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Through the Lens of the Recycling Bin: A Psychogeography of Craft Beer

The last few weeks as I’ve walked around Portland I noticed that craft beer is a regular part of pretty much everyone’s routine. I walk past houses where a group of people are hanging out on their front porch, chatting, and drinking bombers of Rogue. A house down the street is grilling some hamburgers and sipping on some 10 barrel bottles. I turn the corner and two ladies walk out of New Seasons carrying a six pack of Elysian while talking about how the latest beer isn’t as bitter as another they had recently. Another block or so a family is watching their kid play in the yard and they’re all grabbing beers from a 24 pack of Full Sail Session Lagers. I’ve even started taking photos of craft beer litter. The other night I discovered what may be the best way to visually describe the city’s attachment to craft beer: Residential Recycling Bins!

So yeah, I decided to get a little creepy and snap pictures of people’s recycling bins. The following images will give you a glimpse of how Portland does beer. Now, this is just three short blocks worth of recycling bins. Some of the bins contained no beer, but I’d say that at least half did have beer…and good looking beer at that. Let’s take a look:

Someone picked up a six-pack of Ninkasi Total Domination and some canned Hop Valley 541 Lager.

Not much going on at this house, unless the bottles were already picked up by someone looking to get money for recycling. Often times homeless folks are able to make some good money by hitting up recycling bins the night before the bins are cleaned up. They’ll often leave the bigger 750ml bottles though. I don’t know if those aren’t worth 5 cents like the rest, or if they just take up too much space. This person drank a bottle of Uinta’s Cahoots Double Rye IPA. Based on their specific tastes, my guess is they did have a few other beers in there that are no longer there.

This person drank a 22oz bottle Gigantic’s Dark Meddle Vienna Lager. There are two other craft beer bottles in their too but I can’t recognize them from this angle.

Okay, okay, this isn’t beer, but it is some really good Angry Orchard cider. And it’s the seasonal cider, with Elderflower, at that. Someone has good taste.

This place knows how to have a good time (assuming all this had been consumed in the previous week). We see three different bottles of Widmer – their Citra Blonde, Hopside Down IPA, and Alchemy Ale. Perhaps they had a variety pack from Widmer? I also see some Pyramid and Alaskan in the mix too.

In addition to cooking with tomatoes, this family enjoys the drinkability of the River Ale from Deschutes and the Columbia Commons from Widmer. When they’re not sipping on a beer, they’re trying some new variety of craft Cider. Additionally, from the looks of it, they shop for both six packs and bombers at the local store.

This household recently bought a pack of Deschutes Chainbreaker, some Bridgeport King Pin, some Pyramid, Red Hook, and a few other goodies.

And the lovely image from the top of the post shows a highly detailed, idiosyncratic organization of the recycling bin, with what must be at least 50 bottles of craft beer. We’ve got seasonal beers from Elysian, Ninkasi, and 10 Barrel, and we have the Hop Notch IPA from Uinta that everyone seems to be enjoying lately. I can’t quite tell what else they’ve got in there besides at least one bottle of Reed’s Ginger Ale.

I did not include an image of the recycling bin from the house I’m staying at, I didn’t think it would be fair to include that one.

What can these recycling bins teach us about craft beer? I do believe we can see a lot regarding the nature of beer in Portland, the role of grocery stores in the culture here, people’s desire to consume something new, and perhaps we can even make assumptions regarding the education of the market on the nature of beer.

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Written By

Eric teaches art, loves being outdoors, and organizes beer events around the country. He founded Focus on the Beer and Beers Made By Walking.


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