Book review: Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest by Lisa Morrison

The Beer Goddess delivers the goods on craft beer in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia

When it comes to craft beer, sooner or later you’ll hear about Lisa Morrison. Whether through her Beer O’Clock radio show, in endless articles and profiles about craft beer, or on Twitter (beer_goddess), Lisa Morrison is one of the region’s foremost experts on all things craft beer. Now Lisa has distilled and fermented her years of experience and pavement-pounding into a concise, thorough guide to all things microbrew in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

The book

Clocking in at 208 info-packed pages, Craft Beers will pique your beery interest for years to come, yet is slim enough to slip into your travel bag (right next to your Honest Pint glasses.

The Introduction and Beer 101 sections brief you on how to use the guide and give you a crash course on the basics of beer-making. It also reminds the thirsty-for-more reader that the Northwest’s craft beer industry is in a constant state of flux, and this book is a guidepost to help you stumble your way along the joys of new beer. From there, Lisa launches into the main body of the book: individual sections, broken down by specific regions, on the Northwest’s craft beer scene.

Tap lists and a naked woman in a bathtub

Wherever you travel in the Northwest, or even if you just want to find new fresh-brewed discoveries in your own backyard, Craft Beers delivers. From the spirit of the Northwest to the cultural and legal history of craft beer, Morrison weaves together the character and independence that makes these out-of-the-way, off-the-radar areas of the U.S. and Canada the heart and soul of craft beer. The bulk of the book profiles pubs, breweries and bottle shops from Southern Oregon to Vancouver Island. At the back, the Thirsty for More City Guide lists at-a-glance location details to plan your visits.

Craft Beers is more than just a beer-nuts-and-taps listing of locations and what’s pouring. Lisa Morrison digs into the character and personality behind the bar and in the town. She relays that place, people and beer are intertwined. The character of a town can define the character of its beer — and vice versa. As you peruse quirks and histories, you’ll not only be thirsty for more, you’ll understand what makes each region’s beer truly and individually its own.

Unexpected funny, quirky or poignant details spice up descriptions. See p. 71 for my favorite — a funny bit of property negotiations that appears in Rogue’s Newport HQ to this day:

“in early 1989, Mohava Marie Niemi (founder of the famour Mo’s Clam Chowder chain of restaurants) persuaded Rogue’s Jack Joyce to open what was then a brewpub in a building she owned on Newport’s lively waterfront. The property negotiations included a promise that Rogue would always display a picture of Niemi, naked in a bathtub, in the Rogue Ales Public House on the waterfront. Niemi died several years ago, but the picture graces the pub to this day”

A minor quibble

Next to the main text, margins list names, locations, websites and contact info. Usually these listings coincide with the main info about each location, but not always. This can be confusing at times. For example, Portland’s Deschutes Brewery location is listed in the margin on p. 33, but their one-paragraph bio is on the next page. Also in the Portland section, Horse Brass Pub’s contact info isn’t listed with its profile on p. 43 (you’ll find it in on p. 186).

Not to worry. The well-organized index makes up for this minor quibble, keeping it easy to find info on places Lisa discusses. Also flip to the back of the book for the Thirsty for More City Guide. This lists info you need to make your visit, with details on other spots that don’t appear in the main sections.

Bottle shop tip

By the way, nudge nudge, don’t miss the “Seven Don’t Miss Bottle Shops” on p. 9. They’ll keep you set in take-home brews from well-stocked, all-corners-of-the-world beer goodness in bottle shops from Eugene to Vancouver.

Speaking of Eugene

As a Eugene-based blogger and craft beer enthusiast, I kept a skeptical eye on Lisa’s Eugene section, located on pages 61-63. The info is comprehensive, listing our various breweries and a smattering of other beer locations, with a couple of omissions. She mentions the Sasquatch Brew Fest, but the KLCC Microbrew Fest didn’t make the guide (though most beer fests aren’t mentioned in this guide; it focuses on establishments, not festivals).

Sadly, new kid 16 Tons didn’t make this first edition but I’m sure there’ll be future releases. So, here’s your chance to update your book: on the Eugene Pub Crawl on p. 62, add a dot for 16 Tons on 13th Avenue, between Pearl and High streets. As you’ll see, it’s easy to get your stumble on between 16 Tons, McMenamins High Street and the Bier Stein, where you can fortify yourself for the expedition to Steelhead and Eugene City Brewery.

The Northwest beer guide for the Northwest beer traveler

Beer is a big part of my travels, and I’m digging this book. As I plan new adventures throughout the region, Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest will be a constant guide and companion. If you’re interested in digging deeper into the ever-evolving Northwest craft beer scene, I suspect it’ll wind up in your travel bag too.

One for the road

Get your copy of Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest today:

By the way, if you want to tell Lisa about places she should profile in the next edition of the book, drop her a line at or on Twitter at beer_goddess. I’ll be letting her know to add in Eugene’s 16 Tons, as well as the yummy beers from Salt Spring Brewery, in the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland.


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