Oregon's craft beer obsession


State leads nation in breweries per capita, but that comes as no surprise

By Spence Lack
For Oregon.com

How is it that we in Oregon enjoy more breweries per capita than any other state in the Union?

Is it the state's freshly grown ingredients? Or, perhaps it's because Oregonians appreciate a finely wrote craft brew as much as a glass of Oregon pinot noir.

There's no debate that we love to brag about our microbrew beers and invite visitors to try a taste test. We're confident many will leave the mass produced national lagers behind.

Oregon's beer scene prospers
We can, with some assurance, determine what makes this unique beer scene continue to grow. For starters we must look to the bounty of the state itself. The whole recipe for successful craft brew is locally obtainable. Dozens of varieties of heirloom hops are grown in our valleys, grains from the highlands are raised for the malt and our water is sweet and pure. There are even some of the top labs making brewers yeasts, right here in Oregon.

And yet this is but part of the recipe. The family of brewers that has flourished in the state provides a key support net and a healthy dose of friendly competition that, when viewed in synthesis with appreciative clientele and local bounty, complete our equation.

It's also the people who make the beer
Kevin King, a long-time master brewer who has recently opened his own craft microbrewery, helps enlighten us further.

When asked about the unique brewing atmosphere in Oregon and why it exists, he said: "I don't know, I really don't. What I can tell you, from a brewer's standpoint, is that we have the best support network in the country. Other states have brewer's guilds that go through the motions and drink beer together. Here, meetings are taken very seriously. They take minutes, have a budget, do charity projects and get real work done.

"The first night my brewery was open I was visited by (some of the top brewers in the state). They stayed, not just for a beer, but for several hours to show their support."

Kevin's new company, Amnesia Brewing, is located in North Portland on the corner of Mississippi and Beech streets. At Amnesia, a converted old iron works, the focus is all on the brews themselves. Fresh brew, clean lines and the loving attention of a craftsman keep the product true to its roots.

"I'm using nothing but the finest ingredients. I know everyone says that, but I really am making sure that nothing but the best goes into my beer."

How did Kevin King learn? Although he's worked as a brewer at some of the Pacific Northwest's top breweries, "working at a brewery really involves a lot of moving heavy liquids and scrubbing up. If you want to learn to brew, then do it at home.

"For 10 years, every Saturday my friends and I would brew at home," he says. "We had four refrigerators and five beers on tap at all times. You have to take notes, and you have to use them. That's where all my current recipes were born."