Is Nanobrewing Portland's Future?

When many folks think of of commercial brewing in Portland, Oregon, thoughts often point toward the craft beer pioneers such as Widmer Brothers, BridgePort, and even back to the industrial giant Henry Weinhards that has been reincarnated as a MillerCoors product brewed elsewhere. These larger production facilities have served to supply a greater population of beer drinkers throughout the region and today, their omnipresence is felt at all four corners of the country. However, in the 21st Century, we are seeing more and more focus on locally minded efforts. Much like the craft beer culture evident in brewpubs throughout Bavaria and the United Kingdom, there seems to be a movement here favoring locally produced community-oriented watering holes that gives each neighborhood its own unique identity.

Here in Portland, we are becoming more familiar with these one of their kind brewing public houses that focus on the establishment and the immediate community that lives within walking or biking distance to the taps. Places like Tugboat Brewing, Mash Tun, Coalition, Migration, and Breakside Brewery have made their niche one of a neighborhood. More than just in the beer itself, these destinations are public houses that gather community and serve as a platform for social interaction.

So with the mantra of buy local, drink global in mind, will Portland move toward a more community-centric mentality? We’re already seeing this began to happen with craft beer bottleshops. In just a few years, we’ve witnessed many new ones pop up. The BeerMongers, Saraveza, Hop and Vine, Woodstock Wine and Deli, Bridgetown Beerhouse, and the soon to open Bottles are all examples of how a specific neighborhood district can support the ever-burgeoning thirst of its citizens. So why not with craft brew? Some of this may be due to the fact that many people of Beervana have rather discerning palates and expect quality and consistency in their beer. And, quite frankly, some nano brewpubs simply can not or choose not to make this a focus. However, with the rising demand and comprehension of what defines quality beer, we are starting to recognize a higher output of competent artisan beer. Folks are realizing that just because one has the basic fundamentals in place to ferment wort doesn’t equate to that being something many of us want to drink. Our palate for many of us here is one that appreciates quality and understands the multifaceted nuances surrounding craft beer culture.

All this being said, we are yet to completely comprehend where all of the growth coupled with awareness of community will take us. We do not really know if and when a saturation point will be reached in terms of profitability for the manufacturers, distributors, and other industry people who will be affected by said steady growth. Places like Dalo’s Ethiopian Kitchen and The Kenton Club that have moved toward getting brewpub licensing in recent weeks. Kenton Club owners Doreen and Scott Waitt are awaiting OLCC and city approval for the go ahead to brew for in house consumption. If all goes as planned the venue known for live music and a hip 20-something atmosphere will have one or two taps serving Scott’s beer to be made in 16-gallon batches. The Dibabu family of Dalo’s has already received approval for a brewpub license but there is no word yet on what will come of it.

It is likely that in coming months, we will witness more and more folks trying their hand at making craft beer. The growing popularity of beer with body and substance is indicative of our evolution; moving away from the doldrums of drab adjunct light lagers implanted into the greater American palate by the 18th Amendment. Let’s hope that Oregon, continues to show the rest of the country that we are serious about our community and our beer.