A First Look at Brian Yaeger's New Book, Oregon Breweries

Oregon Breweries by Brian Yaeger

Today is the release of the brand new guidebook on the breweries of Oregon, aptly titled, Oregon Breweries. Written by Portland based writer, Brian Yaeger, this comprehensive book will guide readers from near and afar on the 190 breweries that call home to our beloved state of Oregon.

Over the course of the next few months, Yaeger will be making his way across the state of Oregon with many various book signings. The first such signing is tonight in Southeast Portland at Beer located at 1410 SE Stark. (More details on the additional book signings are listed at the end of this post.)

Published by Stackpole Books, Oregon Breweries is a fantastic read that delves into more than just the beers that are brewed at each brewery. Stackpole Books has previously released state beer guidebooks for Northern California, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The profiled 190 breweries and brewpubs in Oregon Breweries are divided into six regions: Portland, Coastal, Eastern, Willamette Valley, Central, and Southern. Then for each brewery Yaeger profiles many of the brewery’s popular beers and then recommends “The Pick”, which is his take on the beer that one should definitely seek out. Beyond that each brewery profile includes general information on the year in which they opened, annual production, distribution area, hours, tour times and other informative tidbits of knowledge.

Oregon Breweries (Back Cover) by Brian YaegerHowever this book is more than just one that contains a lot of relevant facts. Yaeger writes a narrative that tells a story that is unique to each profiled brewery. Each of the six chapters is defined by their geography in the state. At the beginning of each of the chapters Yaeger takes his readers to a detailed, vivid description of the different landscapes that is as varied as the residents of the state of Oregon. And since it’s a book about beer, there is lots of humor thrown in throughout the 416 pages. Yaeger even mentions his appreciation of all things Tony Bennett when writing about McMenamins Edgefield Brewery.

To help steer the book in the write direction, Yaeger sought the assistance of Gayle Goschie, one of Oregon’s third-generation hop farmers, to write the Forward of Oregon Breweries. Then in the back of the book there are appendices that list information on future planned breweries, local beer events, bottleshops and much more.

Upon the completion of reading Oregon Breweries we asked Yaeger a few questions on his decision to write a book on Oregon breweries and what lies ahead. Here goes……

Q: What made you decide that there needed to be another book on Oregon breweries?

A: I’d actually dreamt of doing this exact book for a few years and then when Stackpole Books approached me, I couldn’t turn it down. I love the first modern one, Oregon Brew Tours by Bob and Debra Ledford, because it’s very personal and you feel like you’re visiting these places with them, but it came out in 2011 and was less than comprehensive even at the time, plus it’s a bit weird that Mrs. Ledford wrote half the entries and kept reminding the reader she doesn’t like beer. Oregon Beer Lovers by Logan Thompson is also good, and the brevity required by that publisher’s formatting can work, but it also left out a huge handful of brewpubs. Of course, Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest is great for exploring the entire region and informing readers of the top spots around the PNW; if you’re looking for a subjective list of best places, certainly she’s a trustworthy voice for that. For this book, I got to do it exactly how I thought it should be done: I actually visited the breweries and brewpubs, interviewed the owners and/or brewers, and then profiled not just the beers but the people and places that round out what makes each one unique. I confess that between the final draft and today’s date a few months later, there are six (only six, or 3%) breweries that have made it from the Upcoming list in the appendix to operation, so I’m already looking forward to updating the 2nd ed. in 2016.

Q: Did your publisher prior to writing this book approach you or did you pursue one after the books beginnings?

A: As mentioned, I’d planned on doing this book and it was a trip discovering the hand-written outline and proposal in one of my notebooks, but the offer from the publisher was the impetus to get cracking. It’s an honor to join the publisher’s stable of other contributors to this series such as Lew Bryson (Pennsylvania Breweries), Jay Brooks (Northern California Breweries), John Holl (Massachusetts), etc.

Q: With the internet readily available are you concerned that the “guide books” are becoming less relevant?

