New System

I am posted at the bar of my favorite bottle shop (again) going deep into the isles to find evidence that ‘Cold IPA’, as a style, is at least as legit as Hazy NE IPAs were at some point in the distant past, before everybody had to have one in their lineup. While I don’t think there’s enough of a difference in these styles to make them stand out like ‘hazy’ IPAs, I do think they’re distinct sub-styles that will continue to remain around – and eventually be combined or generalized into something like the ‘Hazy NE’ style itself. It may be already happening – I have seen Rogue with a beer labeled as ‘Imperial Cold IPA’, and several others that are definitely crossing style boundaries, if their label assertions are to be believed.

I am also musing at the current popularity of the winter ale, and the ‘winter IPA’, which I’ve seen but cannot now trace to a specific beer (Matchless makes a ‘Fresh-kilned winter IPA’). The ‘Winter Ale’ category has been around for a while, but some IPAs that aren’t called ‘winter ales’ feature winter scenery on them, and the Rogue beer I mentioned DID feature a snowman as well as the ‘Imperial Cold IPA’ label. I am not exactly confused – I know what’s going on here – but I can’t blame other weekend beer warriors for getting some strange thoughts on the styles we’re going to be seeing ‘trend’ over the next year or whatever. Breweries have been getting so far afield of traditional style guidelines that accurately describing the type of beer in any given can has become quite a challenge. It’s easy to talk about, but otherwise successful beers have struggled to break free from the labels in the past, and any owner/operator with an eye towards marketing has had to grapple with this changing landscape.

This thought train started as a conversation on twitter (most recently, this is a topic that will never be settled), with a thread devoted to trying to predict what we’d see emerge as the year rolls on. I feel that the N/A conversation is about to boil over, with people itching to forget about ‘dry January’ and get back to feeling okay about their usual habits. Attention will move on to something else, and so I keep rotating around Portland, spending time at new and different locations (getting harder and harder to find) and drinking new and different beers, looking at taplists and scouring the boards for the next great beer. I probably have a different viewpoint than most people in the business right now, but they can cut-and-paste the corporate press releases way better than I can. And I’m sure you’ve noticed I could put in some work on the actual design of my site.

While people from elsewhere are talking about style trends on twitter, I’m looking a dozen taps at this location (in real life) with styles that range:
1) French blend cider
2) Filtered-clear hefeweizen
3) Italian style pils
4) Vienna lager
5) Doppelbock
6) Rauch helles lager
7) Double hazy
8) Ipa
9) Hazy
10) Sour gose
11) German pils
12) Gluten-free wild fermented
13) English mild on nitro

At a glance, I know that all of these beers are true to the style they’re said to be made in. I also have enough experience to know the difference between a German and an Italian pils, or a Vienna-style lager and a ‘dopplebock’. A lot of people don’t, and really don’t care, as long as they can find something they recognize – and like – off any given beer menu. With the constant bickering over style labels and trends, a lot of energy is wasted positioning a beer before the average consumer ever sees a single example of the styles I see daily on brewery tap rails around Portland and greater Oregon. It’s worth remembering that my beloved ‘hobby’ needs to be constantly reaching new consumers, and educating them about what they can expect from beer, because it is forever expanding and needs to grow to sustain itself. We need people who know the difference between types of sour beer, believe it or not, because they’ll be excited to share this knowledge with friends the same way I spread the craft brew gospel from my bar stool every night.

While I don’t know what’s in the doors at a trendy bottle shop in, say…Chicago, I can guess it’s a lot more restrained than the things I’m fortunate enough to be able to drink every day here in Oregon. When I was in Des Moines this month, I saw lots of decent ‘top-tier’ national craft brands that have broken into the 19-oz format, sitting next to tallboys of Bud Light and Elysium Space Dust, but not a whole lot of variety beyond that. Of course, I am spoiled by the density of beers within my reach here, as every brewery has a competing blend of ‘hazies’ and ESBs and European pilsners and Mexican lagers and on and on. My favorite breweries here also manufacture CBD sodas and seltzers and hop waters and it’s an endless torrent of products to keep track of. It is tiring, honestly, but I’m not really interested in chasing the freshest beers, even if I do find myself in their vicinity. I’m looking at the people in all of this as the factor a lot of analysts will probably get wrong, but only because they’re often forgetting the folks running the bar, the kitchen, and the merch counter.

WHEN THEY KNOW WHAT IS WHAT BUT THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT IS WHAT

I am currently drinking a beer called ‘Juicy’, from Double Mountain. It is labeled ‘Clearly not juicy’ IPA, but at ummm…. At 5.6% ABV it barely qualifies as a pale ale. It is not hazy, but it is also not exactly clear, with a darker straw color to it. To me, it’s more of a dry-hopped pale, and so it will be rated poorly as an IPA, but if they’d have called it a freakin’ hoppy pale, I might have gone along with it. UGH fickle consumers AM I RIGHT?
So…the problem with all of the wiffle-waffle on the IPA and pale labels is that it seems to indicate a never-ending pale-beer identity crisis. When I say ‘Russian Imperial Stout’, there are very few beers that claim that style that aren’t exactly what they say they are. There can be some waffling about barrel-aged beers and how they’re labeled, but since these are also (typically) higher ABV and lower volume, they command more at retail, and so they go to that extra length to clarify to the consumer what they are. Just read the label on a bottle of BCS and you’ll know what is inside, hopefully. English milds and brown ales, Barleywines and ‘lagers’ – you know with a reasonable degree of certainty what’s going to be in that can. Meanwhile, on the IPA front, there are so many different styles that they’ve started trying to stand out by calling themselves something different, even if they aren’t measurably different from any of the other 5,000 dry-hopped hazies that came out last year. That is surely an undercount, BTW, I tend towards embellishment, but when it comes to ‘HAZY IPA’ releases, they are as endless as the different combinations of mosiac, strata and citra brewers can come up with. Everything falls under the ‘hazy’ umbrella if you look at it from far enough away.

What is a winter ale, anyways?

That is a good question. There are more than a dozen different beers in the cooler here at John’s that claim some variation of winter ale on the label. Some are claiming ‘winter IPA’ – but I can’t find the ones that initially got me going on this tangent. I avoid these beers, generally, because I don’t like the gimmicks associated with such a blatantly seasonal product. Why are these winter ales? Is it the spicing? Something about the malt bill? Do people not like these beers during the summer season? There are many questions that need to be answered here, not least among them: Are these the same beers they sell as summer IPAS, just re-packaged? The brewery would say ‘no’ but again…why all that extra effort for a beer that is only commercially viable for a few months out of the year? Why not make a robust, malt-forward, big-hop beer all year around?

Of course, the answer to that question is ‘because they want to’, but apparently there’s also a niche market to exploit – or these breweries wouldn’t be wasting their time chasing sales with pictures of goofy characters on snowboards. The whole phenomenon of seasonal brews is a relic leftover from the days of growing market share at all costs, so maybe it’s overplayed now that there is so much competition for non-seasonal shelf space. With the NA segment growing alongside the seltzer stuff, maybe breweries shouldn’t be chasing that seasonal niche anymore (but then again, how would people get their pumpkin fix every year)? It is exactly this kind of strange logic that would actually limit the development of the new styles, though, because without breweries chasing after every consumer they can get, we might not have anything but straight old-style IPAs made with English hops. Exciting alternate universe, isn’t it? It is not. I am here because brewers decided to do something new, fun or different, and I’m bickering with people I’ve never met about such esoteric topics precisely because someone (many people) wanted to do something different all those years ago.
**

In the course of a week I visit several of these bottle shops. I have been trying to put together some more content about them, but the process has been slow. Last week I went to a bunch of ‘east-side’ locations that are great examples of what I was describing in my last article (BATTLEROYALE) – one was a traditional ‘German’ style beer hall that has been growing steadily, pushing honest pilsners and lagers and various sub-styles therin. Another place I visited was once called ‘NWIPA’ (now Unlimited IPA) and focused on hoppier beers, but also had a small selection of bottles and cans that spanned a bunch of popular styles. The bartender (owner?) was playing classic hip-hop from a collection of vinyl records late into the night I visited, and someone was sharing a bottle of stout from Structures. I was left to chew on the hop oils that coated my tongue all night as I curled up in my truck on a nearby residential street. I was still a bit fuzzy the next morning when I hit a local café for my daily waste of time and coffee. In between all this beer drinking I do, I try to get around to ‘regular’ and popular resturaunts and food carts, anything someone recommends when I’m sipping on a triple or quadruple Belgian-style banger. This whole neighborhood had plenty of places to distract oneself at almost any time of day, and so I walked around, back to Unlimited IPA – but like all good taprooms, they weren’t open until much later in the afternoon.

So I walked a block up from there to Assembly brewing, a place where I engaged in a spirited conversation with the bartender on – wait for it – emerging drinking trends overall. This is THE CONVERSATION being had across the industry, and not just by wonky keyboard jockeys. I tried a small handful of their beers but wasn’t really excited about anything enough to stick around for long. They had plenty to choose from, but I just couldn’t get into one enough to want a repeat, and there were other places I wanted to go as well. The large, open space with roll-up doors and an outside patio area is undoubtedly on a summer afternoon, and you’ll feel right at home since the bare concrete floors and exposed wood beams gives it the atmosphere of every other brewery taproom I’ve been in this month. Sigh. I am not ranting about that, not yet. That’ll be a 10,000 word monster if I ever get around to it, since I had once thought myself to be interested in architectural design. Yes, they all try to be unique, and in so doing, they’re all painfully alike.

I moved onwards to a small taproom called Sessionable (not in the same ‘hood but a quick 10 minute drive west) that rotates a similar broad selection of styles, sometimes putting several new beers on tap on a busy weekend day. It’s in a nice little neighborhood that features Atlas Pizza and several food cart pods, with plenty of foot traffic flowing by to keep you wonder who is on the right side of the glass. The owner is often pouring behind the bar as well, so it’s an opportunity to pick his brain on the kinds of trends he’s seeing from the distro folks and how he’s looking for new beer to add to his cellar.

I rounded out my time on the east side with a stop in the neighborhood with Baerlic, Beermongers, and APEX – three verifiable beer nerd hotspots that should not be missed if you visit Portland. Baerlic has a huge variety of beers to chose from and self-distributes their cans extensively, so they’re a great working example of a brewery that had built out, expecting a high-volume restaurant to carry their brewing operation, and then jumped all-in to the distro game long before covid made it into a necessity. Now they’re supremely well positioned to ride the next few years (at least from an observer’s standpoint. Maybe they over-invested and are already looking at closing locations). This is another location that features some vinyl love – they’ve got a little radio station on-site – and the ‘detroit’ style pizza kitchen that operates out of the same location is the perfect food to pair with beer. The deep-dish and a pint formula is an easy winner and you’ll see it repeated often here in Portland. Baerlic had an expansive taplist, with a bunch of hazies and pilsners and a stout on tap, but the overall selection was more west-coast than hazy IPA – but they’re not shy about mixing it up. It’s a good brewery for a vibe-check, IMHO, since they’re hustling quite hard and are competing in a very tight market. If I was a real journalist, I’d try to get an interview with someone over there, for one of those fluff feel-good pieces.

The CROSS-STREET FIGHT

Beermongers has moved, so this isn’t exactly the rivalry that it once might have been – as imagined by customers like myself, who saw the two vastly different approaches to beer and went to beermongers over Apex, any day of the week, despite(or because of) the abusive number of beers on tap at Apex. The Beermongers is where the old greybeards hang out, and Apex is where the (everybody else) goes to be ignored by the bartender and scoffed at when they ask for a sample. APEX has an absolutely astonishing selection of great, bucket-list beers on tap, but the atmosphere is trash, from the attitude behind the bar to the laughable selection of pricey bottles in the few coolers on hand that qualifies it as a bottle shop, as well as a ‘taproom’.

TO BE HONEST, though, many of those beers have been on tap at that location for years, and many of them aren’t as hard to find as they used to be – although the place certainly does make some good money off beer tourist traffic, and has a large outdoor patio space for those warmer months. If you happen to stop in when it’s dead, like I did recently, the service won’t change, and the Pliney on tap isn’t the one you really want, so calm down and get something semi-local. I keep trying to get a different take from the place, but I always leave feeling like the customers aren’t really the point of APEX. They will probably still be there long after the hosting on this blog has ran out, so who am I to judge?

Before they moved, you could see APEX from the front door of Beermongers, and that was good, because you could remind yourself that you were making a conscious choice to go someplace where the employees cared about their job, serving (you) beer, as you entered. They have maintained the vibe, just at a new location around the corner. They haven’t really expanded the cooler space (yet), but the small selection of taps is usually holding something special for the lucky visitor, and there are some good bottles and cans to be found in the doors. You can ask the helpful staff questions about what you see. It’s a completely different experience, and while the choice of what kind of beer establishment you enjoy is entirely yours, there are tangible differences if you know what to look for. Beermongers is closer to Baerlic though, so it’s not hard to make the right choice.

