For the Love of Portland

Photo credit to April of Sophisticated Palatte, queen of 206 Mondays in Manhattan.


Confession:  four years ago I moved to China, and my knowledge of the Seattle beers atrophied.  In Shanghai I was drinking standing outside of quicky-marts sipping Tsingtao tallboys with my boys.  Manhattan was much more of a whiskey time for me.  When I moved back to Seattle a year ago, all I remembered from before was that Redhook had sold out, that I loved Mack and Jack’s African Amber, and that Alaskan Amber gave me the farts… in a bad way.

Anyway, I moved back to Seattle in August and I started doing my regular Seattle thing… which is work work work veg veg veg never never never go out.  Around New Year’s Eve Aric with an A had a layover in Seattle; I took him to Pacific Inn Pub, where we drank some delicious beers and had some kick ass fish & chips (this is the night of the famous “We don’t have any ambers” episode).

Now Aric is an Oklahoman who was living in Oregon at the time, who doesn’t know Seattle at all.  And he’s a friend.  So I didn’t blink when he said Seattle wasn’t doing anything with the Sonics before they were stolen and became the ZombieSonics; I just suggested that he watch SonicsGate, which states the case clearly and completely, better than I could.  And I didn’t engage him when he started getting all emotional about Oregon beers.  Instead, I ordered a Manny’s from the chalkboard.

Manny’s Pale Ale is the best beer in the world.  And tasting it is all I needed to know.  It states it’s own case, clearly, compellingly, and completely, and I don’t need anyone to taste it and confirm it for me.  I don’t need to prove it to the world or debate it with anyone.  I don’t need to see the DNA evidence or photos of the body.  Aric was enjoying his Diamond Knot’s Industrial Ho Ho Ho; I figured let him enjoy it, keep my mouth shut.   Besides, bragging desperately about being the best is so… Oregon.

Weeks later, Aric proclaimed that Mack & Jack’s was the best beer in the world.  Yes, I did gently mention that Mack & Jack’s is a Seattle beer (actually brewed in Redmond); no, I did not taunt him with “I thought you like Oregon beers, fool!” although it did occur to me for half a second.  The truth is that Mack & Jack’s was once my number one beer as well–before I moved to China–and it remains in my Inner Circle of Righteous Beers.

Also, Oregon does have excellent beers.  Absolutely.  I will take an interesting Oregon beer over any of the boring, sorry craft beers I drank in Ann Arbor or New York City.   When it comes down to it, Oregonians and Washingtonians share the same dark obsession with perfection when it comes to these things; Anthony Bourdain saw it (1, 2, 3) (even if he didn’t completely understand it).  “Maniacal” is the word he Bourdain uses… and as I watched that episode in my apartment in Lower Manhattan, the word “maniacal” made a lot of sense to me when it comes to describing Pacific Northwesterners… we don’t seek out spectacle or to be avant-guard, we get obsessed with quality and perfection… and the result is that things that Pacific Northwesterners care about tend to be really, really good.

The thing about Seattlites is that we tend to keep it to ourselves; or to be fair, it only tends to come out when we’re complaining about other places.  Portlanders, on the other hand, specifically transplanted Portlanders, are quick to leap to the defense of Portland, about how it’s the coolest, the most perfect, the most unaffected city in the world.  The Seattle thing to do when confronted with one of these rabid Portland converts is to plead ignorance and give them the benefit of the doubt.  That way you can remain polite and non-confrontational, while continuing to express disinterest in Portland.

I was at up at the Latona Pub a few days ago for Thursday Thunder.  I organize these things, so I feel like I should get there first, so that when people show up, they know they’re in the right place.  So I got there with a half hour to spare.  Might as well order a beer!   I looked up at the chalkboard, and didn’t see anything I recognized, so just to pick something, I picked Laurelwood IPA.  It was delicious. It was so delicious, I looked it up on my phone, to get information, and of course, it’s a Portland brewery.  Oh great, I thought, I’m going to have to admit to all my friends that I’m drinking and enjoying a Portland beer… someone will blurt out “PORTLAND HAS BETTER RESTAURANTS” and then there will be a scene.

I quietly finished my delicious Laurelwood IPA and ordered the next thing off the chalkboard, which was Lucille IPA.  I took one sip of the Lucille… it was so delicious that if Mr. Laurelwood himself were standing there with me I would have slapped him in the face.  No, not really, but you get my point… Lucille was the truth.  I looked it up on my phone, and what do you know… Lucille is from Georgetown Brewery, brewer of Manny’s, brewed less than two miles from my townhouse.   So yes I know, beers deteriorate as they travel, and I’m sure had I been in Portland I would have preferred the Laurelwood better.  But it just puts in perspective the kind of arbitrarily dorky proclamations found in articles like these.

So the other day I was giving a Spanish lesson to two of my friends, and I wanted to go over how to express preferences.  So all three of us made a t-chart; one side was things that we like–i.e., sunny days, happy dogs, etc.–and on the other side was things we don’t like–i.e., people that lie, mayonnaise, and so forth.  I’m the one giving the lesson, so for the sake of conversation, I write provocative things.  I wrote that I didn’t like working; I’d much rather be rich and lazy.  I didn’t like burritos… this got a rise out of them.  I do enjoy a quality burrito, but if a place is good enough to be serving high quality burritos, the quality of the non-burrito menu items must be way better… and I’d just rather have corn tortillas than an unnaturally large flour tortilla, and even if all the ingredients are all the same I’d rather have it on a plate where I can see them.

And finally, the last thing on my t-chart of things I don’t like, just to stick it to them, was “Portland.”  That. Was. Genius.  D didn’t bite, but C took the bait, first gasping incredulously to show how offended she was, and then proclaiming “¡Portland tiene mejores restaurantes!”  Portland has better restaurants!  

“Ah ¿sí?” I asked, pleading ignorance and still expressing my disinterest, Is that so?  “La phở en Portland es mejor que en Seattle?”  Is there better phở in Portland than in Seattle?

C growled a begrudging “no,” gritting her teeth and darting her eyes to the side, looking for something to hit me with.  She’s a native Portlander; she conceded that Portland wasn’t as strong in the phở category.  Native Portlanders, while proud, lack the fervor of those transplanted Portlanders, originally from Arizona or whatever, but who moved to Portland to live out their granola fantasies.   A transplanted Portlander, out of spite,  might not have folded at the site of the phở card.  They would have played the transit card; at which point I would have to… plead ignorance, show my disinterest, and order another pint of Manny’s.

That’s all the proof I need.

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