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The Oregon House voted recently to designate brewer’s yeast as the state microbe.
House Concurrent Resolution 12, which honors Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is now in the hands of the Senate after receiving unanimous support in the House. Before it passed, resolution sponsor Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, hammered home the economic importance of craft breweries to Oregon.
"Designating Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, as the official microbe of the state of Oregon is an important recognition of the impact this little microbe has had on our state’s economy and on our culture," Johnson said.
"Every legislative district in the state has at least one craft brewery and countless home brewers."
All that craft brewery talk made PolitiFact Oregon feel rather parched. Had Johnson just mapped out a summer road trip for us to quench our thirst (for knowledge of Oregon political geography, of course)? Is there really at least one craft brewery in every legislative district in the state?
Johnson’s office provided us with a list of breweries by Senate and House district. Every Senate district contains two House districts; we wanted to ensure at least one craft brewing facility exists in each of the 60 House districts.
Johnson’s legislative aide, Rainier Butler, said it appeared that every district contained a craft brewery except House District 17, which covers Stayton, Lebanon and Scio.
To double check Johnson’s data, we visited the Oregon Liquor Control Commission website and downloaded a spreadsheet of the more than 15,000 alcohol licenses issued by the state. We narrowed the list to the 222 facilities that had active brewery and brewery-public house licenses. These are facilities that make malt beverages and then sell them primarily at wholesale or retail.
Mark Friesen, an online producer at The Oregonian, geocoded and mapped the 222 facilities by legislative district.
The results confirmed that House District 17 lacks a licensed brewery, as does House District 47, which covers a large portion of East Portland, and House District 4, which covers Central Point, White City and Eagle Point.
We checked with the offices of Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Central Point Republican who represents District 4; Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, a Scio Republican who represents District 17; and Jessica Vega Pederson, a Portland Democrat who represents District 47, to see if they knew of any craft brewing facilities in their districts. They did not, though their staff said it was not the type of information they kept close tabs on.
We should also note that businesses constantly open and close, so perhaps a craft brewery in those districts recently closed unbeknownst to us or is slated to open soon.
However, our map of OLCC licensed breweries also indicated that two more districts — 28 in Beaverton and Aloha, and 40 in Oregon City and Gladstone — lack craft breweries.
Johnson’s office said those districts include a branch of McMenamins, which they believe count as craft breweries even if they don’t brew their own beer on site.
We’re not sure we buy that. If they don’t brew their own beer on site, they’re just like any other bar serving beer brewed elsewhere.
McMenamins does have one pub in each of those two districts, but company spokeswoman Renee Rank confirmed for us that the Beaverton and Oregon City pubs do not brew beer on site. The beer is brought in from other nearby breweries, she said.
Lastly, we shared our findings with Brian Butenschoen, executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, which represents 103 brewing companies. He couldn’t think of any craft breweries in House Districts 4, 17 or 47, though all the other districts have at least one.
"It’s pretty close, but I don’t think every single one does," he said.
We asked him if a McMenamins pub that served beer brewed off-site would count in his book as a craft brewery.
"It’s not a super-important distinction to most folks," he said. "Would I count that in my list of breweries? No."
Our investigation found that districts 4, 17 and 47 do not have craft breweries. We’re also skeptical that a McMenamins pub that doesn’t brew on site qualifies as a craft brewery.
"The vast majority of Oregon does have access to quality craft brewery products," Johnson said after we shared our findings. "The craft-brewing industry is incredibly fast growing. It continues to be a bright spot in the midst of an otherwise slow economy."
Even if we exclude the two districts with McMenamins pubs, more than 90 percent of House and Senate districts in Oregon have at least one craft brewery. If Johnson had hedged his statement a bit and said that "nearly" every legislative district in the state has at least one craft brewery, this would be a True.
But that’s not what he said. Johnson said in his floor speech that every legislative district in the state has at least one craft brewery.
We rate this statement False — and hope to see you out on the beer trail soon to toast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Rep. Mark Johnson, House floor, April 11, 2013
E-mails, documents from Rep. Mark Johnson’s office, April 15-16, 2013
Interview with Rep. Mark Johnson, April 25, 2013
Oregon Liquor Control Commission, licensed alcohol facilities spreadsheet, downloaded April 18, 2013
Interview with Renee Rank, McMenamins spokeswoman, April 23, 2013
Interviews with Brian Butenschoen, executive director of Oregon Brewers Guild, April 24-25, 2013
Interviews with staff of Reps. Sherrie Sprenger, Jessica Vega Pederson, Dennis Richardson April 23-25, 2013
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