For those of you who've traveled the beer world...

Discussion in 'Northwest' started by draheim, Aug 1, 2013.

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  1. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,461) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    I have to admit, I'm a sucker for these "what's the best state" pissing-match threads. It's like a train wreck and I can't look away.

    Anyway, a lot of people seem to be convinced that places like Vermont, Michigan, and Illinois are "hands down" better beer destinations than Oregon, Washington, and certain parts of Alaska... and while these places certainly have a lot going on, I have a difficult time believing the beer culture just about anywhere else is as ubiquitous and pervasive as what we enjoy out here. California and Colorado, sure, I can see that. But just about anywhere else? Not so sure.

    Compare the Portland-Bend-Hood River triangle to Vermont (an area of approximately the same size) for example. I'd guess there are two or three times the number of breweries (and good ones) in the former than in the latter. Compare the wide availability of good beer just about everywhere, at least within a 50-mile-wide swath along the I-5 corridor and maybe farther than that. Look at how certain towns (e.g., Bend) are embracing beer as an economic engine for local, sustainable growth.

    I admit it, I'm totally biased. I moved here from the Midwest 20+ years ago and haven't looked back. So I ask those of you who have been to a lot of the other big beer-centric regions of the country: level with me. Is it really as good I think it is out here? Do other places really compare favorably, and if so, how? And as a follow-up, what do you think are the main differences between beer culture in the Pacific NW and what's going on in other places?

    Hopefully this thread spurs a thoughtful dialogue about where we are and where we're going. Cheers!
     
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  2. BuckeyeOne

    BuckeyeOne Crusader (776) Mar 9, 2008 Washington
    Society

    I have to say that the Twin Cities beer culture certainly rivals that of Portland and Seattle. I think if anything is holding them back it's Minnesota's fucked up beer and liquor laws. If they could buy beer in all stores, sell growlers everywhere, etc., they would be dead ringers for the PNW. I have a hard time finding bars that match the selection and the vibe of the Happy Gnome in St. Paul.
     
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  3. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,501) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Is it really as good I think it is out here? Yes it is.

    Do other places really compare favorably, and if so, how? It depends what your criteria is. No place I've ever been, has the craft beer culture been as pervasive as it is out here. The SEPA/Philly area probably comes closest I would argue, but it still can't compare to what we have out here, and of course the brewing scene there is nothing like what we have here. However, SEPA does have an amazing selection available, primarily due to their incredible distribution companies (who seem to actively and aggressively court new breweries). On the other hand, prices there are high, and they still have that stupid "buy by the case" law (though that's becoming less of an issue or concern all the time). Denver and San Diego are both pretty amazing in their own right, and I think you could make a good case for both places, but I'd still take Portland (and thus Oregon) over any of those areas.

    And as a follow-up, what do you think are the main differences between beer culture in the Pacific NW and what's going on in other places? That 's a really tough question to answer I think. The main difference I see in the NW is accessibility. Even out in the sticks, it's relatively easy to find a decent selection of craft beer, and in places like PDX and Seattle, even the most divery bar or strip club will have a good, and sometimes awesome selection of beer available. When I lived back East and in California, it was often a considerable drive to find a decent beer bar, and so it often took considerable planning and work to sometimes find good beer. It was certainly doable and no arduous chore, but in places like PDX and Seattle (as an example), the medicine cabinet is usually no more than a 5 or 10 minute drive away.

    I remembe one out of towner mentioning during his visit to PDX some years ago, that you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a great beer bar, brewpub or brewery in PDX. That's a slight exaggeration, but I think the thought captures the perception outsiders have upon coming to the NW. Good beer seems to be literally everywhere!
     
  4. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,501) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    The Gnome is good, but I'm more of a Muddy Pig or Bryant Lake Bowl kind of guy myself. :-)
     
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  5. NWer

    NWer Crusader (788) Mar 10, 2009 Washington

    I've gotta agree Minneapolis is pretty awesome. Republic & Town Hall, Surly, Steel Toe, Indeed, list is impressive. Guaranteed a good time. Aside from that, I fail to be impressed anywhere not on the West Coast.
    Notable is the lack of attention given to Alaska. Given their population, they knock out some damn good brew.
     
