Oregon’s Lush Coast

Portland is Beervana beyond a shadow of a doubt, but don’t overlook the Oregon Coast when it comes to good drinks.  Not only is the Oregon coast a beautiful place to visit and drive down, there’s plenty of good breweries and a handful of wineries and distilleries as well.  Starting from the north and working your way south down the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101), although I wouldn’t recommend doing it all in one day.

Astoria: Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific and separates Oregon from Washington, Astoria has a solid and small, but growing, beer scene.  Fort George and Buoy are the two big names in town, they both can their beer and it’s available in the Portland market, but you should visit their locations.  Buoy is out on a dock, completely with a glass floor to watch sea lions, while Fort George is a little further up the hill with commanding views of the town and river.  Wet Dog Cafe and Astoria Brewing Company (which are run together) are right down on the waterfront boardwalk area.  They share a brewery, but both locations are unique.  Astoria Brewing has a simple tap room and bar, while Wet Dog is a full blown restaurant. On the Wet Dog side they have several dog named beers that aren’t available on the other side.  The food is also really good.  Worth a stop. The newest game in town is Reach Break Brewing, which opened about a week before we got to stop in there before Festival of the Dark Arts.  The beer was awesome, and ambitious, starting out day one with a barrel aged stout.  These guys know what they are doing.

Gearhart: There’s not a brewery in Gearhart (that I know of) but there is the McMenamins Gearhart Hotel.  It’s a really cool historic property, and of course you can find all the standard and special McMenamins beers there.

Seaside: Seaside is a pretty cool town, albeit very touristy.  It’s about as close to what I would think of as a “beach” from the Southern US.  Wide sandy beach, arcades and taffy shops, boardwalk etc.  Very “East Coast” style beach town.  I haven’t been to Seaside Brewing yet, but I see it every time we drive through there.  Maybe next time.

Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach is one of my favorite places along the coast.  It’s the first place along the coast my wife took me after I moved out to Oregon and home to the famous Haystack Rock.  The last time we drove through there (on the way home from Cape Lookout) we noticed two new places in town that we’ll need to visit next time we’re in town.  Pelican Brewing opened a new brewery and pub in Cannon Beach.  I had heard about that but finally got to see where it was.  Also, on the north side of town was Public Coast Brewing which, to my knowledge, is very new.  We didn’t have time to stop at either as we made our way home, but we said we would go next time we were in town.  Cannon Beach is also home to the Cannon Beach Distillery.  While we were camping in Cape Lookout our friends had a couple bottles from CBD.  One was Il Keyote, which is an agave liquor that’s barrel aged.  The website says they treat it more like a brandy than a tequila, and I remember it being very smooth and very delicious.

Tillamook: Tillamook is a bit inland from the coast, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention de Garde Brewing.  World famous for their wild fermented farmhouse style beers, absolutely worth the visit.  And let’s be honest, you’re going into town for the cheese curds anyway.  US 101 passes through town, so you’re still on the coastal highway, it just tucks inland around the large Tillamook Bay.

Pacific City: Pacific City is home to the main operations of Pelican Brewing.  They have a gorgeous brewpub located, quite literally, on the beach.  Located next to one of the public parking and beach access areas with great views of the beach and Chief Kiwanda Rock (which I’ve also seen referred to as Haystack Rock.. confusing yeah?).

Lincoln City: Lincoln City is a small town, and is geared more towards grocery stores and supplies than beach rentals and kites.  Lincoln City is home to the McMenamins Lighthouse Pub which, despite being very small, has it’s own brewery and supplies beer up the coast to Gearhart.

Depoe Bay: Depoe Bay is a tiny, tiny town and home to the worlds smallest working harbor.  This is a great place to do whale watching.  Depoe Bay didn’t used to have a brewery, but they do now.  Former Three Mugs brewer and OBC Member Chris Jennings is now the head brewer at The Horn Public House and Brewery located in the former Spouting Horn Restaurant location.  Haven’t been there yet, but it’s on the list.

Devils Punchbowl: So, not a town so much as a roadside attraction, the Devils Punchbowl Natural Area is home to the Flying Dutchman Winery.  A small winery, but with award winning wine.  When we stopped in to do a tasting they told us that the wines are open fermented and barrel aged outside and they pick up some of the salty, ocean qualities.  Not sure if you can really taste the difference, but it makes for a neat story and unique selling point.  The wines were also very good.

