8 Ways To Celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month

Ever since Henry Weinhard opened his brewery in 1856, Oregon has had a taste for beer. Since then, the state has made a name for itself in the beer world. It’s one of the states with the most breweries per capita and Portland itself is home to the largest craft brewing market in the United States. Talk to any Oregonian and the topic of beer will inevitably come up; when you’re from a state that has over 135 brewing companies it’s hard not to.

Which makes it no surprise that the state also has its own designated Craft Beer Month. Summer on the west coast just got a whole lot more attractive didn’t it?

Love beer? Love Oregon? You might want to consider celebrating. Here’s how.

1. Go to a festival
Oregon Brewer’s Festival, this year held July 24-28, is one of Portland’s favorite events, and with good reason: it features over 80 craft beers from around the country and your chance to get to know a handful of them quite intimately. If that’s not good enough for you, Portland International Beer Festival is just a few days before.

2. Plan a road trip that involves at least five breweries
OK, granted you could stay in Portland and probably stand on a street corner and spot five breweries, but you could also plan a road trip across the state to hit up some of the famous breweries, as well as some of the lesser-known ones. The Oregon Brewers Guild has a map that makes doing that quiet simple. You’ll only be constrained by how far you want to drive and what you want to drink.

3. Buy beer and other assorted goods
Don’t have plans for Fourth of July yet? You may want to consider stocking up on brews and various beer paraphernalia at Rogue Brewery’s Fourth of July Sale, taking place at all of their locations (there are eight).

4. Plan a weekend of “research”
Even if you can’t visit Oregon, you can still do some beer research. Start with this year’s 50 Best Oregon Beers and see which ones you can get in your home state. And when you find one that’s not available, book a ticket out west immediately.

5. Run and drink
A sporty town like Portland wouldn’t think twice about drinking and running, which is why there are such things like the Craft Dash, perfect for runners with a hankering for a pre-, during and post-race IPA.

6. Bike and drink
In Bend you can get on the Cycle Pub and work your way around town while drinking and pedaling, and in Portland you can check out the Oregon Brewery Trail bike tour. After all, in this state, bikes and beers go hand in hand.

7. Try a new style of beer
From sour beers (you’ll want to be at Puckerfest) to smoked varieties, there’s probably a variety of beer or two that you haven’t tried – and it’s about time you did.

8. Learn how to homebrew
It should come as no surprise that Oregon has its own homebrew club – brewing since 1979 of course – and if you have ever been interested in making your own beer, Oregon might be the place to start. Check out Portland’s Homebrew Exchange, which sells all kinds of homebrewing supplies. At Uptown Market you can sign up for a bi-weekly homebrewing class. All you ever needed to know in order to kick off those craft brews at home.

The Wandering Writer: A Tour through Inner Northeast Portland with Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed wants to show me the “dog bus” – but first we have to find it.

We walk along her quiet residential streets in Northeast Portland trying to track down the intriguing vehicle, my imagination running wild. Are we about to free a group of shackled dogs from animal control? Does Portland send its furry friends to school with their owners?

Eventually we locate our target on NE Halsey and 26th Street. The converted school bus is painted bright blue and splattered with paw prints and pup faces. The license plate says WAG. Strayed explains that Meg, a local woman, runs the quirky pet sitting service. It’s the kind of whimsical spectacle that you’d expect in a city that uses the slogan Keep Portland Weird – and it’s just enough off the beaten path that it feels like a bona fide glimpse into this tight-knit community where Strayed has landed.

She arrived here off the beaten path, too. Few folks today can claim that they literally walked their way to a new life, but Strayed is one of them. While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at age 26, the subject of her bestselling-soon-to-be-Reese-Witherspoon-starring-book Wild, Strayed traversed the state of Oregon before winding up in Portland. It was 1995 and her finances were shockingly grim. Her life savings hovered around twenty cents.

“A friend of mine had a room for rent in her house and she said I could pay rent once I got a job,” Strayed says. “I didn’t know that I’d end up staying. I just knew that I needed to regroup and make some money.”

Her first modest moneymaking scheme was a yard sale where she offered up the few possessions she’d kept in storage, no more than could “fit in the back of a pickup truck:” thrift store purses, books and clothes, mostly. She mentioned to a friendly woman who bought a dress that she needed a job.

“She was a dancer,” Strayed says. “A modern dancer, not a stripper.”

It’s an understandable clarification. Portland residents often proclaim with varying degrees of pride or shame that the city has the most strip clubs per capita in the U.S., though some deep Googling leads me to believe the statistic is likely local legend.

