Little Beast Portland Pub

On Friday evening, I had a unique opportunity to attend a soft opening for Little Beast Brewing’s new Portland Brewpub/Beer Garden.  Located at 34th and Division in the old Lompoc Hedge House location, the official opening is today.

We were invited by a friend who is friends with Owner/Brewer Charles’ wife and partner Brenda.  Interestingly enough, I judged at Best of Craft Beer with Charles and got a chance to talk to him at the opening.  Seems like things are doing well for them.  Brenda formally worked at Olympic Provisions and lends her expertise to pairing food with the beer. They had 12 or so beers on tap plus a food menu of small plate/charcuterie type things.  Mostly snacks, but some simple sandwiches as well.

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They haven’t changed a lot (the wrought iron Hedge House bike rack is still there) which is a good thing since the location as a lot of charm.  Updated bathrooms and a new back bar area but mostly similar to the way Hedge House used to be.  Very happy to see this location re-utilized and not bulldozed.  So many places are getting replaced with condo towers, especially on Division, which is what prompted Lompoc to leave the location.

If you’re a fan of farmhouse style and wild fermented beers then I would highly recommend stopping by Little Beast.  They specialize in saison-style and Brett fermented beers.  I’m not a huge fan of Brett beers, but I tried their flagship Fera which uses Brett for the whole fermentation and not just secondary aging, and it’s not as funky as most Brett beers tend to be.  It actually had a bright, citrus character and a light tartness which is insanely refreshing, especially as the weather warms up. The oak aged Flanders-style red ale was also quite delicious.

I highly recommend stopping by.

Cheers!

 

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2018 Competition Goals

It’s a bit early in the year to be talking about goals, and yet, both of the goals I set for this year have come to pass.  One successful, one not successful. The unsuccessful one was a one-time event, so it can’t happen later in the year.

The first goal was to place a beer into the final round of the National Homebrewers Competition.  This required placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a category and scoring over 30 points in one of the regional competitions. Two of my three beers met the score threshold, a 34.5 for my CDA and 32.5 for my Belgian Dark Strong, but alas, no top three finish and no advancing to finals.  My English bitter (a style I had never made before) scored 29 points.  Maybe next year.

The second goal was to get on the scoreboard of the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year standings.  OSHBOTY (as it’s known) is a statewide competition to crown the best homebrewer in the State.  You earn points by taking first in a medal category, with even more points for finishing 1st/2nd/3rd Best in Show.  So, this goal required me to also win my first gold medal, which I had yet to do.  Ironically, I won my first gold in January at Stout Bout, but since that’s a limited style comp (stouts only) it doesn’t qualify for OSHBOTY points.  The next full style competition after NHC Regionals was the COHO Spring Fling.  Much to my surprise, I snagged first place in the British Bitters category with my Strong Bitter.

2018 COHO Spring Fling

You earn points based on how many beers you “beat” to win the category.  So for a 6 entry category, I earned 5 points.  That puts me way at the bottom of the list (current leader is at 120 points) but I’m on the list! The goal wasn’t to win the thing, simply get on the scoreboard, and so I am!

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The brewers at the top with 100+ points have all won a best in show.  That’s where the big points live.  Part of me thinks that’s unfair, but on the other hand, if your looking for the best brewer in the state, winning an entire competition should rate pretty highly.

The competition season isn’t over by a long shot, so still a chance to earn some more points, but for now….

Mission Accomplished!

Untappd – 2500 Unique Beers!

I finally hit the next big milestone and got the badge for 2500 Unique Beers on Untappd!

According to my 2400 update, I should have hit 2500 on May 2nd.  Turns out I hit it a couple days early, but still not a bad prediction.  The trip to Canada certainly helped, with 43 check-ins.  That was nearly half of the 100 I needed.  Sunday, the day I hit the milestone, was the Nano Beerfest.  A local festival that highlights very small scale breweries (1 barrel or less per batch). There were a couple of places pouring that I hadn’t even heard of, so those are always fun to try.  My wife and I both got our glass and 10 tokens and knowing how close I was, made sure to not overlap so I’d be able to get 20 unique check-ins.  In honesty, we would do this anyway so we get to try as much as possible.  We only double up if something is really good and we both want more than just a sip of it.

