It's been a wild ride this past decade in the craft brewing industry.
The 2010s saw a major spike in the number of breweries, not only in Portland but across the country. According to the Brewers Association, there were nearly 7,500 beer producers in the U.S. as of 2018, up from 986 the previous decade.
But unprecedented growth never goes unchecked.
2019 felt like a purge of Portland's longtime breweries, with every week seeming to bring news of another closure. Although the breweries we lost this year all went under for different reasons, it feels as though the teeter-totter is about to plunge to the ground.
There is good news: New breweries are still opening, with some even taking over the husks that remain after another shutters. There will be time to celebrate those advances—but for now, let us pay our respects to those we'll miss the most.
BridgePort Brewing Company
How we'll remember it: As Oregon's oldest existing brewery, BridgePort played a significant role in shaping the industry during the 1980s and '90s. Aptly named, it served as a span that connected three people from very different parts of the world: a brewmaster from Australia and co-founders with a background in winemaking from California. Dick and Nancy Ponzi helped change laws so manufacturers could allow customers to taste beer on the premises without a special permit, and introduced the Pacific Northwest to the now ubiquitous IPA by hiring Aussie Phil Sexton, who developed the hop-forward recipe that was bold yet tame when held up to today's standards.
Pour this one out: BridgePort IPA, which at 50 IBUs was many drinker's first experience with a once ass-whooping level of hops.
Rock Bottom Brewing
How we'll remember it: As the Portland beer scene grew over the past decade, beer snobs had a hot-cold relationship with the 25-year-old brewery. It served as home base for brewers, such as Gigantic's Van Havig, who went on to found successful smaller operations, and introduced many area drinkers to the concept of craft beer. But it was also part of a Denver-born chain, so its status was always that of an interloper, and ordering a beer at its downtown pub felt more like drinking at a TGI Friday's.
Pour this one out: During our last few visits to Rock Bottom, the Puddle Hopper was the go-to—malt-balanced with a cutely Portland name.
How we'll remember it: This was the true punch to the gut of 2019. The Old Lompoc Tavern opened in 1993 and began brewing operations three years later under the direction of founder Jerry Fechter and Don Younger, owner of the legendary Horse Brass Pub. Most recently, Bryan Keilty, who now oversees the brewhouse at Gorges Beer, cranked out the core lineup with astonishing consistency over the years while still managing to tap new releases. The brewery was a local treasure that now, sadly, lives only in the memories of aging barflies and the stories they'll tell from their stools.
Pour this one out: Pamplemousse IPA gushed with citrus thanks to the combination of four hop varieties and the addition of grapefruit juice.
How we'll remember it: Long before breweries got audacious with their food menus, Burnside made the pub grub coming out of other kitchens look banal by comparison. The brewers also had a focused commitment to a wide and ever-changing array of offerings that ranged from more traditional flagships, like the clean, bready Couch Lager, to surprisingly unique takes on old styles, including a Belgian saison infused with blueberries, local honey and fresh mint.
Pour this one out: The Scotch bonnet and apricot mixture in Sweet Heat was the most flavorful way you could torture your tongue with a beer.
How we'll remember it: Coalition produced the first commercially available CBD-infused beer in the state, which meant navigating more than a few tedious legal hurdles. That led the Coalition team to explore terpenes, which are said to have a variety of effects—from relaxing to energizing. Established by Kiley Hoyt and Elan Walsky, the brewery moved its taproom in 2014 across the street to its production space, and even installed a patio.
Pour this one out: That CBD IPA was named Two Flowers, a reference to the related plants—hops and cannabis—it married in the same beverage.
How we'll remember it: Cider Riot will forever be referred to as "the antifascist bar," which founder Abram Goldman-Armstrong has expressed some regret over. It gained notoriety this year as the center of a high-profile criminal case after six far-right organizers were indicted for assaulting antifascists there in May, overshadowing the sophisticated English-style hard-pressed beverages Goldman-Armstrong produced.
Pour this one out: Goldman-Armstrong has won several prestigious awards for his cider, among the most recent being the semi-dry New Wave, which earned a bronze at the 2019 Bath & West International Cider Championships.