Tom Jones, “Surrounded By Time” Review

Photo by ME, Brian Yaeger, at Jazz Fest 2019. Oh yeah.

This past April, Tom Jones—sorry…Sir Tom Jones (but I like to call him ToJo) who just turned 81—released yet another stunning album. Surrounded By Time is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Which you’d expect me to say since I’m the guy who ironically went to see him in concert in 1995 (tickets were $7.50), but has since seen him nearly a dozen more times unironically because that first show converted me into a TJ stan. The album he was supporting back then had the massive hit single “If I Only Knew,” or at least it was in Europe, which is why I heard it in heavy rotation in my dorm room during part of my junior year abroad.

He has released eight albums since then and with the exception of 2002’s Wyclef Jean-produced hip hop inflected album (no foolin’), Mr. Jones, each subsequent record surpasses its predecessor and likewise, each subsequent concert I proclaim the best one I’ve seen. (Well, his set at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2011 was my favorite set list.) OK, Surrounded By Time isn’t better, per se, than its trilogy of prior discs—Praise & Blame’s bluesygospel, Spirit in the Room’s bluesy folk, and Long Lost Suitcase’s blue-eyed blues—but these last four were produced by Ethan Johns who, it can be said, has done for ToJo what Rick Rubin did for Tom’s old friend Johnny Cash with their American series that saw the Man in Black covering the eclectic likes of Beck, Bono, Danzig, and Depeche.

“Singers are like actors,” said the Welsh Wonder recently. “You don’t have to write the script…in order to make it great or to give it your own interpretation.” This is why I struggle to call Tom’s songs covers. And almost every song he has ever recorded was written by someone else, from his early hit “What’s New Pussycat” by Burt Bacharach to his golden comeback, “Kiss.” Incidentally, June 7 wasn’t just Tom’s 81st birthday; it would’ve been Prince’s 61.

Treatments, reimaginations, recreations, interpretations, or, though it’s a dirty word, appropriations. And in many cases, augmentations. I have two concrete theories about “covers.”  Firstly, it’s impossible to cover a Beatles song poorly because at their base they’re perfectly structured pop songs. And secondly, Jones can make even the worst song great; his reimaginations are habitually ameliorations. Take “The Reason” by Hoobastank, written by their then-28-year-old-singer. I hated that song largely because the kid had no life experience so I didn’t believe him. But when I heard Sir Tom sing it (the one and only time I saw him in Vegas, baby), the lyrics rang true. “I’m sorry that I hurt you/ It’s something I must live with everyday/ And all the pain I put you through/ I wish that I could take it all away/ And be the one who catches all your tears/ That’s why I need you to hear/ I’ve found a reason for me/ To change who I used to be.” It’s no secret that the man who’s had more knickers tossed at him than Victoria’s Secret has ever sold wasn’t faithful to his wife, Linda, who he married when the 16-year-olds had their first kid.

Decades later, when Linda was dying of lung cancer, Tom proclaimed he doubted he’d ever be able to perform or record again. According to his account, from her deathbed in 2016 she insisted he find the strength. The first track on his first album since then is “I Won’t Crumble With You if You Fall” by Bernice Johnson Reagon. While Reagon is a Civil Rights activist and was lead vocalist behind the a cappella folk group The Freedom Singers, the song becomes an homage to Tom’s now-late wife, almost as if it were a sequel to the uber-rare Jones-penned original, “The Road” from 2008’s 24 Hours.

The largest departure on this album is that in lieu of a big, tight, brassy band (like his co-headlined disc with Jools Holland), many of the tracks are sparse, avant garde, and atmospheric, yet still theatrical (“The Windmills of Your Mind,” “Ol’ Mother Earth,” “Lazarus Man.”). Several cuts are trance-like electronica. In some ways, it harkens back to his collab with the Art of Noise, absent that bombasticness. And if I think back to the last time I saw him in 2019, he hinted at this with his performance of his compulsory chestnut, “What’s New Pussycat.”  It basically it sounded like the organ music you hear on a merry-go-round. It was just such an oddball curveball (Thunderball) type of delivery. It was, like this entire album, transportive.

