Having grown up in the Portland area I witnessed a huge transformation in the local wine industry as Oregon began to establish itself as a premier Pinot growing region and wine producer. Closely following on the heels of this revolution was changes in the beer seen. While Oregon had homebrewers as witnessed by a local writer, Fred Eckhardt, publishing in 1969 his book “A Treatise on Lager Beers,” it wasn’t until 1979 that Oregon made homebrewing legal. Well practiced homebrewers were brewing their own versions of German and British beers and began going commercial in a big way with the Widmer Brothers (Widmer Brothers Brewing) and the Ponzis (Bridgeport Brewing) both in ’84 and the McMenamins brothers brewpubs in ’85.
These changes were not alone, Jack McAuliffe had started the New Albion in California in ’76 and Anchor Brewing of San Francisco had begun their own revolution under the leadership of Fritz Maytag beginning in ‘65. Shortly after Jack started New Albion, Ken Grossman, a homebrewer that had started a homebrew supply store in ’76, saw both Jack and Fritz’s operations and decided to follow suit with Sierra Navada in ’79. Across the country, Jim Koch opened Samuel Adams and began brewing in ’84.
These early movers inspired many many more who followed in their footsteps. Many if not most of those who followed first caught the brewing through homebrewing. Homebrewers who did not, themselves, go commercial became huge supporters of the new small craft brewers. Now, some 30 years after those early beginnings, craft beer is a given. There is not a grocery store or restaurant here in Portland that does not carry an array, if not a vast array of craft beer.
So, why am I going on and on about beer in this, a Sake brewing blog? Because I see no reason why sake can’t go the way of craft beer and explode with popularity. The more we brew sake, the more we learn about how to make really great sake and the more we share what we learn the more will follow igniting the fire that will burn like the sun.
Update 5-10-12: I just wanted to add the first two brew pubs in the US were Bert Grant’s in Yakima, Washington in 1982 which was followed a few weeks later by Bill Owens with Buffalo Bill’s Brew Pub in Hayward, California in 1983.