‘Brew’nomics and the cultural impact of bars and breweries in the city of Eugene
Eugene, OR – The interior of Wetlands Bar & Grill has a genuine, sunny atmosphere despite the drizzle of rain on the sidewalks and streets outside. Despite it being 9:35 on a Sunday morning, customers continue to slowly saunter into the bar’s well lit areas with intentions of starting their days with an early sunup buzz. Like the rain outside, beer continues to pour into the glasses for the numerous consumers that have seated themselves at one of the bar’s numerous black colored bar stools.
For many Oregonians, the bar is a church. Yet, religions and individual beliefs are usually not among the subjects usually worshipped there. Most come to discuss politics, business, sports and their typical working day. In bars, college students, teachers and professors, and white and blue collar workers can always mingle and celebrate life in its fullest while discussing current news and events. And when they talk, they talk by the glass.
Oregon has always been well known for its luscious forests, biking lanes and running paths and its unpredictable weather forecasts. But the state’s breweries, which are mainly located in Portland, Eugene and the Oregon coast, have continued to set the standard for beer quality throughout the world despite being in a secluded location. In fact, Oregon contributes roughly $2.33 billion to the U.S. economy each year and is the second largest manufacturer of craft beer in the nation. The list of breweries is
“I think Oregon is the spot for beer,” says Scott Wiley, a Lane Community College student from Eugene. “It’s very delicious and price conscientious [and] it has a lot better taste than beer like Coors Light, Bud Lite and Pabst. Eugene microbreweries really throw it down.”
Throughout the year, Oregon’s 81 established brewing companies have continued to supply their thirsty consumers throughout the nation while creating over 4,700 employees in the state alone. [See link here for information] Oregon has been deemed the fourth largest craft beer export in the first half of 2010 and Portland has been acknowledged as the number one location for breweries in the world, with 38 operating currently in the city. Yet, Eugene has always been recognized as an independent brewing source separate from the state because of its distinct taste and quality of micro-beers that it produces yearly. Despite the city’s struggling economy, breweries and bars have managed to stay alive and are attempting to collectively outlast the country’s recession and outlive the drought.
“A drought? Our weekdays are usually busy, especially on Thursday and Friday night,” says Kelly Wilson, an employee at Jameson’s Bar in Eugene located on 115 West Broadway. “We actually sell more Ninkasi than Pabst [and] Pabst in our cheapest beer. I think during the spring and summer it’s going to get more crazy and busy, especially since we’ve had more customers in the last few months.”
Locations such as Jameson’s Bar, The Horsehead Bar, Diablos, and Lucky’s Bar and Music Venue has quickly established the reputation as the ‘Barmuda Triangle’; an area that consists of a multitude of bars and brewery establishments in the downtown Eugene area. On a typical weekday afternoon, the bars are less than half full, with many of its customers lounging around on comfortable seats while staring into half-full cups of beer or empty shots of liquor. Nights are different, especially after the release of students from nearby schools and the numerous business workers that would rather stray to the nearest bar than to the confines of their homes.
Surprisingly, this is expected.
In 2007, more than seven percent of male and female adults in Lane County were known to be heavy drinkers throughout the year, with 22 percent of the county’s male residences bingeing throughout a survey’s 30-month period. Researchers have found
that 45 percent of alcoholics in America have usually established themselves as heavy drinkers by the age of fourteen, Oregon’s average rate of drinking before the age of eighteen has quickly increased. Over 25 percent of youths in the state of Oregon have taken a sip of alcohol before they were eleven. Maybe it’s just the state’s beer.
“I think the first time I drank was senior year […] when I was seventeen,” says Dempsey Weld, a student from Lane Community College focused on a Student Transfer Degree. “First I just drank because it was a social thing to do,” Weld says as he sips on a drink in the dim, red light from Diablo’s Bar in downtown Eugene. “Coming from a smaller community it was just like hype; a thing to do on a Friday night. There was always a social connection and the beer has always tasted good [down] here.”
In 2009, downtown markets were asked by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to discontinue selling malt beers, including Four Loko and Tilts, because they contain so much alcohol. The OLCC was worried that rising violence due to transients purchasing these beverages would cast the downtown into a negative light by the public. Although the stores refused to obey the new regulations, police units were forced to focus on the certain problematic areas in the downtown and around the city’s Washington-Jefferson Park.
Among Eugene’s downtown businesses, bars and breweries located in the area have continued to contribute an economic cash flow, despite that the city has “exceeded state and national averages [of] job loss and unemployment,” according to the ‘Regional Prosperity Economic Development Plan of Lane County.’ Yet, the downtown
area has continued to grow, with expected plans to fill in a gap across from Eugene’s Public Library as well as a growth of expenditure after Eugene’s first downtown hotel is completed in the summer of 2011 in the Fifth Street Market area. The city has had its ups and downs, especially during the economic depressions that have since shunned out downtown establishments such as Sears and Woolworth; however, downtown bars have always seemed to persist without any problems.
“I think it’s because of their beer,” says Ciarra Lopez at Lucky’s Bar. “I come down here just because the [beer] is good and there[s] a lot of different choices of stuff to drink. I just didn’t know that Eugene had that many bars though.”
