I still remember negotiating to publish weekly beer reviews in Willamette Week. It was October 2011, and I'd just moved to town to start my job as the paper's culture editor.
I went back to the design department to request a new layout with space to run weekly drink reviews in the food section. The art director at the time—a soft-spoken Old Portland type with a Tom Peterson watch and an affinity for Bon Iver—was totally confused.
"Won't you run out of beers to review?" he asked. "How long could you keep that up?"
Well, we made space for the reviews. And local beer scenesters quickly took notice.
"Willamette Week Delves into Beer Reviews, Fails Miserably," read the headline on the New School beer blog.
Welcome to Portland!
When I moved here, Portland was already a world-class beer city. You could never hope to review every new beer released, and now it's exhausting to even think about. Today, the vast majority of people—not just beer geeks—who never buy beer outside a six-pack from the grocery store understand just how vibrant, competitive and creative the local craft beer industry has gotten.
This guide, I think, has been part of that awakening. I've been at Willamette Week for nearly seven years, and am starting a new job just as this magazine goes to press. During my time here, I've covered everything from theater to hiking to food carts. I've had a great run—spurring a fight over public waterways that's going to the state Supreme Court, launching our cannabis coverage and quarreling with a surprising number of actual, literal Nazis. But the role I'm most proud of has been in the beer scene. I've always had a special relationship with the Oregon beer community, and it's one I'll treasure forever.
Beer is part of the cultural life in Portland in a way that it's not in any other city in this country. So, to me, aggressively covering beer just made sense. That's why Willamette Week's culture department has dedicated a vast amount of resources to beer coverage and approached it the same way we do food—aggressively breaking news, identifying stars and selecting the really special creations for in-depth coverage. Our beer industry is now mature and robust, and ready for both effusive praise and unsparing critique.
I'm happy and proud to say that I think this year's guide is the best and most comprehensive yet. It has listings on the top 100 breweries in Oregon, organized by region, with Michelin-style stars awarded to the best of the best. We've also put together a number of sidebars pointing you to the state's best beer bars. Our staff traveled across Oregon to make this guide. We also tapped writers from around the state for a sense of place that you can't get by just visiting. With each of the top 100, we've identified a nearby spot we think beer geeks will enjoy, be it a beer bar, a food cart or a hot spring. In my mind, there's a real sense of time and place in these pages—plus some great recommendations on what to drink.
As always, we begin by picking the top 10 beers of the last year. These aren't just beers that are great to drink—though they are that—but beers that have a story, and that inspire. These are beers that point the way forward for the rest of the vibrant beer scene in Portland and Oregon. I won't be enmeshed in that scene anymore, but I really look forward to watching it grow and evolve.