It is a cliché of Portland's food-centric marketing that we are ground zero for the wave of small, so-called craft distilleries that have popped up all over America in the past decade. It's a debatable point—there are similar clusters of small liquor producers in the Bay Area, Seattle and Denver—but our distillers are definitely better organized, and enjoy better government support, thanks to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's progressive licensing attitude, than their colleagues elsewhere. (The OLCC has a guide to starting a craft distillery on the front page of its website.)
So it's fitting that the American Distilling Institute, an eight-year-old organization dedicated to supporting and educating craft distillers, is holding its annual conference in Portland this year. While the conference's many spirits tastings and lectures aren't open to the public, we will have a chance to benefit from the presence of hundreds of distillers, thanks to the Oregon Distillers Guild: This Friday, some 40 distilleries will pour their wares at TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirit Tasting), an open-bar gathering at Tiffany Center.
For $40 you can have all the samples you can stomach from such respected local producers as Clear Creek, House Spirits and Bull Run Distilling, plus out-of-towners like Tuthilltown Spirits (of New York), Sound Spirits (of Seattle) and Montanya Distillers (of Silverton, Colo.). Bartenders from the Oregon Bartenders Guild, including Park Kitchen's Adam Robinson, Metrovino's Jacob Grier and H50's Nathan Gerdes will be on hand to pour samples of original cocktails using local and guest craft spirits, including the new batch of Oregon's Imbue Vermouth, White Dog Whiskey from Washington's Woodinville Whiskey Co., and barrel-aged gin from Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tenn. Mayor Sam Adams will be the guest of honor, for whatever that's worth. And unlike at Portland's existing Great American Distillers Festival, there will be no fiddling with drink tickets, which is hard to do when you're 15 tastes in.
DRINK IT: TOAST at the Tiffany Center, 1410 SW Morrison St., second floor. 4-9 pm Friday, April 8. $40 at the door. See oregondistillersguild.org for further details.