I was 21 away, so we knew the 20 from the festival would leave me one short, therefore we made the plan to stop for lunch on the way home.  We were close to one of the McMenamins’ locations we needed to hit for passport stamps anyway.  Turns out a couple of the beers I had at Nano were repeats (I didn’t log them until later) so I still ended up one or two short.  We pulled out a few cans from Best of Craft Beer when we got home, knowing those would be unique.  Had to work for it, but once I was that close I had to make it happen.  In fact, my wife was cheering me on as well, saying we would make sure it happened that day.

So, overall 2500 beers in 1368 days is 1.83 beers a day.  In the time since the last milestone (1000 beers on May 31, 2016) I’ve logged 1500 beers in 698 days.  This is a rate of 2.15 beers a day.  This uptick explains hitting the milestone early.  In the time since my last blog post (2400 beers on March 9, 2018) there have been 100 beers in 51 days.  Still pretty much dead on to 2 a day.  At a rate of 2 per day, the next 2500 beers for the next milestone badge (5000) would take 1250 days, which will be August 10, 2021.  At the overall rate at 1.83 beers a day that stretches slightly to 1366 days, or December 4, 2021.

That’s a long time to hang on, but I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Montréal Trip Recap

Last Friday I returned from my nearly two week trip to Montréal, Quebec.  This was my first time in Montréal and first time in Canada.  Following the trip to Mexico in January, all of a sudden I feel like a world traveler.

Education:

Of course, the reason I was there was to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.  The course was held at the Lallemand Yeast labs at the National Research Council of Canada’s Montreal Facility.  The course consisted of a 3 hour lecture in the morning and then after lunch a 4 hour (sometimes longer) practical lab session.  We covered nearly everything from how to make media and pour plates, to streaking and inoculating all different kinds of media with known organisms and then finally, classifying and identifying unknown organisms.  All useful skills if you have an infection problem in your brewery.  We also spent a good amount of time talking about yeast physiology and yeast handling techniques.  No yeast means no beer.  Unhealthy yeast means bad beer. The course was really intense.  They covered a lot of material in a very short time period.  The first day I felt like I knew what we were talking about, reviewing stuff I already knew.  The second day they shoved the funnels down our throats and started pouring it in and I was quickly overwhelmed.  I managed to keep pace and stay above water but it felt like treading water at times.  I made a 89 on my final exam, so some of it stuck!

Breweries:

Surely a place that has a yeast research lab has to have a thriving beer scene yeah? Montréal does in fact have a bustling beer scene.  I managed to make it to seven breweries while I was in town.  5 on my own, 2 were with the group on the last day of the class.
First was Brasserie Harricana, a pretty hip spot with a decent crowd for a Monday night.  Something I noticed with them, and several other places in town, they served different style beers at different temperatures.  Light beers and lagers colder, dark beers and Belgians warmer. I think this is common in Europe, but extremely rare in the US.  American beer drinkers are conditioned to “the colder the better”.  Craft places may serve a little warmer than “ice cold Miller Lite”, but still all the same no matter the style. The next night I made my way out to Le Saint Bock, in the trendy University of Quebec-Montreal neighborhood.  I only got one beer here, but it was a Black IPA (aka Cascadian Dark Ale) which is my wife’s favorite style.  I ran across several in Montréal, actually.  Saint Bock also had several varieties of poutine.  The one I got had pulled pork and a BBQ sauce made with Orval beer.  All the poutines had a beer sauce.
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I took a couple days off from exploring at this point, both to rest and the weather had turned a little sour.  On Friday night I made it out to Dieu du Ciel, a brewery whose beer I’ve actually had here in the States.  It was mobbed and I had to wait a while for a table, but that was OK.  Two beers here, a double IPA that was quite nice and another Black IPA, this one more chocolaty than Saint Bock’s but it was still very tasty.
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After Dieu du Ciel, I headed over to the Montréal taproom of Quebec City brewery Pit Caribou.  This doesn’t count in my “breweries visited” list, but one of my classmates was from this brewery and so I wanted to try it out.  It was very good.  He also brought some bottled beers for us to taste on the last day of class (his was the closest brewery to Montréal) that were outstanding.  I hightly recommend looking up Pit Caribou if you’re in Quebec.  On Saturday, I went to a couple museums and wandered around the old Historical part of Montréal.  There I ran across the Rue St. Paul outpost of Les 3 Brasseurs.  Originally from France, 3 Brasseurs is a chain of brewpubs with several locations in both Quebec and Ontario.  Similar to a Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch or RAM Brewery chain here in the states, each place brews three or four company standards and then rotating local beers for each unique location. The beer was serviceable and the food was good.
Tuesday of the second week I made the last two stops of the breweries I wanted to see on my own.  First was EtOH Brasserie which had good beer and good food.  The third Black IPA I found was here.  It was chocolate-heavy like the one from Deiu du Ciel, but it was quite nice.  After that I made my way to Le Cheval Blanc, which was the first microbrewery in Montréal.  Good beer here as well, but almost got myself in trouble.  Went to pay and the barkeep told me they only took cash or debit drawn on a Canadian bank, no credit cards.  I had enough cash to cover it, but only just barely.
The last two places I visited were part of the group tour at the end of the class.  After we had taken and graded our exams, they took us across the river to Chambly.  A bit of a cherry on top to round out the course.  The first place we stopped was a tiny brewpub Bedondaine & Bedon Ronds.
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Working on nearly a homebrew scale with an 18 gallon capacity and using 5 gallon Corny kegs, everything they brewed was consumed on site.  No bottling, no outside draft sales, not even growler fills.  The owner was a funny and humble man who made good beer and had a ridiculous breweriana collection.  The walls and ceilings were covered in bottles, cans, posters, coasters, serving trays, tin signs, anything you can imagine, dating back to the 1920’s or earlier.  Final stop was at Unibroue.
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Unibroue makes some of my favorite Belgian style beers so I am very familiar with them and their products.  I have to say, they rolled out the red carpet for us.  Our tour was led by none other than Brewmaster Jerry Vietz himself.  After the tour he led us through a beer and cheese pairing that finished with chocolate truffles made by him and his wife.  We tasted through 9 beers at Unibroue, including both the Canadian release and US release of the 25th Anniversary series, which were different.  He also sent us home with a cookbook and a bottle of the lastest in the Éphémère series, Strawberry Rhubarb.  I’m normally not a rhubarb fan, but this beer was great, and has a strong strawberry flavor which is hard to keep in a beer.  It’s so light and subtle it tends to fade quickly.
I also bought some bottled and canned beer from stores while I was in town but sadly, most of the packaged beer was in rough shape compared to fresh draft.  Several old cans (as old as November of last year) and oxidized bottles.  Check for dates, or stick with draft.
I started the trip 2418 unique check-ins on Untappd.  I finished the trip with 2461.  A total of 43 beers.  I had one in the Washington DC airport on the way and one in the San Francisco airport on the way home.  The other 41 were all Canadian beers.  Most from Quebec, but in some of the bottled beers from other provinces.

Culture:

The class was an all day thing, and since I was travelling for work with obligations to meet it was difficult to fully “relax” but I managed to get out and about.  The brewery trips listed above were mostly weekday evenings trips out for dinner.  I had a free weekend in the middle and made the most of it on Saturday.  My first stop was Parc Jean-Drapeau which consists of two islands in the middle of the river, accessible by the Metro.  The main reason I wanted to head out there was a feature called the Biosphere.  It’s a geodesic sphere, designed and built by Buckminster Fuller. Home of the US Pavilion of Expo67 in Montréal, it now houses a nature and environmental museum.  Also on the island was Musée Stewart.  An old British stronghold turned history museum, focusing on history of the fort itself, and the island it’s on.  Brief history of the founding of Montréal as well.  After this, I headed back across the river to the old historic part of downtown.  I had been forewarned that it’s mostly full of cheesy tourist shops, and it is, but it also has some interesting buildings and amazing architecture.  Walking through this part of town made me feel like I was in Paris, despite the fact I’ve never been to Paris, it just had that old school European vibe to it.
30708850_10214488632664149_5171834068328775680_n The second museum I visited was the Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire.  I didn’t know what to expect when I went in, but quickly discovered this museum is quite literally built on top of an archaeological dig site, the former location of the first building in Montréal, and later a bank building that was a city landmark.  The tour takes you downstairs into the foundation of the old building.  You traverse through an old granite brick sewer tunnel (now clean and dry of course) to get from one building to the other, they are connected underground.  One part of the building had a thick glass floor where you could see the dig as it had been left and a note that one day a fresh batch of archaeologists with newer tools and techniques would resume the dig and likely discover even more.  It was hands down one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been in.
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French is an official language in all of Canada,  but the majority of French speaking Canadians are in Quebec.  I took French in high school and I’ve been working on learning more, but it’s slow going.  Reading written words (like the signs on the museums) I can do pretty good with, but hearing someone speak I can’t comprehend much at all.  It ended up being pretty frustrating as I tried to use what little French I knew (Hello, goodbye, thank you, please etc) to be polite and then having people assume I spoke French.  Nearly everyone there is bilingual French/English but even sometimes the English was hard to understand.  One funny account though from the archaeology museum, the man at the ticket counter said “Hello” as I walked up, and I replied “Hello” and he began describing the layout of the museum in English, but I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so with my brain in French mode I said “Pardon ?” and he started speaking French, perhaps assuming then that I didn’t understand his English. I apologized and said “No no, sorry, en Anglais?” He effortlessly switched back to English and then we had no more trouble.  Montréal is a pretty easy city to get around in, but when you get lost and your phone doesn’t work (mine didn’t) and you can’t easily ask someone for help, it tends to get a little panic inducing.