His best offerings are indeed the songs that seem autobiographical. A staple of his late-era live show has become Howlin’ Wolf’s “Two Hundred Pounds,” altered only slightly since, to hear Tom intone and baritone it, “See? Howlin’ Wolf wrote it as Three Hundred Pounds. Because he was 300 pounds. But I sing Two Hundred Pounds because I am 200 pounds.” And then he goes bass, “Of heavenly joy.” When he sings Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” I simply refuse to accept that Cohen didn’t pen it FOR Tom with lyrics like, “I was born like this/ I had no choice/ I was born with the gift of a golden voice/ And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond/ They tied me to this table right here in the Tower of Song.”

On Surrounded, Tom takes mostly-unknown tracks by well-known artists as well as wholly-unknown tracks by little-known artists. I’d only caught wind of The Waterboys because I like a lot of the pan-UK-folk/rock bands that followed in their wake a la Flogging Molly. Their original, “This is the Sea,” is a fine, even rousing bar-room sing-a-long. In ToJo’s hands, it’s an organic, organ-fueled ballad with a one-man Gospel Tabernacle choir. Churchy!

Tom takes Cat Stevens’ 1970-song “Popstar” and makes it his 2021-own.

Same with Todd Snider’s “Talking Reality TV Blues” from 2019. Said Snider, “Snider says, “Tom Jones is as great as a singer as there has ever been,” adding, “I prefer his version of the song to my own.” Regardless of who’s singing, the lyrics are a think-piece set to a talking blues. It’s a parable, really. At first it warns of the early dangers of television and how video killed the radio star. Wait til you hear the part about the video star. But the gut-punch is the last verse. “Then a show called The Apprentice came on and pretty soon/ An old man with a comb-over came along and sold us the moon/ And we stayed tuned in now here we are/ Reality killed by a reality star.”

It’s the first time I can conjure up where Tom gets political. But then he does it a beat later, or five tracks later, with “Ol’ Mother Earth.” The song was originally written and recorded by a dude named Tony Joe White in 1973. “And now the ones that you have loved/ Are taking you for granted/ Here they’re so enchanted/ By the progress they can make/ They never stop to think/ Just how much that you can take.” It’s like if Greta Thunberg just wrote it.

He takes Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee” and does with it, well, much like he did with “What Good Am I?” in 2010 and “When the Deal Goes Down” in 2012 (making this his third Dylan cover over his last four albums). Dylan gave these songs a voice. Jones gives them vocals.

But the show-stopper is actually the disc’s penultimate track, a melancholic yet candid song called “I’m Growing Old” with only a pensive piano as accompaniment. A funny story I just heard is that its writer, Bobby Cole, tried to get the 26-year-old Jones to sing it the year he received a Grammy for Best New Artist! It’d have been like Hoobastank singing about learning the life lessons of a wizened showman. But today, 55 years later, Jones delivers the dark ballad’s lines as if he’s telling Linda to get ready for him. “I’m growing fonder of the fire/ I’m growing mindful of the cold/ I’m growing wise/ I’m growing, yes/ I’m growing old.”

Regardless of the music, his entire oeuvre has been a showcase for his deep, rich voice. The stuff of Mahogany and Corinthian leather. What Surrounded lacks in range it has a deluge of gravitas. With the added storytelling, it makes Surrounded damn near a concept album, The tracking or sequencing is amazing. It harkens back to his early days (his first #1 single, “It’s Not Unusual,” came out in 1964). It also transforms some older material and makes it sound new but also takes new material and gives it a Greenwich Village art house touch where I feel like I should snap to show my appreciation. Then it ends with a retro-futuristic song called “Lazarus Man” by the late soul/jazz musician Terry Callier that simultaneously places Jones in decades past, in biblical times, and in Max Headroom’s 20 minutes in the future.. It paints a portrait of an artist who’s at once past time, show time, surrounded by time, and external to it. On the very sad day of his eventual passing, when the media and most people will want to memorialize him by playing “She’s a Lady,” we ought to put on headphones and realize his music will never die because He’s a Lazarus Man.

Shove it up your Nice hole

Preface/Foreword: I have no idea when I wrote the following! It’s mid-June, 2021 and I just found a mini trove of unpublished blog posts in a newly-found Drafts folder. I don’t remember writing it but I DO know I’ve voiced my hatred for the word “nice” countless times. The post is woefully unfinished; woulda loved to know where I was going with it. But for posterity’s sake, I’m hitting the publish button now. Noice!!

