2019 Beer In Review

I’m a little late on this post because I’ve been busy, which is basically the story of all of 2019. Both busy and not busy but in different ways.

Leadership:

In 2019, I served as the Competition Chair for the homebrew club, while my wife served as President. Needless to say, we were extremely busy with these responsibilities. Involved in planning every event, two meetings a month (board and general), running and planning two of the competitions plus the mid-year picnic and holiday party, it was a big deal.  The irony is that being up to my neck in homebrew club prevented me from being a homebrewer. Fewer open weekends, so I didn’t brew as much, didn’t go to as many festivals, didn’t enter as many competitions and didn’t judge as much. It was a difficult year, but I got to stretch my boundaries and everything worked out in the end.

Brewing:

This is where this year took the hardest hit. I was only able to brew three batches this year. A batch of CDA in April for our spring IPA competition, a Norwegian style farmhouse ale in August (playing around with a new yeast strain) and then another batch of CDA in September, to be ready in time for our big competition in November. That’s it.

Competitions:

Along with not brewing much, I didn’t enter many competitions this year either. The stout that I entered in Stout Bout and the Belgian Dark that I entered in NHC and Fall Classic were 2018 brews.  The CDAs and Norwegian Farmhouse got decent scores and good feedback but I didn’t win any medals this year. It felt like a bit of a letdown compared to the last two years, but of course I wasn’t entering a lot.

Travel:

2019 wasn’t quite as crazy travel-wise as 2018 was, but we still managed to squeeze in a couple small trips and one big one. We started the year with a short trip to San Francisco in January, which honestly feels so long ago I nearly forgot about it. Managed to hit up three breweries while we were there, San Francisco Brewing Co, which is right next to the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop. Primo location.  Cellarmaker Brewing, which was in SOMA near our friends apartment and Half Moon Bay Brewing which was out on the coast. Apparently, I never got around to writing a blog post about this trip. That whole busy thing. In May, we took a trip down to Southern Oregon and Northern California. We set our home base in Grants Pass Oregon which gave us access to Crater Lake and the Redwoods National Park. We found three breweries in Grant’s Pass. Wild River Brewing and Pizza, Climate City Brewing and Conner Fields Brewing. In July, we took a trip up to Tacoma, Washington to get stamps at the newest McMenamins property and finish our second set of passports.  While we were there, we also hit up Harmon Brewing, 7 Seas Brewing, Barhop Brewing (Port Angeles), Pacific Malting and Brewing, Odd Otter Brewing Co. and the McMenamin’s Elks Temple itself, which has a brewery. Lastly, our big trip in November was to New York City. We only made it to three breweries, two in NYC and one on our side trip to Philadelphia. We hit up Coney Island Brewing and Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn and then Yards Brewing Co. in Philly. We got to try a lot of the local stuff as well at bars and bottles from the store.

Looking Ahead:

We skipped it in 2019, but this year my wife and I will be returning to Bend for the Best of Craft Beer competition in early February. I’m looking forward to judging again this year. I’m also hoping to make it up to Seattle this year to judge the National Homebrew Competition regionals. I haven’t been able to make it before. I think judging something that big will be a good and useful experience, I’ve also heard it’s a blast. Judges go home with a ton of swag, or so I’ve been told. I’m not ashamed to admit my judging services can be “bought” with a nice lunch and a couple bottles to take home. That’s what’s so alluring about Best of Craft Beer. It’s also just a lot of fun.

I haven’t brewed yet this year, but I have a couple of ideas. I want to brew a Kolsch while it’s cold. I don’t have any temp controls, but the second bedroom gets down to about 62 if we close the door and don’t run the heat. Perfect for a cold fermented ale. I didn’t brew my strong Belgian this past year, but I’m thinking I’m might go for something lighter (at least in color) and brew a Belgian Golden Strong or a Tripel. I’m hoping for something that maybe doesn’t need to age as long and can be drunk fresh. I’m sure there will be at least two more batches of CDA down the line, gotta keep those coming for sure. Beyond that we’ll see how it goes. I have some ideas.

