A Portland Feminist Explains How To Drink The World’s Best Beer Like A Woman

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Lucy Burningham is not your ordinary beer drinker. She is Portland’s go-to feminist beer guide, eager to reclaim the malt beverage from the clutches of can swilling male couch potatoes mesmerized by the Super Bowl.

Instead, it’s micro-brews, food pairings, and exploring the local scene by bike. Her vision is summed up in her book, Hop In The Saddle: A Guide To Portland Beer Scene By Bike and her Travel Portland Zine A Feminist’s Guide To Beer Drinking.

We caught up with Lucy in Portland on the verge of Super Bowl week and asked her describe how real women make and drink beer.

Beer is a big deal in Portland
Since Portland is one of the birthplaces of the craft beer movement of the 1980s, the city has a long tradition of supporting brewers who make great beer. These days you can drink in breweries and breweries with all kinds of vibes, from modern and industrial to offbeat and quirky. They’re usually super casual and accessible. I love living in a city that takes its beer seriously, but without pretense. It’s the perfect mix.

Why is beer seen as so male? Your Travel Portland Zine, A Feminist Guide to Beer Drinking, is an attempt to shift that perception
I’m constantly wishing women could be allowed to simply enjoy beer without being conscious of their gender. But once I started brainstorming the issue, I realized I could be a little tongue-in-cheek and also celebrate the women who make our local beer scene so world class. There’s a long history of beer being made mostly by men and marketed to men, so for me, the feminist slant is approaching beer as something women enjoy brewing and drinking. It’s not a radical idea, by any means.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQFAAAAJDhkNzA1NmQ2LWM2MTAtNGIyMS1iNzJiLWMwNzUxZWMxNDQwZQIs that why women are so active in Portland business?
There are a lot of women here who own fantastic bottle shops, beer bars and other beer-related businesses (they’re listed on the last pages of my zine). There are also some talented women brewers in Portland, but not as many as I’d expect in such a vibrant beer town. I have no doubt that will change.

What is Hop In The Saddle: A Guide To Portland Beer Scene By Bike?
I created the guidebook with two friends who also live here. We couldn’t believe a bike and beer book didn’t exist, so we felt compelled to make one ourselves. People really embraced the idea from the very beginning, which shouldn’t have surprised me. I mean, beer and bikes. In Portland, it’s like peanut butter and jelly.

What are your favorite places to drink beer?
On that’s a tough one. Portland proper has 67 breweries, so sometimes it’s hard to even pick favorites. But I love the ambiance, beers and cheese at The Commons. In North Portland, where I live, I’m a sucker for Saraveza, an excellent beer bar that serves pasties and Chex Mix. I also like to have a pint at Ecliptic Brewing, Breakside Brewery and Hair of the Dog. I’m also a fan of Loyal Legion, a beer bar in SE with 99 taps of Oregon beer and sausages from Olympia Provisions.

For those of us not lucky enough to live in Portland, what are brands should we check out at our local market?

Look for Oregon beers from Rogue, Deschutes, Widmer, Ninkasi, BridgePort and Full Sail.

What breweries must a visitor absolutely check out?
If you want to see where the bike and beer worlds collide (safely), check out Hopworks Urban Brewery on Williams Ave. They have bike and food specials for cyclists and a crazy bike rack and patio out back. Also, I love sending people to Upright Brewing, because it’s a hidden gem (really, it’s tucked away in the basement of a building). The beers are somewhat esoteric, and you get to taste them in a corner of the brewery that’s filled with barrels of fermenting beer. Also, if you want to hit a few places at once, try this trifecta of beer stops in SE: Apex (bottle shop), The Beer Mongers (bottle shop) and Baerlic Brewing. And don’t miss Belmont Station, which is a bottle shop and taproom. It’s a hub for beer aficionados and, really, there’s nothing else like it.

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How do you pair beer with food? It seems harder than with wine.
In many ways, beer is more versatile with food than wine. Not only do most beer styles lack wine’s acidity, beer has extra complexity from malt, which can be dark and roasty or light and crackery. The yeast in beer can produce flavors that range from banana to cracked pepper, while hops add bitterness and all sorts of flavors, from tropical fruit to pine. Some classic pairings I highly recommend: IPA with blue cheese, a dry stout with oysters, and barleywine with dark chocolate.

Name a few cafes or restaurants where we can try these out
Head to the Cheese Bar for some great cheese and beer pairings. Higgins was the city’s pioneering beer restaurant, and they still have a stellar beer program. If you don’t want a formal dinner, go to the Higgins Bar for a perfect burger and a special beer.

Beer and music are like peanut butter and jelly, too

The great thing about Portland is that most bars and music venues serve at least a few craft beers on tap. I recommend Mississippi Studios, which is small and intimate music venue, especially because you can get a beer at the attached Bar Bar before the show. Edgefield is an outdoor venue for larger shows, and it’s part of a McMenamins, which is also a craft brewery.

Before a beer or five, it’s always good to get out and move around. Would you mind giving us a few insider tips on walking, biking in Portland?
Start by choosing one neighborhood and take the time to really delve into that area. Portland has so many beautiful parks and walking trails, from Forest Park and Mt. Tabor Park to the Esplanade along the Willamette River, so it’s easy to spend some in nature between your eating and drinking sessions.

Where will you be Super Bowl Sunday?

I always go to a friends’ house in North Portland. Not only do they have a wood-heated hot tub, they make great wings and have a keg of Baerlic beer. There’s no place I’d rather be.

See Travel Portland’s Guide to LGBT Life

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