The nation looks to Portland for all things craft brewing and the City of Roses looks to Jeff Alworth for beer expertise. An award-winning author, he writes beer-centric books, founded the Beervana blog and podcast, and shares his knowledge with students at Portland State University.
His latest title, “The Widmer Way: How Two Brothers Led Portland’s Craft Beer Revolution,” tells the story of how two brothers — Kurt and Rob Widmer — inspired and pioneered craft brewing through their mistakes and successes. Alworth interviewed the Widmer’s and others involved in their journey to pen this narrative explaining how beer nuanced into what it is today.
We recently caught up with Alworth to learn more about his new book and his love for all things beer.
1) What first sparked your interest in beer
I went to college here in Portland at a time when there was a lot of action centered around imported beers. Then I traveled to Wisconsin for graduate school and quickly realized their beer wasn’t very good, so I started home brewing. When I moved back to Portland, I realized it was becoming the best beer city in the world. I knew I wanted to write, so when a job opened up at the Willamette Week, I sent them a story they liked, and I was hired as their beer column writer.
2) You’ve been very clear that the Widmers paid you to write your most current release. Why did they choose you to tell their story?
Serendipity has triggered much of my career. After I started writing full-time in 2010, my wife and I sat in a pub discussing ways on how I could expand. We came up with writing books that revealed the message behind the brewers, so that they could better connect with their customers. To see if this idea had any merit, I met with Rob Widmer and chatted with him about it. That got him talking about the Widmer story and a few days later someone from their company called and asked if I wanted to write the Widmer biography.
3) Besides writing about beer and drinking it, in what other ways do you absorb beer knowledge?
I have to travel and visit places where beer is made. It’s like cuisine in that it’s made from ingredients. Many different techniques are used with these ingredients. One country does it different from another country, rural places brew unlike urban locations, and a new brewery takes different steps than an established one.
I also do a great deal of reading, which isn’t always beer-related. History played a big role in what beer is now, too.
4) Do you have a favorite brew you like to drink while you’re writing?
To be clear, I don’t drink during my writing time. I also drink less beer than people might imagine. It would be inconceivable for me to pick one as my favorite. I’m too deeply involved.