Oh really, you like a nice hoppy IPA or a nice jammy Pinot, do ya? That street dog’s gotta nice snap? That Penang curry’s got some nice heat? Do you flipping hear yourself?? For one thing, when and why did the word “nice” become a substitute for very? (Which is very much one of the dumbest words one can utter and it’s no coincidence that Trumpy uses it… very much.) And more importantly, who Wouldn’t want whatever it is they’re enjoying to be nice? Who the hell would want a so-so beer or a meh wine? Perhaps you think it sounds more polished or hip than saying “good,” but if so, you’re damn wrong. It’s vapid. It’s meaningless. Nice is nasty

Hell, while watching a video about Chinese street food Jianbing by Eater, the eater used the following phrases: “a nice crunch, a nice texture, a nice variant.” He then said, “nice, bright purple cabbage…there’s a nice, sharp ginger flavor.”

Beer Birthday: Jay Brooks

Today is the 61st birthday of beer writer Jay Brooks. His guidebook, California Breweries – North (Stackpole Books), came out last year (even though we started our respective tomes around the same time.) Jay is a veteran beer writer (Celebrator Beer News, All About Beer, BeerAdvocate, etcetera etcetera) whose column Brooks on Beer appears in the San Jose Mercury News. He has contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer as well as Playboy Magazine. He is the co-founder of SF Beer Week (and it breaks my heart missing it even if it was because I live in a foreign territory now). To anyone who follows the brewing industry, none of this is news. But for years, a convivial component of his Brookston Beer Blog has been celebrating brewers and those in the beer community on their birthdays. So please…join me in wishing Jay a very happy birthday.

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Outdoor Speakeasy: Me, Brian Lenzo from Blue Palms, Jay Brooks (whose blog I copied this from), and Meg Gill before starting Golden Road Brewing.

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Brewmaster Craig Cauwels, yours truly, the Beer Chef Bruce Patton, the birthday boy

Teaching Beer 101 at my Alma Mater

I much prefer writing about other people than other people writing about me, but when it’s a story about a new beer class I’ll be teaching–and it appears in the student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, of my alma mater because said class will be at UCSB–I’d say that slaps. OK, I shouldn’t say anything slaps because I’m no longer one of the young people. But I’m honored–and as a flashback I’ll add that I’m stoked–to have created the University’s first-ever beer tasting and appreciation class. The pitch was fairly simple: the University has offered its wine tasting class for decades (I took it in the ’90s), it’s time to get with the 21st century and put beer education on equal footing (even though Santa Barbara is, by and large, wine country.)

With Beer 101* I’ve created a curriculum that covers, however sparsely, the entire 10,000 year history of mankind’s foibles in fermenting grain as well as deeper dives into the chief regions and styles of beermaking today. It’s an eight-week course, open to anyone over 21, not just students! Sign up, join us, and if you’re not careful, you just might learn a thing or two.

*Updated 9/10/19: The beer class will henceforth be known as The Beer Class

Inn Beervana Powering Down: The transplants are transplanting again

IMG_0626“Inn Beervana is a fantastic option for a stay in Portland; the location is excellent, the place is comfortable and cozy, and hosts Brian and Kimberley are really engaging and lovely (and if you are coming to explore the craft beer scene in the Pacific NW, you’ll find so many of your questions answered by all the great literature and conversations from Brian — which honestly saves a ton of time given the vastness of the options in town and the surrounding areas!)”

That’s one of the 89 5-star reviews we’ve received for the vacation rental Wifey and I have run via Airbnb and VRBO since 2011, having moved from San Francisco to PDX in late 2010. (We’ve received 90 reviews but one only gave 4 stars.) And while I’m proud of the quality we delivered and maintained over the years, just being a part of traveler’s visits to Portland has been one of my favorite things about living here. It’s a city that I always loved visiting on road trips and other beer trips and, looking back, had always felt like it’d make a great home town. Which of course it is. It’s the best town I’ve gotten to call home so this is remarkably bittersweet that the Yaegers—who moved here as newlyweds with our new dog—will soon be leaving here as a family of four. Izzy will forever be an Oregonian! Only now he’ll have PNW rainwater in his veins but California sunshine making his mop top glow. More importantly, it’s the sun Wifey needs. What Portland offers in quality of life, it lacks in Vitamin D.

