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.

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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!

 

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 !

2018 SheBrew

I had intended to write something beforehand and never got around to it, so this becomes a recap rather than a preview.

This past weekend was the 2018 SheBrew festival.  This unique beer festival highlights female-identified brewers in the industry.  The beer industry is still very heavily male dominated, but it’s changing.  Perhaps faster here than elsewhere since Portland tends to be pretty progressive about such things.  Last year’s festival featured 20 or so beers from companies that employed a female brewer, with about 10 (so I heard) actually brewed by that brewer.  This year there were 22 offerings, 15 or 16 beers, 5 or 6 ciders and 1 mead, all brewed by female brewers.  The festival is a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign and is organized by the Portland Branch of HRC.

Last year, the HRC approached the Oregon Brew Crew (of which I am a member) about running a homebrew competition in conjunction with the pro festival.  This year we had about 130 entries from 22 states and, in only it’s second year, SheBrew became the largest female-identified homebrew competition in the country.  My wife served on the planning committee and also on the day of the comp organized entries for judging as Cellarmaster. 10 homebrewers were also selected to pour beer at the Festival for people’s choice style judging.

For the second year, I volunteered to help run the festival.  The night before I went to help set up tables and jockey boxes and then the following morning we helped finish setup.  I poured beer for the first two hours of the festival, while my wife sold raffle tickets.  After that, I got to enjoy the festival, which was awesome! All the beers were fantastic.  A lot of creativity of styles and ingredients, including two beers with glitter in them (glitter beer is apparently a thing now) and one of the glitter beers was green! Inspired by Todrick Hall’s take on the Wizard of Oz it was just the right amount of flashy.  It sure got people talking.  I have no idea how many people came through the door, but it was packed! I hope they sold a lot of beer and a lot of raffle tickets.  All the money raised goes towards the fight for equality.

I neglected to take any pictures, but there’s some great shots from the Festival (and brewer bios) on the SheBrewPDX Instagram page HERE. Big thanks go out to Buckman Coffee Factory for hosting and Chicks of All Trades flagging company for sponsoring, both local female-owned companies.

I’m honored to have played even a tiny part of helping this fest go, and I’m already looking forward to next year.  March 2, 2019 is already on the calendar!

2018 Festival of Dark Arts

It’s that time again! Fort George’s annual Carnival of Stout was this past weekend.  My wife and I both took off Friday so we could go up the day before.  We decided to go up through Cannon Beach to swing by a couple new places there.

First stop was Public Coast Brewing.  Opened in 2016 and inspired by the 1967 Beach Bill that made the entire Oregon Coastline open and public land free for all.  The open brewpub has a very casual laid back feel.  Perfect for the beach.  Great beer too.

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Next stop was Mo’s Seafood, because of course.  If we’re at the coast we’re going to eat seafood.  My wife got the bouillabaisse, which is essentially a seafood soup, and I got the fried combo with cod, shrimp and clam strips.  It was delicious as always, and you can’t beat the location, which is literally on the beach with a great view of Haystack Rock.

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Even in the rain and fog, there’s just something about eating fresh seafood within 50 yard of the pounding surf.  Can’t beat it.

Last stop in Cannon Beach was the new Pelican Brewpub, which also opened in 2016.  Big open space with lots of wood similar to Public Coast and Pelican’s original Pacific City location.  I got the new Beak Bender IPA and we also tried a Oyster Stout, made with actual oysters.  After that we headed up to Astoria and got checked into our hotel and went to grab dinner at the Rogue Pub there, out on Pier 39, which honestly might be one of the most interesting Rogue locations.  We joined some friends for a night cap at Fort George and then called it a night.

The weather forecast for Saturday was nasty.  Several hours of 100% chance of rain, high winds with gusts up to 25mph, including some of the times we would be standing in line waiting to get it.  Thankfully, it ended up not being that bad. We got rained on a little bit, and a couple times had to duck for cover, but for the most part it wasn’t awful.  It was cold and windy but stayed relatively dry.  By the early afternoon, it was actually gorgeous.  The skies cleared up and the rain went away, which made the cold and wind a lot more tolerable.

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View from Fort George’s new upstairs patio, looking across the river to Washington.

The made some changes to the Festival this year, which I believe really helped out.  First, they got rid of the Noon VIP and 2PM General Admission tickets.  They opened the fest at noon for everyone and severely limited the amount of tickets sold.  It was still super crowded, but the idea was the VIP experience for everyone.  This year they also set up stanchions and ropes to guide the lines up to the bars.  This was much, much better than what happened last year which was 5 lines headed straight out from the taps which turned into a mob, and no way to know which line you were even in.  The lines often extended well past the end of the ropes, but it still kept things organized.  The lines were long, but moved quickly.  They also blocked off one of the side streets with a tap trailer out there and some food vendors, which offered more taps and also spaced things out better.  There was more space for the crowds to spread out.  Along with more taps, they also had everything available from the moment the fest started.  In the past they’ve held back certain kegs and would list them as “Tapping at 3PM”, “Tapping at 6PM” etc.  Usually by the time we found where it was on, it would be gone.  So very early on I went for the couple of rare ones I knew I wanted, Founders KBS and The Breury’s So Happens it’s Tuesday.  I also didn’t notice a lot of kegs blowing.  I’m not sure if they had more kegs, or if it was a function of less people.  It was really crowded from Noon to about 1pm as everyone got in and got started and then it started thinning out.  From about 4-6 was actually pretty chill.  I think a lot of people left to go get dinner or something and then plan on coming back later.  We called it pretty early, leaving the fest around 6pm with no plans to return.  We grabbed dinner at Bouy with a group of our homebrew club friends and then headed back to the hotel.

