2017 Beer in Review

There’s still a few weeks left in 2017 but all of the major beer events are over for the year.  Competition season has wrapped up, festivals are long since over, our homebrew club holiday party was this past weekend putting a bow on the club year as well. This past year was pretty interesting when I looked back on it even though some things didn’t go as planned.

Brewing: I didn’t brew as much this year as I have in the past couple of years.  I am brewing today what will be my 8th and final batch of the year, a repeat of my Rum “Barrel” Aged tropical stout.  For comparison, I brewed 12 batches in 2016 and 11 in 2015.  However, what I lacked in quantity I made up for in quality.  As I outlined in my Competition Review post, I managed to win 8 awards with three different beers.  2 Bronze and 3 Silver for my Belgian Dark Strong, 2 Bronze for my Belgian Wit and a Silver for my CDA.  I have some lofty goals for 2018 so hopefully this momentum continues.

Judging: I also didn’t judge as much this year as I have in years past, which was unfortunate but things just didn’t line up as well.  I started the year with a really unique opportunity to judge commercial beers at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend.  My wife and I will be returning to BCBA in 2018, myself as a judge and her as a steward.  Besides schedule, another reason I didn’t judge as much is I got more involved in the administrative side of competitions, serving as Cellarmaster at SheBrew and Judge Director for both Heart of Cascadia and Fall Classic. This year I took the 10 week BJCP styles class offered by the OBC and took the tasting exam in June.  I wasn’t happy with my score, but I did increase from a 68 to a 76 and increased my rank from Recognized to Certified.  I re-took the tasting exam again in November and have not received my score yet, but based on talking to the proctors afterwards I feel really good about how I did.  I’m nervous about taking the written exam, but I am hoping to eventually make National rank.

Travel: The highlight of this year had to be the trip to Denver.  15 breweries in 4 days and that just barely scratched the surface of the beer scene there.  New Belgium was awesome, I can’t recommend strongly enough doing the tour there.  Our friends who we were visiting there have now moved back to Oregon, which is great, but now that means we need another excuse to go back.  Someday, I’d like to attend GABF.  We also visited new breweries in Astoria (Reach Break), Salem (Xicha) and a couple places in Seattle (Reuben’s Brews and 9 Yards).

Job:  June marked 1 year at my job at Portland Brewing, so now I’m at about a year and a half.  Things are still going well.  I’m hoping I might have an opportunity next year to do some Siebel training courses. If I do I’ll be sure to write about it here. I’m still learning a lot and the networking opportunities have been pretty crazy.  I’ve been doing some testing for smaller breweries in our lab and it feels really good to help out other members of the community.  There is really a lot more cooperation for us than competition.  At least in Portland.

Looking Ahead: 2018 looks to be pretty interesting, starting the year out with a trip to Mexico and returning to Best of Craft Beer, then over the summer we’re going to be travelling to Houston to work as volunteers at a large event there and then visit family in Austin, so another “not beer” related trip, but we’ll squeeze a few places in, especially in Austin.  The National Homebrewers Conference is coming to Portland next year, sadly the same weekend that we’ll be in Houston so we’ll miss it, but we’ll get to help with some of the set up and I plan on judging the preliminary round of the competition which will be in Portland this year as well.  Also, next year it’s my wife’s turn on the Board of the OBC, serving as Secretary, so our club involvement will ratchet up yet again after taking it kinda easy this year.

So, cheers to 2017 and here’s to 2018!

Advertisements

2017 Competition Recap

I sometimes joke about not being a competitive person, at which point my wife looks at me sideways like “Really?” I think I associate competitive in my head with that guy or girl from high school who played seven sports and went to a private college on a tennis scholarship. I didn’t play sports growing up, but was in the marching band and competed both in marching and concert bands. In college, I played video games, did Ham radio competitions, started playing fantasy football and hockey and then eventually got into distance running.  So naturally, I started entering competitions almost immediately after starting homebrewing.  My first entry was my second ever batch and my first medal (a new brewer award) came on my 5th batch.

The 2017 Competition season has come to an end and it was very interesting and successful, although it didn’t start out that way.  I didn’t have any success in the early competitions, including a crushingly low score for my Cascadian Dark Ale in the NHC Regionals. Decent scores at KLCC, Spring Fling and Heart of Cascadia, but no medals.

