Untapping the World

Last week I had the opportunity to try my first beer from Hungary. It sadly wasn’t that great, but time, travel and storage have a huge effect on beer quality.  I’m sure the person sharing it did everything they could to keep it in good condition but there’s only so much you can do.

That said, the check-in brought up my Beer Connoisseur badge, which measures how many different countries I have drank a beer from.  What was interesting is that it gave me a list of the countries I’ve checked in and the number of beers I’ve had from that country. Since I’ve only traveled to Mexico and Canada (and live in the USA) most of these beers are commercially available in one of those countries.  A very slight few will be beers shared by friends who brought them back from that country.  I thought it was an interesting list to look at and it reminded me of some cool check ins.

USA – 2575 beers: Not surprising since I live in the US, this is the grand majority of my list.  About 92% in fact.
Canada – 52 beers: A good number of these were from my trip to Montreal earlier this year, but a decent number of Canadian beers are available “down south” in the States.
Belgium – 49 beers: I really like Belgian beers, and thankfully a lot of them are available in the States, particularly the beers from Trappist monasteries.
Germany – 28 beers: Again, not shocking, a lot of German beers are available in the States. Several of these are from my BJCP classes and the Mt Angel Oktoberfest.
England – 15 beers: A lot of Fullers and Samuel Smith beers that are available in the US as well as ciders like Strongbow.
Mexico – 12 beers: Almost all of these are from my Mexico trip.
Scotland – 8 beers: Shares from friends who travel to Scotland frequently, and the Scottish pub we went to in Seattle.
Denmark – 8 beers: Mikkeller and To Øl, probably the only two available in the US. 4 of each interestingly enough.
Poland – 6 beers: A handful of Polish beers are available in the US. My wife has traveled to Poland and someday I hope to go as well.
Netherlands – 6 beers: Almost all of these are from the International Tent at the Oregon Beer Festival.  They bring over some interesting stuff.
Ireland – 4 beers: Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Pub beer.
Japan – 4 beers: One random craft beer I found here in Portland (Yo-Ho Brewing) the others Kirin and Sapporo.
The Bahamas – 2 beers: Pirate Republic beers from our honeymoon cruise. At the time these were the only two they had.  Only brewery in the Bahamas.
Colombia – 2 beers: Interesting story with these Bogatá Brewing beers.  They got sent up to the Best of Craft Beer competition, but otherwise I don’t think they are sold in the States.
China – 2 beers: Tsingtao and Lucky Buddha, both from restaurants.
France – 1 beer: France isn’t really known for it’s beer scene.  3 Monts Biere de Garde is really good though.
Australia – 1 beer: Coopers Pale Ale. Probably from a BJCP class.
Czech Republic – 1 beer: Pilsner Urquell. Classic style, from a BJCP class.
Switzerland – 1 beer: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a Swiss Trappist brewery.
Italy – 1 beer: Brewfist Grappa barrel aged RIS.  From Festival of Dark Arts.
India – 1 beer: Haywards 5000 Super Strong.  From a Greek Restaurant ironically.
Vietnam – 1 beer: 33 Export.  From a Thai restaurant.
Phillippines – 1 beer: Red Horse Beer.  Had this on the Portland Spirit (Christmas party).
Lithuania – 1 beer: Dragon Lady Doppelbock. From a BJCP exam.
Jamaica – 1 beer: Red Stripe mon…
Hungary – 1 beer: Feher Nyul Oatmeal Stout.

So there we have it, a very interesting list and a neat trip down memory lane looking up where I had some of these beers.

Cheers!

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When one door closes…

Last year, the number of breweries that opened and closed was about the same. Jeff Alworth has written about this several times demonstrating how this is actually a good thing, sort of.  Of course it’s sad for the places that closed, but it shows the beer market in Portland is beginning to mature.  Instead of a new place opening every 6 months (which still happens) and some places closing after a year or less (which still happens) you have places that have been around for a while and have stabilized and usually the places closing have been around for a long while as well and for whatever reason are throwing in the towel.

