2019 Best of Craft Beer

The last couple posts have been pretty glum, so it’s time for some happy news.  We weren’t able to make it out to the judging this year for various reasons, but when I started seeing Facebook and Instagram posts of winning beers it made me really happy to see a lot of places that I know people. It makes me proud as an industry peer to see our local places winning awards and being recognized for the greatness we already know is there, but now gets shouted on a bigger stage.

By virtue of the judging being held in Bend, OR, the entries are very West Coast heavy, but they do get entries from all over the country and even some from outside the US. It’s really nice to see how our local breweries stack up against the rest of the industry.

(Presented in Alphabetical order since that’s how the results sorted)

10 Barrel – Bend, OR: 10 Barrel took home 5 awards this year, Gold medals in Imperial Red Ale, Fruit Wheat Beer and South German Style Wheat, plus silvers in Berliner Style Weisse and German Style Pilsener.

Alesong Brewing and Blending – Eugene, OR: Alesong took home three medals, including Gold AND Silver in Experimental Beer or Other Strong Ale for wine barrel aged and tequila barrel aged beers respectively, and a Gold in Mixed Culture Brett Beer.

Ancestry Brewing – Tualatin, OR: Ancestry only took home one medal, but it was Gold in a classic style, Irish Red Ale. Very impressive.

Back Pedal Brewing – Portland, OR: Back Pedal took a Silver in American-Belgo Style ale for a Belgian Style Pale Ale.  I don’t know much about Back Pedal, but I’m pretty sure they also run the Pedal Bar tours around town and then started brewing their own.

Baerlic Brewing – Portland, OR: Baerlic also took home 5 medals.  Gold in American Style Black Ale for their Dark Thoughts CDA (One of the few CDA’s still in regular rotation around town), Silvers for Classic French and Belgian Saison and Dortmunder Style Export and Bronzes for British Bitters and International Style Pale Ale. Quite the spread of styles!

Bend Brewing Co. – Bend, OR: Bend Brewing adds to their impressive medal wall with a Gold in Export Stout and a Bronze in Berliner-Style Weisse with Fruit.  The first time I went into BBC and saw the wall full of GABF and World Beer Cup medals I thought to myself “How have I never heard of this place?” Quietly doing solid work out in Bend.

Boneyard Brewing – Bend, OR: Bend mainstay Boneyard picked up four medals, Silvers in American Style Fruit Beer and Belgian Style Lambic and Bronzes in Belgian Style Lambic and Imperial Red Ale.  Seems like they can do more than just IPAs, although their IPAs are amazing.

Breakside Brewing – Portland/Milwaukie, OR: Breakside took home a stunning 8 medals. 6 from the main production brewery in Milwaukie and 2 from the original Portland pub.  Gold medals for Contemporary Style Gose, American Style Lager, International Style Pale Ale and German Style Schwarzbier.  Silvers for American Style Sour Ale and American Style Strong Pale Ale. Bronzes for American Style Sour Ale and German Style Pilsener. Quite the haul!

Brothers Cascadia Brewing – Vancouver, WA: Bronze medal for Session India Pale Ale. I’ve driven by their place a couple times but haven’t made it in yet. Someday that needs to be fixed.

Gigantic Brewing – Portland, OR: Surprised to see Gigantic only take home one medal, but it’s a Bronze in German Style Koelsch. Craft lagers are starting to take off and Kölsch is a very competitive category right now.

Golden Valley Brewery – McMinnville, OR: A Silver medal for English Style Summer Ale. Another brewery that is very quietly cranking out quality stuff.

Immersion Brewing – Bend, OR: Immersion took home 4 medals. Gold for a California Common, Silver for Imperial Red Ale and Bronzes for American Style Stout and German Style Schwarzbier.  Less than 3 years old, a relative newcomer onto the Bend beer scene making a splash already.

Loowit Brewing – Vancouver, WA: Literally just across the river in Downtown Vancouver, Loowit took home two Silver medals. One in Irish Style Red Ale and one in German Style Doppelbock.

Mazama Brewing – Corvallis, OR: Mazama (named for the collapsed volcano that created Crater Lake) took home 4 medals.  Gold for Belgian style Dubbel, Silvers for Bohemian Style Pilsner and German Style Marzen and a Bronze for American Style Barleywine.

Migration Brewing – Portland, OR: Migration also only took home one medal, but it was a Gold Medal in American Style Strong Pale Ale which is a very competitive category. The BA guidelines are razor thin between Pale Ale, Strong Pale Ale and American IPA (they all overlap) so this is basically an IPA category which are always huge.

Monkless Belgian Ales – Bend, OR: Another newcomer to the scene, focused on Belgian style ales and they took home a Silver medal in Belgian Style Dubbel.

Mt Tabor Brewing – Portland, OR: Mt Tabor took home a Bronze medal in Australasian, Latin American or Tropical Style Light Lager, which I believe is a fairly new category.

Old Town Brewing – Portland, OR: A while back Old Town took on the big dogs (AB InBev) and won.  A brewery that seemed to be forgotten suddenly had a huge swell of support. Score one for the little guys.  Old Town collected 3 medals, a Silver for German Style Schwarzbier and Bronzes for English Style Pale Ale/IPA and Irish Style Red Ale. That’s a local sweep for Irish Style Red Ale.

Ordnance Brewing – Boardman, OR: I have two friends who work here so it’s hard not to get excited to see them take home three medals.  A Gold in American Style IPA (125 entries!!) and silvers for American Style Lager and Oatmeal Stout.