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  6. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,567) Sep 24, 2007 Liechtenstein
    Trader

    I agree with John, and would like to expand. Everytime the comparisons come up, one of the big arguments is "(city X) has these awesome craft beer bars", whereas out here (as John said), good beer is everywhere. Remember the "craft in gas stations" thread last week? OP of that thread asked if we would excited to have a good craft selection at the neighborhood Get n Go. My response was, no I wouldn't be excited, I (we) expect it. Even the diviest bars here have at least a couple of craft options. And, my local brewpubs and "beer" bars are filled with folks who, in other places, are probably the target demographic for Bud; construction workers, loggers, commercial fishermen, and other blue collar workers. Don't know if that's the case in Sandy Ego or Fillydelpia. Good beer is just part of the culture here. I'm not even surprised that my local book store has a cafe with 6 taps, all craft.
     
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  7. BuckeyeOne

    BuckeyeOne Crusader (776) Mar 9, 2008 Washington
    Society

    The good thing about the Happy Gnome is, if they don't have anything on tap that I want (which has never happened), I can get back in my rental car, drive down the road, and be at the Muddy Pig in 2 minutes. :slight_smile:
     
  8. sanford_and_son

    sanford_and_son Aspirant (250) Jul 23, 2012 Washington

    I looooooooove the Happy Gnome. My fiancee (from Minneapolis) and I are having a wedding reception in their upstairs space. I will be one happy drunk motherfucker that night, tell you wut.
     
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  9. flexabull

    flexabull Poo-Bah (2,348) Mar 9, 2006 California

    Well said John, but one thing I would add is that things have changed a ton in a lot of places over the last 5-10 years. I know before you have said you lived in the Sacramento area, I don't know when, but even now in my redneck part of Northern CA it is much easier to find craft beers. For example, I went to a tiny little pizza place in Coffee Creek CA the other day and they had a couple Sierra Nevada and Lost Coast beers on tap. Nothing special of course, but this would have never been the case a few years ago.


    With that said, the PNW definitely is an outstanding place for craft, and an area very few places can rival. Heck, Bend and it's what 100,000 or so residents have a dozen local breweries now?! That's nuts! :grinning:
     
  10. bgramer

    bgramer Initiate (196) Feb 10, 2006 Washington
    Trader

    Psst, here's a tip: It's your wedding night. Don't get too drunk that you can't perform your husband duties when the reception is over!
     
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  11. davemont

    davemont Initiate (111) Feb 20, 2008 California

    Living in San Diego, I admit I would advise someone who had only one beer trip to make in the U.S. to visit Portland...
     
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  12. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,501) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I lived in Sacto from 89 to 01. I'm sure a lot has changed since then, though even when I lived there, Sacto wasn't half bad. There was both a Liquor Barn and later a BevMo, and even grocery stores had a decent craft beer selection. There was also a Sacto Brewing, the rubicon, Hoppy brewing, etc. The biggest problem for me back then, is that there really weren't many pub or beer bar options out where I lived. (near Rancho Cordova off of Bradshaw near 50). There were places I could go to downtown (Fox and Goose for instance), but still... no one would mistake Sacto for PDX or even Bend.

    My mom lived in Los Gatos, and I went to college in Santa Cruz. So I also spent a lot of time in the Bay Area. Santa Cruz at the time had a surprising number of craft beer options, but the San Jose area, not so much.

    Certainly I wouldn't describe California as a craft beer desert (far from it), but it still doesn't come close to what's available in PDX. I still remember the first time I drove up from Sacto to visit... I was completely blown away by what you could find in PDX (even back then - this was in 95 or 96 I think).
     
  13. flexabull

    flexabull Poo-Bah (2,348) Mar 9, 2006 California

    So true, very few places can hold a candle to Portland. I was just pointing out that the availability of craft beer has improved a ton in a lot of areas. Even in the sticks of far Northern CA.

    By the way, we still have a Liquor Barn, and they have a good selection too!
     
  14. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,501) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    :-)

    You'll have to use your imagination for the musical part of this old jingle.

    ".... for an afternoon picnic or evening bash.... come by the liquor barn... and (cha, cha, cha) save some cash!"
     
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  15. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2007 Washington

    After living in CA(making numerous LA/SF/SD runs and living down the road from FW) for three years and making numerous beer journeys to TX, CO, AZ, OR, AL(don't laugh), GA and FL I would say we have it made. I have never toured the Midwest or New England other than random trips which were more so for work and such so I won't speak to what I don't know....and that's the problem.