The last few weeks have seen an onslaught of bad news for the Portland area, this week in particular, within a 24 hour time span.

A few weeks ago Lompoc announced they were closing their location on NW 23rd Avenue, a new up and coming part of town.  This was the original Lompoc location, opened in 1993 and renovated in 2013.  Lompoc will still operate their North Portland location and brewery as well as the Oaks Bottom Public House in Sellwood (SE).  This comes on the heels of another satellite location of theirs, the Hedge House, closing last year and becoming the pub location for Little Beast Brewing. Lompoc is still alive, but they seem to be struggling.  What’s interesting is I found out the same day that the Abbey Bar’s second location, right next door to Lompoc, was also closing.  That leads me to speculate that they are getting priced out of that building.  An article from Eater website (READ HERE) mentions the Lompoc location will be replaced by another taproom.

This week, places started dropping like flies.  On Tuesday, it was announced that NE Portland stalwart Alameda was closing it’s doors and putting it’s production brewery up for sale.  A 22 year vet of the Portland beer scene this was an established player, not a flash in the pan.  Sadly, reading the articles it sounds like it came down to money, with an investor who jumped in a few years ago and then pulled the plug a few years later. But, one thing that also stands out with Alameda, as Jeff Alworth mentions in his post about it on Beervana, Alameda’s beer line up hadn’t changed in many years.  In this city, and in the current “try the new thing, tick the box” beer culture, that’s a death sentence.  You don’t have to chase every trend and release something new every 3 days, but you to have to revamp every now and then.  Amber, malty IPAs aren’t in style anymore.

Then yesterday (Wednesday), it was announced that Seven Brides brewing was closing its taproom and restaurant.  It appears as though they will continue brewing for off premise sales (kegs and bottles) but how sustainable that is is unknown.  I have to confess, I only visited Seven Brides once.  Down in Silverton, it’s not that easy to get to from Portland and I’m sure that hurts them as well.  Included in the post about Seven Brides was a note that Two Kilts in Sherwood had also closed, and apparently had been closed for a few months, but nothing had been said or announced.  Again, in a way off location and very small volume, even a handful of GABF medals can’t save you if no one can find your products.

What this means for the Portland beer scene is probably unknown and I’ll leave it to the experts to suss out, but it is troubling nonetheless.  The last few years people have been asking when will the beer bubble burst, and maybe this isn’t a burst, but it’s not the rocket growth we’ve seen the past few years either.  Things are slowing down for sure.  As sales continue to drop industry-wide, smaller operations will feel the pinch, including speculation about increases in ingredient costs.  If you’re barely hanging on, you likely won’t be able to hang on much longer.

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.

 

Into the Woods – Part 7; Summer Edition

It was a brutally hot summer here in Portland.  Record breaking numbers of days at 90°+.  Certainly not barrel aged beer weather, but with several waves of friends and family coming into town to visit there were opportunities to break out a few nice things from the cellar.

Deschutes 2017 Abyss: This beer was strange.  Opened it with a group and we all seemed to get the same things off it.  It had a very strong Umami/soy sauce aroma.  Also had some molasses, cherry and stone fruit in the aroma.  Very heavy molasses flavor with light cherry and stone fruit.  Some light chocolate and vanilla on warming.  Ordinarily,  I would think this beer year’s beer wasn’t that good, but I had it on draft in Austin and it was amazing.  Perhaps my storage? I’m not sure.  I’ll be interested to see how it compares with the 2013 bottle we picked up at Brews for New Avenues. (4.5 stars for draft, bottle version unrated)

St Arnold Bishop’s Barrel 21 – Barrel aged Quad with Cherries: This is a bottle I brought home from Houston.  St Arnold was closed the day we were there, but found this at a local bottle shop.  Dark brown/red highlights.  Heavy cherry aroma, whiskey highlight.  Very sweet cherry flavor, whiskey, oak and wood aftertaste.  This mouthfeel, effervescent carbonation.  Sticky on the lips but not cloying.  (3.75 stars)

