on bootlegging a truckload of Colorado beer to Georgia. National brands are still, in their way, local; it's why AB scattered 20 plants across North America. Beer is heavy (read: expensive to distribute) and perishable, and local breweries have a built-in advantage over national ones. But even more to the point; beer is local because that's where we enjoy it.

Photo, Steve Morgan
I can't overstate how timely the Oregon Beer Awards were--and I don't mean that in the obvious way. There was a moment when Bud Clark stood up to introduce an award. By now, Bud's name is lost to all but those fans of transgressive 1970s photography, but in Portland, he is a legend. A tavern owner, he ran for and became mayor in the 1980s, winning re-election after a hugely successful first term. That he was a tavern owner earned him the kind of love only Portland could give him. When he came onto the stage, he got the night's only standing ovation. And this is for a guy who hasn't been mayor for 26 years.

Beer is knitted into the fabric of a community that way. I've had the really good fortune of having been able to cover this city's (and state's) beer for nearly twenty years, more than half of them here at this crazy blogspot address. Local beer culture is a weird pastiche of institutions, oral history, and lived experience. We carry bubbles of reality around with us as we walk into pubs and drink beers, adding to them with every new beer we try. Twenty years of writing locally--and 29 of drinking locally--has allowed all of this to seep pretty deeply into my being. By now, my bubble is as big as a city block.

It's been an incredible pleasure to witness Portland's beer culture. It has mostly been composed of the activities of people who make and sell the beer but there are times--like blog anniversaries--when I allow myself the pleasure of imagining that this blog has made a tiny but perhaps visible contribution to that culture. Even if it hasn't, the opportunity to observe it closely, these ten pretty-long years, has been pure pleasure.

Tomorrow's the actual anniversary, but count this as the real blog marking the occasion. Thanks for the memories, everyone--

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