Cat-sitting in PDX

the love of beerThe time off from work had been arranged. The plane tickets and hotel had been paid. The travelers were excited. And then the cat got sick. Sick as in hospitalized with the emergency vets’ over the weekend. (Digestive complications.)

Thirty-six hours before her departure, our daughter called near tears to report that her beloved feline was back home but not out of the woods, and there seemed to be no option but to cancel the trip.

Twenty-four hours later, I was in Portland, Oregon, hanging out with the cat while my daughter finished packing. Twelve hours later, the cat and I were on our own for 5 days, so I checked out, and cha-ching! Lo and behold, I’d arrived during the final days of Portland Beer Week (June 9-19).

A definite advantage of cats over kids is that you can go off and leave them for hours at a stretch, even recovering ones. Still, the opportunities were many and the time short. I had to go for the unique events, no new beer releases or bands playing in pubs. Then, a really special one caught my eye: the fifth anniversary celebration of The Love of Beer. I wasn’t familiar with the documentary, but I did know the names and some of the accomplishments of the women followed by director Alison Grayson. The real kicker: these women would attend the screening. And as the icing on the cake, this event was happening at McMenamin’s Mission Theater.

McMenamin's Mission Theater

McMenamin’s Mission Theater

McMenamin’s is one of the first names you run across in Oregon craft beer culture. According to Wikipedia, the McMenamin brothers opened their first restaurant in 1974 and their first brewpub in 1985 at–of all places–the old Mission Theater. These community heroes have made a career of buying up vacant historic theaters, hotels, schools and other public buildings in Oregon and Washington and repurposing them. I’ve visited 6 or 8 of today’s 65 McMenamin’s and found each one charming in itself own, unique way.

Meanwhile, I had my work cut out before the event. I figured the crowd would mostly be local and plenty knowledgeable about Oregon craft beer and its personalities. I needed to up my game, and what better way than to view the 2011 film beforehand?

I watched director Grayson follow Sara Pederson, owner of Saraveza, over the year between the first and second anniversaries of her Portland bottle shop and pasty tavern with a dozen taps. During that time, Pederson also went through her first pregnancy and gave birth to a daughter. Then there’s multiple award-winning brewer Tonya Cornett who was at Bend Brewing during most of the documentary and switched 10 Barrel toward the end, which is where she still brews today.

Counter of Saraveza's bar

Counter of Saraveza’s bar

While Great Western Malting and Teri Fahrendorf are actually in Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, no documentary of female craft brewers would be complete without Fahrendorf, the widely respected founder of the Pink Boots Society, the organization for female brewers. The fourth main personality in the film is Lisa Morrison, aka The Beer Goddess. Morrison is a long-time PDX beer writer, host of the Beer O’Clock radio program and owner of Belmont Station, “Portland’s premier bottle shop and bier café,” as the website proclaims.

After watching the movie Friday morning, I hit Saraveza for a pasty and a Yooper Ale from Upper Hand Brewery (Michigan). The man working on his lunch beside me at the bar heartily approved my selections, the same as his, he said, pointing to his plate and glass. One empty plate and glass later, I agreed with him. Next time you’re in Portland and hankering for a quirky bar with good beer and good food, check out Saraveza.

Shortly before 5:00 p.m., I met up with fellow beer blogger, Natasha Godard outside the Mission Theater where we and a group of 20-somethings in 10 Barrel shirts waited for the venue to open. Turned out they all worked at the Portland brewpub and had come as a show of support for Tonya Cornett who works at the original brewery in Bend.

Over the next couple hours, I sipped good beer and spoke with a lot of very enthusiastic craft beer fans, homebrewers and professional brewers. When I met Sara Pederson, I slipped in that I’d lunched at Saraveza. One of the longest conversations I had that evening was with Cornett, the 2008 World Beer Cup brewer of the year in the small brewpub category. Every conversation I’ve ever had with famous craft brewers, I’ve gotten tongue-tied and tripped over words. I’ve rarely felt as at ease as I did with Cornett.

Once the movie started, the fun ramped up, with the crowd cheering each time a new persona came on the screen. One row ahead of me, Pedersen, Cornett, Fahrendorf, Morrison and a couple of younger brewers whispered, patted shoulders and cheered each other on. It was fascinating to watch these seriously successful women having so much fun.

Panel discussion after the movie

Panel discussion after the movie

Alas, Portland Beer Week ended Sunday and, as I write, my cat-sitting duties are coming to an end. The cat is doing well and I have some awesome beer tales. Check back next week to read how I sampled 19 beers in 3 hours, 14 of them for free.


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