All in all, it was a rewarding trip, if not always smooth running.  Parts of it were extremely stressful, but the experience will come in handy, both in future work and future travel.

Salut !

Hopless Beer?

I first saw the post about this on Jeff Alworth’s Beervana Blog Facebook group, and then it seemed to be popping up everywhere.  Apparently, some scientists in California used gene splicing to allow yeast to make one of the aroma oils from hops, using genes from other flowers and plants that make those compounds.

Here is a link to the actual research paper, posted on Nature.com
Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer It’s a bit to chew through, but I’d recommend reading at least the results section.  It does work, to a certain extent, but the commercial viability of it is probably very limited.

What followed was a series of newspaper type articles, ranging from super clickbait, to quasi scientific that briefly touch on the results and then make wild assumptions about what this technology means.  This is one of the major things that drives me bonkers when non scientific people try to make judgments based on science they don’t understand but assuming the science supports them, when sometimes it’s the exact opposite.

First is this article from Quartz which is so poorly written it’s painful to read.  The main issue here is that they roll out the old “Hoppy pale ales and IPAs were made to survive the trip overseas” myth which has long since been busted, and then they claim that hops are no longer needed as a preservative like they were back then.  We may have refrigeration now and better packaging techniques, but beer spoilage is still a major fight every brewer faces.  Hops anti-microbial properties are still very much in play.  Sour beer producers use aged hops that impart almost no bitterness or flavor/aroma specifically for the control of which bacteria and yeast they want to grow and flourish and which they want to inhibit.

Next, have an article from TheTakeout which is very short and barely mentions the research at all, but a couple things.  First, the title of the article “New Beer yeast could make hops irrelevant” This is a huge leap (that all the articles make) that suddenly we could make beers without hops.  That doesn’t work for several reasons, one is that you literally cannot make beer without hops, legally.  It has to contain hops to be considered beer, otherwise it’s a flavored malt beverage (think Zima, Mikes Hard, etc).  Of course those rules can be changed, but for now that’s how it is.  Also, as mentioned above, hops do play other roles than just bitterness or just flavor.

One thing that really gets me about the above article, and even this mostly scientific one from Smithsonian Magazine is the phrase that “some terpenes could mimic the taste of hops”.  I think this is where a lot of people get riled up about GMOs or things like this as being un-natural.  It would be much more accurate to say that some plants contain the same terpenes as hops.  Limonene, one of the major aroma compounds in citrus fruits, is also found in hops and in marjiuana.  It’s not just that hops or weed can “smell like” orange or lemon, they literally contain the exact same compound, produced in an identical, or similar, pathway.  We associate flavors with certain things, usually a food product since that’s what we learn first as kids, but other things contain the same compounds.

A few things, in closing, about this from a commercial prospective.  Yeast is already more expensive than hops, so I don’t imagine there will be much cost savings buy engineering yeast to replace hops.  Plus, this yeast I’m sure would cost a lot more than standard brewers yeast.  Second, the articles talk about hop flavors changing from year to year with crop changes, but yeast is not stable either.  Yeast mutate over time, and after a handful of generations they may not produce these compounds anymore, or not at the same levels.  More research would need to be done (and probably will be) to see how stable these genetic changes are.  Lastly, these yeast were designed to produce one hop oil only.  Hops, like flowers and spices like vanilla, contain hundreds (if not thousands) of flavor compounds.  Vanilla is a great example.  The main compound we associate with vanilla is vanillin.  Artificial vanilla uses only vanillin, whereas real vanilla may be 90% vanillin, but has many other compounds to round out the flavor profile.  Most people can immediately tell the difference between natural and artificial vanilla.  Vanillin is found in oak, which is what gives whiskies and barrel aged beers that hint of vanilla, but on its own it just doesn’t live up to the real thing.  They compared the yeast made beer with a single hop beer, Sierra Nevada Pale ale, and it compared favorably, but you could never mimic a complex hoppy beer like Boneyard RPM which uses 6 or 7 different hop varieties.