At each of these places I try to get a sample or two plus a pint, plus or minus. I look around, and try hard to keep track of interesting beers from breweries I’m aware of. There are soooo many, though. So many styles, so many beers, so many breweries with similar logos. Lately I’ve been in the mood for dark stouts and barrel aged ‘big beers’, mostly, but I still break for a nice clean ‘west coast’ ipa. When I engage with folks on twitter – none of whom will take the time to read this, I’m certain – I am drawing on these lived experiences to inform my statements. I can barely keep track of the beers I drink via untapped, and I often find myself ‘forgetting’ to check in another tall can of Deschutes imperial ipa or boneyard hop venom as I nod off to sleep. I might chase a bunch of different beers in my dream day job, but when I’m tucking in at night with a frozen pizza and some netflix, I’m crushing a 6-pack of cans of some medium west-coast style IPA more likely than anything else.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t just buy my beer at expensive bottle shops – I stop at 7-11 and plaid pantry and Fred Meyer for the $3 or $4 cans and $9.00 sales 6-packs. I am awash in great local beer, even at the grocery store.

I feel like it does matter, this viewpoint, because a lot of the conversation I see is from industry wonks who aren’t really on the ground in their regions, seeing the actual products on the shelves or engaging with the people at the point of sale. As I tried explaining before, this is partially caused by the various differences in the distribution laws that dictate who can sell beer, and who can drink it, where. When people speak for the craft brew industry, are they speaking from these positions behind the scenes, or are they cognizant of the reasons behind the declining sales of a certain style of beer in a certain region, based on some action that isn’t visible to anybody on the industry side?

I’m talking about the way a beer or brewery might be torpedoed by a distributor or get blacklisted from local bars for some reason that isn’t obvious to anyone outside of their bubble.
Some breweries have had significant personnel issues, and the way that impacts a breweries sales might not make it into a yearly earnings report or sales numbers, and people in a larger sense might forget altogether. Founders and Mervin come to mind – two staple breweries that have had internal issues that became public, and absolutely impacted the perception of craft breweries and sales in those areas, beyond those two directly. Meanwhile, people who are out of that bubble, trying to make sense of trends based off sales data that doesn’t carry that whole story.

My writing isn’t a cut-and-paste newsletter announcing brewery openings or expansions. I am not here to talk about specific numbers, generally – there are plenty of people trying that angle. The industry as I know it isn’t just about data, it’s about the people who are involved on both ends of the process. I am in the middle in a way that few people are, and I’m trying to shine a light in corners and get people interested in the things they didn’t even know about. When I tell people here about how restrictive some of the alcohol laws are in other states, many are in disbelief, and they cannot imagine life without such easy access to so many different products from legit small businesses. Even today, a state on the east coast is procrastinating on legislation that would allow self-distribution of breweries under a certain size. Iam editing this piece from a brewery called Great Notion, celebrating their 7th anniversary – and they solely self-distribute, for their entire history. They were fairly exclusive for a long time, too, but this is another example of a business that changed because of covid, for the better IMHO.

I see prognostications of closing breweries in the near future and I’m not entirely sure how accurate those predictions are, either, based off the thriving brew culture I saw in Des Moines this month. It turns out that small owner-operated businesses that employ the local young people in honest paying work are generally well-received in the midwest, and even on a Thursday in January, I saw several breweries bustling with customers that ranged in age and apparent socio status. It is true that some breweries will fail, but what some people will miss in this conversation is that so many opened in the years before covid that the time is right for the percentages to play out – new businesses fail at xx% for every xx years they’re open, and we’re entering the window where a lot of places would have run out of steam, covid or not. We’ll see what happens, but I’d rather not pretend to know which way it’ll go. I am quite sure that more people than ever are familiar with the concept of craft beer and the possibilities it brings, and that’s going to be a good thing moving forward.

This has got a lot longer than I thought it would. I’m off to find a warm spot for the weekend, as the temps in Portland are set to plunge below freezing for several days. I remain officially unhoused, looking for a room to rent, but haven’t had any luck. If you’re reading this in the greater Portland area and have a room for rent, find me on twitter or email me. I’m just about ready to come in from the cold and I have cash.

I leave you as I sip a Czech-style dark Lager from Loowit Brewing in Vancouver, WA, sold in cans at John’s and consumable on-site for just $1 over the retail price. I told ya’ll to pay attention to these beers, they are this year’s mexican lager. I said it.

Cheers.
*written from the bar of Johns Marketplace in Multnomah Village, edited from Great Notion

Battle Royale

Bottle shop v brewery v brewpub

I recently took a trip to flyover country, the American Midwest, home of the Field of Dreams, Iowa. There were several reasons for the trip, but at it’s core, it was meant to be an opportunity to explore Iowa’s craft beer scene, specifically the breweries that have opened over the last decade plus around Des Moines. As I sat at brewery after brewery, and one single taproom, I was taken back to a topic I’ve been thinking about off and on for a few years now – the difference between bottle shops, ‘taprooms’, and brewery taprooms. In places where the population doesn’t support ten breweries per square mile, there isn’t a whole lot to choose from when you go out looking for the craft beer experience – there’s the local brewery, and local bars, and if you’re lucky a high-end leaning gastropub or national chain (think Red Robin) that features the kinds of beer you can’t find in the local grocery store of most smaller or rural markets.

It can be easy to forget the vast distances that define the American heartland, and the people spread out among the hills and fields of places like Kansas and Nebraska and Iowa, if you don’t visit or look out the window when you fly to some more tropical locale. The town I stayed in claims some 5,700 residents, but much of that claim includes large stretches of farms before it runs into the creeping sprawl of Ankeny, with 70,000 Hawkeyes living a half hour north of greater Des Moines, itself with just under 700,000 people spread out in a 15×20 mile patch of dirt that is quite under-developed. Single-family homes on tidy, sizeable lots march off into the distance in neighborhoods without sidewalks or any thought to a shared transit system (aside from the school buses that ferry screaming kids several miles each day).  

It was a solid half-hour drive from the airport to my friend’s house, on the northern edges of another sprawling Des Moines suburb, Johnston. There weren’t many obvious places where people might congregate in the way you see in places like Portland, at least not outside of the downtown areas where they’ve put the focus on developing smaller eateries and a few beer-centric places that I simply couldn’t get to. Everything is just soooo spread out that even in the residential areas in the city itself, you don’t get any feeling of community or neighborhood character, outside of maybe the era the homes were built. It simply doesn’t feel like a critical mass of attractive businesses and nicer, modern housing has accumulated anywhere in particular – compared to places like Portland, where you can walk any number of neighborhoods and find an endless amount of commerce on every corner. I suspect that many Iowans would enjoy the sorts of business opportunities and relaxations that I can choose from in Portland, all within that same 30-minute drive that I took to go from one end of Des Moines to the other. Yes, there are drawbacks to living in the city, but that’s not the point today. I’m trying to put to words the different cultures that I feel that drive a different sort of interface between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – consumers and producers. 

Obviously, I must admit that I cannot possibly know everyone’s reasons for locating where they do and why they chose the approach they do, but in my quest to visit all these places I have gained some insight into matters that escape the average local family dad looking to have a pizza and some beer made locally. I enjoy going to breweries, but there is a limited experience available, even at the most renowned and celebrated locations of the best breweries you could name. Each brewer and owner has a vision of their beer and the way they want them enjoyed and seen and presented, and this is all great and fine, but the last few years have seen the limitations that can come along with trying to make your brewery the destination, and the only place your fans can get your product. The fallout from Covid lockdowns is percolating, as businesses in all sectors are still seeing depressed revenue, compared with pre-covid numbers. There is a wave of economic reporting that’s about to crash into the American economy that will sound pretty bad, when looked at from the big angles. Some of the smaller angles will be ugly, too, but there will be some movement towards a more stable market because of these uneven rebounds, and if you’re trying to support your local brewers, it’ll help to understand some things.  

Caught up in this strange economic conversation will be your favorite local brewery, who hopefully didn’t go balls-deep in expansion debt in 2019. Or maybe they did expand, riding a wave of success that demanded they go big and take a slice of their local market. The number of breweries that opened in 2019 that didn’t make it, vs the number that did…that’s a deep-dive topic that runs alongside what I’m reaching for here. The need for a local bottle shop can run directly into headwinds from a popular local business, the regional distributor, or any number of other sources, but once established they’re better positioned to weather the kinds of troubles that faced most businesses over the last 3 years. It’s important to understand the basics of the kind of place that you like to consume your beer, even if there isn’t much choice in most smaller markets – yet. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because I’m not sure most people even have the kind of bottle shop I’m talking about anywhere near them – I’m sure it’s still probably illegal in some states, too – but most people have at least been exposed to the kind of place that will soon be competing for your beer dollars. 

Yeah, I buy my beer at a shop. It has bottles..? 

Oregon seems to be somewhat unique in my experience, in that it allows several different levels of sales of alcoholic products, from basic sales to on-site consumption. This results in hybrid retail establishments that have a draft license, pre-packaged offerings from multiple sources, and focus completely on beer (or wine, which is given similar lattitude as far as retail outlets are concerned). My favorite example is John’s Marketplace in Multnomah Village – I’ve probably mentioned John’s before, and have purchased hundreds(thousands) of dollars worth of beer there in the 7 years or so I’ve been in the area.  

I can’t forget the tiny little shop in Astoria that I spent a lot of time in, Bridge & Tunnel, which kept me in delicious beers through the darkest hours on the coast (and there are some very dark hours out there). The owner Duane had quit a job in finance somewhere (so the story goes) and opened his beer store right down the street from a still-growing Fort George, catching overflow, curious and lost tourists who clog the sidewalks for a few months (weeks?lol) every summer. He knew some folks, and had the gumption to go ahead and bring great beer all the way out to one of the farthest points you could pick on a map, from all the other places you can find great beer. I am always looking at new beers in places like B&T and have a healthy respect for the small shop owner that can keep the good stuff coming in regularly and often, and I was never bored when I was sitting at Duane’s bar.  

You can’t talk about this stuff without getting into the murky waters of distribution; in this case it’s the end of the chain that makes a difference in the quality and selection of a small bottle shop in a small tourist town that’s empty 8 months of the year. Duane has to cultivate his contacts to satisfy the cravings of a customer that might be looking for their favorite IPA from Vermont or Michigan. I was always delighted to find beer from across the country on hand, these little packages of metal wrapped in pastel artwork and holding delicious nectar, created with care by someone as passionate about the beer as I am (hopefully) somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away. I’m kind of a romantic at heart, I guess, because I want to believe it matters, that the little touches and effort of a small brewer MATTER, that my respect of that work matters. So much of what we consume in the US is mass-produced and wrapped in plastic and the creators are freakin’ robots in China, and taking the time to appreciate the craftsmanship of something, ANYTHING in today’s life is underrated. And so, sitting in a small bottle shop in Astoria, on the far west coast, I was often left in awe of the product of someone whom I will never meet, for at least as long as it took me to drink it.   

Here in Oregon, shops like Bridge & Tunnel have significant leeway in how they acquire their products, as it’s been written into law and practice by the OLCC’s interpretations. A small operator like Duane is allowed to go outside of the general distribution network to get beer from other states, for instance, because most Oregon distributors cannot or will not. However, some states still require a third party distro to manage wholesale and interstate sales, which complicates efforts but still allows for a motivated shop owner to get beer from all over the country. As the industry has opened up, more pressure against traditional distribution has meant a cascade of new beer hitting shelves in other parts of the country that simply could not get them before. When you walk into a Portland bottle shop, you’re as likely to find Heady Topper (a staple from VT) as you are something from Great Divide (Colorado) or Prairie Artisan Ales (Oklahoma).  

The biggest difference, though, is the on-site consumption of any of the merchandise (beer/wine/cider) for a small corkage fee. The bottle shops I’ve been to in other states never had on-site consumption of anything, not taps nor pre-packaged from the shelf, whereas it is common here in Oregon. I’m sure they’re allowed elsewhere, but I’m struggling to remember the last place outside of Oregon where I could buy a bottle…there was a place in Jacksonville way back in 2008 I remember that had Stone bombers (I think I was probably a bit snarky about the $9 per bottle cost, little did I know what the future would hold…) but they were a gastropub, the precursor of the modern brewpub. Or maybe they’re still a thing in other states? I simply haven’t had the chance to travel as much as I’d like to have recently. Maybe things have changed.  

THE PLUG 

This is the part where I start asking for people to ping my patreon for a buck or two. I’d like to go places and do on-the-ground writing about what I find when I poke around the corners of the country. I have been working on a number of drafts covering a whole bunch of topics, and I’ve even started dreaming about them recently. I don’t know what my future holds, but if I have the chance to keep writing about these things and doing actual research, I will. I’ll also be honest and tell you any support I get will be spent on either beer or the administration of this effort in some way. My nascent media empire (Autoneurotic Media) needs a few dollars a month, and I’m even adding pictures to my blog soo….yeah. I’d rather not monetize things with ads or other garbage but I also spend a lot of time just writing so help a guy out, buy me a pint! 