Oregon City Brewing – Oregon City, OR: We were at OCB recently and saw the award for their Cherry version of Coming to Fruition fruited sour, this time it’s the Marionberry versions turn with a Silver in Mixed Culture Brett Beer.

Pelican Brewing – Tillamook, OR: Pelican took home two medals this year. A Gold in Golden or Blonde Ale for Kiwanda Cream, which is not a shock and a Silver in Wood and Barrel Aged for the Queen of Hearts Barrel Aged Saison.  Also, not a surprise.

pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR: pFriem is another surprise to only take one medal, but it’s a Gold in a classic style, German Style Pilsener.  Having had it before I can concur that it is World-class.

Rogue Ales and Spirits – Newport, OR: Rogue picked up a Gold medal in Honey beer for their Honey Kolsch.

Rosenstadt Brewing – Portland, OR: Rosenstadt focuses on classic German styles and took home a Bronze medal for Munich Style Helles.

Silver Moon Brewing – Bend, OR: Silver Moon took home a Silver medal in American Style IPA and a Gold in Brett Beer.  I wonder if American Style IPA will be a local sweep as well.

Stickmen Brewing Co. – Tualatin, OR: A small pub brewer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make good stuff.  Stickmen picked up a Bronze in Belgian Style Pale Ale.

Stormbreaker Brewing – Portland, OR: Stormbreaker has been around for a while, but I feel like they’ve had a resurgence lately with some strong offerings and award recognition.  Stormbreaker snagged 4 medals, a Gold in American Brown Ale, Silvers in German Style Altbier and California Common and a Bronze in Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale.

Sunriver Brewing – Sunriver, OR: Sunriver grabbed a Gold in American Style Wheat Beer for their Fuzztail, which is one of their flagship offerings.

The Ale Apothecary – Bend, OR: Ale Apothecary took home a Bronze in Experimental Beer or Other Strong Ale. A lot of their stuff is barrel aged or blended so Experimental is probably right in their wheelhouse.

Three Creeks Brewing Co. – Sisters, OR: Three Creeks took home a Bronze medal in Scotch Ale. Three Creeks does really good stuff and is starting to get recognized for it which is exciting.

Three Mugs Brewing – Hillsboro, OR: Three Mugs is another place that flies under the radar, way out in Hillsboro, but they have had great success. This year they took home a Gold in Strong Ale or Old Ale for Biggie D’s Strong Scotch Ale which is a favorite among the regulars.

Thunder Island Brewing – Cascade Locks, OR: If you blink in Cascade Locks you’ll miss it, but how classically Oregon to have an award winning brewery there? Thunder Island took home two Silver medals, one in Classic Irish Stout and one in Golden or Blonde Ale.

von Ebert Brewing – Portland, OR: Another relative newcomer to the Portland scene, but started with an experienced crew from the award winning Fat Heads Portland outpost, von Ebert sprang up when Fat Heads decided to not continue it’s Portland franchise and now they are independent.  von Ebert took home a Bronze in American Style Light Lager.

Widmer Brewing – Portland, OR: One of the OG Portland breweries, Widmer continues to crank out winners.  A Bronze medal in American Amber Ale for year round Drop Top Amber, a Bronze medal in German Style Altbier for their Alt (which is the first beer Widmer ever made) and a Gold medal in Coffee Beer for Creme de la Cafe, which I’m assuming is one of their small experimental pilot batches.

Wild Ride Brewing – Redmond, OR: Wild Ride took home two medals this year, a Bronze for American Style Light Wheat Beer, and a Gold in Field Beer for their Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter.

Worthy Brewing – Bend, OR: Worthy Brewing pulled out two awards, a Silver for International Style Pale Ale and a Gold for Chocolate or Cocoa Beer for Peace Pipe Porter. Having had the Peace Pipe before I can attest it is VERY chocolate heavy.

So that rounds out the winners from Oregon and Southwest Washington.  There were also a lot of winners from the Seattle area and California.  You can check out all the medal winners HERE at the Winners page of Best of Craft Beer.

Cheers!

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Time Waits for No One.

What better way to build up hype leading up to Zwicklemania* than a rash of industry closings, yeah? While I’m sure it’s not what the Oregon Brewers Guild had in mind, as the saying goes, the show must go on.  But the timing is ominous at best.

About two weeks after the announcement of Widmer closing their pub/tasting room for good this time (they pulled out the kitchen in a remodel and shortened hours/changed menus etc about a year ago), this past week has seen a couple brutal blows to the Portland beer scene. The past week has seen two breweries and a taproom/growler station close, and while there are of course other issues at play, the recurring theme with all three of these (that I see) is really expensive real estate.

Early last week, amidst the snow and ice, Burnside Brewing announced it was closing for the day due to bad weather, and never reopened.  A post on Reddit shared what appeared to be an internal email telling everyone the business was closing and they may not even get their last paychecks. At that point rumors started flying, including a picture of an eviction notice posted on the door that implied the business hadn’t paid rent in 3 months.  As far as I know, there hasn’t been any official announcement.  The Burnside website still looks as if they are open and the last post on the facebook page is the “Tomorrow we’re going be closed for a Snow Day” post.  Based on comments I’ve read online and conversations I’ve had with people in the industry it sounds like their landlord is seeing dollar signs from condo towers and owns a sweet patch of East Burnside real estate.  Obviously those are unsubstantiated, so take it with a grain of salt, but that’s what I’m hearing from the grapevine.  There may have been forgiveness and patience for late payments in the past and that patience may have run out.  Giving Burnside the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t doing anything shady (and that will be my assumption until I hear otherwise) it seems almost like a gamblers desperation.  The thought that “Just one more good weekend and we’ll make it!” And time simply ran out. I’ve also heard whispers they may reopen somewhere else and may not be completely out of the game just yet, but time will tell in that case.