Newport: Newport is home to Rogue, which is very divisive, some people love them, some people hate them, but they are one of the largest breweries in Oregon.  They have several locations throughout the state, but their main operation is in Newport.  It’s worth visiting to take the tour, and hear the story about the “massive red erection”.  Across the parking lot is the Rogue Distillery.  They make whiskey and gin using a lot of the same ingredient as they use for beer.  Dead Guy whiskey uses the exact same grain bill as the Dead Guy beer.  Rogue also has a farm in eastern Oregon where they grow a lot of their own grains, hops, fruits and herbs, to use in the beers, spirits and restaurants.

Yachats: Yachats is very small, but home to Yachats Brewery and Farmstore, which my wife and I recently visited on the way down to camping in Florence.  It’s a great place and totally worth the visit.  It’s a bit out of the way but trust me, it’s worth the journey.  Great beer, awesome food and great people.  Go there.

Florence and points South: There’s not really a whole lot south of Florence.  Defeat River Brewing is in Reedsport, which we planned on going to while we were in Florence, but we didn’t make it.  7 Devils Brewing is in Coos Bay, which sounds vaguely familiar.  I feel like I’ve had some of their beers before, but I never been to the location down in Coos Bay.  To my knowledge, there are no breweries south of Coos Bay, but this is Oregon so I wouldn’t be shocked to find out there was.

So there you have it, your brewery tour of the Oregon coast (with a winery and two distilleries thrown in for good measure).  Head on out to the coast and drink in the view! (Sorry, the puns just write themselves).

Yachats Brewing and Farmstore

Last weekend my wife and I went camping down in Florence, Oregon with her family.  This is an annual tradition which happened to fall on one of the hottest weeks in record in Oregon.  Thankfully, it was much cooler down on the coast.  On the way down, we stopped in the tiny coastal town of Yachats to have lunch at Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

 

I don’t write about every brewery we visit because that would be overwhelming, but if a place is unique, a special experience, or in my thoughts “unknown” or underhyped, I’ll write about it.  Yachats was all three.

Before the visit, I was only vaguely aware of Yachats Brewing.  I had a barrel aged version of their Marbled Murrelet Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was “on the way”, so we decided to stop in.

Camping is always a food-fest so we decided to split a sandwich, which was a good idea because it was HUGE! BBQ chicken, onions, peppers and cheese, it was great.  Warm polenta and fermented veggies on the side to round it out.  Highly recommend the food.

The two beers we tried were the Coastal Dark Ale (4.5 stars), their version of a CDA, my wife’s favorite style, and the Hyphyweizen (4.5 stars), their version of a German Hef.  Both beers were really good and we ended up taking a crowler of the CDA camping and I got a bottle of their Kriek (which I haven’t tried yet).

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The location was really cool.  Obviously not the original use of that building.  We sat on the side patio, which was half indoors/half outdoors and used to be a greenhouse/plant area.  You could see into the brewery with some tanks back in the back, as well as mics and speakers for live music.

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We got there shortly after they opened, so they weren’t very crowded and the staff was very friendly.  Quick to recommend a beer, ideas about food, pointed out seasonals and special items.  Overall a great experience.  If you’re on the southern Oregon coast, I highly recommend swinging by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.  They are located right on 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) about a half hour south of Newport.  It’s worth the drive.

Into the Woods Part 3

The warm weather has majorly slowed down the consumption of high alcohol, dark, barrel aged beers, but there’s been a handful here and there.  I don’t know how many “parts” to this post there will be since I have several more barrel aged beers waiting in the wings, so this may just become a regular ongoing feature.

2016 Two Beers Overhang Porter – This was a bottle that I brought home from judging the Best of Craft Beer awards and happened to be the last one we cracked open.  This beer had an aroma of dark dry fruit and faint vanilla, the flavor was also heavy on dark dry fruit and slight oak.  I remarked it was not bad, but I felt it was slightly past it’s prime. Interestingly, I tasted this at the competition and gave it 2.75 stars on Untappd and said it was a huge diacetyl bomb.  I obviously forgot this fact when I got a bottle to bring home.  The bottle we had at home though was much better.  I gave that one 4 stars. (4 stars).