 GAME ON 

So I mentioned a place in Jacksonville (Kickbacks Pub, still open!) that a lot of people will find familiar, as compared to the actual bottle shops in their areas, which are usually just retail sales locations and don’t offer anything else. The gastro or brew pub is a bar or resturant that has a number of beers on tap and food and maybe some other entertainment or attraction, like say Old Chicago or Ruby Tuesday or, increasingly, chains like Applebee’s and BWW will feature a wider array of beers than the straight-up domestic beers that would once have been the only options. Bud v Bud Lite v Coors v Miller Lite is no longer on display, having been replaced with flagships from Sierra Nevada, Rogue, Sam Adams and the like. As the craft beer market expanded, the larger distributors in these markets started offering more selection, but when you walk into one of these places in most parts of the country you’ll be limited to a fairly predictable spread of beers that only dabble in the direction of ‘craft’ and cost the same without much of the flavor. Even here in Portland, these sorts of places don’t break the mold by much, despite having options that far surpass the top-20 on the books down at Columbia (the Big Distributor in Oregon, they often dictate entire isles of product placement in the state). Many of the larger chain ‘pubs’ don’t want to deal with smaller self-distributed breweries here in Oregon or the smaller distributors, who might struggle to keep regular stock or make timely deliveries. In most other states that haven’t updated distribution, I’d have to suspect it’s much harder to run a single gastropub and have a respectable selection without the constant hassle of going outside of the local distributor to find something that 8 other places in town also have on tap this week.  

One of my favorite places in Iowa was called Bricks in downtown Cedar Rapids, and I lived not far away while working full-time at Godaddy (one of Iowa’s original pet technology companies). You might say I had some disposable income, and the front door of my apartment was a 6-minute walk away (one whole minute for the elevator). The local brew club (Cedar Rapids BeerNuts) held monthly meetings there and we were allowed to share homebrew and bottles we’d got, and the owner was very involved in cultivating a unique selection of beer that was hard to find anywhere else in Iowa – while still maintaining enough ‘domestic’ brands to get the dollars from the still very-domestic local bro crews. I spent many evenings at the bar quietly listening (cringing) and judging people’s beer selections, constantly asking myself what the actual fuck I was still doing, back in Iowa, (again), trying to converse with absolute hicks more often than not. I spent a lot of time backing away from political conversations, and this was well before a certain orange con artist rode down his golden escalator.  

There were another half dozen places like Bricks when I left Iowa in 2015, featuring some really excellent beer, some with a focus on Iowa and local Midwest beers specifically. But there was only one or two bottle shops, and they only sold pre-packaged stuff, even if they did offer a wide range of local and imported beers. So you could either post up at bar and explore the taps, or go buy your fancy bottles (and they were mostly still bottles at that time) and drink them somewhere else – but never the two options together.  

And certainly none of that horseplay was welcome at the local breweries. Absolutely not. It’s still often that way in most brewery taprooms around the country, where you’re there to try their beers and that’s it. Post-pandemic, most breweries have their pre-packaged beers to-go, at least here in Oregon, but in the before times it wasn’t always a sure bet. Crowlers – 32oz cans that are poured and sealed to-go and as-ordered – were still catching on in a lot of places when covid rolled through and gave everyone the opportunity to start canning everything. When you went to the brewery you were there to drink their draft beer and that was it, unless you were at a truly progressive pub that had a guest tap or two from another local joint. These days it’ll be a cider or seltzer or (NEW FOR 2023) a non-alcoholic variant, or maybe even some wine to cater to the folks who’d rather drink acid than beer. If you’re reading this, you almost positively have sat in a brewery in your hometown that was quirky and had a bunch of local cred and an interesting food menu and an outdoor patio and at most a dozen beers that were still ‘rough drafts’ compared to what you’d find at the brewpub. 

I have been fortunate to have been a guest or regular customer at many, many, many (hundreds) of breweries over the years. Something like 200+, but that’s a rough estimate. Unfinished concrete floors, some rough-finished wood accents, stainless steel. Lots of glass. Some of these places are better than others but the feeling you’re left with is a capable, young business that has a vision of their future and for their products (hopefully). I found myself at the grand opening of La Cumbre in Albuquerque, on the patio/parking lot of Bold City Brewing in Jacksonville, at the opening festivities of Lion’s Bridge in Cedar Rapids, and talking to brewers of Old Capitol Brewing in Iowa City (now River Ridge in Davenport) when they were still pushing out their first batches for sale at the pub.  

TREEHOUSE. yep.

The thing all these breweries had in common (at first) was that they were only selling their beer at the brewery itself, or to a very limited selection of restaurants and pubs that had somehow gotten wind of their beer, and often had to get the kegs themselves. I had tried Bold City’s IPA and brown ales at the monthly Artwalks in downtown JAX, where they would set up a keg and hand tapper and give away beer for a nominal tip from the 2nd floor of the old library. They were still working on the brewery, with difficulty getting the permits and operating license from the city. That is one quiet secret in the industry – many of these breweries have made thousands of gallons of test batches on their equipment before they ever sell a single pint. That beer goes somewhere…

The business model is uniform, with little variation in the approach overall. The stories of these places are with the owners and brewers and wives and parents of the people who have opened them, and they are the heart of this industry. But they’re self-limiting in scope, and that left them hanging when lockdown closed their primary and secondary sources of revenue; on-site sales and keg sales to draft retail outlets, often through larger distributors if they were lucky, evaporated overnight.  

I had my head down in that period myself, and it was painful to read about the constriction of so many dreams, so many gallons of beer dumped, so much wasted effort because there was simply no way for any of it to get to market. I guess there was a certain amount of ‘correction’ of the market overall in a sense, with marginal breweries scrambling to correct that limited business model. There was panic everywhere. And this is where the differences of the places I’ve described above come out and make an impact in how they have gotten through the last few years, and where they see themselves. I’m taking the time to go over the different kinds of drinkeries I’ve seen because there are variables at play to keep track of, if you want an accurate picture of the bigger industry. If you were a brewery that didn’t have a strong packaging operation at the end of 2019, you were probably in trouble 6 months later. If you were a gastropub or taproom in any state that took lockdown seriously, you were hurting pretty bad. If you were a bottle shop you were probably doing alright as soon as they relaxed retail sales outlets (many were able to stay open completely, and saw a surge of new business as breweries all over the country suddenly started canning).  

IT’S NOT LIKE THAT WHERE I LIVE, NOT AT ALL 

Well, this is just one man’s opinion, okay? I’ve been spending a lot more time reading industry materials recently and most of it lines up to what I already felt, on the whole. I had a 3rd shift job during covid and have always fought to find motivation and mood to write things like this. I am barely breaking the surface of these topics, and spending too much time on twitter simply promoting myself and catching up on other material, and the industry is changing so fast it’s hard to get to everything I want to connect together. Of course I don’t know what the local tap scene is like in Ashville or Miami or anywhere else, for that matter. I have nurtured this little dream of being a professional beer tourist for a long time, writing drafts and talking about beer endlessly to anyone that would listen (People ask “Do you work at a brewery?” more than they ask for my name) just because it was a comfortable hobby, and I didn’t want to ruin my hobby. I’ve said that before and will again, it’s why I don’t want to commit to a single brewery – for some reason I sabotage all the good things in my life.  

The flip side of this is that I’m aware of so much more going on than I would be if I were a fanboy of just one local brewery. I try to be fair and generous when reviewing my life (haha I don’t review your beer it just happens to be in MY hand at the moment, lucky you) so you can feel reasonably confident in my opinions, except where I’ve said so explicitly (see my above pleas for funding).  

WHAT?

In order for other people to understand my opinions better, I just wanted to explain the places I drink beer a little more. Where you drink your beer determines what you drink, and some places are more suited to certain types of drinking than others. I prefer the Oregon version of the bottle shop, where I can peruse many types of beer from many different breweries all over the country, selecting just the right beer for my immediate mood (or just as often wandering for ten minutes, culling hundreds of beers into a top-5 list before settling on just one) – even though there are often dozens of great breweries in the same area as the bottle shop. I wonder if people in other states would appreciate this kind of retail outlet, and reasonably relax state laws to facilitate a hybrid retail model like I enjoy in Oregon, if only they knew there was another way.  

Maybe there’s a subset of people out there that are more interested in this kind of personal take on the industry itself. I’m a little too honest (if I’m honest) and I’m okay with that if you all are. Maybe you just need something to read while you wait at your favorite taproom for your friends. If you talk about any of this, you can let ‘em know you were right about beer. That’s a shameless plug. Repeat it so you’ll remember when your friends ask you how you know so much about these things all of a sudden. I’m thinking about what I could do to help other people write more about beer (and, increasingly, other related industries under OLCC regulation) and if I can inspire others to jump in and not worry about what it looks like, cheers to that. Obviously, I’d like to get paid, and there’s only so much room at the top…but I’ll allow groupies and cheerleaders and hangers-on to also enjoy the ride.  

IT’S ALL BOUT YOU, INNIT?  

Duh. Seriously though, the next few years will be rough for the folks that have survived so much already. They need your support in ways that are familiar to so many people now – like their posts on social media, write them up and share your positive reviews on google and yelp, check their beers in and even rate them (gasp! Check out a post I did on reviewing beer from 2020) . There are so many reasons to get more involved in your local beer scene before you even crack a fresh can. As I write this, I’m chatting with the bartender of the Beaverton outpost of Ex Novo, tossing around ideas, and she’s taking photos for the brewery socials and I’m trying to take a decent shot of a tall and dark lager, and it’s like a shared struggle for just a moment. I don’t have to work for a brewery to work for them – this is one of the only industries where your participation matters directly to the people you’ll see while you’re there. Aside from walking into the kitchen and running a few racks of plates through the dish machine, you can’t get much more involved than repping your favorite flagship or wax-dipped bottle. Maybe your favorite company will see you out there and find room for you on their payroll. It could happen, I know another guy named Jeff who is doing better and better every time I check in with him. He’d tell me patience is a virtue, or something really zen like that. And I’d ask him to sign another Beer Bible because I gave my last one to my friend. Because I support my people.  
 
Cheers to you, wherever you have your next pint. Get out there and have fun.  

Wheels Down – DSM

Dry January…air.

I have now been in the rarefied air of mid-central Iowa for several days* and boy do I feel…cold? It’s Iowa in January and there’s just enough snow on the ground to remind me/you that it’s frosty outside, and it seriously discourages me from doing anything much outdoors, I can tell you that. A crisp breeze from the west will quickly convince you to go inside if you do wander into the unheated place accidentally or foolishly.  *written in real-time posted a week later

I am currently solo at LUA Brewing in downtown-ish Des Moines, having a few 5 oz tasters, which is something I almost never do unless I’m trying to visit a bunch of breweries in one swing. It’s been a while, though, since I had the explicit goal of making the rounds in a place, and I’ve been given some keys to a vehicle and a mandate to enjoy myself. My friend and wingman is on family duty, as his wife developed a double ear infection or something entirely more painful than I’d like to think about, and they’ve got an 8 week old and two older boys to feed or hose down or feed baby goats, IDK (insert parenting duty here). 

Why is it weeks and not months when talking about baby age? I don’t know, I’m a beer nerd and children are completely foreign territory for me. I like the ones that are a little bit bigger and don’t throw up on themselves (or me) all the time, he’s got two of those and they’re fun enough when the tiny one in blankets is sleeping. ANYWAYS, my friend insisted on flying me out, which is something that I’m extremely grateful and fortunate for, and got me a hotel room at a converted old folks home in near-bumfuck, Iowa (it’s the next town over), and the keys to an ’06 Range Rover that goes ‘BURRRBLE’ and so I told him to stay at home and do the attentive husband thing while I went out drinking beer, and…well, I made choices. He is successful and has a family and I get to go drink beer whenever I want.  

Sometimes, the two paths cross

Uh, yeah. 

I am pleased to see the general atmosphere of these places is great. I went to a small pizzeria next to a small brewery in a small town in Iowa and they made great food and the beer was tasty and I sincerely hope this is the way things are for most places around the country. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not, though, but that’s one of those posts we save for the crazy uncle thread on reddit.  I have to be mindful of the things I say there, in some of these places, because Iowans tend to be conservative – despite knowing better – and I could get caught up in some drama for simply talking about facts. Still, I love how people try to pretend the beer they drink doesn’t have some sort of political underpinning, like they’re not making a conscious statement by the beverage they drink. I wonder what mine is? 

