Undulating, drizzly and a little bit funky, Portland, Oregon, is unlike any other town in America.
It may not have the endless hours of sunshine that brighten-up other cities on America’s West Coast nor the wellknown recognition of Seattle, its nearby neighbour to the north, but Portland is so laid-back, I don’t imagine it really cares too much.
Portlander politics and attitudes to life are liberal verging on leftfield. It’s the kind of place where being an outward bound kind of guy and sporting a trendy hat is by no means compulsory, but it definitely helps.
Recycling and rock climbing are big in Portland. Republicans and rednecks less so. Imagine laptops and lots of Lycra. Portland is a place where java joints, full of creative types chewing on elaborate coffees and conjectural conundrums, outnumber noisy neon clad sports bars and where people tend to hike and bike around town instead of gallivanting about in giant gas guzzling jeeps.
As well as the distinction of being named Bicycling magazine’s No.1 cycling city in America for the second straight year, Portland was also recently voted the most desirable place to live in America by Money magazine. If a beer magazine such as this was to conduct a similar survey, Portland would win that too.
Portland is to beer what Alaska is to big coats.
For a town with just more than half a million inhabitants, we’re not talking volume here, we’re talking sheer variety. Portland can lay claim to more than 30 microbreweries and brewpubs and nowhere rivals it in terms of per capita craft beer consumption. While craft beer sales account for just below four per cent of the entire beer market in America, they represent a staggering 45 per cent of all beer drunk in Portland and its environs.
To beer lovers in search of the finest examples of the world’s classic beer styles – all in one place, all freshly brewed, all on tap no more than 10 or 15 minutes away from any bar, restaurant and coffee shop in the city, Portland is as good as it gets.
One of the many jewels in Portland’s brewing crown is Rogue, a brewery company which – from its boisterous beers to its irreverent marketing – certainly lives up to its name.
On arriving early for my meeting with founder Jack Joyce at Rogue’s flagship brewpub in the rough diamond downtown Pearl district of Portland, I plonked myself on a stool and asked for a pint of the Hazelnut Brown Ale.