    Many people who bash and brag about their own state are homers who have not made the treks, probably never left the state in some instances. Other than trading for only the prime beers from other regions does not accurately portray a regions beer.

    CA has many, many gems but I can sure tell you there many average and terd breweries no one hears about. WA has it's set of terds as well but as far as overall quality across the board I think WA is pretty damn good. I quit trading consistently because what I have here at home tops most of what is "great" from other states. For me, the worst part is WA beer drinkers who bash this states beer and have yet to expand and venture themselves. Again, if you're only trading for rare and whales from another state/region and you're judging WA based upon that well then you're wrong.
     
  16. ramnuts

    ramnuts Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2009 Oregon

    After living in Los Angeles (16 years), San Francisco (4 years), Spokane (3 years), Billings (1 year), Great Falls (5 years), Seattle (18 years) and Portland (11 years)- (and spending a great deal of time in Denver, Hartford, CT, Boston, & NYC), - and revisiting each spot regularly in the past few years to see family and friends - is clear to me that the PNW dominates the beer world in a way that no other region can claim. The US craft beer program started here with Bert Grant in Yakima, and ends here (as far as I am concerned). I enjoy other regions' products but at the end of the day I am a PNW homer. And when you get as old as I am, change is difficult.:wink:
     
  17. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2007 Washington

    That's alot of years and beer...I kid on the years.
     
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  18. tozerm

    tozerm Initiate (0) Jul 1, 2005 Washington

    Damn are you like 118? :stuck_out_tongue:
     
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  19. tozerm

    tozerm Initiate (0) Jul 1, 2005 Washington

    Overall # of breweries per capita - PNW... check
    Hops - PNW... check
    largest % of craft beer vs macro beer sales - PNW .. check
    General expectation of always having a decent local beer to drink almost no matter where you go - PNW ... check
    Years of industry experience amongst head brewers - PNW ... check. Heck our brewmaster has been brewing CRAFT beer.. in Washington... commercially... for almost 30 years.

    PNW 5
    Anywhere else 0

    checkmate :slight_smile:
     
  20. ramnuts

    ramnuts Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2009 Oregon

    in beer years, yes:wink:
     
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  21. xnicknj

    xnicknj Initiate (0) May 25, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Living in Center City Philly, the selection and amount of beer bars is probably comparable, along with the city's thirst and interest in craft beers. However, the entire culture surrounding it is much, much different (as I'd imagine you know). I'd put part of this on the typical NE attitude/mentality/whatever you want to call it, which is mercifully nonexistent in the NW, and makes some of the scene a bit less accessible than it should be for newcomers and out of towners. I think I met more people during my week+ in Portland than I did in my first 6 months living in Philly.

    The case purchasing laws are pretty inconvenient, forcing people to either drive out to the suburbs (and subsequently sit in an hour+ of traffic on I76) or pay the $5 bridge toll to drive back and forth the NJ where there's less selection. Our bottle shop pricing is some of the worst in the country, driving prices on what should be reasonable beers to 100%+ higher than it should be ($9 for a BCBS, $4 for a Daisy Cutter, $30 for a Cascade Kriek, etc). Imagine everywhere you walk into is priced like Apex. :grimacing:

    Selection is a different animal out in PDX too, as is how beers are served. The availability of short pours at nearly every establishment I went to was a huge boon, allowing me to spend less money and try more beers. Hardly anywhere seems to make this available in Philly (or NYC for that matter). The massive local brewing culture and commitment to supporting these breweries allows NW taplists to be almost strictly OR and WA sourced, with some outliers from CA, CO, AK, etc to beef it up. Try replacing selections from Russian River, Hill Farmstead and Bell's with Slyfox, Lancaster and Fegley's - everyone would lose their freaking minds.

    So from an outsider's perspective living in one of the other 'top beer cities' - yes, it really is that good. Philly's been great to me (I spent most of my time in NJ/NYC before this), but what's going out there is unique.
     
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  22. beeraroundtown

    beeraroundtown Initiate (49) Oct 11, 2008 Oregon

    Not a single nomination outside the US yet? Beer world is sadly small.
     
  23. NWer

    NWer Crusader (788) Mar 10, 2009 Washington

    Read the OP. This is in reference to "What's the best State pissing contests".
    If you're so worldly, feel free to fill the void.
     