Strayed’s new dancer friend also waited tables at the French restaurant L’Auberge, where Strayed soon started working, too. A Portland institution, it’s now closed, like many of Strayed’s old haunts from the 90s, including Satyricon, the rock club where Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain met wild child Courtney Love during a Dharma Bums concert.

This is back when a grimier Portland was ruled by street movements like the zine and punk rock scenes.

“All that stuff is gone,” Strayed says. “It’s been replaced with lovely things but things that are a little shinier and a little more polished.”

She’s fond of some of the improvements – she loves Stumptown Coffee and the food cart scene – but feels something has been lost as the city has gentrified. She admits she’s nostalgic for old Portland but also frustrated by an apparent psychological shift here.

“Maybe the biggest difference from when I first moved here is that nobody in Portland back then thought they were super cool because they lived here. There was Portland pride but it was coming from a more authentic internal place. Whereas now, everywhere I go, when I say I’m from Portland, people are like: Oooooh. I’ve heard it’s so great.”

While Portland is great, it has its problems, like anywhere. Strayed’s husband, Brian Lindstrom, currently has a documentary film out about an innocent forty-two year old man with schizophrenia who was beaten to death on the street in the now posh Pearl District. He died in police custody and there was a cover up surrounding his death.

“That’s Portland, too,” she says. “People forget that this city is complicated like every other city.”

Still, it’s clear Strayed’s heart is here. She’s traveled all over the world and Portland remains her favorite city, warm-hearted and community-focused. The inner northeast, along with the inner southeast, have always been her stomping grounds.

“I’m an east side person,” she proclaims with an authority that makes me need to know exactly what this self-designation means.

“East side isn’t as wealthy,” she explains. “You know that Everclear song, where he says: I’ll buy you a big house in the West Hills? Those are the West Hills of Portland. It’s swankier there. The east side has more working class vim, more of the people I think of as my tribe: writers, artists, filmmakers. It’s more funky.”

She’s generalizing, she acknowledges, like we all do, but it’s too late. I’ve already definitively proclaimed in my own head that, I too, am an east side person.

One of her favorite spots in the neighborhood appears filled with her tribe on this sunny Monday morning. Costello’s Travel Café on Broadway is a place with great pie and great coffee, where you’re offered a flag from some far-flung nation after ordering to signal not your allegiance but your waitress.

Over steaming pots of tea, I ask Strayed if she’s become a more public figure in the neighborhood after the success of Wild. She has, she says, and finds the change mostly flattering and surreal (see: nice lady stops her on the street to say she enjoyed the book) with an occasional smattering of unnerving and frustrating (see: someone tweets about her being at the grocery store at the exact moment she is in the grocery store).

One of the places where she’s surely most recognizable is at nearby Broadway Books, Strayed’s local independent bookseller. She worked out a deal with the owners to direct any requests from her website for signed copies to the store. This way, she can stop by on a leisurely afternoon to mark up her goods.

“When we pop by, they might have a few copies waiting,” she says.

It turns out the bookstore has many more than a few copies waiting for Strayed, 196 copies of the paperback version of Wild, to be exact, officially on sale the next day. Strayed promises to return soon to tackle the signings. For now we have a slightly more delicious quest in our sights in the form of the bakery across the street.

If Strayed ever feels nostalgic for old Portland, the Helen Bernhard Bakery might be a sugary cure. Established in 1924, long before Portland was cool, she calls the place “a real bakery.” To strengthen her case, Strayed offers up this incontrovertible evidence: you can get a glazed twist here.

She picks out two elaborately decorated cupcakes for her kids, one adorned with the face of a mischievous looking panda and the other a suspiciously happy cat. The grandmotherly cashier delicately places them in separate boxes and cautions us to be careful on our way home to prevent squashing the animals. It’s good advice that proves futile. An hour later we’ll present a mangled-face panda to her towheaded daughter who won’t mind in the slightest that her artful snack has been on the losing end of a heavy jostling.

Before we head back to Strayed’s house, though, we’ve got two more stops. The first is the straightforwardly named Great Wine Buys. The store is having a special where customers can order cases from a small vineyard in Italy.

“You can buy wine in the grocery stores in Oregon,” Strayed says, “but I prefer a bit more of an individual interaction.”

Our last stop is surprising after the row of independent enterprises we’ve been patronizing: Strayed leads me to the Lloyd Center Mall. More specifically, she takes me to its indoor ice rink.

“I had not been to a mall in, seriously, fifteen years, but my kids wanted to go ice skating one day and I wanted to pass that tradition on to them because I’m from Minnesota. And, lo and behold, there’s a rink in the middle of the mall.”

As the family-friendly scene unfolds, I ask Strayed if she’s staying in Portland for the foreseeable future.