Ecliptic Oort BBA Imperial Stout – Batch 3 (2018): This was a bring home from Best of Craft Beer in January.  About 8 months of bottle time when we opened this one.  Strong whiskey aroma, slight umami/soy.  Whiskey flavor, vanilla and coconut from the barrel.  Whiskey lingers long on the palate.  Thick mouthfeel/viscous.  Super smooth, alcohol hidden.  Sneaky at 12%.  (5 stars)

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout: This bottle was a birthday present (May) so it took a while to make it’s way out.  Brown sugar and whiskey aroma.  Vanilla and coconut barrel flavor.  Light cola and coffee flavors.  Thin, low carbonation.  I gave this beer 5 stars back in 2014, and while I don’t think I liked it quite that much this time around, I didn’t rate it a second time.  (5 stars – 2014)

Now that the weather has turned cooler and we’ve started getting some rain, pretty soon it will be the heart of dark beer season.  Stay tuned!

2018 Brews for New Avenues

This past weekend was the 7th annual Brews for New Avenues.  This unique beerfest benefits New Avenues for Youth, a non-profit fighting teen homelessness.  This was our third year attending this event.  It’s one of our favorite fests of the year.

While one of the smaller fests in town, it certainly pulls it’s weight bringing in breweries like de Garde, Cantillon and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen as sponsors and contributors.  As would be expected with the above mentioned sponsors, portions of the event lean very heavily on lambics and sours, particularly the live auction and VIP tastings.  However, the draft portion of the event has a little bit of everything for everyone.

This years event brought in some big guns.  I got a chance to try Iowa’s darling, Toppling Goliath with a tasty IPA.  IPAs from Oregon City Brewing and Ruse Brewing were also on the menu.  Sticking with the lambic/sour theme I tried several really great beers including a Sour Red from Cascade Brewing, a blended American Wild Ale from Block 15, a barrel aged “lambic-inspired” beer from pFriem, a Saison from Jester King and a fruited sour from Firestone Walker.  The two beers that (in my opinion) stole the show were both darker beers from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing out of Frenso, California.  The first was their 10th Anniversary Ale, which is a blend of barrel aged stouts, barleywines and brown ales.  This was amazing, but the second one really knocked our socks off.  The Mocha Midnight is an Imperial Stout with Brazilian coffee, Ecudorian cocoa nibs and Madagascar vanilla.  Thick, creamy, delicious and this is one of their year round beers. Wow.

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Of course, the other highlight of this event is the beer wall.  Random blind bottles for $10.  Pay your money take your chances (although, the odds are most definitely in your favor).

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Very happy with this years picks.  Crazy Mountain Cherry Lime Sour, de Garde Saison Première, Breury Terreux La Démence (a blend of sour ale and bourbon barrel aged ale with white wine grapes) and 2013 Deschutes Abyss.  Ironically, one of the expressions of Abyss I haven’t had yet, although this one may be past it’s prime. Still interested to try it though. I don’t know about the Crazy Mountain, but I know for a fact the other three bottles all retail for well over $10, so the value of the beer wall is unquestionable.  If you’re willing to take a chance you might end up with something remarkable.  We’ve already had the Crazy Mountain and it was a winner.

What’s really impressive is to take a look at the past event’s on Brews for New Avenues website.  In 2015, they raised $58,000.  In 2016 (our first year, although I’m not taking credit for the increases), they raised $150,000.  Last year, they raised $240,000.  During this year’s event they announced that in 6 years they had raised a half a million dollars, realizing that nearly half of that had come last year.  A couple days after the event they announced that this year they raised $280,000.  What an amazing growth curve.