Lopez, an unemployed worker from Salem, OR who is studying business at the city’s community college acknowledges that the state has a plentitude of bars; more than what is usually expected in any state. Numerous counties in the state of Oregon have already exceeded bars per capita and Lane County is one of the highest; but, Oregon bars and breweries have donated more than $1.2 million to non-profit organizations in 2009. But is this good or bad? Should Oregon consumers be worried on the effects of alcohol on their communities or benefit from the prosperity of big business? Maybe they should do both.
In 2006, 37 percent of motor vehicle crashes in Lane County were related with alcohol; with ten percent of minors involved in vehicle accidents associated while being intoxicated. According to Oregon’s Brewers Guild, 38 percent of draft beer that is drank by Oregon consumers in brewed in Oregon, giving the perception that patrons of Oregon’s beer are often affected by the state’s high quality brewing standards. In a draft proposal by the City of Eugene for Planning and Development Department (CEPDD), researchers state that they want to “promote compact urban development and efficient transportation options [and] protect, repair, and enhance natural resources.” Established bars in Eugene’s downtown have been hot points for other business to launch their business around, especially in the ‘Barmuda Triangle’ located at the intersection of Broadway and Olive St. Many of the bars located in the area continue to serve customers past midnight and often promote their favorite beers brewed in Oregon.
“I think that [places] like the Hotel Hilton really help us out,” says Brett Vallotch, who is an employee for the Steelhead Brewery. “But our beer economy? It’s pretty hard to say especially since there has been a recession. But it seems like there has been an increase of customers in the business during the last four years.”
Bars and breweries are quite easy to establish jobs around, especially after the CDEPDD has vowed to “create 20,000 net new jobs in the chosen economic opportunity area [and] reduce the local unemployment rate to, or below the state average; and increase the average wage to or above the state average.” Oregon is already nationally ranked as the number two hop growing state in the county, “with a 2009 crop value [of hops] valued at $43,185,000” during the year. For the state, Oregon’s breweries can be seen as a growth capita, or a necessity to help spur on big business and investors in major cities that include Eugene. But as with most major cities, bars spur on crime and Eugene’s criminal statistics related to alcohol have continued to grow.
“It doesn’t feel good at all,” says a source not wanted to be named and was arrested recently for a DUI in Oregon “It feels like the world is crashing down on you; but I will continue hitting the bar before my diversion program starts. I still think that Oregon does has the best beer though.”
Ever Wonder What’s In A beer? You Might Be Surprised By These Facts
From cheap malt liquors to expensive imported German pale ales, beer has always been a tasty commodity that usually leaves a smile on consumers across the world. But what is it about beer that gives it its distinct taste and leaves a warm feeling in the pit of your stomach after you take your first sip? There may be more to it than you think.
Since 3500-3100 B.C., humans have slowly changed the structure for creating their own special blends of brews and other alcoholic beverages. The Sumerians enjoyed a thick beer, which resembled pudding and was often made from barley bread that was baked twice and placed in a vat for fermentation before drinking. In ancient Egypt, citizens enjoyed their specially made beer barley that they considered it healthier than water and would allow all to consume its ‘better’ benefits to your body.
However, most Americans probably wouldn’t want to consume something that chunky and things were added to many popular commercial beers that appease the general public better. Surprisingly, most popular beer is actually made up of water, with 90-95% of the actual beer being composed of water. So in a sense, the Egyptians had it right. In today’s high production, most brewers use chlorine and other addictives to remove any toxicant in water that they buy; this insures that the finished product will be safe to drink. Accoriding to an article by IceColdOne, “common minerals [found in the beer’s water] include calcium sulfate, calcium chloride, sodium chloride (table salt) and Epsom salt.” The amount of water usually will determine the thickness of the beer; some prefer to use less to create stouts and malty brews but the bigger breweries such as Budweiser and Coors continue to add more water to make their drinks easy to consume.
Malt extracts and Hops are the second most common terms when discussing the generic makeup of a beer. Although different breweries choose different hops and a variety of malted barley, they have to be included to produce that ‘warm sensation.’ For malts, some breweries use black malt, chocolate malts, oats, wheat and other roasted barley to create the taste of their beer. Hops are considered the ‘salt and pepper’ of the beer and allows its creator to add different tastes and varieties. A hop sometimes looks like a flower but during the boiling phase of the beer, it is broken apart and dissolved into the beer. Some hops in Europe and America are actually compressed pellets that look like “rabbit food,” although many brewers have since strayed away from the use of these pellets.
After the malt or malt extract is added, yeast is the next step to create the final makeup of a beer. The yeast acts like a virus that attacks the sugar found in the malts and changes them into alcohol and carbon monoxide. There are several types of yeasts, including lager yeasts and ale yeasts that brewers choose to change the beer’s flavor; however, adding particular types of yeasts will determine how you cool the beer after the final boiling stage. Some beers have to be cooled immediately to 45 degrees Fahrenheit and then stored in a cool location for several months before taking a sip.
The genetics of beer will always continue to evolve and change as more breweries invent different styles and flavors. But the makeup of a beer has to at least include a form of a malt, yeast, and water; otherwise it just wouldn’t be a beer at all.