2018 GABF Winners

It’s that time of year again, the GABF competition awards.  Once again, I was able to livestream the awards ceremony while I was at work.  Even more exciting is that the brewery I work for (Portland Brewing) won a medal!

Oregon and North Carolina both represented themselves very well this year.  Here we go!

Starting with Oregon:

10 Barrel Brewing – Bend, OR
Silver Medal – American Style Stout
Gold Medal – Berliner-Style Wiesse
Gold Medal – Fruit Wheat Beer (103 entries!)

Goodlife Brewing – Bend, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Wheat Beer

Sunriver Brewing – Sunriver, OR
Silver Medal – American Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
Bronze Medal – Imperial Red Ale

Widmer Brothers Brewing – Portland, OR
Bronze Medal – American Style Wheat Beer with Yeast

Worthy Brewing – Bend, OR
Silver Medal – Australian Style Pale Ale

Alesong Brewing and Blending – Eugene, OR
Bronze Medal – Brett Beer
Silver Medal – Brett Beer
Silver Medal – Experimental Beer (112 entries!)

Omission Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Classic English Style Pale Ale

Portland Brewing – Portland, OR
Silver Medal – Classic English Style Pale Ale

Wayfinder Beer – Portland, OR
Silver Medal – Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest

Pelican Brewing – Pacific City, OR
Silver Medal – English Style IPA

pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal – German-Style Pilsener (159 entries!)
Gold Medal – Mixed Culture Brett Beer
Mid-size Brewing Company of the Year

Ground Breaker Brewing – Portland, OR
Bronze Medal – Gluten-Free Beer

Oregon City Brewing Company – Oregon City, OR
Bronze Medal – Mixed Culture Brett Beer

Lompoc Brewing, 5th Quadrant – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Robust Porter

Three Creeks Brewing – Sisters, OR
Bronze Medal – Session Beer

Great Notion Brewing – Portland, OR
Silver Medal – Specialty Beer

22 overall medals + Midsize Brewing Co. of the Year. Big jump over last years 16 medals, not surprising to see Portland and Bend dominate the list.  6 Gold, 10 silver, 6 bronze.

Now for North Carolina,

Crank Arm Brewing – Raleigh, NC
Gold Medal – American Belgo-style Ale

Brown Truck Brewery – High Point, NC
Silver Medal – American Belgo-style Ale

Appalachian Mountain Brewery – Boone, NC
Gold Medal – American Style Lager or American Style Malt Liquor

Triple C Brewing – Charlotte, NC
Bronze Medal – English Style Summer Ale

Hillman Beer – Asheville, NC
Silver Medal – Extra Special Bitter

BearWaters Brewing Co. – Canton, NC
Gold Medal – American Style Fruited Sour (149 entries!)

Wooden Robot Brewing – Charlotte, NC
Gold Medal – Fruited Wood and Barrel-aged Sour Beer (102 entries!)

D9 Brewing Co. – Cornelius, NC
Bronze Medal – Gose

Divine Barrel Brewing Co. – Charlotte, NC
Silver Medal – Historical Beer

Carolina Brewery, Chapel Hill – Pittsboro, NC
Silver Medal – Oredinary or Special Bitter

NoDa Brewing, NE – Charlotte, NC
Gold Medal – Pumpkin/Squash or Pumpkin Spice Beer

Little City Brewing – Raleigh, NC
Bronze Medal – Session IPA

Little Brother Brewing – Greensboro, NC
Gold Medal – Southern German Style Hefeweizen (152 entries!)

13 total medals for NC, which is one less than last year’s 14, however this year was a higher quality of medals.  6 gold (up from 3), 4 silver (up from 3) and 3 bronze (down from 6), and taking home gold in some really big categories! It’s nice to see Charlotte coming on to the scene.  Lots of good beer from the Queen City.

Others:

I noticed a couple of non Oregon and NC breweries that caught my eye in the medal ceremony mostly because it was places we had been to before.

New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO) took home two medals, a Gold in Collaboration for Transatlantique Kriek, and a Silver in American Style Cream Ale for Dayblazer.  We tasted both of those beers when we toured the brewery in Colorado, and hopefully will get to tour their Asheville facility on our upcoming East coast trip.

Washington State had a pretty good showing as well with 17 total medals.  Several breweries just across the border won medals including Loowit Brewing, 54-40 Brewing, and recent sensation Grains of Wrath Brewing.

I also want to shoutout to my fellow North American Breweries partner Genessee Brewing who won a silver medal in Chocolate Beer for their Pilot Brew House Chocolate Scotch Ale.

