“This group is for Portland's 'queer' community: Lesbian, bi, gay, trans, straight, all of the above/none of the above. The common denominator is that you're looking for an LGBT/LGBT-friendly crowd in order to meet similar folks who appreciate good conversation and good times, all over a pint (or two) of craft brews (and cider). Mostly we meetup at local craft beer bars/brewpubs/breweries, but we also go to beer fests, tours, and other social events centered around... Beer!” From the Portland Queers & Craft Beers Meet-up page.
By day, Christian Burgess is a social worker, in his role is as a director of the National Disaster Distress Helpline. On weekends, and on certain weeknight evenings, he hosts events for Portland Queers & Craft Beers. A group which always seems to always get abbreviated to “Q&B.”
His professional life is challenging, and he clearly deserves time to decompress with a good craft brew. The North Carolina native came to the Portland area in 2014, after studying and living in New York for several years. His time with a gay craft beer Meet-up back East inspired him to launch one here.
Christian Burgess, enjoying a craft beer.
“I became good friends with the organizer, then became a co-organizer,” Burgess told me, fittingly, over a beer. “When I moved here in 2014 I knew I wanted an equivalent, but there wasn’t one. The NYC group was very successful. I work from home, and live in the burbs. I wanted my own social outlet. So, about four months after I moved here I started Portland Queers & Craft Beers.”
One has to wonder, why would there be a need for an LGBTQ-specific meet-up for beer? Portland has some of the best breweries in the country. Members of the queer community feel welcomed in most bars, not just gay watering holes. Burgess didn’t seem surprised by the question.
“Well, folks wanted it, and it just took off. Not only is the larger LGBT community diverse in Portland, and decentralized from a gayborhood, but gay bars don’t often serve craft beer,” he added. “With Portland’s strong craft beer scene, I thought it was a great opportunity to connect people. We had our first event at Belmont Station back in 2014 and there was really strong turnout, about 30 folks, which is average at our casual meetups.”
According to their Meet-up page, the group has nearly 1,040 members. Burgess describes his relationship with the group page as intentional.
“I don’t want this to be a group that’s just about numbers. I’d rather have a small group of 100 people than boast about having 2000 members. I’ve had 1,500 people join. I usually eliminate 20/30 people per month,” he said, based on inactivity. “A third of that number are active members, who check regularly. If they come even twice a year I consider them active.”
Of the numbers associated with his group, he says there’s not really any competition, even among MeetUps. Portland is a smaller city, with a huge gay population per capita. However, Burgess believes there’s plenty of opportunity for his--and other Meet-ups--to expand presence and popularity.
“What I like about Q&B is we bring the queer to the beer, because LGBT people in Portland are looking for good company in good venues. Not necessarily the need to meet at gay bars. I think we need those venues,” Burgess said. “But what’s nice is you can go anywhere and it’s queer-positive, friendly reception. They want our dollars in their venues. They appreciate our coming to them.”
In addition to hosting one casual monthly Meetup, at a local craft beer bar or brewery, Burgess has more specialized gatherings. He takes a group to a restaurant with a good beer list, or a gastropub, for Dinner & a Beer. He has expanded to include annual events, such as a Pride event in June. He likes revisiting venues, to show he appreciates the collaboration.
“I like to go back to the same venues to support them. Especially when they’ve been good to us,” he told PQ. He recently hosted an event at Fido's, a brewery just outside the city. They match good brews, with good dogs. Kind of like a “cat cafe” but with barks and brews, not cats and coffee. Fido's owners say it was one of their most successful days ever.
Last year a best-friend of mine invited me to join Q&B for a summer picnic at Laurelhurst Park, which is where it will take place again this year. Unlike the City of New York, you can get a permit granting permission to consume alcohol in Portland’s public parks.
“You just file for a permit. The picnic is our premier event, biggest turn out, well over 75 last year. I do Newcomers & Networking" events a few times a year, and always at Hi-Wheel. Ken Bonnin, Jr., the owner of Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wines, is a member," he told PQ. "I do an annual party every year for our anniversary at the Rogue Eastside Pub. I’m starting an annual friends and family events for our straight allies."
Last year he hosted one to celebrate the PFLAG Convention, which took place in Portland in Portland last October. Going forward, he'll host a similar event in the city to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
Some of the fun at Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wines, at a networking happy hour, last Spring. Courtesy Christian Burgess and (c) Portland Queers & Craft Beers.
Other cities have developed similar Meet-ups, celebrating pride, community, and beer. Burgess knows of one in Boston, and of queer homebrewer groups in L.A., and San Francisco. This sense of community lends itself to giving back to groups in need.
“Every now and then I like to turn events into fundraisers. Right after Hurricane Harvey we collected funds for the Montrose Center in Houston. They sponsored a fund for LGBT survivors of the hurricane,” Burgess said. Although he admits not every event can be a fundraiser. “I don’t have the capacity to devote that much time into fundraising. Not just collecting money but sending & getting an acknowledgment. The Summer Picnic becomes a fundraiser, after I collect a $5 cover to help with permit costs I donate to a local LGBT organization. Our House of Portland, Q Center, Portland Lesbian Choir," Burgess told me, are past recipients. To raise money for The (LGBTQ) Center in Orlando, the group raised almost $500 after the Pulse shooting.
In closing PQ asked, How do you think attendees see this group: just to try new beers, a way to network professionally, or socially, or dating?
“All of the above, I’m a little bit of a yenta, I want people to meet, flirt, and hookup. I haven’t had my first Q&B marriage that I’m aware of,” Burgess said enthusiastically about such a match. “Lots of friendships have developed. I always tell people, keep coming, the more people you’ll know, the more friends you make. People like it because of the co-ed diversity, that includes all races, relationship statuses, gender identitites, and sexual orientations.”
To learn more, and join in all the fun visit Portland Queers & Craft Beers Meet-up page for all the latest news.