Her answer is an emphatic yes. “This is home. I love Portland. I feel so lucky that I have access to an incredibly vibrant urban center – which is really where I see my life – and also the wild places that are so close, within thirty minutes. The coast, too. It’s just an hour and a half away and there you are on this incredibly rugged beach.”

Strayed spent her first few years questioning if she should stay. She kept asking: why am I here versus anywhere else? Am I only staying because I’m in love?

Then she and her husband moved to Syracuse, New York, so Strayed could get her MFA. It was only after leaving that she realized how much she missed her Portland community. They returned a few years later and she’s never looked back.

“For me,” Strayed says, “It’s always been important to leave a place. I think that’s a really important piece of growing up. It’s a conscious act. You’re not letting some river just take you. You’re actually directing yourself.”

And Portland is where you’ll find the grownup Cheryl Strayed, though, if you happen to run into her, maybe refrain from tweeting about it, okay?

About this Wandering Writer
Cheryl Strayed is the author of #1 New York Times bestseller WILD, the New York Times bestseller TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, and the novel TORCH. WILD was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 and optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard. WILD was selected as the winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, an Oregon Book Award, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and a Midwest Booksellers Choice Award. Strayed’s writing has appeared in THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Allure, The Missouri Review, The Sun, The Rumpus–where she has written the popular “Dear Sugar” column since 2010–and elsewhere. Her books have been translated into twenty-eight languages around the world. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their two children.

Dinner And Bikes 2013: An Annual Tour To Grow The Bicycle Movement

There’s a lot of talk about bikes these days. From single speeds in New York City to nighttime tours in Guatemala City and the bike share in Paris, the discussion of bicycles as a real means of alternative transportation is taking hold in a big way.

But talking about bikes in cycle centric hotspots like Portland, San Francisco and New York is only part of the step. As with anything, getting more people on two wheels means getting people engaged all over the country. And that’s where Dinner and Bikes comes in.

The annual month-long tour is a traveling combination of bicycle inspiration, vegan food and pop-up bookstores that brings people together to get inspired about bicycle transportation. If you’re a bike junkie, it’s hard to resist.So what do you get from a Dinner and Bikes evening? A gourmet, vegan and gluten-free buffet dinner prepared by Joshua Ploeg, a presentation by Elly Blue on transportation equity and the everyday bicycling movement, and a near-complete excerpt from “Aftermass,” Joe Biel‘s forthcoming documentary about the history of bicycling in Portland. This year, they’re hitting up the Midwest and Northeast, with over 30 events from Michigan to New York. You can find the full schedule for May and June here.

Elly took time to answer a few questions about the tour and the inspiration behind it. And in perfect nomadic traveler form, she answered them on an Amtrak train somewhere between Portland and Chicago.

What was the inspiration for Dinner and Bikes?

In 2010, Joe and I did a tour called Bikestravaganza around the Western US. It was similar to what we do now, but just the two of us talking and showing movies about bikes. The idea was to energize people about bikes, show them a little of what we’ve seen is possible, and also let them know that Portland’s bike-friendly streets weren’t this huge, unattainable goal, but that in fact our achievements could easily be matched or surpassed by any city or town that wanted to. It went great, but one big problem was that the event was always during dinnertime. Everyone was hungry including us! We invited Joshua to join us the next year and it all fell into place.

Why bikes?

When I first started bicycling, it was liberating and it’s continued to be so at a personal level. Culturally, though, it’s about as good as it gets as far as a movement goes. With bikes, everyone wins and there’s no problematic temptation to put someone else’s happiness or livelihood secondary to your cause, as is the case in a lot of other social movements. Also, even when people are vehemently anti-bike, they usually change their mind once they start riding. So even when it’s polarized, it isn’t really. That photo of Senator Schumer smiling as he rides down the cycle track he fought so hard to prevent? That’s why I do it.

How do you decide which places you visit/where you host dinners? Why the central/northeast for the 2013 tour?

It’s an inexact science. As we go on tour, people’s friends in other cities hear about the events and get in touch to invite us to their town. I keep track of all the invitations in my spreadsheet, and then Joe and I go out to breakfast with an atlas and a notebook and create a route that we can do in a month that incorporates as many of those cities as possible. Then I set to work filling in the gaps. I believe the impetus for the Midwest/Northeast route is the result of invitations from folks in Michigan and DC. Next year I already know where we’re going: up and down the eastern seaboard, Maine to Miami. People should get in touch if they want to talk about doing a stop.

Having traveled around the country talking about bikes, how do you think the attitude towards bikes differs by region?