 

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Into the Woods – Part 7; Summer Edition

It was a brutally hot summer here in Portland.  Record breaking numbers of days at 90°+.  Certainly not barrel aged beer weather, but with several waves of friends and family coming into town to visit there were opportunities to break out a few nice things from the cellar.

Deschutes 2017 Abyss: This beer was strange.  Opened it with a group and we all seemed to get the same things off it.  It had a very strong Umami/soy sauce aroma.  Also had some molasses, cherry and stone fruit in the aroma.  Very heavy molasses flavor with light cherry and stone fruit.  Some light chocolate and vanilla on warming.  Ordinarily,  I would think this beer year’s beer wasn’t that good, but I had it on draft in Austin and it was amazing.  Perhaps my storage? I’m not sure.  I’ll be interested to see how it compares with the 2013 bottle we picked up at Brews for New Avenues. (4.5 stars for draft, bottle version unrated)

St Arnold Bishop’s Barrel 21 – Barrel aged Quad with Cherries: This is a bottle I brought home from Houston.  St Arnold was closed the day we were there, but found this at a local bottle shop.  Dark brown/red highlights.  Heavy cherry aroma, whiskey highlight.  Very sweet cherry flavor, whiskey, oak and wood aftertaste.  This mouthfeel, effervescent carbonation.  Sticky on the lips but not cloying.  (3.75 stars)

Ecliptic Oort BBA Imperial Stout – Batch 3 (2018): This was a bring home from Best of Craft Beer in January.  About 8 months of bottle time when we opened this one.  Strong whiskey aroma, slight umami/soy.  Whiskey flavor, vanilla and coconut from the barrel.  Whiskey lingers long on the palate.  Thick mouthfeel/viscous.  Super smooth, alcohol hidden.  Sneaky at 12%.  (5 stars)

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout: This bottle was a birthday present (May) so it took a while to make it’s way out.  Brown sugar and whiskey aroma.  Vanilla and coconut barrel flavor.  Light cola and coffee flavors.  Thin, low carbonation.  I gave this beer 5 stars back in 2014, and while I don’t think I liked it quite that much this time around, I didn’t rate it a second time.  (5 stars – 2014)

Now that the weather has turned cooler and we’ve started getting some rain, pretty soon it will be the heart of dark beer season.  Stay tuned!

2018 Brews for New Avenues

This past weekend was the 7th annual Brews for New Avenues.  This unique beerfest benefits New Avenues for Youth, a non-profit fighting teen homelessness.  This was our third year attending this event.  It’s one of our favorite fests of the year.

While one of the smaller fests in town, it certainly pulls it’s weight bringing in breweries like de Garde, Cantillon and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen as sponsors and contributors.  As would be expected with the above mentioned sponsors, portions of the event lean very heavily on lambics and sours, particularly the live auction and VIP tastings.  However, the draft portion of the event has a little bit of everything for everyone.

This years event brought in some big guns.  I got a chance to try Iowa’s darling, Toppling Goliath with a tasty IPA.  IPAs from Oregon City Brewing and Ruse Brewing were also on the menu.  Sticking with the lambic/sour theme I tried several really great beers including a Sour Red from Cascade Brewing, a blended American Wild Ale from Block 15, a barrel aged “lambic-inspired” beer from pFriem, a Saison from Jester King and a fruited sour from Firestone Walker.  The two beers that (in my opinion) stole the show were both darker beers from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing out of Frenso, California.  The first was their 10th Anniversary Ale, which is a blend of barrel aged stouts, barleywines and brown ales.  This was amazing, but the second one really knocked our socks off.  The Mocha Midnight is an Imperial Stout with Brazilian coffee, Ecudorian cocoa nibs and Madagascar vanilla.  Thick, creamy, delicious and this is one of their year round beers. Wow.

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Of course, the other highlight of this event is the beer wall.  Random blind bottles for $10.  Pay your money take your chances (although, the odds are most definitely in your favor).

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Very happy with this years picks.  Crazy Mountain Cherry Lime Sour, de Garde Saison Première, Breury Terreux La Démence (a blend of sour ale and bourbon barrel aged ale with white wine grapes) and 2013 Deschutes Abyss.  Ironically, one of the expressions of Abyss I haven’t had yet, although this one may be past it’s prime. Still interested to try it though. I don’t know about the Crazy Mountain, but I know for a fact the other three bottles all retail for well over $10, so the value of the beer wall is unquestionable.  If you’re willing to take a chance you might end up with something remarkable.  We’ve already had the Crazy Mountain and it was a winner.

