Monday, October 20, 2014

Interview Series : Meet the Geek : Jon Abernathy

We first Jon a few years back at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland, and we've managed to stay in touch since then. Jon has a new book called Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon available now, and we decided it was time for all of us to get to know him a little better. #pdxbeergeeks, meet Jon! 

Jon Abernathy author of 
Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
Name: Jon Abernathy

Hometown: Bend, OR

Favorite Beer: I’d love to pull a Fred Eckhardt and say my favorite beer is the one in my hand, but let’s be honest, we’ve all had some bad beers and know that’s not always true! But I honestly can’t say I have a single favorite beer either. There are just too many beers in the world to pick one! But for styles and types, I’m a big fan of Barleywines, pumpkin beers, fresh hop beers, Saisons, Pilsners, Goses...

Favorite Beer Haunt: Oh, another tough one. I can’t say I have any single favorite haunt, but in Bend I really like the Platypus Pub and Broken Top Bottle Shop, not to mention the many breweries which all have their own charms. For Portland I always come back to the Horse Brass Pub.

What was the first craft brew you ever tried? What did you think? The first one I can definitively recall was Widmer Hefeweizen, back in the mid-90s, a pitcher that a friend bought at Ichabod’s North in Spokane, Washington. I loved it-- it was thick and chewy and super yeasty, and reminded me of fresh-baked bread. I was hooked after that, and began trying all kinds of craft beer when I saw it available.

Do you homebrew? If yes, favorite homebrew to date: Yes, I’ve been brewing for about as long as I’ve been drinking craft beer. Favorite to date is a tough one to call, but I am rather fond of my Pumpkin Ale. And a few years ago I brewed a Spicy Pumpkin Porter (with cinnamon and cayenne pepper) that I really liked and want to brew again.

How’d you hear about the pdxbeergeeks? I try to stay on top of beer blogs and encountered it early in its existence, I think, probably from another Portland blogger. I’ve also found valuable interviews on the site via Google search and even used it as a reference in my new book, Bend Beer.

What does being a beer geek mean to you? Not being a beer snob. Being immersed in the culture, willing to try ANY beer, being a “geek” in the overall non-pejorative sense of the term. Sharing beer and promoting beer culture and knowledge. Being knowledgeable without being arrogant about it. Most of all, enjoying beer!

If you could change one thing about beer culture in the US, what would it be? Beer parochialism-- too many people being territorial about beer from their region versus other regions around the country. Too often I see pointless arguments tearing down these other areas over which beer region is better or which IPA is the best, etc. So we end up with imaginary rivalries and trash-talking which is just tiresome. Your favorite brewery, or town, or state or whatever is not the end-all, be-all of beer; there is a lot of great beer being made all over which should be celebrated, not torn down.

What do you love about Portland’s (or Bend’s) Craft Beer scene? The congeniality and camaraderie among brewers and beer drinkers, the sense of experimentation and the sheer variety of available styles of beer. And Portland just simply has an amazing beer culture with terrific breweries, great bars, and more people drinking craft beer than anywhere else. Bend’s beer culture tends to reflect more of the laid-back, outdoor recreation lifestyle the area is known for, and just revels in the sheer per-capita count of breweries.

What inspired you to write the book? Interestingly, while a goal has always been to write books at some point, for this particular book the History Press reached out to see if I would be interested in writing a book on the history of beer in Bend, which isn’t terribly common for first-time authors! And to be honest, a Bend beer history hadn’t really been on my radar before they contacted me-- I figured I’d write about pumpkin beers or something similar for a first book. Once the opportunity materialized, though, it seemed like a great fit and I really dug into it.

Tell us what we can look forward to reading in it? The first four chapters deal with “pre-Deschutes Brewery” history prior to 1988-- from the region’s start as one of the last “Wild West” type frontiers in the country in the 1880s and 90s with two frontier breweries, saloons, and Prohibition. The last four chapters detail the start of Deschutes Brewery in 1988 and the subsequent history and explosion of Bend and Central Oregon’s breweries and beer culture.

Tell us when we can look forward to reading it? The official release date is October 21, and it will be available in bookstores. And it’s already available online at all the major booksellers for pre-order prior to the 21st.

Any local appearances in Portland? Bend? There are already a number of Bend events lined up, including events with the Growler Guys, the Platypus Pub, Silver Moon Brewing, and a release party with the Deschutes Historical Museum and Deschutes Brewery. And there will be some Portland appearances the first weekend in December, at Powell’s and Belmont Station.

Where can we find you on the web? The website for the book is at And of course you can always find my blog, The Brew Site.

Jon will be doing book signings in PDX on 12/5 at Powell's, and 12/6 at Belmont Station.