Monday, December 13, 2010

JapanBrew heads to Oregon, where the beer flows like wine ...

When the temperatures in Ise dip to those just-above-freezing levels, and a dry cool breeze moves in from the northwest, I know its time to get out of here, across the Pacific and to the Northwest.

Just two more days at work and I'll be on the road.

I was born in Eastern Oregon, down the interstate a few hours from Portland, a craft-brewing powerhouse that boasts a number of beer-related statistics, helpfully furnished by the city's tourism wing:

  • Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world. There are 30 craft breweries within the city limits; 38 in the Portland metro area.
  • According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, no matter where you are in Portland, you're never more than 15 minutes from a craft brewery.
  • Among "hopheads" (beer lovers), Portland's nicknames include "Beervana," "Brewtopia" and "Munich on the Willamette."
  • Portland is home to the nation's best-attended beer bash: the Oregon Brewers Festival. More than 50,000 people enjoy this annual riverfront event, which takes place the last full weekend of July.
  • Portland has a 3 percent market share of the more than 1,400 breweries and brewpubs in the United States. 
And while I cannot claim Portland as my real home town, I can claim Oregon and the Northwest in general. My first sip of beer came at age 17, on my birthday, in the form of a can of Natty Ice or something sinister like that (my older brother, on summer break from university, was the provider).

Through my days at Oregon State University in Corvallis, I developed a taste for craft beer, though I had my share of Pabst Blue Ribbon along the way.

Now, every trip home is a chance to try something new. So many places in Portland have craft beer on tap or in bottles, and even if you went in at noon for a sandwich, you'll find yourself tempted by the beer cooler.

My three-city tour (Portland, Pendleton and Corvallis) of Oregon will be, at least in part, beer-fueled. In Portland, where my older brother and his fiancee live, I have the on-the-ground reality of those aforementioned statistics. In Pendleton, where my mother lives, I can look forward to my first look at the newly opened Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub downtown. Even Corvallis, where my father and stepmother live, has something new, in the form of the Block 15 Brewery and Restaurant. (correction: Block 15 opened a few years back. The new brewpub in Corvallis is Flat Tail.)

All this beer talk, though exciting, does draw attention from the fact that the main reason for the visit is to see family, who put up with me living on the other side of the world. But I think the quality of our time together will be heightened thanks to the beer (and food) culture of our cities and towns.

As much as I can, I'll report on my trip from the road. To other winter travelers, have a safe, enjoyable holiday.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your time in Oregon. Ironically, I'm here in Japan (until the 20th). Although I've only been away from Portland a couple of days, I'm missing me a good IPA -- will have to hit a Baird tap room to get my fix in Tokyo.