This Monday, a post appeared on BeerAdvocate that the Growler Guys location on SE 8th (between Belmont and Morrison) was closing.  In this case, the reason was absolutely cut and dry.  At the end of their 5 year lease they were offered a chance to renew at a “significant increase” in rent.  They don’t say how much, and honestly that’s no one’s business, but I just so happen to have lived in the same apartment for 5 years and in that time my rent has increased about 50% (1.5 times what it started at).  Those were incremental increases that I was able to absorb, if it had all come at once I’m not so sure I would have been able to.  Based on the location (inner SE) and being a commercial property I wouldn’t be shocked if the increase was double (or more).  The area where they are located has changed dramatically in 5 years. A couple apartment towers have gone in, Market of Choice opened a store there along with Shilling Cider House across the street.  Rogue rebranded and renovated the old Green Dragon into the Rogue Eastside Pub and Pilot Brewery and The Commons gave way to a Portland outpost for California brewery Modern Times.

The very next day, a bombshell hit that, to quote Jeff Alworth, was “shocking but hardly surprising”.  In a statement from owner Gambrinus, it was announced that Bridgeport Brewing was closing after 35 years.  One of the literal godfathers of the Portland craft beer movement, the first to open in 1984 (after fledgling Cartwright Brewing failed) and followed in short order by Widmer, McMenamins and Portland Brewing. Jeff’s post about it gives a lot of background info over on the Beervana Blog.  Most of us knew Bridgeport was struggling.  Two years ago they laid off half their brew staff, shortened/cut pub hours and took other cost cutting measures.  I assumed they were dead at that point, but then they introduced new labels and a couple new products that looked like they *might* just make a comeback, but alas it wasn’t to be.  According to Jeff’s blog post, their highest volume was 27k BBL(beer barrels =~ 31 gallons), which in all honesty is a lot smaller than I thought. I’ve always thought about Bridgeport as one of the “Big Three” along with Widmer and Portland Brewing at 100k+ bbls.  But even so, their volume the last couple years had been around 6000 barrels, or less than 1/3 of capacity.  One thing I’ve learned in my short time in the beer industry is that empty tanks are really, really expensive.  You still have to maintain them, clean them, keep them hooked up to glycol and CO2, but with the opportunity cost of not making something in them you can sell. This quote from Jeff Alworth says it all; “The former rope factory in the Pearl is valuable real estate, and operating a moribund industrial business out of there hasn’t made sense for at least five years.”

I’ve lived in Portland for almost 6 years. Just long enough to get that “Dammit people need to stop moving here!” vibe even as a transplant myself.  I’m not foolish enough to think that any of this change will stop.  Portland is growing the same way all cities grow. In fits and starts, some of it good, some bad, some controlled, some rabid.  I’ve watched it in Charlotte and Atlanta growing up and heard about it in Seattle and San Francisco.  These things happen, life goes on.  It’s simply how shit works.  The only thing about it that makes me sad is I see these neighborhoods that are really funky and cool, like Hawthorne or Division or the Goat Blocks and a lot of people visit those places because it has shops, cafes, theaters etc.  Eventually, people don’t want to visit there, they want to live there. But what happens when you need to build apartments? You tear down the shops, cafes, theaters etc.  After a while, a bunch of people live there but all the hip, cool shit that got people to move there is gone.  As the original group of residents move out and new ones move in no one knows what made it cool anymore, it’s just a “place to live”. All three of these closures reek of “We’re in a super hip cool spot, but now it’s so hip and cool we can’t afford to stay here anymore.” That’s the part that sucks.  Artists make a place cool, but then you kick out the artists so the yuppies can live there and be “cool” but then it’s not cool anymore.

Note: Literally as I was writing this, a post on Facebook claims that Scout Brewing is now closed.  There’s no information beyond “Scout Brewing may have poured it’s last pint”.  I don’t know anything about Scout and never went there, but I have seen their location on Division (see hip neighborhood comments above).  They opened a place with a built in food cart pod. Seems like a good idea yeah? Based on the Facebook comments it sounds like they were contract brewing elsewhere before they opened their own place, and I don’t think the Division spot has been open very long, so maybe this is more of a thing that was doomed from the start? 30% of all new restaurants close within a year or so I’ve heard.  Some stuff just literally never makes it off the ground.

*Zwicklemania is Oregon’s annual brewery open house.  One day a year breweries open their doors offering tours, tastings, beer specials etc, a lot of it free and open to the public. Often breweries will offer a taste of beer directly from a fermentation tank. Zwickle (or Zwickel) is the name of a sample port on a beer tank (named for the company that makes a type of them, same as how “BandAid” and “Coke” just became universal).  Germany even has a type of young, unfiltered beer called “Zwickelbier”.