2016 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine.  Ironically enough we ended up drinking this one a couple of days before the summer solstice.  (Also interesting, mine is still the most recent check in on Untappd, so apparently no one else had the willpower to hold on to a bottle that long.)  This one had dark fruit, brown sugar and whiskey in the aroma coupled with sweet dark fruit, vanilla and whisky in the flavor.  Clear red color, highly carbonated (surprising for a BA Barleywine) very boozy with a lot of warming.  Not a normal summer drink, but it was still very nice.  (4.75 stars).

2016 Ex Novo Kill the Sun – Bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.  I got to try this one over the weekend at the Ex Novo 3rd Anniversary party and man was it good.  This one had a ton of dark dry fruit in the aroma and flavor, basically tasted like raisins.  Good whiskey character, pretty boozy.  Should continue to improve with age.  I wish I had a couple bottles of this to stash away.  (4.75 stars)

Culmination Pinot Evil II – Barrel aged Tripel with wine grapes.  I love Belgian style beers, so the last time I was at Culmination I had to try this. They don’t specify the barrel used, but with wine grapes added I’m assuming it was also aged in a wine barrel.  It didn’t give off any major whiskey notes.  Wine barrel aging of beer is becoming more popular.  This beer started out with a sharp tang of acidity that I would assume was from the grapes, and then it finished with that traditional bubblegum sweetness of a Belgian beer.  It wasn’t sour, but it had just a little bit of a bite to it.  (4.75 stars)

Oregon Mead and Cider Co. Free Press Pinot Gris Barrel Aged Frankencyser – Say that three times fast… So this was a really interesting sample on my taster flight at Oregon Mead and Cider (Formerly Stung Fermented).  Cyser is a blend of cider and mead, and this one was a blend of whatever was left in the bottom of the tanks after a bottling run of their standard Free Press Cider and Worker Mead.  This was blended (ratio unknown, maybe half and half?) and then aged in a Pinot Gris barrel.  I didn’t write down detailed tasting notes but I remember it being very fruity and refreshing and it picked up a lot of white wine character from the barrel.  It almost just tasted like wine.  But a little sweeter, since most Oregon Gris is pretty dry. (4.5 stars)

The war rages on…

Last week was a roller coaster in the beer world.  The Brewers Association announced a special logo, recognizing independently owned breweries.  You can read the release and see the logo HERE. To me, this just further emphasizes the point that the only important part of the “Craft” designation from the BA is ownership.  Based on the BA’s definition of craft, “small” is 6 million barrels of beer a year.  The largest craft brewery is Yuengling at a reported 2.9 million BBLs of production (2012) so there’s still a lot of room to grow and still be considered craft.  The limit was increased last year or the year before, specifically to bring Yuengling into the fold.  Sam Adams (Boston Beer), the 2nd largest “craft” brewer (4 million BBLs/2016) is distributed nationwide.  I can walk into a grocery store in tiny Canby, Oregon and find Boston Lager, Rebel IPA, Grapefruit IPA, 3 flavors of Angry Orchard (a Boston Beer wholly owned subsidiary) and now the new Truly Alcoholic Sparkling Water (another BB subsidiary).  I find it hard to swallow that they aren’t pushing other beer off the shelf, which is exactly what we accuse ABInBev of, but it’s OK because Sam Adams is “craft”.

The other problem I have with the logo comes from a strictly food labeling standpoint.  Even though the logo is not designed as any sort of designator of product quality, that is how it will eventually be perceived.  The BA is trying to assert that local and independent beer is “better”.  That “better” can be interpreted millions of ways, but for the average consumer that will equate to better quality or “tastes better”.  Earlier this morning I responded to a post on the American Homebrewers Forum about how the logo will be adapted into a quality statement.  I was already thinking about this post when I formulated this reply, so I will just copy it here in it’s entirety.  Click the link above to scroll through the entire post.

“This is all well and good for those of us who are deep into the industry, but as always these moves are made for the “rest of the world” who don’t care as much where the stuff in the can comes from.

