From Beer to Fraternity* a.k.a. Beer No. 5

After a lot of driving past cattle ranches and sagebrush, we finally reached the Pacific Northwest! We made it to Oregon a few days back and of course that meant we had reached one of the places in our country that has been at the forefront of the craft beer movement. It also meant stops in Seattle, WA, to see the sights (including the Space_Needle) and in Portland, OR, where we stayed with our fraternity brother Dr. Greg Mallek, and his family. A hearty thanks to Greg for hosting us for two days and for showing us the sights!

First a few pictures.

The Space Needle in Seattle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair:

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A view of Seattle and Mount Rainier from the top of the Space Needle:

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Now on to the beer. Let’s start with a little history.  In the 1970’s there were only about 40 breweries in the entire United States. The variety of beers available was seriously limited to lager beers, lager beers and more lager beers (some of them were even light beers…. wow…..yay…ughhh). But beer drinkers had a yearning to taste something more. Home-brewers tried their hand at making many beer styles other than the typical American Lager.  Stouts, Porters, Pale Ales, and many more, were all fair game. Pretty soon some of these home-brewers decided to try establishing commercial microbreweries. The craft beer revolution was born.

The Pacific Northwest was an initial hot bed of craft beer production. This was in part due to favorable liquor regulations in states that already had wine producing regions with many small wineries.  It wasn’t long before craft brewing spread widely around the rest of the country, but the Pacific Northwest still lays claim to some very fine microbreweries. As a family, we are either a little old (Sarah and I) or a little young (Elizabeth and Julie) for engaging in late night extended pub crawls, but we did get the chance to do a little sampling.  Some of the highlights follow.

We first entered Oregon from the east, and it was still a number of miles before we got out of the wilds of eastern Oregon.  We stopped in Pendleton, OR, which really is still somewhat of a Western town and not quite in the Pacific Northwest yet (they have a Pendleton Rodeo, that tells you a lot). However, craft brewing is alive and well in Pendleton. I think I saw two, or maybe even three brew pubs on the main street. We stopped in The Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub.  They certainly brew right on the premises, see this picture of their brewing operation.

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They had between a half dozen and a dozen brews to choose from, but Sarah stuck with her preference for dark beers (the Porter), and I decided to go with my adventurous side and try the Huckleberry Wheat beer.

Here I have to put in a word about huckleberries. You have probably heard if them, and if you are from the Northeast like I am you probably have a very vague idea of what they are. But when “push comes to shove,” if you are like me, you probably aren’t sure exactly what they are like. Well, they are kind of like a blueberry. Not so mysterious, but they are a very big deal out west in places like Wyoming and Montana. Admittedly, I am not really sure why. Anyway, the huckleberry flavor came right through and melded well in the wheat beer.

I know we drank  beer in Seattle, but I forgot to note what we drank and where we drank it, so we will have to skip on to Portland.  In Portland we had a mini reunion with one of my fraternity brothers from Penn.  Dr. Greg Mallek graduated from Penn a few years after I did. He then served in the Marine Corps before going to medical school and settling in the Portland area.   Greg is a great fellow, and he and his wife Melinda and their boys were kind enough to put us up for a few days and show us the sights.  The sights included more beer!  After some kayaking we stopped in the Stickman Brewing Company, one of the many breweries in the Portland area. I stuck with the German Hefeweizen but Sarah went with her favoritism for dark brew, selecting the Coffee Porter. Both were great, we could really taste the coffee in Sarah’s Porter.

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Having spent a very enjoyable extended labor day weekend in the Pacific Northwest (and very much ready to get south of the smoke and ash from the raging wildfires and forest fires out here) we are on our way into northern California next.

* Giving credit where credit is due – in 1953 the film “From Here to Eternity”  won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.

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