As a home brewer in Portland I raise my glass in salute to the many other tenderfoot brewers in the city. In this town you can hardly throw a stone without hitting another basement nano-brewery. The long dark wet winters and independent nature of Portlanders make the city fertile ground for the army of Do-It-Yourself beer makers. This kind of DIY naïveté gives you clout in Portland. If you’re not making something difficult at home yourself, then you don’t have much social currency in Portland.
This power of making can be heady. And the act of making engages you in a larger
city-wide effort. To me, and many other young brewers, this effort seems young, but
we’ve inherited this legacy from an older and much more seasoned generation. The
younger generation, as younger generations do, assumes it is the progenitor. Really
we are just picking up a mantle that has been passed on for generations.
If we care to listen, instead of pounding our own chests, we would hear the fizzle
and hiss of delicious beers being brewed by old hands. I have friends and colleagues
who have brewed their own beer for 20 years. That shouldn’t take any of the joy out
of this generation’s endeavors. In fact this long history of DIY home brewing adds
legitimacy to the movement and eliminates some of the faddishness out of home
I recently spoke with two brewers who have brewed for over 30 years between
them. Their names get tossed around a lot in the brewing circle and they hold
coveted titles (they came first in Schwarts and 3rd in Pilsner in a national
competition). Like any good students, their craft has changed, evolved and matured
over the decade plus they’ve been at it. While brewing under the moniker “Bad
Dads,” Steve and Ray have experimented with making their own brown sugar (the
fermentation and carbonation agent) and growing their own hops. As true artisans
they look at every ingredient as a potential way to enhance quality.
“Bad Dads” is a truly local endeavor. Steve and Ray create rich social capital by
inspiring community through bottling events, sharing their beer, and patronizing
local business. Alcohol is a great common denominator and social unifier.
To commemorate their years of brewing, and drinking, Steve and Ray have
accumulated a label for every brand of beer they’ve drunk. It’s become their “wall of
shame.” But it’s also a testament to their passion. As are the accumulating accolades
for their famous IPA and Muddy Waters.
While home brewers proliferate in Portland, Steve and Ray don’t think the area has
reached its saturation point, otherwise they wouldn’t have friends clamoring for their beer. If you want to try your hand at it, you can find myriad recipes for mash (the beginning of beer) online. You can get all your ingredients at a local brewing store (I go to F.H. Steinbert’s on SE 12th). Then look up the process online. You’ll find that brewing is an education in patience. You’ll come to know disappointment closely, but also pride. My first brew was a success. The second one is bound to be a disaster (beginners luck having faded).
I’m planning my next batch to be all grain, and I will make the wort and mash myself
instead of buying a ready-made kit. This moves me from “kit” to craft. I may not hit
the heights the Bad Dads have achieved, but I’m on my way and making new friends
and building community in the process.
Fall 2011 Portland Food Warrior
This post is from one of the interns in the Real Time Farms Food Warrior Fall Internship Program. These interns were in Asheville, Austin, Nashville, Portland and San Francisco, collecting data, pictures, and video on the growing practices of our nation’s farms, gathering food artisans’ stories, and documenting farmers markets. We all deserve to know where our food comes from! (Winter/Spring 2012 Interns will be blogging from Atlanta, Austin, the Bay Area, and throughout Hawaii soon!)