“Quality of Life.” That has been the oft-spoken mantra in the Yaeger household since we realized we’d been priced out of affording a home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was only part of the parcel that propelled us to the PNW. Wifey’s lucrative job offer that included a relocation package was a major element, but even that followed a trip to Montana to attend a family wedding and realizing how much my family around the Northwest enjoyed what the region offers was the true catalyst.

There’s a line in my first beer book taken from an interview I conducted with Kurt and Rob Widmer in their joint office in 2005. Kurt said, “The reason craft brewing started here on the West Coast is not so much a link to the Old World as it is quality of life. And, of course, here we have beer drinkers who are receptive to new things.”

IMG_5824It’s kinda funny that Oregonians get their feathers ruffled by Californians who move here when I find that the majority of transplants are from other states (predominantly the Midwest). Nobody has control over where they have to be from. But as adults, we get to choose where we want to be. As an L.A. native, the migratory nature of the population was easy to understand: who wouldn’t want to leave the grey or flat or provincial places they’re from and live somewhere warm and where you can find your people. Of course, I grew to hate how long it takes to drive to where your people are. I still love my family and all my people there, I just can’t stand to exist surrounded by it. I think it’s a safe statement to make that I’m pretty chill. But only Wifey know the extent of my road rage. That’s one of the factors that excluded a move back to the Bay. Plus: tech bro douchebags amiright?

So yes, I’ve felt at home here from day one and have almost-entirely been made to feel welcome in my Portlander skin. I don’t think that’s because I own some flannel shirts or even necessarily because I’m into the whole craft beer thing. Portland isn’t about craft beer; craft beer is about Portland. It’s about being a part of the local culture, reflecting a breadth of styles and flavors limited only by one’s creativity. It’s a freckle in the tattooed constellation in the shape of Oregon.

Here’s how I know that. Over these last few years I’ve had the honor and privilege of developing a few beer festivals. Via Inn Beervana, I get to host beercationers on their pilgrimages to our Beer Mecca. Via an assortment of national publications and, locally, at first with Willamette Week and now with Portland Mercury, plus Portland Monthly, 1859, Oregon Beer Growler, Beer Northwest, SIP Northwest, and this one for a rag called Portland Bride & Groom! I get to write about the beer industry and community. Via my beerfests, I get to further support breweries. Just since 2016, between Baker’s Dozen, Kriekfest, City of Goses as well as The Rural Brewer, Beer For Breakfast and Gluhbiers, I bought kegs from 60 Oregon (and Southern Washington) breweries. As a result I raised $72,000…$61,000 of which went back to those brewers as well as doughnut bakers, glass makers, poster designers, fee collectors, crowd securers, Honey Bucket lenders, etc. Additionally, these ventures have raised money that have been donated to some excellent Oregon nonprofits: Friends of the Children, Caldera Arts, All Hands Raised, Habitat-Portland, Oregon Environmental Council, New Avenues for Youth, and, to forward brewing education, the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. Ultimately, my events are barely profitable but hey, at least I’m not losing money and damn are they fun (for me and hopefully for attendees). I mean, I threw myself into City of Goses all because someone (else) thought of a great pun and it enabled me to work with a handful more breweries I hadn’t been able to feature before. As for the 2nd annual Kriekfest? I’m pretty proud that it’ll be my swan song as an Oregon resident and you bet your sweet, sweet ass I’ll be returning to Oregon for the 3rd annual. And 4th. And 4th annual Baker’s Dozen in March and…

I’m serious. Portland will forever be a part of me and I am adamant that I’ll forever find ways to remain directly, physically connected. Whether you like it or not.

 

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The family that visits breweries together, wait, what rhymes with breweries?