What’s really impressive is to take a look at the past event’s on Brews for New Avenues website.  In 2015, they raised $58,000.  In 2016 (our first year, although I’m not taking credit for the increases), they raised $150,000.  Last year, they raised $240,000.  During this year’s event they announced that in 6 years they had raised a half a million dollars, realizing that nearly half of that had come last year.  A couple days after the event they announced that this year they raised $280,000.  What an amazing growth curve.

A lot of the big money comes from the live auction, which includes rare bottles (3L bottles of Cantillon, etc) and brewery experiences.  This year’s auction had fewer items, but included three brewery experiences.  Paid airfare, private tours, tasting, etc, the whole nine yards.  One was at pFriem here in Oregon, one was at Jester King in Austin, TX and the other was at 3 Fonteinen in Belgium.  My jaw was on the floor for the Belgian one just thinking about what an awesome experience that would be.  I was very jealous of the person who got to go on that trip, although the winning bid was $12,500… so not that jealous.

In the end, the real winners are the kids.

Cheers!

Into the Woods – Part 6; Catch Up Edition

Looking through my notebook I found some notes from beers I hadn’t written about yet.

2017 Fremont Dark Star: Chocolate roast, coconut and vanilla aroma.  Pronounced barrel character.  Dark roast, cola, chocolate, vanilla flavor.  Thick mouthfeel with light carbonation.  Adds a dark coffee roast as it warms. I chose this beer in Seattle over Founders KBS and I feel like I made the right choice. (4.5 stars)

Modern Times Devils Teeth Cuvee, Rye and Rum Barrel: Heavy chocolate and vanilla flavor with a whiskey finish.  Rum character doesn’t really show through but still really good.  Had this as a 4oz taster at the new Modern Times in Portland. (4.75 stars)

Wolf Tree 7117 – Barrel aged saison with Marionberries: This was an interesting beer, a fruited saison.  Super funky with huge saison character. Good fruit character and a great color.  I’m pretty certain this was a Best of Craft Beer pick up.  (4.5 stars)

Baerlic 2017 Woodworker Harshmellow Mountain: Belgian blond ale aged in oak with Ella hops and Brett. I’m not normally a fan of Brettanomyces in beer, but this one was very restrained.  It wasn’t too funky.  The citrusy New Zealand hops played very well with a fruity Belgian yeast.  I was apprehensive to try this but it turned out to be very very good.  (4.75 stars)

Cheers!

7 Devils Brewing – Coos Bay

7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, Oregon is, to my knowledge, the southernmost brewery along the Oregon Coast.  Back in August when I wrote about my Oregon Coast Brewery Tour it was a location I had found on Google Maps but hadn’t been to yet.  This past weekend we finally made it.

Every year, my wife and I go camping down in Florence.  It was on last years trip we discovered Yachats Brewing.  This year we headed down south to Coos Bay.  A portion of the coast I had never been to and my wife hadn’t been to in a long time.  After exploring the coastline of Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks we headed back into Coos Bay to have lunch at 7 Devils.

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We tried four beers between the two of us, Chinook Redd (amber ale with Chinook hops), Endless Summer Blonde (light blonde ale), Groundswell IPA (flagship IPA) and Lighthouse Session Ale (light pale ale).  The beers were solid. The Groundswell was a typical NW style IPA and the blonde was very refreshing on a hot day.  The Chinook Redd was a bit muddy, but not bad and the Lighthouse Session was almost flavorless, but that seems to be the target.

I’m not sure what my expectations actually were, but the taproom certainly exceeded them.  Somehow I wasn’t expecting a coastal brewery to be so… hip, if that’s the right word.  Covered in local art and the music overhead was all recordings of local bands who had performed at the brewery.  They seem to be deeply entwined in the local community.

The food was also very good.  They offer a small, but well curated, food menu including a lot of local items like Face Rock Creamery cheese and Oven Springs Bread, as well as seafood caught close by.  We had a tuna melt sandwich and “The Devil’s Flock” (chicken strips) in a sweet, soy Asian sauce.  Served with local Kettle brand chips (Salem, OR).  They also highlighted the wines and spirits on the menu that were from Oregon.  Very intentional focus on “local”.  We have good stuff here, why truck it in?

It takes a bit of effort to get down there (especially from Portland/SW Washington area) but it would be worth the trip.  Plus, this is what’s waiting for you when you get down there.