Spicy jalapeno cheesy bread and a tasty brown ale from Fender Brewing in Polk City, Iowa

I’m better than you..?

haaa haaaa…

I have moved down the street to Big Grove’s DSM facility, and I say ‘facility’ because this place is enormous by most standards. It’s an older brick warehouse building with lots of updated renovation work and exposed modernization to the bones. There is a large brewing area on one end that is probably bigger than many primary systems at places I’ve visited. I was still in Cedar Rapids when Big Grove opened their first location in Solon, Iowa. Solon is basically right between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, the two quickest growing cities in the state (at the time), and the demand for craft beer was just starting to explode in 2013, so they have apparently found themselves with an excess of ambition and capital, with several large properties in Iowa already. They are ready for big growth, and I’m intrigued by the large scale they’re working on compared to their competitors.  

I plan on visiting Confluence a bit later. They’ve celebrated their 10th mark recently, and there’s some similarities to consider, but also some differences in approach. In the same light, LUA has a whole different vibe than Big Grove, and they’re just around the block from each other. Exile is also nearby, and they’ve got a whole…different thing for themselves that’s a unique identity from the other places. If this feels familiar, I’m glad. My time in Portland was starting to feel a bit bland despite my best efforts to explore new breweries – there is only so much stainless steel and rough-cut pine you can absorb before it all starts to blur together. There is still a same-ness that bothers me here, but it’s understandable when you consider that small-town Iowa doesn’t have old large warehouse spaces that are also conducive to a brewing and restaurant operation that also has scenic views and/or character.  

I mean…there are only so many roll-up window door-walls you can fit in a given space 

It’s kind of strange to see the amount of effort spent to install glass-windowed roll-up doors on every wall, at both the new construction and old remodel spaces, since Iowa is freezing for more than a few months a year and the rest isn’t always ideal for outdoor dining. I shouldn’t be surprised, though – the last few years have proven the need for flexibility and the need to grab every dollar you can when you can, often by expanding however the local authorities will let you.  

In Portland you find that a lot of street parking has been taken over by ‘sheds’ for dining. It was becoming more common before covid, but the relaxation of rules for these things has allowed many small business owners to expand their operating area without having to build anything substantial. There’s a permit they can get to take over parking in front of their storefront and then they’re free to build a platform. I could be wrong but from the range of designs and materials used to the placement you’d have to wonder how stringent the process was to get approval for these things; a few years after the pandemic’s first waves, many of these platforms are quickly falling apart, since they were made with plywood and left outdoors without much work done to have them painted or protected. Some blocks have derelict platforms, leftovers from failed joints that simply shut their doors and left that shit outside for someone else to deal with. The more industrious homeless folks take the good bits first, and then the rest just rots in the street, neglected, a reminder of how the city will chew you up if you don’t move fast enough. Over Christmas I rented a room to shelter from the yearly ice/snow storm, and there were the remains of a platform right around the corner from a fairly busy intersection – but this had been a personal effort, it seemed. There had been a tent, and inside the tent…I’m completely serious here… there was a full drum set. It was almost like someone had set up a practice space inside a tent on this little platform just randomly in front of someone’s house and left it for the storm to destroy. 

I don’t anticipate that most cities in Iowa will have to worry about things like derelict dining platforms rotting in their streets, but the need for the massive roll-up doors and expansive outdoor seating is at best a wishful one. But maybe downtown Des Moines is this thriving monster of pedestrian consumerism, and the crumbling brick homes and apartments nearby are, umm, going to be gentrified soon? There are a lot of empty storefronts here. Some of the older homes are in bad shape and you know there isn’t a whole lot of help to be had if you’re struggling in Iowa.  

Before I went downtown, I stopped by the family cemetery plot to visit grandma, and then by her old house, which…will be not long for this world. It’s a small house that was built a long, long time ago and there’s not much worth saving, sadly. I doubt you could even get a loan to buy the place unless you wanted to pay straight cash, and hey – I’m sure you could do that with some fat stacks. The location makes it a valuable plot, I’m sure it’ll hold a large modern home within a year or two. This has been a weird time for me, because in addition to all this stuff I’ve recently gotten back on that social media horse, to try connecting with people and stuff, only to realize it’s not…the people aren’t there. Fakebook is like a time capsule with living artifacts in it and I keep hoping for some reason it’ll work for what I want it to do but it never has and it never will. Eh? 

You’re drunk, old man. Go home.

*Some time later* I find myself at a place called Exile Brewing. They’re right down the street from the other two I was at already, a half-mile, maybe. The heated seat in the Range Rover barely got warm, it was so close. Big Grove is a great place for gathering people, but in early January, the wind gets through those big window-doors and it was a bit cold for my comfort. I tried some beers and felt like moving on, so now I’m surround by CHRISTMAS, balls-deep in a hellscape of sparkly snowflakes and lights and decorations hung from strings every 2 feet. No joke, it’d be a bit of a nightmare for certain types of people. I am at a dumb point in my day where I don’t really find anything on the taplist inspiring and the plan to keep visiting breweries starts to fall apart a bit without effort. Why am I doing this?Surely there is something more productive I could be doing with this visit. Self-doubt is a killer. It follows me everywhere. (As I edit this, I know the in-your-face blitz of lights and gaudy decorations had a serious impact on my mood that night). 

I ordered a big stout for some reason, but just a small pour because I’m conflicted. Jesus on a Forklift, 12.5% and eh? I dislike wasting beer but I’m not above leaving a pour behind because it’s just not working for me. I think the atmosphere of this place isn’t helping, now I’m hearing some latin Christmas samba shit, this isn’t the time for a quiet rumination on the beer. I’ve got to go. Maybe next time I’m in town Exile won’t be full-on sensory overload city. I realize they’re looking to stand out a little, but this sort of gambit is 50/50 and best used for a very limited time.  
 

The look of a small, frightened animal

My last stop was Confluence brewing, a standout as far as I’m concerned, but their brewery and taproom are situated in an odd part of town and they don’t have a kitchen, so the place was almost empty when I rolled in after 5, maybe. I sat at the bar next to a guy who was interested in crystals and some interesting theories about radio waves. I run across these folks a lot, perched at the bar like it’s the neighborhood spot, theorizing on things with a…limited background knowledge. Or maybe a smaller vision than their theory requires to make any working sense (like ‘why would this thing you think be helpful to anyone?’). A lot of the time, these folks don’t get challenged in any helpful way, and just rely stuff they might have heard on certain ‘news’ networks, for instance. When you try to lead them to the ultimate conclusion of whatever theory they have, and show them some alternatives, sometimes you can have some great conversations. Like, why would ‘rich people’ pump chemicals into the air that they also breathe (it’s an old chemtrails argument that’s guaranteed to start a fight if you push it far enough)?  
 

Anyways, it was entertainment while I sipped on some Ferryman’s Death By Chocolate. I had the un-flavored Ferryman’s in bottle-form and I honestly enjoyed it better. I also have a bottle of Ferryman’s peanut butter, so they’re working the barrel program pretty hard. There were multiple barleywines on tap, a personal favorite style of mine, but since I’d already had several tasters of great Iowa beer, I only had a few sips of the BW. Oatmeal cookies and monster cookies were great little stouts with a unique flavor that broke from the rest of the oat/milk stouts I’ve had lately. I had many miles to drive to get back to my crappy little hotel room in some tiny little township only accessible by 2-lane roads, and it was starting to get windy and snowy out.  

It can be hard to navigate a path through these beer lists when you’re visiting with a very limited amount of time and sobriety to manage, especially when you’re out doing it alone. I’ve been doing it a long time, but it’s different here than my usual beering grounds around greater Portland. Each one of these breweries that I went to had an extensive list of styles on hand, with some a focus by each, but overall a general attempt to have several styles on hand. The IPAs here are alright, with the ‘NE HAZY’ being dominant. Most of the rest of the efforts are devoted to lagers and mild brown beers, depending on the brewery. You might not find something that gets your attention at a specific brewery, but since you can’t just walk down the street to a different spot, you’re left making choices and sometimes you find yourself enjoying a beer you wouldn’t normally have had. It’s a strange place to be in, and I’m sure it colors the local experience quite a bit, so I might have to come back to this topic at some point.  

I wrapped my night up at a little place called Fender Brewing in Polk City. On the first night in town I’d had some of their beer at the pizza place next door, and I was hoping to talk to an owner or brewer or whatever. Instead, I got to harangue a bewildered stand-in who admittedly knew not much about the beers while a 5-pack of cougars talked post-holiday shit to each other on the other side of the cozy taproom. The snow had accumulated, and it was nearing 9pm when I finally headed out, after a quick sample of some other beers on tap and the not-unusual feeling that I had maybe frightened a local again. Smile and nod when I’m around if you don’t know wtf I’m talking about and eventually I’ll go away. Probably. I try to tip. 

I SAID I’M TRYING

I am safely thousands of miles away now and can disclose my adventures on the return to the fields of corn. I had tried to broadcast my presence and hoped somebody (who I dunno anybody?) might come out or recommend something I hadn’t seen but as usual I am almost invisible to the algorithms and interesting people and women all at the same time, so nobody was interested. Or responded. Or even saw my tweets trying to share my posts and fakebook will probably throw that shit up in a couple of weeks. The few people who read my stuff say it’s good but I guess you’ve got to have some interest in any of this stuff and most of the people who do don’t take it as seriously as I do. Probably.  

Real Human. Real Airport.

Recent updates to wordpress have of course obliterated my photos and layout so I’ve got to do all of that again. Yay. Maybe I should get another crappy regular job. Sigh. 

STOP ALREADY

I am at the sit-down place in the DSM airport, a large space with a bar and a number of tap handles featuring all-Iowa beer. The staff have an assortment of brewery t-shirts on, the likes of which I would have had to drive hundreds of miles to obtain on my own. Even though I know it’s just work wear, and most of these folks don’t care much, I AM JEALOUS. I promised myself I would try to expand my wardrobe beyond brewery t-shirts and hoodies, but I am not equipped, mentally, to be comfortable in like…I don’t know, a polo shirt? I had to wear collard shirts for a job I had (very hazy memory here) and I hated it, but I’d be alright if I could wear brewery polos. Probably. Ok, I wouldn’t. Unless I was like a sales rep or something. If you’re reading this, and unlimited logo’d high-end shirts are your thing, hit me up on twitter. I just now realized I know who to get in touch with for my initial ideas but I’d still love to hear from the apparel folks who are making inroads on the brewery swag front.

The sky is mostly clear and the sun is out, yet I know it’s still below freezing on the other side of this glass, and I’m reminded of what it’s like to live in Iowa…despite the member berries promising me happiness if I return to the cornfields and vast distances of the Iowa life. My melancholy mood hasn’t exactly abated, but I’m not holding on for my mind while I sip on this pint and listen to actual 80’s electro-pop. I am quite self-absorbed today, much more so than normal, which is probably ok since I always end up judging the people I see. Like the 4 people who just walked in, with three of them wearing big flannel prints. I want to walk up to the guy wearing the solid-color fleece and ask him if he didn’t check his email this morning, or if the other 3 intentionally iced him out of the flannel crew. I am not going to judge, because I almost wore some very comfortable LLBEAN flannel on my trip but decided against it for *looks down* a Confluence Brewing hoodie.

I think I might have missed a motorsports event, a lot of these folks are wearing sprint-car team hoodies. Aside from beer, my other easiest-access passion is motorsports. I am immensely intersted in engineering and materials science and a lot of the intergral parts of the automotive industry, but the guys that get to drive fast always get my attention. I’m also coping with something strange there, along with the mortality events of family, which I talked about in another post.

Ken Block died last weekend in a snowmobiling accident, and it’s not something easily dismissed if you’re into the subcultures that have helped the automotive industry evolve beyond the 90’s ideals of basic appliances on wheels. I wasn’t always the biggest fan of him but he developed this thing he loved doing into an entire industry parallel to the mainstream automotive and autosports segments, and had fun doing it. I could only dream of finding the niche he did, but I still keep my eyes out. He worked hard, and had a great mindset, something that has limited me in a very real way (see some of my other posts on my struggles) but Ken never lifted. That was a real thing, he never lifted. His commitment to what he was doing was 100% and I can not honestly hope to find that energy inside myself until I fend the thing that I am willing to commit to in the same way. Of course, I won’t be doing smokey burnouts and hanging a wheel of the side off Pike’s Peak anytime soon…or will I? The future is wide open.

I’ve got to board now, with a belly full of fried tenderloin and Iowa IPAs, but I will be back with more. I’ll leave you with a slogan Ken had commissioned a few years ago for his rally car designs and general merch –  JUST DON’T DIE

Hotel Rooms

As I wind down the clock before my flight back to Portland, I’m left with that peculiar feeling of loss that comes every time Ipack my things up and leave another hotel room in another city. I’m sure most people don’t think about it much, but with every check-out I feel the lost possibilities of the days spent there, or I try to hold onto the memories I’ve made, to cement them in my mind so they’ll be there forever.