As it stands today, according to some spreadsheet that a few anal beer lovers and I have maintained, I’ve visited 218 of Oregon’s 250 breweries currently operating. (Another 26 I’ve hit have since closed.) I’m kicking myself for the couple of Portland area ones I wasn’t able to hit this last week (all under the radar types) but at least I got IPYae into Natian’s tasting room being built out as Ian and I drank some blonde ale from his brewing facility a block away, giving IPYae an Oregon count of 113 (I actually don’t count our beer brunch at Block 15 in Corvallis because I didn’t snap a pic for the Irresponsible Photos Of My Baby at Breweries album (and as we all know, pic or it doesn’t count). BUT… come Friday night we might be 1 or 2 higher as we cross into California.

 

 

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Phew! They have some breweries in Santa Barbara.

Yes, we’re going back to Cali, to Cali, to Cali. We’re going to load up the Oregon-issued Subaru Outback—expect Wifey to trade it in for a convertible Mini Cooper or something down in sunny Santa Barbara. She needs the sunshine; I need to not be in a megalopolis like LA or SF. And we’ll both be closer to our families. They’re all pretty ecstatic to have us back—at least to have their grandson/nephew/cousin Izzy close by for the first time. My parents are over the moon. As is my second wife. (I’m referring to this story from the New York Times about three marriages, just all to the same person. We are entering a second phase of our marriage.) The marriage to my first wife brought us to Oregon, saw us raise our phenomenal son who is funny and smart and adventurous and compassionate and a Portland-born Oregonian to his core. He loves listening to the rain! He hates the sound of cars honking. He points out hops growing wild.

 

I am embracing the adventure and can’t wait to see how my forthcoming second marriage unfolds. And our third, for that matter. Wherever that one takes us.

Much love to you all. Log off the internet more. Be good to each other.

Brian

ANNOUNCING BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Brian Yaeger Presents
brian@beerodyssey.com

ANNOUNCING THE 1st ANNUAL BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

Beervana, OR, April. 1, 2017 – Following on the heels of the Third Annual Baker’s Dozen Fest last month comes the festival Portlanders have been clamoring for, which will feature 13 gluten free non-alcoholic beers made with decaffeinated coffee and vegan donuts.

“Every time we do the whole coffee beer and doughnut thing, people chime in on Facebook or Snapchat, “Are any of the donuts going to be vegan?” said beer festival organizer Brian Yaeger. “We get people showing up and asking where the gluten-free beers are, or stating that the event would be more inclusive if the brewers considerately used decaf coffee. And you wouldn’t believe how many people ask if kids are allowed to attend and if so, will there be non-alcoholic drinks for them. So Bakers Dozen FREE is our way of saying, “We hear you. You’re on a gluten free, caffeine free, alcohol free, animal free diet. And you deserve a beer fest of your own.” Up from Baker’s Dozen’s three sessions, this event is expected to sell out and hence will occur over three sessions on Saturday, April 1. To commemorate Baker’s Dozen Free, tickets will be free, with the usual online ticketing fee of $14.99, available at TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree.

Admission includes samples of every non-caffeine-infused, coffee-infused, enzymatically-deglutenized, unfermented-beverage and cruelty-free donut bite. Examples of treats, er, “treats” featured at the event include a collaboration between Lunarmollusk Brewing Company and Slumptown Coffee Roasters. Queue up early for the beer everyone will be raving about on Intreppd: a Cracker Barrel-aged, hazy IPA made from flax seeds with zero IBUs and zero ABVs dry-hopped with Folgers flavor crystals. Pair these with whatever’s available from the spinning display case of Voodoo’s vegan offerings.

Bring your partner. Bring your Tinder date. Bring your kids. Bring your Mormon, Celiac, PETA-supporting neighbors. Bring everyone because this is the beer festival everyone’s been clamoring for that doesn’t exclude anybody’s restrictions.* (*Event organizers are working on Bakers Dozen Tree-nut-free for April 1, 2018.)

Pertinent links: Ticketing TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree ($Free online, $Priceless at the door.)Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Twitter: @BakersDozenFreePDX

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The 200 Breweries Before Your 5th Birthday Club

Five years ago when I started the journey of fatherhood, like all first-time fathers I had no clue what I was in store for. In part, I liked my life the way it was and didn’t know if this mini-me alien was gonna ruin that. Leading a beer-rich, travel-heavy lifestyle seems incongruous to raising an infant turned baby turned toddler. But if there’s one thing I learned about parenting, it’s that you gotta make your kids adaptable, that it’s only 98% all about them and the people who go the full 100 are ruining it for themselves (and their little ones).