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!

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!

2018 Competition Recap

As I had previously mentioned in my Goals Update post, I had two major goals for this year, one that happened and one that didn’t. I had a good feeling coming into this year that it was going to be “my year”, and it didn’t completely work out that way but it was still a pretty amazing year.

The year started with a bang at the Stout Bout competition in February.  My “barrel” aged Rum Stout scored 36 points and took first place in Wood and Barrel Aged.  My first ever 1st place category win, although being a limited style competiton (Stouts Only) it didn’t qualify for Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  The same beer scored a 27 at KLCC, which shows some variability from comp to comp, as well as deeper competition since I wasn’t going against just stouts.

20180305_151021

Next up was the COHO Spring Fling, I entered my Belgian Dark Strong, my CDA and a British Bitter, a style I had never brewed before.  The BDS and CDA didn’t score well (both around 25 points) but the Bitter scored a 40.5 and took 1st Place in British Beers.

20180501_050431

COHO was a qualifier for OSHBOTY and so I accomplished my first goal of the year which was to get on the scoreboard.  I only got 5 points, but it was enough to get my name on there.2018 OSHBOTY1

That’s also what I finished the year with.  One of the goals for next year will be to score points in more than one competition.

Next came the results of the National Homebrew Competition First Round, which was my second goal of the year, medal in a category and advance to finals.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but I’m happy with my scores.  The CDA scored 34.5, the BDS scored 32.5 and the Bitter scored 29. Maybe next year.

In May was my homebrew club’s IPA specific competition Heart of Cascadia.  My CDA scored 40 points and took 1st place in the Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale category.  While also not a OSHBOTY qualifier, this was now my third award of the year, all three of which were first place and in three different categories.  Shocked doesn’t describe what I was feeling by this point.

20180519_161215

Rounding out the summer competitions was the Oregon State Fair.  I entered my CDA, Belgian Dark Strong and Bitter again, and the BDS took Third place in the Trappist Category.

20180914_163549

In September and October there were three competitions fairly close together to round out the year.  At Rocktoberfest in Bend my CDA scored 30.3 and my BDS scored 36.5 but didn’t take home any medals.  The at Salem Harvest Classic, my only entry was my BDS.  The BDS scored 40.5 points and took first place Trappist and earned an Honorable Mention in the Best in Show judging.  Essentially, it ended up 4th place in BOS but needed some serious deliberation to split between 3rd and 4th.

20181013_163438

The last competition of the year was my homebrew club’s big annual competition, the Fall Classic.  I entered my CDA, BDS and a rebrew of the Bitter (which didn’t go well).  The bitter scored a 26, which wasn’t shocking, the BDS scored a 31 and my CDA scored a 32 and took 3rd place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.

20181102_140744

Overall, 6 awards is a drop from last years 8, however the spread of 4 golds and 2 bronze, slightly edges out last years 5 bronze and 3 silver.  Quality over quantity?

In the OBC Homebrewers Cup (Homebrewer of the Year) I earned 77 points, an increase from last year’s 51.  Gold medals are worth more.  In 2016 I earned 32 points, so a steady increase each year.  Still, not remotely close to winning Brewer of the Year (first place has 504 points) but I’m happy with the increase.

The goals for next year will remain similar to last year.  I achieved the goal of scoring points in OSHBOTY, so perhaps the goal now will be to beat my previous years total of 5 points.  I still don’t expect to win the thing or even finish top ten, but beating 5 points will mean winning more than one category or winning a large one, such as IPA.

The goal of medaling in NHC regionals and advancing to Finals will continue until it happens.  Honestly, this will be a goal every year.

I’m also hoping next year to have a chance to brew a commercial batch of beer, which would require either being selected for Collaborator, Willamette Week Pro-Am, or winning Best in Show for a competition that offers that as a prize.  A lofty goal, but one I hope I can achieve.

2019 Season starts in late January, so short turn around!

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.

 

“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!

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!

2018 OSHBOTY1

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!