Super Bowl Hangover

If you managed to stay awake for the Super Bowl (no shame if you didn’t, it was a snoozefest) you might have noticed AB-InBev pull out their claws and go for the throat.  They specifically called out both Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in a series of Bud Light ads throughout the night.  How will this play out for Bud Light and ABI? In my opinion, not well.

In the current age of instant fact checking, people quickly realized, while Bud Light might not use corn syrup, many other ABI brands do.  So, technically, they aren’t lying when they say Bud Light doesn’t, but it’s a bad look to call out a competitors ingredient that you also use.

BudLight

This post from the Mad Fermentationist was posted at 4:38PM (Pacific Time), in other words, DURING the game.

Jeff Alworth’s Beervana Blog offered a quick recap posted later that night, AB InBev’s Weird Super Bowl Message, which also points out that ABI makes more than just Bud Light, including a beer that also got a Super Bowl spot, Stella Artois which uses corn as an ingredient.

The Beer Business Daily newsletter published on Monday morning did not pull any punches.  A couple things popped out to me while I was reading it.  This was the first.

“One of the first rules they teach you in marketing school is you never, ever, under any circumstances, name your competitors when they are smaller than you. Second, if you do, don’t disparage them because it makes you appear to be a bully. ” BBD 2-4-19

I hadn’t really thought about the bullying angle.  I had always heard, the leader in a category doesn’t mention it’s competitors in ads because it doesn’t have too.  Take Coke for example.  Pepsi is running ads about how Pepsi is consistently ranked higher than Coke in blind taste tests, while Coke is running ads about polar bears drinking Coke.  Pepsi has to try to PROVE it’s better.  This is what makes this so wild.  ABI isn’t acting like the industry leader.  They are acting like a wounded animal, lashing out violently but randomly.  They seem to be acting out of fear.

The next thing that struck me is this (emphasis mine):

“IS IT FAIR? Well, all is fair in love and war, and this is war. A-B knew it could leverage it’s huge audience without the majority of consumers checking the fine print. High fructose corn syrup, of course, has been widely publicized as an evil ingredient in most products. I’m sure A-B tested for that. But no MillerCoors products are brewed with HFCS.

Many beer brands brew with regular corn syrup, which includes ABI’s second largest brand outside the U.S., Corona. But not sure the average consumer gets the distinction. And of course, in brewing, the vast majority of the corn syrup is fermented anyway into ethanol and carbon dioxide, just as any starch, including rice. But that is lost on the majority of the public.” BBD 2-4-19

This cuts to the heart of not what they are doing, but why.  Throw out a dirty word that the public hates (sliding by on the lack of distinction between HFCS and CS) and pin your opponents name to it.  Unfortunately, nowadays this will most likely have the opposite effect of focusing people on Bud Light and asking, so what’s in YOUR beer that you don’t want us to know about? This drives me mad with Coors Light commercials all the time.  They make huge bold statements (COLD FILTERED, COLD PACKAGED) that, while they are true, are not unique to Coors Light.  Every beer on the planet (save perhaps bottle conditioned Belgians) is cold aged, cold filtered and cold packaged.  You can’t filter or package warm beer.  But, the majority of the public doesn’t know that, Coors is the only one to put it in their ads and therefore Coors is special.  That’s what ABI is doing here as well, it’s an advertising sleight of hand. “It’s not that we DON’T use Corn syrup…. but they DO!” It’s not lying, but….

So, let’s talk about sugar here for a minute.  Maltose (the sugar from Malted Barley) is a disaccharide (two sugars) formed from two glucose molecules.  Dextrose (usually refered to as Corn Sugar) is a single glucose molecule. Yeast break down the maltose into single glucoses (dextrose) and from that point on they are identical.  Sucrose (sugar from cane or beets, common granulated sugar) is a disaccharide formed from one glucose and one fructose. Fructose is commonly referred to as fruit sugar since it was likely first discovered in fruits, but these different configurations of carbon structures exist in all starch/sugar containing foods.  Corn Syrup is made by treating corn starch with enzymes to break down the long chains into dextrose and double glucoses still referred to as (you guessed it) maltose.  They are chemically identical whether they come from barley or corn.  The yeast cannot tell a difference.  High Fructose Corn Syrup has a bad wrap mostly because it’s in everything that’s bad for you, soda, cakes, cookies, etc.  But here’s the thing, it’s identical to sucrose.  HFCS is corn syrup that’s been treated with enzymes to convert some of the glucose to fructose.  How much you ask? About 42% fructose to 50-52% glucose and the rest longer chain starches, which is the exact same formulation as sucrose.  That’s intentional.  Fructose “tastes” sweeter than glucose, which means corn syrup isn’t as “sweet”, so HFCS has been modified to have the same flavor profile as table sugar.  Now, I’m not saying it’s good for you, but it’s no worse than sucrose.  The new sodas made “Without HFCS” and “Made with REAL sugar” etc are implying that regular sugar is better for you. Of course, legally they can’t make that claim, so they expect the consumer to make that jump, which most do.  This beer ad does the same thing. “We can’t say it’s bad, but you know it’s bad so you’ll do that math for us.”

Miller Lite of course fired back with a full page ad in the New York Times which was not surprising, and also not surprisingly they play off the corn syrup vs HFCS trope as well saying: “What might have gotten a little lost […] is the distinction between “corn syrup” and High Fructose Corn Syrup”

As far as our bodies are concerned, sucrose and HFCS are chemically identical.  Any implication that one tastes better (or even different for that matter) is bogus and any implication that one is better or worse for your body is bogus.  We all know sugar of any kind in large quantities is bad for you.  The type of sugar honestly doesn’t matter.  Your body converts all of it to glucose.