A lot of the big money comes from the live auction, which includes rare bottles (3L bottles of Cantillon, etc) and brewery experiences.  This year’s auction had fewer items, but included three brewery experiences.  Paid airfare, private tours, tasting, etc, the whole nine yards.  One was at pFriem here in Oregon, one was at Jester King in Austin, TX and the other was at 3 Fonteinen in Belgium.  My jaw was on the floor for the Belgian one just thinking about what an awesome experience that would be.  I was very jealous of the person who got to go on that trip, although the winning bid was $12,500… so not that jealous.

In the end, the real winners are the kids.

Cheers!

Into the Woods – Part 6; Catch Up Edition

Looking through my notebook I found some notes from beers I hadn’t written about yet.

2017 Fremont Dark Star: Chocolate roast, coconut and vanilla aroma.  Pronounced barrel character.  Dark roast, cola, chocolate, vanilla flavor.  Thick mouthfeel with light carbonation.  Adds a dark coffee roast as it warms. I chose this beer in Seattle over Founders KBS and I feel like I made the right choice. (4.5 stars)

Modern Times Devils Teeth Cuvee, Rye and Rum Barrel: Heavy chocolate and vanilla flavor with a whiskey finish.  Rum character doesn’t really show through but still really good.  Had this as a 4oz taster at the new Modern Times in Portland. (4.75 stars)

Wolf Tree 7117 – Barrel aged saison with Marionberries: This was an interesting beer, a fruited saison.  Super funky with huge saison character. Good fruit character and a great color.  I’m pretty certain this was a Best of Craft Beer pick up.  (4.5 stars)

Baerlic 2017 Woodworker Harshmellow Mountain: Belgian blond ale aged in oak with Ella hops and Brett. I’m not normally a fan of Brettanomyces in beer, but this one was very restrained.  It wasn’t too funky.  The citrusy New Zealand hops played very well with a fruity Belgian yeast.  I was apprehensive to try this but it turned out to be very very good.  (4.75 stars)

Cheers!

7 Devils Brewing – Coos Bay

7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, Oregon is, to my knowledge, the southernmost brewery along the Oregon Coast.  Back in August when I wrote about my Oregon Coast Brewery Tour it was a location I had found on Google Maps but hadn’t been to yet.  This past weekend we finally made it.

Every year, my wife and I go camping down in Florence.  It was on last years trip we discovered Yachats Brewing.  This year we headed down south to Coos Bay.  A portion of the coast I had never been to and my wife hadn’t been to in a long time.  After exploring the coastline of Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks we headed back into Coos Bay to have lunch at 7 Devils.

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We tried four beers between the two of us, Chinook Redd (amber ale with Chinook hops), Endless Summer Blonde (light blonde ale), Groundswell IPA (flagship IPA) and Lighthouse Session Ale (light pale ale).  The beers were solid. The Groundswell was a typical NW style IPA and the blonde was very refreshing on a hot day.  The Chinook Redd was a bit muddy, but not bad and the Lighthouse Session was almost flavorless, but that seems to be the target.

I’m not sure what my expectations actually were, but the taproom certainly exceeded them.  Somehow I wasn’t expecting a coastal brewery to be so… hip, if that’s the right word.  Covered in local art and the music overhead was all recordings of local bands who had performed at the brewery.  They seem to be deeply entwined in the local community.

The food was also very good.  They offer a small, but well curated, food menu including a lot of local items like Face Rock Creamery cheese and Oven Springs Bread, as well as seafood caught close by.  We had a tuna melt sandwich and “The Devil’s Flock” (chicken strips) in a sweet, soy Asian sauce.  Served with local Kettle brand chips (Salem, OR).  They also highlighted the wines and spirits on the menu that were from Oregon.  Very intentional focus on “local”.  We have good stuff here, why truck it in?

It takes a bit of effort to get down there (especially from Portland/SW Washington area) but it would be worth the trip.  Plus, this is what’s waiting for you when you get down there.

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