Edit: This story was awarded 3rd place in the Travel Writing category at the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) awards.
Patagonia, the southernmost region of South America—Argentina and Chile specifically—is comprised of some 400,000 square miles of rugged wonderlands. Jagged Andes. Mesmerizing ice fields. Pristine lakes and wild rivers juxtaposed with windswept steppeland. Plus, adorable Magellanic penguins. Most travelers who find themselves in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city located on Argentina’s archipelago, are here to board a cruise ship to Antarctica. Many are happy to try a Beagle Fuegian Ale or a Cape Horn Stout, but almost none venture outside the town to the breweries themselves. Both the Cervecería Beagle and Cervecería Cape Horn are owned by the Fuegian Beverage Company, which is not exactly set up for visitors. Like I was gonna let that stop me!
Furthermore, while not part of Patagonia, Easter Island lies 2,290 miles from the coast of Chile, which annexed the Polynesian island in 1888. The native name is Rapa Nui, which is also the name for its people and the language they speak. It’s officially the most remote commercial airport on Earth and is famous, of course, for the moai statues made of volcanic rock that appear across the island. But Easter Island businessman Mike Rapu wants it to be known for cerveza Mahina, too.
Taking cues from the world of wine, brewers are blending and aging beers to create fascinating, complex bottles that vary with each new vintage. While most blended beers are some combination of beers that have slept in barrels (whiskey or wine, most commonly), they can also be fruit-infused, and usually harness various yeast strains and bacteria. All occupy the deepest end of the beer pool. From viscous, rich, bourbon-aged imperial stouts to tart, acidic and funky framboises, they’re rare oneoffs and not replicable; each batch is a singular experience. Even if these projects are brewed annually, fans are enthralled with discerning nuances among subsequent vintages. If you swim in said waters, you’ve likely attended a bottle share or waited in line at a brewery for your chance to taste one of these blends.
Funny where inspiration will hit. For me, it was at a G. Love concert at a music venue that serves beer from such dirty tap lines I’d vowed never to drink there again. Until I made a valuable discovery. Actually, it was a $2 discovery.
It’s terribly easy to write about Portland’s breweries and beer culture. Another easy sell on my part is Bend. Rounding out the top 3 is Hood River and the breweries along the Columbia River Gorge. 1) There’s a great handful of them. 2) Their beers are truly world class. 3) It’s insanely beautiful. 4) It’s an easy drive from Portland and whenever we get devoted beercationers at Inn Beervana, we always recommend the day trip.
If the editors at Draft know one thing, it’s that a late night of drinking great beer calls for a late morning of eating a worthy breakfast. So I pitched my hometown for their Best Breakfasts series. I was limited to just 3 spots + a late night bites hotspot. I would’ve had an easier time writing this if I could’ve picked my favorite 13 places. Alas.
I like to give my stories seemingly clever titles and sometimes, rarely, they’re actually used. But never with Draft Magazine, so I stopped trying. Which makes the fact that they titled my latest story for the beer mag–a story that’s not even about beer at all but is about Ashland, Oregon’s Standing Stone brewpub‘s own farm and how they raise all their own chickens (and eggs though not sure which they arranged first). Their super awesome title? “How one Oregon brewery is pioneering… chicken.”
*If you don’t get it, it must be a generational thing.
Soda water dates back to the 18th century, and many of America’s most popular pop brands emerged in the late 19th century. Today, business is bubbling among craft soft drink producers. It’s no surprise that many flavorful soda concoctions hail from craft brewers…Look for sodas with fresh fruits, hand-squeezed juices and spices like coriander, cardamom and capsicum—creative, full-flavored beverages even a beer geek can get behind.
For the reboot the Beertown USA travel feature in the latest issue of DRAFT (Mar. 2013), they asked me to not just list and summarize the best spots to hit in the small, high desert/quasi-mountain town of Bend–a city bursting with 20 breweries for its 80,000 residents–but to gear three separate itineraries for three distinct types of visitors. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds. Especially because I think most breweries in town would appeal to most beer tourists. But still, an assignment is an assignment, and a challenge is a challenge. I ended up with dividing the beer and other destinations into those for “outdoor enthusiasts,” those with “kids in tow,” and folks who deem themselves “locavores” or just really want tasty vittles.
That I love beer is a given. So when I get to write about beer in combo with my other favorite things, it’s sheer joy. The first time I went to New Orleans I was just 22 years old and happened to discover Dixie Blackened Voodoo, the heritage brewery’s first all-malt beer, just a year earlier. But at 22, my focus on exploring the Big Easy was anything but craft beer-oriented. After visiting again in 2001 to attend Jazz Fest, that’s when my love affair began and it turned into an annual pilgrimage. In fact, I typically find myself there twice a year. I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. Greatest American city! But I felt I may never get to write about it in the context of a beer story until, to use a very poor metaphor given its history, the tide started rising post-Katrina, sparked in some ways as a means of economic recovery. I know that was NOLA’s (New Orleans Lagers & Ales) impetus and they’ve grown into the city (that care forgot)’s largest brewer.
From DRAFT (vol 8.1, 2013), Laissez les bons temps brewler (let the good times brew).
DRAFT (vol. 7.4, 2012) turned the spotlight on breweries far away from any big city’s bright lights. The intro in this story on true farmhouse breweries to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales was a great excuse to finally pay this pioneering brewer’s new venture in Hood River a visit.