This holds true for brewing as well.  Whether the sugar comes from wheat, barley, corn, rice or cane sugar, in the end it all gets converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide.  It really doesn’t matter.  To try to claim rice is better than corn is foolish.  And yes, lets acknowledge the fact that a lot of this “rice and corn bashing” in macro beers is coming from the same people who will happily drink a beer with lactose (milk sugar) and/or actual Lucky Charms in the mash tun.  Hypocrisy is not a good look for anyone.  I have the same reactions when “craft” people bash regular beer.

The last caveat I’ll add to this is the same I would for any such post about a single ingredient in a larger mix.  This is alcohol we’re talking about, which is (in the wrong doses) a poison.  Now, surely if you’re reading this you know I’m not anti-alcohol.  I’m a homebrewer and work in a brewery, an avid consumer of both beer and whiskey, I play on both sides of the beverage alcohol industry, production and consumption, but lets be real for a moment.  We all know (or should) the dangers of alcohol consumption.  In too high of volumes or for too long a period of time it can be detrimental to your health, up to and including death.  Maybe we shouldn’t be too terribly concerned about what form of sugar is used to make our poison? I see similar posts about artificial flavors in tobacco products (such as certain brands being listed as “All Natural”) and just shake my head.  It’s not the cherry flavor in tobacco that’s going to kill you.

AB InBev is playing a dangerous game and I don’t think it’s going to play well for them at all.

2018 Beer in Review

It’s that time of year again, another year gone.  The time to look back and reminisce and also look ahead to the year ahead, which like an unwrapped present offers so much promise.

Brewing:

Like last year, I only brewed 8 batches this year, but I began to fall into a bit of a predictable rhythm. Two weeks ago I brewed my last batch of the year, another batch of my Black Flag CDA.  I never expected to have a “flagship” beer, but that’s what this one has turned into.  I made 4 batches of it this year, and the most recent was my 13th batch in the last three years.  I have this recipe dialed in to the point where I just remake it, I don’t make any changes or adjustments.  The other four batches were two batches of a British Strong Bitter, a style I had never made before but rather enjoyed, my annual batch of Belgian Dark Strong, and a re-brew of my Imperial Milk Stout “Waiting for Santa” that I made a couple years ago.

Competitions:

Also continuing the trend from last year, I traded quantity for quality.  This year was really remarkable from a competition standpoint.  I started the year with an early surprise. I was invited to pour my Rum Barrel Stout at the people’s choice for Stout Bout and then was awarded 1st place in Wood Aged Stout, which I did not expect.  This was followed by a gold medal at COHO Spring Fling for my British Bitter and then a gold medal at Heart of Cascadia for my CDA.  Three category wins with three different beers was pretty shocking.  The COHO medal earned me points for the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year program, which was one of my 2018 goals.  My Belgian Dark Strong took a third place at the Oregon State Fair, and then took 1st place at Salem Harvest Classic and received an Honorable Mention for Best in Show, essentially 4th place BOS, although there’s no ribbon for that.  I rounded out the year with a 3rd place in Specialty IPA at Fall Classic with my CDA.  6 total awards, 4 of which were 1st Place.

Judging:

I was able to judge 5 competitions this year, starting again with Best of Craft Beer.  I also served as Judge Director for the OBC Fall Classic at the end of the year.  Based on travel plans and work schedule, I won’t be returning to Best of Craft Beer in 2019, but hope to someday judge that competition again.  It’s a lot of fun and of course we get to bring home a ton of beer.  At the time of my last Beer in Review, I had taken the tasting exam but hadn’t received my score back.  I increased my score from a 76 to an 80, which is good enough for National.  I plan to take the written exam at some point in this year, but I don’t expect to do well enough on the first try.  Several people have recommended to me to just take it so I have an idea what it’s like.  My goal for increasing my rank is to have opportunities to judge at larger competitions like the NHC Finals, GABF and the Oregon Beer Awards.

Travel:

Well 2018 was a pretty amazing year for travel.  We started the year in January with a trip to Mexico.  We visited one brewery (Todos Santos Brewing) and tried several local and national Mexican brews.  Fresh Modelo Negra on draft is an amazing beer.  The bottles you can get here are nice, but don’t quite do it justice.  In April I traveled to Montréal, Quebec, Canada to attend a Siebel Brewing Microbiology Course.  This trip was paid for by my work and was an interesting, albeit difficult, learning and travel experience.  They crammed a lot into two weeks, and I did manage to visit 8 breweries while I was there and tried several other local offerings in cans and bottles. The tour and tasting at Unibroue was definitely the highlight of the trip. In June we traveled to Houston and Austin, Texas. The Houston part of the trip was a church conference, so certainly not beer related, but the Austin portion was visiting with family while we were in the area, so a lot more relaxed.  We did visit three breweries in Houston on the last day when our main responsibilities were over, and two more in Austin as well as trying some local stuff on draft and bottles around town.  Sadly, some of the big name breweries, like Jester King(Austin) and St. Arnold(Houston), were closed the days were were in town, but with family in the area we know we will return soon. Oskar Blues in Austin was very cool.  We finished the year with a trip to visit my family and friends on the East Coast for Thanksgiving.  We visited one brewery in Garner, near my friends house and also spent two days exploring Asheville, which has blown up into a beer mecca since I left the state.  The highlight of that trip was the tour at New Belgium, which is always a good time.  We’ve now visited the Colorado and North Carolina locations for New Belgium.  If you haven’t done a tour there I highly recommend it.  It’s free, although you do need to sign up in advance, and they are very generous with the samples.  They also do a good job explaining their processes and lay everything out, they don’t really have any “secrets”.