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Random crowd shot in the barrel room.

As in years past, I don’t take time to do detailed tasting notes, but there are always beers that stick out above and beyond the rest.  In my opinion, one of the best beers there was Block 15’s 2018 Super Nebula.  Some other standouts included Walking Man 2013 Bourbon Barrel Jaywalker (which I also had in 2017, it’s still awesome), Fort George ReclusaModern Times Rum and Bourbon Devils Teeth, and Stoup Night Night Imperial Stout.  This years Matrtyoshka Series was also very ambitious.  There was the base stout aged in bourbon barrels, Bourbon with Vanilla, Bourbon with Vanilla and Marionberry, Bourbon and Pinot Nior Barrel aged, and Bourbon/Pinot Barrel with Cocoa Nibs.  Between my wife and I we tried the Vanilla and Vanilla/Marionberry variants.  They were both quite good, I actually preferred the plain vanilla one slightly better than the marionberry one.  We weren’t that interested in the wine barrel variants. I’ve had wine barrel aged beers that are awesome, but I’m not sure about blending wine barrel and bourbon barrel.  We also didn’t stay for the bottle release this year, both for time and money reasons.  It was snowing Sunday morning as we left and the weather got worse as the day went on.  We were home before it got too bad in Portland.  There was only one beer that I tried that I would list as “bad”.  The Lagunitas Imperial Stout Variant with vanilla, chocolate and french oak chips.  This one had a pretty harsh astringent bitterness to it, I’m guessing from the oak chips.  Probably sat on the wood too long.  It wasn’t awful, but compared to the other stuff it certainly stuck out.  There were also a couple very interesting ones that weren’t bad, but not exactly my cup of tea.  Sour stouts from Jester King and Three Magnets that some of our friends liked and some didn’t.  Quite a few stouts aged in wine barrels which were some good, some very heavy on wine character to the point of being off-putting.  Always interesting to try them though.  Several places have made crazy stuff just for this festival.  Lots of creativity on display.

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Well, that pretty much wraps it up for this year.  See you in 2019!

Best of Craft Beer Awards 2018

This past weekend I returned to the Best of Craft Beer Awards judging in Bend, OR.  This year my wife joined me and served as a steward, helping run the competition.  This event continues to grow, surpassing 2,000 entries this year, and they announced that it is now the third largest competition in the country only trailing GABF and the World Beer Cup.  In 2016, the World Beer Cup had over 6,500 entries, and GABF in 2017 had nearly 8,000 entries.  BoCB has some catching up to do, but still impressive to be third largest.

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Last year it was extremely cold, with 3+ feet of snow on the ground.  Thankfully this year it wasn’t nearly as cold and there wasn’t as much snow.  Although, we did wake up Saturday morning to a surprise of snow on the ground from overnight.  It was only an inch or so, and over the course of the day it melted, but still a bit shocking to see this out of the hotel window.

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This year I judged an interesting range of styles.  Before lunch on Saturday I judged American Style IPA, British Bitters and then Double/Imperial American IPA.  After lunch I judged Northeast Style IPA (new category this year), Brett Beers and then Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beers.  Needless to say, I was pretty beered out by the end of the day.  Sunday was a much calmer day.  I judged medal rounds for Fruited Berliner Weisse, Belgian Table Beers and Wood and Barrel Aged Dark Beers.  I don’t know if I paid that much attention last year to which flights were preliminary, semifinal or medal rounds, but this year I got to judge at least one semifinal and 4 medal rounds.  When they announce the results I’ll get to see which beers I awarded those medals to!

And of course this year ended again with the granddaddy of all bottle grabs.  All of the leftovers have to be destroyed (they can’t be resold since they are industry samples) and well, nothing says they can’t get “destroyed” in someones belly.  Stewards get a head start to grabbing bottles, so my wife already grabbed some nice stuff before I got out there.  With two of us picking, and more trunk space, we ended up with a tad more bottles than I brought home last year.

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Represented on the table are beers from 14 U.S. States (Mass., Washington, North Carolina, Hawai’i, California, Oregon, Virginia, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Indiana, New York Michigan and Colorado).  Also, two bottles from Bogotá Beer Company which I originally mistook as being from Mexico, but is actually from Colombia.  Very excited to try my first South American beer.

We already have specific plans to share some of this (because no way can we take care of all of it..) including some gluten free beers we grabbed specifically for friends.  Needless to say, we’re going to have some very happy friends in the next couple of weeks! Now, off to go find some room in the cellar…..

Cheers!