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.

 

Portland’s Beerly Walkable Buckman/Hosford-Abernethy

The Brewers Association announced to their freelance crew that they would be adding a feature called “Walk this Way” for their Beer Muses blog (about walkable brewery ‘hoods). Natch, I pitched that it needed to start with Inner Southeast Portland’s twins Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy. Here’s the result, published August 30, 2016.And already

The kicker? Fewer than 7 weeks later, we’ve already seen Mt Tabor Brewing Company – PDX & Scout Beer open. (And possibly in the next 7 weeks we’ll welcome Wayfinder Beer & Ross Island Brewing.) That will bring us to 13 independent breweries within a 2.5 mile walk! CheersGrixsen Brewing Company, Baerlic Brewing Co., Ground Breaker Brewing,Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, PDX Green Dragon, Cascade Brewing, The Commons Brewery, Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Base Camp Brewing Company, Burnside Brewing Co

 

Lush Life: Tiny Wolf and Portland’s Nanos

I’m forever deliberating over the impact nanobreweries can or do have on a city’s beer culture. For every Commons (nee Beetje) brewery in Portland or Hess in San Diego, there are seemingly a dozen more that think they can emulate that level of success. To find out what these nanobrewers want to get out of the brewing industry, and what they think can have to contribute, I went straight to the teensy-tiny sources in my August turn at the Mercury’s Lush Life column.

Beervana’s Brunchvana

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.

Documenting Portland’s beer culture

Two weeks ago McMenamins Mission Theater hosted a screening of It All Starts with Beer, a Dutch-made film about the beer cultural exchange taking place between Dutch and American brewers—primarily ones from Utrecht not far from Amsterdam and here in Portland as part of the Portland Utrecht Network (PUN intended). The film and the screening were made possible, in large part, to Dutch brewer and artisan Rick Nelson from Oedipus Brewing and Portland-based PUN president Greg Raisman. Plus, of course, none of it would’ve been made possible without Cascade Brewing founder Art Larrance and the Oregon Brewers Fest that he co-founded 28 years ago.

I was invited to speak on the panel following the beautifully-shot documentary simply because I had the good fortune to be at the right place and the right time, that being Holland in 2014 for a front row seat as their craft beer culture took a giant leap forward to the point where industry members call their scene “20 years behind Portland’s.” (For Larrance’s part, he tried to persuade me to move to Utrecht, not Amsterdam, because of how cool their brewing scene is, which nowadays benefits from the proximity and relationships with Amsterdam’s community.) Keep in mind there were already almost 20 breweries in these parts back then.

But this Saturday, I’m jumping from the panel into the doc itself. I’ll have a back row seat in the car, cars, or van that will transport John Lovegrove and filmmaker Thom Roholt to 77 breweries throughout Portland Metro. Portland? Why John? Why 77?

Lovegrove is the underground local legend who quaffed a half pint at all 34 breweries in Portland in 2009. Yes, he blew hopped chunks by the end! Two years later he surpassed his own stunt and found himself at 50 in a single day (and spewed at the end again). Fifty, today, seems more doable (not recommended, just doable) considering the clusters that have sprung up in areas like Buckman and Boise and the Pearl. Heck, Oregon City has three operating breweries today (and soon five) that didn’t exist the last time Lovegrove and Roholt undertook this most epic of pub crawls. As for the number they’re attempting in four days and the reason I’m along for the ride, vowing to drink just 1-oz of a house-brewed beer at each stop: I’ll simply be LiveTweeting the ordeal. RIP City!

Speaking of financing, Roholt’s documentary, which is about the who, how, and why PDX became Brew City in the first place and not about the foolhardy pub crawl, is accepting pledges on the website, PDXBrewCity.com. The IndieGoGo crowdsourcing campaign is raising funding for the film itself. The top tier donation includes a mini version of the crawl, to three area breweries, where patrons will undoubtedly get to enjoy more than a total of three ounces of the stuff that makes Beervana “Brewtopia,” I mean that makes Brewtopia “PDX Brew City.”

As for the 77 part. The film will be tied together with a world record attempt at visiting 77 breweries in one day because A) we can and B) the 1977 NBA Champoinship Trail Blazers emblazoned this city with the Spirit of ’77. #Spiritof77Breweries!

Lastly, why do I even get to tagalong? Because I vociferously doubted their ability to complete the 77 brewery challenge but upon realize I couldn’t talk John out of it, I talked myself into it. It’ll be a great way to hit a handful of the area’s newest breweries that weren’t open in time for Oregon Breweries and that I haven’t even been to yet such as Back Pedal, Red Ox (Tigard), Oregon City Brewing, nearly all of the ones in Vantucky, and, the newest among ’em, adjacent to Back Pedal: Splash Bar!

Hope to survive to blog about the experience.

FredFest 2015 tickets on sale tomorrow

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Above photo from Brookston Beer Bulletin, 2008

In numerology, 89 is considered an “angle number” and that, “Repeating Angel Number 89 can be a message about your lifestyle and career choices and the angels guide and support you as you focus on your life purpose.” While that’s a bunch of hooey, what’s anything but malarkey is that Fred Eckhardt‘s upcoming 89th birthday party, aka Fred Fest 2015, is possibly the very best beer celebration we have here in Portland, and I’m aware I’m saying this as CBC is only halfway through. Tickets go on sale tomorrow for the party on Sunday, May 3 at, as always, Hair of the Dog Brewing.

More on the fest:

Attendees will be treated not only to a rare assortment of hand-selected beers, but also light fare cooked in and with beer and of course birthday cake and a round of “Happy Birthday”, just for Fred. Cheeses, chocolate, candy and even cereal will be offered in abundance so attendees can experience some of Fred’s famed beer-and-food pairings.

Tickets are in advance. Entry into FredFest includes a souvenir glass, free ticket for a raffle of bottled specialty beers and four hours of sampling, sipping and story-telling with Fred. Tickets are limited and they will go fast (they’ve sold out every year to date), so order yours today before it’s too late! Don’t have a PayPal account? Follow the link to “Order Tickets” and you can still pay directly with a credit card. Tickets are not mailed out, they will be at the door will-call style. Please bring a copy of your PayPal purchase receipt with you. Make sure if you are purchasing the tickets for a friend that you include their name in the notes section so we can get all ticket holders into the event quickly.

As always, all proceeds from FredFest and any related auctions/raffles will go to a charity of Fred’s choice.  The 2014 recipients chosen by Fred are the Guide Dogs for the Blind, International Medical Corps, and the Bob McCracken Scholarship Fund.

All About Portland Beer

All About Portland Beer and Boobs

As the Beer Traveler columnist for All About Beer Magazine, I’ve gotten to write about myriad far flung places. This time, I got to write about home–Portland (Link coming soon). This coincided with the issue that streeted during the annual Craft Brewers Conference which took place in the Rose City this year. As such, I was also assigned a story on the best bars craft beer is served. Correction: the best nudie bars craft beer is served.