Job:

The end of this year marks 2 and half years now in my position at Portland Brewing.  My role has grown, including the aforementioned training trip to Montréal, and moving into 2019 I am beginning to take over our sensory tasting program.  My goals are to expand and refine the program, which will include in 2019 another Siebel course for sensory panel management.  We are setting up a dedicated space for the sensory program to match that growth and expansion and I’m very excited to be involved in it.  With my background in Food Science and BJCP Beer Judging the managers felt that sensory was well within my wheelhouse and they are hoping I can take our program to the next level. The goal as always will be to provide a consistent and high quality product to our consumers.

Looking Forward:

2019 is already looking like a busy year.  My wife and I are planning to dial back on our travel this year, after literally globehopping this past year, but we do have a short trip in January coming up to visit friends in San Francisco.  I will also be attending the Siebel Sensory Panel Management course, either in February or November.  This course is not as intense as the Montréal course, since it’s only 4 days long and is in San Diego. We will be very involved in the homebrew club this year as my wife is returning to the Board as President and I will be re-joining the Board as Competition chair. This will likely mean less judging opportunities, but I will still be heavily involved in the local competition scene.  For competitions, my 2018 goal (unfulfilled) for advancing a beer to the NHC Finals still stands (and honestly, this will be a goal every year) as well as my hopes to participate in some sort of Pro-Am brewing opportunity, whether that be through winning Best in Show at a competition, being chosen as a Widmer Collaborator through the OBC or being selected to brew for something like the Willamette Week Pro-Am, hopefully I can brew one of my recipes on a larger scale.  I think that would be extremely fun and an amazing learning opportunity.

So cheers to 2018 and here’s to an amazing 2019!

Blast from the Past

While we were rearranging the lab offices at work and preparing to move into new offices, I came across this gem on the bookshelf with our technical manuals.

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The Great Beer Trek by Stephen Morris.  Published in 1984, this “Revised and Updated” version was published in 1990. For reference, in 1990 I was 10 years old. Still well away from my drinking years.

Eventually, I’d like to flip through the whole thing, but of course I turned immediately to the section on Oregon to see what was represented there.  The book lists 12 breweries for Oregon.  I’m not sure if this is every brewery that was in business in 1990, but California has 4 pages worth, so there doesn’t seem to be a numerical limit to the lists.  Surprisingly, all but one of them are still in business.  If you’re curious who were the beginning of the craft beer revolution in Oregon, this is them.

Ashland Ale’s Brewery and Public House, Ashland OR: Brewers of Ashland Ale and Rogue Golden Ale.  This was the first location for what is now known as Rogue Brewing Company.  Expanded first to Newport, OR and then Portland, Rogue now has several breweries and pubs scattered across the state as well as a distillery, a cooperage and a farm.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House, Bend OR: The first pub for Deschutes in Bend is still there, in it’s original location.  There is now a huge production brewery across town that I highly recommend visiting, as well as a pub and small pilot brewery in Portland.  Deschutes is one of the biggest breweries in the state now.

Oregon Trail Brewery, Corvallis OR: I honestly don’t know a lot about this brewery, but it’s still around.  Opened in 1987, with an ownership change in 1993, but it’s still kicking.

Eugene City Brewing Co., Eugene OR: This brewery closed in the early 90’s, and a new brewery opened in 1996 with the rights to this name but otherwise unaffiliated with the original.  This is the only one presented in the book that no longer exists. The new Eugene City Brewery eventually became a Rogue pub, but closed in 2014.

McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro), Lighthouse Pub (Lincoln City) and Hillsdale Pub and Brewery (Portland): Hillsdale was the very first McMenamins property.  Apparently, they had expanded to three at the time of publication.  The McMenamins “empire” as they jokingly refer to it, now stretches from Bothell, Washington (north of Seattle) down to Roseburg, Oregon (damn near the California state line) and now includes concert venues, movie theaters, golf courses, a winery and two distilleries. They are more known for quirky decorations and tater tots than they are beer, but their Ruby Raspberry Wheat Ale is a “gateway” beer for a lot of people.

Hood River Brewing Co, Hood River, OR: Brewers of Full Sale Golden Ale.  I haven’t found the reasoning for the “sale” spelling in the Golden Ale name, but this brewery is still around and still in Hood River.  Although, now they go by the name Full SAIL.  They fashioned themselves as an “adventure” brewery, with all the wind surfing and kite boarding that happens in the gorge.  Their Session brand of light quaffable beers is quite popular.

Blitz-Weinhard Brewing, Portland, OR: While this brewery technically still exists, it does so in name only and is no longer in Portland.  First owned by Stroh’s and then eventually Miller Coors, the Portland brewery shut down in 1999.  The name exists still in the Miller Portfolio as Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve and the line of Henry’s Hard Sodas. At first, I thought Mr. Weinhard must be spinning in his grave to have his name on neon orange and grape alco-pops, but reading The Beer Bible I discovered that Weinhard actually kept his brewery in business selling sodas during Prohibition, so maybe it’s actually fitting.