As with most things that go on a label, and which several people have mentioned above, there will be an implied quality statement with the logo.  That’s just how food labels work.  I’m a food scientist and there’s a lot of stuff that goes on food labels and of course if it goes on a label it must be important right? That’s how people’s brains work.  The FDA doesn’t regulate beer labels yet, but it’s coming very soon.  We’re already having to work on calories and nutrition facts labels.

There’s a lot of stuff out there that has nothing to do with quality, but crafty advertisers or just human intellect of “this must be different and special” turns into quality statements.  For example, if I say the words Black Angus, what do you think? Most people are going to think about a fancy downtown steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris. Black Angus is a breed of cattle.  Not a quality designation.  There are three grades of meat, Select, Choice and Prime.  Choice is what you get in the grocery store, Prime is what you get in Ruth’s Chris, but they are both still Black Angus.  When Hardees/Carl’s Jr is advertising Angus Burgers they are banking on most people equating that with expensive steak.  Are they using Prime beef? Hell no, they are using Choice (or even Select) but people equate Angus with Prime.

The BA’s selling point is “local and independent is better”.. better how? Better for the economy, better business practices, better for your community etc etc.  Over time most people will turn that into “better quality” or “tastes better”.  Is the BA trying to intentionally mislead people? No, I don’t think so, but they are certainly taking advantage of how human emotions work to push their message.  In essence that’s how all advertising works.  Is it meant as a quality statement? No, but in 5 years that’s not what people will remember about it.  People automatically assume “better quality” and pay a premium for things like “Natural”, “No Corn Syrup”, “Free Range”, “Dolphin Safe” “GMO Free” etc etc, all of which are unregulated and mostly meaningless statements (Organic is the only one certified by the government) and don’t always (or sometimes ever) equate to product quality.  It’s a shell game.. and it always has been.”

Of course, the other side of this coin is the immediate and comical reaction from ABInBev’s High End. This is the branch of the company that owns the 10 Barrel’s and Wicked Weed’s in their portfolio.

You can watch the video HERE from Draft Magazine.  It’s… well.  It’s something.  It’s ridiculous and it’s a video that doesn’t need to exist.  I may or may not agree with the labeling, but there was absolutely no reason for InBev to respond to it.  Just let it go.  They aren’t helping themselves with this at all.  They come across as whiny and judgmental even though they are the ones controlling the market.  They have a huge chunk of market share, but some new label comes along and they are all up in arms about how it’s “not fair!”.  Wow.  This is greed and capitalism 101, big companies only like something if it’s *their* rules.  The whole “we need to gang up on wine and spirits” is complete bullshit.  The market doesn’t work that way, at least not at the distributor level.  It may look that way in the high up offices of a multi trillion dollar international conglomerate who has to worry about the Diago’s and Robert Mondavi’s of the world, but on the boots on the ground level, at your local pub, it’s beer vs beer.  Mr Small Local Brewer wheels a keg into a bar, the bar man say’s sorry, we don’t have any open taps because some distributor went in and brought 12 kegs instead of one.  What looks like a decent selection of Budwieser, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Goose Island, Breckenridge and Wicked Weed is not much of a variety at all when they all come from the same company.

I’m all for fighting against illegal business practices.  I don’t think a large brewing concern like ABInBev should own distributors.  In some states that’s legal, in some it’s not.  To me that pushes the boundaries.

However, I don’t think the BA is going about it the right way.  You can’t beat the behemoth at their own game.  It won’t work.

Oregon Mead and Cider

Yesterday, I was meeting my wife and some friends at Culmination Brewing, but I ended up getting there way early (I work 6AM-2:30PM).  I remembered that Stung Meadery was in the same building and so I figured I’d check them out and do a tasting while I waited for everyone else.  When I got there, I discovered they had also begun making cider and had changed their name to The Oregon Mead & Cider Co.  You can check out their website HERE.

I was planning to just get a glass of something while I waited and after some initial confusion found out they don’t pour pints/full pours.  They have a taster flight you can try, or just a handful of small tasters, and for take home they have bottle sales and growler fills.  So I ended up doing the full flight.  8 samples which included six of their bottled products and then two choices from the draft only menu.

