It's time to raise our glasses: The Portland Mercury recently reported that Oregon is the booziest state in America. It has bested forty-nine other states for the title, with Arkansas and Mississippi ending up last on the list. Yet it might not come as a surprise to many – Oregon, after all, is teeming with distilleries, bars, wineries, and breweries. It is said that residents drink up to 2.65 gallons of alcohol annually – a fantastic feat for any lover of spirits. Next to Oregon, Colorado takes second place, followed by Alaska, Montana, and Vermont.
It was Thrillist that conducted the study, reviewing and comparing the amount of breweries in one state against its population. Data taken into account also included the impact of the industry on the economy, the rising social scenes, even last-call hours. Suffice to say, Oregon came out on top, with statistics indicating the presence of 6.3 craft breweries per 100,000 adults over legal drinking age. Wine and craft beer also account for the state's $4.6 billion in revenues annually.
Now, if you're not from around Oregon, you might have a thing or two to say. So take the data above with a grain of salt…and perhaps a slice of lime. Meanwhile, we've taken note of five excellent distilleries from the famed Booziest State:
Perhaps nothing would be more synonymous to Brandy Peak's name than its time-tested, award-winning Aged Pear brandy. Yes, you've got that right – this family-owned distillery makes brandy out of fruit, using wood-fired pot stills (said to be the only legal ones in the US), and aged from oak barrels. Its location, a coastal forest in Brookings, is a constant tourist (and local) destination, where people come to taste the brandy as well as its popular Blackberry Liqueur. Another customer favorite is the Grappa, which is brandy distilled from grape pomace. If you're looking for a grown-up field trip, then you might want to put this on your list of places to go.
There's gin, and then there's gin. And by that we mean – gin aged in a French oak wine barrel, resulting in its deep amber color. And really, it tastes as good as it looks. Dark gin has seen resurgence in the country in the last decade, and it was Tad Henry Seestedt who helped introduce this to the market when he founded Ransom Spirits. Located in Sheridan, this distillery's undoubtedly popular product is Old Tom, which is aged up to six months before it is bottled. Customers say it feels very much like drinking whiskey, with a hint of berries and other spicy flavors. Seestedt explains of his process: "When you distill spirits, any spirit comes out clear. You can take red wine and make brandy and it will come out colorless. So to get color, you have to barrel or add color. We use cooperage and aging and that's where the brown color comes from."
Located along the famous Distillery Row, Eastside Distilling (OTCBB:ESDI) is now all grown up and ready to distribute its products nationwide. This small company went live on the stock exchange last week, and the future looks bright for Portland's hand-crafted spirits. And who doesn't love Eastside? Certainly chefs are fans, even vegans. It has a great variety of alcohol, but front and center are their Below Deck Rums. These include local favorite Coffee Rum, which is infused with locally roasted Arabica beans, and Ginger Rum, which is said to be best paired with either cola or rootbeer. Other popular products which have previously won awards are the Burnside Bourbon and the Portland Potato Vodka.
If traveling and passing through Bend, one must try Oregon Spirit Distiller's absinthe. The distillery is a magician in its own right – it cultivates only the freshest herbs, and uses wormwood grown in the Pacific Northwest. This is what makes its Wild Card absinthe one of the best in the country. Owner Brad Irwin believes in utilizing what Oregon has, and that is wheat, barley, rye, and juniper berries. All of these are harvested and hand-picked. The company also takes the time to age their products – bourbon is barreled for about two to five years, while whiskey takes about three years.
Astoria has its own pride and joy in North Coast Distilling. If you fancy flavored vodkas, then you're in for a treat. The distillery's Bar Pilot line boasts of flavors such as cucumber, lemon ginger, chai, cocoa mint, and the intensely popular jalapeño lime. It's Painted Lady gin, meanwhile, is infused with botanicals such as lavender and rose.