Bridgeport Brewing Co, Portland, OR: One of the “big three” in Portland, it’s still around, although the last couple of years it’s fallen on hard times.  Bought and then seemingly ignored by the Gambrinus Co (Shiner Bock in Texas), they started to fade away.  A recent brand refresh and new product offerings has given some life to the old brewery and hopefully it can make a comeback.  I’d hate to lose one of the originals.

Portland Brewing Co, Portland OR: The brewery that I work for, although no longer on NW Flanders Street as indicated in the book.  Moved into a larger facility in the NW Industrial area and in 2004 merged with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle (more below). Now part of a conglomerate that includes Magic Hat in Vermont and Genessee in New York.  Started in 1986, so between the first publication of the book and the update.

Widmer Brewing Co, Portland OR: The last of the big three (including Bridgeport and Portland Brewing) makers of the ubiquitous Widmer Hefewiezen.  The classic example of American Style Hefe.  Distributed mostly nationally thanks to a 30% partial ownership from AB-InBev, Widmer also formed a small craft conglomerate called the Craft Brewers Alliance that includes Redhook Brewing in Seattle and Kona Brewing in Hawai’i.

Other notes:

On the page facing the Oregon page, one of the Washington listings is Hart Brewing in Kalama, Washington.  Makers of Pyramid Pale Ale and Pyramid Snow Cap Ale.  This brewery would later move to Seattle and become Pyramid Breweries, which would then merge with Portland Brewing Co.

Under the section called “Kindred Spirits” following the brewery listing is a list of three homebrew clubs.  Heart of the Valley in Corvallis, which still exists, Cascade Brewers Society in Eugene, which is also still around, and the Oregon Brew Crew in Portland, of which I am a member.

North Carolina is listed in the section called “The Wastelands” and only lists 4 breweries.  One of which is a branch plant for Stroh’s in Winston Salem, which as far as I know has been closed for a long time, and one is a Miller plant in Eden, which closed about 10 years ago.  It’s still sitting vacant to this day because it’s much too large for anyone other than Bud/Miller/Coors to use.  Even larger breweries that have since opened in North Carolina like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium would struggle to fill that capacity.  The other two breweries listed I have never heard of; Dilworth Brewing Co in Charlotte, which apparently closed in 1998 and Weeping Radish Brewing in Manteo, a German style brewery that still exists and still strictly adheres to the Reinheitsgebot purity law from 1516.

South Carolina lists zero breweries.

East Coast Trip #3

My wife and I just returned from spending Thanksgiving with family and friends out on the East coast.  It was my third trip back since moving out to Oregon.  The second trip didn’t warrant a write up here since we only visited one brewery on that trip, although it was a good one, Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro.

Raleigh, NC Area: We flew into RDU airport and spent the first couple of nights at my best friends place in Garner (just south of Raleigh).  The first night we ventured out to a local bottle shop, The Beerded Lady, to grab some beer for dinner.  We got some cans of It’s Fall Ya’ll Coffee Stout from Trophy Brewing (Raleigh) and a growler of Pirate Queen Double IPA by Bombshell Brewing (Holly Springs).  The next day we met my sister and her partner for lunch and then after lunch walked around the corner to Brewery Bhavana.  Combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, this place seemed to be pretty pretentious at first glance, but the beer was solid and the staff was down to earth, so looks aren’t everything.  Tried their flagship Till Farmhouse Ale, Dig Chocolate Stout and Patrick’s Birthday Barleywine (whiskey barrel aged).  All were very delicious.
46743022_10216048499459844_2292142815158730752_nWe finished the night at Brice’s Brewing  in Garner, just down the street from my friends house.  They had hosted a stout release party the night before and still had several on tap.  Between the four of us, we tried Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Irish Stout and I also tried the Belgian Tripel.  The next morning we hit the road for South Carolina.

Pawley’s Island, SC: We didn’t make it to any breweries in SC, but we found some local beers at restaurants and at the grocery store.  The first night at dinner I had a great IPA, HopArt from Coast Brewing (North Charleston) which paired remarkably well with Southern style fried seafood. At the grocery store we picked up a 6 pack of Mango IPA from Palmetto Brewing (Charleston) and a 6 pack of Westbrook One Claw (Mt Pleasant).  The Mango IPA was quite good, the One Claw sadly was a little past it’s prime. I’ve had it before when it was better.  The second night I had an Espresso Porter also from Palmetto Brewing at a really great BBQ joint.

