Beer Guide 2013: Introduction

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Do you prefer BridgePort IPA or Full Sail ESB?

The last time Willamette Week published a beer guide, that was the hot debate. The editor of our 1999 guide—a guy named Jeff Alworth—couldn't decide between the two.

Portland's beer scene has come a long way since WW weighed in with a comprehensive guide like the 1994 edition that, as best we can tell, coined the term "Beervana."

Now, we're back. Think of the 2013 Beer Guide as a barrel-aged imperial stout—it's been sitting in oak until it's thick, smooth and rich. It's ready to pop, and it's going to knock you on your ass.

There's never been a more exciting time to write about our beer. Breweries open with every new moon, many doing things unimagined five years ago. Oregon now has some of the world's best sour ales, Belgians better than Belgium's, and beer brewed with grilled beef hearts. Even pioneers like Widmer and Full Sail are outgrowing the old-fashioned IPA.

We've worked hard to produce a publication that works for the A-S-T-M-O crowd (see our Geek Speak beer glossaryand Joe Bomber alike.

So what's on tap?

First, we share our 10 favorite Oregon beers of the past year, starting with our Beer of the Year, the Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale (Nos. 2 through 10 are here). You may notice that IPAs are conspicuously absent from the list—we couldn't find one that excited us enough to warrant inclusion. There may be commercial life left in the style, but it's telling that Ashland's new Swing Tree Brewing makes the "Obligatory IPA."

Second, we bring you reviews of the 59 breweries within an hour's drive of Portland. The only exceptions are the many McMenamins that brew—we picked our three favorites from the chain.

Third, we take you to the best breweries across the state and to our best beer bars, bottle shops and homebrew suppliers.

Fourth, we capture some of the unique culture that makes Portland's beer scene so special. To do that, we compiled a calendar of the year's biggest beer festivals, had four transit experts design bar crawls, asked notable locals to pick a favorite beer, and assembled a history of our state's best-selling craft beer.

If you've been drinking BridgePort IPA and Full Sail ESB for the past decade, you have a lot of catching up to do. After you're done here, we think you'll agree you're holding the best guide to Portland beer that's ever been published.

So cheers to Beervana—a great place in 1994, but even better in 2013. —Martin Cizmar


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