I know I made about the most of this trip I could have. A year and a half ago, I was here for my friend’s wedding, and I couldn’t arrange my own transportation to go visit the breweries I wanted to see. My friend was busy – even then, we made it downtown for some drinks on the night I flew in. When I left for Portland on that trip, I was really quite bummed about being basically stuck in a fairly remote hotel in late summer, when the places I wanted to go would have been heaving with energy and people. My friend promised we’d make the tour I wanted to do, and here I am. Sadly, I was still unable to get to all the places I wanted to see, but not for lack of trying. You can never prepare for another family member getting sick when they’re the ones that offered to look after the kids while you go somewhere else overnight (in this case, an overnight stay in Cedar Rapids).

I didn’t get to Cedar Rapids, and am instead flying out of Des Moines today. My friend has paid for almost everything on this trip, and I am grateful in ways I can’t express easily. I am humbled by his help and friendship, and it’s another confusing emotion I have to pack away while I edit and write and get some thoughts together to make this trip more than just another adventure I’ve been able to have at someone else’s expense. I have been struggling to find purpose and direction, in a literal, very real sense of the phrase, and having a chance to break the routines I got stuck in after losing my RV trailer is worth more than the financial debt I’ll always owe him in the back of my mind. Someday, I say to myself, I’ll pay him back. Somehow.

I have seen some things here that have inspired me even more than I was before to write about beer and the industry itself. There are trends and things happening that will shake up the small taproom even more than it already has, but will also cause the top-heavy big companies start to teeter a bit as they’re devoured from below. I see one brewery here in Iowa that has set it’s sights on something ambitious, and I want to find out more about them before I put together a piece there. The vibes and feeling I got from the folks at these places was pretty good overall, and it was also very young. I can’t say how much of that is just a reflection of the typical workforce in restaurants or if it’s a genuine reflection of the way beer and brewing has become more ingrained in our culture. How much longer the craft brew scene remains male-centric is open for debate, but the interest from younger consumers, especially in the midwest, is encouraging.

This trip I was able to go where I wanted, and though I kept that to a very small number of breweries and a restaurant or two, I nonetheless feel I spent my time well enough. I made one last visit to my grandparent’s house, where I spent many summer days, before it vanishes from this earth. I missed my ‘step’-grandfather’s passing by a few weeks, and the dirt hadn’t yet settled on his grave. The years of slow neglect were evident, and I have some definite guilt about how quickly I left Iowa when I was younger. My grandmother passed more than a decade ago, and Ed had been more involved in my life as I was growing up than my blood grandfathers had been. I probably owed him more over the years, but it’s too late to change any of that now. I just have to hold on to the memories of that tiny house, with the wood-fired furnace and the cats my grandma used to feed, with the big tree in the corner and the fishing poles in the dirt-floored garage.

I’ve got some editing to do on the beer stuff I wrote over the last few days, maybe I’ll be able to get it done on the plane, or my 6 hour layover. I think maybe I’ll go sit in the hot tub for a half hour before I have to clean up and check out. I’ve got a lot to think about. My grandparents here in DSM worked hard, almost every day of their lives, right up until the end, and everything they built, owned and left behind will be gone soon. Nothing left but a headstone and memories. Struggling with the weight of it all, and I hadn’t even considered it would bother me so much before the trip.

But, like I said, I have seen things and people have pulled up this very blog AS I WATCHED (talk about validation!) because they were so interested in what I had to say that they’d actually read some of it, too. I hope to follow through with engaging content, it will continue to be more personal than professional for a while but I’m moving in the right direction, I think. My friend here has tools to help me monetize and get eyes, but I don’t feel ready just yet. I need to get back on my feet in Portland and stable before I can be free of the anxieties that have plugged me up since August. Stay tuned.

Iowa’s finest

Pre-flight jitters

I’ll be standing in line at PDX in around 12 hours, internally screaming at myself to stop judging everyone and relax a little so i don’t look sus. In order to wind down some of the remianing time, i’ve perched myself on a stool at Loyal Legion in Beaverton and ordered a HUB Velvet ESB.

I have been rewarded for my selection. I didn’t even check untapped to see if ive; have it before, which isn’t abnormal but I skipped a lot of the other hoiliday and seasonal stuff for a nice warm red. My experience the other night at Von Ebert has re-awakened my desire to break away from the sheerly dark stouts and pervasive ipas I do so enjoy. I spent several hours sorting and packing clothes and my carry-on, remembering to check in for my flight and grab my shitty middle seat confirmation (goddammit). i am grateful for the tickets, since I am not paying for them, but…fuck.

TIME FOR A NEW CAN OF AXE

Hahaaa I’m kidding I practically passed out the other morning at the gym when someone doused themselves in some bug spray in the locker room before leaving quickly. I was unimpressed with their choice of aerosol anti-woman elixir, but it might have been more that the gym I go to never has hot water. No, not ever. Nope. I’ve been the only person in the place at 4am…because #vanlife ugh…and can’t get myself worked up to a steamy lather. It’s frustrating. I look forward to soaking in a bathtub since my accomodations don’t include a hot tub. Again, I’m not paying.

So like wtf then this is a beer blog isn’t it why should I care?

Imean, seriously, what else do you have to do at 3am while you sit on the toilet but read some weird life shit? Do you have any idea how hard it is to sort laundry while sitting cross legged in the back of an SUV? I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right outfit for the flight (hoodie?Zip-up insulated jacket and a t-shirt? Maybe the jacket and a long-sleeved shirt. Of course my brand-new green doc martens because fuck the line…)and trying to pack some other crap into the carry-on for a 5-day tour. I also packed some Great Notion, Level, and Breakside cans into a box only to discover a very long line at the post office. Ihad seriously considered just drinking one or two of them myself but I braved the line and got some supplies headed…east!

stop playing games, where are you going?

IOWA. I’m going to Iowa. Des Moines, and then a night in Cedar Rapids, my hometown(ish). A long-time friend offered to have me visit him and his new baby and the family, at his expense, and how could I turn down that offer? I went to his wedding a year and a half ago, and couldn’t get a rental car for some reason, which meant I couldn’t visit the breweries or taprooms I would have if I’d been mobile. It’s almost compulsive, at this point, but I could be doing worse things with my time than chasing beers and hoping that someday I’ll find what I’ve been looking for out there, and my friend shares some of that love of the adventure, so I’m heading to the flyover country on a big and then a smaller jet plane. Probably in the not-window seat.

I have just obliterated a basket of dirty fries, and washed those down with a delicious west coast IPA from Fracture and Behemoth. Gotta love those collaborations. I am now off to slumber, and then prepare for a date I somehow got. Seriously, I don’t know what to expect but I was invited to a NYE’thing’ by someone who gets off work at 11:30 and it was completely unexpected but complicates my night a bit. My brain is already occupied with the trip planning and now a female protagonist has stepped into the frame suddenly, and I am…almost okay with it.

So long as I make my flight, I shall report on the state of the Iowa brewing scene to the best of my abilities, asterisk asterisk asterisk. Everything is so much more family-friendly, I have no doubt that the places I want to visit in Iowa will be super-chill with the family units and we’ll just have a grand old time. I hope to use this time to write and work on some other stuff too – it’s not often you get a complete break from your current attachments and occupations, and in my case it’s been a long six months or so since I was allowed to just take a breath without already knowing where my next 8 steps were going to be. Freedom can be incredibly tiring.

I hope to be able to spend time working on this space, since it went awol in the typical wordpress updates. I happen to have actual…training(?) and an education in…let’s just say web design theory. and a friend that’s a mastermind advertising search type. I imagine most readers of this post will land here some time ine the future, and that’s fine. We’ll see what happens in Iowa this week, the first week of…(holyf) 2023.

I’ve got to get out of here, those fries are long gone and I’m not looking to buy another pint at this point tonight. We’ll see you all in ’23

Who is Jo?

I dunno

Ode to Jo

While on a post-holiday shopping trip to the dreaded city center, I decided to calm my nerves after spending $xxx dollars on some boots with some drinky drinky. Von Ebert Brewing was right up the street, and since they focused on more sessionable beers, I knew I wouldn’t get in too much trouble for sitting at the bar for a few hours when it came time to get home.

From the choices available in the immediate vicinity of, say, Powell’s Books (BECAUSEYOUSHOULDREADMOREYOUSAVAGE) Von Ebert’s is oddly comforting after multiple visits to this location…over the years. It is not much different than it was if you’d visited this space in say…2015, not visually. But the beers on offer are geared more towards a modern, more conservative drinker in the face of unrelenting IPA progress.

But that is not to imply that they are not progressive in this art, indeed I’m drinking an incredible beer they have categorized as a ‘czech amber lager’, and I have only just realized this is the kind of beer I’ve dreamed about for years. If it sounds like I’m fawning, it might be the tiny bubbles, or the tightness of the new boots, or maybe they’re not made from real leather and I’m about to get cancer from the fumes (but also incredibly high so YAY).

I’m looking at the last couple of ounces in the bottom, and it’s lost most of the liveliness I saw a when it was fresh, but the delicate sweetness and caramel are still giving my cheeks a little flush of heat with every drink. A last gulp, and it’s alive again, with character but still not anything beyond the average flash of any other clean pils or lager, except that’s what has my attention. It’s quietly perfect.

Italians. They always have to compete. I am seriously impressed with the amber lager though. Please lets have more of these, but I’m looking down the menu already and have to check out the neighbors.

I’m on to the Agostini Pils, listed as a dry-hopped Italian pilsner. It is also incredibly clean, almost zesty like a fruit juice. Fine bubbles keep the head tiny creamy and, again, subtly aromatic, throwing a grassy touch with some spicy notes to let you know it was dry-hopped. Aside from the head, the beer is crystal clear with a light golden tint. A fine touch is at work behind the glass windows. here.

Agostini Pils

I’m waiting for a Wednesday night food special – limited run pizza and pulled pork specials for an hour – and grateful for the light ABV. As I take in the space, it’s clear they are proud of the awards won with a wide range of styles, with a procession of banners fluttering overhead along the wall above the fermenter viewing portals. The long, long bar top starts on one wall and remains unbroken for about half the length of the room, only bending back into the wall to allow access to the bathrooms and other half of the building. Even so, it’s still only a small part of the main dining area, which is dedicated to open tables and segmented booths. Big windows and open rafters give an almost outdoors vibe.

Aside from the beer, not much has changed in the space since the previous operation called it quits and went back to Ohio. But that’s more than enough. As market demands shift and people look for more things to like, medium and lighter full-flavored brews are in moving off the shelves in volumes I would have absolutely not believed a decade ago.

But here, in downtown IPAtown, sits a brewery with nothing above 8% abv on tap . The stout on tap is 6.7%. I try really hard to remember places like this are thriving when I’m washing down 10% BBA stouts, but the powerful nature of those beers has always been more attractive to me than piss-water american pilsners. These beers are an active reproach to decades of american laziness in brewing, passionate people wielding modern brewing techniques to bring the full potential of the styles we already love (by sales volume) out of the shadows and into the mouths of consumers.

It is hard to talk about beer without looking over your shoulder at the capitalist monster in the corner of the room. It just lurks there, massive hand out, demanding payment every time you even look in that general direction. I see Von Ebert cans all over the Portland area, and have seen them well stocked in Bend and Eugene. This is good. They are maybe half full tonight, in the middle of holiday week 2022, with a very respectable range of beers on tap, aimed directly at an affluent consumer base that is too well educated to be buying coors light at the corner in thirty packs (except out of sheer ironic insta clicks). They are joined by several other notable brewers in Oregon that focus on light and medium ‘traditional’ styles of beer, to varying degrees of faithfulness and creativity. Heater Allen and zoiglhaus come to mind immediately, but since I’m sitting at Von Ebert, we’ll keep talking about them.


I am currently trying to find inspiration to finish a piece detailing the differences between a brewery and a bottle shop or brewpub and taphouse. It’s a complicated topic that I run up against in these situations – I’m so used to having a wall of coolers to look at when trying to talk about beer. That just reminds me how arcane this topic is though, and how few people live in places where these differences would make any impact on a night out, but maybe I can inspire others somehow.

Have I mentioned I have a patreon? You could sign up and, err, demand I go places..?And drink beers you like? I’m going to try the 6.9% IPA now that I have stepped into the window of special pizza haooy hour. A boat with No Name, it would seem, went on a three hour tour and never returned. Nobody else got my dumb joke.

As with the other beers I’ve had tonight, this one has subtle layers of malty goodness, hiding behind a quick hoppy bite that really turns out to be a happy lick.

errm. I really do try to keep track on untapped, which posts automatically to Twitter, so if you want to know what kind of beer I’m drinking in Portland, you can follow that pretty easily. Or join my Patreon. At least I’m honest about what I”m doing out here.

OK, I’LL GIVE YOU SOME EYE CANDY FOR FREE.

*smootchies*

LINE GOES UP

Inflation? Nah. Just greed. 