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  24. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,461) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    Thank you. I blame twitter.
     
  25. beeraroundtown

    beeraroundtown Initiate (49) Oct 11, 2008 Oregon

    Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic. Amazing beer, great beer cultures. Though I'll stay out of the "pissing", ewww.
     
  26. sanford_and_son

    sanford_and_son Aspirant (250) Jul 23, 2012 Washington

    Sage advice, sir, but we're getting married here in Seattle in 2 weeks and we're having a 2nd reception at the Happy Gnome for all her Minnesota family that can't make it to Seattle. So I'm in the clear!
     
  27. dirtylou

    dirtylou Poo-Bah (3,379) May 12, 2005 District of Columbia
    Trader


    Awesome. Kind of funny how many of us have engaged in consumption at the Happy Gnome - very cool place.
     
  28. dirtylou

    dirtylou Poo-Bah (3,379) May 12, 2005 District of Columbia
    Trader

    Craft enthusiasts will be happy just about anywhere in this fine land, whether it be the PNW or anywhere else I have lived (Chicago, Madison, NC, Indiana) and certainly just about everywhere else outside of a few pockets in the deep south and great plains- great stuff to be had everywhere. The distribution gets a little shaky on the west coast, but the "beer culture" blows everything to the east very very far out of the water.
     
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  29. AugiePrimrose

    AugiePrimrose Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2009 Illinois

    The thing you have to keep in mind with this website is that it's free and anyone can make a post. The 24 year old noob from Florida gets to have just as much a say in threads as the 50 year old from Portland, OR that has been there from the beginning. I could write pages about how flawed I think the rankings and best of threads are, but then I remember...it's just a free website and everyone is invited to give their opinion...No matter how uninformed it is:slight_smile:

    For instance, the same guys starting threads about the greatness of Hop Stoopid and being in awe of craft beer at gas stations...they are also the ones giving their opinions on the countries greatest beer state. Anytime you start to get frustrated, just think of it like that.
     
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  30. NWer

    NWer Crusader (788) Mar 10, 2009 Washington

    I disagree with you and my BA friends who liked your post. No one has suggested that everyone doesn't have a right to their opinion. I found your admonishment patronizing. We don't need a lecture on respecting the rights of others to have their opinions as we express ours.
    Just because I find it funny that someone will think that just because some Podunk town in Indiana gets one world-class brewery that they're suddenly the center of the Universe doesn't mean I'm in any way frustrated about it or think they don't have a right to their opinion.
    That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it :slight_smile:
     
  31. IPAguy2009

    IPAguy2009 Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2010 Oregon

    Are ya kiddin me? How is there any dispute that the pacific NW isnt the best place to be for magical brews? :grinning:
     
  32. IPAguy2009

    IPAguy2009 Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2010 Oregon

    Lets take dogfish head 90 minute ipa supposedly "perhaps the best IPA in america" as the label says from a reviewer. It doesnt come close to a good DIPA from the pacific NW IMO....
     
  33. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,501) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    For whatever it's worth, it happens to be mine as well Larry.

    The fact that so many of us come at this from so many different angles and perspectives is actually one of the things I like best about the site. Of course someone who has just started drinking craft beer is going to have a completely different viewpoint and opinon then someone who has been drinking craft beer since the early 80's. Personally, I often times find a fresh viewpoint well, refreshing. As for the ratings, shrug... while I agree that one shouldn't read too much into them, if something is rated in the BA top 10 with over a 1000 reviews, I think that's a pretty compelling statement. Doesn't make it the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you do have to wonder why a beer like that is so popular (usually there are all kinds of different reasons, some of them good and some of them not so good).

    In terms of the OP topic, I think it's to be expected that opinions are going to be all over the place, with most folks influenced by their age, how much they've traveled (and where), and where they presently live. There are certainly other factors as well, but those are probably some of the more influential ones. I think most of us understand this, and aren't too worried, upset or wrapped up in the posts we're reading. Folks are just shooting the breeze and providing their opinions... I don't think any of us are reading anything more into this thread than that. (and really, even if they are, where's the harm?) Cheers!
     
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  34. NWer

    NWer Crusader (788) Mar 10, 2009 Washington

    [shameless thread-jack] If anyone is still looking for Black Butte XXV it's on the shelf for the taking at Top Foods in Woodinville. $14.
     
