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.