I just watched a segment produced by CNBC on YouTube about the ‘decline’ for ABInBev’s ‘fortunes’ as the drinks industry continues to evolve past mass-produced American lagers – aka ‘DOMESTIC’ beer. I like doing research this way because someone else has already done a lot of the legwork of compiling earnings reports and putting together charts and coming to conclusions that I can work with. Someday (he says to himself) I’ll be in a place where I can dig into this stuff on my own, but over the last few years I’ve stopped trying to keep up with the sources. COVID definitely didn’t help a remote writer keep track of this stuff; breweries had to scramble to stay open, and a lot of reporting on these issues was confused by the ongoing disruptions and changes to the economy, and even laws relating to the ‘beverage industry’, as one of the wonks on at CNBC called it. She wasn’t wrong, overall, to see the bigger operations surrounding ABI and Moleson-Coors and the others, and call it like it is, but the problem there is that most smaller craft breweries aren’t working the whole market – they’re focused on their particular niche, in their small market, trying to maintain some presence in the face of the big corps’ efforts to CONSTANTLY RAISE PROFIT MARGINS. 

It should be pretty obvious by now that our culture lets things happen that do not benefit the bulk of us. In this case, I’m talking about a massive international corporation pointing their money vacuum at any and everything in the hopes it’ll suck some loose change out of a previously overlooked corner of the industry. AB has bought up a massive number of smaller operators and producers in order to saturate the shelves of stores across the world with their products. This is simply to bolster revenue, and as always, PROFITS for the shareholders while reducing costs any way they can across the board, in every company and niche they’ve bought into. It should disgust the average American consumer, but then they’ll bitch endlessly at the cost of craft beer, which is only as high as it is because the bigger players are squeezing everyone else as much as they can. AB-INBEV doesn’t need that extra half-percentage point of profits to remain in business, but many of the breweries that opened up in the last decade are forced to charge as much as the market will bear for the simple need to continue to exist. A fraction of a point in revenue is enough to knock the front of house staff onto part-time hours when you’ve only got a dozen employees…  

Your small local brewery doesn’t have an R&D budget to employ people to travel the world looking for new products to push in the hopes of opening new sub-markets (that they will then have a near monopoly hold on until the rest of the industry catches up). The continued procession of sour and fruit-added beers is a great example, but if you really want to see an example of this, look at the non-alcoholic sales of brands that had previously focused on boozy staples. If the numbers I saw are accurate, the segment has seen nearly 20% growth over the last few years, a rate nearly impossible to achieve if the big breweries weren’t involved. Just consider how unlikely it is that your neighborhood brewpub has extra capacity – let alone the nascent demand – for NA products. As a brewery owner, before the recent explosion, you’d have a hard time looking at your product line-up and coming to the conclusion that you needed an NA product. Only the most prescient breweries saw the market trends and started these product lines before they exploded…I can think of a few in the PNW, my favorite being Three Magnets Brewing out of Washington. But that is an operation that has always been at the bleeding edge of new beer styles and products, including seltzer and pre-mixed cocktails. Other breweries would struggle to get anything off the ground in time to hit the first wave of these new product categories’ popularity, for many reasons. These are complicated decisions to make in an industry that can change almost overnight and could be disastrous if taken too far.  

The CNBC piece (release on Nov.29.’22) focused on AB specifically, which has expanded it’s ownership stakes in companies that aren’t even related to beer, but share the same shelf space and consumer habits – kombucha, seltzers, pre-mixed cocktails, and ‘energy’ drinks that fall outside of the sports drink category, which they already dominate (Gatorade is often put on grocery store shelves by the local big beer distributor, in my area it’s Columbia Distributing). They simply WEREN’T MAKING ENOUGH PROFITS OFF THE BEER ALONE. Endless corporate profiteering and mergers demanded more and more profit off higher revenues, which is the core reason we find ourselves in this spiral of endless inflation, after decades of this kind of shit has eroded any pretense of fair competition for anyone that doesn’t have the same two-dozen corporate officers that rotate around the boardrooms of these companies. That era of the Wolf of Wall Street in the 80’s manifested itself in the very top of these ever-expanding companies, driving the LINE GOES UP mindset, which is unsustainable in any industry, and will cause harm if allowed to fester in boardrooms. 

One result is that now, Budweiser finds itself painted in a corner as a brand, since its own corporate direction has increased the options of target consumers, and the competition it faces from similar brands – some within the same corporate umbrella. While scrappy micro and regional breweries were starting to crack the market in the face of many millions of dollars in advertising spending, AB et.al were searching for the next big thing to fracture the market down even more, just to gain that percentage point of quarterly profits, year after year. In the most glaring of developments, all that ad spending has created a market for flavored hard seltzers, which has also been taken up by the smaller brewers, furthering the chaos in a market described as ‘tight’ by most. Along with that explosive N/A segment growth, it would seem that the biggest beer brands in the U.S. and most of the world are struggling to maintain interest, while they expand heavily into seltzers.  

Huh. Imagine that. 

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I remember – vaguely – watching as AB started branching out. I really didn’t pay any attention to the timing, but I remember seeing products like Mike’s Hard Lemonade start to take up shelf space right next to the larger format single containers of Bud (et.al).  The Mike’s brand is owned by one of the other big players in the brewing market, which just shows how valuable that change in mindset was among a certain type of younger drinker after two decades (ish, I’m not doing research right now) on the market. Before that, I hazily recall a range of domestic beers that were uninspiring. In the 90’s there was Zima. We banged shots of Red Dog and Mikey’s (the green grenades) because we thought it would get us drunk faster – but also because the stuff tasted terrible and the only way to drink it was quickly. Of course, by the time I was drinking beer, the industry had been pursuing those profits for decades already, with popular brands being bought out, regional breweries becoming properties of the nationals and, eventually, international corporations with little concern for their original consumer markets. 

Zima was the big one in my younger years, a full-on attempt to break into a market that was probably described internally as ‘FEMALE DRINKERS AGED 18-30′. Looking back, it would have been so much easier to find a new segment and expand it since the brewing industry was heavily geared toward male consumers, but the results were disappointing to the balance sheets, and so Zima remains a legendary flop among booze historians. But it left a mark – it openly admitted that there was a market for drinkers who weren’t 20 and male at a time when American consumers were becoming more aware of the possibilities available to them as segmented consumers. It’d be nice to say that in the 90’s, the brewing industry finally saw the ~50% of humans who are female, and subsequently formed around the idea of equality and inclusion of the sexes in both the industry and consumers, but sadly, that’d be a complete lie. Even to this day, the industry seems exclusive of women and POC in general from top to bottom, EXCEPT where they stand to be a profitable segment to cater to. Racism and sexism aren’t direct results of LINE GOES UP business mentality, but the relentless drive for profits above all else doesn’t leave much room for change in the upper ranks. The impressive success of this approach, with revenues of (does actual research and holy jesus2021) $54.3 BILLION, just justifies all of the corporate mergers and bullshit thus far, to the people who matter the most: SHAREHOLDERS. 

But now they’re staring at vastly changed market, with a dated product that hasn’t changed much – if at all – since well before current target consumers were born, with dozens of competing products not just flanking their core business but coming at it the from inside the house. The big players pushed all these new products and brands and segments to grab a few more dollars from the typical grocery-store buyer while subsidizing giant stacks of their mass-produced flagship sub-5% lager product, but now find themselves in trouble as post-covid buying habits have changed the industry in one fundamental way: Everyone has relatively easy access to canning and packaging systems now, and the consumer is burdened with choices. The big beer producers have spent decades locking down beer distribution on a state-by-state level, having spent untold millions of dollars on politicians who created laws that kept them insulated from challenges to their dominance.  

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It’s important to recognize how much companies like AB needed control of local distribution to stay profitable over the decades; the history is far too complicated to go over on a blog (several books could be written on this topic alone). In most states, a producer of booze could not legally sell or distribute their product to consumers or retailers directly and had to rely on a (hypothetically) separate distributor to get their product to market. Early 20th century business practices and the not-minor prohibition movement meant that there was a boy’s club mentality and a motivation to throttle competition wherever possible with the application of money into the legal and justice systems of the time. As post-war spending drove expansion and mergers, fewer people cared about the morality of the blatant bribery and political manipulations that would lead to MORE PROFITS, and turned their heads while the current system was built to cater to large brewers. These systems, put into place many decades ago, were still operating in the same fashion when a little pandemic came along and upended the market for their tiny (tiny) competitors. Small changes had been made in places like Oregon and Washington to allow smaller distributors to handle the breweries that weren’t big enough to get the attention of giants like Columbia (yearly revenues of ~$500million) but overall, self-distribution wasn’t possible in most states for operational, if not purely legal, reasons.  

Suddenly taprooms and brewpubs and the entire retail-draft revenue stream vanished, overnight. Breweries across the country found themselves facing an existential threat – if they could not distribute their beer to retail outlets, they had no way to survive. The cold truth is that without asses in seats, a significant number of breweries with established market share and consumer interest were strictly out of luck (SOL). Plenty of incredibly popular beers have been financed, in part, by the money made at the brewpub selling food alongside the draft. Outside of that tiny footprint, if they didn’t have cans or bottled product already in production…they were fucked. The saving grace of this small industry, though, is the fact that ‘INDEPENDENT’ brewers are still immensely proud of being small producers and wholly owned by locals and employees. These folks have an industry group now, after 20 years of struggles to gain respect in the face of constant belittlement from the corporations afraid for their shelf slots. They went to legislators around the country to lobby for fast – if temporary – changes to liquor laws at the state level in order to help them stay viable in the face of a completely imploded market.  

After some scrambling, though, many small breweries were blessed with the means to start expanding beyond the walls of their taproom onto retail shelves. Here in Oregon, one brewery in particular was renowned for being a draft-only distributor, at least to my mind. Boneyard Brewing, based in Bend, had only done a few limited-release cans before COVID, but their flagship RPM and Hop Venom IPAs could only be found on tap at better places around the state. With everything shutting down almost overnight, though, they needed a new business model, or they’d be out of business shortly. What had appeared to be a resistance to retail-level distribution from Boneyard has since changed to focus on retail distribution, so much so that they’ve embraced large-format 19oz cans that sit right alongside similar cans of BudLight in the same door, for roughly twice the cost (but at 9% for the double IPA, the value is undeniable). The temporary changes made to distro laws initially were often made permanent, so these newly canned beers could be delivered not just to retail outlets, but directly to consumers AT HOME by UPS or other freight service. Many breweries chose to self-distribute, rather than negotiate the process with companies that move a half billion dollars of Bud every year already, meaning they took control of the distribution themselves. It can be tricky, but in a state where people respect the independent craft side of the industry, if you’re a brewer with a solid beer, you’ll find willing outlets for your products. 

Industry plants will tell you that this represents a tiny percentage of overall beer sales in the US….but we’re talking about the relentless NEED FOR PROFITS here. Percentages matter to these people. Fractions of a percentage point of profits represents millions of dollars being paid out to shareholders (and executives, can’t forget about these insanely rich corporate types, can we?), and there really wasn’t a whole lot the big corporations could do to stop these changes without dropping the mask and declaring outright war on smaller producers. Those well-paid execs will trip over themselves to smile and say that any market or segment growth is good for everyone, you know…but they’ll stop short of admitting that they’d prefer to control that growth themselves with their own brands. Greed is ugly. INBEV spends millions of dollars a year on research of all kinds, as I mentioned earlier, in order to be the first to market with EXCITING NEW PRODUCTS! (shudder). The changes to distribution laws in states across the country were something they couldn’t have anticipated, and they’ll be scrambling for a few years to gain traction against these new variables because they were focused on domination instead of actual growth. Go figure.  

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I’ve been trying to straighten up some things in my personal life – if you’re interested, those posts will stay up for a while longer, probably – but this represents some thoughts I’ve had on this topic over the last few years. Much of what I’ve written here is entirely opinion, and not based on research, except where I’ve mentioned it. When I immerse myself in a topic, I go deep, and compile information on top of my working experience, which consists of visiting many of Portland’s breweries, taprooms and bottle shops while I deal with the aforementioned personal issues. I read. I talk to people. I find myself talking to brewers and marketing people and owners and bartenders and random dudes at the bar next to me that are infinitely more knowledgeable than I am on the business side of things, and it all settles into a picture that I want other people to see.  

The change to widespread canning and self-distribution seems small at first, when you look at the overall numbers being posted – but tens of billions of dollars are at play if consumers get tired of ‘domestic’ beer. The impact will grow over time, as more producers see their competitors on the shelf of the 7-11 at the busiest corner in town and join the game. Canning systems are cheaper than ever, more capable, and more people have experience running these operations and creating the contacts to distribute the final product. ABInBev is right to be worried about those billions of dollars slowly walking away to the corners of the markets they pried open in their relentless pursuit of PROFITS. They opened the door for people like me to pop in – LITERALLY next to you at the grocery store or bottle shop – and say ‘Hey, if you like that, try this!’ to consumers who would’ve previously been a BUD or MILLER man. The folks at Budweiser worked hard to create a market where you’d be a one-brand consumer, modeled after the car industry (seriously, think of your friend who is a die-hard Ford owner), and spent obsessively to get in front of the eyes of boys and men aged (teen) to 30 to establish that brand loyalty.  

