From the Vault: Beervana 1994

The birth of Beervana: For the first time on the web, Willamette Week's original Beer Guide.

Last Wednesday, WW released our first Beer Guide in over a decade. Now even the most timid nursers have had time to learn about every single brewery within an hour of town, drink our Beer of the Year and bitch about Loki Red making our top 10.

So what we're gonna do right here is go back. How far we goin' back?  To 1994: The Birth of Beervana.

For the first time, today we're uploading Willamette Week's 1994 Beervana supplement to the web as a PDF. You can download it here.

In addition to being the first to brand Portland as "Beervana," the guide is chock-full of information today's beer geeks will find interesting, funny, heartening and shocking.

Here's some context:

This guide came out in September 1994 when Pete's Wicked Ale was airing television commercials and Widmer's Hefeweizen was not yet in bottles. The editor of the 2013 Beer Guide (that's me) was in 8th grade.

Audrey Van Buskirk, Willamette Week's Arts & Culture editor at the time, edited Beervana. Over pints at McMenamins on Northwest 23rd she tells me the supplement was a no-brainer given the beer boom at that moment. Remember, back then the definition of "brewpub" was generally any pub focused on good beer. "At the time it was like, 'whoa, there's so much beer now! There was definitely a sense of discovery.'"

Making the guide was all a ton of fun, says Van Buskirk. Sure, they had to call the library to get information. But when they weren't slaving over a wax gun, they were hanging out and drinking. "We were just all really good friends," she says. "We went out together all the time. Marc Zolton, who wrote a lot of it, was really into beer and got us all excited about beer."

Marc Zolton, as it happens, randomly ended up at our 2013 Beer Guide release party at Green Dragon. He confirmed Van Buskirk's general account of the time. "But I think I'm the one who came up with the word 'Beervana,'" he says. "Pretty sure that was me."

Portland was both very much as it is today and very different. For example, there are no references to the Pearl District in this guide. Listings for McMenamins locations stretch over four pages. Earl Blumenauer (who talks about his favorite beer on page 10) was a city commissioner. A WW writer thought that, "As a place to drink beer, Dots is hand's down the sweetest place on the east side."

As now, WW writers brought a wide range of beer-related experience to the table—an ability to relate to a wide spectrum of readers which we consider a strength and not a liability. Mostly, though, they were all into music.

Beervana hit the streets about two months after Jerry Garcia died and six months after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. "The culture staff at the time was evenly split between Nirvana fans and Deadheads and that was kind of a thing," Van Buskirk says.

This, of course, is still true.

You can download the 1994 Beer Guide here or look for a free glossy copy of the 2013 Beer Guide at one of these locations and online here.

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