From the day I uploaded my kid’s first picture of us at a brewerry–true story, I claim it was Thirsty Bear Brewing in San Francisco even though it was actually Philadelphia’s Steaks & Hoagies before they added the 13 Virtues part in the Sellwood neighborhood but we didn’t snap a picture and as we all know in this era, “Picture or it doesn’t count,” which is also why Block 15 Brewing does not appear on I.P.Yae’s official list–I added it to a Facebook album I offhandedly titled “Irresponsible Photos of My Baby at Breweries.” I didn’t really think I was being irresponsible, but I know how society thinks (sometimes). I had no way of knowing what a full-blown mission it’d turn into.

Rather than posting pictures of Izzy Parker Yaeger (hence his initials I.P.Yae) at monuments and roadside attractions (which I reckon is also fun and I semi-maintain an album of him in front of beautiful murals), this project turned into a way to document both his brewery visits and our travels. Not too shabby that this pisher’s gotten to breweries in 13 states as well as 13 countries thus ushering him into the 200 Breweries Before Your 5th Birthday Club (suspected global membership: 1). Hope you enjoy this little video I made. To keep it under 5 minutes, it’s a compendium.

If you’ve got an additional 6 minutes, here’s the one I made over 2 years ago as a comprehensive anthology of the first 100.

Now that he’s 5, I recognize that it’s a little less cute and that we’ve got bigger fish to go after than ratcheting up his brewery count, so the Irresponsible album is going into semi-retirement. It’s not that we won’t keep exploring the world and doing so through local beer-makers, it’s just that we’re going to make even more time for parks and non sudsy curios.

May we all do impressive &/or ridiculous things on our journeys.

The Session #118: Who You Gonna Invite?

sessionThe Session creator Stan Hieronymus first launched this beer blogging exercise in 2007. For his third time hosting, he poses the question “Who you gonna invite?” More specifically, “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?” He then added, “To participate, answer these questions Dec. 2 in a blog post (or, what the heck, in a series of tweets).” Not one to be known for my punctuality, I picked up the gauntlet of tweeting or microblogging over a series of 16 tweets (below). Since, let’s be honest, if you don’t say it on Twitter, you might as well be the tree that falls in a lonesome woods. My responses are no #pizzagate, but hopefully they’ll find a few readers nonetheless. At least I can promise these are not fake.

(This one above was even “liked” by Golden Road’s Twitter!)

I WAS RIGHT (5,005 Breweries)

Ask my long-suffering wife. By that token, ask any of my ex girlfriends. Ask my parents. Ask any of my friends over the last 30 years. Ask any of my ex friends if the reason they’re no longer my friends is because they think I always have to be right. But the takeaway here is: I was right.

Back when Derrick Peterman of Ramblings of a Beer Runner hosted the 67th monthly installment of The Session, a beer blogging exercise. In short, he wanted to know how many American breweries there’d be in five years. At the time (2012), the Brewers Assocation (BA) stated there were 2,126 in operation. To start off his round-up, Derrick said, “As for who wins the prize, forgive the sappy cliché but you’re all winners.” But he, unlike me, was wrong. Oh sure, David Blascombe of Good Morning… was also right in a slightly more general sense. He was more not-wrong than I was right (on the money). He put down “Over 5,000.” I predicted 5,001. Seriously, click on that.

In my blog, I reasoned that, “it’d be logical that since more Americans prefer beer to wine, there should be more breweries. Or at least the same amount. Fine, how about at least HALF as many!?”

This morning, the BA announced that on November 30, 2016, the United States reached a new peak in the brewery population: 5,005. They further pointed out that it is half the number of wineries.