A: To a small degree, but the fact of the matter is, most people aren’t as crazy as I am to actually trek out to every single brewery in Oregon. It’s a big state with a lot of breweries y’know. I think there’s value in putting them all in one place–a book that doesn’t require wifi or recharging–and making the content both comprehensive, informed, and hopefully with some personality. Because I relied on the internet to help me with the journey of writing this book, I became quite aware of how much pertinent info is not, in fact, on said interwebs. The one and only thing the guidebook can’t do is helping your phone navigate you to the brewery by clicking; it requires typing in the address found at the top of each entry. Another great feature of having a comprehensive guidebook is that it puts them all in front of the reader on equal footing. Online, some people always suggest going to the same places when visiting another city. This way, readers get to see every brewery before them and not find themselves limited to either hive mind or one subjective list.

Q: When did you begin the process of writing this book?

A: To answer that, I’ll preface this by saying, it’s a crazy undertaking to find, visit, chat, sample, and thoroughly write about nearly 200 breweries, especially when they’re spread out from Ashland to Astoria and from Pacific City on the Pacific Coast to Ontario that’s technically in Oregon but resides on Idaho’s border and their Mountain time! So this wasn’t written in a day. My son is about to turn 3. I started the process of writing this book just after he was born. It’s a project made all the more challenging when trying to figure out how to keep an infant alive. On the other hand, my kid’s now has been to more Oregon breweries than most dedicated beer lovers.

Brian Yaeger and future brewer I. P. Yae at Ecliptic Brewing
Brian Yaeger and future brewer I. P. Yae at Ecliptic Brewing

Q: Did you seek any guidance from Portland’s other writers when crafting Oregon Breweries?

A: Absolutely! Both directly and indirectly. Because there are so many brewery openings, every time I read about one on Brewpublic or other beer blogs, I’d first go, “DAMN! Not another!” And then I’d create a file for it. Jon Abernathy, who lives in Bend and not only publishes the web’s oldest beer blog, TheBrewSite.com, but just had his Bend Beer book published (and will be at Powell’s and Belmont Station with me), would always feed me reports of new breweries coming in Central Oregon. As such, I tried to keep every fellow beer writer in mind and thank them by name in the opening Acknowledgements section. (I also got a kick out of how Beervana’s Jeff Alworth commented that he’d see me writing about breweries he’d never heard of.)

Q: What were the challenges that you faced when you temporarily relocated to Amsterdam with your family?

A: First and foremost, it was no fun writing about Oregon beer but not being able to drink any. Beyond that, just like it was important to me to visit every brewery in person, it felt less personal following up with brewers only by email instead of being able to revisit them or call them on the phone. But the flip side is, just like Stephen King purportedly locks himself in a remote cabin in Maine to do his writing, a bit of distance helped me stay focused on the writing part since I’d already done the drinking, eating, driving, and chatting part.

Q: The narrative you develop in the book is appealing to both the beer geek and the casual beer fan seeking out more, detailed info the breweries of Oregon. Is this something you made a cognitive effort to accomplish?

A: First of all: thank you. Second of all, yes. It would’ve been immensely easier if I just wanted to put the facts in there. I could’ve pulled most of those off each brewery’s website. But beer isn’t just names and stats, it’s not just ones and zeros. If the recent 10 Barrel sale to Budweiser and the reaction it received proves anything, it’s that we connect with our local breweries way beyond just ordering their IPAs or saying we got to try their one-off release. People develop a relationship, or at least an affinity for craft beer because it has character, personality, and I sincerely hope that’s what will make people buy, read, and recommend this book to their friends, because it offers more of those intangibles that we love about beer that cannot be found on their bottle labels or in aggregated online beer reviews and ratings. It was an extreme honor to get to sit down and clink glasses with these brewers; I aspired to thank them for their beer AND their time by doing them justice with each entry in the book.

Q: With all of the continued brewery openings here in Oregon, when will the second printing come out?

