In 1805, long before the debut of IFC’s hilarious sketch comedy show “Portlandia,” Captain William Clark wrote in his journal, “Welcome to the theater of majestic beauty―the Great Northwest.” In 1969, a decade before homebrewing became legal in this country, Fred Eckhardt penned A Treatise on Lager Beers: How to Make Good Beer at Home from his home in Portland. Now, in 2011, Lisa Morrison, aka The Beer Goddess, has authored Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. That the Pacific Northwest is a wonderland of amazing beer and beauty isn’t news to anyone who loves great beer, but Morrison’s guidebook reads like a warm welcome to everyone who wishes to explore this region.
The narrative is friendly and reads more like behind-the-wheel banter rather than an outdated, second-hand field guide. Morrison wisely shies away from simply chronicling each and every brewery in the region just for the sake of being complete, then dryly listing the basic stats about them. Instead, she opts for thoroughness by covering those places―breweries, brewpubs, ale houses, bottle shops, etc.―truly worth visiting. Unless you happen to be her neighbor, you have a finite time to soak up the wealth of beers that these two states and one province have to offer, so she jumps right into them.
Instead of alphabetically or academically tackling the cities and destinations, the structure makes sense of these large western places. The chapter on Oregon starts in Portland; Washington’s in Seattle; and BC’s in Vancouver. Furthermore, the hot spots are introduced by neighborhood, so pint-seekers know to quaff Younger’s Special Bitter at the Horse Brass Pub before easily walking to Belmont Station to shop for specialty bottles in southeast Portland. Similarly, when in Seattle’s Capitol Hill hood, should you get parched after leaving the original Elysian Brewing Co. location during your three-minute walk to Quinn’s gastro-pub, you can stop into Barca where any of their 30 taps will slake your thirst. Of course, it’s not all metropolitan destinations. Morrison trekked to BC’s Southern Interior where the Okanagan Valley is regarded for its orchards and vineyards, some 250 miles, er, 400 kilometers, east of Vancouver. There, she makes readers salivate for Cannery Brewing Co.’s Maple Stout in addition to Local Lounge and Grille’s house-made ice cream made from the very same beer (among others).
All in all, Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest points interested parties not to every single brewery in Cascadia, which would actually take nearly a lifetime of devotion to check each one off the bucket list, but only the best watering holes―exactly what Morrison has dedicated herself to achieving and sharing. Replete with sidebars about worthwhile beer fests, bios on the characters who personify this beer region, maps of pub-crawls and tantalizing photos, each of the nearly 200 pages holds several keys to unlocking Greater Beervana.