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Bart Watson, Ph.D. is the BA’s Chief Economist. Dude’s got mad numbers skills. And I pinged him this past summer, when I noticed that the official count had topped 4,500, if he thought my prognostication was correct in pegging the year-end tally at five grand. “We’re averaging closer to two a day (net) over the past 12 months rolling,” Watson said, regarding the rate at which breweries open. “Based on what I see – I think end of the year is about when I’d predict 5,000, though could be a bit longer if closings finally start to tick up.” For all the media speculation about the craft beer bubble bursting, and some dire reports painting a slow-down, I’m going on record as saying: nuh uh. Don’t buy it. Well, the “craft” segment as a whole may continue to grow at a snail’s pace, but grow it will. More specifically, the number of breweries will continue to climb even if that means that the largest producers—or perhaps just the mid-range ones—will see stagnant sales. To bolster this assessment, Watson added, “There were 6,080 active Federal licenses at the end of 2015, so it’s just a matter of when all those breweries in planning open their doors.”

Here in Portland, we have 65 commercially operating breweries. That’s a number that all but about five other cities would be screaming “Saturation Point.” And yet we just welcomed three new ones in a third-mile radius. And three more are on track to open this winter. There’s absolutely reason that every American city with our population or larger can’t sustain as many breweries. That’s 25 larger cities by population. Some 640,000 people call Portland home. Denver has about 690,000 and, congratulations Mile High City, you’ve passed Portland with your 73 breweries. San Diego (pop. 1,4M) claims 130, but that’s all of SD County. The 690,000 folks who live in Seattle proper have 59 breweries to call their own.

On the flip side, my most recent Beer Traveler column for All About Beer focuses on metropolises that are just turning into beer destinations, places like Fredericksburg, Virginia and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yeah Iowa! If you brew it, they will come!

Below are the rest of the predictions submitted back in 2012. Not that they are all below 5,000. Technically, Derrick asked for our predictions in exactly five years, so mid-2017, but I say we’ll have at least 5,400 next summer, unless people stop loving beer, or there’s an asteroid heading for the US, or Trump’s economy wreaks havoc on par with Prohibition + planetary annihilation.

Just for funsies, remember this number: 8,075. Between the openings and inevitable closures, that’s my guess… How many breweries do you think will be operating in America in 2022?

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4,252 In their Session debut, The Brew Gentlemen

3,189 Alan McCormick of Growler Fills

3,125 is the number Jon Abernathy of the Brewsite predicts My good friend Jon… my poor, stupid friend Jon… predicted…

Around 3,000 opines Sean Inman of Beer Search Party

2,831 is the number Chris Staten of DRAFT Magazine

2,620 Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer Stan is obviously quite wiser than I. But…

2,589.5 is the prediction by What We’re Drinking, … his home town of Dayton, OH, he writes:   “I do think that 3-4 local, small scale breweries can be sustained within a city the size of Dayton…”…It’s worth noting the population of metro Dayton, OH is about 840,000. (Editor’s Note: there are currently FIVE in Dayton)

2,500 is the number by Roger Mueller of A Fool and His Beers

1 A dire prediction that one megabrewer will control the world comes from Jon Jefferson of 10th Day Brewing.

 

Portraits of Dead Soldiers Left in the Yard: Bad Hombres Edition

Three and a half years ago, evidently, I was inspired to write a series of blog posts inspired by a particular type of infuriating litter I’m always finding in our flower boxes or somewhere near the front yard: dead soldiers. Empty beer bottles and cans. Click here to see the entire “series” (2 posts: BridgePort IPA and Sparks: Blackberry) from my old Beer Odyssey blog. I pick up so many recyclables–both craft and macro–that I’m occasionally inspired to kickstart it back up. But today’s discovery made it imperative.

Some of you know of one of my beery obsessions: nips. Fun fact: a story I wrote about tiny bottles appears as a reference on Wikipedia! And in fact, they were the subject of yet a different blog: Welovenips. That one I evidently pulled the plug on two years ago. It still lives on in Twitter form. (Follow @welovenips for a bimonthly tweet.) So imagine my delight and horror–equal parts–when I discovered these three amigos in said planters.

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This tears me apart. I love cuartitos or chicos, but Corona is my absolute least favorite Mexican lager.  I’m not sure if these bad hombres were smuggled over our open borders or were simply bought at Freddy’s across the street, but clearly someone was thirsty enough for 14 oz but not for 21. Oh, I confess I was tempted to crack open that third one and write a review of a lightstruck Coronita, but I was afraid Dia de los Muertos might arrive 11 days early.

These planters are for succulents. Not sucky beer.