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Coming of Age in Craft Beer City

Sharing a bond and a pint

I walked into a Bend brewpub ten years ago and didn’t know what to ask for. Unaware of the identifying tastes of an India pale ale, or a bitter, or a stout, I had no idea how to order my first pint of craft beer. My friend suggested ordering something sweet, so I chose the beer with a chocolate description. The bartender placed the dark and calming beer in front of me.

Cradling my fingers around the glass and hefting the pint, I was surprised at its weight. My elbow rested on the bar. I didn’t smell the bright hops or the roasted malt—I just took a sip.

In that moment, with the soft evening light reflecting off the glass, I suddenly felt that I was holding onto something much bigger than a beer.

Turning twenty-one and coming of “coming-of-craft-beer-age” in Central Oregon was, needless to say, an adventure. I started learning about craft beer while leaning on the counters of Deschutes Brewery and BBC and Silver Moon and Cascade Lakes breweries, opening my mind to new pints and connecting with the people around me over sips of beer. This was a decade ago, a time when there were only a handful of craft breweries scattered around Central Oregon. Today, excitingly, we have more than two dozen.

Funny, how quickly things change.

It wasn’t that long ago, either, when my father used to hoist my five-year-old-self onto his shoulders so I had a better view of the parade. He would run beside me in the driveway as I rode a bicycle with demandingly uneven training wheels. He tried not to cry when I graduated from high school, and then again from college.

He was always there.

Years later, we’d meet for lunch at a local brewpub and he’d show up early to claim a table. We’d sit down to order pints, and talk about life, while living it.

“What beer do you think I will like?” he unfailingly asked me, looking at the drink menu before ordering. Dad didn’t become a beer-drinker until his 60s.

“You might like the amber, or the pale, or the IPA,” I’d usually say.

When the pints came, we’d reach over the table and swap glasses to try each other’s beers, discovering the spectrum of styles as we sat across from one another, laughing and learning.

Recently, on an ordinary afternoon at Sunriver Brewing Co., a server approaches our high-top table and asks what we would like to drink. My father looks at her with a nonchalant grin and responds, without consulting me first, “I’ll have the IPA, please.”

I smile.

And then, we toast.

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