Asheville, NC: I hadn’t been to Asheville since I was young, and seemingly as soon as I left NC it blew up into a craft beer mecca.  We spent the next two days exploring Asheville, including a nice drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The first night we stopped at Burial Beer Co. after dinner, which was a small place but they had a lot of unique beers.  I tried their blended sour and double IPA, which were both great and very different, and my wife had the coconut brown ale aged on cocoa nibs which was super chocolaty.  The next morning we had a tour scheduled at New Belgium Brewing.  We visited their Fort Collins brewery on our Denver trip two years ago and now got to see the East coast location.  The tour was great, it was cool to see the brewery and our guide was really great.  They gave us samples of Fat Tire, which I forget how good it is when it’s fresh, and Fat Tire White Ale, La Folie sour ale which is phenomenal, and Abbey (Belgian Dubbel) which was actually the first beer they ever made, and then their HPA Hemperor IPA which is made with hemp seeds.  Let’s just say when he started pouring it smelled like someone was lighting it up.
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Several people on the tour recommended we go to Sierra Nevada Brewery if we hadn’t already been.  Another West coast brewery that has started an East coast outpost, Sierra Nevada was located in nearby Mills River.  Originally, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it out there, but it wasn’t as far away as I thought, just a quick 20 minute drive away.  We had dinner at the brewery (highly recommend the Duck Fat fries) and then did the self-guided walking tour.  I haven’t been to the Chico, CA location, but the Mills River brewery is massive but also beautifully laid out.  The long driveway with landscaping and custom street signs made it feel like you were entering a Disney property. While we were there, I had this years Celebration fresh hop IPA, which was really good, and my wife had the Sidecar Orange IPA which was also very refreshing.
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By this point we were actually starting to get kinda beer’d out.  After checking out some local art studios, we finished the Asheville tour with a trip to Urban Orchard Cider Co. It was nice to have something different, and the ciders were very refreshing.  We tried a hopped cider, a ginger cider and a holiday cider with cranberries that were all delicious.
46821421_10216048551061134_384162739905363968_nRaleigh-Durham International Airport: The last two days of the trip involved hanging out with my family and no beer, which is OK.  My parents don’t drink hardly at all and we’ve never had alcohol at any of the big family dinners, which is probably for the best.  However, we managed to snag a couple more local beers in the airport as we were headed home.  I had the Hoppy-Ki-Yay IPA by Lonerider Beer (Raleigh), and my wife had the Spoaty Oaty Pale Ale by Appalachian Mountain Brewing (Boone, NC).  Interestingly, I didn’t know at the time but as I just looked up AMB, they are part of Craft Brew Alliance which is based here in Portland.

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So there we have it, another fun trip to the East coast and five new locations to add to the Breweries Visited list.  All told, added another 31 unique beers to Untappd (plus a couple repeats).  Until next time, Cheers!

Untapping the World

Last week I had the opportunity to try my first beer from Hungary. It sadly wasn’t that great, but time, travel and storage have a huge effect on beer quality.  I’m sure the person sharing it did everything they could to keep it in good condition but there’s only so much you can do.

That said, the check-in brought up my Beer Connoisseur badge, which measures how many different countries I have drank a beer from.  What was interesting is that it gave me a list of the countries I’ve checked in and the number of beers I’ve had from that country. Since I’ve only traveled to Mexico and Canada (and live in the USA) most of these beers are commercially available in one of those countries.  A very slight few will be beers shared by friends who brought them back from that country.  I thought it was an interesting list to look at and it reminded me of some cool check ins.

USA – 2575 beers: Not surprising since I live in the US, this is the grand majority of my list.  About 92% in fact.
Canada – 52 beers: A good number of these were from my trip to Montreal earlier this year, but a decent number of Canadian beers are available “down south” in the States.
Belgium – 49 beers: I really like Belgian beers, and thankfully a lot of them are available in the States, particularly the beers from Trappist monasteries.
Germany – 28 beers: Again, not shocking, a lot of German beers are available in the States. Several of these are from my BJCP classes and the Mt Angel Oktoberfest.
England – 15 beers: A lot of Fullers and Samuel Smith beers that are available in the US as well as ciders like Strongbow.
Mexico – 12 beers: Almost all of these are from my Mexico trip.
Scotland – 8 beers: Shares from friends who travel to Scotland frequently, and the Scottish pub we went to in Seattle.
Denmark – 8 beers: Mikkeller and To Øl, probably the only two available in the US. 4 of each interestingly enough.
Poland – 6 beers: A handful of Polish beers are available in the US. My wife has traveled to Poland and someday I hope to go as well.
Netherlands – 6 beers: Almost all of these are from the International Tent at the Oregon Beer Festival.  They bring over some interesting stuff.
Ireland – 4 beers: Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Pub beer.
Japan – 4 beers: One random craft beer I found here in Portland (Yo-Ho Brewing) the others Kirin and Sapporo.
The Bahamas – 2 beers: Pirate Republic beers from our honeymoon cruise. At the time these were the only two they had.  Only brewery in the Bahamas.
Colombia – 2 beers: Interesting story with these Bogatá Brewing beers.  They got sent up to the Best of Craft Beer competition, but otherwise I don’t think they are sold in the States.
China – 2 beers: Tsingtao and Lucky Buddha, both from restaurants.
France – 1 beer: France isn’t really known for it’s beer scene.  3 Monts Biere de Garde is really good though.
Australia – 1 beer: Coopers Pale Ale. Probably from a BJCP class.
Czech Republic – 1 beer: Pilsner Urquell. Classic style, from a BJCP class.
Switzerland – 1 beer: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a Swiss Trappist brewery.
Italy – 1 beer: Brewfist Grappa barrel aged RIS.  From Festival of Dark Arts.
India – 1 beer: Haywards 5000 Super Strong.  From a Greek Restaurant ironically.
Vietnam – 1 beer: 33 Export.  From a Thai restaurant.
Phillippines – 1 beer: Red Horse Beer.  Had this on the Portland Spirit (Christmas party).
Lithuania – 1 beer: Dragon Lady Doppelbock. From a BJCP exam.
Jamaica – 1 beer: Red Stripe mon…
Hungary – 1 beer: Feher Nyul Oatmeal Stout.

So there we have it, a very interesting list and a neat trip down memory lane looking up where I had some of these beers.

Cheers!