In my opinion, this is novel research and probably teaches a lot about yeast genetics, but this has virtually no commercial application, at least for now.  20 years from now, who knows, but as usual the websites that want to claim that we can make beers without hops “right now!” are way off base.

Trip to Montréal

I just booked my flight to beautiful, sunny errr… snowy(?) Montréal, Quebec, Canada.  I will be travelling there for two weeks in April to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.

I’m excited both for the learning opportunity and another chance to travel internationally.  Before the start of this year, the extent of my international travel was 6 hours on Grand Nassau in the Bahamas on a cruise ship stopover.  That almost doesn’t count (I didn’t even need my passport…).  In January, my wife and I spent a week in Mexico, deeply embedded in the local culture, and now I’ll have nearly two weeks in Montréal.  Of course, I’m there for the education, but my evenings are free and there’s a free weekend in the middle, so I’ll get to do a little bit of exploring.

Unlike Baja California Sur, Montréal is teeming with craft breweries.  I hope to make it to a handful on my own, and the last day of class the Siebel folks take us on a “brewery tour”.  I don’t know what the stops are, but anywhere we go will be new to me unless it’s one of the ones I happen to run across on my own.

My hotel is walking distance from the class location and there’s a subway station a block away, so I’ll be spending a good amount of time on foot and aboard mass transit.  In my experience, after learning the ropes in Portland and then branching out to cities like San Francisco and San Diego, buses and trains are a great way to see the city and to get around.  As long as you can figure out where you’re going. The subway system seems to be laid out pretty well and cover most of the city.  The buses on the other hand are a little confusing.  There is a bus that goes to the school, but halfway there you have to get of one 115 bus and get on another 115 bus.  I haven’t quite figured that out.  It’s only about a mile walk.  If the weather is halfway decent I’ll just walk.

I’m very happy to work for a company that values education and is willing to send people to these kinds of trainings.  Oh yeah that’s the other great thing, this is a business trip.  There’s no way I could afford this on my own.

I fly out Sunday April 8th, the course runs from Monday, April 9 to Thursday April 19 and I fly home Friday April 20.  (And come straight back to work on Saturday the 21st. It will be a whirlwind of time zones and jet lag, but I’m excited for it.  Can’t wait!

Stay tuned for a recap when I get back!

Untappd Update – 2400

One year, to the day, after my original Rate of Discovery post I hit 2400 unique check ins on Untappd.  Still a ways to go until the next badge milestone of 2500, but close enough to stoke my curiosity to see how close I was getting to my June 6, 2018 prediction from the Untappd Update post which was based on my “beer per day” check in rate.

On June 14, 2017 I was at 1864 unique check ins.  2400 from 1864 is 536 beers (wow!).  June 14th was 269 days ago, so that’s a rate of 1.9925 beers a day.  Nearly exactly 2 beers a day.  That’s a tick up from the 1.70/day from the previous post.  What’s interesting about this is I feel like I’ve had less opportunities in the last year to get big numbers, but I guess they must be coming from somewhere.  We actually didn’t make it to too many festivals last year.  Most of the big ones have been from the beginning of the year, with Best of Craft Beer in January, Festival of Dark Arts in February and SheBrew in March.  Those were each 20-30 samples, which is a lot in one weekend, but still doesn’t add up to 500+.  A trip to Seattle in October contributed as well.

Based on this increase, the overall rate (2400 beers in 1318 days) is now 1.82 beers per day.  That actually bumped it up a decent amount.  According to the new rate, I should hit 2500 in 55 days.  That would be May 2, 2018.  Shaved off a whole month.  Something tells me that won’t actually happen.  There aren’t too many big beer events between now and May.  I will be travelling to Montréal, Quebec, Canada in April for a brewing microbiology course and I’ll surely hit some breweries, but 100 beers in two weeks would be a whole lot. We’re going camping with the homebrew club Memorial Day weekend and I’d imagine that one of the beers from that weekend will end up being #2500, which will be appropriate since #1000 was from the Memorial Day weekend Sour Beer Camp two years ago.  Slightly earlier than the June 6 prediction, but not by much.

We’ll see!