Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Portland Gets an Top-Tier Team, Its Fans Get a Top-Tier Beer

Photo Credit: Free Beer Movement
On April 14, 2011 the Portland Timbers made their smashing Major League Soccer debut. The American soccer world was blown away at the sights and sounds of the league's newest members. A renovated stadium, a supporters-fueled National Anthem, and a team that brought home a victory for the home fans. Top-tier American soccer returned to the Rose City for the first time since the collapse of the team in 1982 and the North American Soccer League in 1984.

The city earned the nickname "Soccer City USA" for it's great support of the sport in the 1970s, but since then has earned another reputation; that of craft brewing quality. Portland, and the whole of the state of Oregon has led the way  in a national revival of high-quality brewing.

The return of top-flight soccer to Portland meant yet another opportunity for beer and soccer to mix.

Opening night in Portland. (Photo Credit: Portland Timbers)
Cascade Brewing Co., in cooperation with the Timber's supporters group, the Timbers Army, released a beer to honor the team's return to American soccer's main stage.

The beer, called "Portland Pale Ale" is a tribute beer for the Army and its long-standing symbolic representative, Jim Serrill (aka "Timber Jim"). Art Larrance, Cascade's owner, is a long-time Portland sports and soccer fan, and the brewer that brought the Portland brew to life.

Larrance started Cascade Brewing Co. in 1994, after leaving Portland Brewing Co. another brewery he helped start in 1985. Today Cascade brews nearly 1800 barrels of beer a year available at both the brewer (the Barrel House) and their restaurant, the Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub. Larrance is considered one of the "Fathers of Craft Brewing" in Portland along with the likes of the city's other brewing heavy hitters, Brideport and Widmer Brothers.

“I chuckled, in 1985," Larrance recalled. "Wait til those little babies that are just born now are drinking our beers. That means they would have grown up with our craft beers their whole life. Those are who are drinking our beers today. Those who have grown up with our movement, accepted it, and it’s a part of their life.”

Since brewpubs were legalized in Oregon in 1985, Portland is now home to 30 microbreweries, and with 46 microbrew outlets, has more breweries and brewpubs that any other city in the United States. Beer is a part of Portland's culture, and now, so is professional soccer.

For Larrance rolling out a tribute beer for soccer's return to the city was a no-brainer.

"Timber Jim" takes a swig of Portland Pale Ale.
(Photo Credit: Brewpublic.com)
“We decided we wanted to launch that beer at the same time the Timbers we’re getting kicked off this year because we’ve had a long time association with Jim Serrill,” he said.

Not only was it a tribute, but Timbers Army had a hand in helping make the beer a reality, designing the label that graces each 22 oz. bottle.

"Portland Pale Ale" is an original recipe from Larrance's days back at Portland Brewing Co.

Larrance describes the beer, which clocks in at 4.5% ABV:

“A nice easy-drinkin’ pale ale. It’s one that you can drink more than one or two or three. It just goes down real easy. It’s not over hopped, it’s balanced. A nice blend of the sweets of the malt and the bitterness of the hop. And to me that’s what beer is about; the blending of the elements.”

The Cascade Brewing Co. owner's history with beer (he started as a home brewer) is just a bit shorter than his history as a soccer fan in Portland.

"I'm a sports fan to start with," said Larrance who also has had courtside tickets to the Trailblazers NBA team for 40 years. "I can remember standing six or seven hours in line in 1975 to see the Portland Timbers."

With legends like Giorgio Chinaglia and Pele coming through town, the Timber's inaugural season in NASL saw them run all the way to the championship game only to fall to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-0.

Art Larrance and "Timber Jim" enjoying their beer.
(Photo Credit: Brewpublic.com)
"Soccer and Portland... we like winners here. We jumped on them and we filled the stadium,"

Larrance owned season tickets for several years, but after the NASL left town he saw just a handful of games as the Timbers organization floated through the lower echelons of American soccer.

Now that America's top league, this time as Major League Soccer, is back, so is Larrance.

He said with a laugh, “I did jump back on the bandwagon and have tickets to share with the employees as well as myself.”

For Larrance beer and soccer just makes sense.

“It’s just a part of watching sports," he said.

“I think the people that play soccer; after a game you want to have a beer. So when you’re watching somebody else sweat it feels good to drink for them ‘cause they can’t drink one right now.”

In Portland both beer lovers and soccer fans have something new to cheer about.

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6 comments:

  1. I wouldn't say the 2001-2010 Timbers were in the "lower echelons" of American soccer. They were one notch below MLS and a lot of MLS players passed through the league (like Triple-A in baseball.)

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  2. But otherwise nice article, thanks for writing it.

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  3. Anon - "lower echelons" wasn't meant to be a dig on Portland, its teams, its players, or the quality of play, but a reality that soccer in Rose City existed in the second tier until 2011.

    Perhaps the wording wasn't perfect, but the sentiment wasn't to be critical, just to place them in the American soccer pyramid relative to MLS.

    ReplyDelete
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"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

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