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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bowling and Craft Beer Fit Right in There

It occurred to me the other day that we (the Royal we, if you must) who attempt to follow what's happening on the craft beer front sometimes lose our way. We pay plenty of attention to the newest eclectic beers and breweries and we're forever blathering on about special events and festivals. And that's cool...that's cool.

As a result, we sometimes forget about the people who drive around and bowl for recreation. You may be surprised to hear it, but more men and women worldwide participate in bowling than any other sport. Softball? Forget it. Golf? No chance. Any schmo can bowl...and they do in great numbers.

Obviously you're not a golfer
 There's more. First of all, the bowling industry generates more money for airlines, restaurants (bars), hotels and rental cars than any sport worldwide. There's also the fact that you can do virtually everything in a bowling alley that you do in a bar. White Russian?

Bowling alleys have changed a lot in recent times. To compete with other entertainment and gaming options, bowling alley have gotten bigger and they've introduced new activities. Modern bowling alleys are apt to have gaming rooms, restaurants, night clubs, even movie theaters.

Famous bowling buddies
Which brings me around to craft beer. I had to get there at some point. Back in the day, the only beer you were likely to find in a bowling alley was American lager. If you've ever watched a movie with bowling as the backdrop, you probably saw the main characters drinking light beer. Does the Pope shit in the woods?

To check on the current status of beer and bowling, I made a stop at the Hollywood Bowl in Northeast Portland the other day. They've got 48 lanes. It wasn't very busy on a Friday afternoon, but I'm informed the place gets pretty well packed during league play, which runs Monday through Thursday evenings. In general, the place tends to be busier in the winter than in the summer. The bah's over there.

Nine of out of 12 ain't bad
They've got 12 tap handles at Hollywood Bowl. I was impressed to discover nine of those taps pouring respectable beers. The choices included Widmer Rotator IPA, Bridgeport Kingpin, HUB IPA, Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA and several more. Not exactly the Horse Brass, but not bad.

It gets better. The barkeep told me the different breweries take turns sponsoring some of the leagues they have at the Hollywood Bowl. Taps rotate according to who is sponsoring a particular league. It's plain to see out on the lanes, where I saw banners from Laurelwood and Widmer.

It isn't just about good sarsaparilla these days
It doesn't take great eyesight to see that they go through a lot of beer here...and craft has clearly earned a bigger piece of the pie than would have been the case historically. This is not your father's bowling alley beer selection, not by a long-shot. 

I'm not saying your nearest bowling alley is a substitute for the finer brewpubs or ale houses in town. Far from it. What I am saying is craft beer has come a long way when you can find it dominating the beer selection in a place where the patrons didn't always care about good beer. 

I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.

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