When I first came to Portland almost four years ago, I didn’t like beer. At least I didn’t like it any more than any other form of alcohol. Beer to me was Busch and Keystone, the drinks whose combined efforts fueled my high school and probably the rest of my hometown. I knew the ways of Wild Turkey, Almaden, and Coors, and understood them all to work towards the same purpose. Good beers, in my opinion, were the likes of Lowenbrau and Henry Weinhard’s. My taste would eventually change after I made my way across the desert and down the windy Columbia. I feel such a change is inevitable for the casual beer drinker who decides to call Portland home.
Sadly, and eighteen year old residing in Portland does not have beer-buying privileges. Well, at least not the complete access one has to alcohol at the age of 21. What this meant for me was a lack of choice. I drank what I could get my hands on- Pabst, Milwaukee’s Best, etc. It was a new can, but the same old taste! Once, when I was still stuck in the macro rut, someone gave me a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. It was strange, foreign, but I drank the whole thing. A few more tastes might have made me convert, but it just wasn’t quite enough at the time.
Enter the fake ID, which I referred to as “The Texan.” The Texan was like my twin; he had the same name, picture, and address, but he lived in Austin and was exactly two years older than me. Strange. The Texan not only allowed me to buy my own beer, but also created an opportunity for me to see what else was on the shelves. But fear kept use of the Texan limited, and I did not acquire those beers that make Portland famous.
After a year or so in Portland, I tasted MacTarnahans Amber Ale, a beer that I still enjoy to this day. I had an entire six-pack, and I savored every drop. Soon I had tasted the entire Portland Brewing lineup, including Bobby Dazzler, a dark winter brew that has since then been retired. I still miss Bobby. Portland Brewing allowed me to experience the beginning of The Awakening. Now I was conscious of other breweries like Widmer and Deschutes, and Black Butte Porter became a staple of my beer diet.
The event that pushed me into true beer geekdom happened during spring break over two years ago. The campus was a ghost town and there were no authority figures in our dorm, so naturally there was a lot of beer drinking going on. I had learned of a bottle shop in southeast Portland called Belmont Station from a developing beer rating internet site. The girl I was seeing had foolishly left her car in my hands for the entire week, and for the first time in my life I could seek out beer in other parts of the city that had previously been locked away from me. Thanks to The Texan and the car, I returned home with Hair of the Dog Adam and Hawks DM’s Imperial Stout, two beers that to this day have remained some of my favorites.
I wasn’t sure how my girlfriend would react to me driving that car around Portland on beer runs all week, but I had decided that whatever the consequences, the beer would be worth it in the end. Two weeks and hundreds of miles later, she dumped me anyway. I had clearly made the right choice. Maybe she didn’t like the fact I had driven all the way to Tacoma and back to visit a friend, I guess I’ll never know. The trip to Belmont opened my eyes to the amazing beer scene in this city. Portland now offered me seemingly endless beer hunting opportunities, and with The Texan stowed safely in my wallet and a new sense of bravery, I began to drink good beer.
Times have changed. The Texan is long since retired, and I now have my own car for weekly trips to Johns Marketplace. When I think about it, I can’t imagine myself living in Portland and not drinking craft beer. Josh Oakes once said that in Oregon, people who would otherwise be drinking macros are drinking microbrews, and people who would otherwise be drinking normal micros are drinking the really good stuff. After pondering this for a while, I came to realize just how true this statement was. The college kids I know, who represent the youngest generation of beer drinkers, consume mainly Pabst and its other macro relatives. But I know not one of my classmates who would prefer a macro to a Bridgeport IPA if they were given the option, or could afford the difference in cost.
Years ago, I was “that guy who drinks good beer.” Now I’ve realized that I’m not “that guy,” but “another guy” who drinks craft beer. The craft brewing movement in Portland is not just noticeable, it’s unavoidable. There is always a brewery nearby, there is always a festival that seems right around the corner, and there’s always something worth drinking in the cooler at the gas station. If you move to Portland and drink beer, chances are you’ll fall in love with craft brews. It happened to me!