In the beginning… No, not really. My story, like most beer stories, starts the same way. Drinking the big brands, masking the taste with wings and burgers, wondering what all the fuss is about. Eventually one finds a tolerable beer and even claims to love it. I was completely unaware I was on the same path many fail to realize they are walking. Identical to all the fine, respectable beer loving people wandering this earth, I found that “one” beer and failed to move on. I was destined to a lifetime with a fridge full of lite beer.
Let’s not focus on my past life story. My story really starts on a trip to Portland, Oregon — the unofficial craft beer capital (or so I’ve been told). Keep in mind that chain restaurants and sport bars, staffed with busy souls fixated on better things — bigger dreams — had been the extent of my beer experience. So, like many before me, I walked into Rogue and what little I knew about the beer experience was shattered. Before I even sat down a free sample of the most recent brew found its way into my novice hand. I immediately exclaimed, “I love this place!” and I was hooked.
It wasn’t just the beer though that drew me in, it was the brewery experience. Specifically, the craft brewery experience. Not just a brand and all the elements that are involved in creating one. Truly, for me, it is the people who adore, brew, hustle and patronize craft breweries that sucked me in. That day I was astonished to learn that the bartender would soon be celebrating his 15th year at Rogue. Rogue even created a t-shirt in his honor! We (my girlfriend and I) learned through casual conversation that the person taking care of us had been there 12 years, loved their job, their employer and had no intentions of leaving.
My visit also exposed me to the other aspect of the craft brewing experience which was the local rally. Specifically, the local community and the unique bond between the indigenous brands. Above all, the understanding that even in a competitive market there is room for everyone and that a healthy business creates a strong local economy by making the community stout yet adaptable. Local businesses encourage and foster — not tear or beat each other down. The perfect example of this when breweries or businesses collaborate.
I encountered the collaboration connection when I first learned of the on-going alliance between Rogue and Voodoo Doughnut; I made sure to visit both places. Not only was each proud of their creations, what their collaborators had created and especially knowing that their respective handiworks would not be for everyone — each place made sure to mention the other! Subsequently, on our second visit to Rogue (yes, during the same trip), we were offered cheese pairings with all our tastings from the Rouge Creamery! The smoked blue cheese that was being served as a beer pairing was ridiculous. I learned that despite technology and having moved past a time where co-dependence is not necessary to thrive, it is alive and well today along the Rogue River. Many that share this namesake freely share that name as it brings the community together.
I am assuming you’re here because you have an interest, appreciation or even love of craft beer. We all start somewhere and the Rogue Distillery and Public House was where I was lucky enough to begin my life-long beer adventure.
This is the basis for my experiences and my reflections going forward. My weekend in Portland will always be special and every brewery I visit, every beer I taste, will be compared to the high bar set that weekend. Was it the beer? Was it the location? Was it the people? The answer is, yes, yes and a reverberating yes! I strongly believe that beer is so much more than the brewing process and resulting product. If it is important to serve beer in the right glass, then who serves it and where its served is just as important.
It has been several years between my visit to Rogue and the time of writing this so, admittedly, my memories could just be a fairy tale created in my head or memories created by a great buzz, but, this brewery experience was created none the less.
My hope is that this post gives reference to my point of view for future posts and an appreciation for my inspiration of those who choose to create something from nothing … or water, hops, barley and sweat. I will strive to keep the length reasonable – anyone who has shared a beer with me realizes what a grapple this will be.
Cheers! If you see me after reading this and you stuck it out to the end I will gladly buy you a beer.