  35. IPAguy2009

    IPAguy2009 Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2010 Oregon

    ^Mine has it for 12.49 :slight_smile:
     
  36. RedMedicine

    RedMedicine Initiate (129) Jun 3, 2005 Oregon

    Yes.

    No.

    Access, availability, quality, less douchebaggery.
     
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  37. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,461) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    I'm gonna respectfully disagree. I deliberately asked for opinions from people who've traveled the beer world (or at least the beer USA) because frankly, I place greater value in the opinions of people who have seen and experienced more than I have in this realm. Just take some of the responses to this thread: johnmichaelsen, BuckeyeOne, beertunes, barleywinefiend, ramnuts and others have provided a degree of depth and breadth to their insight that you're just not going to get from someone who is brand new to the game.

    Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion and new perspectives do sometimes come from some surprising places. But as elitist as this might be to say, some opinions are better informed and provide deeper perspective than others. Think about all the things your were absolutely certain about in your late teens or early 20s that turned out to be flat wrong.

    Do I care what people elsewhere think about the beer culture in the Northwest? I guess I do, and the reason is pretty simple. I'd rather not see things here go the way they have in other parts of the country (hype, lines, etc.). Frankly I don't have the energy, time, or patience for that shit. So I want to fight the general perception that if you don't have those things, you can't be a worthy beer destination or have an important, relevant beer culture.
     
  38. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Initiate (0) Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    This thread has been very informative. Thank you Draheim. One thing it made me realize is that one of the best things about our "beer culture" in the PNW is that there are so many different forms of it.

    Through my own thread, that ruffled some feathers, and this one, I realized I am having a different experience because I am primarily a bottle drinker here. Those who get to go to taprooms/breweries/bars often have a much different perspective about what the breweries are producing and the experiences that come with them.

    The title of the thread of .."who've traveled the beer world" and then the responses seemed to focus only on the US kept me from replying. However having just moved back to the Seattle area from Bamberg, Germany I see the beer culture from a different perspective. In Seattle I have so much to choose from it can be overwhelming. Though, I rarely get to the breweries/taprooms/bars because it just doesn't fit in with the rest of my life. While in Germany I could get great beer without having to take my family to a brewery/taproom or if I did, it was because it was not only a great brewery but a great restaurant right in the middle of what ever activity we were doing and frankly it wasn't at all something separate. By that I mean, here (back in Seattle/PNW not Afghanistan where I am writing this) we may have a great beer culture, but it isn't yet just an accepted and ingrained part of the larger culture. Back in Bamberg, there were 11 breweries within the city (if I count Weyermann and not to mention the 600+ throughout Bavaria) all producing amazing beer. To go to a restaurant/gasthaus and see 90 year old men and women drinking a liter of beer was common place. That was craft beer culture at it's best!

    But to John's point that on any given day in almost any given location within the PNW you can not only find decent craft beer but really good craft beer.

    We certainly do have it better than most anywhere I have been in the states but there is still a ways to go before the craft beer culture is fully integrated with just our culture overall.
     
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  39. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,461) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    Thanks for opening up the discussion beyond America (beeraroundtown also touched on this). When I posted this thread I definitely was focusing on the U.S. "beer world," but it's important to keep in mind what's going on in some of the planet's other beer capitals and how far behind we are in some ways. The way I see it, when it comes to beer we've spent the last several decades recovering from the one-two punch of Prohibition and industrialization (not that good beer can't be made on an industrial scale, but I imagine it would be harder). America also has Puritanical roots that historically take a dim view of drinking in general, despite the fact that alcohol and beer have played an important role in our history since the very beginning.

    So we may always be behind our cousins in Germany, England, Belgium etc. in terms of how pervasive beer is in our culture. But I'd argue that places like Portland and Seattle lead the country in terms of integrating good beer with life in general, despite a few obvious cultural setbacks even here. I've mentioned before how frustrating it is to be denied entry into a pub like the 74th Street Alehouse (which serves food) because I'm with my family, which includes a minor. So we've still a ways to go with some of our stupid laws and permitting system, which keep beer drinkers segregated from the rest of society and sustain a stigma around any beverage that contains alcohol.
     
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  40. SGToliver

    SGToliver Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2012 Washington

    I have lived in Michigan, Belgium and now Washington. All three have amazing beer.
     
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