People who are deeply involved with their local bike scene read a lot of the same blogs and articles, so there is some unity in the movement. But local attitudes generally differ quite a bit, and in unexpected ways. A lot depends on the culture, layout and politics of a city. Some cities have a culture of being polite, so even if most people don’t understand bicycling, they don’t mind waiting a bit till it’s safe to pass the person riding in front of their truck. In other cities, there’s some kind of hostile force against it, maybe driving culture or city planning or the police – which oddly enough often has the result of catalyzing a far stronger bike movement.

What was the most surprising location you have visited in terms of their support for cycling?

Over the last four years, I’ve learned not to be surprised. Everyone’s got their stereotypes, like only big cities like bikes, or only small cities, or only liberal cities or secular cities or gentrified neighborhoods or cities with lots of young white creative class people. None of these things are true. People like bikes who have started bicycling already is the only generalization I can make. Once you get riding and have just the barest amount of community and infrastructure to support you, there’s no turning back.

Is it true that you travel only by train and by bike?

Nope, we rent a car to travel from city to city. If we’re lucky, we get to go on bike rides in some of the cities. I am still trying to figure out how to do it all by train, but we would pretty much have to have a source of funding from outside the tour in order to make that happen. I see it as an opportunity to not totally lose touch with the car-oriented reality of most of the US.

Any top tips for traveling by bike?

I’ve only been bike touring a few times, but I will say it’s important not to run out of water, and always to talk to people.

Check out the Dinner and Bikes 2013 schedule here.

[Photo Credits: Dinner and Bikes, Elly Blue]

On The Road With NPR Music: Matt Fleeger At KMHD, Portland, Oregon

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling, largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Portland, Oregon might be known for its indie scene, but as Matt Fleeger shows us, it’s also home to a burgeoning jazz scene. As Fleeger points out, when most people think of jazz, they think of a scene that ended in the late 60s. On the contrary, it’s a genre that’s alive and well, full of fusion acts and creative ensembles. Check out Fleeger’s playlist for a good feel of what this city has to offer.

Name: Matt Fleeger

Member station: KMHD Jazz Radio

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Program Director/Host of “New Jazz For Lunch” M-Thurs 12 (noon) to 1 PM, M-Thurs.

When people think of music in Portland, what do they think of?

A DIY, underground approach to music, independent music. In terms of Jazz, highly creative ensembles and players – people who aren’t afraid to think outside the box a bit.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

At KMHD, we try to “hold up” the really creative, interesting, different sounds that are coming out of our city. We partner with the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, which is an organization is concerned with fostering new Jazz compositions and releases a different CD featuring a Portland band each month. We bring local musicians into the studio every Friday afternoon for live performances direct to air, and we film local bands playing in various spaces throughout the city. My show in particular features all new releases in an attempt to expose our audience to new sounds. Often times, the Jazz audience gets caught up in the thinking that Jazz ended in 1969, but there are many very interesting sounds and directions happening within the scene today.

How has the Portland jazz scene evolved over the last few decades?

Portland has always had a certain forward-thinking aesthetic when it comes to music, but on the other hand there’s a very laid-back sensibility at work here, too. The Jazz scene has changed a lot over the past few decades, but it’s always been inventive. In the 70’s – Portland (and Eugene, to the south) gave birth to a sort of world-jazz fusion through bands like Oregon, or saxophonist Jim Pepper. Music education factors heavily into the equation as well, whether it’s from Thara Memory (Esperanza Spalding’s mentor) or Portland State University’s Darrell Grant, who is a world-renowned Jazz musician in his own right.

What would you say is the most unique thing about your music scene?

Really it’s the people. And by people, I mean the audience, the people who consume the music. Portland is very (VERY) supportive of its homegrown talent. For example, during the Portland Jazz Festival at least two of the 12 headlining shows are always local acts, and these shows always sell out before the national or international acts that are visiting. That’s something you don’t find in most cities.

What are three new up and coming bands on the Portland scene right now and what makes them distinct?

Nowadays, it’s bands like the Blue Cranes or Grammies that are fusing the improvisational ideas of this music with other bands or genres that influenced them (think Fugazi or tUnE yArDs).

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

“Everything is Going to Be Okay” – Blue Cranes
“Echolalia” – Kin Trio
“Strong Fire” – Andrew Oliver Sextet
“XSABCESS” – Grammies
“Give Thanks” – Darren Klein
“Rainy Day, Sunny Heart” – Gunga Galunga
“Blossom Bell” – 1939 Ensemble

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

On The Road With NPR Music: Jeremy Petersen At OPB Portland, Oregon

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling, largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Name: Jeremy Petersen

Member station/Regular show: OPB Music (from Oregon Public Broadcasting)
Producer/Blogger Host – “In House,” weekdays 2-5 p.m. PT

When people think of music in Portland, what do they think of?

