Backlist to the Future: Brew to Bikes

As I am new to the city of Portland, Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy immediately caught my attention. What better book to pick up for a crash course in all the unique things the city has to offer? However, I soon discovered that the book is a bit more than a guidebook for tourists and newcomers.

Brew to Bikes started off as a modest investigation into some of Portland’s artisan industries, and quickly became a collection of interviews exploring artisan communities and how they interact. Heying tells us that a simple Google search for “The 200 Artisan Skills Required to Make a Victorian Town Functional” will yield a list describing each of these skills. Portland is performing 112 of the 200. That’s pretty incredible.

Now, we all know about the big artisan communities Portland is notorious for: beer, food, bikes, and coffee. But did you know Portland also boasts a thriving motorcycle leathers industry? I sure didn’t. Did you know that Portland is also becoming known for its spirits distilleries, and that there is a demand for puppetry? Me neither! The book also has sections covering public radio, the indie music scene, and literature.

Brew to Bikes doesn’t just cover arts and entertainment, though. Also included are interviews with people involved in nonprofits that help improve the sustainability of the city. Free Geek, for example, collects, reuses, and recycles computers, their parts, and other electronics to offer low-cost technology through their thrift shop to those in need. Though the computers Free Geek refurbishes may be outdated, all are equipped to check and send email, as well as to write resumes.

Heying is the associate professor of the Urban Studies Program at Portland State, and he says in his introduction that the book originally began as an investigation of the independent fashion industry. As he delved deeper into Portland’s artisan economy, though, he saw his thesis change, and with the help of many eager students, the book was born.

At the heart of this exploration of the city’s unique communities, Brew to Bikes asks, “Why Portland, and why now?” Though the book would make an excellent textbook for an economics or popular culture course, it also works perfectly fine on its own as an in-depth study of all that Portland has to offer. So why not pick it up? You may discover something about the City of Roses you never knew.

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