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New Beer Rule #5: It is only beer

Credit for this one goes to Don Younger, publican of the Horse Brass Pub in Portland.

Exhibit A: Last week’s Session, in which the guys at Hop Talk challenged bloggers to write about atmosphere. We’re talking about dozens of folks who take the time to write about beer several times a week.

And what did they focus on?

Early on, it became quite clear that there was a nearly universal theme as to what made for a good beer drinking atmosphere: people.

Exhibit B: Don Younger and the Horse Brass Pub. Now we’re talking people.

There are various stories about how Younger acquired the Horse Brass, but what’s certain is that it wasn’t until after he owned it that he decided to find out just what an English pub was. So he headed to Great Britain in 1977. “That’s when I knew,” he said. What, he wasn’t yet sure, “but I was going to do the pub thing.”

Fast forward to 1995, the evening of the last day of the Oregon Brewers Festival. We had arrived in town before the festival started, and spent an intense several days visiting pubs and brewpubs in the metropolitan area, some with Don and many more he suggested. He talked about influences, about history, about Oregon brewers (some gone), about pubs. Several times over.

We didn’t expect to see him at the Horse Brass that evening. We’d just stopped by for one last pint before leaving town. But he showed up at our table and had a seat. Soon it seemed half the people in the pub had stopped by and the conversation naturally centered on beer. What do you think of Portland’s bars? The brewpubs? What beers did you try at the festival?

Then at one moment Younger leaned back in his chair and smiled. You could see him almost eavesdropping on scores of conversations taking place around him, most of them not about beer.

“After all,” he said, “it is only beer.”

How’s that for perspective?

7 Responses to New Beer Rule #5: It is only beer

  1. Alan July 16, 2007 at 12:47 pm #

    I agree in so far as many pubs that I love are not beer bars with 100 top class craft beers on tap. But beer is not a pub. Very different things. If I want to obsess about this fluid or that, well, that is not particularly sociable and I do not do it in a bar.

  2. Rick July 16, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    How cool is that? Mr Younger is a pretty cool guy to just soak up a conversation like that. As my own personal aside, one of my most memorable beer moments was a deer hunting trip with my father, uncle and brother just last year… Budweiser from a semi-cold can never tasted better. It was only beer after all.

  3. Stephen Beaumont July 17, 2007 at 6:07 am #

    While I always take beer selection into account when I’m deciding whether or not I’m going to patronize a bar, I likewise consider wine, spirits, servers, food (where applicable) and, most importantly, atmosphere and ambiance. Those last two elements are admittedly hard to define, but pivotal in my decision on whether or not to get “stuck in.”

    What it boils down to, I think, is whether you’d rather hang out in a great bar with a mediocre beer selection or a mediocre bar with a great beer selection. For me, ten times out of ten, it will be the former.

  4. Keith October 26, 2007 at 10:20 pm #

    “What it boils down to, I think, is whether you’d rather hang out in a great bar with a mediocre beer selection or a mediocre bar with a great beer selection. For me, ten times out of ten, it will be the former.”

    I disagree, for me it is all about beer, our local is a sports bar with decent food, but we have a great beer lineup, which is more important than being a great bar!!
    If you really like beer, why would you rather drink macro swill, as opposed to a great micro? Of the nearly 3000 beers I have rated, most are certainly not macros…I don’t get your logic, but I may soon have your job with an attitude like that!!

  5. Ilya Feynberg July 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    I have to Tweet this rule to my followers or something…

    It’s something I’ve been VERY passionately talking about now for so long. I’m in LOVE with beer, have been since I was much too young to even drink it (legally ;)), and even I understand one important thing:

    It’s not the beer, it’s the people…STUPID! 🙂

    Without passionate people…you don’t have good beer. And all the great beer in the world means nothing without great people to share it with.




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