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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Portland Beer Book Targets Broad Audience

Many who read this blog know my book, Portland Beer: Crafting the Road to Beervana, was published this week. There hasn't been any coverage in the mainstream media to this point, but the book seems to be doing reasonably well out of the gate. It's available online and in local bookstores.

I'm not here to review the book. That's a task for some of my beer writing friends and others in the media. I have no idea what they will say or when they will say it. I also have no intention of trying to sway anyone's opinion in any direction. The book is what it is.

Original cover photo sans book details
The idea for this project first occurred to me 10 or so years ago, when I was considering what had transpired in Portland to that point. Since arriving in 1989, I had observed the evolution of beer here. I thought it was a story worth telling, but had no thought that I would be the one telling it..

The 2007 OPB documentary, Beervana, reinforced my thoughts. Written and produced by Beth Harrington, Beervana provides a short but sweet video snapshot of Portland's beer history. This is "must see" TV and you can view it here if you haven't seen it. Good stuff.

My opportunity to write Portland's beer history presented itself a few years later. I had worked in corporate communications and marketing for many years prior to the crash of 2008. For someone of my experience and age, that work effectively evaporated in the downturn. By 2010-11, I was looking for a way to use my talents outside the corporate setting. That led to freelance writing, this blog and, eventually, the book project.

Portland in the 1890s
My initial stabs at Portland's beer story took the form of successive eBooks. Those books were heavy on contemporary content and contained only minimal history. The eBooks did not do especially well, though they were good exercises. Both are now unpublished, if you're wondering.

About the time I published the second of the eBooks, I began talks with The History Press about the possibility of writing a print version of Portland's beer history. They had, in fact, been looking for someone to write that story. I had no idea. I only knew they had an expanding line of books on American beer cities. I submitted a proposal to write the Portland book and we eventually agreed on the details. The project was on.

Oregon's first craft brewery, Cartwright, lived here
Portland Beer is, by design, written for a general audience. The publisher wanted a book that would appeal to a wide range of people interested in Portland and beer. The result is a book of around 160 pages including a color insert. Some might quibble with that. A book written for the beer geek crowd would likely be twice that length. But the prospective geek audience would be much smaller. Thus, the publisher's dictum.

The scope of the project required me to make certain decisions in terms of emphasis. Readers will discover that roughly half the book is devoted to what happened here after 1980. That merely reflects my bias that most readers want to know more about the craft period. Regardless, the earlier period gets its due. There are plenty of interesting story lines.

As I was going about the business of researching and writing the book, I ran into some interesting twists and turns. Some key people were reluctant to talk because they didn't know me. Fortunately, I had friends and acquaintances who vouched for my project and helped connect me with most of the people I wanted interview. I could not have written the book without that assistance.

Cover final
There were also some surprises along the way. This is the first book of its kind on Portland, which means it cannot be considered revisionist history. Yet some of what I report runs counter to prevailing wisdom. Probably the biggest surprise relates to passage of the Brewpub Bill in 1985. For whatever reason, previous versions of how that happened were routinely wrong. I tracked the true story using legislative documents.

For anyone interested, there is a release party for the book this Saturday, Sept. 28, at The Commons Brewery in Southeast Portland. I will be there from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. selling and signing books. This 21-and-over event is open to the public. Please join us if you're so inclined. It should be a good time with plenty of conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Pete -- I just saw this on OregonLIve. Not mainstream enough for you? Then get into the Oregon Beer Growler! Please send me gailoberst@oregonbeergrowler.com your phone number, a picture of yourself and your book cover, social security number and mother's maiden name, a I'll be glad to run a blurb on your book. Not really, those last two items.


Keep it civil, please.