It’s not really much of a secret – Portland is particularly noted for being a kind of indie mecca. It’s not exclusively the flavor, but the earnestly literate and melodic likes of Elliott Smith, The Decemberists and more recent transplants The Shins are some of the more recognizable names that have set the tone for many who have come after. The Rose City is also home to a number of indie labels that fortify the scene, homegrown and otherwise: Kill Rock Stars, Tender Loving Empire, Hometapes, Hush, amigo/amiga, Greyday, Badman, Dirtnap, Magic Marker, Fluff & Gravy and Marriage are but a few of those worth exploring.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

We try to shine a light on acts we’re truly excited about as fans. Of course we’re all over more established artists that people are more likely to know, and of course we try to connect the dots between what’s current and what came before it, but we also spend a large part of our time looking for what’s new and interesting and worth pointing out. That usually means some combination of airplay, presenting the music in a live showcase, and/or recording a session in our studios. These are often the kinds of artists that aren’t going to be getting air in most other outlets, either yet or ever.

How has the Portland scene evolved over the last few decades?

The history of pop music in Portland seems to begin with The Kingsmen and their party staple “Louie Louie.” That seems oddly apt given its idiosyncratic nature and unlikely combination of flavors. The local scene has been, and remains, healthily eclectic – folk, jazz, hip-hop and various strains of roots all enjoy vibrant pockets alongside the more well-documented rock variations. One thing that has definitely changed is the regard for Portland nationally and even internationally: a musician’s status as a Portlander seems to carry automatic caché in many circles.

As scrappy as the indie scene still feels here, to hear some of the old guard tell it, up-and-coming bands are generally more sophisticated now than a couple of decades ago. That means not only more performance-ready from their first show, but also more business-minded and with a better grasp on notions like self-marketing.

What would you say is the most unique thing about the Portland music scene?

I’ve heard musician after musician here talk about the camaraderie that exists in the scene, and these are often those who have lived elsewhere. You can see that kind of thing play out in a lot of different ways and it’s inspiring to see what can come of it. I think it clearly empowers creation and makes the work coming from the city that much stronger. It also makes it feel like a much smaller place.

One other thing – as a musician destination as of late, Portland is really interesting simply because of who happens to be around at any given time, whether that’s temporary, permanent or part-time. There’s always someone of note around working on a record: Other Lives, Deer Tick, Neko Case and Beth Orton are some recent examples. kd lang lives here now. Johnny Marr’s still a part-timer. Peter Buck is often around. Add names like that to the homegrowns and long-timers you’ve heard of and the ones you haven’t (yet), and it equals a rich and vibrant place for musicians to be.

What are three new up and coming bands on the Portland scene right now and what makes them distinct?

This easily could have been a list of ten.

Radiation City: I find them notable for a lot of reasons, the first of which are the vocals of Lizzie Ellison, who brings to mind Astrud Gilberto and sounds as comfortable covering Etta James as she singing the band’s own indie bossanova haze. They’re the rare young band with an ear for subtlety both on record and in performance and they’ve simply gotten better every time I’ve seen them. Look for their second full-length coming soon.

Shy Girls: It’s not often a band from the local scene can claim un-ironic influence from names like Bell Biv DeVoe, GUY and the Backstreet Boys – even less often still that they execute those cues well. Shy Girls, the band started as a one-man bedroom act by frontman Dan Vidmar, sounds transported from two decades back while still maintaining a freshness that rises well above novelty and recalibrating the notion of “neo-R&B” (it doesn’t necessarily come from 1972 anymore).

Aan: This is dynamic indie rock that succeeds largely on the pairing of lead singer Bud Wilson’s cathartic vocal gymnastics with twisting, turning, unpredictable hooks that keep the listener guessing. But it’s not chaos– the band keeps its avant-pop just avant enough while simultaneously daring you not to bob your head. Aan’s just been slated to open up for The Smashing Pumpkins on several of their dates later this spring, and have a full-length release coming later in the year.

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

Elliott Smith: “Ballad of Big Nothing”

Caleb Klauder: “Can I Go Home With You”

The Thermals: “A Pillar of Salt”

Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside: “Danger”

Heatmiser: “Low Flying Jets”

Quasi: “It’s Raining”

TxE: “The Basics”

The Decemberists: “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect”

Menomena: “Evil Bee”

Onuinu: “Happy Home”

Listen to the playlist on Spotify.

[Photo credit: Inger Klekacz]