Craft Brewing Defines Oregon as U.S. "Beer Capital"

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BridgePort Brewing Company was the next microbrewery to enter the Portland market, and is still very much alive today. Billed as "Oregon's oldest microbrewery," the brewery was started by Dick and Nancy Ponzi at 1313 N.W. Marshall Street. The two used word of mouth to invite people in, since microbrews still were so new to the general consumer. "People were so intrigued with the idea that they overlooked our clutziness," explained Nancy.

The idea of microbreweries began to catch on in Oregon, and so did the cooperative spirit. Brewers began working together to change the laws to allow the concept of a brewpub, citing that it was no different from having a tasting room in a winery.

Oregon legislature viewed microbrewing as a homegrown industry that needed the help; thus, in 1985, the law changed. That same year, Mike and Brian McMenamin opened Oregon's first brewpub, the Hillsdale Pub.

The McMenamin Brothers

The McMenamin Brothers stand as a symbol for all that sets Portland and the Northwest apart from other areas as unique in its craft brewing culture.

McMenamins Pubs & Breweries seem to have a knack for resuscitating aging properties. The company has gained widespread acclaim for its creative revitalization of funky, and often historical, buildings in Oregon, and more recently in the state of Washington.

Their Northwest establishments include family-oriented pubs, breweries, music venues, historic hotels, theatre pubs, and movie pubs. Employing scores of artists as well as imaginative construction and restoration experts, the McMenamins have breathed new life into long-dead properties, creating unique McMenamin "experiences." Colossal Edgefield Manor, in Troutdale, Oregon—which features a 100-room inn, bed-and-breakfast, dining room, brew pub, winery, and theater—is just one example of the McMenamins' singular style and spirit for restoration.

"The bottom line is, it has to be fun," Brian McMenamin said, explaining the company's motivation.

Pioneers in changing state liquor laws that cleared the way for Oregon's first brewpubs, the McMenamins have never been shy about experimenting with new concepts. The brothers have taken the neighborhood pub to a new level by building on an Oregon law that allows one brewpub to brew for up to three separate outlets. Applying the simple strategy of brewing and distributing its own beers, the brothers have scattered some 55 pubs across the city and the Northwest, employing over 800 people.

McMenamin establishments, with their bizarre artifacts, awe-inspiring artwork, classic architecture, and home-crafted beers pay tribute to the uniqueness of the craftbrewing culture in the northwest.

Oregon Brewers Festival

It is fitting that Portland is home to what is considered by many industry experts and beer fans alike to be the finest craft beer festival in the nation. The Oregon Brewers Festival celebrates the growth of North American microbrewing and highlights the distinctive craft brewing culture that surrounds the festival's native Portland.

Nearly 85,000 people attend the Oregon Brewers Festival each year. The festival celebrates the growth of North American microbrewing while showcasing some of the finest beers in the industry.

Always held the last full weekend in July, the Oregon Brewers Festival prides itself on promoting regional and national brews, and features breweries from Alaska, New Jersey, Hawaii, Missouri, Illinois, and 12 other states, as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.

Each year, 72 of the nation's premium craft breweries are invited to participate in this event. The festival is designed to promote independent brewers in an educational fashion.

It is not a competition, but an opportunity for brewers to showcase their beers in a fun atmosphere. Beer is the focus, with many of the classic beer styles represented, including fruity ales, potent bocks, rich porters, formidable stouts, hoppy pale ales, flowery pilsners, and syrupy barley wines.

Two great pavilions shelter lines of eager beer-tasters who line up for a taste or full mug of their favorite microbrew from one of six huge trucks each supplying 12 different brews.

Live entertainment music supplies the background soundtrack for the festival though the patrons themselves add a bit of flavor to the atmosphere. Periodically throughout the day, the festival grounds are graced by the roaring shouts and raucous yelps of beer drinkers proclaiming themselves as such, adding to the already festive feel in the air.

The Oregon Brewers Festival is an excellent opportunity to sample and learn about a variety of beer styles. The educational tent presented on the festival grounds allows visitors to learn more about beer through industry exhibits by hop growers, maltsters, and national beer writers.

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