A: Tomorrow. J/k. Realistically, I can imagine re-tackling this project every three years unless there’s a demand for even sooner. Oregon welcomed about 50 new breweries last year. The “upcoming” list, if it all comes to fruition, means we’ll usher in about 50 more. That pace won’t continue, but the state of Oregon Breweries in 2020 will be way different–and way similar–to the way it looks now. Yes, I’ve already created a file for new breweries and updates to existing ones. It’s what makes this a journey and not a destination, kinda like exploring beer and refining our palates. I can’t wait to see what the predominant beer styles will be in the 3rd or 4th editions if we somehow move away from IPAs and delving into wild ales. If the past 30 years of Oregon innovations in brewing are any indicator, it will be a breathtaking world that will require an epic guidebook to encapsulate it all.

Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon by Jon Abernathy
Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon by Jon Abernathy

On Friday, December 5th Yaeger will be doing a book signing for Oregon Breweries at the highly coveted Powell’s City of Books beginning at 7:30pm. For this book signing Bend, Oregon-based author and beer blogger Jon Abernathy from The Brew Site who is also launching his new book, Bend Beer, will join Yaeger.

Then once the book signing is wrapped up at 9:00pm, Yaeger will lead a short pub crawl through Portland’s Pearl District beginning at Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House for a tasting with the brewers including special beer tappings and complimentary drinks. From there, around 10:00pm, the crawl will head to the recently opened Fat Head’s Brewery two blocks to the east. Then the crawl will head a few blocks north to the Rogue Distillery & Public House. And to cap the night off properly, Yaeger will take those still standing to one of his favorite gems of Portland, Tugboat Brewing. There’s nothing better than to end the night with a tasty Chernobyl Stout in your hand!

If you can’t make it out to the big night at Powell’s, here is a list of the ever-evolving Oregon Breweries book tour includes the following stops. Please check out brianyaeger.com for additional dates and any possible changes.  At each of the stops Yaeger will be selling copies of the book. He even got a Square to handle “POS” sales by credit card.

Oregon Breweries book signings:

December 1 (Mon): Oregon Breweries book RELEASE PARTY @ BEER (yes, the beer bar called BEER). Be the first on your block to get your hop-stained mitts on it. There’ll be a couple rare beers on tap!

December 3-4 (Wed-Thur): Signing books at Portland’s 19th annual Holiday Ale Fest in Pioneer Courthouse Square (SW Portland)

December 5 (Fri): Presentation, discussion, and signing at Powell’s City of Books (W. Portland) at 7:30 pm. Join Bend Beer author Jon Abernathy and I for a lively discussion about Oregon suds then tag along on a pub crawl through the Pearl District (Deschutes, Fat Heads, Rogue, and maybe more.) Can’t make it? Pre-order a signed edition.

December 6 (Sat): Presuming Jon and I recover, we’ll be signing books at Belmont Station (SE Portland) from 1-3 on the lovely patio.

December 8 (Mon): Barnes & Noble Lloyd Center. Because mall-shoppers need love, too. Noon to 2 p.m.

December 10 (Wed): Beaverton’s first and only brewpub, Brannon’s Pub & Brewery, hosts a Beaverton book signing. Come in and enjoy a pint with your signed book from 5-7 p.m.

December 12 (Fri): Book signing at Sixteen Tons in Eugene with an amazing taplist for the night including a pro/author collaboration by Oakshire.

December 13 (Sat): Book signing at Flat Tail Brewing in Corvallis. Brewer/Author collaboration Wild Kumquat Wit tapping!

December 16 (Tue): Tap-it Tuesday at Cascade Barrel House (SE Portland) After I’m doused by a “sour shower,” I’ll be signing books.

January 11, 2015 (Sun): Who says there’s no such thing as a pFriem lunch? (Hood River.) Come in for tasty lunch and beers with the whole family at this family-friendly brewpub. Get your book signed by the author…or his kid.

February 7, 2015 (Sat): Oregon Breweries night at The Jug Shop (Nob Hill, San Francisco) during SF Beer Week.

About the Author, Brian Yaeger:
Author Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey and contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer. He helps cover the beer front for Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, and DrinkPortland and is frequently published by All About Beer, Draft, and CraftBeer.com. He earned a Master in Professional Writing (with a thesis on beer) from the University of Southern California. He runs Inn Beervana Bed & Beer (InnBeervana.com) in Portland along with his wife and son.