Faced with the current market, though…is it even possible to think that one day, Bud Light and Miller and Coors won’t be the mega, massive pervasive brands that most people are familiar with? What does this industry look like when the biggest brands on the face of this earth are relegated to a small stack of thirty packs at the end of the isle, rather than the massive displays that start to pop up for New Years and slowly grow until that one famed sport game everyone but me watches in Feburary..? Just recently, we saw the banishment of beer from the world soccer finals (world cup? Again, I don’t watch stick-and-ball sports at all). Aside from the humanitarian issues that kept it in headlines, the other thing that caught my attention was the last-minute decree that beer sales and advertising were banished from the interior of the stadiums because the Muslim (? Not sure of the appropriate appellation here) government decided it wasn’t interested in making world headlines with drunken fans on-screen. Whatever the actual reason, the effect was the cancellation of marketing and advertising that had been planned years in advance, spending in the tens of millions of dollars simply to have brand placing in front of the cameras at these events.  

At first glance, this might not seem like such a huge deal, but again, it’s the little things that will have ripple effects for years to come. World governments used to be malleable to huge amounts of corporate cash, but we’re seeing the first signs that this power has diminished. Around the same time as the soccer games started, INBEV announced they would relinquish advertising rights for that other big game I mentioned, which is a massive shift in marketing priorities since they’ve dominated the annual ‘best commercial’ conversations for decades. Despite my concerted efforts to not ever give a shit about Budweiser, I still remember the damn frogs, which shows just how effective these ad campaigns have been over the years. Faced with a diffusing consumer base, they’ve decided to abandon one of the few vehicles left that Budweiser has piloted intently to reach the mass consciousness. Much like the Golden Arches, though, they’ve got brand recognition that will probably survive this re-positioning and prioritization of spending because it’s a functional part of popular culture now. What will they do with those tens of millions spent annually on these advertisements instead? Watch closely, it could get dirty with desperate corporations fighting for any little bit of ground they can get.  

If I manage to make this transition myself, I may follow up, eventually. There’s a lot to unpack here, and even if it’s mostly based on my opinion, I’m calling out details that maybe you’d rather not pay attention to. I often find myself at odds with the common take, but it doesn’t bother me as long as it gets people talking. And maybe writing about the things they see in their local markets might shake things up a bit – I’m sure the distribution situation in the Midwest isn’t anything like what I see and know here in Oregon/PNW.   

People. Watching.

As a thought experiment, think about where you’d go if you had a bunch of money, no real commitments anywhere – no people, family, kids or pets – and no specific timeline to do anything. Where would you go?

Where would you even start the planning? What would you consider as important? I’m sure most people start immediately with “WHAT WOULD I DO FOR WORK??” because we’ve intentionally imposed this bullshit mandatory work thing on ourselves in order to create more wealth for those above us. Our ENTIRE social structure is built so the people at the very top are able to legally take every cent from those below them. It’s not hyperbole – you can work for decades, slowly building up ‘wealth’ in your home, only to have the bank repossess it because you missed some paperwork deadline, or an interest payment years ago (there is no end to the ways you can lose everything you’ve built up over your life…).


“This is a world where everybody’s gotta do something. Y’know, somebody laid down this rule that everybody’s gotta do something, they gotta be something. You know, a dentist, a glider pilot, a narc, a janitor, a preacher, all that.” – Henry, Barfly

You have no job security, anywhere, ever, because we’ve protected the class of people who pay the rest of us, from any responsibility to maintain your wellbeing, or that of the greater economy through widespread job and income stability. Nothing you ever do will guarantee that your boss won’t fire your entire department tomorrow. Just see what’s happening at twitter, lol, but not really. All those people Musk fired made six figures and lived in an extremely expensive area of the country. They’ll probably be alright, as that kind of income enables the kind of mobility my initial question posed…but the richest motherfucker in the world took over a company and fired half the employees in a matter of weeks.


You, your job, and your lifestyle could be gone in an instant, is what I’m saying. Most people really don’t think about it, because it doesn’t happen to most people all at once when everyone else might find themselves in the same position and angry about it. But it is the underlying threat of current, modern American existence:
YOU MUST WORK TO LIVE, AND YOUR JOB IS NOT GUARANTEED, SO DON’T STEP OUT OF LINE, PEASANT. You don’t want to end up living in a van, down by the river do you? DO YOUU? We talk about American ideals and all that shit and still just ignore the fact that nobody, of any age, race or origin, has any guarantee of basic existence in our modern world.


We’re not free to just go anywhere, and so my initial question is almost impossible for most people to even think about without running into some false walls they’ve erected. It’s like people who seem to think the lines painted on the road are actual walls, and refuse to cross them to go around a parked truck or move through traffic. All of this shit is a fabrication, something most of you have agreed to go along with, without even knowing it. You just have to let go of that selfish little shithead inside, bitch-bragging about how hard you’ve worked to get where you are and what you have, etc., in order to allow a change…


We’ve proven, as a society, that we’re willing to ignore the needs of our neighbors if there’s any chance that helping them could take away from what you’ve got – another willing fabrication of bullshit by the masses, burned into our psyche by those people at the top. At the end of 2022, we see corporations making record PROFITS and yet we turn around and tell people who are homeless it’s their fault they can’t afford a place to fucking live. We tell ourselves there’s no money to be found to fix the glaring social issues of our day while every extra penny that might exist in your pocket is sucked out by the rich people who are telling you there’s no extra money, except maybe to fix the street where they own a half dozen rental houses. (In Portland, nearby improvements to the street have been referenced by some landlords as another reason they’re raising rent by 20% year-to-year).


When I moved here in 2015, they’d just opened a new light rail line, and there was still blowback about the cost – but the area near stops for the line have since seen rent increases that defy reason, and you’ll often see it as an ‘amenity’ in rental listings. Meanwhile, those developers and property owners continue to fight any increases to the public transit budgets, or any efforts to increase spending on homeless shelter, transition housing, or even basic social services in those areas, lest they draw an unwelcome element – homeless people. It is absurd, but this two-faced bullshit is standard operating procedure in every town and city across this country. There is, quite literally, nowhere that doesn’t have to struggle against property owners and moneyed interests, and the people who’ve been pushed to the edge of society despite their best efforts to play this game. Someone that has paid $12k a year to rent an apartment for 5 years – literally giving a property owner $60,000 over the course of 5 years – has no equity, no protection, and is often treated with scorn by landlords because they’re in the way of getting new renters in, which they can charge more for.

I saw this system before I entered it, when I was a teenager, because I was already outside of it. I cannot, to this very day, pretend I don’t see the world this way, and it has only gotten worse the last few years as an intentionally ignorant population continues to say “FUCK YOU, EVERYONE ELSE” whenever the issues come up for votes. Even (and especially) in areas where progressive politics should have moved beyond the petty infighting that prevents actual…progress…the opposite is the case. Most people with progressive politics are somewhat successful in this current atmosphere, and they’re afraid to lose their shit, just as much as the angry dude in the lifted Dodge with MAGA stickers still plastered all over the bumper. The difference is that the dude in the truck has had his fears sharpened into focus by media and news developed specifially for that purpose. Those fuckers are angry and ready to fight.


Meanwhile the progressive left cowers behind some weird idea that violence isn’t an inherent part of the human condition, and condemns people like myself who know better. Those angry MAGA types aren’t bothered by lofty ideals of a utopic society, they’re primed and ready to say anything they can think of to get under your skin because that’s what they’ve been shown, taught. I’m not under any illusions that getting in a fight with these people will change their beliefs, but I’ll be the first in line to Hell for fighting any dickhead that thinks they’re going to stand in my presence and spout vile shit. Don’t tell me to just walk away. It’s not in my programming. Don’t lecture me on what it means, either, I’m way past that shit and most people haven’t even been invited to that conversation. I doubt I’ll ever find myself able to walk away when someone calls me a fucking faggot, and I’ve grappled with this part of my personality since I was a kid, and there has not been a change, not ever. No amount of therapy or drugs has changed that part of me that will stand and fight instead of turn and ‘run’.


This same system that talks about working hard to get ahead will punish you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s such obvious bullshit but still we collectively endorse it. Just try to talk about forming a union of any kind with your co-workers, and you’ll find out real fast how pathetically afraid people are of losing their shitty job. In this system, plenty of people have found ways to manipulate it and make everyone else miserable, doing the work of our wealthy overlords. I have lost several jobs after responding to verbal abuse and the douchebags who started it weren’t fired. “Zero tolerance” doesn’t mean shit when you have spineless management and no responsibility to actually treat employees fairly. I guarantee that anyone reading this that isn’t self-employed has signed some bullshit policy manifesto that absolutely signs away their rights, period, in the eyes of their employer, but labor laws don’t apply to any of the things they can get away with. There is no mechanism for me to call up and say “The other person who also engaged in a violent fight after using homophobic slurs has retained his employment, despite my termination using a zero tolerance policy”.

Nobody is responsible for any decision a company makes unless it is grossly negligent (and even then it’s not really), and yet we all live by this system and pretend it’s okay. Instead of sitting down to have hard conversations about how the people in their organization are doing, it’s just easier to find new peasants to do the actual work that makes this country operate. Fuck you and every sacrifice you made, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Wait, we’ll hold it for you. Walk faster.

*****

The last 7 years or so have made all of this so much worse. Even as I claw my way through the gutter, and sometimes dare to peek up over the curb, I’m left with the impression that trying to play along is fucking pointless. The other people here in the gutter tried, too. Even that dude on the corner screaming at the sky was a part of it. That’s probably why he’s screaming at the sky – every day he watched the people around him take this shit for granted, and no matter how much he wants to be anywhere else, he cannot rectify the dissonance of this fucked up system. These folks maybe don’t even understand what’s driving it, but I do. Most people can’t peek under the hood and recognize the things that drive them but this my everyday existence. Intense scrutiny of my inner thought process because I doubt every single choice I make, so that when it all goes wrong I can go back and point at it.

I sit at the coffee shop window watching. The oblivious. The space cadets. The blissfully ignorant and unaware. I read them like books as they pass. I’m sure most of my assumptions are fairly accurate, though I’ll never know. Most of them are fairly innocent, inasmuch as you can’t hold people accountable for shit they refuse to think about. I try to imagine what their life is like. I can’t. I wish I could understand how they do it without going crazy, but that leads back to the knowledge that most of these people aren’t exactly as smart this author, however you’d make that measurement.

Yeah, I’m broken, and it’s partly because I can think about these things and those things and that other shit too and I do all of that before I even open my eyes in the morning. It is debilitating, causing me to just sit in my truck trying to untangle all this shit long enough to just apply to some shitty job without having a panic attack. And that’s after I’ve spent an hour trying to decide where to go to take a shit. When I talk about the system above, and how it’s just utterly broken, is like base code in mind when I try to figure out where the fuck I want to go next in my life. I cannot turn it off. Icannot unsee these things, I cannot pretend they don’t press on my decision making process at all times.

I could go anywhere but I’ll have to suck ass and find a job. I’m more than capable, absurdly knowledgeable, and a fast learner, but I’ve learned that these traits mean jack shit when it comes to getting paid better.Once upon a time, I believed that somewhere I could find a place where my observant nature, honest inclinations and loyalty would be rewarded. Someone else like me is out there, a happy business owner, looking for these qualities, I said to myself for years. But not any more.

A hummingbird hovers outside the window, looking at me, pondering my existence. Nobody else sees it. I am not surprised.

*********

It’s torture. People commit suicide and everyone around them wonders for a second, and then goes right back to living the life that their departed friend couldn’t live with. It’s very much the same way we deal with gun violence – it’s just something nobody wants to deal with. Too much work, too dirty, tooo haaaaard. To many difficult conversations to have, too many hard truths we’d have to admit as a society. Again, most of you (no offense, reader…) can’t even participate in the conversation because you simply don’t have the capacity to consider the whole picture…yet we drag our feet on actual progress because everyone insist they be a part of the conversation (even and especially the self-proclaimed ignorant) and have some input on the eventual solution.

My own family is a perfect example; I’ve lived with depression since the beginning and whenever I go under in the deep end they all stand there like it’s the first time ever. The same stupid questions and ridiculous suggestions follow, but only long after any real help would’ve made much of a difference.

“I’ve been around the world and eye eye eye, can’t find a sweet spot to squat and die eye eye….”

