According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, Oregon has set a new record for locally-made beer consumption. According to their data, Oregon breweries produced 1.4 million barrels of beer and 500,000 of that was sold to Oregonians, meaning that a good portion of Oregon beer is staying within our beloved 33rd state. Brian Butenschoen, the Guild’s executive director, also notes that Oregon has the highest percentage of dollars spent on craft beer in the US.
This fervent localism, oft skewered as hipster nonsense by outlets like Portlandia, again shows itself to be an important–and apparently unwavering–economic driver. While the ubiquity of “live local” marketing appears to be approaching its beleaguered zenith, these new numbers are reason for Oregonians to be proud.
But what makes Oregon so special? It’s primarily thanks to two things.
First, Oregon remains legislatively friendly to consumers of local breweries, relatively speaking. Other states slap on ABV limits (we’re looking at you, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio), bans on happy hours (our fine friends in Massachusetts), lifetime distributor agreements (also The Bay State), and Sunday sales prohibitions (Minnesota, Oklahoma and North Dakota). Oregon allows beer sales at breweries, growler fills, Sunday sales, beer festival pours, all sizes of glass bottle packaging, combination bottle/tasting shops, and a variety of other consumer-friendly business notions that allow for less fettered access to local brews. Oregon isn’t the most free-wheeling state when it comes to our access to beer, but keeping consumer access open has remained key to its continued status as a craft beer paradise.
Second, the undeniable quality of Oregon beer speaks for itself. We are lucky to live in a state with both brewing giants and smaller production facilities. Both of these types of breweries help to sharpen the sword, so to speak, when it comes to the caliber of Oregon beer. Stalwart brewing pioneers like Rogue, Deschutes, Full Sail and Widmer help to advance craft beer’s industry standing through lobbying, streamlined business practices and, of course, deliciousness of product. Symbiotically, smaller breweries benefit from these monoliths’ efforts and, in turn, push the bounds of experimentation in style on their brewing systems where batches are smaller and can be scrapped with less economic detriment. Other places, where brewing has been legislatively prohibitive, are just recently seeing the proliferation of breweries across their states. These states may have the experimental beers of any other state, but their brewers don’t get to benefit from the logistical legacy, economic stability and customer base of the larger breweries who forged the way like Oregon’s have.
Lots of blogs and beer-focused publications like to look into their crystal ball and try to predict the future of craft beer in Oregon. While this may be a fool’s errand, it’s clear to see that Oregonians are continuing to trend local first, which can only mean good things for our state, our economy and our beer options.