By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The writer behind the recently published zine, A Feminist's Guide to Beer Drinking, is unsurprisingly, a girl (and yes, she's OK being a "girl"). She's also a certified Cicerone, coauthor of the book “Hop in the Saddle” and has her first solo book coming out this fall.
Before Lucy Burningham came to the beer mecca that is Portland, she was living in Utah, which has laws she diplomatically describes as "weird." Those used to the beer-favorable laws found here, however, might describe Utah’s limit of 4% ABV on beers sold at grocery stores and convenience stores “shockingly antiquated.” Moreover, so-called “high point beer” with an ABV above 4% is limited to bottles only, even at state liquor stores, breweries, bars and restaurants. Those laws have resulted in a general lack of craft beer (although that is slowly changing) and for Lucy, a lack of a palate for beer.
When she moved to Portland in 2005 to pursue a master's in creative nonfiction writing at Portland State University, she fell in love with the city after being wooed, in part, by its craft beer scene. While interviewing a beer sommelier for her first beer article she not only learned that beer could taste like bananas; Burningham was also impressed with the beer culture. People knew the brewers, they expressed a tremendous amount of pride for local beers and were passionate about their favorites. It's not hard to understand how she became hooked on Portland, on drinking craft beer and on writing about craft beer.
That first beer article turned out to be the start of a new point of interest and direction in her journalistic career. Lucy had written for years about food. In fact, the thesis for her master's was on Oregon truffles. But Portland's beer enticed her to explore her beer palate. Jumping into craft beer Portland-style, IPAs were her first love due to what she describes as their "bracing bitterness." Beyond being drawn in by the taste, her curiosity was piqued by the wide variety of color variations both within and across beer styles. All of this combined with her journalistic skills to produce pieces for well-known publications such as Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, The New York Times and SAVEUR.
Out of her vast collection of writing, it was Lucy's first piece for The New York Times that she is most proud of. The article, “A Hop and a Sip to Fresh Ales,” was not only her first high-profile beer piece, but its research put her on a hop farm for the first time. At Sodbuster Farms in Salem, she was introduced to the excitement and incredible smells of the hop harvest. That, along with other beer experiences, opened her eyes to how much there was to explore, which she continued to do through writing. It also spurred her to pursue formal beer education and become a Certified Cicerone.
The Cicerone Certification Program offers three levels of certification with Certified Cicerone being the second, giving students a well-rounded education on beer as well as the skills needed to assess beer quality. Passing a comprehensive exam is necessary for certification and Lucy took the preparation to heart. She learned what it’s like to be a beer student — experiencing the intense pressure and feelings of being completely overwhelmed. Tough decisions arose, including times where she wasn’t sure whether she should just simply sip and enjoy a beer or continue to study in order to pass the exam. Her hard work and dedication paid off when she passed the exam and, as a bonus, she realized she had the content for her forthcoming book, “My Beer Year.”
Lucy Burningham writes about beer for well-known publications and has a new zine called A Feminist’s Guide to Beer Drinking. The journalist wanted to expand her experience with food writing by turning to beer after moving from Utah to Portland and falling love with the craft beer culture. Photo by Kris McDowell
While it will be a few months before her new book is available, her most recent work, A Feminist's Guide to Beer Drinking, is available in hard copy and online. Part of the Portland Zine series, it's one in a set of independently published booklets that reflects the progressive spirit and DIY ethos of the city. When Lucy was initially approached about the guide, she wasn’t sure she could pull it off. As she was brainstorming her approach, she started thinking about the women in the Oregon beer world and how they help to define it. Before she knew it, she was excited about what lay ahead.
With her proposal accepted, she interviewed a number of women, including Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, Miranda Kasten of Lady Brew Portland, Teri Fahrendorf of the Pink Boots Society and Whitney Burnside of 10 Barrel Brewing. She wanted the project to be part serious and part playful. It starts off serious, with a section on Gayle where she talks about her role in taking over a portion of the family hop-growing business and changing its focus to craft brewers to meet the changing times.
The playful tone becomes apparent as you move through the pages and find articles such as “How to Evaluate Beer Like a Lady *Or a Man *Or Fluid Gender of Preference.” There's also a guide for hosting a ladies' beer night that concludes with the instruction to "dream about your next ladies' beer night." In addition to Lucy's writing style, the zine's tone is assisted by illustrations from Deirdre Mahon and the layout, reminiscent of a scrapbook of favorite memories, pulls off the balance she was looking for.
The balance in the zine reflects a similar balance in Lucy's feelings about gender in craft beer. While acknowledging that gender can't be ignored and there are still biases and stereotypes, it's not something that she focuses on. Rather it's something that surfaces somewhat unconsciously — like when she finds herself at a beer event counting the number of men versus the number of women.
She's seen the number of women involved in craft beer increase in the last 10 years and takes the count as more of a quick observation than of something to dwell on. In her experience, she's generally found the beer community to be very welcoming, spurring her curiosity instead of discriminating against it. It's the occasional situation that catches her by surprise briefly. For instance, there was the time she was told by a guy that “you don’t look like a beer drinker,” which left her a bit bewildered. Much like the boy picking on girls on the playground, there's bound to be one who hasn't figured out that both guys and girls enjoy craft beer and can even enjoy craft beer together.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Lisa Morrison, aka “The Beer Goddess,” loves a challenge, especially when it comes to beer. She jumps heart first into all her ventures and success follows this passionate trailblazer.