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Houston and Austin, Texas

My wife and I recently returned from a nearly two week trip to Houston and Austin, Texas.  We were volunteering at a large youth conference in Houston and then spent a couple days in Austin visiting family that we don’t get to see very often.  Given the nature of the Houston part of the trip, volunteering and working with high school aged kids, we chose not to drink during that part, so we only had one day in Houston that we were “free”.  We still managed to find three places that were pretty close to where we were staying, in the Heights neighborhood, in NW Houston.

Playtpus Brewing: This was an interesting place, run by a group of Australians (much like Todo Santos brewing in Mexico) there was a blend of southern comfort and exotic Pacific rolled into one.  The beers were pretty straight forward and the food menu was mostly pub food but a few Aussie twists like meat pies and lamb skewers.  36712506_10215052596722898_1256815552316309504_n

Standout Brew: Hey Helga – Saison dry hopped with Southern Hemisphere hops.

Eureka Heights Brewing: I was excited to go here as soon as I saw the online menu.  My wife had found it on Google maps and when I looked at the beer list they had a pale ale called “Mostly Harmless” and the logo was a dolphin wrapped in a towel.  Three-layered Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference? Sign me up! Most of the other beers followed with the video game/sci-fi theme. The brewery was a wide open warehouse with long picnic tables, corn hole, pinball, other games etc.  I can imagine this place would be hopping at times.  Google told us it was “less busy than normal” and after we got there we realized why.  The space is not air conditioned and it happened to be close to, if not over, 100° that day.  The open garage doors didn’t really help much.  It was really a shame, because the beers were fantastic but it was just too uncomfortable to stay long, so we finished our taster flight quickly and then left.
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Standout Brew: Buckle Bunny Cream Ale (Recent GABF Winner, perfect for hot weather)

Town in City Brewing: The third and final Houston brewery was the Heights oldest brewery.  The name is a reference to The Heights Neighborhood which is called a “town in the big city”.  A small but cozy place with a crowded taproom and patio.  They were just finishing a round of Geeks who Drink trivia, so we missed out on that but it was fun to listen to the last couple groups of questions.  They also had a cidery on site, which is the Houston Cider Co.
Standout Brew: Dampfit Bobby! Dampfbier.  I had to ask what a Dampfbier was, and it’s a Hefewiezen but with no wheat.  Same yeast profile but made with barley.  It was darker and clearer than a traditional Hef.  Plus, who doesn’t love a King of the Hill reference?

The unfortunately theme for the Austin portion of the trip was “Why is nothing open?” We were there Monday-Thursday and it seems like a lot of Austin breweries only have weekend hours.  Some places Thurs-Sun, some just Friday-Sun, one place was open Saturday only for 3 hours only (production brewery with tours only, no taproom).  Throw in the July 4th holiday on Wednesday just to make things interesting.  We did manage to make it to two open breweries that just happened to be across the street from each other.

Oskar Blues Austin: Oskar Blues jumped onto my radar when they started building their North Carolina brewery a couple years ago.  I don’t think it had opened before I moved to Oregon, but it had been announced.  I’ve enjoyed several of their beers when I found them.  I had hoped to visit the Colorado (original) location when we were in Denver but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Nice location with an outdoor patio, live music stage and really great staff. I will definitely put this on the repeat list.
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Standout Brew: Bourbon Barrel Aged Ten-Fidy Imperial Stout

4th Tap Brewing Co-Op: Literally across the street from Oskar Blues this was a small brewery and tap room with a comic book/video game feel.  Co-op to me sounded like something where multiple different brewers were sharing space, but when I asked they told me it was all employee (“worker” as the barkeep put it) owned, which is still super cool.  The beers ran the gamut from light Berliner Weisse to heavy Russian Imperial Stout and being small obviously lends itself to being experimental.  Several of the beers included a spice, fruit or nut.
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Standout Brew: Biere de Gardeless – Biere de Garde with Vanilla and Pecans.  Sounded bizarre, but I had to try it and it worked really well!

Draft/Bottle/Cans: We did get to try some local beers at restaurants and bars since a lot of the places were closed.  I won’t list them all, but some of the highlights.

Karbach Brewing: This Houston brewery was very popular in Austin.  We tried the Hopadillo IPA and the Love Street Kolsch.  The lighter Kolsch was perfect for the hot weather and then IPA was a major hop bomb, in a good way.