Atmoshphere, Fleetwood


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to see a path forward. Up and out. I need air. I opened myself up and forgot that other people still have no concept of what I’m struggling with just to get up in the morning. Just to drag my cold ass out from under the pile of blankets I fight with all night and do anything. I have no center, no foundation, no clear direction, nothing. I am free, in the worst way. Any suggestion of an idea leads to an unfolding lattice of infinite possibilities and effort required to achieve even the first basic step towards any goal. I am homeless, but I have my truck. I have no job here and no commitments. I could get a job anywhere, start over anywhere. But I don’t really want to do any of it. The overwhelming nature of EVERYTHING just kills my forward momentum.

I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to crawl under my blankets and sleep until my head stops swimming and my stomach has a bottom to it again and I can think about what I want to do with myself without feeling like I’m about lose my fucking mind. I thought I might make a big move and get near my family but then I remembered how I feel when I’m around my brother and family (see above where they don’t understand my depression). On paper he’s probably smarter than I am – he certainly has been more successful by any measurement. Nice house, kids, all the trappings of hard work actually paying off – except he never had anger issues like I did. His anxiety didn’t manifest as debilitating inertia. His success is just another reminder of what I could’ve had in my life if I wasn’t…me.

It’s probably better that I don’t get too close to them, though. The feeling that nobody wants me around because of my endless string of failures is real. It didn’t take much effort to dissuade me from making a move to be near them, just a little pebble thrown in my general direction to knock me off my temporary path. Every fear and anxiety issue I could imagine, spoken out loud long after I’d accepted it as something I could probably overcome, erased all my confidence in moments.

Two weeks sitting in my truck and at coffee shops and breweries, digesting and percolating, dealing with a tide of anxiety and self hatred and trying to bounce ideas off three people, total…wasted time. Wasted energy. I didn’t eat for 3 days while I thought about what it would mean to leave Portland. All that work to get myself straight for a massive change washed away like sand on the beach. The most galling thing was a suggestion that I ‘visit first’ and make some sort of 5-month plan before I move.

I AM HOMELESS NOW. RIGHT NOW. Yes, lets spend money so I can come ‘visit’ someplace I’ve already been. Let me establish myself with a new job and a new place to live so I can then move in 5 months..? 5 months ago, I was moving into Portland and my life has literally disintegrated since then. Where the fuck am I going to be in another 5 months? Why wouldn’t I take my time and money and just get set up where I want to be instead of doing it over and over again?

The whole conversation just reminded me that I was reaching for something that didn’t exist, some form of support that I will not get, some stability that is transitory at best. I would pour myself into their lives and fuck it all up, no doubt. Constantly losing work and being homeless, it’s not like that will change, no matter where I go. Without having any positive input in these discussions, I am left to make assumptions based on my past experiences and conversations, and I’ve been left hanging more than once when I turned to my family for support. I’m not trying to blame anyone, they’ve all got their own shit to deal with. Their own people. Nobody has time for my shit. When I’m not depressed, I am apparently intolerable.

If I had really wanted friends I would have made different choices. If I really needed help I would have gotten it. It always comes back to me and who I am. Embracing my failings has been a constant of my life. Always forced to acknowledge my own complicity in the choices I have made, there is no room for anything else but my agency in all of it. The only person in my life who takes on any of the responsibility of other people is my dad, and he doesn’t deserve it.

The rest of the world stands back and watches, eager to laugh and point and enjoy the show but happy to stand back far enough to not get shit on their shoes. I got back on fakebook and the usual ‘like but no actual contact’ game restarted instantly. The fact that I know how many people followed the link and actually read the post doesn’t occur to them, I guess. Not that I’m keeping track anymore, not really. A dozen people might read this post. I could put every password to every account I have in this and know it’ss probably safe.

The answer I keep coming to is that I just need to stop even caring. I’m most hurt by the indifference of other people, I suppose. Tracking back to the root of the issue I find it begins and ends with ‘other people’. I know my own mind, inasmuch as I can go for a single minute without doubting everything in my world. Someone once asked me what the common denominator was, and I always blamed myself, but there is another variable, and it’s other people. There is no sting of rejection if there is no rejection. If I stop hoping that I’ll find solace in the company of other people, I won’t be disappointed when I spend the entire night at the bar, surrounded by people that will remain complete strangers no matter what I do.

If I could just cut that shit out of my head, and really not care anymore. If I could just shut the window, close the counter, and keep everyone else on the other side of the glass. If I could just watch, and not want to be a part of the scene instead.

Where’s the Beer?

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEER BLOG? 

I know, right? It wasn’t intentionally meant to be list of grievances I have towards my friends, family and society but…it also wasn’t NOT going to be about that kind of dumb shit. I moved to Oregon because I wanted to be someplace more progressive, and specifically to be in the midst of the brewing industry. I never did get a job brewing, or even serving beer for wages. I’ve had a few delivery jobs now that got me out into the Oregon wilds, visiting retailers and bottle shops and other cities that I wouldn’t have been able to visit otherwise. It’s unfortunate that I have been unable to adjust my overall life approach and get my shit together while I have one of these jobs that I actually like. I was close, this time.  

One of the reasons I’m still sane-ish is that I’ve had a wide range of places to occupy my time while unhoused. Spending tens of hours a day sitting in my truck isn’t exactly what I want to be doing now that I have unlimited free time and some money, so I spend the morning sitting in a coffee shop somewhere, and then move to a brewery or taproom to kill my afternoon. I can go anywhere in Portland and have been trying to not just stay in the one area near my storage unit in a very boring part of town, and there aren’t many ‘deals’ to find that would point me in any specific directions, either. Outside of your standard faux-divebar, beers are usually $5 to $7 if you’re not going for the $4 tallboys of natty or whatever they serve at that price point.  

The best place to loiter, for a beer nerd like myself, is a bottle shop that isn’t too overpriced. I’ve spent a few afternoons at Johns Marketplace in Multnomah Village, just reading a book and sipping a pint off the tap. When I got bored with that decent tap selection (I’ve had thousands of different beers from over 500 breweries over the years) I went roaming in the isles and coolers for a suitable can.

It’s a multicolored nightmare, honestly, to look through a selection like John’s. Belmont Station is another spot in Portland that I’ve spent time in, and both would be a hard time for someone on a hard acid trip – the can art for craft beer is just intense now. Bright pastels and art, logos and designwork that span every conceivable style of graphic marketing that can fit on that little rectangle of a can, it’s all over the place. I’m always looking for the trends when I go deep, the ‘new ‘styles like cold and dark IPAs, this whole sour/slushie boom, and even (reluctantly) seltzers and N/A beers. When I worked, I would look at the beer coolers over multiple larger grocery stores and several smaller boutique style retailers and I’d end up with several cans of beer in my bag when I got done with my route. You might argue that I should’ve been saving money, rather than buying $5 cans of craft beer at every stop I made, but…like…it was all I had to look forward to at the end of the day. When the weather was nice and I could hang out in a park somewhere and read a book and enjoy a pint or two, I was content enough that I wasn’t able to focus that panic energy into the motivation I needed to fight past the barriers I have erected, in my own mind, against paying some asshole a ton of money to rent a room. 

Among other things. The whole unhoused issue should have clearly been a priority but the depression/anxiety train had already departed the station when I was making these choices. I was also able to visit many dispensaries in any given day (but only needed to stop at one), so when it was time to clock out and find something to do, I wasn’t trawling the internet for a place to live right away. I wasn’t doing anything I should have been doing right away. I didn’t have anyone around to distract me or otherwise help me find other shit to do, so I just found a park or a taproom and tried really hard to forget what I should have been doing instead. It mostly worked. For a while. Those $7 pints (plus tip, obvs) add up over time. My former friend asked me once what I was doing with my money and it was hard for me to pretend his ignorance wasn’t intentional – he makes well into the six figures at a ‘local’ multinational sports company. You aren’t going out to eat in Portland anymore for less than $35 a person, unless you’re spending around $15 at a food cart. Remember, $7 pints plus tip. Two beers and a $15 entrée later and you’re not even satisfied, honestly. Just coffee and a pastry is going to set you back $10, so if I want warm food and to spend time in a warm place I could easily spend $50 a day. Of course you can find cheaper alternatives. Maybe I should stop drinking beer? I’m not even going to dignify that question with a response.  

*****

It’s hard to frame this in a way that makes any sense, but I do and don’t want to leave Portland, or even Oregon. Everyone everywhere talks about how expensive it’s getting but everyone keeps raising rates (record corporate PROFITS you guys…I mean, c’mon). My family has decided Massachusetts is the place to be for some reason, which isn’t completely devoid of beer culture and places to visit (touch of sarcasm, there is a ton of good beer in the region). I have no direction to speak of and a bunch of money that I will spend quickly if I don’t make a plan and stick to it. So somehow I’ve decided to leave Portland and the PNW altogether and move across the friggin country..? 

If I still had a job I wouldn’t even be considering moving. But since I’ve got to start over again, completely, and need to probably have a job before I can actually get a place to live (because PEOPLE MUST MAKE MONEY OFF YOUR SHELTER, why not) no matter where I go…This makes sense to me. I’m afraid the people I’ve talked to about it are just agreeing with me while also sort of not really, but not enough to say that obviously this is a shitty plan and why would I move to fucking cold-ass Massachusetts? As I mentioned in previous installments, my cross-country moves have almost proven disastrous. Even my in-state moves have been enormous fuck-ups.  

*********

……..but then I go to all these places and talk to people and try to have human contact and there’s nothing tangible from all of that time I’ve spent here in Oregon. The people I know here are so self-absorbed they’ve never – literally not once – reached out to me for any reason if I didn’t contact them first. Some older friends can’t be bothered, either, but that goes back to why I left Fakebook a decade ago. Passive observers abound but none find enough merit in my existence to take an active role. There’s a reason I withdraw when I get depressed and it’s complicated but the outlines are pretty clear – I’m just constantly let down by other humans. So I probably wouldn’t even trust their advice if I happened to have any friends on the ground here. 

I went to 3 concerts by myself while I’ve been unhoused, and left without having any tangible interaction with the people around me. I tried. I handed out a half dozen pre-roll joints at the Atmosphere show in Bend (it was outdoors). I even got contact info from a couple people…but none of them replied the next day. I was in Bend overnight every week or every other week, and could have made a standing date to hang out, smoke out, drink some beers or whatever but I guess nobody had the time. I even had some favorable interactions with female humans of about my age (gasp!) but we live in an age where nobody wants to let anyone else in. Or maybe I’m just so desperate for basic human companionship (let alone anything more) that they can see it in my eyes. For a few months this summer I though I might be past that but these events have basically erased those feelings. For just a little bit I had some confidence back. Doi.

The conclusion of all this is that I can go anywhere, nobody really cares if I come towards them or anywhere else, and I’m about as likely to find and make as many friends as I have in Portland literally anywhere in the country since that number is literally zero. Not figuratively but literally.  

Uhhh yeah this was supposed to be about beer. Why don’t I try to get a job at a brewery here, and find a place to live here, and stop being such a whiney little bitch about life, and just pretend I’ll be fine LIKE I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN living alone and on the edge of society. I realized a long time ago that there really wasn’t a comfortable place in this world for me, not among the normal people. I thought maybe the freaky side of Portland would be familiar, a place I could find company, but that’s been a fading dream since I got here. Some of that is my own fault, some of it is circumstance, some of it is real. But it won’t be any different anywhere else. People are people and I’m going to stop there. No need to slander the entire human race just because most of it is greedy, ignorant and malicious. Who am I to judge? 

Probably too much right there, I’m sure people think I probably crossed a line, while forgetting I’m depressed and alone and these feelings are natural and probably normal among unhoused people who are trying desperatly to hold on to their feelings of ‘being human’. The guy walking down the street at 3AM this morning screaming at the top of his lungs at the world – boy howdy, did I want to join along. A few weeks ago I spent an entire night sitting in an empty parking lot doing the same thing. But the thing is, his pain is his own. I’ll fight his demons, his wars, once I get done with my own struggles, and fuck if that isn’t going to be a while. For the first time in a long time, I felt, for just an instant, that I might be on the verge of some success…just for a couple of weeks this summer. That window between when I decided to move to Portland, and when I actually tried to complete the process, a few weeks where sleeping in my truck was a novel inconvience and a pragmatic approach to relocating just 100 miles inland from the coast. I thought about taking on some other responsibilities to the humans of this world. For a little bit.

 
I still want to write about beer. I still have a list of deep-read topics I want to research and turn into multi-part stories. There is an entire community of ‘beer writers’ and awards and the whole universe of other opportunities but I’m stuck, always climbing up from the bottom rung as my life keeps getting reset over and over again. All of those conversations I’ve had with people I’ve never seen again at the hundreds of breweries and taprooms I’ve sat in, there should be something there but it’s all just put on hold forever until I can get my shit straight.  
 
And oh geez it’s already 2pm and I’ve been sitting in this coffee shop for 4 hours already trying to get my life in order. I have made zero progress. It’s time to relocate to a proper beer-themed establishment. I bid you adieu.