First the ciders:  The first one I had was the Cherry Vanilla Cider.  This was the first one I picked and was planning to get the full pour of when I discovered I could only get tasters.  It was good, but I’m glad it wasn’t the only thing I had because some of the stuff that came later was really delicious. Next from the draft list was the Pinot Gris Barrel aged FrankenCyser.  The server (who’s name I didn’t catch.. of course.. my bad) explained to me that Cyser is a blend of Cider and Mead and this Frankencyser was the leftovers from the bottom of the tanks after bottling the standard mead and cider and it was blended together and put into a wine barrel.  This was delicious and picked up a lot of the white wine character.  Next were their two bottled ciders.  The Free Press Cider and the Free Press Hopped Cider.  The base cider is very clean, very lightly flavored.  It was good but very basic.  The hopped cider was very nice.  The hops added a fruity/floral component to the cider.  They don’t boil anything, so no bitterness was added, just “dry hopped” so to speak with the hops.

The interesting thing about these ciders is that they are very dry.  I have a tendency to like my ciders sweet, and I think part of the reason is a lot of dry ciders, especially English ciders, tend to be harsh and tannic and astringent.  These ciders aren’t that at all.  They are dry… but just dry enough.  Like a white wine, rather than a steeped tea.  They aren’t bitter or astringent.

Next the meads: The first mead I tried was their standard base mead Drink Mate Die, AKA Worker Standard Sparkling Mead.  So, the first thing in that name that jumps out is sparkling.  These are carbonated meads.  The standard mead uses ginger and Cascade hops.  I’m not usually a fan of ginger, but it’s very easy going here.  They use a light touch, it’s very subtle.  Quite tasty and quite drinkable.  The other mead I tried was a Mosaic Sparkling Mead which had the addition of Mosiac hops, which are very fruity.  A very nice compliment to the honey.  These two meads, and all of the Worker series, are pretty low alcohol (by mead standards) at around 6.5% A lot of meads and honeywines clock in at 10-15% like standard grape wines.  Fear not, OM&CCo has a few of those as well.

The last two meads are from the Queen Series.  These are the showstoppers.  Single varietal honeys and specific areas to showcase the flavor of the honey.  These also clock in at around 16% alcohol.  The two that I got to try were the Blackberry Blossom and the High Desert.  The blackberry blossom is exactly what it sounds like, honey from bees that only eat from the flowers of blackberry vines.  It’s very fruity with notes of the berries themselves.  It’s amazing that flavor passes through just from the nectar.  The blueberry is very boozy and has a good bit of burn to it.  Not sure if aging would help that, or letting it stand like a wine.  The High Desert honey is harvested from out near Bend where the bees eat from sage. rabbit brush, and other desert wildflowers.  This mead has a really interesting herbal quality to it.  The sage really shines through.  It was really quite interesting.  Similar alcohol to the blackberry but this one was much, much smoother.  Dangerously so.  This would be quite drinkable on a hot day, so watch out.

Much like the ciders, the meads are also bone dry.  They use champagne yeast to get a complete and clean fermentation.  Some meads can be cloying sweet and heavy in mouthfeel that makes it difficult to drink.

If you’ve never had mead, this would be a great place to do a flight and try several different kinds.  If you love mead but haven’t been here yet you should put it on your list.  I would highly recommend it for fans of cider and mead.  It’s different than most of what I’ve ever had and I would assume that would apply to others as well.

Cheers!

Dick’s Brewing Variety Pack

The standard 12 pack variety pack contains either four bottles each of three types of beer, or three bottles each of four types of beer.  Makes logical sense.  However, the variety pack from Dick’s Brewing out of Centralia, Washington, boasts no less than eight varieties.

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This was intriguing since it was a chance to try even more stuff in one go.  I expected a complete random assortment, some one bottle, some three bottles etc.  Turns out it wasn’t quite as random, which made sense from a production standpoint.  The box was arranged with eight of the bottles in four sets of two, and then four singles.  So by minimum of eight, it usually means exactly eight.  This box contained two IPA, two Mountain Amber, two Cream Stout and two Golden Ale.  The four singles were Irish Red, Best Bitter, Grand Cru (Belgian) and Dick Danger (Cascadian Dark/Black IPA).

