The Different Aspects that Make this Culture so Unique
In 2013, CNN.com ranked Portland, Oregon as the number one “Beer Town” in America. Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world and a significantly unique culture that surrounds the craft beer industry. These features cause Portland to receive praise from beer connoisseurs, when in reality the brewing and beer drinking culture of Oregon stretches far beyond the Rose City. This culture can be seen in the fields of family operated hop farms throughout the state, in any of the numerous tap houses that are popping up all over Oregon, or breweries that stretch across the Northwest. Many restaurants and local bars are falling inline with this massive movement and are beginning to cater to a variety of Oregonian’s by supplying their favorite beers on tap.
The craft brewing industry has made a huge impact on Oregon’s culture as well as on its economy. “Craft brewing’s impact on Oregon’s economy reached $1.3 billion [in 2012],” according to bizjournals.com. Oregon also ranked number two in hop production (a key ingredient in any craft beer: it adds flavor and aroma) by capturing 14.5% of the U.S. hop market (usahops.org).
This project’s intent is to provide a closer look at the unique and diverse craft brewing industry in Oregon. We set out to track the beer from hop to tap, and gained insights from those with the closest ties to the culture: hop farmers, brewers, and distributers. We spent a lot of time with a hop farmer from Woodburn, Oregon named Blake Crosby. He is a fifth generation hop farmer who has been around since before the craft beer industry took off; therefore, he has valid insights on the past, present, and future of the industry.
Mr. Crosby has been working on hop farms since he was a child because both his father’s side and mother’s side of the family own and operate hop farms in Oregon. He told us of times when the family business was not thriving, and how domestic beer companies were constantly searching for new ways to add less hops to their beer in order to cut costs. Mr. Crosby emphasized that, “in the last four or five years the industry has evolved so much because of craft [beer].” This statement could not be more true. On October 31, 2010, craft beers in Oregon out sold domestic premiums (i.e. Budweiser, Coors, Miller, and the likes) and have continued to do so ever since (beervana.blogspot.com). Mr. Crosby told us that, “It’s been amazing how tastes have changed in the last few years. IPA’s [Indian Pale Ale’s] and other craft beers caught the industry off guard. Everyone is still running around trying to keep up with the demand.” We learned that an IPA is a beer known for its hoppy flavor, thus requiring more hops. More desirable hops caused an increased demand for the production requiring more involvement of local hop farms like Cosby Farm.
“The craft beer industry is probably one of the most communal and progressive industries in the world. I haven’t ever seen an industry where there is so much unity and cohesive vision. It took a while to build that sense of unity and cohesiveness, but now that it is in place and there is support from trade organizations, the industry has flourished.” – Blake Crosby
Mr. Crosby, as well as the other people involved in the Oregon’s craft beer culture, accredited the industries success to the basic principles of comradery and unity. From the man who picks and harvests the hops, to those who brew, distribute, and drink the final product, all spoke at length about how united the craft industry is, and how it has been distilled into the culture of those who love unique craft beer. Oregonians are known for combining their love for high quality beer with communal activities. You can go and watch your favorite movie while sipping on a seasonal craft beer at one of Oregon’s many beer and movie theaters. You and your friends can go to Portland and take a brew cycle tour of all the most popular breweries in Portland. Oregon is also littered with places where a man and his best friend can share good food and cold suds with several dog friendly bars throughout Bend, Portland, Eugene, and many other cities in Oregon. However, nowhere is this culture more communal and united than at Oregon’s numerous craft beer festivals and event. Oregon hosts one of the biggest beer festivals in the country, Oregon Brewers Festival, which is a five-day event that admits more than 80,000 beer lovers everyday free of admission (oregonbrewfest.com).
When we asked Mr. Crosby to tell us where he thinks the craft beer culture is heading, he expressed, “Oregon is a mature market for craft [brewing]. There has been a long-standing tradition of drinking craft beer, and the culture has kind of permeated here in the Northwest, so it’s been the hot spot. I think Portland is, and always will be the Mecca. It is the leader in the industry in many ways, and definitely the place to be for great beer.” The unique craft beer industry in Oregon allows for hop farms and brewers to flourish in this area because of their access to prime growing conditions, ingredients, and a committed local community.
Oregon’s location and availability to quality resources make it a prime location to grow and distribute top of the line craft beers. For this reason, the craft beer industry has grown and thrived in Oregon, and is predicted to do so in the future. Mr. Crosby, and the other people involved that we to talked to, all feel that the craft beer industry is going to expand and flourish in the years to come. Oregon’s hop and brewing culture’s massive success is derived from a shared cohesive vision, a passion for the craft, and a love of beer. When all of these aspects come together, you get the best craft beer state in the world.