Her newest challenge is Belmont Station, the premier bottle shop in Portland with more than 1,300 varieties of beer and 23 different taps, including cider, in the Biercafé. Two years ago Morrison became a co-owner of Belmont Station, a 51 percent owner to be exact, with Carl Singmaster.
Morrison said she often jokingly asked her friend Carl if he wanted to sell. One day he said yes.
“It was around the time that my husband Mark and I were talking about ideas for retirement. We threw out the idea of owning a bottle shop, and then it happened,” said Morrison.
It was, and still is, a whole new experience, learning about the retail and bar side of beer. She manages daily operations, orders beer, receives beer, supervises 14 staff members and keeps her eye on the entire shop, including the inviting outside patio area and adjacent Italian food cart.
“Keeping all the balls in the air is the hardest part of the job,” she said, “but I like wearing a lot of different hats.”
Morrison traces her interest in beer to a college friend at Colorado State who introduced her to flavorful German beers and her husband Mark Campbell who introduced her to homebrewing.
Fast forward through a successful journalism career in television and radio to a burnout time in Portland where she was doing freelance video work and considering her next move. She envied well-known beer writer Fred Eckhardt, taking notes and tasting brews at festivals.
Citysearch was just starting up in Portland and Morrison wrote a few restaurant reviews for them, often mentioning the beer lists. Her editor then asked her to write a beer column.
She only wrote one before she was approached by her former employer KOIN-TV to develop the broadcaster’s first website. If she accepted, the beer column was dead. So she took the job on condition that she could write a beer column. That’s how “First Draft” started.
It was one of the first beer columns online and definitely the first written by a woman. More important, it was Morrison’s beginning as a professional beer author. “I was learning about beer as I went along. At first, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she explained.
Although the broadcast website was groundbreaking, exciting work with only three stations across the country in Portland, Los Angeles and Minneapolis developing guidelines at the time for significant ethical issues, Morrison’s future was in the craft beer world. Her column eventually caught the attention of national beer publications. By 2008 she had so many assignments she was writing full time.
Writing led to her first radio gig as a co-host on a show called “The Libation Station.” It didn’t last. “But Don Younger, of the Horse Brass, thought Portland, of all places, should have a beer radio show. So, he pitched it to KXL that I would buy the airtime and sell advertising to breweries, bars and other places to pay myself back.” “Beer O’Clock” launched and Morrison entertained and educated listeners with interviews and conversation for more than six years. During that time she was also working on “Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest,” which was released March 30, 2011. She wanted to create a book that would be a companion for beer lovers when traveling, touring or living in the Pacific Northwest.
“I didn’t want to write a guide book that listed every brewery with a short blurb because it would be outdated as soon as it was in print. Instead, I made it a collection with stories from each location and I visited all of the ones in the book. What you will find in the pages are places to source good beer and a good vibe with friendly, helpful passionate people in all corners of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. And you get some insider knowledge about each spot,” said Morrison.
Another opportunity came her way when Fred Bowman from Portland Brewing mentioned there wasn’t any marketing or advertising to women about beer. She quickly decided to change that and began presenting classes to women about beer. The first sessions were held once a month at Portland Brewing with a small group that tasted and tested different styles of beer. She gave them cheat sheets to take home and later gave them key words to use when selecting beers.
Morrison would intentionally challenge preconceived ideas about taste and serve a dark, chocolaty stout beer first. Her ground rule was that all participants had to taste everything and often women who thought they didn’t like dark beers would change their minds. “It was fun to be able to open people’s eyes,” said Morrison. She has offered classes at breweries, at a beer festival in Quebec, at a Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Convention in Seattle, using all different brands of beers.
“The beer community is so cooperative, so unique and friendly,” said Morrison. In appreciation for the support and generosity, Morrison, in turn, has founded several fundraisers for the beer community.
The day we met, Belmont Station was hosting a fundraiser that evening for a brewery in Belgium. Three generations of family farmers in 2008 opened a sustainable brewery using their own grain, hops, barley, water and yeast. Morrison had an opportunity to visit it last year. Unfortunately, it caught fire in January. At the fundraiser, they were serving the Belgium brewery’s beer.
Ten years ago Morrison started FredFest to honor the Dean of American Beer Writers, Fred Eckhardt, who began writing about beer in the 1960s. On his 80th birthday, Morrison and friends held a birthday celebration at Hair of the Dog Brewing with beer tasting, cake, candles and fun. His birthday is May 10, but the festival is held the Sunday before to avoid conflict with Mother’s Day. Every year Fred chooses the charity.
Morrison also organizes Sasquatch Brew Am, a golfing event at McMenamins Edgefield, held annually on the Friday of the Oregon Brewers Festival in July. The fundraiser is for the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. Glen was a well-loved and highly-respected brewer in Eugene who died tragically in 2002 while working on a car. The money goes to Northwest brewers for education to improve their craft. “I love being able to do good through good beer,” said Morrison.
Right now, she loves the chance at Belmont Station to “talk beer” one-on-one. “Maybe it’s just chatting with a regular about the new beer on tap, turning a customer on to a new style or just helping an out-of-towner looking for great Oregon IPAs, but I get to really talk with people and see those ‘aha’ moments.”
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