The first one we opened was the Dick Danger Ale, which they list as their “Flagship” and also as a Cascadian Dark Ale, or Black IPA. Upon opening it was obvious there was a problem.  The beer was light brown, see through, very fizzy but like soda, huge bubbles clinging to the side of the glass and no head retention.  It tasted flat and caramelish.  No hops, no bitterness.

Next we had the Cream Stout and the Mountain Amber.  These two weren’t too bad.  The Stout was roasty enough to be almost smoky, the Amber was oxidized but not as offensive as the CDA.  The last one we tried the first night was the IPA and it was not good.  Hoppy beers just don’t age well at all.  At this point I’m realizing that all of these beers are just old.  Dicks does not print package dates or best by dates on their bottles or the cases and it shows.  Who knows how long these have been sitting in the store.

The next night I tried the Golden Ale and it wasn’t too bad.  Less hops to go bad, and a milder flavor profile to begin with.  The last one I tried was the Grand Cru Belgian, figuring out of any of the styles that one could hold up the most to age.  It was OK, but it was still obviously oxidized and it was very sharp and alcoholic.  I would wager it may have been higher than the label claim of 10% ABV.

The last two I haven’t tried yet are the Irish Red and the Best Bitter.  They are in the fridge right now, but I’m not holding out much hope.

It’s sad really that this could have been a really great variety pack, but just ravaged by time.  I don’t think a lot of people realize just how perishable beer is.  Just like any food product it has an “expiration” date.  Granted, it won’t “spoil”, meaning it won’t go rotten and make you sick, but it can lose a lot of it’s flavor and aroma and just end up not tasting very good.

If we’re ever in Centralia and get a chance to try some fresh, maybe it will be better, but likely not going to take a chance on the variety pack again.

2017 Portland Fruit Beer Fest

I haven’t blogged in a while (apologies) but festival season is upon us! This past weekend was the Portland Fruit Beerfest, which due to other obligations and just life in general, was the first Fest my wife and I attended this year. We missed Spring Beer and Wine and Nanofest which was unfortunate, since those are a couple of our favorites, but there’s always next year.

My wife and I like to volunteer to pour beer at these festivals, which is you haven’t done it before, it’s the best way to do a fest.  You “work” for 3-4 hours, pouring samples and taking tickets/tokens and then you are released from your shift and given a cup, tokens and wristband to go enjoy the festival, for free! One of our friends from the homebrew club is the volunteer coordinator for a couple of fests in town, including this one, so of course we signed up. Sometimes it can be boring, sometimes it can be hectic, usually it’s a combo of both.  A sudden burst of activity followed by a lull, rinse, repeat. A few festival require you to have an OLCC Servers Permit (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) but most don’t.  Usually they just have a pamphlet that tells you how to determine if someone has been overserved and then you sign on the dotted line that you solemnly swear you’re up to no good.

They moved the Fruit Beer Fest this year, back to Burnside Brewing, compared to the last couple of years at the North Park Blocks, and I get the reasons why (cost, access to water, electricity etc) but it did make for a smaller, more crowded venue.  That’s typical beer fest, but it still stinks.  The good news is it gave me an opportunity to visit Burnside Brewing after I shockingly realized I’d never been there.

Fruit Beer Fest can be interesting.  Most of the beers are small, one off batches made specifically for the fest with some wild flavor combos.  I tried 13 unique beers at the festival, counting my samples, my wife’s samples and one last one that we split.

In no particular order, we had:

Blueberry Lemonade – HiWheel Fizzy Wine
Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus – Modern Times
Pineapple POG – Portland Cider Company
Key Lime Pie – 10 Barrel Brewing
Hop Berry IPA – Culmination Brewing
Clown Pie, Banana Cream Ale – Portland Brewing (I poured this one)
There will be Blood (Blood Orange IPA) – Fort George
Kumquat Farmhouse Ale – pFriem
Biere Royale – The Commons
Tiki Club IWA – Sunriver Brewing
Orange Crusher – Cascade Brewing (one of the best of the day!)
Cherry Pilsner – Reubens Brews
Benny Appleseed – Lompoc Brewing

Quite the assortment yeah? Some are better than others, welcome to beerfests, but they are all interesting and unique.

Next June I would highly recommend it.