I’ve won a few medals here and there, but I entered 2017 with a plan.  That plan didn’t totally work out, but what happened in it’s place was still pretty great.  In December of 2016 I brewed a Belgian Dark Strong. The original plan was to bottle condition for nearly an entire year and not break it out until the Fall Classic in November. My curiousity got the best of me and I tasted it after 6 months and it tasted awesome, so I decided to enter it into the State Fair.  It didn’t medal, but I got some good feedback on it.  Around this same time, a couple of my homebrewing friends tasted it and gave me some feedback and at this point I knew I wanted to re-brew it and make some changes, so I was no longer trying to hold on to this until summer of 2018.  I started entering the BDS into competitions to start getting more feedback.

The first competition I entered it into was the Lane County fair, along with my Belgian Wit that I had made because I had most of the ingredients already on hand.  They started out in different categories but due to being a small comp they combined all the Belgians together and I ended up competing against myself. The Dark Strong took third place in the combined Belgian category.

20170731_145404

I found it humorous that they mailed my my $4.00 premium as well.

For the next couple of competitions the BDS and the Wit were all I had ready. It was too hot for me to brew during the main part of the summer (June, July, August).  The next event was the Rocktoberfest Competition in Redmond.  I sent in the BDS and the Wit and this time, they stayed in separate categories and I happened to take 3rd place in both.

20171002_141540

I was getting pretty excited at this point.  To have the same beer medal multiple times was pretty amazing.  Little did I know at the time that that trend was going to continue.  The next competition was the Sasquatch Homebrew Competition in Eugene.  This event had a limited number of categories, but one happened to be Trappist, so I sent in the Belgian Dark Strong.  This time it took Second place.  Even while it was winning medals it still seemed to be improving with time, another testament to the bottle conditioning process.

20171025_151659

Huge ribbon from Sasquatch.

The next event was a new event called the Salem Harvest Classic, run by Capitol Brewers in Salem.  I once again submitted the BDS and the Wit and managed to double dip again.  This time, 2nd place for the BDS and 3rd place for the Wit.  I felt like I was picking up steam coming into our club competition, the Fall Classic.  I was out of bottles of the Wit, and now that it was cool enough again, I brewed up a American Pale Ale and another version of my Cascadian Dark Ale.  The CDA scored well but didn’t medal, and my Pale Ale had a carbonation issue so it didn’t do well either, but lo and behold the Belgian Dark Strong took second place.  After 4 years of entering the competition, and being heavily involved in running it the last 3 years (including two years of labeling the medals) I had finally taken home a Fall Classic medal.  I’d say this one certainly meant the most.  Everyone there was so excited for me to win, and that kind of support is what makes the hobby run.  Also, late that night when we finally made it home, my Salem Harvest Classic medals had come in the mail and were waiting for me.

20171021_210500

I was now out of Belgian Dark Strong bottles to enter, so it’s run was over, but when it was all said and done, two bronze medals and three silver medals.  I’ve already brewed the 2018 batch and it’s currently doing it’s thing in the bottles. The first entry for that batch will be the NHC Regionals in April so we’ll see how it does then.

The last competition of the season was the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  I entered the pale ale and the CDA into this competition and the Pale Ale got a decent score and good feedback but no medal. The CDA, on the other hand, took third place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.  I was extremely happy with this result.  The two other medals I’ve won with my CDA were in custom categories for CDA only.  Specialty IPA includes all the new styles like Red IPA, Belgian IPA and New England Style IPA.

20171125_150712

Before 2017 I had four medals (1 bronze, 3 silver).  Now I have 12.  That’s very impressive.  I didn’t take first place in a category or win best in show or anything like that, but I tripled the number of ribbons and medals hanging on my wall and I’m pretty stoked about that.

I have two goals for 2018.  Understandably, there’s a good chance this won’t happen, but isn’t that the point of setting goals?

First, I want to get on the scoreboard of the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  Not win the whole thing, or even finish top 10, but just get my name on there.  To score points in OSHBOTY you have to get first place in a category, so by default that means one of my goals is also to score my first gold medal in a category.

Second, I want to advance a beer to the finals of the National Homebrew Competition.  To do that, you have to medal in your category and score 30 plus points.  Again, I’m not looking to win anything in the finals, but just to have the chance. Taking first place in the NHC regionals would accomplish both my goals at once, so fingers crossed!

So there we have it, a look back on the past year and a look ahead to next year.