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Fact-filled book on drinking lists liquor laws in every state

COURTESY PHOTO - Portland author Niki Ganong has released the first book on liquor laws in all 50 U.S. states, The Field Guide to Drinking in America.Niki Ganong has written a book for the Cliff Clavins of alcoholics.

In other words, “The Field Guide to Drinking in America” — a brand-new release by Ganong, a Portland food and drink writer — is chock full of tidbits about beer, wine and liquor you never knew you wanted to know.

Facts such as:

• George Washington distributed nearly 150 gallons of hooch to polling places on election day.

• In cowboy slang, a “lapper” is a hard drinker, a “pair of overalls” is two drinks of whiskey, and to “shoot the crow” means to have a drink and leave without paying.

• In Louisiana, donut shops are the only type of restaurant unable to obtain an alcohol permit.

• And in Colorado, it’s illegal to beg for drinks.

Ganong spent three years researching the laws, customs, practices and cultures of drinking in states across the U.S., and produced “The Field Guide” as her first book.

It’s published by Overcup Press, a small mom-and-pop publishing house in Portland.

To some, the a book about booze laws might sound a little dry.

Niki Ganong's guide.Ganong makes it quite the opposite, with bold colors, whimisical graphics, personal essays and quick-reference “What you can do” and “What you can’t do” guidelines for each state, which are arranged by region for easy road-tripping access.

“I’m from Pennyslvania, a control state,” says Ganong, who’s lived in Portland for 20 years and attends food and beer festivals across the U.S.

“So are the two founders of Overcup. We have these stories about what we’ve had to do to get a drink while on the road.”

Ganong wanted to create an entertaining yet useful guide of the wildly different and sometimes zany liquor laws in each state that have sprouted since the repeal of Prohibition.

So she visited many places in person, and combed state statutes online for nuggets of information.

Her enthusiasm for the subject matter is evident.

“I’ve been fascinated by places where you can drink on the street, unbridled by man or law,” Ganong says of her personal quest. “I’ve been ticking them off. ... Of the 17 places I think I’ve been to 12 or 15. ... I will visit before I die every single place you can drink on the street.”

For instance, most people think of Las Vegas or New Orleans when they think of free-flowing street drinking.

In Memphis, where Ganong recently visited, there’s a place called Beale Street, with 10 blocks of open-air drinking, corner daquiri bars and the street blocked off to traffic.

While she was there, there was a thunderous downpour, she recalls, causing the hundreds of people to run into the bars and hide like mice. “My husband and I are Oregonians — we just pulled up our hoods and kept going.”

The book works as a travel guide but also makes for a fun coffee table book.

Ganong says she could have compiled the information into a blog format and left it at that, but liked the old-school feel of a book in the hands. She fully expects to update it in later editions.

One of the coolest things about writing the book, Ganong says, is that it gave her a true appreciation for living in Portland and Oregon.

“As you start writing about a place, you slowly fall in love with it,” she says. “Oregon’s creativity (with distilling and brewing) is going on all over the country. You see these builders and creators everywhere. But in Oregon, they’re not hindered by the law.”

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has its regulations, she says, but compared to other states, the pathway is relatively easy to start producing beer, mead, cider and spirits.

Long before the term “craft brewery” came into vogue, long before Distillery Row was a thing, long before the city was world-reknown for its funky artisan spirits scene, Ganong remembers drinking craft cocktails with Jeffrey Morganthaler just after Clyde Common opened.

Morganthaler is still the mixologist there, and one of the most famous in Portland, with a book of his own, “The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.”

“I’ve been all over the world, but nothing compares to Portland,” Ganong says. “I’ve lived downtown since the ‘Drugstore Cowboy’ days. I’ve known the producers in the city from the very beginning ... It’s wonderful to be able to produce a book after living in Portland all these years.”

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