Pinthouse Pizza Electric Jellyfish IPA: Sadly, I didn’t make it to one of their locations after meeting someone from the brewery in Montreal, but when I saw one on the menu I had to try it.  Hazy but not full-on milkshake, very nice modern hop flavor without being overly bitter.

Live Oak Brewing Big Bark Amber Lager: I’ve really been digging on Vienna and Vienna-style dark lagers lately, pretty much since we had super fresh Modelo Negra in Mexico.  This one was true to style and really hit the spot.
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Lone Star: Texas’s version of PBR because, well… it’s basically PBR.  Brewed by Pabst and I’m not convinced it’s not the same beer in a different can, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  “Cheap” beer has its place.  Bar hopping down 6th Street is one of those places.

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Austin Eastciders Original and Blood Orange: This local cidery makes some great products.  They have several flavors available in cans around town and the two we tried were great.

Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap: This German-style pilsner is another one that was ubiquitous around town.  You weren’t “Austin” if you didn’t have this on tap.  A clean crisp light lager that’s just perfect for hot weather.  An Austin staple.

Shiner Heat Wave Summer 6-Pack: You come to Texas you got to get Shiner right? I’ve had Shiner’s famous Bock, but that’s all we can get in Oregon.  Found this mixed sixer at the liquor store (surprisingly the best place in town to find beer, the grocery store selection was abysmal and not refrigerated).  Three light, fruity styles to beat the heat.  Shiner Prickly Pear, Hill Country Peach Wheat and Mango Kolsch.  They were all nice, the prickly pear had an interesting flavor.  The peach and mango went down way too easy.

Several of the Austin stars such as Infamous Brewing and Jester King weren’t open while we were there, so we’ll certainly have to go back. Having family in the area makes for a really good “excuse”.  We will absolutely be back to Austin in the future.  Just not in July.

“Tasting” Beer

It is almost without fail.  I tell someone I work in the quality lab at a brewery and the response is a chuckle and something along the lines of “So you just sit around and drink beer all day, yeah?” Above and beyond the fact that there is a lot more involved in beer quality, there’s a distinction that I think gets lost on the public.  The difference between drinking beer and tasting beer.

Often, when I taste beer at my job, the purpose is to make sure the beer is holding up well over the course of it’s shelf life.  So, we’re talking about beer that’s been bottled 90 to 120 days.  Not bad, but it’s not fresh.  Some beers hold up better than others and that’s exactly what we’re testing for.  Another common occurrence at work is tasting a beer that’s been intentionally spiked with an off flavor.  Sometimes they tell us, sometimes they don’t.  This accomplishes two goals. If the spike is known, the idea is to give us an idea this is what <insert off flavor> tastes like.  Some, like clove or banana are not that bad.  Some, like papery, solvent or metallic are not at all pleasant.  If this spike is not disclosed than the goal is to see how many people pick it up and at what levels.  This is called threshold testing.  Some people can’t taste certain things like diacetyl and that’s OK, but as someone running a sensory program you want to know those kinds of things.  If 9 out of 10 people ding a beer for diacetyl and the one who doesn’t is known to be diacetyl blind, then that’s pretty much 100%.  That’s not to say test panels can’t be fun, but they are work, and also a very small portion of the overall program.

Judging beer, as a BJCP judge has been a very similar experience.  When I told people I judged beer competitions the same reaction of “Wow, that must be great to just sit around and drink beer all day.”  While I really enjoy judging, a good portion of the beer that crosses your table is not very good. That’s not meant to disparage those who enter the competitions, rather the main point of a competition is to get feedback.  You want to know how true your beer is to the style you were going for, but also if there are any major flaws in it.  Some people will enter a beer that they know has an issue but they can’t put their finger on it.  A more experienced brewer or an experience judge may be able to figure out the problem and offer a possible way to correct it.  As I’ve mentioned in past posts, someone told me that pro beer was the same way, more bad than good.  Two years of judging Best of Craft Beer have pretty much proven that true.

The flip side of this is an “ignorance is bliss” approach.  Some people don’t want to know about flaws and off flavors.  Perhaps they like a certain flavor that a hardcore judge would find offensive.  Maybe they just want to sit back and enjoy a pint.  There’s nothing wrong with that! I’ll admit, judging has messed with me a little when I’m just sitting around drinking a beer.  As long as the flaw is not so horrible to make the beer undrinkable I try to turn that part of my brain off and just enjoy it.  Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

So the reality is “tasting” beer is not nearly as glamorous as it may seem, especially if you’re confusing it with drinking beer. But it’s not without it’s merits.

Whether you drink, or taste, enjoy! Salut!