At downtown's best beer bar, I stood dumbfounded at the board. There were too many options. "How's that Ommegang?" I asked, pointing to a beer that'd been aged four years in the bar's cellar.
"I didn't get a chance to try that one," the bartender said.
Until this year, that might have been the end of it.
But instead, he did the gentlemanly thing and poured us each a small sample.
"Huh," he said.
"Not bad," I agreed.
If this all sounds like a normal exchange, that's because it is. But until December 2016, it was technically illegal. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission had a strict ban on sippin' 'n' servin'.
For a city that's serious about craft beverage, this is obviously crippling for a bartender. The guy pouring your beer should be allowed to take a nip of that just-tapped IPA to make sure it's nice and fresh, and a mixologist should be permitted to stick a straw into that bloody mary, cap it with a thumb, and pull it out to make sure it didn't end up too hot.
Finally, the charade is over—at least for beer and wine. The OLCC's rule change means servers can sample drinks to make sure they're not flawed, and to facilitate server education and wine tastings. Tastings are legally limited to a maximum of 1 ounce per serving and a maximum of 6 ounces total, about half a beer.
So we're not quite Washington, which allows brewpub personnel to drink on the job, or Colorado, where liberal laws mean anyone tending a dive is likely to be quietly sauced. But for a state where you still have to go to a special store to buy liquor, it's a good start.
"Is that nice you can finally just sample a beer?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "I always hated having to go back behind the partition."
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